I could write a thousand posts about my six day experience in Turkey (and I may over the years), but I thought it would be fun to take it from an angle of “can’t miss experiences.” If you’d like 30 INCREDIBLE PHOTOS to inspire you to book a flight, check out my friend Robert’s gorgeous site. If you’re looking for an AWESOME VIDEO to inspire you, stay-tuned because my new friend “Hey Nadine” will have one up soon. For ONE KILLER FLIPAGRAM, see fellow Angeleno ADVENTUREGIRL (Stefani Michaels) page. I saw a fraction of this incredible country, so these recommendations are only my own.
Still, here is my take. I think this list should give you plenty of reason to hop on TurkishAirlines.com to plan your next trip!
1. Experience the call to prayer – an incredibly powerful moment
Adhan is called out by a muezzin from the mosque five times a day, traditionally from the minaret, summoning Muslims for mandatory (fard) worship (salat). A second call, known as iqama, (set up) then summons Muslims to line up for the beginning of the prayers. Here is what it sounds like outside the Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish), which is a must-see item in Istanbul. Listen to the call to prayer
2. Eat Kaymak with Tahin & Pekmex
Turkish breakfast…sweet mother of breakfasts… Fresh jams, fresh pide (hot bread), fresh feta cheese combination situations that look like little scoops of ice cream, Turkish coffee, Turkish tea, this scrambled egg thing that’s mostly tomato and pepper with just a bit of egg mixed in, the Turkish “breakfast quesadilla” – light, flat dough filled with cheese, the Turkish kugel – light, stacked dough filled with a sweet cheese, and THIS – the holy combination of pide, Kaymak (creamy butter-like substance) covered in the famous Tahin (a Turkish tahini) + Pekmez (boiled grapes + peas incredibly rich in iron, calcium and potassium) combo. Move over Nutella. I ate mine at Sillehan Cafe in Sille, Turkey just outside Konya in the interior part of the country, but you can ask for it anywhere, or everywhere, as you should.
3. Take a sunset cruise along Istanbul’s Bosphorous
This water way rivals the Venice Grand Canal except it connects Europe and Asia (crazy cool), is home to a gorgeous modern bridge (the Bosphorous), and all the important buildings are up-lit at night (oh-so-helpful for photography). You can take one of many cruises at various prices. Here is Trip Advisor’s helpful list. I would recommend my own tour, but we had a private yacht chartered. I know…
4. Visit Aladdin Spices at the Spice Market
Most locals in Istanbul will tell you that the Grand Bazaar is just a spectacle but the Spice Market is legit. It’s where real locals purchase their spices, Turkish delights and various household needs. Aladdin (despite its Disney-themed name) is a local favorite. There you’ll find real, Persian saffron (BUY IT. SO much cheaper than in the US), Turkish red chili flakes (nothing like the US pizza shop staple), and a number of combos they make in-house (try the salad dressing spices, just add olive oil!). They also vacuum seal anything you buy so it stays fresh for the flight home.
5. Sleep in a cave in interior Turkey
More on why you need to visit the interior region of Konya/Cappadocia below (note: don’t look for Cappadocia on a map. It’s more an old nickname for a region located largely in the Nevşehir, Kayseri, Aksaray, and Niğde provinces), though I think the prospect of sleeping in a cave carved out of volcanic-based stone should be enough. I worshiped The Elkep Evi Suites for their look, feel, breakfast and the fact that the grounds reminded me of what I always imagined The Secret Garden would look like, but there are many, many options. The region is just a 1.5 hour flight from Istanbul to Konya.
6. Tour the Fairy Chimney’s of Göreme, Cappadocia region
Some people compare this section of interior Turkey to Bryce Canyon National Park, but they are wrong. This landscape is like a foreign planet from a fairytale and the rock formations are still forming thanks to a combo of rock types, wind, and seasonal weather elements. It is breathtaking. Hop on a quick 1.5 hour flight from Istanbul to Nevsehir. (Note: you can fly into Konya and out of Nevsehir, which we did, to catch the Konya + Cappadocia combo sites).
And while you’re there, plan to ride in the famous hot air balloons high above this killer landscape. I’m sad to say that we couldn’t fly owing to some weather elements, but I will go back to make that happen.
So thrilled to be among the chimneys of the fairies, obviously
7. See the Whirling Dervishes Dance
Frankly if you could do one thing and one thing only, I would recommend this incredible experience. Not only is the history of the whirling fascinating but the dance itself is transfixing. While technically a religious ceremony, there are places near Konya where you can see members of the Mevlevi order performing their famous spinning sermon as a show. We visited Saruhan inside a historic Carevanserai or ancient traveler’s lodge. Watch the Dervisheservishes dance.
Bonus option: Have your fortune told by Turkish coffee grinds
It is a tradition to “read your future” in the grinds leftover from your mini cup of Turkish coffee. Many people in the country have a special skill for this, they say, so you don’t have to seek out the Miss Cleo of Instanbul. On our trip two tour guides and a restaurant proprietor did readings. Lots of fun though beware, they are not afraid of “the truth” – which is why I didn’t have mine read…
Bottom line – add Turkey to the top of your travel destinations list. It is a gorgeous country, rich in tradition, history and food. I can’t wait to get back.