A time in Turkey

A time in Turkey

Turkey was my first international trip as an adult that I took after losing my precious airline benefits. It was awesome travelling as a working adult! No more hostels! ~Exotic~ destinations! Enough mobility to run around! In order to make the most of my trip I booked a tour package with Tours Turkey for May 2019 that included the following: admission/tours in sights, solo hotel accommodations for 8 nights, internal Turkish flights, daily (MASSIVE) breakfast and lunch, airport pick-up and drop-off, and someone to ask all my burning questions to! For all of that I paid only $1200 USD, which is money well spent.

With ramadan overlapping the entirety of my trip, and Turkey being 95% muslim I was a bit worried—but it turns out my timing couldn’t have been better. Late May was pleasantly warm without being hot and wasn’t overly crowded due to the fasting period. As an appreciator of culture, it was also interesting to observe and take place in the festivities—from mass entertainment and picnics outside the Hagia Sophia to breaking fast with the family owners of a cave hotel. Every restaurant I lunched in felt like royalty because I was one of few patrons in any restaurant and nothing had ever run out.


ISTANBUL {round one}

I arrived to Istanbul via a red-eye from London, and witnessed some of the most beautiful sunrise scenery just driving from the airport to the city. In further testament to the hospitality of Turkish people, my hotel allowed me to check-in at 7am into a room with the cutest juliet balcony down the street from Hagia Sophia. I spent the first day mostly napping and exploring the city on foot.

Once my tour had officially begun, I toured the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. The architecture and design of these buildings was something to behold. I had never seen so much detail across such a large swath of surface area. The unevenness of the ground belied the age of the buildings, but the art and geometry of the structures is timeless. I’ve never felt the history of my surroundings as hard as when I was in Turkey.

The second part of the tour took me to the Sultan’s Summer Palace—an ornately decorated palace with a surprisingly philanthropic history! They obviously had agendas, but I can respect the mutually beneficial exchange of shelter and education for orphans. I suppose Americans do similar stuff for their military now, though soldiers typically are not housed in palaces.

Outside of tours, I also saw quite a bit just wandering the city. Spice markets in particular were one of my favorite places. The beauty of the sights married with the warm smells of spice markets created a completely immersive memory encapsulating my time in Turkey. Many markets and sellers were a bit scammy and aggressive, but fascinating nonetheless. The markets were largely for tourists, but that doesn’t mean you can or should skip them!


ISTANBUL {round two}

While my trip had me start and conclude in Istanbul, for readability I’ll stick both stints at the top. After a whirlwind of a trip (which also included Riga and London), I did take the last days easy. My goals were just to take a cruise and enjoy as much food as I possibly can.

The cruise along the Bosphorus strait was beautiful and included free tea! To book a tour in advance usually means booking with a western operator and costed around $30. Waiting by the docks and paying cash meant I could snag a tour for as little as $5, so that’s what I did! It honestly would’ve been worth the $30, but I’m glad I got to support local businesses.



An evening flight into Kapadokya/Cappadocia meant that the short flight came with a small sandwich to break the Ramadan fast, which was an unexpected treat! The cave hotel was BEAUTIFUL. I can’t imagine returning to Cappadocia and not staying at one, especially since the owners were so hospitable. The owners even invited me to a family dinner to break the fast. Half of them were not religious, so it ended up being a regular enjoyable dinner for me and a few others.


Speaking of food, it was here that I had my first Turkish spread for breakfast. I have never felt more like a teenager in a movie, eating only part of a huge breakfast spread. And all of it was just for me! Combined with Turkish coffee, I had more than enough energy to tackle my days with gusto. This was absolutely necessary as my first stop was a national park!

From the cave hotel to the boulder hikes, the Goreme region really emphasized how much it rocked. Goreme national park had beautiful rock formations, and it was fun seeing how people rocked above and below ground. The underground city was a bit claustrophic with short and narrow tunnels, but it was cool in every way—an unexpected reprieve from the 80/90s temps above ground!



The southern part of Cappadocia has some of the most unique rock formations, including the Fairy Chimneys in Mushroom Valley (can you guess what the rocks were shaped like?) Seeing how ancient Turkish people built their whole cities around and within rocks is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Few things brought my mouth more joy than sampling Turkish delights. They’re aptly named and come in way more flavors than I thought! This shop also had specialty flavors that couldn’t be bought anywhere else in the world (or so they said.)

Cappadocia is perhaps known best for their sunrise hot air balloons. While I passed on this experience last time, it’s still something I’d recommend to other travelers!


During a rest stop I went into a small cave shop to get a souvenir and picked up not a Turkish tchotchke, but also some AWESOME photos! Big props to the shopkeeper who helped me out. Another rest stop gave me the opportunity to go for a camel ride overlooking Love Valley. As someone scared of heights, this was terrifying. As someone who loves fun experiences, this was awesome.



Kusadasi brought me back to the sea breeze, which was wonderful after the desert of Cappadocia. It definitely felt and looked Mediterranean to me, with views reminding me of Greece and Italy. The deja vu continued with the first site I saw, the former home of the Virgin Mary. These flashbacks came courtesy of (Christian) Sunday school.


In all honesty, ruins do not interest me. Sometimes stories can make ruins captivating, but mostly I just see a bunch of rubble. I wouldn’t say the ruins ruined my stay in Kusadasi, but they did make it drag on a bit more.


An unexpected fashion show quickly brought to modern times! The intent was to show off some of the high quality clothing (particularly leather) produced in Turkey. They were nice, but the best part was definitely the AC. The show prohibited photography, but you can trust me. We made our way through the world of textiles all the way to carpet making after, which was pretty cool!

Turkish rugs are a luxury, and after standing barefoot on a $26000 (USD) hand-made rug at the Ottoman Weaving Center, I definitely see why! Not to mention this is painstaking handiwork. The patterns are intricate and the yarn is valuable. I can’t imagine spending this much on a rug, but it made sense after seeing the process. They offer payment plans and international shipping though if that’s your thing!


HIERAPOLIS {/pamukkale}

A day trip to Hierapolis brought me back to ruins, but also to thermal pools! The waters are said to be healing, and they were pleasantly warm, so great for a leisurely spa day. In fact, it’s known as Cleopatra’s pool (although I don’t remember if she herself actually patroned it.) Since Hierapolis was a brief stop on the return to Istanbul, I honestly don’t have more to say.


closing thoughts

In summary, Turkey ranks highly on my list of recommendations for a vacation. Please note that my trip took place before the pandemic, and thus I have no idea how much has or has not changed in the last couple of years. During my trip however, I felt completely safe. Tours Turkey provided the perfect amount of exposure to the culture while insulating from any perceived dangers. They provided an engaging and safe learning environment with pleasant accommodations, and I can’t ask for better than that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post One month as a Lisboeta
Next post All aboard and into the void!