This travel agent really knows Turkey and was able to create a trip that met our desires and energy level. We were touched by the hospitality and personalization of the trip. I felt like I was able to trust this company to craft bookings and itineraries that let us make the most of our time there comfortably. Turkish Airlines is great and the direct flight from Chicago to Istanbul was possibly the best transatlantic experience I've had so far.
Turkey has put considerable investment in tourism and our guides were fantastic.
OH and the shopping! :D
I thought our contact as a travel agent was fantastic, and would absolutely work with him again and recommend him as a travel agent to my connections. For much of travel experiences, I've been confident in my own ability to research and book hotels and transportation. But for Turkey, I just left it all in our travel agent's hands, and he organized a great trip for us.
It's hard to pick just a few aspects - the hotels were fantastic, the historic sites were fantastic. We loved the guides and the food. I had initially planned the trip with one historic site (the Hagia Sophia) in mind, and found that Turkey offered so much more.
Istanbul, Cappadocia and Sirince were so different that we felt we had three trips in one. Each place has multiple layers of history that go back past the Romans. Historic sites and artifacts are restored and easy to visit. Our guides were very knowledgable and eager to teach us. And we had a partner agent in Turkey who made us feel secure in our travels.
The ancient town of Ephesus is very impressive and, I think, as good a place to study the ancient Romans as Rome itself. In the surrounded area we were able to get crash course in ancient and Roman history up to early Medieval period.
I'd like to come back to see more of the cave churches of Cappadocia, the finished restorations of Hagia Sophia and the Kariye museum, and explore more of the Aegean coast.
I would spent more there! I think there's enough to see and do to fill up two weeks of travel.
The only site I would skip is the House of the Virgin Mary. I was surprised to find that it is more religious than historic, and there isn't really much to see there. It's a 19th century restoration job that's far more focused on prayer and worship rather than historical preservation. I'm relatively pious for an American woman but this hit my limit.
On the other hand, my mother, who is very religious, absolutely loved it and embraced every aspect of house. I think this site was a big part of the reason why she agreed to go with me to Turkey.
If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have gone the Ancient Church of Mary in Ephesus instead. But how could I have known until I saw it for myself? I guess one could say that it's an example of 19th century worship, and my interest was more in early Christianity. I know that's a nuance but I think it's a tip worth passing on to any other religious history nerds. And if you're an atheist planning a trip to Ephesus and Sirince, you can confidently scratch this off your to-do list.
It was nice to see Muslims and Christians enjoying the site together.
Oh one other tip for Americans: Chase Bank will not process debit card transactions from Turkey, and with tipping and purchases from crafts people in small towns, we ran out of Lira. If I had planned better we would have loaded up on Lira in Istanbul. My travel partner had a debit account with another bank and was able to use ATMS.
We went back home, incidentally, on the day that Turkey stopped processing new visas for American tourists, (in October, 2017) so here's hoping they let me return soon. This trip was amazing and I want to come back.
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