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This Pickyourtrail Traveller Has Been to 32 Countries & 81 Cities. Here’s What He Has To Say About His Trip to Turkey With PYT

Happy customer, Tatabbai Boodida, is no new to travel adventures. Having explored 81 cities across 32 countries, Boodida has hundreds of travel stories up his sleeves. Find out why he chose Turkey for his next trip and what made him fall instantly in love with the Eurasian country.  

Travel Across the Magical Lands of Istanbul, Goreme and Antalya

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Since Istanbul is the meeting place of Asia and Europe, traces of both continents are found here, along with a presence uniquely of its own. Influences from Christianity and Islam merge with the grandeur of ancient Roman civilization and are then mixed with a pinch of Middle Eastern flair. Ever since my amazing walking tour in Japan, one of the first things I do in a new city is taking a free walking tour. You learn about the city’s history, its progression and the important places (including some stellar places to eat and check out on your own)! The best place to book your hotel is around the Sultanahmet region which is surrounded by most of the attractions.

There are trams that run thru Grand Bazar and reach EMINONU (Where you will find ferries for "Cruise the Bosphorus"). Eating fish sandwiches on Galata Bridge and haggling in the Grand Bazaar — most guide books will describe these as unmissable experiences. But there’s plenty more in Istanbul. First stop, get your bearings by heading to Konak Cafe. While most people will tell you to climb Galata Tower for panoramic views of the city, a visit to Konak Cafe avoids the queues, ticket price and being surrounded by hundreds of other tourists! The panoramic view is clear and colorful... Wander past Galata Tower to Galata Bridge. Lined with fishing activities, it feels like stepping back in time. At the end of the bridge, take in the incredible view of the New Mosque (Yeni Cami). Often surrounded by seagulls, it’s an impressive feat of architecture. Since Istanbul is the only city in the world that is split between two continents, it is pretty cool to cruise between the two, seeing Asia on one side and Europe on the other.

No trip to Istanbul is complete without a trip to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar! They’re both located in the Sultanahmet region. In the Spice Market, stock up on Turkish Delight, beautiful teas and of course spices. In the Grand Bazaar, show interest in buying shoes, clothes and you’ll be invited in for an apple tea and a chat! It’s all part of Turkish hospitality. The Grand Bazaar welcomes 100,000 people each day, and with 2000+ shops, it is considered the largest mall in the world. Make sure your wallet is fully loaded as you will definitely feel like doing the shopping for the entire day. Baklava is one of the Turkish best sweets, and don’t forget to buy from this Bazaar. Then make your way around the main cultural and historic spots in the city, with visits to Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, and the Blue Mosque. Take in the beautiful tile work of the Blue Mosque, see images of Christianity and Islam side by side in the unparalleled Hagia Sophia and walk underground in the eerily captivating Basilica Cistern. All three buildings are on the same block, so it’s possible to explore them one after the other. But en route, be sure to wander along Turkistan Asevi to see the multi-colored miniature houses.

Hagia Sophia, meaning Holy Wisdom, was a church from 540-1453. In 1453, Constantinople was conquered, and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building to be converted into a mosque. Many symbols of Christianity were covered or removed, and Islamic features (including four minarets) were added. James Bond fans will be familiar with the 6th Century Basilica Cistern – it featured in 'From Russia With Love'. While a trip to an underground water filtration system might not sound appealing, I promise you it’s a magical place! As Italy is a city of churches with 400+ of them, Istanbul is a city of mosques – 5000+ in fact! But the Blue Mosque is the one you should definitely visit. It’s the only mosque in Turkey to have six towering minarets and is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful. It gets its name from over 21,000 blue Iznik tiles that cover its interior. To enter you’ll need to remove your shoes and women must cover their heads with a scarf. $1000 worth of paint has brightened up the steps linking the districts of Findikli and Cihangir. A few years ago a local painted some dull concrete steps rainbow colors! His motivation: “To make people smile.” The message spread, and soon rainbow steps were appearing all across Turkey. Definitely stop by to see the heart-warming story first hand!

Tucked down in a small street near Taksim Square is Akcanlar. It’s usually packed to the rafters with a mix of locals and tourists. The menu is traditional – with lots of meze options and grilled kebabs cooked on the open grill. It’s the kind of restaurant you enter planning to have a light, healthy dinner, and end up ordering the full works! Come day or night, Istiklal Caddesi is always busy. Lined with large shops and street performers, this is the Times Square or Covent Garden of Istanbul. On each of the streets running perpendiculars are bars and restaurants. With the night hotting up, wander through the Beyoglu neighborhood to Nevizade. The narrow pedestrianized street is packed with Istanbul’s coolest bars, all with outdoor seatings.

TIPS:

The metro is very convenient and is the cheapest way to get around. The taxi drivers are known for ripping off tourists (as in many big cities), so this was my preferred mode of transportation. First, you’ll need to purchase an Istanbulkart card. Buy this from one of the vending machines at the tram or metro stations for 10 TL and it will come preloaded with 4 TL on it (vending machines only accept currency notes). Even if you are traveling with multiple people, you only need one card. The cheapest way to commute from the airport to the city or vice-versa is taking Havabus from AIRPORT to TAKSIM (Last Stop, costs around 14 or 25 Lira depending on SAW or IST airport). And from Taksim (Kadikoy ferry station) take government ferry to EMINONU(cost around 2.75 Lira). From EMINONU to Grand Bazar or Sultanahmet (take Tram going towards your left, costs around 1.85 Lira). The cheapest way for "Cruise the Bosphorus" by taking the government ferry on a short trip, which takes 2 hours in total. If you want to cruise on the government ferry, go to the office right next to the bridge. It leaves at 2:30 PM and costs 12 TL. (No need to buy a ticket online or at a local agency. There are a bunch of scams out there so be careful!)

From staying in a cave hotel and exploring the fairy chimneys to taking to the skies in a hot air balloon, there are so many amazing things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Cappadocia isn’t like anywhere else in the world. With its unique rock formations, you’ll feel like you’ve landed on another planet. The only other places that come close are Saxon Switzerland in Germany and the Valley of the Moon in Chile. But for me, Cappadocia is the clear winner! Alongside that experience, there are a few other attractions I’d definitely recommend making time for. It’s a wonderful area — Taking to the skies in a hot air balloon, soaring above Cappadocia’s other-worldly landscapes in a hot air balloon was the highlight of my trip. Not only are the views incredible, but it’s also really special taking to the skies with so many other balloons around. The Cappadocia region of Turkey is the most popular location in the world for hot air ballooning. It’s also one of the few places in the world you can balloon almost all year round. Trips run in boiling hot summers and snowy winters – and the landscape looks incredible in both. While on a flight, you won’t just see a few balloons, the sky will be filled with around 100 balloons of different colors and designs. Every day is like a fiesta. Don’t worry though, it happens to be one of the most highly regulated places, and has an excellent safety record. To fly here, pilots must train for around 5 times as long as in other parts of the world. It was my first trip in a hot air balloon. I didn’t really know what to expect, or whether I would enjoy the sensation. With 16 to a balloon, I listened to other passengers as they recounted tales of previous balloon trips. Over the next hour or so we floated up to a maximum height of 800m, soaring high in the morning sky alongside around 100 other balloons. The views were breathtaking – and constantly changed as we drifted through the different areas. We passed the famous Fairy Chimneys, Monk’s Valley, Imagination Valley, pigeon houses, plenty of cave houses and vineyards. The landscape seemed to change color as the minutes ticked by. From the highest points, the panoramic views of the region were completely mind-blowing, while from the lowest points you could almost pick fruit from the trees! There was more to it than just the weird and wonderful landscape, the view of the other balloons in the sky made it a completely magical experience. It didn’t look real!

If horseback riding isn’t your thing, then you may want to go on an ATV ride instead. This tour started off at a panoramic spot overlooking the Goreme Valley, which was beautiful, to begin with. We stopped by Cavusin for a short hike through their caves where the tour told me a few things about the history of these areas. Cavusin (or Cavus’in) is a small village on the road linking Goreme. It’s pretty much a ghost village now. The abandoned village at Cavusin is a physical reminder of one of the symbols of the Turkey Independence movement. Besides, I learned something interesting about the structures of the caves in the village. The inhabitants of Cavusin lived in houses that were cut into a long rock wall and they designed the architecture of the caves to protect themselves from the Arabs. Then a break was taken at the Uchisar Castle which was fascinating for me with the fact that it is a cave castle. It’s not like any other castles. Too awesome to see!!

Exploring Cappadocia’s Magical Landscapes And Historic Caves – Whooaa! - the expression that struck me when I first looked at that sci-fi scenery! It’s so amazing when you reach the area and start seeing the rock formations for yourself. Several volcanic eruptions followed by natural weathering and erosion, have created the weird and wonderful landscape of craters, canyons and fairy chimneys (they’re the tall pillars with little caps on). It’s also fascinating when you find out how much used to happen underground. There are vast underground cities and cave houses dating back to 1800 BC. To get a good flavor of the area I’d recommend booking a Cappadocia day tour which will take you to see some of the key places including Pigeon and Monk’s Valleys, Urgup Fairy Chimneys, Kaymakli & Derinkuyu Underground Cities and of course the unusual rock castle – Uçhisar Castle. Believe it or not, there are 36 underground cities that were once used by Christians to hide from Roman armies. I’d strongly recommend taking a tour to Kaymakli or Derinkuyu to explore the hundreds of passages that were built deep into the ground. You’ll find everything below ground including churches, bedrooms, storage places, kitchens, and even wineries. I love how this area of history is still being pieced together. Over the last few years, archaeologists have unearthed a city of several kilometers of tunnels, complete with churches dating back around 5,000 years. Then there’s the intricate system of caves above the ground. The best way to get to grips with Cappadocia’s history is by visiting the UNESCO World Heritage – Goreme Open Air Museum. There are plenty of beautiful cave hotels/suites/restaurants to choose from. Even though I didn't choose the cave hotel to stay, I had a lovely dinner in the cave restaurant.

In the evening be sure to head up to the Sunset Point in Goreme for Sunset. If you’re staying in Goreme as I did which is just a few minutes from the center, give yourself about 20 minutes to walk up there and try to get there about 20 minutes before the sunset time. You may need a map on your phone as the roads are quite twisty but basically just head up the hill towards the huge Turkish Flag on the hill above Goreme. Once you get to the hill, turn left as I found it was a lot quieter here that makes it the best spot to watch the sun go down in front of you whilst looking over Goreme Town that sits in the Valley.

Finally, you can go for Paragliding in Urgup. I couldn’t do it but for sure it will be an amazing experience. You will see the fantastic view of Cappadocia from the sky and feel full adrenalin. You just need to run a few steps to be airborne. Cappadocia has one of the amazing views in the world (for those who have had experiences diving into Brazilian-Argentina waterfalls from the helicopter, this is gonna be familiar). You will definitely feel you are on another planet.

I hope you will enjoy Turkey as much as I did!

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About the author: Tatabbai Boodida is an avid traveler who has been traveling on and off since 2007 and has visited 32 countries and over 81 Cities. He loves traveling, visiting new places and meeting new people.