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Help! Could use some advice on vacation planning (as a photography enthusiast!)

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by phrenic, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Hi folks,

    So my wife and I are in the enviable position of being able to take up to 5 or 6 weeks away on vacation starting around April 1. We currently have airfare booked for 3 weeks (1st to 21st round trip to Istanbul). This could be altered for a few hundred dollars to extend our trip, or to change flight details.

    We were originally just planning on doing Turkey, and possibly Jordan. But with an unexpected windfall of vacation days, we're tempted to go for a longer journey (might be our last adventure trip for a few years). To put it in context, in last few years we've been to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peru, Bolivia, India and Nepal.

    Thinking we can't afford much more than 5-6000$ per person for this trip..money is not super tight, but mortgage and car payments are a toll while we're gone.

    Couple options I see:
    1) Turkey for 3 weeks, spend another 2-3 weeks hitting Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. Pros: geographically close, relatively cheaper even if we go on tours. Cons: I'm a bit apprehensive about geopolitical disruption, particularly Egypt. Would be mitigated by going on tour I suppose. I think it's safe, but could be disruptive.

    2) Turkey for 3 weeks, then fly to South Africa for a 12 day camping tour..largely safari based, hit 3 parks. Pros: May is transitioning into the better viewing season. June would be better..April would be worse. What photography loving enthusiast wouldn't want to see the wildlife there? :)  Cons: long flight down (16 hours including stop-over I think). And not cheap at around 1200 p/p plus another 1000 for flight.

    3) Turkey and Western Europe. Maybe Italy? (otherwise open to suggestions..I've spent significant time in England and France already). Pros: safe, easy logistics I think. All the comforts of home! Cons: Expensive. Always going to be there..we are young and can do more..adventurous trips now.

    4) Turkey and Eastern Europe (recommended countries?). Pros: Cheaper, more off-the-beaten path. Maybe more exciting. Geographically close to Turkey. Cons: Not sure what I would be going there to see. Not that interested in Mediterranean beaches. Castles would be cool I suppose. Cons: not sure what countries I would want to visit! Not very familiar with the area.

    5) Status quo. Take our 3 week trip..save the money. This is very practical. But...hey how often do 2 working professionals get the option to take 5-6 weeks off to travel? I would be disappointed to give up this chance to take a long trip because I don't know when I would go again.

    Anyways, sorry for the essay..would love to hear your thoughts, especially from people who have been to these regions of the world before! It's pretty alien to me. :smile:
  2. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    This is a nice problem to have :smile:
    South Africa option seems a bit far away, but I suppose you might get tired of all the human history in the Mediterranean after a while.

    If you are brave enough to do Egypt and other Arab countries as well as Israel right now, I guess now is as good a time as any, as in "it could still get worse in the future" :frown: not looking European might be a plus too, though I am just guessing there.

    If you've never been to Italy, that should definitely be at the top of the list. It's close enough to other culturally interesting countries like Austria, Czech Rep, Germany, Hungary. Eastern Europe is definitely cheaper so, you could construct an itinerary that leans more heavily on those places if that's a concern.

    One thing to consider is weather. I don't know how cool it might still be in Central/Northern Europe that time of year. Though fewer fellow tourists would definitely be a plus.

    Good luck.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    What you are calling Eastern Europe is more accurately described as central Europe. Budapest is one of my favorite cities in the world, and there is a TON within a 1 day drive.

    With a couple weeks, you could easily make a trip from Venice to Budapest to Vienna/Bratislava to Prague. Krakow and Auschwitz are nearby also.

    Other option would be to fly into Budapest FIRST, take a river trip down the Danube into the Black Sea, hop over to Istanbul and back to wherever home is
    • Like Like x 1
  4. redalien

    redalien Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 23, 2012
  5. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
  6. Be careful of spreading yourself too thinly. I know that maximum ground covered in the minimum time possible might be considered a good holiday by some, but not me. 6 weeks in Turkey and the Middle East is hardly enough time as it is. Three years ago I would have highly recommended including Syria as well but sadly that is not currently possible, so places like Damascus, Alleppo, Palmyra, and Krak des Chevaliers are off the list.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    I agree very strongly with Nic on this.
    Remember that first and foremost this is a holiday, try squeeze in too much and VERY quickly your holiday will become a very tiring ordeal, the trip becomes a blurr...pack, checkout, find your way to bus-train-plane terminal...travel...get to your hotel, check in, unpack....

    ....then do it all again and again and again !!

    My advice would be that do your research now, every minute of research you do now will pay dividends when it counts. Narrow down you itinerary to the places you REALLY want to see the most. Don't rush through these amazing places in a crazed panic because tou need to meet a deadline and be somewhere else...spend less time in transit and more time soaking up the experience.

    I've been fortunate to have travelled quite a bit....I've probably spent 2 whole years out of the last 10 traveling and the difference between a balanced and cramped itinerary is massive.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Phrenic, I am a little biased so i will not recommend and option.
    Regarding the mid east option if you can start with the mid east then head to Istanbul it will be better in term of weather. May is starting to be very hot especially in Egypt and Jordan while Turkey is relatively cooler.
    Regarding safety Jordan and Israel are very safe, while Egypt is safe if you go out of demonstrations which are happening in defined areas. Regarding budget in Israel you need expect to spend as much as in central/west Europe unless you eat only Humus and stay in hostels.

    If you have any question and advice regarding Israel you may approach me privately.
  9. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Depends how you design your holidays. I enjoy taking my time, but I don't like staying put in one place for extended periods. I tend to live out of a backpack, either using local transport or renting a car.

    Where you want to go sort of depends on what you want to see; I love South Africa, and it is one of the best places to go if you're looking for great landscapes. For big game, by all accounts, you're better off heading to east Africa (Tanzania and so forth); I have yet to go, but I have been to Kruger. Which is nice, but lacks the 'wilderness' feel - all my friends who have been there and the Serengeti confirm that.

    If you're more interested in Human culture (as in cities, architecture, any building over 200 years old) look to Europe and the Middle East, not Africa. In terms of Europe, I'll admit to being slightly biased (I'm half Italian) but if you have not been to Italy, it is a must-see destination. From the Roman era ruins (Pompeii, Herculaneum) to the glorious mess of antiquity and modernity that is Rome, to the relative calm and beauty of Tuscany...tough to beat. Plus the food's much better than in eastern/central europe.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. homerusan

    homerusan Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 25, 2012
    izmir, TURKEY
    as a Turkish guy, i am glad to put Turkey in all you options.
    and i am sure that you will love our country.
    which city do you want to go in Turkey? istanbul? izmir? cappadocia?
    and i think you should choose to take photo or make a vocation. if you want to take photo, its better to go where you have some info before. but if you want to make holdiay, see different places or relax, you should go a different country that you dont know. its only my opinion.
    hope you enjoy your time in Turkey ;)  cheers
    feel free to ask anything about Turkey :smile:
    • Like Like x 1
  11. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    Albuquerque, NM
    Mike Barber
    I would book a solid tour of central AND southern New Jersey. If you get really lucky, maybe parts of Delaware could be included as well.
  12. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    You can begin to see the cultural difference between the Aussies/Europeans and Americans here I think.

    The Aussies and Europeans, accustomed to their 8 weeks of vacation/holiday advise going one place for at least 3 weeks.

    The Americans say move around, because 3 weeks is all they likely get. I am very fortunate that I get to travel a lot for work, allowing me to "scout out" places first.

    Different strokes for different folks.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Indeed. I am a Canadian, but would love to travel like a european..

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 App
  14. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Thanks for the offer! I am fairly open for turkey, but 4 things i would like to do: istanbul, ephesus, cappadocia and probably at least 1 beach day. :) 

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 App
  15. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Thanks elavon. Always nice to hear from people closer to the action. As you can imagine, most of the media coverage makes that corner of the world..not so attractive to visit. What would be the must-see sights in Israel? Tel Aviv and maybe Bethlehem?

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 App
    • Like Like x 1
  16. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Sorry for bombarding the thread with posts..was using my mobile.

    So, for those who have been to Turkey (or know the country well), how hard is it to take care of your own travel arrangements to build a trip rather than go on tour? I like this tour itinerary, but I'm sure it's not optimal..probably some places are not worth seeing, others are worth spending more time at. Does this look good? And could I do it on my own for cheaper? (1250 USD per person..presumably yes, since they are making money off it haha )

    Turkey On A Budget in Turkey, Europe - G Adventures

    Day 1 Istanbul
    Arrive at any time.

    Day 2 Istanbul (1B)
    View the sights on an orientation walk, then spend some free time exploring the city. Travel by overnight bus to Cappadocia.

    Day 3-5 Cappadocia (2B,1D)
    Sample the local cuisine with a home-cooked dinner with a local family. Hike in the area, explore its underground cities, and enjoy the incredible fairy chimneys dotting the landscape. Consider an early morning hot air balloon trip. Overnight bus on Day 5 to Antalya.

    Day 6-7 Çirali/Kekova (1B,1D)
    See the flames of Olympos Mountain at night then enjoy a freshly cooked dinner before sleeping aboard our boat under the stars of the Aegean Sea on Day 7.

    Day 8-9 Dalyan (2B)
    Back on land at Ucagiz, travel up to the charming Dalyan—hit the mud baths, or swim and chill out at the beach.

    Day 10 Pamukkale (1B)
    Visit the beautiful white cliffs of Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the ancient site of Hierapolis.

    Day 11-12 Selçuk (2B)
    Check out the sights—Ephesus and its museum, St John's Basilica, the mosque of Isa Bey, as well as the nearby picturesque village of Sirince where you can sample some local wine.

    Day 13 Troy/Çanakkale (1B)
    Optional visit to Troy and Gallipoli.

    Day 14 Istanbul (1B)
    Back to the big city for one last night out with the group.

    Day 15 Istanbul (1B)
    Depart at any time.

  17. RDM

    RDM Mu-43 All-Pro

    Wow that Parliament looks pretty cool. Even if from a cheap, old point and shoot. I hope someday I can afford to travel away from the states and see Budapest for myself.

    Attached Files:

  18. Turkey would be my favourite country to have visited. Istanbul is one of the world's great cities. You'll most likely want more time there than the tour allows. The landscape in Cappadocia around the town of Goreme is truly unique. The balloon ride is not cheap but is a great experience for both the scenery as well as the sheer number of other balloons in the sky. I'm also a little biased here since I proposed to my wife during the flight. The White Cliffs of Pamukkale are really cool to see and walk across, but the ruins of Heirapolis above them were the bigger highlight for me. The countryside is beautiful with the stone ruins in amongst poppies. Selcuk itself is not very exciting but is a great base for seeing Ephesus, St John's Basilica, Sirince, and even "Mary's House" if you have interest in places of religious significance. Sirince is a beautiful little village up in the hills; certainly worth a visit. Cannakale is a nice seaside town with some great eateries along the waterfront. It even has the Trojan Horse from the movie Troy! It was cool to visit the ruins of Troy but there is not much to see compared to somewhere like Ephesus or Heirapolis. Gallipoli was a very moving place for me to visit but that was because of the strong connection to Australia there.

    Small groups are by far my preferred method of travel. Larger tour groups are too "get off the bus, get on the bus, stay at the big hotels, etc", and with totally independent travel I find arranging transport, hotels, and activities for longer trips to be a big time suck when all I want to do is just be there, explore, relax, and enjoy myself.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Phrenic, Thanks the most important place to see is Jerusalem you need to spend there at list 2-3, days Bethlehem is next to Jerusalem and can be combined with.
    Tel-Aviv is a bustling fun sea cost city, with allot of good restaurants, clubs, bars and a great beach.
    Another important place to be is the Dead Sea and Masada.
    If you are into religion then you also need to go to Nazareth and Sea Of Galilee. One thing you need to know is that Israel is small, approx the size on New-Jersey and most of the sites are within one hour transportation at max. Driving from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem usually takes about 45 minutes.
    This is a general advice, if you can give me your preferences I will be able to tailor you a better advice.
  20. foxtail1

    foxtail1 Science geek & photo nut Subscribing Member

    Dec 30, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    phrenic, I would add the Antalya region to my itinerary. That's a stepping off point for Perge and the theater at Aspendos, plus the city, perched above the Med is very nice.

    I know that Troy is a historic site, but in the scheme of archeological sites in Turkey, it's not very interesting. I would leave that one off my list.

    Definitely add more time in Istanbul, if possible.

    Actually, I pretty much agree with Luckypenguin's comments.

    Try to hit Ephesus early in the day, before the crowds. As the day progressed, the crowding made it quite unpleasant, and difficult to photograph.

    I spent 2 weeks in Turkey in 2011, but I traveled with a group. As it turned out, the group travel was quite nice, with plenty of free time and a wonderful guide who added immeasurably to the trip. Of course, I was the one wandering away from the group with my camera, garnering comments about people who think they work for National Geographic. (I traveled with Gate 1.)

    Here's my Antalya set, if you are interested: Antalya region - a set on Flickr. There are several other sets from my trip on Flickr as well (Istanbul, Pamukkale, Kapadokya region, Ephesus, other Turkiye).
    • Like Like x 2
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