Having visited almost 70 countries on my global adventures, I consider those that lie at the top of my mental list to be sacred. My home country of the US of course has a spot, my home for three years, Spain, holds another. The rest of this short list is more fluid: Germany, Serbia, Colombia, Thailand, Russia, Ecuador…the list goes one. Usually you can judge how much I like a country by how long I stay there. Makes sense right? If you like a place you’ll stay there longer. Turkey is the newest addition to my top 5 and it’s not going anywhere. Let’s review the four weeks I spent traveling around this incredible place.
Highlights of Visiting Turkey
First a little background before you decide to visit Turkey. The country is cheap, but not SE Asia cheap. You can get by with a $20 hostel and spending less than $15 on food every day. Throw in a few more bucks for entertainment: museums, tours, buses, entrance fees, etc. Next, this is the land of cheap medical care, plastic surgery, and Bitcoin cafes. Men from around Europe flock to Turkey to get hair implants and women come for a nose job. It’s common to see men with multicolored holes on their head where new hair strands will grow and women with huge bandages over their noses. Lastly, in the bigger cities (Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya) you will see signs for Bitcoin Cafes. I have no idea what these are but I would stay away.
The absolute highlight of a trip to Turkey. Waking up on a freezing cold November morning to watch 68 (I counted) hot air balloons take to the skies was an unforgettable moment. Hiking around the area and interacting with other travelers who had the same experiences as me was sublime. The little town of Gӧreme is quaint and lovely.
Another must visit on a tour of Asia Minor, however this stop will only require one night. Definitely spend a full day climbing the salt dunes, exploring the ruins behind them, and bathing in the thermal bath. Situated perfectly on the way east to Cappadocia or to the west coast and Bodrum/Fethiye/Selçuk, I only met one girl who didn’t like Pamukkale and she was negative anyway so fuck her.
A hidden gem along the southwestern coast of Turkey, this tiny town is full of hostels which include breakfast and dinner in the price. The little beach is amazing as it’s not crowded with tourists like Ölüdeniz.
Make sure to skip this dump. It’s big. It’s covered in haze and dust from surrounding factories. It’s not pretty despite being on water.
I put these two in conjunction because of their proximity. Fethiye is an arrival point from Rhodes while Ölüdeniz is an extreme sports junkies paradise. The hostel options are sub par but the vibes are…as they say…immaculate.
I loved it, others did not. Check the link for the best hidden spot in the city. I’m confident that between that swim and the waterfall view, Antalya is worthwhile.
I spent a lovely few days relaxing on the beach and playing golf here. It’s quite pretty but if I’m being honest with myself, you can skip it and not miss anything.
This is a must just for the incredible ruins and photo ops. Everyone gets an Instagram pic at the Library of Celsus. Someone please go to nearby Kusadasi and tell me how it is because the Turkish guy who cut my hair in Selçuk and his cousin wanted to take me to get a prostitute there.
We save the biggest for last. You can spend a week here and not see everything. Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. The enormous mosques cast a blue/gray hue over the city that makes you feel as if you’re halfway between two worlds.
Things I Wish I Had Done in Turkey
I met a few backpackers, younger than me and on a tighter budget, who were hitchhiking across the country. The benefit is twofold: you meet locals and you save money. The cost is a big one, especially for someone like me who values this commodity more than anything: lose time. It sounded fun but for the price of a $6 bus that takes a quarter of the time, I’ll shell out the lira.
The small city of Trabzon on the Black Sea is a starting off point for a crazy monastery built into the side of a mountain. Gaziantep is close to the Syrian border and is famous for its food and hospitality. Mardin is even closer to the Syrian border, has a castle perched high on a hill, and a ton of history. Diyarbakır has a beautiful old city wall. Finally, Antakya is apparently a better version of Antalya.
This one is not specific to Turkey but the event was happening while I was there. For those uninitiated, as I was prior to hearing the stories, Rainbow Gathering is an invitation only, month-long event held multiple times throughout the year in semi-connected countries around the world. The stories I heard were both funny and shocking; think of dreadlocked hippies taking a shit in a hole that they dug into the ground and paying for the event by blowing kisses into an actual basket after having experienced a ‘Scream Circle.’ Everyone who goes gets sick, you need an invitation emailed to you, and you have to hitchhike to get there because apparently it’s far from civilization…sounds like an incredible experience.
"Harvey Falcon" is the the senior adventure corespondant for Ski Bum Van Life. From Europe to Asia to South America and beyond Harvey offers an exciting take on adventure travel. Read all his stories here.