The Turkey Roundup

18 Jul

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  25

Cities/towns visited – Istanbul, Goreme, Kahta, Sanliurfa, Harran, Olympos, Selcuk, Kusadasi, Pammukale

Number of different lodgings – 9

Flights – 1

Bus journeys – 11

Boat rides – 3

Combi/collective/taxi  journeys – 13


Total US dollar amount spent – $2,445

Average cost per day, per person -$49

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $14.63 – We generally stayed in private rooms, often with our own bathroom, but in simple guesthouses.  In Istanbul we stayed in dorms because of the high lodging cost.

Most expensive lodging – Shoestring Cave House in Goreme for $22.50 per person.  This was our splurge because we wanted to stay in a cave hotel, of which there are zillions to choose from.  You can do this much cheaper if you want to stay in a dorm.  We ended up being upgraded for free to the penthouse room with our own balcony that looked out over the town and surrounding countryside.  There was a good breakfast included, wifi, and a pool.

Least expensive lodging –  Dorm bed at Red River Hostel for $11.00 per person.  This was a good little hostel, brand new, near the Galata Tower in Istanbul.  It’s a bit off the main roads, so it’s nice and quiet, but still right in the area you want to be in.  Breakfast was included, and there was wifi.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $13.50 – Breakfast was included everywhere we stayed, but we ate out for pretty much all dinners and most lunches.  The food was such an interesting change from S. America that we couldn’t help ourselves!  You could probably cut this number in half if you stuck to kebabs or wraps, self catered some lunches, and ate at really basic places for dinner.


The beach at Olympos

Olympos – The tiny village of Olympos is on the southern coast, near Antalya.  The thing that makes it so great is that it combines two of our favorite things – Ancient historic ruins, and awesome beaches.  At the end of the main road, which is really just a string of lodgings on a dirt path, is the ancient ruined city of Olympos, which dates back to, well, a very very long time ago.  You can wander around in the ruins for a small entrance fee and at the end is a gorgeous stretch of beach on the Mediterranean.

If you’re there for a few days, buy the 10 entrance pass, it’ll save you a bundle since you have to pay to enter the ruins even if you are really just headed to the beach.  Many accommodations include breakfast and dinner.  We were there at the very beginning of June, just before the peak season hit, and had perfect weather, and a fairly peaceful stay.  We hear it gets slammed in the summer, so if you are looking for a more laid-back time you should stick to the shoulder seasons.

Muze Pass in Istanbul – This was the best deal we’ve gotten on sightseeing in ages.  The Muze Pass gets you into a heap of different attractions in Istanbul and is valid for 72 hours.  If you get to 5 places, you’ll get your money’s worth, and if you hit up at least 6, you’ll be saving yourself some cash.  You can buy it at any one of the attractions, and having it lets you skip the sometimes obscenely long ticket lines.

Vardar Pension in Selcuk – Most places we stayed in Turkey were pretty good, but we liked Vardar Pension in particular.  Breakfast was served on the roof terrace, which had a great view of the countryside.  They provided nice fluffy towels, each room had a little balcony space with ample laundry lines, and the mattresses were temperpedic-like and super comfortable.  Finally, the bathrooms were IMMACULATE.  That rarely happens, and I really appreciate having a bathroom where I don’t feel like I have to wear my flip-flops to shower.  It was also very well located, right down the block from where the bus drops off, a half-block to the local markets, and walkable distance to all the ancient sites in town. The family who runs it is kind and accommodating, which is just a bonus at this point.

Tomatoes and cherries – Literally the best tomatoes and cherries we’ve ever had.  We bought them all the time from the fruit and veg stands.  We were there starting from mid-May, so perhaps it was the right season, but still….amazing. You can get more than 2 pounds of cherries for about $1.50!!!!

Justin totally made friends with the fruit stand guys

Pictures are just so much easier…

Ozturk Restaurant in Istanbul – Galipdede Cad #72, near the Galata Tower – This is really a pretty standard type of place, but it has consistently good food (we ate there three times…) and won’t break your budget.  We were drawn to it initially because the menus are actual photos of the food.  Normally this would make me avoid a place, but when you can’t figure out what anything on the menu is, it’s a lifesaver.  The mincemeat pide is particularly good.

Getting scrubbed at the Hamam – Hamams are old-school bathhouses that are found all over Turkey.  They come in every variation imaginable, from the super basic local operations to uber-expensive spas that cater to wealthy tourists.  The gist of it is that you go in, get mostly naked (they give you a little modesty towel for walking around in), get a mud mask, relax in a sauna for a bit, lay down on a marble slab, get covered in bubbles, and get the top 14 layers of your skin scrubbed off by a burly Turkish woman (or if you are a man, you get a male attendant) who may or may not shake a mitt full of your dead skin in your face and chastise you for being so filthy. Afterwards you can usually go for a swim or another round in the sauna.  I know, it sounds odd, but I swear, it was fantastic.  You can also get massages and facial treatments at most places.

Triple scoop dipped in pistachio. Justin is in heaven

Mado Ice Cream – I am fairly certain their secret ingredient is crack.  Justin and I both agree that this is hands down, the best ice cream we’ve ever had.  That’s right, ever.  It’s a traditional ice cream made with goat’s milk, kept in a big metal bin, and dished out on a huge stick by a guy who seemed to hate his job.  There are LOADS of imposter ice creams that are served in the same fashion all over Turkey, but the original, and clearly the best (we know, we sampled…a lot) is Mado.  On our Mount Nemrut tour it was actually a specific stop in the little town it originated in to taste it at the source.  We weren’t supposed to stop there again on the way home, but we all begged the guide and driver and they finally relented.


We don’t have much to say here about places or activities in specific.  There were things that were just ‘meh’, like the tour we took to Mount Nemrut…and really that’s just because we had a lapse in judgment and forgot how much we dislike being with tour groups…but otherwise, nothing stood out as really terrible.

Perhaps the thing that annoyed us the most was how despite the fact that most of the tourist parts of Turkey are pretty well organized, there is still a huge issue with littering, especially on the beach.  People just leave garbage ALL OVER the beach.  It’s awful.  Beaches where you pay to have a chair have guys that pick up everyone’s trash, but we watched numerous sets of people just leave all their garbage behind on the free beaches (including newspapers, food scraps, soda cans, etc) when they left.  We picked up after a bunch of people, but it really pissed me off that we were at this amazing place and there was such a lack of give-a-shit about leaving your trash everywhere.


14 Responses to “The Turkey Roundup”

  1. phil July 18, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    certainly an I Scream for Ice Cream. Beastly hot in the states. 71% of USA in drought conditions. Global warming … bah. be well!

    • Ashley July 20, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      So we hear, sounds awful! It’s monsooning here in India, but so far that’s kept the temperatures, at least in the south, pretty low comparatively. Will try to send some rain your way…

  2. Bryan July 18, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    And now we know where to go in Turkey! Thanks guys! We’ll probably be there late October. Hope the food you all had is still around…

    • Ashley July 20, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      October should be great, it’s supposed to get horribly hot in Turkey in the summer, so you guys should have much nicer weather by then. Not sure what produce will be in season, but whatever it is I’m sure it will be excellent 🙂

  3. Kristin July 20, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    This is really helpful and interesting – thanks!!! Turkey sounds amazing! We are in Tallinn, Estonia now – it’s AWESOME! Definitely add it to your list of must-see places! Enjoy India!

    • Ashley July 20, 2012 at 9:23 am #

      We were peering at the map the other day trying to figure out where you guys might be headed next, glad to hear you are enjoying yourselves so far! Did you end up shipping a car/buying a car/renting a car…or scrapping that plan totally?

      • Kristin July 23, 2012 at 1:33 am #

        We decided not to buy or rent a car yet over here. We looked into it but shipping and insurance would have been ridiculously expensive! Gas here is pretty pricey, too, though it varies by country. We are in Riga, Latvia now. The bus system is nice over here – way different than South America even though there’s was pretty good, too. We’ve had wifi on both of the buses we’ve been on and last night we even had our own power outlets to charge. Bryan was even able to post a blog during the ride! For now we’ll just do buses and trains unless some great deal for a car arises. We are renting a Mercedes the week my parents come to Germany – it’s cheaper than Betsey! lol. Hope India is calming down for you! Bryan said we may safe that till the end of our last leg in case I have a breakdown – we’ve heard it’s pretty crazy there! 🙂

      • Ashley July 24, 2012 at 10:16 am #

        Sounds nice! India is a trip…not sure you want to save it for last though, it would be ideal to go there with some energy left…

  4. funnyphuppo July 27, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    I love Olympos. I will be adding a post about it soon on my blog. It’s definitely one of the places I want to go to again and again.

    By the way, in your costs of the trip, have you included the cost of transport into Turkey? I also get the impression that you have been skipping around a little bit, rather than going in the most natural route around the world. Why is that?

    • Ashley July 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      We don’t include the cost of getting in/out of the country in the round-ups if we flew in. In the South America budgets we included the bus tickets for border crossings as we usually paid cash, but we have a separate budget for major flights, so we’ve kept that out. For what it’s worth, we found great tickets to Istanbul from NYC for something like $425.

      As far as our route, I’m curious what you mean by the most natural route? We don’t really write about things sequentially, so perhaps it just seems like we skip around. We spent 6 months in South America, went back to the USA for a wedding, then took off for Turkey, followed by Israel, Jordan, and now India. We’re onto Nepal next, then SE Asia and down to Australia and New Zealand. We skipped Europe for a number of reasons, including that we’ve both already been, and we skipped Africa because with some of our set plans in other places we really couldn’t be in some of our “must see” places at the most ideal times, so we’ll be planning a separate trip just for that.

      • funnyphuppo July 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

        OK, now it makes much more sense, when you have explained it like that. I think since you were not writing sequentially, and since the map also gave me the impression of skipping, I got confused.

  5. Bryan November 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    You know we always read and follow your round-ups! Just wanted to provide some feedback on the eastern part of Turkey, incase your followers are interested in that. We’ve found the people extremely kind! We’ve been offered more tea than you can imagine, and have had numerous lifts to different attractions we were attempting to walk to on foot. But one disadvantage would have to be that pensions and hostels are almost non-existent over here. You’re forced to chose between a few hotel options, and on average they’re costing us $40-60 per night for a room. More than we ever spent west of Cappadocia. Well, that’s all. Hope the Merrilings are having fun in Australia now!

    • Ashley November 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      Thanks for this, we only went to parts of eastern Turkey on a bit of a whirlwind tour, so we didn’t have much to post about that. Glad you enjoyed it, even if it was a bit pricey!


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