Wearing: 1/ Asos dress, Matisse sandals. 2/ VAVA by Jon Ham off shoulder top, Mango denim shorts (similar here). 3/ Mango dress (similar here), Sol Sana sandals, Antik Batik clutch. 4/ Zimmermann bikini set. 5/ Asos off shoulder top, Asos shorts, Sam Edelman sandals. 6/ Mango dress, Isabel Marant sandals.
During late July and early August last year I did a two week road trip through Turkey. After spending a few days in Istanbul, I flew South to the seaside town of Fethiye where we rented a car and it all started. This road trip was my favourite experience of all travels last year, and cemented Turkey as my favourite country to travel through so far. This country never stopped surprising me with its rich culture, colour, history, food, landscapes and hospitality.
I have a genuine fear of flying, which sparked the alternative idea of driving through Turkey as opposed to the regional flights on small planes. Our hotel helped us organise a last minute car rental with Avis and we were driving off, learning the coastal freeways twenty minutes later. There are endless benefits to driving if you have the available time, but being able to pull over at any given chance to watch a sunset, take in a seaside or mountain view, sing along to Turkish radio with your feet on the dashboard, or buy fruit from a street vendor makes all of the difference.
I’ve listed the below recommendations by city, in the order that I visited them. If you have any more tips for my other readers visiting, please share in the comments section.
Fethiye is a seaside city, and one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations in the summer thanks to its climate, natural beauty and less expensive lifestyle.
How to get there: I flew from Istanbul to Dalaman with Turkish Airlines, where the hotel then picked us up for the 1 hour drive along the Coast to the hotel in Fethiye.
Where to stay: I stayed at Hillside Beach Club. I’d previously stayed here the summer before and was just as blown away the second time around. Simply styled villas line the hills overlooking the glistening secluded bay, with hidden private beaches and pontoons. The hotel was at full capacity but I always felt like a world away. They also had an orchestra play on a pontoon at sunset, creating a surreally romantic atmosphere.
What to do: Turkey boasts some of the clearest water I’ve ever swam in, so it only makes sense to spend all available time on or in it. If possible take a boat out for the day or sunset.
Bodrum is a port city in southwestern Turkey. Millions of tourists flock to its beaches, boutique hotels and clubs each summer. I hate to compare, but it did have similarities to the nearby Greek Isles.
Where to stay: I stayed at Doria Hotel, Bodrum. I would advise doing more thorough research than I did, expecting the hotel to be beachside rather than 20 minutes drive to their “private beach”. Was good enough for a last minute booking on Expedia!
What to do: I personally didn’t match with Bodrum. The town seemed to be overrun by British tourists, and the locals were acting and selling whatever they thought would appeal to them. Unfortunately the recommended sight Castle of St. Peter was closed due to a public holiday the one day we were there. Instead we drove to Gümüşlük, a quieter and picturesque seaside village and fishing port thirty minutes drive from Bodrum.
Where to eat: While in Gümüşlük I ate at Gumuscafe Fish Restaurant and can highly recommend it. Obviously seafood is the number one thing to eat while here, in a beautiful setting perched over (or some tables were literally in) the water.
Where to stay: Or should I say, where not to stay! I booked Le Bleu Hotel & Resort last minute on Expedia again, but had my first bad experience from the moment we tried to check in. From telling me I was lying about having a booking and I wasn’t welcome, to the room literally falling apart, I was very happy to leave. There are plenty of other hotels around with sea side views that would be better options than here.
What to do: While I stayed in Kuşadası I didn’t explore the city, instead using it as a base to visit Ephesus and nearby Dilek Peninsula National Park.
In this blog post from last year I introduced Ephesus after shooting and exploring there. It was an ancient Greek city in Turkey’s İzmir Province, built in the 10th century BC. The run down, but beautiful ruins are visited by thousands of tourists and I suggest arriving as soon as the park opens at 8am.
Dilek Peninsula National Park was a last minute decision to visit, and took me by complete surprise. This is an absolutely stunning area of seemingly untouched woods, and sparkling turquoise waters. Turkish holidaymakers pour in to the National Park and park their cars anywhere possible, finding their favourite nooks on an array of beaches and coves spread over a few miles. The Cave of Zeus was a cool sight, but the crowds were far too overwhelming to attempt getting close for a view let alone swimming. Make sure to pack a picnic, or keep your eyes peeled for the below…
Where to eat: While driving back from Dilek Peninsula National Park I spotted a roadside organic market stall, that doubled as a basic eatery. There were dozens of Turkish women either making fresh Spinach and Feta Gözleme (traditional Turkish flatbread) in the open fire ovens, or washing the fresh fruit and vegetable produce taken from the farmland surrounding. Unfortunately I couldn’t see or understand the name.
Pamukkale is an unreal landscape made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins. You can read my full blog post from Pamukkale here.
Where to stay: I didn’t stay in Pamukkale, and am under the impression that not many travellers do. Hoards of tourists visit the main site of Pamukkale thermals and hot springs before passing on to their next destination, so make sure to get there right on opening time. I continued on driving to the town of Akşehir (where no one spoke a word of English) en route to Cappadocia.
Cappadocia I had been dreaming of visiting Cappadocia for years, its otherworldly landscape reminding me of Star Wars. It is surreal driving through the barren depths of Turkey to suddenly come across Cappadocia… with fairy chimneys, looming boulders and honeycombed rock formations suddenly jutting out of the Earth.
Where to stay: I couldn’t recommend Hezen Cave Hotel highly enough. From the moment we finally found the hotel (I did not mind being lost at all as I felt like we were exploring another planet) I was in awe. The hotel itself is absolutely beautiful, with stunning views over the town of Ürgüp. The traditional Cave rooms are built in to the hill, and have individualised Turkish personality and colour. But it was the above and beyond service from every single staff member that made the biggest difference. When welcomed we were given a thorough outline of the areas unique landscape and history, and genuine recommendations of where to eat and what to see. By far the best hotel I’ve experienced in a long time, and I would go back purposely to stay again.
What to do: Simply driving or walking through Cappadocia is an experience. Apart from the landscape in general the main reason people visit is for the Hot Air Ballooning. On the first morning I watched the sunrise from a cliff top and saw hundreds of the hot air balloons rise and float through the skies, and the following morning I was on one myself. I went with the Kapadokya Balloons, and will be posting a full blog post soon.
Derinkuyu Underground City is an ancient multi-level underground city that has a depth of 60metres. Great to explore but not recommended for anyone with claustrophobia.
Where to eat: Ziggy’s was recommended to us by the Hezen Hotel staff, and was definitely the best meal of the trip. Incredible views, hospitality, and the desert was so good I ordered seconds of it.