Posted on April 18, 2019
Turkey has been on my travel bucket list for a little while now. Since moving to Dubai over 4 years ago I’ve fallen in love with the food and met some lovely Turkish people too (Hi Tuba!).
So we finally managed to book a short 6 night trip covering Istanbul (the country’s largest city) and Cappadocia (one the prettiest regions I have ever seen).
As soon as we landed I was hungry for borek. A recommendation sent us down the street from our hotel to a famous little pastry shop. Not only was there numerous flavors of borek to order there was plenty of sweet options too. This is the first place we noticed that the language barrier might be a little difficult for us only “English speakers”.
We familarized ourselves with our surroundings and headed back later to our hotel so we could check in, change and further explore. Not before heading to Nusret burger to refuel. FYI, the burgers only come cooked one way, medium, so if you’re not keen on a juicy pink burger patty then you might want to inform the waiters before hand.
We paid a visit to the Sultanahmet District home to the famous Blue Mosque. We started up at Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia before working out way down to the mosques. We didn’t realize it at first but a lot of these tourist attractions were closed due to EID. So all we managed was mainly photos from the outside. I’ve heard the interiors of Sofia Hagia is a must see though.
We end up finding a cute multi story hotel with a rooftop
hotel with some amazing views of the Blue Mosque. Here we stop for a drink and a snack to replenish what the heat had already depleted from us. It’s a shame a lot of the famous mosques have repair works going on so there is scaffolding up on the structure.
We headed towards the Grand Bazaar in a taxi only to reach and find out that it too, is closed. So we wander around and find another rooftop restaurant, Alpek, for dinner & drinks with a view. However it was the amazing kunafa that stole the show
The next morning our friend arrived and we headed to Cesme Bazlama Kahvalti in Nisantasi. We queued for around 45 minutes before we were seated but it was definitely worth the wait. It’s a set menu traditional style Turkish breakfast with loads of various breads, spreads, eggs & more! The Turkish ladies sit on the floor and make the bread by hand before baking it in front of your eyes.
We needed to walk it off so we walked down to Dolmabahce and by the time we reached, we needed a drink, so sat down at the busy cafe and ordered something refreshing. Little did we know during this time the entrance to Dolmabache had closed due the EID weekend so again we could only see it from the outside! What luck.
We then head towards Bosphorus and the markets for an afternoon stroll. The market places are super crowded so we head away from there and decide to try and catch the sunset at Galata Tower. Although the queue for Galata was not moving and our lack of the local lingo meant we didn’t know where to buy tickets or who to ask so again we admired it from the outside whilst I stuffed my face with some local street food.
We found some cute boutique shops as well as a street full of colorful graffiti walls and murals. We managed to barter for some straw bags as well before heading back to our hotel to get ready for the evening but not before picking up some fresh pomegranate juice from the local street vendor.
The hotel made us a reservation at Gunaydin but on our way the taxi broke down. We were near Gurkan Sef and decided to give that a try instead. Read about my awful dining experience here
. After leaving the restaurant we were desperate for a drink and used good old google to locate the nearest bar and came up with Backbar located inside the Backyard restaurant. It’s a chilled garden bar with a dj spinning house tunes. They offered us blankets whilst we sat outside sipping on our wine under the light of the full moon.
Earlier that day our concierge had given us a recommendation for a good cocktail bar where all the locals go. Alexandra cocktail bar has a rooftop bar playing a strange mix of music but with a unique cocktail list and unrestricted views of the Bosporus Bridge which is lit up at night. We pretty much stayed until closing time before calling it a night.
The next morning we had a quick breakfast in our hotel before heading to Maya’s Corner, a colorful cafe for a beverage stop before trying to find a view point for some panoramic pictures of Istanbul. Buyuk Valide Han is a Turkish Coffee Shop inside an old abandoned marketplace. Ahmed was lucky enough to give us a private tour of the place and we enjoyed some delicious apple tea. Unfortunately the roof was undergoing restoration so we couldn’t capture the pictures we wanted however we enjoyed the experience anyways.
In the afternoon we hopped on a ferry across to Kadakoy and had lunch at Ciya. This place is famous for it’s kebaps and we can understand why. Perfectly juicy, meaty goodness in every variety that we tried. (Beware of beggars)
Translating to “the land of horses” but visually covered in these giant, cone shaped rock formations that the locals call “fairy chimneys”. The clusters were made thousand of years ago. Apparently the city used to be under water and a volcanic eruption caused this unique landscape to form. The fairy chimneys were also once used as homes.
After flying into Nevsehir airport and driving around 40 minutes or so we arrived at Mithra Cave Hotel. Our check in process was made more sweet as we were greeted by the cutest mother and son combo; Findik & Zeus, two adorable Spanish cocker dogs who call Mithra Cave Hotel home. The property itself is impressive as every room in this boutique hotel are caves that have been converted into guest rooms. They also have a rooftop that makes the perfect viewing deck for watching the Hot Air Balloons but it also means super early starts every morning if you want to get a good spot.
We had booked ourselves in to do an ATV tour which started in the afternoon we arrived and ended just after sunset. However as we were in a large group the first timers really slowed us down. So if you’re an experienced rider I’d recommend booking a private tour.
On day 2 we hired a driver and visited Derinkuyu Underground City. If you suffer from claustrophobia or have a fear of tight spaces I wouldn’t really recommend it as I had a mini panic attack whilst we were underground. We also stopped for some photo opportunities in Goreme National Park at various churches.
The next morning we are booked for our Hot Air Ballon ride with Royal Balloons. We’re up before sunrise and make our way to the hotel checkpoint where we make payment and have breakfast before making our way to the take off site. I’m nervous and excited as it’s my first time flying in a hot air balloon. The team and pilot at Royal Balloons are professional but also crack jokes and make us smile and enjoy the experience and before we know it we are flying through the air over this magical land watching the sunrise. The sensation is amazing although I’m hesitant to go near the edge of the basket during the first half of the flight but slowly gain more confidence as we continue to float in the air with approximately 150 other hot air balloons. It really is a sight to be seen and an experience to be had. After an hour or so we start our descend where we have land and it’s not as rough as what we had thought. We finish off our experience with a champagne toast with chocolate covered strawberries and an award ceremony.
We spent the afternoon exploring the local town, eating our favorite salad, having a traditional Turkish hammam and then drinking wine with some locals. We then had one last mesemerizing morning watching the sunrise with the hot air balloons before packing our bags and heading back to Dubai.
Watch my YouTube video of my Turkey trip below.
Sherefe Turkey! I’ll definitely be back to explore more of you one day.
We traveled August 2018. The temperature averaged 30 degrees during the day.
Flights: AED 1960 with Pegasus from DXB > SAW (Istanbul) ->ASR (Keyseri in Cappadoccia) > SAW > DXB
AED 497pp based on twin share for bed & breakfast at the Vault Karakoy for 3 nights. Read my review here.
AED 1300pp based on a double occupancy including breakfast for 3 nights at Mithra Cave Hotel. You can read my review here.
Visa: USD 60 payable upon arrival for Australian passport holders
Currency: They use Turkish Lira and Euros.
Until next time,