• $1117 for 4 nights ($279/night) = Rixos Pera Hotel Istanbul
· 5-star hotel
· The hotel had a useful concierge service that helped get us reservations at the rooftop bar/restaurant, a hookah lounge to watch the soccer game on Sunday night, and a ride to the airport early in the morning when we left
· The bathroom smelled like old pipes/sewer
• $468 for 2 nights ($234/night) = Kapadokya hill hotel and spa
· 5-star hotel
· The room had no windows as we stayed underground in a cave room
· We were able to check in early and use their spa/hamam that same day
· We utilized their concierge service to book the hot air balloon experience and the VIP tour we took
· Our bathroom had a spa tub
• $472 for 3 nights ($157/night) = Ecclesia hotel Ölüdeniz
· 5-star hotel
· Spa tub in the room (not in the bathroom)
· I accidentally let the cat in the room when I left the door open for two minutes
· It rained hard one night and we lost our AC for the night
• $131 for 1 night = Doubletree Istanbul hotel
· 5-star hotel
· Walkable to the soccer stadium for the game
• $81 for 1 night = Gaziantep Şirehan hotel
· 5-star hotel
· The “non-smoking hotel” where people smoked in the rooms and it traveled into our room
· We left after one night because the smoke was overwhelming, the AC didn’t work well, and the Wi-Fi kept disconnecting to the point where it wasn’t functional
• $157 for 2 nights ($79/night) = Hilton Gaziantep
· 3-star hotel
· The best AC of them all!
Travel and Transportation!
~30 hours in planes (12-hour trip to Istanbul) – $1283 with seats selected in advance for the international flight + $375 for the three domestic flights
We took the bus, the subway, taxis, and Uber, as well as plenty of walking!
My favorite mode of transportation: the subway because it was comfortable and we could sit but also Taxis/Uber because we didn’t have to walk uphill!
• My favorite savory – Içli Köfte (Turkish Stuffed Meatball) that is either fried (shown below) or boiled
• Best desserts – katmer from Katmerci Zekeriya Usta and baklava from Baklavaci Zeki İnal
• Food to try: Lahmacun (Turkish pizza)
• Popular street food: simit (priced at 5 Turkish Lira = $0.27) and is sold from street carts. Simit used to be priced around 2 – 3 TL before inflation
• Another Favorite Savory: paçanga böreği = deep fried mix roll from the Hill Hotel Restaurant in kapadokya
• Another Favorite Savory – hotel buffet Syrnike (Russian pancake I think and not even Turkish food)
• And Another Favorite food item – Tavuk Göğsü from Sütiş Restaurant = Turkish milk pudding made with shredded chicken breast
• Ayran (yogurt drink) is popular, especially with meat dishes/kabobs, and is sometimes made in-house by blending up yogurt, water, and salt
• You finish your meal at most restaurants with a free cup of tea (sugar optional)
• You get a hand wipe post-meal at most restaurants as well
• A lot of restaurants use beautiful and intricately patterned copper as their dishware
• Bayramoğlu Döner – popular and best Döner with a line waiting at the door for a table
• Fenerbaçe game – The security confiscated my chapstick. Nearly everyone was smoking (especially since it was such a tight game). The tickets for our section (what few of them were left when we were buying) were $40/each. We were not able to purchase the seats right next to each other but we were able to sit next to each other regardless as people often move around a little bit within their section.
• Paragliding – Babadag Mountain is one of the highest commercial launch sites in the world for paragliding! The take-off site for paragliding over Oludeniz Beach starts at a height of about 6,500 feet, The standard weight limit for Paragliding in Oludeniz is 110kg ( 242.5lbs
• Hot air balloon ride – 250 euros each. The average cost of a shared hot air balloon ride in Seattle, Washington, is $300. Our concierge was able to make a reservation the day before after calling 10 different agencies and he told us that there are over 100 different companies. Each balloon accommodates up to 20 passengers and our balloon had a mix of people from Colombia, Brazil, Sudan, and a few other countries. The ride lasts around 40-60 minutes. The balloon can only go up and down and directionally is pushed by the wind. The takeoff point will change depending on the wind and we were not airborne by sunrise partially due to the last-minute takeoff location confirmation. We landed on the road – after being dragged by rope out of an area with trees because again there is no steering.
• Rooftop bar with infinity pool and sitting pool – one of the loveliest rooftop bars I’ve been up to even though it was only the third story of the hotel
• Hamam as well as spa/massage
We visited The Cağaloğlu hamam which was constructed in 1741 and is the last hamam to be built after a long period during the Ottoman Empire. There is a women’s section and a men’s section (which is where you walk into upon entering the hamam). We visited the hamam in the Hill Hotel and Spa twice and had a ‘couples’ hamam. We also tried out the hamam spa at the Ecclesia hotel Ölüdeniz – the most ‘touristy’ version of hamam and though my partner and I both went at the same time, there was only one attendant so we were in the same room while the other was getting bathed.
We spent $86 for the “After Work” package for two and $81 for the “Best of Asia” package for two at the Hill Hotel and Spa. We spent $100 for the classic hamam that included a massage for two at the Ecclesia hotel Ölüdeniz. We spent $194.81 each for the “Sultan Mahmud The First” package at the Cağaloğlu hamam
• VIP local tour – underground city kaymakli
• VIP local tour – pottery demo at kapadokya ceramic
• VIP local tour – göreme open-air museum
• VIP local tour – fairy chimney lookout point
• VIP local tour – imagination lookout – devrent vadisi
• Hagia Sophia (we didn’t go inside because the line was too long)
• 25 December Gaziantep Defense Heroism Panorama and Museum
• Gaziantep Zeugma Museum of Culture and Congress Center – remains of zeugma with lots of mosaics
• Miniaturk (I thought this was mini golf)
• Turkey is known for their street cats!