Turkey: Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus and Bodrum
Fly in/out: Istanbul
Recommended ages: 10 and up
Ball Park Price: $4,200/person(international airfare not included)
Best Season: Spring-Early Summer or Early Fall
Currency: Turkish Lira
Timezone: EST +7 hours
Portions of this itinerary were custom planned by Newport International Travel
DAY ONE & TWO: Fly in to Istanbul Ataturk International Airport (TAV). Arrive in the morning, drop off luggage at Hotel Amira, Sultanahmet District. All within walking distance, visit the Blue Mosque (also named Sultan Ahmet Mosque) famous for it’s 20,000 blue tiles, and visit Topkapi Palace – Turkey’s largest palace and museum. Just opposite the Blue Mosque is the Basilica Cistern, a mysterious underground museum. Then to Hagia Sophia (Aya of Sophia), an extraordinary building and one of Istanbul’s best-known monuments.
DAY THREE: Explore the Mosque of the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, one of Istanbul’s largest and grandest Mosques. Walk to the Grand Bazaar, also called Covered Bazaar, one of the oldest and biggest malls with over 4000 shops under hundreds of arches and domes. Walk across Golden Horn Bridge to newer part of Istanbul with more of an European flavor. Take funicular up to Istiklal street and walk towards Taksim Square.
DAY FOUR: Explore the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and barter for unworldly spices (but ask for the prices first) and visit nearby Yeni Camii, the New Mosque. From the ferry docks, take a cruise up the Bosphorus and then take a taxi up to the modern and trendy seaside village of Kadikoy filled with restaurants and shops.
DAY FIVE: Transfer to Istanbul Ataturk Airport for a Turkish Airline flight to Kayseri (ASR) one of two airports serving Cappadocia. Visit the underground city of Kaymakli, with 8 stories carved into the ground beneath the surface. Then visit Pasabag Valley also called Monks’ Valley. A valley filled with cones carved in stone. Check into Yunak Hotel.
DAY SIX: Take a hot air balloon ride over the incredible landscape of Cappadocia. Visit the Goreme Valley, the open-air museum with rock churches, visit Peri Bacalari (Fairy Chimneys) the towering rock formations that are the symbol of Cappadocia. Stop at Zelve, another open air museum with rock caves used by the early Christian monks. Watch the sunset in the red valley.
DAY SEVEN: Fly early from Kayseri Airport for Pegasus Airlines to Izmir. (IZM) Transfer to Kusadasi and check into Charisma Hotel.
DAY EIGHT: Take a “down time” day and spend a day relaxing and enjoying the Charisma Hotel and Kusadasi beaches.
DAY NINE: Drive with a guide 20 minutes to Ephesus one of the best preserved cities of antiquity and the largest open-air Museum. Visit the Mausoleum and the Museum of Underwater Archeology housed in the Castle of St. Peter. Stop at the Bodrum Castle. Stay overnight at The Marmara Bodrum Hotel.
DAY TEN: Depart early from Bodrum and drive approximately 4 hours towards Oludeniz. First stop is Dalyan, a part of ancient Lycia going back to 2000 B.C. Take a motorboat for a leisurely ride through the channels and waterways to Dalyan. Admire the Lycian tombs carved into the rock face. Take a walk up to Caunos, an ancient Lycian city with remains of theaters, temples and baths. Go to Iztuzu Beach, a beautiful beach home to Loggerhead Turtles. It is the place where the turtles hide their eggs every year. Stay at Belcekiz Hotel near Olu Deniz or Dead Sea in Turkish which is the “Blue Lagoon,” one of the most picturesque sites of Turkey.
DAY ELEVEN & TWELVE Stay in Oludeniz for rest and relaxation near the beaches and enjoying all the outdoors and watersports activities including paragliding.
DAY THIRTEEN Depart for Dalaman Airport (ATM) on Turkish Airlines to Istanbul. Stay the night at Hotel Amira in Istanbul.
DAY FOURTEEN Enjoy the last day in Istanbul shopping to take wanted items home. Visit the Mosque St. Savior also known as Chora Church, a lesser known mosque to visit but considered the favorite to many because of it’s breathtaking beauty. Depart from Istanbul and head home.
If you have more time
Sirince-is an off the beaten path tiny mountain village that is a gem. Just outside of Ephesus, there is a steep drive to take in beautiful views and shops in this lovely village.
- Experience Turkey with your kids and you’ll get a virtual history lesson on one of the most intriguing and unique countries in the world. Stretching two continents, Turkey’s mosques, monuments and open-air museums tell stories covering three centuries. Turkish delight, teas, whirley derviches and dance, aromatic spices, baths and religious customs only scratch the surface in demonstrating the deep and rich culture of Turkey.
- We enjoyed our first few days in Istanbul. Istanbul, with a mushrooming population of 13 million, is a sprawling 700 square mile hilly metropolis with nearly 20,000 cultural sites. “Old Istanbul” a peninsula bordered by the Bosphorous strait, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea consists of 7 hills all topped with a mosque. Each mosque has a unique sliver of religious history showcasing exquisite art and architecture. The Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, part of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, are among the most visited for their size, beautiful mosaics and precious marbles. The Magnificent the Great is also worth a visit for it’s beautiful and peaceful surroundings and feel and a lesser known mosque but well worth the visit is the Mosque of St Savior also known as the Chora Church.
- There are so many awe inspiring things to see in Cappadocia. It is a natural wonder that may be reminiscent of a lunar landscape with unusual rock formations but at the same time another wonder created by people with underground cities, cave churches and cave living. The underground city of Kaymakli is estimated to have first been started around 2,000 B.C. The underground city is well lit with good ventilation but you do need to stoop over as the ceilings are very low in certain places. The kids are completely fascinated with a complete underground city including living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and churches. The Pasabag Valley, also called Monk’s Valley, contains some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia with twin and triple-rock caps. The Goreme Valley, an open air museum has many rock churches that are decorated with frescoes. The Peri Bacalari area also feature the towering rock formations that are now the symbol of Cappadocia.
- Known as the largest open-air Museum, Ephesus is one of the best preserved cities of ancient structures and impressed the whole family. One of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis (Diana) was in Ephesus. It is also very famous as being the place visited twice by St. Paul and St. John. Walk over the marble streets of Ephesus, adorned on both sides with temples, theaters, fountains and baths. Visit the Grand Theater that accommodated 24,000 people, tour inside the “Terrace Houses”, homes to the wealthy Romans. Also visit the House of the Virgin Mary, believed to be the last house of Mary and now a place of pilgrimage for Catholics.
- On the Aegean side, Bodrum is a white washed Mediterranean town also called the “New St. Tropez.” We visited the beautiful St. Peter’s castle and the views of Bodrum were lovely but it is a touristy town and considered a resort area, but we found not very much to do here.
- On the last part of the journey, head to Oludeniz and start with a boat tour showcasing the Lycian tombs carved into the rock face. Spend the last two days in the Blue Lagoon or also known as the “Dead Sea” for relaxation and water sports on the beaches.
- If the weather is right, a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia was unforgettable.
- For animal enthusiasts, we loved seeing the Loggerhead Turtles right on the beach in Istuzu Beach.
- Ephesus was remarkable and impressive. Take a full day tour visiting the areas just on the outskirts of Ephesus to learn about these spectacular ruins.
Places to stay
- In “Old Town” Peninsula of Istanbul, Amira Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel and was perfectly located.
- Another recommendation in Istanbul is the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
- A unique hotel carved into the cliff, The Yunak Evleri is a combination of 7 cave houses with a total of 39 private cave rooms dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries and a perfect base for viewing Cappadocia.
- For another unique hotel in Cappadocia area in case Yunak Evleri is sold out is the Museum Hotel.
- The Charisma Hotel, a five star luxury beach location in Kusadasi with a nice indoor and outdoor pool serves as a great base for day trips to Ephesus.
- For a luxurious night with gorgeous views of the Bodrum Castle and the sparkling blue Aegean Sea, the Marmara Hotel in Bodrum was a great hotel.
- For the last two nights of relaxation, the beach hotel, Club Belcekiz Beach was a relaxing spot for a beach resort with more basic than luxurious amenities.
- There are many family-run restaurants in the prime tourist areas of Turkey. For a nice overview of Turkey cuisine, read Frommer’s food and drink section.
- For a current list of recommended restaurants, Lonely Planet has a great list.
- In Istanbul, the Khorasani Restaurants, Yerebatan Cistern was recommended by our concierge for a great family dinner within walking distance of the Amari Hotel.
- There are so many specialty cuisines in Turkey to introduce your children to that are delicious and unique! For thorough information on yummy Istanbul waffles, considered a great street food, visit this page.
- Gözleme is a savoury traditional Turkish pastry dish, made of hand-rolled dough that is lightly brushed with butter and eggs, filled with various toppings, sealed, and cooked over a griddle.
- When you think of Turkish delight, known as Lokum, this sweet candy is made of corn starch and syrup with multitude of flavorings. Think of it as a grander version of a lollipop give away at the local bank. You’ll find them at most hotel concierge desks.
- There are a few significant customs in Turkey to prepare and educate children about. The muslim religion has a call to prayer called Ezan from a Mosque five times a day. The call to prayer is announced via loudspeakers perched high on mosques and buildings. The sounds to “foreigners” may sound annoying but understanding it is a tradition to pray and connect with God for the Muslim religion helps kids not be alarmed-even when the loudspeakers make announcements in the middle of the night.
- The Islamic tradition is moderate dress and many Turkish Muslim women dress in a headscarf and light topcoat when going in public. Some women dress in Burka, a full-body black covering. When visiting sacred sites and mosques, it is important to also dress moderately for the whole family.
- We used a guide arranged through Newport International for the key educational areas of Turkey which enriched the trip immensely especially for the days in Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Ephesus and viewing the Lycian tombs in Dalyan. We used a driver for the key transfers to/from airports as well which was ideal. An independent guide another family highly recommends is Deniz Yolal.
- For getting around Turkey, there are a few suggestions. If you take a taxi, take your hotel card with you so that you don’t get lost. Most taxi drivers speak very little English. When selecting hotels, chose ones that are centrally located and with great restaurants, choices nearby or in the hotel. Traffic can often be in a gridlock especially in Istanbul so this avoids very long taxi rides to go a short distance.
- There are a mild amount of scams to get tourists to buy things. Sometimes a Turk will befriend you and invite you to their store and the expectation is that you will buy something. Ask for prices first and be very clear if you do go into a store about your shopping intentions. Do this in the Grand Bazaar as well as the spice market.
- The beaches along the Aegean sea (Bodrum area and Oludeniz) are rocky. Plan to bring water shoes for the family to enjoy days at the beach.
- For the great majority of turkish people, they are family centered and welcome families to their country. There is an occasional person who is unhappy with the growing tourism and influx of the western world, but those are rare.
- For more background information on tourism in turkey, visit the Tourism Turkey website. Rick Steves also has some audio tours for Istanbul and the Grand Bazaar that are very useful for days you don’t have a guide.
Before You Go
- A valid passport with 6 months time remaining and a Visa. Citizens of the US are eligible to apply for an e-Visa online.
- There’s so much to learn about Turkey as part of the first civilization of the world, here are a few recommended books to purchase for parents and kids.