TURKEY

Like most countries there are areas that wouldn’t top our list, so here is a quick run down on the top spots:

From Bulgaria and Greek borders to Izmir:

Edirne : what a great introduction to turkey, particularly lovely lit up at night.

Istanbul : Aya Sofya, Topkapi palace, Sultan Ahmet Camii, Grand Bazaar and just to wander the streets.

Gallipoli peninsula: Beautiful beaches and setting with a tragic history.

Coast line from Canakkale down to Izmir is dotted with lots of good sites to visit  some of which are :

Kucukkuyu to Assos road: great coastline drive with lovely harbour villages.

Ayvalik: lively seaside town with good shops.

Bergama: lovely site and surrounding area.

Izmir: is a nice city with a very relaxed atmosphere toward tourists.

South of Izmir :

Other than Ephesus and Priene this stretch is a bit of a blackpool gone wrong area, if you are into beer, full English breakfast and more brits than turks -  dig out! If you want to eat the miles, then use the motorway from Izmir to Aydin for the whole trip the toll is only £1.

Bodrum to Marmaris:

Bodrum: not too bad, not one of our favourites but we can see why people like it.

Oren (Keramos) to Akyaka road : Oren is not nice but this is a great road to drive. In total it’s a 50km trip and after 20km the road turns to gravel track, 5kms further on you come to Akbuk, a lovely little fishing and yacht stop village, there is a campsite, but we asked the local hotel if we could pitch up by his land and had uninterrupted views out to sea.

If you don’t fancy that stop, push on a further 18kms and you will be spoilt for choice with great bushcamp spots for the last few km’s of the route.

Marmaris peninsula: We don’t like Marmaris but the peninsula is very pretty.

Marmaris to Antalya:

Dalyan: go on a boat trip to see turtles, rock tombs and have a smelly mud bath. Watch out for the mossies!

Fethiye: a personal favourite. It’s a working town that has a great selection of shops, places to eat, rock tombs, boat trips and a marina. Watch turtles frolic in the shallow waters of the harbour.

Top places to visit nearby;

Olu Deniz: lovely beach

Kaya Koyu: ghost village

Tlos: hilltop site

Saklikent gorge: take a cold dip and walk up the gorge

Xanthos: lovely ruins

Top places to eat;

Address restaurant in Fethiye, opposite marina. Best food + views in town, get there for sunset. FAB!

Seckin café, by bus station in Fethiye, great for soup and pide.

Shine Indian restaurant, Hisaronu, best curry in Turkey.

Patara beach and ruins: lovely spot.

Kas: nice harbour front particularly pretty lit up at night.

Kekova: sunken ruins.

Kumluca: when you arrive at this town get off the main road and follow the road that hugs the coast line, a bit of an adventure as there are no sign posts and no one speaks english but you will stumble across some fantastic bays that are deserted and a real treat to set up in.

Olympos and Chimera: were a real disappointment to us mainly because they were mobbed by tourists, you may love them.

Antalya: the city itself does not inspire us but there are some places to visit nearby. See below.

Beautiful Sanli Urfa

Harassing Harran

Antalya to Adana:

Once you are past the huge tourist resorts the road becomes unbelievably twisty and rather dull.

A few places have nice beach areas to camp.

Aspendos: stunning theatre. You may be lucky and catch an opera or ballet here.

Termessos: fabulously situated ancient site.

Side: Athene temple.

Kizkalesi: has a couple of castles, one of which is in the sea, also has the nearby caves of cennet (heaven) and cenennem (hell). Be prepared to be the “big event” as they don’t seem to meet western tourists in this area.

Adana to Sanli Urfa:

We drove straight through so we are not sure if there is much to see in  Adana, Gazi Antep or Antakya.

Sanli Urfa: feels more like a middle eastern town than Turkish but we loved it. Well worth a stop. The people are so friendly you will struggle to not spend all day drinking tea with the shop owners, they are as curious of you as you of them. Beautiful religious areas.

Harran: we drove 40 kms of sheer hell on a bumpy, dusty road to get here and when we arrived we experienced some of the worst harassment we have ever faced, we legged it! Shame really because if you could have got peace it would have been a good experience.

At the time Mardin, Diyarbakir and Batman were all unsettled so we headed north toward Malatya past the GAP project and Ataturk dam onto Kahta.

Cendere koprusu: lovely setting with old bridge.

Arsameia: this was where we met the French family that started us off with this mad idea. You can scare yourself by walking down the tunnel, be warned it is very dark, steep and slippy.

On the way to eski kahta from here: turn down the little dead end road that gives you a rear view of eski castle and the gorge.

Eski Kahta: tiny traditional village where horses are the local mode of transport. Crowned by a ruined castle that’s well worth a look.

Be warned that the road from eski kahta to nemrut dagi is not good and not signed, it scared the pants off us in a fiat, in your 4x4 it will be a breeze.

Nemrut Dagi: beautiful setting with famous 6ft stone heads. Sunrise and sunset views are lovely. The owners of the Gunes hotel should let you pitch in the car park which is a short walk from the site.

Malatya: compared to Urfa there is not a great deal to see. The town does have a nice feel to it but most people stop here to book a room at the Gunes hotel as it’s a long drive to find it’s full!

Konya

Malatya to Konya

This is where we started to head back toward the west coast. From Malatya to Cappadocia there are only a couple of things of note that I have highlighted but for the life of me I can’t remember why! Sorry:

Pinarbasi Dam: think I marked this for the nice view.

Hatay Khan:  think this was a place that had a lovely gorge walk and a large rock tomb area.

Cappadocia: what a fantastic area. You are spoilt for choice with sites to see but here are our personal favourites:

Zelve valley open air museum:

Two valleys that are packed with rock houses and churches. You could spend a whole day here. Fantastic.

Ihlara valley: beautiful area to walk in.

Pasabagi: lovely area with amazing mushroom shaped stones, can be very busy as a result, you can get the best out of the place by going near the end of the day. Look out for the unusual police station.

Uchisar: makes a lovely view from the distance. We snooped around the nearby village and met this lovely man who, in my opinion, has the best back garden in Turkey.

Derinkuyu:  amazing underground city. Well worth coughing up for a guide, just make sure it’s not Mr halitosis, as in such close quarters it can get a bit toxic!

The drive from Cappadocia to Konya is flat and dull with dust devils as your only entertainment.

Konya: The famous whirling dervishes are from here. It is a lovely town with plenty of sights to fill a day or two.

Konya to Denizli:

We drove from Konya to Huyuk and then skirted north and round to :

Egirdir: lovely setting. This lake is so big that it’s tidal, the colour of the water is gorgeous and the little peninsula with hotels is very pretty. Best views are as you come from west to east but beware, do not stop to take photo’s as the whole area is military.

Aglasun: we loved this traditional Turkish village and the fabulous drive up the mountain to sagalassos, which is another ancient site. The setting is stunning and once it is fully restored we feel it would make for one of the top sites in Turkey.

There are opportunities to pitch by Burdur lake.

Finally onto :

Denizli and Pamukkale: Pamukkale is a great spot for a visit, with it’s cotton white waterfalls, bathing area and surrounding scenery. Beware of buying rugs, chances are they are imported from China and I guarantee you will pay at least triple the true value. If you want one, buy it in the UK at an auction house.

Arsameia

Eski Kahta (rear view)

We are biased about Turkey quite simply because we love it.

You have all the ingredients for the perfect trip, great food, stunning scenery, history, architecture and the friendliest people on earth.

We have travelled most of the country, the black sea coast and far north east  being the only areas left to admire. Unfortunately our system got a virus and we have lost all our photo’s of the west, south and some central areas.

For information on the country, go to bottom of page.

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BORDER CROSSING

Arrived in Turkey via the Greek border again. The first checkpoint on the Turkish side asks to see your passport after this you will see a building on your left, stop here as this is where you get your insurance “green card”. We had to pay 66ytl which was €40, this will cover you for a 3 month stay. Then you move onto the next building where you collect your visa  £10/€15 each, next move to under the covered area where they will check your passport, insurance and visa. We tried to use our carnet here but they refused stating that only certain vehicles get stamped in, so our landy went onto our passport. No problem.

It’s great to be back!!

We stopped in Izmir for a bit of shopping, there is s huge Carrefour shop and a Prakita (B&Q) right beside each other, just keep a sharp eye for a sign on your right saying, bird of paradise gardens, take a sharp right and you will see them on your left.

We decided to fast track down to Fethiye so took the motorway from Izmir to Adiyan, it was brilliant and only cost £1/€1.50 or 2.9ytl.

When you get nearer to Fethiye, just past Gocek, you will come to a new tunnel. Take the tunnel, it may cost just under £1/€1.50 and be very short but it is far better than the long, scary mountain road.

The total driving time from Izmir to Fethiye using the motorway, was 4 and a half hours.

In Fethiye we had our rear awning made in 30 minutes for £10, got our side windows tinted and gave nessie a service.

We had to change our route plan to incorporate going to Ankara to collect our Iranian visas.  

Fethiye to Ankara route.

We left Fethiye and drove from there to Uzumlu, Golhisar, Budur, Afyon and onto Ankara.

Do not take this route. It is mind numbingly boring, you can only take so much of the, flat barren plains edged with mountains look, with large gypsy tented villages working the huge onion and melon fields, before it gets dreary. It was a very, very long 8 hour drive.

Ankara is great for shopping especially on the western side and the streets near all the embassies. Parking, security and overnight stops are a big problem. We popped into gaye otomotiv, as mentioned on our top tips page, to meet Derya and buy a few last minute bits, with typical Turkish hospitality, he took us out for a meal and insisted that we spend the night in his beautiful apartment, which has a gated car park with a guard. What a great family.

Next day we visited the Iranian embassy. To read about that epic go to the Iran page!

Ankara to Sivas route.

We were met with yet more of the same scenery and struggled to find a tree never mind a decent bush camp spot, in despair we set up at a large petrol station. We had a very good sleep, much to our surprise, and were greeted by the sight of 6 huge wild kangal dogs wandering around a field beside us. The kangal is Turkeys own breed of dog, a magnificent creature that stands as tall as the biggest great dane but with a long coat, wide neck and broad head. The herds men use them to protect their herds from wolves.

Egirdir

 Stunning Cappadocia

Nessie getting a health check after arriving in Murat Camping Dogubeyazit

Be aware that gassing of tents and open windows is a risk in eastern Turkey the same as in France, Spain and Albania.

We set off that morning and sods law, a few miles down the road was the perfect bush camp spot! So if you happen to be on the same road aim for between Saraykent and Akdagmadeni, just east of a village called Okueozu  there is a large forested area with a good track leading in.

There are lots of jandarma (military police) check points on this road, just slow down to 40km’s,

let them get a good look at you and they will wave you on with a friendly smile.

Be sure to stop in Sivas and get your last big shop at Migros. Just follow the centrum or

sehir merkezi signs.

Sivas to Dogubeyazit road.

As with most eastern Turkish roads they are being upgraded, unfortunately we always seem to catch them mid process and as a result you face the equivalent of being tarred and feathered.

First you drive on liquid bitumen then it’s onto the dust and grit bit where you cannot see a thing. If there is anyone but you on the road you dare not stop in case you get rear ended by a lorry or some other vehicle thundering along.

It took 2 serious washes and a tub of mechanics heavy duty hand wipes to get it off the paint work.

On the way you start to pass houses made of mud bricks with plastic or tin roofs and the locals make bricks out of cow dung to burn as winter fuel. It is a completely different side to the Turkey of the south west.

It takes a total of 18 hours for this part of the route.

Dogubeyazit aka doggie biscuit.

The campsite where all overlanders meet is called Murat Camping, sitting immediately below the palace of Ishak pasa sarayi, it is easily found by following the centrum/sehir merkezi signs then the Ishak pasa sarayi sign. You have to travel approx. 6km’s of cobbled road to get there. They charge $1 per person per night to camp and have rooms if you want for 5 ytl pppn (£1.75). The site is not so good with litter, nails and broken glass in places so watch your tyres and take a chemical warfare suit for the camp toilet and shower but there is hot water. On a good note, the  restaurant has good but limited food, two friendly waiters and clean toilets.

The town is not the most welcoming of places, if you are female and driving it is seen as a challenge to the male drivers, some of the children cover their eyes so as not to look at the foreigners and the other children are either  working, begging or loitering. There is a surprising number and variety of shops with a couple of big supermarkets, (not as good as Migros) but will serve the purpose.

If you need to go down town you can either leave your vehicle at the site and get the regular bus down or take your own motor. We didn’t want to leave our motor up there so took it with us, the problem then is that everyone pulls on your bull bars, knocks your sand ladders, tries to open the door or stick their hands through your open window. So while Dave did various last minute things I stood guard of nessie, that didn’t go down well either, they don't like a female telling them to go away.

Top tip:  park in the forecourt of a petrol station and leave one person with the vehicle. For females, dress as if you were in Iran omitting the headscarf.

LEAVING TURKEY

The border was in chaos. We met the usual huge queues of lorries that you drive straight past on the hard shoulder and arrived at a check point where a man in civvies told us to pull over into the right hand lane rather than the left hand one that is beside the kiosk and by the camera. We smelt a rat  immediately, but had no choice as he was blocking the left hand lane. The guy asked for our passports and we asked him where his uniform was. I stayed in the vehicle with doors locked and Dave walked over to the kiosk armed with our passports. Suddenly the bloke was charging forward to the next stop and we were being delayed at the passport check by the official stating that our vehicle was not logged into Dave’s passport. Dave handled it appropriately. We eventually moved forward to the next building where our man and a friend were waiting for us, we tried to ignore them and Dave went into the building to get his passport stamped by customs. During the whole process we saw dozens of locals on the scam but only 2 official uniforms, we think it’s all about trying to get money out of you by delaying you and trying to get you to exchange cash.  A big let down for Turkey.  

TURKEY THOUGHTS:

There is nothing more entertaining than following a seriously overloaded Turkish lorry down a steep mountain road watching his back set of wheels lift off the tarmac with each corner.

The people are wonderfully hospitable but not in an obtrusive way.

British people get in their cars in the stupid belief that all other road users are sane, whereas Turkish drivers set off in the understanding that all other drivers are nuts, as a result, they are prepared for all eventualities and have few accidents. In our opinion the Turks are the sensible ones and once you get the hang of people driving down the wrong side of the road and 3 abreast on a 2 lane road, then it’s no problem at all.

It is a very safe country and the worst we have faced is being found bush camping in a forest by a local who then tried to convince us that it was a national park and therefore we should pay him a fee. Sometimes being able to speak a language but pretending not to, can show people for what they are, once he left we moved on.

Beware of anyone that claims he is your friend or “brother” within 10 minutes of meeting them!

Fuel is expensive and smaller garages tend to all be “professionals” yet will put 1 litre more in your oil tank than you need and will over tighten your nuts.

Our favourite phrase that a Turkish person will say  is, “ But of course!” You’ll get it when you visit.

Be aware that Turkey has a two tier pricing system, it is not meant as an insult but rather seen as good business practice, if you are stupid enough to pay then so be it. HAGGLE.

Enjoy the women and children of the country, with their gifts of lace, freshly picked wild flowers and vegetables being some of the many gifts of friendship you will receive.

Other than the camp sites we mentioned on our Europe page, we would not recommend them, they tend to be glorified picnic spots or a car park at a café. Not good.

DISAPPOINTMENTS: two tier pricing is really annoying. Marmaris, Altinkum and Kusadasi.

HIGHLIGHTS: Too many to mention!

FUEL: widely available but expensive at £1.00 for a litre of diesel.

SHOPPING: well stocked supermarkets: MIGROS & GIMA.

WATER: any garage will happily top your tank up for free.

ROADS: on the whole very good until you reach eastern and southern regions, they are being heavily upgraded.

POLICE: blue and white are town police: best to avoid them. Blue landrovers and green uniforms: jandarma(army) they are fab- always ready with a smile and very helpful.

SAFETY: On the whole very safe just be much more careful of bush camping the further east and south you go.

LANDY: See top tips page. Good selection of filters and oils.

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The tar and feather route

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