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Turkey – A Tapestry of Culture and Beauty

Hanan Shan Thursday, November 16, 2023
Turkey – A Tapestry of Culture and Beauty

It was December 2022, when my family consisting of my husband, son and I embarked on an unforgettable adventure to Turkey. Although our time was limited to relish the full beauty of Turkey, we were determined to make the most of it by visiting Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Bursa.

Day 1 and 2 Istanbul- Sultanahmet Area, where history comes alive at every corner

Our journey began in Istanbul, the vibrant and bustling city that bridges the East and the West. As we strolled through the enchanting streets of the historic Sultanahmet district, we were greeted by magnificent architectural wonders such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. The rich history, architectural extravagance and cultural significance of these landmarks blew our minds.

The mesmerizing view of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia

We explored the vibrant Grand Bazaar, where the aroma of Turkish coffee and the colorful displays of spices infused the air with an intoxicating blend of fragrances. The endless maze of stalls selling traditional carpets, exquisite jewelry, and authentic Turkish delight beckoned us to explore further.

The tram is the most convenient and cheapest way for touring in Sultanahmet area. It also helps us to escape from the city traffic. You can either get a token from the sales booth or vending machines or you use the Istanbul Card (Istanbul Kart) which is an electronic boarding pass.

On the 2nd night of our trip we had a memorable dinner cruise along the Bosphorus strait. Cruising along the Bosphorus Strait provided a mesmerizing view of Istanbul's stunning waterfront and iconic landmarks. With wind blowing softly over us and the shimmering lights of the city peeping out in disguise and making occasional shadows on the deck, we drifted over the waters as a weightless log in that starry night. This dinner cruise offered us a traditional Turkish cuisine as well. We enjoyed a captivating belly dance and Tantura show too. All were truly an amazing experience that left us in awe. The cruise trip cost was about 9 KD per person.

Days 3 to 5 Cappadocia – A fascinating wonderland of fairy chimneys

Our next stop took us to the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia, a region known for its unique geological formations and captivating hot air balloon rides.

To travel from Istanbul to Cappadocia, you can take a domestic flight from Istanbul to Kayseri Airport. Once you land in Kayseri, you can easily find bus services that will take you directly to Cappadocia. The bus journey offers you a great opportunity to enjoy the scenic views of the Turkish countryside. It's a convenient and efficient way to reach the magical land of Cappadocia and explore its unique landscapes and cave dwellings.

Oh, the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is absolutely breathtaking! Witnessing the sunrise from high above is a truly magical experience. As you float gently in the sky, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the stunning rock formations and fairy chimneys that make Cappadocia so unique. The vibrant colors of the sunrise create a mesmerizing backdrop as you glide through the air. As we soared high above the magical fairy chimneys at sunrise, the landscape below unfolded like a dream. It's a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that will leave you in awe of the beauty of nature. We booked the hot air balloon ride for approximately 21 KD per person with Turquaz Balloons. The package included hotel pickup and drop, a light breakfast, champagne celebration after flight and a certificate for flying.

Sunrise view from Hot Air Balloon

A small tip from our experience: Depending on wind forecast, there is chance for cancellation of balloon flights. If you are planning for any hot air balloon ride, it is always wise to book it for two consecutive days so that if you miss the trip on the 1st day, you will at least have a chance on the 2nd day. In Cappadoccia, we booked our ride for 2 consecutive days. To our dismay, the ride was cancelled on the first day, but we were fortunate to enjoy it in the next day.

Cappadocia's picturesque valleys, cave dwellings, and ancient rock-cut churches provided a genuine sense of serenity and tranquility. We spent hours wandering through the Goreme Open-Air Museum, marveling at the extraordinary frescoes adorning the ancient cave churches. The underground city of Derinkuyu offered an intriguing glimpse into the underground civilization dating back thousands of years. Exploring the labyrinthine tunnels and rooms was like stepping back in time.

Uchisar Castle was one of our favorite spot during this trip and it is a must visit site. Upon entering the castle, I was impressed by its intricate network of tunnels, stairs and rooms. Even my 12 year old son enjoyed running up and down the stairs and discovering hidden corners inside the castle. As we climbed to the highest point of castle, we were rewarded with awe-inspiring views that stretched as far as the eye could see.

Posing with the Camel rock in the Devrent Valley and Uchisar Castle

Another highlight of our trip in Cappadocia was diving into an ATV quad adventure tour through the mesmerizing landscapes of Cappadocia. There are many guided ATV tour providers in Cappadocia and we booked our ride from one among it online, a day before our arrival in Turkey. The trip provider was “Cappadocia Adventures” and they charged around 8.5 KD per person and it included hotel pickup and drop.

We started our quad tour in the late afternoon, just in time to catch the stunning colors of the sunset painting the sky. Riding the quad along narrow dirt paths and through valleys, we were surrounded by Cappadocia's distinctive geological formations, which seemed to change shape and color with every turn.

The skilled guides led us through the most picturesque routes, ensuring our safety while also allowing us to appreciate the natural beauty around us. My son was super excited with this ride. They shared fascinating stories about Cappadocia's history, geology, and its significance as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

When visiting Cappadocia, staying in a cave hotel is a must. The hotel we stayed was “Terra Cave Hotel” which was truly a unique experience as this hotel offers a one-of-a-kind stay that immerses you in the charm of the area. Although we missed the opportunity to witness the hot air balloons from the hotel's balcony due to the cancellation of balloon flights on the first day, our adventure of soaring above the magical landscapes in the balloon on the next day compensated for it.

As we bid farewell to Cappadocia, we promised ourselves that we would come again one day to further explore this most enchanting destination.

Days 6 & 7 Back to Istanbul - Making memories in the Vibrant streets of Taksim Square and celebrating New year!

In order to fully grasp the captivating essence of Istanbul, we opted to explore the city from different angles by staying in two diverse regions. For the initial portion of our visit, as I already mentioned, we delved into the magnificent Sultanahmet area, we chose to spend the remaining days in the vibrant Taksim area. Taksim provided a stark contrast to Sultanahmet, providing a glimpse into the city's present-day vibrancy and urban culture. By dividing our stay between Sultanahmet and Taksim, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the distinct identities of each area and witness the beauty and richness of Istanbul's past and present.

Our hotel named “Berjer Boutique Hotel” was right in the heart of Taksim area. Taksim Square is a fantastic starting point for exploring Istanbul, as it is centrally located and offers easy access to many of the city's attractions such as Istiklal Street, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, and much more.

Our New Year celebration in Taksim Square was an unforgettable experience! On New Year's Eve, many streets in Istanbul come alive with music, dancing, and festivities. Taksim Square is the main gathering place for New Year's Eve in Istanbul. The square and its side streets, especially Istiklal Caddesi, were packed with thousands of locals and tourists. As the clock struck midnight, the square transformed into a vibrant hub of excitement and joy. The energy was contagious, and the festive vibes continued throughout the night.

The Nostalgic Istiklal Caddesi Tram in Taksim square

Our next day morning started with the visit to MiniaTurk. Miniaturk is a wonderful open-air museum that displays tiny versions of Turkey's most famous attractions and architectural structures. We were amazed by the incredible miniature replicas of famous Turkish landmarks. It was like a small world filled with iconic structures such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. Each miniature was meticulously crafted and detailed, giving us a glimpse into the rich history and architectural beauty of Turkey. We spent hours exploring the park, marveling at the intricate designs and learning about the significance of each landmark. Miniaturk is definitely a must-visit attraction in Istanbul for anyone interested in history and architecture.

I'm excited to share our visit to Galata Tower! The path to the tower is a steep roadway that leads to the top. Even though my son complained about the long walk uphill, he loved the vibrant graffiti and charming street side shops along the way. The architectural style of Galata Tower is a captivating blend of medieval influences and timeless elegance, making it an iconic landmark in the cityscape of Istanbul. And oh my, the view from Galata Tower was absolutely breathtaking!

Day 8: Bursa - A Haven of Natural Beauty:

Our final destination of this trip was the magnificent city of Bursa, nestled at the foot of the Uludağ Mountain.

Traveling from Istanbul to Bursa on a ferry crossing the Bosphorus is an amazing experience! You can hop on a ferry from Istanbul's Eminönü or Kabataş docks and enjoy a scenic journey across the Bosphorus Strait. As you sail towards Bursa, you'll be treated to stunning views of Istanbul's iconic landmarks, like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Once you reach Bursa, you can explore the city's historical sites, indulge in delicious Turkish cuisine, and immerse yourself in the local culture. It's a delightful way to travel and discover the beauty of both Istanbul and Bursa!

Bursa is a fascinating city with so much to offer! One of its highlights is the oldest tree in Turkey, known as the "İnkaya Tree." This ancient tree is estimated to be over 600 years old and is a symbol of resilience and history. When it comes to shopping, Bursa is famous for its "jam and delights" markets, where you can find a wide variety of delicious jams, preserves, and local treats. It's a paradise for food lovers!

View from Bursa Teleferik

Another must-visit attraction in Bursa is the cable car experience. The Bursa Teleferik takes you on a scenic ride up to Mount Uludağ, offering breathtaking views of the city and surrounding nature. It's an unforgettable experience that shouldn't be missed! Bursa is a city that combines history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a perfect destination for travelers.

Day 9: Shopping in Istanbul where treasures awaits every corner!

My shopping experience in Istanbul was a delightful adventure! Exploring the Egyptian market and the nearby places was like stepping into a treasure trove of unique finds. The bustling streets were lined with vibrant stalls filled with colorful textiles, aromatic spices, and beautiful handicrafts. I couldn't resist indulging in some traditional Turkish delights like baklava and Turkish tea.

When it comes to shopping for clothing in Turkey, you’ll discover a wide variety of possibilities that cater to various tastes, styles and budget. We chose Grand Bazaar for our textile shopping. From trendy streetwear to elegant evening gowns, from casual denim to high-quality leather jackets, the Grand Bazaar has it all. One of the perks of shopping at the Grand Bazaar is the opportunity to engage in friendly haggling. Bargaining is a common practice, so don't be afraid to negotiate the price and strike a deal. This interactive aspect of shopping adds to the excitement and authenticity of the experience. While browsing the clothing section, you'll have the chance to interact with friendly shopkeepers who are happy to assist you and share insights about the garments they offer.

A lighting shop in Grand Bazaar - Spices store in Egyptian Bazzar

The shopkeepers were friendly and welcoming, eager to share the stories behind their products. I haggled for the best prices and returned home with bags full of souvenirs and memories. Istanbul truly offers a shopping experience like no other, where ancient traditions meet modern trends. It was a journey of discovery and a feast for the senses.

Further elaboration on our trip planning

Many people suggested that traveling through Turkey without a guide would be difficult because most locals don't understand English and speak only Turkish. However, we decided to go alone, prepared our own itinerary, and managed to communicate with non-English speaking locals with gestures and even with the help of Google Translate. It turned out to be a much easier task than anticipated, and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip by traveling at our own pace without a guide. Additionally, we discovered that many Turks were friendly and willing to assist us, even if they didn't speak English. Traveling without a guide allowed us the freedom to choose our own destinations, alter our plans on a whim, and fully immerse ourselves in the enchanting Turkish experience.

One aspect of our trip that truly made a difference was the seamless process of booking our accommodations and activities before arriving at our destination. Thanks to online platforms like, Tripadvisor, and GetYouGuide., through which we were able to secure our bookings in advance, ensuring a hassle-free experience. We relied on these online resources to find and compare various options for hotels, which helped us select the perfect one that suited our preferences and budget.

Additionally, when it came to booking specific activities, such as a hot air balloon ride, cruise trip, and ATV ride, we could conveniently browse through available options, read reviews, and book everything online. This not only saved us time but also gave us peace of mind knowing that our chosen activities were confirmed and ready for us upon arrival. By reading reviews, comparing prices and itineraries, we were able to find an excellent cruise that perfectly fit into our travel plans and preferences. Overall, our experience with booking accommodations and activities through online sites was nothing short of fantastic. It truly made our travel planning process efficient, convenient, and worry-free.

More about Turkish people and cuisine

Turkish people are incredibly loving, and always show great respect towards tourists. They go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome and ensure their safety. It's safe to travel in Turkey, even at night. The locals are friendly and helpful, and you'll often see shopkeepers leaving their shops unattended without fear of robbery. It's truly amazing to witness such trust and hospitality. Turkey is a destination where you can explore freely and feel secure throughout your journey.

Turkish cuisine is a culinary journey that tantalizes the taste buds and delights the senses! From the savory delights of kebabs, succulent lamb dishes, and flavorful mezze plates, to the sweet indulgence of baklava and Turkish delight, every bite is a celebration of flavors. The use of fresh ingredients, aromatic spices, and traditional cooking techniques create a unique and diverse culinary experience. Whether it's savoring a hearty bowl of lentil soup, enjoying a traditional Turkish breakfast spread, or relishing a cup of strong Turkish coffee, each dish tells a story of rich history and cultural heritage. Exploring the vibrant food markets and savoring the delightful street food is a must-do for any food lover.

Turkish Cuisine and the traditional Bread maker

In Istanbul markets, you'll find an incredible variety of tea powders, each offering a unique taste and experience! Turkish tea, known as çay, is a beloved part of Turkish culture. The traditional black tea is rich and robust, served in small tulip-shaped glasses. But that's just the beginning! You'll also discover aromatic herbal teas like apple tea, rose tea, and sage tea, each with its own delightful flavors and health benefits. The markets are filled with colorful packages of tea powders, inviting you to explore and indulge in the world of Turkish tea. Whether you prefer a bold black tea or a fragrant herbal infusion, Istanbul markets have something to satisfy every tea lover's palate.

A dinner enjoying the beauty of Hagia Sophia

While our time was limited, we departed with full hearts and cherished memories. Turkey, with its rich history, warm hospitality, and captivating charm, is a destination that we hope to return to one day to continue exploring its hidden gems. Our journey through Turkey left an indelible mark on our hearts. Istanbul's vibrant streets, Cappadocia's surreal landscapes, and Bursa's natural beauty provided us with a kaleidoscope of experiences.

We left this pottery hanging on a tree as a souvenir to this lovely land is now on WhatsApp Channel    Follow Channel

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