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Turkey - April 2023

 

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DAY 1:

As always the first day is usually a travel day from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta to Istanbul International Airport in Turkey. So of course we flew Turkish Airlines. We are quickly becoming partial to Turkish Airlines due to their quality, hospitality and them being one of the most interconnected airlines!


What's amazing for us, is that Atlanta has a major Turkish Airlines presence which allows use direct flights to Istanbul and beyond. We boarded our flight and enjoyed a 10 hour direct flight to Istanbul, Turkey. It sure is nice when it is a one and done flight vs having to make multiple transfers!



DAY 2:

We landed in Istanbul the following afternoon and after going through immigration. We head straight to our hotel Delita Boutique Hotel located in the Sisli district of Istanbul. Our experience at the hotel was lovely and we enjoyed a peaceful stay but something to keep in mind, Istanbul is a very hectic city, roads that are narrow and windy, along with constant traffic. So having to travel back and forth from our hotel to the central heart of Istanbul in itself is tiresome and time-consuming.



If we were to plan it again, We would stay at a hotel that is more central to Istanbul and utilize their public transportation.


We settled into our hotel for the night and by that time it was close to dinner time. We walked the local streets of Sisli. Lucky for us, we were located in a fairly commercialized area with many shops, and restaurants. We enjoyed the hustle and being amongst the locals and then settle into a restaurant call Garden Cafe and enjoyed a lovely tradition Turkish dinner. Our first day in Istanbul came to an end. We headed back to Delita Hotel for the night to start our next day.



DAY 3:

Our intentions were to wake up early and visit some of the main highlights of Instabul, but Heerali and I struggled with the jet lag and we were slow to get going to day. We slept in longer than expected. Once ready we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel.



One thing we were not ready for during our time in Istanbul was the cool weather, which to be fair, was unusually cold for this time of the year. Even the locals said it is typically not cold like this during April. We need to get warm clothes as the forecast was not looking better over the next few days. So after breakfast we visit the Istanbul Cevahir Mall to find some jackets and warmer clothes. This was actually very enjoyable just being amongst the locals.


Next we decided to head to head to the heart of Istanbul and visit the two most popular landmarks in the city, the Sultanahmet Camli, commonly known as The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Now by the time we arrived, it was already mid-day into the evening hours and the area was packet with locals and tourist. We knew we wouldn't be able to take any quality photos during this time. So instead, we enjoyed the views and our time, while scouting areas along the way to revisit another day.




Near by the two mosque is the Seven Hills Hotel and Restaurant, if at all possible we would recommend staying here! It is walking distance to the landmarks and the top of the hotel has a beautiful panoramic restaurant and terrace overlooking the two iconic mosque on one side, and the Bosphorus river on the other. We went to the terrace to scout the view and decided we wanted to enjoy a dinner there, so we made reservations for the next day to enjoy our last meal in Istanbul at this well known hotel/restaurant.


The day was coming to an end, So we took an Uber back to Delita Hotel and called it a night to plan for an early morning tomorrow.



DAY 4:

Today was our last full day in Istanbul so we had to make the most out of it. We started with an early morning and headed straight to The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia and wouldn't you know it, the moment we arrived and exited our taxi it started to rain. And not just a little rain or light sprinkle, but a heavy downpour. It was 6am and majority of the local shops and stores were still closed. Luckily we found a vending cart and we waited under the awning, hoping the rain would stop very soon. Some time had past and it wasn't looking promising, we were cold and wet and just miserable at that point. The forecast wasn't looking better anytime soon, so we just called a taxi to head back to the hotel.


Once back to the hotel we had breakfast and rested in the room for awhile. The rain soon had passed and we ventured out again. We had an appointment at Selfie On The Bosphorus which is a rooftop photo studio overlooking the Bosphorus river. This location is one of the most popular spots for a fly dress photoshoot in Istanbul.



Heerali brought her own fly dress and so we only rented out the location. But you have the option the rent different color fly-dresses if you don't have one. We spent a few hours here, taking pictures and enjoying the view over the Bosphorus river, It is a beautiful rooftop to just spend time at.



After our time at Selfie On The Bosphorus, we made our way to the actual riverside to visit the Ortaköy Mosque. A beautiful, smaller, mosque built right along the riverfront. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Istanbul, Turkey. The riverfront here is loaded with restaurants, shops and vendors. The weather, by this time, was very enjoyable after the rain passed, so we spent some time enjoying the area and enjoyed some sweet treats along the river.



As the day was starting to get late, we headed back to the Blue Mosque/Hagia Sophia area. We made the best of our time here, buy actually visiting inside both mosque and entrance is free. And enjoyed the park area.



Lastly, we made our dinner reservations at Seven Hills Hotel and Restaurant. After enjoying a delicious and beautiful dinner here, We visited the rooftop for one final look at downtown Istanbul and the Blue Mosque/Hagia Sopia. Afterwards, we made our way back to Delita Hotel, packed our bags as we would be flying out the next morning to our next destination.




DAY 5:

Today is going to be a travel day for us. We say goodbye to Istanbul, as we check out of Delita Hotel. Although the weather was not on our side during our time here, we truly enjoyed what the city had to offer. The sites, the people and the food itself is worth revisiting. We headed out from our hotel and to the airport to our next destination! Next, we are heading to the Mediterranean coast to the town of Bodrum.


Our flight wasn't until the evening so we had some time to spare after checking out. So we headed to another famous landmark in Istanbul called Galata Tower. There, we enjoyed the shops and streets. We decided to NOT enter the tower and go to the top because we had our luggage and personal belongs with us and we didn't want to leave them behind as we toured around. We spent some time at a cafe right in front of Galata Tower and people watched and chitchatted for a while.



Soon it was time to head to the airport. We made our way back to Istanbul International, and caught our next flight to the city of Bodrum. Once we landed, we had a hotel taxi pick us up to take us our next collaboration at Caresse, A Luxury Collection Resort and Spa.



Once we arrived to the resort, we were greeted by an amazing staff and taken to our room to settle in. Our room was a beautiful suite facing Bodrum Bay and overlooking the beach front! We knew that this place was something special and we looked forward to our time here!


Once settled, it was getting later in the day, we walked around the resort to get a lay of the land and then headed to dinner at one of the resort restaurants. We ate at their beachside restaurant called Buddha Bar, an asian inspired restaurant which we really enjoyed!



After dinner we walked along the beachfront for a short bit. (The beachfront itself is very short). We headed back to the room for the night.



DAY 6:

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise off Bodrum Bay and we soaked in the sun! The weather here was absolutely perfect and we were excited to get away from the cold rainy weather that we experienced in Istanbul. We started our morning with an amazing breakfast buffet, We sat outside overlooking the Mediterranean and just enjoying the view!



Our plan for today was to enjoy our time at the hotel. The initial days in Turkey have been hectic so we figured a rest day was need. As Caresse being a hotel collaboration for us, we had responsibilities here as well. After breakfast we met with the marketing manager to go over our plan and anything additional they wanted us to highlight. To our surprise, the offered us a 1 hour message in their world class spa. We kindly accepted of course and we were off to complete the content requested.



In the evening, the marketing team gave us a private tour of their largest private villas for VIP guest. An absolutely amazing villa with multiple bedrooms and a private pool, overlooking the Mediterranean.



For dinner, we grabbed a local taxi and headed into the town of Bodrum. It was a 10-15 minute taxi ride. We walked the streets and enjoyed our time and found a local pizza shop for dinner.

The plan for tomorrow was to visit the town fully, so we walked around, scooted areas and talked with locals with what they recommend. We headed back to Caresse for the night for a fun day tomorrow!



DAY 7:

Another beautiful morning along the Turkish Mediterranean coast! We were excited for the day! After a hardy breakfast we made our way out to spend the day in the town of Bodrum. Our first destination was Bodrum Castle, which was build in the 1400s by the Knights of St. John. We did a historical tour of the castle to learn more about it and along the way we enjoyed its beautiful views of the coastline. Inside the castle, there is a Museum of Underwater Archeology for treasures and discoveries that were made in the Aegean Sea.




After our time at Bodrum Castle, we made our way into the main town to walk the streets and check out the shops and the waterfront. Bodrum is also a popular destination for Mediterranean cruises ships and so the day we were in town, there was a massive cruise ship docked in the harbor. 1000s of guest had disembarked from the boat and were also enjoying the town as well. It was quite fun being amongst the chaos.



The rest of our time was spent enjoying the sites and sounds, we found a nice waterfront bar and restaurant where we enjoyed drinks and dinner as we watched the sunset over the horizon. Soon enough, we made our way back to Caresse for the night.



DAY 8:

Today is our last day in Bodrum and mostly a travel day.

We enjoyed our final few hours at Caresse. It honestly is one of our favorite resorts and collaborations we have done, all time. It was honestly hard to say goodbye to Bodrum, we enjoyed it greater than we expected.




We took a taxi back to Milas-Bodrum Airport. To make it tour our next destination.

Now one thing to note about flights around Turkey in general. Majority of flights are one way from the capital of Istanbul to your final destination. Very few flights from one town to another.

So, we had to fly back to Instabul and transfer to our next flight to Cappadocia.


We landed at Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport in Cappadocia around 6:30pm.

From the airport we took a bus shuttle into Cappadocia which was an addition 30-40 minutes away.



In Cappadocia, we stayed at one of the most iconic cave hotels, AZA Cave. And to even sweeten the deal, in one of, if the not the best King Suite that is offered at AZA Cave Hotel.

We checked into Aza Cave and were greeted by some of the nicest staff we have met on this trip. But by that time, it was getting late, so we checked in and settled in for the night as we had many plans for our time in Cappadocia.




DAY 9:

One of the most popular/must do experience in Cappadocia is, of course, the Hot Air Balloons.

Being our first day, we didn't want to jump into the hot air balloons right away but we did wake up early to catch them flying over "fairy chimneys" that make Cappadocia iconic.

But all this is based on weather conditions, at that morning was very windy. So by the time we arrived to the rooftops, the balloons were high up in the sky and passing by very quickly. We got to experience the view but did not last very long. So, just something to keep in mind for your trip to Cappadocia.



We headed to breakfast to get our day started.

Afterwards, we made our way to The Dalton Brothers Horse Ranch where you can enjoy time riding horse through the surrounding valleys or, what we ended up doing, a 'running with the horses' photoshoot. You can book your reservations HERE.



The weather started to turn cloudy and rainy after our time at Dalton Brothers Ranch. So we decided to spent time at AZA Cave Hotel during the morning hours. After the rain passed, the sun was beaming and we made our way into town to explore Göreme. We found a quaint roadside cafe called Center Coffee & Baklava, and of course, we enjoyed some Turkish Tea and fresh Baklava.




Afterwards, we made our way to Sultan Carpets, the famous carpet shop that offers a beautiful backdrop for a photoshoot. At Sultan Carpets, they offer a photography package which reserves a 1 hour spot with an in-house photographer who will provide photo, video and drone content.



After our photoshoot, we decided to have dinner in town as we were already in the area.

We found a rooftop Indian restaurant which looked promising but unfortunately the food was mediocre at best.


A fun day comes to an end and we make our way back to Aza Cave because tomorrow morning is a bucket list day!



DAY 10:

It was a 3am wake-up call. Pitch black outside but we were up and excited for what the day had to offer. Because today, we were going to ride a hot air balloon in one of the most iconic destinations in the world!


We booked our hot air balloon ahead of time with Royal Balloons via Viator. (LINK) They provide a "King" and a "Queen" flight package. We went with the "Queen Plus" package which is a 60 minute Hot Air Balloon ride with less riders onboard. There are many hot air balloon companies to choose from in Cappadocia but we selected them based off of a few things.


  1. They are one of the most well known Hot Air Balloon operators in Cappadocia and well experienced.

  2. Smaller passenger buckets which hold less people. Our flight had 10-15 riders max. We noticed other Hot Air Balloons with double the amount of riders.

  3. They provide breakfast at a restaurant early in the morning prior to flight and a champagne toast and snacks post flight.

  4. Lastly, we had friends who have flown with Royal Balloons and they were happy with their experience, so word of mouth is a strong


One thing to Note, Cappadocia/Göreme is located at a higher altitude, so during our time here in April it was quite chilly. So bringing a jacket is recommended during the shoulder months and may come in handy during the summer at times.


After our shuttle pickup, we were taken to a restaurant for breakfast. Nothing overly fancy but they provided coffee/tea, pastries, fruit, and some basic continental and transitional breakfast options.


Next we took the shuttle to the takeoff location where we were able to watch the Hot Air Balloons inflate. Once, finished, we loaded up into the balloon and we were ready to take off.


For us, it was a cloudy and windy day, which at first was a bummer but we soon realized that this was a unique experience. As the balloon kept rising into the clouds, we lost site of other balloon around us, but we would occasionally see the fire from the flight mechanism through the clouds. And once we cleared through, we were flying above the clouds at one point!


But the whole point is to be able to see Cappadocia from the sky, so our pilot reduced the balloon altitude as we made our way closer into town. Soon enough we were flying over the fairy chimneys and even down into the valleys of Cappadocia!


It was quite amazing being up there along with 100s of other Hot Air Balloon all at once!

It was a windy day so our balloon was moving quite fast, our overall ride seemed to have come to an end quicker then we expected, but unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about this. The weather does play a role in your flight experience.



We soon landed in the landing zone where our shuttle was waiting for us. But before leaving, we were given a champagne toast and "flight certificates" and even a medal as souvenirs.


After an exciting morning, we made our way back to AZA Cave Hotel to get some rest.

Once we woke, we made our way to breakfast, we had plans to enjoy to town and visit some of the outskirt canyons but the cloudy day turned into a rainy one. So we spent a good bit of our afternoon and early evening hours at the hotel.


The rain had finally subsided late into the evening and we were able to venture out,

For dinner, we visited Sultan Cave Hotel, a sister hotel of Aza Cave which was located down the street. Sean Cave Hotel is the highest hotel in the chimney ferry valley and the rooftop restaurant has a beautiful view of the town below!



DAY 11:

We woke up this morning to another rainy morning. And because of the weather, the Hot Air Balloon flights for the day were cancelled. And this completely broke our hearts because today was our last morning and our last chance to see the Balloons over Cappadocia.


Today we would be checking out of Aza Cave Hotel and flying back to Istanbul and then flying back to the US tomorrow. But we ended up doing something we rarely do. We changed our flight from today to tomorrow morning and extended our stay in Cappadocia for one more night! Because we looked at the weather report and the rest of today and tomorrow was calling for clear and sunny skies! And we are so glad we did because we were able to enjoy all the things we had planned with this extra time.


As the sun came out at noon, we ventured out after lunch towards Red Valley and Sunset Valley, two very popular viewpoints just outside of Göreme. Our first stop was at Pasabag Valley where we visited the famous "Mushroom Top Fairy Chimneys". Now Pasabag Valley is a reserved land so there is an entrance fee of 150 Turkish Lira as of April 2023.




Luckily for us, there were not many people here assuming because of the rain from earlier. So were were able to enjoy the landscape peacefully. This reserve is actually quite touristy and on any good day you would find lines of tour buses here. This reserve is actually quite large and there are many areas to see, but we stuck to the most popular region, known as Monks Valley, due to the history of Simeon monks who use to live here and who built a church into the towers and its surrounds.


Afterwards we made our way to Red Valley. One of the staff members at Aza told us about a hidden gem photo-spot here that is mostly known by locals. Again, no one was here and we enjoyed this location for some great pictures!



Lastly for the evening, we made our way to Sunset Valley, of course for sunset! Heerali got to use her fly-dress which she had collaborated with a local store in Göreme. We got some great photos and enjoyed one last, unexpected sunset in Cappadocia.



Afterwards, we headed back to Aza Cave Hotel. We asked our friends at the hotel for a good local restaurant and they pointed us towards TopDeck Cave Restaurant and it did not disappoint!

A local mom and pop restaurant with great Turkish food. Make sure to add this to your restaurant list when in Cappadocia.


After an amazing meal and a great end to the day, we went back to Aza Cave for one last night in hopes that tomorrow morning will provide the iconic view we've dreamed of seeing!



DAY 12:

Our last and final morning Cappadocia and Turkey and boy did it not disappoint. We set our alarms for early in the morning and straight to Sultan Cave Hotel's rooftop (Aza Cave guest are allowed access because they are sister hotels). And when we arrived the rooftop was completely empty! We got a great viewpoint just in time for the balloons to start coming up!



The weather was perfect that morning. We spent a few hours on the rooftop enjoying the balloons and taking in the sunrise over Goreme one last time. But we soon had to head out as we were scheduled for the first flight out of Cappadocia and back to Istanbul.



Ultimately, we were so glad to have stayed one more night to have this experience! What an amazing way to end a great trip!


We took the shuttle from our hotel to Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport and our flight to Istanbul International Airport. We had a few hours between our domestic and international flight which gave us just enough time to transfer and board.



We said our goodbyes to Turkey and thankful for another amazing trip with great memories!




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