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Turkish Roadtrip Report

Brisbane, Australia
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957 posts
268 reviews
97 helpful votes
Turkish Roadtrip Report

Beware - very long read.

My wife (SWMBO) and I are currently undertaking a five week roadtrip around Turkey.

I intend doing an ongoing trip report as we go when time and internet service are available.

On a couple of previous roadtrips when I've gone to the trouble of doing this, the trips are somehow much more memorable. On those when I've planned ongoing something on my return home, either nothing has been done, or the memories have become too hazy too soon to be able to give any worthwhile feedback.

When researching this trip I had a lot of difficulty finding much information about road tripping Turkey. The roadtrip forums were generally silent about this part of the world, and the English language sections of the Turkey forums dealt almost exclusively with full room and board packages at fancy resorts or about the price of beer and cigarettes or the availability of English style meals.

I do intend doing a report on the Turkey forums at a later date dealing with specific places, foods, accommodation, and other experiences, but I will start here concentrating on the driving and more general aspects as they happen.

I made my car bookings through rentalcars.com long in advance. Keeping watch on prices after that I was seeing that I got a very good deal, so became worried that maybe my booking wouldn't be honoured. Two weeks before leaving home I emailed the rental company, Garenta, direct to confirm the details of my booking and got an immediate response confirming all details.

We picked up our car at Antalya airport after a journey of over 50 hours hoping that all was well. And so it was. The car was ready and we'd been upgraded to a higher class and diesel instead of perol. I was a bit wary of the price of fuel and the poor economy that I would get from a petrol car. They did offer extra insurance ( no hard sell - just an offer ) and at the price I figured windscreen and tyre protection which was now included was well worth it. My contract didn't have unlimited mileage but they gave me an extra allowance at no charge.

We found after renting several times in the US that American companies seem very blasé about minor (and not so minor) damage to your car and accept it as being nothing to worry about. Aussie rental companies are the opposite and in my experience want to charge extra for every bug that sticks to your car and call it damage at the renter expense. Here in Turkey, the car I received even though it had less than 10000 kilometres on the clock, id have a few very tiny marks and they had already been noted and photographed. Now the pressure is on me to get it back the same way.

Our hire started at 5pm on a Friday afternoon and we had to get ourselves to Kaleici (Old Town) in the centre of Antalya - an area very reminiscent of the tiny cramped one way streets in parts of other European cities. And 5pm Friday was hell. We couldn't get google maps working as e left the airport so planned to pull up somewhere close by. Well, how do you do that in Turkey.

Everyone seemed to ignore line markings, speed limits seemed to be ignored, even traffic signals seemed at times to be suggestions. We eventually found our way to

Kaleici but then the real fun began. Only 1.1 kilometres to our hotel but 45 minutes later we were no closer. The streets are closed to all but permitted (residents) cars. Many streets are not wide enough for a car. Most two way streets are not wide enough for two cars. The streets are also the walkways, showrooms for shops, sitting areas for restaurants and anything else you want. To top it off our hotel had 2 separate buildings and we did not know which to go to. After much reversing very slowly we found our way to the main building (facing the wrong way) in a one way street too narrow for us to open a door to get out. The Pensyion eventually had his son get in the car with us to direct us to the right location. If you are staying in the old part of a Turkish town, beware. Surprisingly SWMBO stayed calm and we remain married.

Having got our car parked we decided the next day we would get around on foot because we really had no idea how to get our car backout, or then back in to town.

The next day - day 1 - we went carless and had an awesome time around the city.

And then on Sunday, the fun began again. This was planned because I thought traffic would be lighter on a Sunday and would give me a chance to get myself oriented with local conditions. And so that morning did go well.

Google maps has in general been good, but with so much constant construction going on, there were a few wrong turns. We also had issue with directions telling us which lane to use. It seems here, that line markings are optional. if your car can fit in a gap, just make another lane. Everyone does it. If you want to turn left, don't bother using the left lane, simply pushing across from the right lane will get you there. Seems crazy, but it seems to work. If someone wants to stop, they seem to just put ontheir hazard lights and stop wherever they want. There doesn't seem to be any aggressive backlash.

Speed limits are ignored. If the person in front is going too slow, flash your headlights and they will move. Most people seem quite happy to let the faster cars go. But don't leave more than a hairs width between you and the car in front or else someone will put their car in the gap.Crazy, but it works.

Our first day out on the roads went well. Visited Koprulu Canyon for some white water rafting and spent time looking through the ancient ruins at Perge. But we weren't prepared for the crowds in

Kaleici when we got back that night and somehow, we couldn't find our hotel again. Eventually found the main building and again had to ask the owners son to lead us back to our rooms - a bit embarrassing.

On Monday we again made an early start to avoid the tourist traffic and headed out of the city to see Termessos and the Karain cave. The highways in this part of Turkey are in great condition and there seems to be plenty more road construction going on, but once on minor roads you need to watch out for tractors carrying the whole family and a massive trailer, motorbikes carrying up to four people and a dog, cars stopped seemingly anywhere (but usually showing their hazard lights), sheep (including a herd being lead along the centre median strip of a highway).

On return to Kaleici we again had trouble finding our hotel. The roads are really that confusing. You know its bad when at onetime that evening a cabbie asked us for directions as we were walking to dinner.

The traffic lights have been a bit of change for us. Many have a time showing how long before they are going to change so everyone can be ready to floor it on the green or floor it to get through before or maybe just a bit after they go red. Before going green they flash yellow a couple of times so you are ready to drop the clutch and get those wheels spinning, and if you aren't mobile within a second someone will be blowing a horn or flashing headlights at you to get out of the way.

On Monday night we went to the ballet at Aspendoss in a 2000 year old theatre. Magical stuff. Our tickets included hotel pickup and return. There we were waiting for a bus, and a private car service turns up. Bargain deal. It was interesting now being a passenger in a car and seeing how a local handles the conditions. Made me understand the system a little better.

Today we again got away early partly to avoid traffic in the city.

Made a stop at Beldibi for brunch - felt like a seaside town in Russia. Signage was mostly in Russian. Most voices were Russian. Most stores displayed prices in US dollars and when we wanted to pay in the local lira we were generally made to feel quite unwelcome.

Drove up to Goyuk Canyon to go canyoning, but after slipping on the slippery rocks walking in, my now very sore knee told us to give the whole deal a miss. Was interesting to watch water bombing airplanes and helicopters fighting a large fire further up the canyon.

Next stop along the way was at Phaselis - an ancient city with many ruins right on the beach. Wonderful to take a break and have a swim in the Med. A beautiful spot.

Had nothing booked for tonight and in no particular rush to find something we saw the sign for the Chimera. Only 7kms. But switchbacks, narrow, incredibly steep, but then suddenly flat, narrow, crowded with people and animals, and the 7 kilometres took half an hour. The ticket seller at the gates at Chimera told us it was just a 10 minute 1 kilometre walk, so with now dodgy knee, off we go. Straight up another rocky mountain. The fitbit tells us it was 1.2 kilometres and 42 storeys up.

Fantastic views but a hell of a long walk up, and then down.

Aside from driving, we have managed over 20,000 steps each day, so we will both be fit before we get home.

Tonight we are in Gelidonyka at a tiny pensyion taking a bit of time to rest and catch up our homework - contacting people, repacking travel bags, writing trip reports.

We are driving a Peugot 301 diesel 5 speed, and the car has been fantastic. Handled everything I've thrown it in to. Seems very economical.

Please be warned - if you are not a very confident driver, do not go trying city traffic in Turkey. The highways so far seem great, but from what we've seen, many people I know would not be able to handle the rush and push of the city traffic. Unless you are confident around somewhere that's a cross between Manhattan and Rome, try the bus instead.

If you've gotten this far, and have any questions, please ask away.

Only to happy to respond when we have the time, and the internet service.

36 replies to this topic
Wylie, Texas
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5,272 posts
875 reviews
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1. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

Hi,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I would have an auto Garmin for a road trip.

Fremont, California
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2. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

Interesting road trip

I am happy you were able to deal with the road trip challenges (construction, etc.)

Thanks for writing.

Peachtree City...
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3. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

“Please be warned - if you are not a very confident driver, do not go trying city traffic in Turkey.”

You’ve made that point rather well!

Fascinating report - I’ve long been curious about Turkey and your report so far reminds me why.

Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
957 posts
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4. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

After leaving Gelydonika our next home was to be Kas. But we took the scenic route to get there. Went to Goynuk Canyon intending to do some canyoning, but after taking a slip while making our way up the hill we had to give it a miss. Mostly hurt pride and a sore butt. Those rocks were a little firm. Enjoyed kofte and cay from a little café next to a mosque near the town of Arif. The town had its local markets going. Great local atmosphere. Fantastic local produce. Water fountains everywhere with locals filling their water bottles with the fresh mountain water.

Had a walk around the ancient city of Arykanda. Nearby before heading further afield. Arykanda is an ancient Lykian city known for its ‘lazy and hedonistic’ citizens.

Visited the Myra Rock Tombs and the Demre church that gave us St Nicholas and the story of Santa Claus. Who would have guessed Santa was a Turkish creation, and not a story from the North Pole.

Finally got to Kas and again had some real fun navigating the narrow crowded streets. Parking a gain an issue, but I am getting better at turning the smallest gap into a useable carparking spot. When renting cars in areas of the world that drive on the wrong side, I’ve always tried to avoid reverse parking because its one of the most difficult maneuver’s to master ‘the other way round’.

Spent the afternoon at a beach club just relaxing and taking in the atmosphere of a resort town. Definitely very Turkish. Crowded with tourists, but mostly Turks.

The following day, Thursday 13th, spent the day on a boat cruise from Kas. Will do reviews separately on these sort of activities, but must say this is a brilliant town to do this sort of trip from.

Friday 14th was back to road-tripping. 2 more nights in Kas, but two day trips planned.

Today we visited the ancient cities of Xanthos, Letoon and Patara. All similar but also very different. Each had aspects that we had not seen in others. Xanthos, was busy, likely because it is World Heritage listed and has a history that includes the suicide of the entire cities population twice in order to not become enslaved or slaughtered by invading armies. Letoon, of the 3, was the least impressive but worth a short visit while passing. Patara was on the beach. 2 beaches in fact. Some ruins partly in the water. 2 beautiful ancient harbours and main streets. Also made a stop at the local markets at Kinik. The local markets have all been fascinating to walk around.

Saturday 15th was a drive into the mountains. Headed up into the hills to visit the town of Gombe and to hike up to Yesil Gol. Great mountain driving. Switchback after switchback but the road from Kas was in good condition, alittle narrow at times, but good surface and some edge barriers. Beautiful mountain scenery one mile high. The town of Gombe had their weekly market in full swingso a little more retail therapy was indulged. From Gombe the road is very different. After about 6 kilometres of narrow paved roads you hit gravel. Steep. Slippery. No edge protection. But magnificent views as you drive up above the snow line. Our directions we’d been given were to drive until either you are too scared to keep going, the car is not capable of staying on the road, or you get to a small carpark. We found the carpark after almost turning back a few times, and the views were worth it. Came across nomadic herdspeople with their goats and sheep a couple of times in the middle of nowhere.The lake itself was lovely but a little spoiled by the amount of rubbish left lying around. The hike at altitude to the waterfall was literally breathtaking. We again found locals filling their water containers here from the fresh mountain stream. Wonderful water. The road back down was fun. Took the more westerly road back towards the coast from Gombe and though most of it was in excellent modern condition there was about 10 kilometres of road undergoing major refurbishment. Returning to Kas saw us again doing laps of the town while trying to find a spot to park. Looks like this will be a regular issue with roadtripping in Turkey.

More to Come.

Any questions welcome.

Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

While staying in Kas we managed to make 2 stops at Kaputas beach for a swim. Magnificent beach – and a comment like that from an Aussie is a big compliment because we do have some of the best beaches around. If planning to stop here, be prepared to do some laps of the mountainside highway while looking for parking. Space is very limited, and once people double park, park sideways, park on corners of the twisting oceanside road blocking sections of the road, getting past can be a bit of fun.

From Kas we headed to our next 3 night base at Fethiye. Or so I thought. The hotel I booked was actually at Calis Beach and that worked out well. Traffic in Fethiye is quite hectic, and we made good use of the water taxi between the two areas to save driving. On the way to Fethiye we travelled via Saklikent Gorge. Another amazing place. Freezing water. Incredibly large cliffs towering above you. But doing it on a weekend is not recommended. Absolutely packed. If planning to walk the gorge be prepared to get wet. Very wet. It requires climbing and sliding up and down glass smooth surfaces and wading through chest deep water. If capable of walking the length of the gorge it is well worth it. Even a walk for a short distance is well worth the effort. It does get harder and harder the further you go. The riverside restaurants with tables over the rushing waters are an incredible place to relax after a hike through the gorge.

This is the only time we had major problems with navigation. Google Maps sent us off on a 40km trip towards the ancient city of Tlos. We thought it should be 4 kilometres away but the system said 40. It was quite a while later that we realized that since we started in the wrong direction, Google Maps was sending us 16km to the next suitable place to do a safe u-turn. Oops. Eventually getting to Tlos, we can highly recommend this ancient city. Again very different. There is a 5th Century AD castle that has been built on top the remains of a 2500 year old city with incredible rock tombs that you can walk right in to.

From here an easy drive to Fethiye.

More to come later.

Perth, Australia
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6. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

More please, absolutely fascinating, what an adventure!

Atlanta, Georgia
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7. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

Seems like quite an adventure. Thanks for posting.

Brisbane, Australia
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8. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

Been a while since I started this story so thought I better get back to it while its reasonably fresh in my mind. Am currently back in Turkey after the five week road trip and a 11 day break in Switzerland. So here goes.

First day in Fethiye was a little different.

This evening we stayed Fethiýe near Calis Beach. Our first real disappointment of this trip. The hotel is great. The views from the beach are gorgeous. But it feels like you're in Brighton England, not Turkey. Prices everywhere are in pounds, not lira. The most popular restaurants are the Italian and the Indian curry places. Everyone seems to have soccer showing on the tv. Every tourist and shopkeeper speaks English. English breakfasts, steaks, pizza, English pies are advertised everywhere.

Was only our first night here so hoped we wouldl look at it a little differently.

Started the next day wiith paragliding in one of the world's premier spots for the sport. Started 2 kilometres in the air and landed on one of Turkeys most famous beaches. Paragliders were taking off no more than a minute apart all day. Oludeniz was beautiful (but as with much of this local area) was crowded with English tourists. Couldn't leave here without having a swim in the Med and drink on a sunbed. Darn expensive drinks and sunbed but had to do it. The gliding was exciting, the beach was nice, but the famous lagoon area seemed much nicer in the brochures. Just had a swampy feel to it.

Spent the afternoon just chilling at our hotel pool. Noone else around.

That evening we took the water taxi from Çaliş Beach over to the harbor and old town area of Fethiye. Less than $2 each way for 5km ride along the coast. Much more relaxing than driving.

Found this area much more to our liking. Tiny ancient streets. Lots of interesting shops and we both got to do a little retail therapy before another feed of awesome Turkish food.

Met some Russian people on the water taxi and had great time practicing my Russian skills again.

Bit more coming.

Brisbane, Australia
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9. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

Spent the next day on the water. Took recommendation from our hotel for a cruise. Usually do some research but this time, unfortunately we just went with what our hotel recommended (or more likely had a kick-back from). Cheap... Cheap and nasty.... 70 odd crowded onto a huge boat. No info. Only communication consisted of “40 minute swim stop” or “You buy more drinks?” ... Ordinary lunch rationed out..... 70 odd glum faces after the first hour waiting for it all to end. Did meet some nice people so not all lost.

A wonderful next day in Turkey. Made a reasonably early getaway from our hotel and headed straight to Kayakoy - an abandoned Greek town. The whole population of 23000 people were deported in 1923 and the town was left to rot. Amazing place to explore but built on the side of a mountain so again scrambling up hills was the order of the day.

Saw info about an old monastery nearby but couldn't find it. We weren't the only ones. There were 2 carloads of locals out there with us searching the side roads without luck.

Couldn't let the day go by without some water scenes so thought a stop in Göcek was in order. Beautiful newer town. Fantastic harbor. Mega-yachts that would look quite at home in Monaco tied up in rows. Made the Hamilton Island and Runaway Bay Marinas back at home look like hillbilly cousins. Not the place for us. Stopped to have a look around this yachting town. But feel like if you can't afford to leave your Bentley covered in mud, you really cant afford to stay or eat here.

Just a few kilometers down the round found an awesome little beach called InLice Plaj. Lovely beach. Rocky headlands all around. Cheap sunbeds. Cheap bar and cafe on the beach. Bodies recharged it was off to our next overnight stop. Did manage to sneak a look at some ancient tombs by the road on the way.

Akyaka - wow. My new must-be-seen place. Beautiful beach. Gorgeous harbour. Went for a short ride up the Azmak River - perfectly clear fast flowing river - freezing cold but you can see every pebble and fish more than 6 meters below you. And there were heaps of fish. Sunset on the jetty.

Cheap local restaurant for dinner.

Then relaxing on our verandah overlooking the main street. Just a wow place.

Then another day on the water beckoned. Not really roadtrip stuff, but a good value stop. While taking a walk along the wharf in Akyaka casually asked the cost of a personal day trip. For about 75USD negotiated for an all day cruise for the two of us on a boat licenced for 25 passengers. The two of us, the skipper, and his wife to cook lunch. Great day. Multiple swim stops in secluded bays. Great meal. An escorted walk given by the skippers wife around Cleopatras Island – us with no Turkish skills, our guide with no English skills, but we managed to understand each other enough to make it an awesome day.

After our day of chilling on our private boat we had a 2 1/2 drive to Selçuk. It was late in the day, and since the boat charter was unplanned we just drove through without stopping.

Got a gorgeous little pensyion in Selçuk. Beautifully decorated with antique furniture and rugs. Right in the centre of town a street away from.the Ancient Basillica of St John - hada walk through there that afternoon.

Spent most of the day walking through Ephesus. Another ancient city that didn't really go into decline till it had been destroyed by it's seventh earthquake. An incredible area of housing that's under roof to preserve it. SWMBO said it rivalled what's been excavated at Pompeii but I haven't been there.

This was a little too touristy for me. Hard sell everywhere. Crowds. By Turkish standards way too expensive.

Next stop was the Virgin Mary house.

Visited the supposed site of Our Lady's house near Ephesus. Now a chapel. Lovely gardens. Very peaceful despite the tourist trap shops selling gaudy Rosary beads and Holy pictures.

After a hard morning of ancient ruins and religous sites it was time to kick back and have late lunch on another beach. Shared lunch with a local cat. Best part was driving the Peugeot on the beach without needing four wheel drive. The local beach dunes were hard compacted sand and just felt strange driving the car out onto the dunes. Unfortjnately like so many places in Turkey, the amount of rubbish laying around sometimes really takes the gloss of things.

After Ephesus and the beach, rounded out the day with visits to the remains of one of the worlds largest churches and a castle right in the middle of Selçuk.

The following day we planned to get to Izmir.

Was a good day. Massive markets back in Selçuk for retail therapy and munchies. Another ancient city - Metropolis that goes back to the Bronze Age - only rediscovered in 1990, and some major digging going on here. Stopped at the Key Museum. Probably the best, most varied car museum I've seen. Private collection of all makes from all continents from the 1880s to today. Highly recommended. Even SWMBO was impressed.

Made it through the mad Turkish traffic to our hotel in central Izmir. City of 3 million on a large harbor. Parked the car and planned to leave it there till we leave town. Being mid afternoon with no definite plans thought it was time to try a hammam - Turkish Bath. Asked our hotel for a recommendation and they arranged a taxi for us. After what felt like forever in the mad traffic we were dropped at the end of a laneway with nothing but a small sign above a first floor doorway to say where we were. This did not look like a place we really wanted to be. But underterred I climbed the stairs, opened the unlocked door, went in past a curtain, and was nearly blown back out the door by the screams of a room full of naked Turkish women. Nobody told us it was the womens session at the Hammam. Oops...

While I found a bench to wait on outside, my wife went in to experience her hammam. When she finally came out with a huge crowd of local ladies I sheepishly made my way in. The only other male customers were a bunch of young 20 something year old Lithuanians. If you ever told me, that I would enjoy being in room of naked young Lithuanians while 2 large overweight, almost naked, sweaty, Turkish guys poured alternating scalding and freezing water on me, while rubbing and scrubbing layers off skin off my body and giving the roughest massages a man could take, I would have said you were crazy. But it was a great experience.

More to come

Lewes, United...
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10. Re: Turkish Roadtrip Report

Thanks for resuming this report. I had wondered where you'd disappeared to!!!

Well, I've never been to Fethiye or Olu Deniz as I was aware they are swamped by Brits on their sea and sun hols - a bit like some parts of Bali being swamped by Aussies!!!

Things got better after that, or at least more local and authentic!

Your boat trip for 2 sounds just the ticket, and yes, Ephesus is fab. Actually, in my view Turkey has some much better Greek ruins than Greece has. The Celsus library is amazing.

Laughing about the hammam hours - as all locals know the hours, there's possibly no sign at all, not even in Turkish.

SWT

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