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Turkey itinerary (for 2-3 months)

Updated: Nov 22, 2023


Turkey is a fascinating country on multiple levels: landscape, history, ethnography, culture, gastronomy... All of this varies throughout the country, which is extremely diverse. From Istanbul and the surrounding industrial area; the scenic Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, with their archaeological sites, beaches and fairytale forests; the vast interior, dotted with salt lakes and geological formations; the Kurdish area in the southeast corner; or the lush, rainy coastal strip of the Black Sea in the north. This is the itinerary we did, with time and moving calmly:


Istanbul

Ephesus - Sirince

Pamukkale - Hierapolis

Akyaka and Datça Peninsula

Lycian Way

Aspendos

Cappadocia

Crossing Central Anatolia

Nemrut Dagi National Park

Sanliurfa and Göbekli Tepe

Mardin

From Bayburt to the Black Sea

Black Sea (Karadeniz)

Around Artvin


ISTANBUL


Istanbul

“Lo que hace a esta ciudad tan especial es que se trata de Europa y Asia en una sola, conectadas por varios puentes. Que contiene barrios tan distintos que parecen ciudades o incluso países diferentes. Que tienes comida turca en cada calle 24/7 y casas de té en cada rincón siempre solicitadas. Los altavoces de las mezquitas cantando rezos a los mil decibelios, el griterío de la muchedumbre en los bazares, e incluso los cláxones de los coches que no se dejan pasar los unos a los otros… Y entonces suena la bocina de ese barco que anuncia un pasaje entre continentes, con el aroma penetrante del mar de Mármara y la visión de las gaviotas –las más libres y felices del condado–, que acompañarán todo el recorrido jugando a perseguir la brisa. Caos en el asfalto, paz en los barcos”. Fragment of my book "El Pekín Express Canino" (only in Spanish), in which the essence of one of the most magical cities in the world that leaves every visitor captivated is summarized.


See and do


My best advice is to get lost in its different neighborhoods and streets, where Cafes, tea houses, markets, bookstores and businesses of all kinds await. But obviously there are some essential ones that I will briefly describe:


Cross the Bosphorus Strait (and the Golden Horn) by ferry. Without a doubt the coolest activity one can do in the ancient capital of the Byzantine Empire. Moving between both continents contemplating the urban scenery, dotted with mosques and their prayers, and accompanied by seagulls that take advantage of the winds generated by the ferry is incomparable. There are different routes, some of the most frequented ports being: Koraköy, Kadiköy, Üskudar, Besiktas, Ortaköy...


Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. The two most precious architectural works of the city.


Hagia Sophia

Topkapi Palace. It is close to the previous ones and is worth a few hours of your visit.


Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Bazaar. The first is full of shops selling fabrics, rugs, crafts, Turkish objects, food... and the second is an ode to spices, aromas and colors.


Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Taksim square, Taksim street and Galata Tower. The Grand Via of Istanbul. It starts in a lively square, continues with a long avenue full of shops and music, and ends at the most famous tower in the city. In addition, they are in the picturesque neighborhood of Koraköy, where you can eat in a nice restaurant, have tea or try Turkish coffee.


Besiktas and Ortaköy. Two neighborhoods in the European side that offer a lot to the visitor. The great gem is the Ortaköy Mosque, one of my favorite mosques in the city, next to the sea, with views of the Bosphorus Bridge and with a great atmosphere. The square is famous for its stuffed potato stalls and there is usually a musician.


Kadiköy and Üskudar. Two neighborhoods on the Asian side that also offer a lot: historic buildings, street atmosphere, markets, bars and Cafes...


Princes Islands. Good excursion if you have more than four or five days in Istanbul and you want to do something different. The trip departs from the port of Bostanci, on the Asian side. There many people rent a bike to explore the island. We walked around, stopping at some quiet beaches.


Accommodation


There are countless options and for all budgets. I recommend this dog-friendly, affordable hotel (at least as of 2019-2021) and located a short distance from the Haga Sofia where we slept with my family for a couple of nights: Galley Hotel. However, my advice will always be to stay with someone local for Couchsurfing, Warm Showers or other apps. We slept for a week at a friend's house in Kadiköy.


EPHESUS AND SIRINCE


Ephesus

“Ephesus, la ciudad griega mejor conservada de todo Turquía, es un tesoro. Con el anfiteatro, las avenidas empedradas y flanqueadas con columnas, los patios, los templos… y obviamente con la biblioteca. Entonces la tercera más grande de la época, solo por detrás de la de Alejandría y Pérgamo. Una auténtica pasada estar, respirar y contemplar lo que hay allí”. El Pekín Express Canino.


I'm just saying that it is a must-see and the 50 lira is very well spent (price in 2019-2021). The site is located on the outskirts of Selçuk, a very pleasant city notable for its castle. It also houses the Ephesus Archaeological Museum, with explanatory panels and a collection of artifacts from Ephesus and other cities of the time. I recommend the visit, preferably before heading to the archaeological site.


A few kilometers from Selçuk, up a mountain road, is a beautiful village of white houses called Sirince. It's a shame that it's so touristy, but it's worth coming to see it, stroll through its streets... and try some wine (it's famous in the area). Bringing some honey or jam is optional, especially if you are traveling as a scruffy backpacker. They are expensive ;)


Sirince

Accommodation


You can choose to sleep in Selçuk, cheaper, or in Sirince. There are many hotels and even private houses, but my recommendation is this family campsite: Şiringöl Restaurant, Karavan ve Kamp Alanı. They treated us wonderfully and served me one of the best kahvaltis (Turkish breakfasts).


PAMUKKALE + HIERAPOLIS


Pamukkale

“Se trata de unas formaciones geológicas calizas blancas en lo alto de una especie de altiplano o páramo. Se formaron por movimientos tectónicos hace millones de años, y los griegos, que eran muy listos a la hora de buscar asentamientos, debieron de pensar que esas tierras plagadas de fuentes de aguas termales no podían ser para otros. Allí fundaron una gran ciudad, conocida en la actualidad como Hierapolis y cuyos restos hacen de Pamukkale un lugar más mágico aún si cabe. El sitio hoy en día sigue siendo espectacular y se ha ganado el apodo de “Castillo de Algodón”, debido a su color blanco y su aspecto esponjoso, otorgado por los minerales que lo forman, especialmente la caliza de Creta. Y aunque el turismo masivo se está cargando ese balneario, las piscinas de aguas cristalinas en terrazas de travertino siguen siendo todo un deleite para los sentidos. Incluso aunque muchas de ellas sean artificiales: un baño templadito en las piscinas superiores con vistas espectaculares no tiene precio”. El Pekín Express Canino.


Hierapolis

Accommodation


You can camp freely in the town park, which also has public bathrooms. If you wake up at dawn you might see hot air balloons. There is also a great hotel offer. The Venus Hotel is dog-friendly.


AKYAKA AND DATÇA PENINSULA


Çamli

Lesser known destinations, but no less spectacular. In fact, its beauty added to the few visits gives it more value. Akyaka is a town of white houses located next to a type of mangrove swamp. Combination of wild beaches and good vibes atmosphere. In addition, the surroundings are worth exploring. It is at the gates of the Datça peninsula.


This strip of land that juts out between the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea has a series of spectacular beaches with crystal-clear water (some of them accessible only on foot) and other attractions such as: the city of Datça, small fishing villages such as Mesudiye and Palamutbükü or the ruins of Knidos, at the westernmost end of the peninsula.


Datça Peninsula

Accommodation


Free camping practically wherever you want. There is also a campsite in Mesudiye. Additionally, we stayed in a dog-friendly accommodation in Palamutbükü (at least in low season): Liman Pansiyon. It is right on the beach and the views from the terrace are amazing.


LYCIAN WAY AND MAIN TOURISTY STOPS: KAS AND OLIMPOS


Lycian Way

The Lycian Way is one of the biggest attractions of Turkey. It runs for 500 km along a particularly beautiful Mediterranean for its crystal clear waters and slender mountains that come to die directly to the sea. And of course, Lycian, Greek and Roman archaeological sites. We made two very different stretches: first from Fethiye to Patara, a more mountain stage with pine vegetation and wild beaches; then from Kas to Simena, along the coast and way warmer. Some of the places to be highlighted on our route: Oludeniz, Butterfly Valley, Kabak, Paradise Beach, mountain villages such as Gey or Bel, Patara, Xhantos, Kas, Aperlae, Simena/Kalekoy.


Simena Lycian tombs

We always did free camping, using the sea and the fountains of the villages to take a shower and making use of the bathrooms of campsites and restaurants, as well as the forest. But there is room for everyone in this trail: campsites and family pensions at a good price await throughout the whole way. So you can make the route lighter too (if you don't want to bring your tent and camping stuff). Dogs are generally welcome everywhere: some family houses, campgrounds all the beaches… Even sometimes in the dolmus (mini buses) that take you from town to town.


Kas and Olympos deserve special mention


Kas is a very picturesque small port town, with colorful houses and restaurants (fish and seafood lovers are in luck here), craft shops… But if there is one reason why it is one of the most acclaimed destinations in the country, it is because of the beaches with transparent waters in the surrounding area. There are many accommodation options and dogs are usually welcome.


Kas, Turkey

Olympos is one of the best preserved Lycian settlements. It is next to the beach, which is so beautiful that it is surely the main tourist attraction. In addition, Çirali, a neighboring little town built in this incredible enclave, is one of my favorites, with its sandy streets and cabin-type businesses with orange and citrus gardens. A total marvel. There are also many accommodation options: hotels, apartments, cabins, campsites... The Sahin Pansion has some very cute cabins and is dog-friendly.


ASPENDOS


Aspendos

The Lycian route ends in Antalya, one of the largest cities in Turkey. A few kilometers from Antalya awaits this spectacular Greek site, with one of the best preserved theaters in the world. The invested Turkish liras are well worth it.


Note. On the way from Antalya to Cappadocia you pass through Konya, an interesting city if you have time to visit it for a couple of days. The most notable thing here is the Mevlana Museum, which serves as the mausoleum of the poet Rumi.


CAPPADOCIA


Cappadocia's hot air balloons

“… en estas tierras de fábula donde la historia y la geología luchan por el protagonismo: cuevas, rocas fálicas y otras formaciones geológicas esculpidas por las fuerzas de la naturaleza; casas metidas en estos champiñones de piedra y ciudades enteras bajo tierra… Pero lo que más nos está gustado a los tres es abrir la tienda al amanecer y estar rodeados de decenas de globos aerostáticos sobrevolando los cielos y todo aquello: los pilotos de cada globo se valen del viento para llevar a sus tripulantes a través de valles de colinas blancas, marrones, rojas, rosas y hasta verdes”. El Pekín Express Canino.


See and do


There is so much to see in Cappadocia... Hopefully you have a few days and can explore without rushing because there are many must-see places.


Geological formations of Cappadocia

Göreme is the town where most visitors stay, given its magical geology and location among colorful valleys (where hot air balloons fly). Sleeping in a hotel carved out of stone, getting on one of those balloons at dawn (or watching the show from the mainland for the less wealthy), strolling through its streets full of restaurants and businesses is a reason in itself to come and stay. a few days, but the surroundings are legendary. It is surrounded by colorful valleys: Red Valley, White Valley, Pink Valley, Green Valley… There are also open-air “museums” of geological sculptures, some free and others you have to pay for (they are all worth seeing). In them you will see phallic or mushroom-shaped stones, and caves dug into the rock, vestiges of ancient populations.


As for underground cities, the most spectacular are Derinkuyu, a few km south of Göreme, and Ozkonak, a stone's throw away. Further away is Mazi, much less known. It is to the east, so if you go in that direction you can take the opportunity to make a stop.


Another excursion you can do is to Tuz Lake, a very popular salt lake about 170 km away. We were caught on a rainy and cold day and the truth is that we couldn't appreciate its beauty and we didn't see flamingos either.


Accommodation


Camping in Cappadocia

Free camping in a valley, rock or cave is unbeatable, but here I also recommend a couple of cave hotels in Goreme, which were also a magnificent experience: Grand Elit Cave Suits Nevsehir and Elysee Cave House Hotel. Both allow dogs. There are also options in Avanos and Çavusay.


CROSSING CENTRAL ANATOLIA


Central Anatolia

The Turkish hinterland is a vast area that houses sensational places that most travelers miss. Surely there are many more that I do not know, but this is the route that we followed from Cappadocia to the “Mesopotamian” Kurdish area: Toklar, Tufanbeyli, Goksun, Elbistan, Nurhak, Golbasi. The road passes through green mountain areas that invite you to stop for a picnic, walk and even spend the night if you have a tent, van or venture to the bivouac. As one approaches the Euphrates River the landscape becomes more rugged. We enter the cradle of civilization!


NEMRUT DAGI NATIONAL PARK


Nemrut Dagi

“Es uno de los puntos más altos de lo que fuera Mesopotamia. En la cuna de las primeras civilizaciones hay muchos yacimientos arqueológicos, y este del reino de Commagene es uno muy curioso. Hablamos de Nemrut Dagi, the Mountain of Gods. Allí erigieron sobre el siglo I a. C. unas estatuas monstruosas de diez metros de altura dedicadas a algunos de sus dioses más importantes, Zeus a la cabeza. Y nunca mejor dicho, porque en algún momento de la historia las figuras fueron atacadas, y las cabezas están por ahí esparcidas, separadas de sus cuerpos. Se cree que el sitio alberga la tumba del rey Antiochus I de Commagene, reino resultante de la unión del pueblo persa y el macedonio. Estuvimos un par de horas merodeando entre cabezas, maravillados y asombrados a partes iguales. El paisaje desde ahí arriba era también parte del espectáculo, el sol bañando sus contornos con sus últimos destellos del día. Cocaí disfrutaba de las vistas y los olores como la que más. Turquía no deja de sorprendernos con sus atractivos turísticos, y con la permisividad para nuestros amigos cuadrúpedos en los mismos”. El Pekín Express Canino.


To get there you have to follow a road that deviates from the main one, between Adyaman and Siverek. The detour is near a town called Narince. The climb is very scenic, so much so that if you have a tent it is highly recommended to sleep in some bucolic meadow that you find, either before or after the visit.


Accommodation


There are other options besides camping, obviously. There are several guest houses in the town before the summit, the Karadut Pension being dog-friendly, very affordable and with dreamlike views. You can also stay in Adyaman or a town on the way, but it is not the same.


Note: other interesting places in this region (that very few know about)


Karakus Tumulus

Karakus Tumulus is a funerary monument of the Commagene culture, 12 km from the town of Kahta. In addition, the Euphrates River is a mandatory stop when you cross it. One of those places that exude history. If you have time, a nice city to see on the way to Sanliurfa is Siverek.


SANLIURFA (URFA) AND GÖBEKLI TEPE


Sanliurfa

“En medio del desierto se levanta una metrópolis desordenada y frenética en la que conviven pacíficamente tres grandes culturas. Los turcos, los kurdos… y los sirios. Desde que en mayo de 2011 estallase la guerra, alrededor de ocho millones de sirios abandonaron sus casas en busca de un refugio. Turquía es con diferencia el país al que más sirios emigraron (aproximadamente la mitad del total de los desplazados), especialmente a la zona sureste, limítrofe con su propio país. Seguramente con la esperanza de que esta tragedia no fuese a durar mucho… Más de ocho años después, en la zona de Sanliurfa aún siguen viviendo cientos de miles de sirios, muchos de los cuales nacieron en territorio turco y ni siquiera conocen sus raíces… Pero además Sanliurfa te sorprende también por su larga historia. Fue una de las ciudades de la cuenca de los ríos Éufrates y Tigris, probablemente poblada ya entre los siglos VIII y IV a. C. Luego fue pasando de mano en mano entre los diferentes Imperios que iban llegando”. El Pekín Express Canino.


In short, you have to go. It is not the most beautiful city by any means, but it is one of the most special in Turkey, due to its history and mix of cultures. In addition, just 12 km away is what is considered the oldest city in the world: Göbekli Tepe.


Göbekli Tepe

These ruins were rediscovered just two decades ago and it is estimated that only 5% has been discovered. The excavation work will reveal how big it was and I am sure that it will give us various surprises about the people who inhabited it and their culture. You can come with your dog.


Accommodation


I don't know any accommodation in Sanliurfa because we stayed with a local family. Surely, despite the little tourism, there are hotels and couchsurfers.


MARDIN


Mardin

“Mardin impresionó desde que empezamos a atisbar su contorno desde lejos. Una ciudad muy Game of Thrones, con sus casas y edificios de piedra caliza amarilla en diferentes pisos o escalones a juego con su escénico entorno de tierras áridas y ásperas. Una pasada de ciudad que destila historia”. El Pekín Express Canino.


That's right friends, Mardin is the crown jewel of the Turkish Kurdish area. Among the main activities I would highlight: walking and getting lost in the streets and galleries, eating on the roof/terrace of a restaurant with views of the plains of Mesopotamia that merge with Syria, climbing to the top of the city, where a castle awaits, go shopping at artisan stores…


Accommodation


There is a wide range of accommodation, but be careful because the old town is expensive and on weekends it can even be packed. The worst case scenario is the modern city... I'm not going to recommend camping on the outskirts because the police gave us a scare in the middle of the night.


Note. Other sites in the Kurdish area that you may be interested in visiting are: Dyarbakir (capital of the Kurds), Van Lake (the largest lake in the country), the legendary Mount Ararat... You can read more about the latter in a post I will write about the Armenia itinerary. Also, if you are on a land trip to Iran, I recommend stopping along the way in Yemișli and Yüksekova. The route runs parallel to the Syrian border, first, and then Iraq, and it is beautiful.


FROM BAYBURT TO THE BLACK SEA


Çençul Yailasi

If your next destination is Georgia or you simply want to get to the Black Sea from here, I recommend traveling to Erzurum and traveling this beautiful and totally unknown route that takes you through mountains and green meadows before ending on the least visited coast of Turkey. Along the way there are some very cool towns, like Çençul Yailasi.


Accommodation


Difficult to find something outside of cities (in Erzurum there must be hotels), but wonderful for those of us who love free camping.


BLACK SEA (KARADENIZ)


Turkish Black Sea, Karadeniz

Lands of tea, rain and freshness, it is the perfect antonym of the Mediterranean and Aegean coast. It doesn't have its beautiful beaches or its warmth, but even so, I recommend a visit. Its traditional inhabitants, its love story with tea and its ghostly atmosphere are well worth it. Among the cities and towns we passed through are Sürmene, Rize and Hopa. The latter, along with the border town of Kemalpasa, is the one I most recommend to stay for a few days. You can camp on the beach (watch out for thunderstorms, though).


AROUND ARTVIN


Maral Waterfall, Artvin

“El paisaje se fue haciendo más y más salvaje, envolviéndonos en su telaraña de agua condensada. Este ecosistema de bosque lluvioso era la puntilla de un territorio que nos había ofrecido hasta entonces la siguiente paleta paisajística: playas con un mar cristalino, elevadas cordilleras, llanuras con formaciones rocosas marcianas, desiertos pelados, densos bosques… Ahora se venía una selva en esta franja costera norte. Sin duda, Turquía es uno de los países más diversos que he conocido. Las imágenes de esa carretera cubierta por árboles, nubes y cantos de pájaros es de las más bonitas que conservo en mi memoria”. El Pekín Express Canino.


A discovery to reach this corner (literally, since it is in the northeast corner of the country) full of greenery and water. There must be other places that are worth visiting, but I recommend these two firsthand: Maral Waterfall and Karagöl Lake.


Accommodation


You can camp and there are also cabins and other types of accommodation in the tourist spots and surroundings.

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El Pekín Express CaninoEn marzo de 2019 mi perra Cocaí y yo salimos de Madrid con una mochila, una tienda de campaña y una misión entre ceja y ceja: llegar a China a dedo. Cuando andábamos en India hizo entrada en escena un "pequeño invitado" que puso el mundo patas arriba, incluido nuestro viaje. Tres años después volvimos a casa con un camino plagado de aprendizajes, aventuras, seres maravillosos... y una perra nueva: Chai :-) Más info sobre este libro, en realidad trilogía, aquí.

La Reina Leona. Un cuento ilustrado basado en una historia real de una perra que conocí durante la pandemia en India y con quien formé un vínculo muy especial. Puedes conseguirlo aquí.

Diarios de viajes por Sudamérica y Norteamérica. Estos dos libros cuentan, a modo de diarios, mis primeros años como mochilero, incluyendo el encuentro con Cocaí en Bolivia y todas las aventuras vividas con ella. Hago especial énfasis en la conexión con la naturaleza y las personas que nos brindó el camino. Leer más aquí.

Únete a nuestra iniciativa y recibe novedades sobre viajes, perros y viajar con perro 😉

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Somos Rober, Cocaí y Chai, tres amigos de tres naciones distintas que recorren el mundo en autostop. Desde el año 2013 hemos hecho tres grandes viajes: Sudamérica, Norteamérica y Asia. Nuestra próxima aventura es África. El objetivo principal de este blog es animar a otras personas (¡y perros!) a lanzarse también a conocer los bellos rincones y culturas que nuestro planeta atesora

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La trilogía más esperada desde el Señor de los Anillos

🙃

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El Pekín Express Canino, portada
La Reina Leona, portada
Queen Leona, cover book
Diario de Viajes por Sudamérica, portada
Diario de Viajes por Norteamérica, portada

El Pekín Express Canino

En marzo de 2019 mi perra Cocaí y yo salimos de Madrid con una mochila, una tienda de campaña y una misión entre ceja y ceja: llegar a China a dedo. Cuando andábamos en India hizo entrada en escena un "pequeño invitado" que puso el mundo patas arriba, incluido nuestro viaje. Tres años después volvimos a casa con un camino plagado de aprendizajes, aventuras, seres maravillosos... y una perra nueva: Chai :-) Más info sobre este libro, en realidad trilogía, abajo.

La Reina Leona

Un cuento ilustrado basado en una historia real de una perra que conocí durante la pandemia en India y con quien formé un vínculo muy especial. 

¡Disponible también en inglés!

Diarios de Viajes por Sudamérica y Norteamérica

Estos dos libros cuentan, a modo de diarios, mis primeros años como mochilero, incluyendo el encuentro con Cocaí en Bolivia y todas las aventuras vividas con ella. Hago especial énfasis en la conexión con la naturaleza y las personas que nos brindó el camino. 

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