We're off to western Turkey in April, going to be based near Bodrum. Looking for advice for getting around to the different sites in the west. (Ephesus, Pamukkale, Cappadocia etc) Did you rent a car and drive around, take public buses, dolmus etc? We usually rent a car, but hate the complication of finding parking in towns, and reports I've read make it sound like police stops can sometimes be a problem there (but not sure if it's true in the tourist routes in the west). I've read the public bus system is great also, just wondering if any of you guys have any advice on getting around!
This may not be super helpful since we didn't go to Bodrum, but when we went to Turkey, we flew into Istanbul and then immediately flew to Izmir. If I remember correctly, we took a taxi from our hotel in Selcuk to Ephesus. To visit Cappadocia, we flew from Izmir to Kayseri. We rented a car during that portion of the trip (I remember my husband having trouble putting the car into reverse, haha). People really are crazy drivers over there; stopping seemed to be optional. We didn't have any trouble with police stops or anything. I don't think we took any public buses at all during our trip, but this was a few years back and it's hard for me to remember!
Thanks MissMint, that's great info! We'll definitely fly directly to Bodrum as it has good and cheap flights there. If I get a car I'll definitely get in Bodrum, but it looks a little too far to drive to Cappadocia, and a 10-11 hour bus ride doesn't sound too great, so we might end up backtracking by air through IST or Izmir to get to Kayseri. Curious, did you guys do a baloon ride in Cappadocia? Seems to be a big thing, and potentially beautiful, even though my fear of heights will probably have me curled up in a blubbering ball in the bottom of the basket, unable to enjoy the views. lol. They do look beautiful though, when they all take off in the morning from pics I've seen. Maybe more beautiful from the safety of the hotel veranda more so than actually in one for me! ;)
Ha, yes, my husband tried to talk me into taking a bus from Selcuk to Cappadocia, but when he said it was 12 hours, I balked! We did do a hot air balloon ride, and I HIGHLY recommend it. I wrote a story about it (looks like it's on page 26 of my stories)--it's long and detailed because it was one of my earlier stories, so hopefully there's a lot of helpful info there. I have so so so many amazing photos from it. I was scared before going on it, but it was more than worth it!
I flew into Izmir from Istanbul and rented a car to drive around the western Turkey but not all the way down to Bodrum. It was basically a circular loop from Izmir to Selcuk (of course Ephesus), Kusadasi, Aphrodisias, Denizli, Pammukale, Salihli, Bergama and back to Izmir. I did not go to Cappadocia (surely one of the places in my bucket list) because of long distance and short time I had.
This route was easy to drive as there was not much traffic when you go out of towns. But it was more than 10 years ago, so I am not sure how much it has been changed since then. I had no unpleasant experience (police stopping, rental car issue, etc.) and it was one of the best foreign driving experiences I have had. There are so many historic Greek sites in the western Turkey.
I wrote a follow-up reply on parking but I did not press "Post" button.....
About parking, I had no issue on finding parking except in Izmir (one of the largest cities in Turkey). In all the famous sites (Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Pammukale, Sardis, Bergama), there are designated parking lots right next to the sites.
For the Ephesus, there are two parking lots, one on the main entrance near the Great Theater and the other on the opposite side near the Odeon. I parked my rental car on the main entrance and took a taxi to the other entrance near the Odeon and walked through the one of the most luxurious cities two millennia ago (this is downhill and easier to walk down than the other direction... ). Be sure not to miss the House of Virgin Mary on top of the mountain nearby. You can drive all the way upthere.
Pammukale/Hierapolis has two desginated parking lots (again, it was more than 10 years ago, so it may have been changed) and the entire site is huge.
Sardis has two major sites and there are parking lots right next to them.
Bergama, one of my all time favorite archeological sites, has several places to visit and there are parking lots in all sites. Especially, for the most important site on top of the mountain, be sure to drive all the way to the site entrance as there is a small parking lot there (Perhaps you may plan ahead and visit there in less busy times to secure a spot in the small parking lot). Driving to the site includes driving through narrow alleyway in residental area and driving in winding narrow roads on the mountain but by no means it is dangerous. Again, the road may well be improved after my visit which was 10+ years ago. I am not sure if you visited the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. The altar piece in the Pargamum Museum in Berlin was taken away from the temple site on top of the mountain in Bergama. Pcture that altar in the mountaintop temple ruin and you are immediately back in time...
I read your great detailed story, that was fantastic, thanks for mentioning it. Before reading it I hadn't really researched it much, guess I was looking for an excuse not to do it, lol. But after reading your account it will be hard to pass on, looks so otherwordly and exotic with the landscape and all those balloons. I was blown away that the baskets held 16-30 people! I've never heard of that, but maybe there's safety in numbers, lol. Looks like a splurge we've just got to do, even though what I'm seeing is around $200-250 each.
Lol, I read the first post and was digesting it, and was just about to reply with a question about your parking experience! Thanks so much for all the great detailed info. That makes me feel better about attempting to drive there, and I've read that the roads have had a lot of extensive funding and improvements in the last few years, so it should be fine. I've never had a problem really driving anywhere in Europe outside the cities, it's only nerve wracking inside the larger towns, especially with the parking, and your detailed tips will be invaluable. My biggest worry driving over there I think was the ZTL zones in Italy, where if you weren't careful, you didn't even know you were in one, and received a big ticket weeks later (shout out to Matera!), hopefully Turkey won't have those, I've not read about any yet. I think that a good plan for each town beforehand as far as parking will make everything smooth and much less stressful. I think I'll fly into Bodrum to our workaway base, and rent a car there to get around most places, and try to fly to Cappadocia before or after finishing up there. Thanks again!
We bussed a lot. Alternate nights were on overnight buses (saves time and money, but potentially leaves you tired). I'm glad we had recovery time by never overnight bussing twice in a row. The tough part? I couldn't find a way to buy tickets in advance, so we had to go to the station each time it was time to get going.
Since we went in a light season (December back in 2012), having seats on the buses wasn't issue. Only tough part? Far too many vendors at Istanbul Otogari and us wanting to at least do a little bit of comparison. The buses are nice - there's a "bus attendant" similar to how planes have flight attendants. S/he serves you snacks and beverages once in a while, and wakes you when you get to your stop.
Night 0: Istanbul old town
Day 1: Istanbul
Night 1: Overnight bus to Selcuk (close enough to walk to Efes).
Day 2: we immediately bought a ticket to Pamukkale for the evening (same vendor was the only choice; they let us leave our bags). Daytime spent in Efes + seeing Mary's house
Night 2: Pamukkale (didn't need to transfer in Denizli)
Day 3: Pamukkale/Hierapolis. It'll take all day if you love ruins leaving you no time for Laodacea etc
Night 3: overnight bus to Goreme, one center of Cappadocia
Day 4 & 5: explored Cappadocia. Here, I wish we rented a car. We bought bus tours for both days, and it was expensive. The second day of bus tour was reasonable because of the long distances to Ihlara valley + Derinkuyu underground city. The first day of bus tour was skippable since we'd have gotten 80% of the experience just going to the Goreme open air museum & doing some hikes
Night 5: overnight bus to Bursa (we decided on Bursa over Ankara with our "extra day")
Day 6: Bursa. 1/2 day is enough. You'll be seeing a lot of tombs/mosques. We ended up resting up for 1/2 a day at the hotel at night when we could have been bussing back to Istanbul. If you don't have this much time, Bursa is skippable.
Day 7: Istanbul. We overnighted in a Priority Pass lounge prior to flying out at 6am the next day.