Last February, Jill and I took an amazing trip to Turkey and traveled all over the country. We flew into Istanbul and spent a short day there before flying down to Izmir and renting a car to drive to Pamukkale. We hit up the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar on this part of the trip. On our return to Istanbul at the end of the trip we were able to catch the other major sites we missed the first time. The Hagia Sofia is the most incredible building I’ve been inside in my life. It’s stunningly beautiful and a massive structure. The Bascilica Cistern was a bit of a let down because there is no water inside currently, but it’s still quite breathtaking.
On our drive to Pamukkale, we stopped to explore the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. It was very surreal walking through a place where it is believed Saint John and the Virgin Mary once lived.
Once we were done at Ephesus, we continued on our journey to Pamukkale. I must admit, the thing that Pamukkale is famous for, the travertine terraces and pools, were a bit of a disappointment. The gorgeous photos you’ll find with a quick Google image search are no longer possible to capture, as the water flow has diminished, and only a small fraction of the pools still have water in them. It’s still a beautiful place, and the nearby ruins of Hierapolis are very interesting to explore, so I’m still happy we added that stop to our trip. It just wasn’t as picturesque as we were expecting. It’s a hot spot for hang gliding and hot air ballooning too, so there’s no shortage of things to do there.
After our two days in Pamukkale, we continued our drive down to the coastal city of Antalya. When researching what to do and where to stay in Antalya, the opinions were split between a few places. We opted to stay in the old city, and have no regrets. Everything we did was easily walkable, and it was a very clean and charming part of the city. There are some big resorts on the beaches. If we had been there in a warmer time of the year, I think that would have been a great option too. We did our first Turkish bath while in Antalya, and it was amazing! This is a must-do while in Turkey!
After a few days in Antalya, we flew up to Cappadocia, and stayed in a cave hotel in Goreme. On our first full day in Cappadocia, we hired a private tour guide to show us around. This was our best decision of our entire trip. He showed up with his driver at our hotel first thing in the morning and we got to experience all of the highlights of the region. We started off with a tour of an ancient underground city. Then we made a few stops to see all of the odd rock formations the area is famous for. We stopped for a nice Turkish lunch in between, and ended with stops at a ceramics studio and rug gallery, where we got to see the artisans working on their wares and learn about the different processes. We came home with a beautiful wine decanter and cup set. Cappadocia is possibly the world’s premiere spot for hot air ballooning. Hundreds of balloons are launched nearly every day. Due to the weather while we were there, the launches were cancelled the first couple days, and I was getting very worried we weren’t going to get to see them before we had to head back to Istanbul. I set my alarm so I could look out the window on our final morning and thankfully I was greeted with the sight of the first few balloons taking flight. I jumped out of bed, got dressed as fast as I could, grabbed my camera, and headed out to watch the show.