Taking advantage of the second May bank holidays, I spent 6 days and 5 nights in Turkey. Only four hours from London, it’s an easy long weekend trip to do. We flew out on Thursday to Istanbul and spent two night here and then flew to Cappadocia and spent another two nights. We spent our last night in Istanbul before flying back to London on Tuesday night.
We stayed two nights in Istanbul and had a great time in this cosmopolitan city.
As we arrived in the late afternoon, we got a taxi from the New Istanbul Airport to our hotel near the Galata Tower area (really liked this area as it wasn’t as touristy as the Sultanahmet area but still central) and we got ready and walked to Mikla Restaurant for dinner. It was a beautiful, light filled restaurant with amazing views of the city. The service was also on point – very attentive and friendly. There were complimentary snacks (three) and we did the 3 course al a carte (cost is 350 TL or approximately £47) which is good value. For the starters, we shared the prawn, duck and manti – they were all so delicious. For the mains, we shared the octopus, lamb and grouper – they weren’t bad but wasn’t as good as the starters. For dessert, we shared the cheese board and had the “sweet chicken”.
Afterwards, we went to 5cocktails & more for a cocktail before calling it a night.
The next morning, we got up early to do sight seeing. We went to Hagia Sophia at 9am to get in there when it opened. It is a former Greek Orthodox Cathedral, turned Ottoman mosque and now a museum.
We went to The House of Medusa for breakfast and shared the breakfast plate and the hummus which was good!
We walked over to the Grand Bazaar which is a huge marketplace filled with shops selling spices, sweets, jewellery, clothes and other nick nacks. Surprisingly, the shop vendors aren’t hassling you to buy so it was fairly pleasant to walk through. I did stop by at sweets and spice store and bought some delicious Turkish delight!
We took the ferry across to the Asia side just to check it out. The ferry ride was only 10 or so minutes and it was nice to be on the water. We headed to Ciya Kebap for lunch which was recommended by a Turkish friend. We shared the lahmacun and the chicken shish kebab which were both delicious and such good value!
We then caught the ferry back and headed to the Blue Mosque. The line was very long but it moved fairly quickly. Remember to make sure you are dressed appropriately – this means covering your shoulders, knees and head for females.
We strolled back towards Galata Tower and went inside the tower. It costs 45TL to get in but the views on top are incredible so worth going up. There is also a lift that goes up so you don’t even have to walk up the stairs.
For dinner, we went to Sunset Restaurant. Although it was a nice venue with great views, the place felt stuffy and too fancy for us. The food wasn’t anything special either. We shared some sashimi to start and I had the duck breast. I would save your Turkish liras and go somewhere else (like Mikla instead if you want somewhere more fancy)!
Cappadocia is best known for the rugged landscapes and popular for hot air-ballooning.
We got an early morning flight from Istanbul to Kayseri which is the nearest airport to Goreme where we were staying. From Kayseri is approximately an hour drive to Goreme. We stayed at Antique Terrace Hotel which was a cave hotel, basic but had a nice terrace/rooftop and the staff were great.
For lunch, we went to Dibek who are known for their clay pot kebabs (testi kebabi). I suggest you book a table as it was one of the highlight meals of our trip! We shared the meatballs, manti, beans and had the chicken and lamb pottery kebabs. So delicious!
Afterwards, we had a Turkish ice cream at the street vendor.
Afterwards, we walked to the Goreme Open Air Museum. It costs 25 TL to enter.
In the afternoon, we got picked up from our hotel around 5pm to do the quad bike sunset tour. I highly recommend this tour as it was SO much fun! We took the ATV around to various view points and got to see the sun set over Love Valley.
Afterwards, we came back and had a quick shower before going to Topdeck Cave Restaurant for dinner with Sam and her friend. The food was decent!
After our hotel breakfast, we decided to walk to Pigeon Valley and to Uchisar. It doesn’t take long (around 30 mins) and it’s an easy walk. We visited the castle and from the top, there is a nice panoramic view.
We visited a winery called Kocabag and did some wine tasting. We also bought a bottle to enjoy then headed to lunch to a restaurant called Elai. The food was really tasty but a little more on the pricey side. Their apple, walnut salad is a signature and delicious!
We caught a taxi back to Goreme and went to a hotel pool to cool off and relax.
For dinner, we went to Inci Restaurant. We shared the coban salad, eggplant dip, prawns, beef and lamb, washed down with some red wine.
The next morning, we woke up early again (3:40am) so we could go up the hot air balloons! We got picked up at 4:15am but it took a while to drive out and get to our balloon. There was 20 of us in the hot air balloon and going up felt so relaxing! It was a great bucket list experience to tick off!
We said our goodbyes to Michael who was to leave later that evening back to London and Annmarie and I had one more night left in Istanbul before flying home.
For our last night in Istanbul, we decided to stay at a supposedly 5 star hotel, Sura Sophia Hotel in Sultanahmet. The only reason we decided to stay here was to take advantage of the pool for our last day. The pool was “closed for renovation” but didn’t give us any compensation or prior notice. However, the way the staff handled the situation was unacceptable. See my full review here.
We had lunch at Hamdi Restaurant which had nice views and the food was great. We shared the lahmacun and pistachio kebab. The service was however, lacklustre.
Afterwards, we went to Topkapi Palace and explored.
For dinner, we went to Karakoy Lokantasi and shared a bunch of things. Some of the dishes were good, some not so good (such as the salad).
Afterwards, we walked around and found a bar called Levanten and tried “raki” which is a popular anise flavoured liqueur which I was definitely not a fan of haha!
The next morning, I went for a walk at sunrise then we had breakfast at the hotel (which was the most average breakfast at a “5 star” restaurant) then we went to a hammam (Turkish bath). We went to Cemberlitas Hamami which was amazing. We did the luxury style option which was the body scrub and bubble wash and a 30 minute massage (entrance also included). I felt so zen and relaxed after it!
Afterwards, we headed to Taksim Square area and went to Zübeyir Ocakbasi for our last lunch in Turkey! We shared the shepherd salad, tzatziki and the mixed kebab platter. The mixed kebab platter was on point! Highly recommend this place especially as it’s such good value!
Turkey is an amazing country and I can’t wait to explore more parts of it. The people were lovely, the scenery is breathtaking and the city life is buzzing and a lot of fun! I’ll definitely be back!