Exotic adventure in small groups for the refined traveller
I’ve been asked many times by my family, what is it like getting older? But I never get older. My body is, my bones and muscles may resist any new movements I introduce them to during yoga, but I am not getting older. I’m the same quirky, lovable and adventurous person I was always, just with a whole lot more family now.
Through my travelling of the region, I discovered the eclectic mix of the familiar West and the enigmatic East where the ancient meets the contemporary, amidst the open and hospitable culture of Turkey. So these are the highlights of my near month tour of Turkey.
Days 1 – 11
I arrived in Bodrum and settled into a quaint hotel on the west coast before heading to Kos, a Greek Island full of history and beauty. We visited castles, Paleo Pili the old Byzantine fort and Therma Beach, a wonderfully bubbling hot spring. After which we headed into town for supper and some Greek curio buying before heading back into Bodrum and started the tour of Turkey.
At Ephesus (present-day Selçuk) which has over 30 ancient structures such as House of Virgin Mary, Basilica of St John, The temple of Artemis, brothels, libraries, Gate of Mazeus, theatres, gymnasiums and there is just so much to see here (remember your hat and sunblock). We then hopped on the bus and drove to Geyre to explore Aphrodisias (the sanctuary of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite – the Romans called her Venus) this site rivals Ephesus for its preservation of excavated ruins and friendly guides who were on point for any random questions the group had. We headed for the coast and boarded a Turkish Yacht to cruise the coastline for nearly three days, just relaxing on the cobalt seas with new friends and a fine supply of wine and food (and exquisite teas and coffees).
Days 12 – 17
The following days were not filled with as many days of travelling, but what the days were filled with was pure magic. We headed from the port to Cappadocia to take an ‘epic’ (my grandson says this word constantly…about everything) hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia. The breakfast, the pilot was fantastic with his entertaining historical guidance as we soared slowly over the region. It’s not cheap, but is well worth the extra cost.
Over the next days, we toured the underground homes and above ground monuments in the region and drove to Ankara, stopping for lunches and shopping in the villages and towns along the way. If you can, visit Mount Nemrut to see the scattered stone heads of men and animals strewn about the sands, as they watch over the valleys. It was quite a detour on my route I planned, so I couldn’t go.
Days 18 – 21
We arrived a little late in Ankara and I didn’t want to go on an expedition so late, so I decided to take some people out for supper and start on the tour in the morning. The last leg of the tour took us from Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilisations (Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi) which has the best collection of human artefacts and historical diversity I have ever seen. Their collections date from 8000BC all the way up to the influences of invading cultures and how this has influenced the architecture, food, music and religions through the ages.
We took a slow overnight drive to Safranbolu to see the famous Ottoman houses in both Çarsi and Baglar. I couldn’t resist buying scarves and table clothes (and more curios) from the Arasta Bazaar. There’s an old aqueduct somewhere, but we didn’t feel like hiking. We felt like flying, so we boarded a local regional flight and landed in Istanbul, the heart of Turkey.
In Istanbul, you will see a hazy amalgam of modern and ancient. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, the former Greek Orthodox basilica is exquisite, truly. We ended our tour on a famous fable of Troy in Canakkale, an excavated site where a civilisation was found to be nearly 5000 years old so this site is where locals and scholars believe Homer based his story “The Iliad”, a tale of ancient battles and the things we do for Love.
How I Got There and Back
Atatürk International Airport is Turkey’s busiest international airport west of Sultanahmet and although the country does have smaller airports (such as Sabiha Gökçen International Airport) that services charter flights. I made sure to compare prices of flights with all well-known flight centres and agencies to find affordable flights to Bodrum, from Istanbul including Ankara and transit to main cities in Turkey.