I have lived in Istanbul for 14 months. The Sultan-ahmet area is the best for tourism and it is the location of the old city of Byzantium. It is also where you can find the St. Sophia Museum, Blue Mosque and Topkai Surai (Ottoman Place).
Any taxi can take you there
There’s a forgotten train ride through the middle east that no-one mentions or goes on; it lasts from 8am on Sunday to 8pm Sunday and goes through two vast countries. This train departs Istanbul and arrives in Damascus and on-route it meanders its way through the interior of Turkey bordering mountain ranges and plains and going through medieval cities such as Konya and the rarely visited town of Antep. You then you enter Syria and immediately hit the mecca that is Aleppo, with its bustling streets and many souqs and then you travel through Syria and finally end up in the oldest continually habited city on Earth, in one of the greatest cities in the middle east, Damascus… and all of this for £50.
Last October I went to Istanbul. I had been dying to go for ages but couldn't find any friend interested, and travelling solo was too daunting. So I found these women that organize tours of Istanbul for women only and had the time of my life. The guide was excellent and the support woman knew absolutely every single place. We had a great time all eight of us in the group. We saw amazing sites, and in the evening we visited great restaurants and bars, so stylish and incredibly affordable, and made friends with the locals. I recommend going to the hamam in Cemberlitas, that was an unforgettable experience, especially after a long day touring... I'll definitely be going back!
As a long weekend break I would highly recommend Istanbul. If the stunning mosques and Ottoman architecture don't fascinate you, there is always the grand bazaar or spice markets. Ferries run up and down the Bospherous, constantly connecting the Dead Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The food is exceptional. Whether you'd like to try a real kebab at the top of Istekal where the stall sells over 10,000 per day, or sit in an outdoor restaurant overlooking the sea drinking very quaffable Turkish wine and eating freshly caught fish, the food will never disappoint. Turks love to dance, and the clubs rival anything in London. In the summer the parties move onto the roof terraces. Locals tend to be warm, friendly and helpful to the point of bending over backwards. I came out here for a weekend earlier last year and now I live here. You can't get a better recommendation than that!
Yalikavak lies ten miles north of Bodrum, and of all the many resorts on the peninsula, it retains best its original Turkish charm and character. Many excellent restaurants (Secret Garden, Three Brothers, Honeypot, Kosede and Karia, on the harbourside, are our favourites, but all are good) and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere that draws its many fans back year on year.
Few of the large tour firms come to Yali but it is definitely worthwhile making the small additional effort to come here as an independent traveller via a flight to Bodrum airport.
Give the touristy, overcrowded day trip from Oludeniz a miss and head down to Fethiye harbour at around 10am. Take your pick of the boats departing for a day's cruising around Fethiye's islands and inlets: around 4-5 stops for swimming and snorkelling, plenty of opportunity to sunbathe and a leisurely BBQ lunch in between. Easily the best 20TL (around £9) you'll spend all holiday. Don't forget to stock up on snacks and drinks at the supermarket beforehand as it'll save you ££s on board.
My husband and I were visiting ruins on Kadifekale (Mt.Pagus) during the day. I was separated from my husband for a short while, and he was surrounded in the car by a group of teenage boys who pretended to be friendly at first. There was no-one around and they quickly turned aggressive, trying to force their way into the car and grabbing at our belongings. My husband distracted them by throwing something out of the car, and locked himself in, and then drove through them to get to me. They banged and kicked the car, and chased him through the fortress gate. He sped up to me and shouted for me to get in. We then turned around and had to drive through them. One pretended we had run him over, and others smashed on the car. We had been warned by the Lonely Planet Guide to Turkey that this was a rough area at night, but be warned! We felt very unsafe in the day.
We then went down to the ruins of the Agora, and got out to walk around the old bazaar. We thought this would be a lot safer as their were a lot of people around. However, a well dressed Turkish man came up to us and told us, in a very urgent manner, that we were not safe and should get back in the car and go! We thanked him and promptly obeyed!
We have been to Turkey many times and love the country and its people, but we definitely felt unsafe in Izmir even before the incident. We felt hostility from passers-by and a restaurant owner during the short time we were there.
Kadifekale and the Agora Bazaar, Izmir
I've been traveling around on a budget for close to three months and this was one of the best places I have stayed. I highly recommend this guesthouse to anyone looking for a great room and great service at an affordable price. The staff booked my tours, drove me everywhere I needed to go to catch buses, and even woke me up extra early to make me a Turkish breakfast when I had an early tour. Location was great and there was a beautiful outdoor breakfast area. All in all, great budget hotel.
Address: Aslanlar cad no 44 Kusadasi
I waited outside this mosque for my male friend to finish looking around: having that morning met up with a woman who had been screamed at for being improperly dressed, I was reluctant to risk the same treatment for some perceived infraction.
This site is of religious importance so I was surprised be the subject of sexual harassment there. I actually conducted an experiment whereby I stood perfectly still and allowed the leering men to circle me ever-closer, in an effort to see just how close they would actually get right inside the busy compound of the mosque.
Before my experiment was really completed my companion returned, and so it only behoves me to say if you are female and visit this place do not be lulled into thinking you will be any less harassed once you get there. After living in Istanbul for one year I can honestly say it was the most dangerous place to be female I have ever been to.
If groups of dodgy-looking men jingling change in their pockets and calling 'How much? How much?' as you nip from your house round the corner to the supermarket in broad daylight on a busy street would bother you then you might want to give Istanbul a miss. If you would be annoyed at being ripped off for every item you try to purchase (forget taking a taxi anywhere), sexually harassed by every man at every opportunity or stopped by police to be relived of your passport and then receive demands of payment for it to be returned, then I'd thoroughly recommend you to go somewhere else. A huge pity, because the city itself is unforgettable.
Köyceğiz is a beautiful quiet town with hot summers and friendly local people.
The Lake of Köyceğiz is often said to be as "as smooth as glass" till noon and then great for wind surfing in the afternoon. The Köyceğiz Lake contains almost every kind of seafood from fish to crab.
The Rock Tombs are tombs carved into the rock in Dalyan and date back to the ancient harbour city of Caunos.
The Mud baths are natural hot mud baths - very good for the skin!
Head towards Rustempasha mosque, away from the Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Market. You'll find twisty streets full of tiny shops, including many selling wooden implements such as paddles for pide ovens, huge sieves, forks and spoons. The spice shops here are half the price of the Egyptian market, too, and if you're lucky you'll see the hamals (market porters) at work, or find a cubbyhole selling cay (tea) inside one of the old han courtyards.
Around Rustempasha mosque, Eminonu
On Peykhane, one of the streets running off Divan Yolu and about ten minutes' walk from Cemberlitas. Unassuming, bright diner, with excellent, cheap meals (pide, kebab, salad, soup), no hassle or hustling, friendly staff, and the best fresh bread we tasted in the whole city. 12-20 liras for two. Convenient for Sultanahmet hotels but out of the tourist beargarden.
Karadeniz kebab, Peykhane
I think it is the best restaurant in Istanbul. Wonderful atmosphere with friendly service. I was very impressed with the menu and excellent quality of the food. Some dishes are exclusive to the restaurant. The Destiny Special is a delightful combination of tender beefsteak with a cream and mushroom sauce, served with a cinnamon cabbage in red wine sauce. Also recommended is the Destiny cake made with spinach - it melted in the mouth and tasted just of vanilla and cream. Don't be put off by the green colour! Definitely worth a visit. Reasonably priced too.
Bereket Mah. Haci Ali Sok. No. 11/A, Galata-Byoglu, Istanbul. Can be found by walking down from Galata Tower or by climbing up the steps by the Oyak Bank near the tramway in Karakoy.
The male camels are decked out in colourful livery with tassels with names shown such as the heroic Thunderbolt, Destiny, Falcon and the more dubious Jackal. The prospective protagonists are introduced to the female to liberate their natural tendency to do battle. Fights last from a few minutes to 15 minutes.
The combatants initially strain against each other, neck to neck. Very occasionally one camel flees. A victory occurs when one camel forces the other to the ground. A well-dressed referee oversees the contests in the ring and officials occupy the one small stand while an announcer describes the detailed action. Can combine with a visit to Ephesus.
Selcuk, Western Turkey - third weekend in January
This is a new restaurant which is known as the best seafood restaurant in Sultanahmet. The food is outstanding, you should ask the staff for the special of the day.
The restaurant is on the shore of Marmara Sea with a view of Turkish islands. The "Boukoleon" name comes from the 5th century. There used to be a "Boukoleon Palace" standing right where you sit.
Now you can easily see the archeeological heritage of the old time palace. If you are interested in history, looking for a nice Istanbul view and also outstanding food, I would highly recommend you go to this restaurant.
Hagia Sofia, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
This is a beautiful villa with a shared pool (shared with villa opposite) in a quiet town, which is on the edge of a huge lake. It's really beautiful, and we were very well looked after during our stay. We loved it so much that we're heading back in May! If you like diving, it's not far from Dalyan where you can jump on a boat (we used Tripoint Diving) they were very good. Incredible viz, and we dived a great wreck!
Koycegiz (pronounced 'kur-y-jeez') is a wonderful off-the-beaten-track town near Dalaman airport, on a beautiful lake with its own hot springs and mud bath. My family and I stayed there in Villa Jasmine, and had an excellent holiday. We enjoyed its private pool, but also went on a fab boat trip across the lake to the Mediterranean sea. Really recommend it as a holiday spot away from the crowds.
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