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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Head Over Heels for Turkey - Our Top Takeaways & Itinerary

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

We have had Turkey on our bucket list for quite some time now....probably at least for the past 5 years it has been towards the top of our list. However, there has always been something that didn’t quite work to go....either political climate, visa bans, time off work or as new parents with our first we weren't certain about travelling with an infant (although in hindsight I'd do it now!). However, this year the stars aligned and we decided it was now or never!

To be completely honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Turkey. You can read and look at pictures of a place, but there are some places that you never quite get all the dynamics of until you spend time there. Turkey was definitely one of those places.

Here are some of the top takeaways from our trip to Turkey.

The scenery is absolutely stunning & so much to do in all facets!

We came across some of the most spectacular natural beauties. There is also tons of adventure type travel to do here! We were a little limited to what we could do with kids, but they have numerous zip lining, parasailing, quad and Jeep tours, rafting and more! Not only natural beauty, but there is a TON of history as well that has been well preserved and allows you opportunities to step back in time! All these type of experiences are economical as well.

Very Modernized and Clean!

I don’t know why, but I had imagined Turkey to be a little behind the times. However, I found they were up to speed on most modern things, especially in relation with well developed areas of Europe. I was very impressed with the landscaping that was done in many of the areas, as well as the fact that many of the government-sponsored sites and services were as good or better than privatized things. Most areas were well kept and clean too!

The people were very friendly.

We didn’t have any type of negative encounter during our 3-week visit. They were all pleasant and kind. Unfortunately, the biggest barrier with connecting with them more was just the language barrier. It seemed like there wasn’t that many ‘common people’ (those not involved in the tourism industry) who spoke English well.....or at least we didn’t seem to come across them often. Which is completely cool, but just harder to connect on a more personable level.

True Mix of Cultures!

More so than anywhere else that we have traveled, I found it especially hard to identify which people were Turkish and which were foreign tourists. It was probably partially because I struggled to grasp parts of the Turkish language, but I think it was more of a testament of how truly diverse the people of Turkey are! They can’t be categorized into one group at all; Turkish people can resemble many different backgrounds and cultures. I also think that many of the sites we visited are visited by Turkish people themselves. In addition, we didn’t really come across many other North American travelers in our time in Turkey. In the southern part of Turkey if they spoke English they were likely from the UK. Eventually we came across a few more North Americans once we reached places like Ephesus, Cappadocia and Istanbul.

They Love Kids!

The people of Turkey absolutely loved kids; I especially found this true with young adults. I lost track of how many times our son and daughter got their cheeks squeezed and received big smiles from the Turkish people! When Connor would walk down the sidewalk with his ice cream he would get quite a few gazes and smiles! Clara daughter got lots of free things when she went shopping. There were a handful of shop owners during our time in Turkey where they gave her little items to have and wouldn't accept payment for them.

Not only do they just enjoy kids in general, but they are super accommodating to families with young kids. These are some of the top ones that come to mind:

  1. There were playgrounds almost everywhere we stayed.

  2. They had things for kids to do at restaurants while we waited for food. We had one restaurant where they had puzzles & toys they could play with at the table; a couple of other restaurants had playgrounds right next to the eating areas.

  3. Kids were FREE every place we visited. There was never an admission fee for at least children 6 and under.

More of a Tea Culture than Coffee Culture

Initially we thought that Turkey would be more of a coffee culture because of its infamous Turkish coffee. However, we found that tea - "cay" in Turkish - seemed to be more commonplace. In every market we visited there would be Turkish tea delivery people who would make tea deliveries to the various shop owners. The tea is uniquely served in small clear glasses. They have a variety of flavors of tea, including some unique fruit ones like pomegranate.

To be 100% honest, I didn't personally try the Turkish coffee while we were there. I had Turkish coffee a few years ago and wasn't a fan of it. However, my husband had some, but it is extremely thick with the coffee grounds not really filtered out; so it left this unique coating on the bottom of the cup after finishing. Alex said it was a sipping coffee.

Delicious Food!

Going to Turkey, I knew there were kebabs and donairs, but wasn't too familiar with the rest of the cuisine. The kebabs were great and tasty, but there was quite a WIDE VARIETY of options. They had everything from curry-like dishes, to casseroles that had chicken, vegetables and cheese baked in an iron dish and Turkish pizza - Pide. The pide was our favorite and definitely enjoyed by the kids!

Affordable Place to Travel

Turkey was a super affordable place to travel; with the decrease in value of the Turkish lira it is especially enticing for international tourists. It also helped that we traveled in the off season to lower prices. However, I can't imagine going during the summer when temperatures are probably closer to 40 C. Most of the full apartments we stayed at through Airbnb were around $30-$60 CDN per night. Groceries were relatively cheap - a good load of a couple bags of food for around $20 CDN; and when we went for dinner at a restaurant the cost would be anywhere from 50 TL to 125 TL on average (about $10-$25 CDN) for the four of us. The cheaper meals would often be in local spots, not in the tourist locations. The tourist-based restaurants would be more pricier.

Overall Felt Safe

To be entirely honest, I was a bit nervous about the safety of travelling in Turkey prior to going. The U.S. State Department has a Level 3: Reconsider Travel Warning for U.S. citizens going to Turkey. As a U.S. citizen and my children using their U.S. passports to receive their Turkish visa, I wasn't sure if we'd face any difficulties due to the friction between the two countries' leaders. Out of caution, I decided not to post anything online while we were in Turkey, as I didn't want anything to be misinterpreted as being politically against Turkey, or taken out of context. However, we never ran into any issues when going through customs and immigration - either coming or leaving the country - nor with any individuals within the country.

The other major threat is possibilities of terrorist attacks in the country. However, I read a couple of things prior to going to Turkey that I took to heart - 'you're more likely to be struck by lightening than be a victim of a terrorist attack' and that 'there were more gun shootings in the U.S. than there were terrorist attacks in Turkey in one year.' The fact that we were mostly going to be on the coast, which is the furthest away from Syria and the mainly tourist areas was also reassuring.

In the end I felt overall safe and there was good presence by security officials. Every tourist site we went (and even some of the mall entrances) there was a metal detector that everyone had to walk through and there would often be police or Jandarma (part of the military service that is responsible for the public) presence. At the airports, they even checked vehicles prior to the car pulling up to the airport in Kayseri, and every airport we went through had two security checkpoints. One for everyone who entered the airport, and the other once you got your ticket and were proceeding to the gate.

While I realize that terrorist attacks can happen anywhere, even with the greatest presence of security officers and security checks, it was good to know there were people there with a watchful eye.

Road Trip Itinerary Through Turkey

Here is the itinerary that we followed on our road trip through Turkey:

Day 1-2: Travel Calgary to London | London Overnight | Flight to Antalya, Turkey

Day 3-4: Antalya, Turkey (2 nights/2 days)

Day 5-6: Ferry to Meis, Kastellorizo, Greece & Overnight There | Drive to Kalkan, Turkey

Day 7: Drive Kalkan to Fethiye with daytime stop at Saklikent Gorge

Day 8-11: Fethiye (4 nights/5 days) | 5th Day - Drive to Marmaris

Day 11-13: Marmaris (3 nights/4 days) | Afternoon of 4th Day Drive to Denizli

Day 14: Visit Hierapolis & Pamukkale from Denizli (2 nights)

Day 15-16: Drive to Izmir with Ephesus Stop | 2nd Day Afternoon Flight to Kayseri

Day 16-19: Cappadocia Region (3 nights/3 days) | Spent Night in Izmir on 4th night

Day 20: Drive to Istanbul

Day 21-22: Istanbul

Day 23-24: Flight to London | Overnight at Gatwick Airport Hotel | Flight Back to Calgary

Overall, we had a wonderful trip to Turkey and really enjoyed our experience there as a family!

If you'd like to see more photos and see what we did on a day-to-day basis while in Turkey please check out our other posts of our time and experiences in Turkey!


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