How to Spend the Best 5 Days in Turkey – The Ultimate Jam-packed Travel Guide
Guys, writing this post puts the BIGGEST smile on my face. I’ve been wanting to travel to Turkey for about 2 years now and for some reason kept putting it off, because of fear I guess? People kept telling me how dangerous it was and that I shouldn’t travel here but I’m so glad I didn’t listen to anybody. This was easily one of the best trips of my life and I’m already planning on coming back.
But next time I’ll be slightly more prepared. I’ll be sharing with you guys everything I wish I knew before traveling to Turkey so it’ll hopefully save you money, time (and a headache).
I do a ton of research before traveling and I tried to prepare myself as much as possible (anyone that knows me knows I make PSYCHO travel itineraries). I never need more than a couple of days anywhere- even abroad- because I jam-pack my schedule verrrrrry meticulously.
So let’s get into it
I first fell in love with this country when I saw those beautiful hot air balloons circulating around social media and I kept bookmarking them in my “travel bucket list.” I learned that this magical place is called Cappadocia and that’s what sparked my interest to travel here. Pasquale couldn’t take time off from work to come here with me so I reached out to one of my best friends who loves to travel and she was sold right away.
We booked our flight 5 minutes later.
HOW TO TRAVEL HERE
Our intention was to only travel to Cappadocia so I booked roundtrip tickets ahead of time. We spontaneously made a change in our itinerary so we could see different parts of the country (and to save ourselves from a massive layover.) There’s really no direct flight unless you want to pay an obscene amount of money so a layover is bound to happen- but I’ll explain how you can avoid this and get the most out of your trip.
HOW WE BOOKED IT
We flew from New York City (JFK) into Istanbul International Airport (IST) on Turkish Airlines and then from IST flew to Nevsehir Kapadokya (NEV) which is a smaller domestic airport closest to Cappadocia where we were first staying. From (NEV) airport we took a taxi to our hotel which was under 40 minutes.
HOW I WOULD BOOK IT NEXT TIME
Next time I would get a roundtrip from JFK to Istanbul Airport (IST) or (SAW). From there I would book separately domestic flights to different destinations. The point is to NOT book everything together. Flights were superrrr cheap and it saved the hassle of pesky layovers. We learned this the hard way when we decided to skip our first returning flight to (IST) because we would have had to stay at the airport for a 13 hour layover. Instead we flew to Bodrum and from Bodrum we were going to make our second connecting flight back home. To our displeasure they told us that because we did not check into our first connecting flight they cancelled our entire reservation and we had to book new flights home! They said it’s an international policy? I’ve never heard of it before and we were livid. I called my credit card company right away to dispute the charge because it made absolutely no sense- but lesson learned.
CAPPADOCIA: WHERE WE STAYED
Cappadocia is a beautiful, historical region home to cave hotels, hot air balloons and fairy chimneys. We originally planned to stay here our entire trip but you only need 2-3 days if you plan it right. It was the perfect amount of time to see everything we wanted.
Sultan Cave Suites
Sultan Cave Suites is one of the most popular and “instagrammable” cave hotels in Cappadocia. It boasts some of the best views of the hot air balloons which are scheduled to set off every morning (weather permitting) around 5 am. I’ve never experienced something so magical in my life and it truly will take your breath away. But full disclaimer- I wanted to expose the “picture perfect” images on instagram VS real life.
Peaceful breakfast on top of a rooftop with exclusive views, right? not quite.
The breakfast is manufactured for photos and everyone crowds around waiting their turn to take pictures with the props. DISAPPOINTING, I KNOW.
Despite how light the photo looks, it’s only around 5:30 am and it’s quite dark at that hour so I had to heavily lighten up the exposure in Lightroom (which left the photo grainy). The hot air balloons only fly until around 8 am so get there early – like 4:45 am- if you want to try and get a picture without people in the background. After the balloons descend, most of the guests return to their rooms to change into comfortable clothes and head to the buffet for breakfast.
The Museum Hotel was in the main area of town called Goreme and was easily one of my favorite spots. It’s one of the most luxurious and boutique hotels situated in a very special geographical region in Cappadocia.
The service was UNPARALLELED. They really went above and beyond to ensure our stay was as pleasant as possible. They paid attention to the little details which I love. I’m ecstatic to have had the opportunity to collaborate with them and I highly recommend staying here if you have the opportunity.
CAPPADOCIA: WHAT TO DO
There is an abundance of activities and things to do in Cappadocia that capture the beauty of it’s unique landscape. You can be mesmerized just by walking around town but we did as many activities as we could squeeze in!
Camel back riding
We had so much fun with our tour guide, he was quite a hoot. He was obsessed with taking pictures of us and we DEF were not complaining – lol! Book your camel ride with Savran Safari. ig: @savransafari
Visit a carpet store
You have to check out the Turkish carpet stores to see all of the beautiful textiles and hand woven rugs. I wish I could pack them all up into my luggage and bring them home with me!
Admittedly this was my first time on an ATV but I got the hang of it pretty quick! The tour was 2 hours and educational. We rode to ancient ruins and got to explore the off-the-beaten-paths around Goreme. I would recommend doing a private tour vs a group tour.
Hot air balloons
Book in advance! Book in advance! Book in advance! It sells out very quickly so you need to plan ahead. We didn’t know it wasn’t a “day-of” kinda thing.
See cave hotels
Cappadocia is known for their cave hotels and they all offer unique views and scenery. We didn’t stay at the Local Cave House but they were nice enough to allow us to stop in to take pictures by the pool.
Horse back riding
We only tried camel back riding but the horse rides looked beautiful as well.
Eat at Seki
I don’t know what was more incredible, the food or the views. We could eat at Seki every day and not get sick of it. This homemade minty lemonade was one of our staples the whole trip and it was so.damn.good. As soon as I got home I ordered a shit ton of mint from Thrive market and stuffed my fridge to the gills with fresh pitchers of this copy-cat lemonade.
This hidden gem boasted the most beautiful views of Goreme and it can be found near the garden of Argos hotel. It’s very close to the restaurant we ate at, Seki.
Authentic Turkish Kebab is a local specialty prepared in a ceramic vessel and slow cooks for over 4 hours. The clay dish arrives to your table in the pottery which requires a mallet to crack open. It was a really cool experience and many of the authentic restaurants have this traditional specialty.
NEXT STOP: BODRUM
This is where our trip unexpectedly took a turn, and I’m so happy we spontaneously booked it. So what’s Bodrum? The Mykonos/Ibiza of Turkey! It’s increasingly growing into a real chic destination hotspot. Nestled on the Aegean coast, Bodrum is a lovely enclave of beach resorts and whitewashed cliff-side architecture. After 2 full days in Cappadocia we packed our bags and headed off to this indulgent city. There are no direct flights to Bodrum so this is how we traveled from Cappadocia:
Nevsehir Kapadokya (NEV) airport to Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) ➞ (SAW) airport to Milas–Bodrum Airport (BJV). The flight was around $70 USD one way. From there we took a taxi and drove to our resort which was about 30 minutes.
BODRUM: WHERE WE STAYED
We booked Nikki Beach Resort and Spa and it was an exceptional experience. The resort features 76 stunning rooms, suites and villas with balconies, patios, private terraces or private pools. They deserve to be shouted out here because they hooked us the fuck up.
Soo our flight into Bodrum landed at around midnight and by the time we got to Nikki Beach it was around 1 am. We had booked reservations for that day but check in wasn’t until 2 pm. The manager understood why we didn’t want to book a room @ $700/night for a couple of hours so he allowed us stay in the guest house which was like a giant suite.
We slept like angels on their comfy chaise sofas and heard knocking at 730am letting us know we can check into our room early. Right off the bat we were off to a good start!
Nikki Beach has a really great day scene and vivid nightlife. The music was really good too. During the day they had house tempo beats mixed with a live saxophone and then they transitioned to house/hip hop later on.
BODRUM: WHAT TO DO
We were only here for a day but I would definitely come back just to stay in Bodrum for at least a week. It’s serious vibes. We didn’t get to explore too much but I definitely suggest driving to the Yalikavak Marina which has been voted best super yacht marina in the world 2018-2019. It was about a 45 minute drive from Nikki Beach.
There’s tons of shopping and restaurants, and the views are spectacular. We went to dinner at Nusr-et Steakhouse (Salt Bae) to see if it lived up to the hype. Mediocre food at best, just name ID. But I still recommend checking it out if you’re at the marina for the experience, it was a lot of fun.
Get a blow out
Turkey has some of the best hair stylist/colorist in the world so I had to at least get a blow out while I was here. And as I expected, it did not disappoint.
GIRLS – if you are traveling to Turkey and land in Istanbul, I highlyyyyyyy suggest getting your hair colored with @bymucahitsavuk or @emreayaksiz. I’m not even joking, look them up. I don’t understand how they are so good at color!!!!!!!!
best blowout of my life, I didn’t want to ever wash my hair.
NEXT STOP: Pamukkale
If you want to see one of the most spectacular wonders that nature has to offer, Pamukkale is it. Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” hubs one of the most beautiful hot springs in the world. Unfortunately, this is one stop we couldn’t make because we did not coordinate our flights correctly when we originally planned our trip. It’s one of those places you visit to say you DID it, because there’s not a ton of stuff going on in the area. I’ve been warned about heavy tourism though so it is a bit crowded and most people don’t stay longer than an hour at the thermal pools.
If you plan on making the trip to Pamukkale, I would recommend flying into the Denizli Cardak Airport and then it’s only about a 30 minute drive to your destination.
Thermal hot springs
A must-see if you are visiting Pamukkale as it’s only a couple minutes drive and filled with ancient history.
LAST STOP: Istanbul
As I’m nearing the end of my post, our last and final stop was Istanbul. If you are flying internationally chances are you will end up in Istanbul so I recommend spending some time here if you can. We didn’t really do much other than eat dinner at the Four Seasons so I’m not the most credible source but I have a list of things I want to check out for next time.
I hope you guys liked my jam-packed Turkey travel guide, and as always thank you for stopping by. I appreciate any and all feedback!