Turkey has a lot to recommend for the traveler on a budget. The seas are bright and blue, the archaeological sites are some of the best preserved in the world, the food is top notch and there is value for the dollar in Turkey.
Most first time visitors to Turkey keep to the western side of Turkey, mostly to the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, where a blue cruise can be an inexpensive way to see the largely unspoiled coastline.
The circles on the map represent towns to visit in Turkey, the red squares represent the top archaeological sites to visit in Turkey.
Entry Points into Western Turkey
There are large airports at Istanbul [Ataturk International Airport (IST)] and Ankara [Esenboga Airport (ESB)]. For the itineraries suggested here, the smaller airports at Izmir [Adnan Menderes Airport (ADB)] and Antalya Airport (AYT) would work. The coastal towns of Bodrum and Kusidasi are easily reached by a short ferry ride from Greek islands, Bodrum from Kos or Rhodes, and Kusadasi from nearby Samos.
Things to do in Western Turkey - Cruising on a Gulet
One of the most popular things to do on the Aegean coast is to cruise on a yacht designed for entertaining people on Turkish waters, called a gulet. There's lots of deck space in a gulet for the passengers. So, you sign up for what's known as a Blue Cruise and you're off on an adventure.
Archaeology in Turkey
The archaeological sites on the map are quite well preserved. Visitors who arrive in Kusadasi by ferry from the Greek island of Samos (see route) can easily get to Ephesus, once a very important center for trade in the Mediterranean before the harbor silted up. Visit the theater, so well preserved that it's still used, and don't forget to take the obligatory picture of the ancient toilets near the brothel.
There are many guided day trip tours from Kusadasi.
The blisteringly white terraced pools of Pamukkale's hot springs, the result of thousands of years of deposits by the calcium rich hot springs and the Ancient city of Hierapolis, a World Heritage Site, aren't far away from the coast either.
Visitors wishing to venture a little further out can visit the archaeological sites of ancient Aphrodisias, Pergamum, Troy and Sardis as well.
This popular area in volcanic central Turkey, where erosion of the soft tufa has resulted in spectacular landscapes and easy-to-build caves and carved structures, is a very popular place to visit for a few days. You'll want plenty of time to visit the Goreme Open-air museum with its carved churches, the Ihlara Valley, the underground cities of Kaymakli or Derinkuyu, the fairy chimneys of Zelve. A popular endeavor is to see it all from above, on a balloon tour of Cappadocia. [Cappadocia Resources]
One of the world's top cities, Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, straddles two continents, Europe and Asia. Istanbul is Turkey's largest city. The cuisine is top-notch, a visit to the Blue Mosque, a boat trip down the Bosporus, a stroll through the Egyptian spice baazar, and more make up a few things on our Istanbul to-do list.
Then there is the sprawling Grand Bazaar to contend with. Istanbul is a feast for the senses and shouldn't be missed on a trip to Turkey.
Long Distance Trails in Turkey
The first long-distance route in Turkey was the Lycian Way, launched 10 years ago. Its popularity has inspired other Turkish and international trail-builders--and today there are many cultural routes to follow. You'll find them at Culture Routes in Turkey.
Along the Lycian Way are the Lycian tombs that have become a symbol of Dalyan, which offers a variety of other attractions, including an ancient Roman site as well as mud baths and a Loggerhead Turtle nesting area.
When to Go
For Turkey weather and historic climate charts for several of the top sites mentioned here, see: Turkey Travel Weather Map and Guide.