Choosing a Tour Company for Touring Turkey
You will have lots of options for choosing a tour company for touring Turkey. Companies like G Adventures and Intrepid offer tours that are suitable for solo travelers with options for less expensive hotels. Personally I like Gate 1 Travel because they have great itineraries with nice hotels and knowledgeable local guides. Gate1 also has reliable online booking and they respond quickly and efficiently when you call their customer service center. Check the internet and you will find lots of other options for touring Turkey too.
Best Time of Year for Touring Turkey
Spring and fall are the best time of year for touring Turkey. Summers are too hot and winters can be cold with light snow. June and September are good choices for touring Turkey.
Touring Turkey – Istanbul
When you are touring Turkey, your vacation will most likely start in Istanbul. The city of Istanbul is one of the top destinations in the world for travelers. In 2018 Istanbul had more than 10 million visitors. That’s particularly impressive because of the political unrest that is common in Turkey. The country often has disagreements with Israel and is involved in warfare in Syria. In 2016 Istanbul suffered from bombings, but that hasn’t deterred visitors. Tours usually spend a day in Istanbul, so you will be able to see the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.
If you visit Istanbul by cruise ship instead, you can easily visit the city on your own on an Istanbul Shore Excursion. From Istanbul, you will do a circle tour of Turkey, so let’s head to Ankara by train. You can also do your tour in reverse order, which means you would head to Canakkale next.
Touring Turkey – Ankara
High speed rail between Istanbul and Ankara started in 2014 which is why rail is popular for this section of your tour of Turkey. Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the second largest Turkish city after Istanbul. Ankara has Hittite, Phrygian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman archaeological sites. The city is also known as Angora. Angora cats come from Ankara. Almost every tour group will stop at the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk is the founder of Turkey. You might also visit the Anatolian Civilizations Museum and archeological sites such as the Ankara Citadel. After a couple nights in Ankara, it’s time to head to the Cappadocia region by bus.
Touring Turkey – Cappadocia
The bus ride to Cappadocia will take about 4 – 5 hours. Cappadocia is in the interior of Turkey. It’s nothing like Ankara or Istanbul. Cappadocia is an area encompassing several cities. It’s known for its underground cities and rooms carved out into its unusual rock formations. Sometimes harder rock sticks on top of hills like a top hat. These are called fairy chimneys. The Göreme Open-Air Museum near the city of Goreme is the center piece of the area, because you can see so many tunnels and chambers in the mountain sides. Hot air balloon riding has become extremely popular in Cappadocia and you will find organized events launching large numbers of hot air balloons at the same time. You are likely to enjoy a Whirling Dervish Performance in Cappadocia too.
There are more than a 40 underground settlements in Cappadicia. Six of them are open to the public – Tatlarin Underground City, Derinkuyu Underground City, Ozkonak Underground City, Mazi Village Underground City, Kaymakli Underground City and Gaziemir Underground City. People started the cave dwellings in the Byzantine period of the Bronze Age. Likely these people were seeking protection in carved out tunnels and underground chambers. Today the tunnels have electric lights, but guides will tell you that when they were children, they played hide-and-seek in the dark in these cities.
Touring Turkey – Pamakkale
The trip from Cappadocia to Pamakkale takes more than 8 hours, so your tour will probably add a stop in between at Konya. Along the way you might stop at the Caravanserai of Sultanhan, which is an old caravan trade route inn and fortress. You might also visit the Mausoleum of Mevlana in Konya. Some tours will head even farther south to Antalya and the Turquoise Coast before returning inland to Pamakkale. The Turquoise Coast can also be a longer term destination where you sail the Turkish coast and islands while staying on board a watercraft.
Pamakkale is best known for its warm water limestone mineral springs. The travertine minerals build up into a white “cotton palace” with beautiful blue pools trapped in the limestone. Visitors can walk into the pools at the Pamakkale World Heritage Site. You can also visit the ruins of Heirapolis above the limestone mineral springs of Pamakkale. Hierapolis is part of the World Heritage Site. It includes a Greek necropolis, Greek ruins and a Roman amphitheater.
Touring Turkey – Ephesus
The next stop touring Turkey is Kusadasi. Every tour of Turkey will stop at this site. Kusadasi is a beautiful port town on the Aegean Sea, but the main reason visitors stop here is to visit the nearby ancient ruins of Ephesus. The ruins at Ephesus are extensive and include an amphitheater. The highlight of the visit to Ephesus is the Library of Celsus with its two story facade still standing. You might also visit the House of the Virgin Mary on your day trip to Ephesus. Many visitors also arrive in Kusadasi by cruise ship for an Ephesus Shore Excursion.
Touring Turkey – Canakkale
The last stop on your circle tour of Turkey is Canakkale. On the way to Canakkale, tours stop at the 4,000 year old ruins of the city of Troy. The site is famous for the Trojan War and the defeat of the Spartans by the Greeks by using a Trojan Horse. The WWI Anzac Cemetery in Gallipoli is on your route from Canakkale back to Istanbul, where your Turkey Tour completes its full circle of the country.