I’ve always been a bit weary of Turkey. A country spanning two continents, some crazy politics and reportedly some of the worst drivers in the world. Luckily, what we found was a beautiful, kid friendly country filled with some of the best food in the world, amazing scenery and very hospitable people.
We started our Turkish adventure in Istanbul, home to some of the world’s great Mosques and best Turkish delight. We ended up staying in the old town, which is an easy walking area of Istanbul, filled with historical sites, small restaurants and the great bazaar, where you can pretty much buy anything.
We were only really passing through Istanbul on our way to Cappadocia, so spent our three days lapping up local life and our evenings wandering the streets, knowing that we were always protected by Batman, of course.
We also managed to visit an Andy Warhol exhibition in one of the more modern areas of Istanbul called, Tunel, which was great as we literally only saw ten people during the entire time at the exhibtion.
Our next stop was Cappadocia, in central Turkey. We arrived late at night in Goreme, which is this mystical little town surrounded by massive rocks, which humans carved out thousands of years ago into large caves and tunnel complexes. We splurged a bit on our accommodation and stayed in a “cave” hotel. It’s a pretty weird experience, as the sound in the cave is completely dead and has no natural light, but it’s an amazing place to sleep and even with kids its very quiet.
Goreme is filled with touristy shops and great little restaurants. One of our highlights was hiring a horse carriage for an evening and visiting the Rose Valley and the Love Valley, stopping amid the caves and watching the sun go down drinking Turkish wine. Definitely one of our travel highlights.
If you’re ever in Turkey, visit Cappadocia, its one of the most fascinating places we’ve ever been to. One of the most popular ways to see the landscape is to take a hot air balloon ride, which we didn’t manage to do with the kids this time, but its definitely on our bucket list for the future. We did however manage to take them to Avanos where pottery has been produced for centuries and some of the techniques date back to 2000BC. The kids spent some time making their own pots…
Our plan for Turkey was to head in-land and then bus around. The busses in Turkey are unbelievably cheap (unlike the beer) and we booked a one-way to Antalya, a coastal resort town in the South of Turkey. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a 12-hour overnight bus, where they never turn the lights off, stop every 45 minutes for a smoke break and has free wife! The kids were very good on the bus, even though they were still wide-awake at 03h00.
Antalya is a very large seaside town with rows of beach chairs and small shops selling fake goods. We stayed in the old town, which had a lot of charm and the best mezze platters.
One of the reasons we stayed in Antalya was that it was very close Olympus and was en route to Gulluk, a stopping point for two weeks.
Olympus is the quintessential backpacker town, famous for it’s tree house accommodation, beautiful beaches, ruins and Mount Olympus. We’ve had all sorts of accommodation and stayed in some cool places along our travels, but Olympus was different as we got to interact with backpackers from around the world in a very chilled environment.
Ronelle stayed in the tree houses ten years ago, so it was cool for her to see the evolution of the place, which I’m told has evolved considerably. Part of the Olympus charm is the beach, which is extraordinarily beautiful. The walk to the beach is quite an experience, as you pass through Roman ruins from 78BC before reaching a sea, with bright blue warm water, needles to say, we couldn’t keep the kids out of it.
It’s quite amazing how “backpackers’ have changed. Firstly, there aren’t many backpackers these days that actually carry backpacks, secondly the age group has widened considerably. It seems that the only common denominator is the spirit to travel and the lust to explore the unknown.
Another reason to visit Olympus is Yanartaş or the burning mountain. The mountain has hundreds of small fires that have been alight for 2500 years. We visited it at night, as you get the best experience. It’s about a one kilometer climb and we were both really surprised at how the kids managed to easily make it to the top and back with no help. Sometimes we underestimate what they are capable off.
Our next stop was Gulluk, on the West coast of Turkey, where we were lucky enough to be given an apartment by our friends the Goldswaine’s. This not only helped the budget, but also allowed us to stay in one place for a longer period of time. Gulluk is a sleepy little town, surrounded by thousands of empty apartments, as it’s a very seasonal place.
The surrounding seaside is beautiful and there is a small centrally located harbour where tourists can take daily boat trips, which is exactly what we did. We met a cool Captain and headed off for a day of sailing the Aegean. It turned out to be one of our best Turkish experiences. It felt like it was a private cruise, as it was just us and the captain’s family on board.
There is something to be said about spending the day swimming in 28 degree water, eating great home cooked food and drinking icy cold beers. We loved it so much, that we returned the next week for another day out on Moonrise.
Overall, Turkey blew our minds. Ronelle has travelled there a few times before, but I was really surprised about the infrastructure, transport and most importantly the people. It’s the most kid friendly country I’ve ever been too and everybody really made us feel welcome. It’s the kind of place where people go out of their way to help you, regardless of what’s in it for them. It’s a country that we will definitely visit again and again…