Trip to the Turkey and the middle east?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by phrenic, Jun 15, 2012.

  1. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    (in a photographic context!)

    So..somewhat on a whim, I have booked a 3 week trip next April to Istanbul, Turkey. Not that I'm one of those jetsetting people who can afford to do this easily but there was a big promotion and 700$ from Western Canada is maybe half what I expected to pay to get to that side of the world. Sold!

    But..I'm not sure what I'd actually like to do there. I've skimmed a bit through a travel book and think that 3 weeks would be far too long to stay there to be honest. Any neighbouring countries that I should check out? Seems like limitless possibilities of hitting eastern europe or the middle east. I've been tempted to visit Israel and Jordan. Egypt seems like not the greatest idea right now.

    Or another semi-crazy idea would be to take a 6-8 hour flight down to Tanzania (yknow since I'm on that side of the world. :rofl:) that is also on our bucket list. And I frankly don't know how many years of traveling I have (before its time to settle down with a family).

    Advice, experience or any thoughts on the matter are appreciated. You guys were a great help on my last trip to India-Nepal. Photography and travel are great partners.
  2. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    This spring I spent 8 days in Istanbul and I think you need at least 2 weeks to fully appreciate the city. It's wonderful.
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  3. fin azvandi

    fin azvandi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 12, 2011
    South Bend, IN
    I spent a month in Istanbul once, but it was not purely a vacation and so there are *tons* of things I wasn't able to do/see in that time. Depending on what you are interested in there are lots of historic sites like Trabzon/Trebizond in eastern Turkey on the Black Sea, Izmir/Smyrna on the Mediterranean, etc.
  4. drizek

    drizek Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 5, 2011
    2 weeks in istanbul is what I keep hearing from people.

    I spent a day there and I saw absolutely nothing.

    wrt Israel, Egypt and Jordan,

    I would recommend Lebanon, it's an amazing country. People are scared that the stuff in Syria might spill over though.

    There is a lot to do in Israel and Palestine. Israel is for the most part pretty western, but it is still pretty interesting to see. Haifa is a really nice city, and the old city of Jerusalem is really interesting. In Palestine you can get away with never going to Ramallah, but a couple days in Bethlehem to see churches and stuff is good.

    Jordan is great, I think Petra is one of the places you absolutely have to go to. I really regret that when I went I was too young to take advantage of all the photography opportunities there. The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is really nice too if you just want to relax (go to the movenpick hotel at both Petra and the Dead Sea, it's a great chain).

    Then there is the Red Sea, which you can visit from Egypt, Israel or Jordan. Egypt is more of a resort atmosphere, whereas Israel is more club-y and Jordan is more family oriented.
  5. nickthetasmaniac

    nickthetasmaniac Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2011
    I'm not sure if I misunderstood - are you saying that three weeks is 'far too long' to spend exploring the whole of Turkey?

    Yeah right. I somewhat doubt that...
  6. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    Well, we've been to Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Southern Africa within the last two or three years. A few thoughts:

    Turkey is an astonishing place. Much more modern than we expected. Istanbul is only a small piece of what there is to see. Cappadocia has a wealth of photographic opportunities due to the special geology. Rock formations ( underground cities, etc. Roman cities like Ephesus are huge, with running water and other "modern" features that you might not expect. Most of what you think of as ancient Greek history, like the Trojan war, actually happened in Turkey. Something like 80% of the cities mentioned in the bible are in Turkey.

    Of any place in the world we've been, Israel was the biggest surprise. Here in the United States we get almost 100% Israeli propaganda via our news sources. We were victims of that. It is actually the Israelis who are the terrorists. If you go there, please hook up with a tour company in the West Bank to get the real picture of what goes on. Murder, land theft, water theft, gratuitous destruction of Arab farms by "settlers," desecration of Mosques, ... , all financed by the American taxpayer. We had a vague sympathy for the "sabra image" and the Israeli cause before we actually put feet on the ground. No more.
    Actually, Egypt in the news looks a little scary but they are starving for tourist dollars and I'm sure you would find very low prices and uncrowded attractions. This is probably the best time to go on a budget and you would be doing a good deed for many impoverished people in the tourism industry. I wouldn't be afraid to go at all. Seeing Egypt will reset your "history meter" and make you realize that things like the Crusades weren't really that long ago! I would maybe not visit Tarhir Square without checking the news, but that's about all I would worry about.

    We are told that Jordan is a great trip. We'll be finding out next January. If you're interested in Jordan, a good itinerary might be to contact a tour agency in Jordan, fly into Amman for that part of the tour, then have them hook you up with someone in the West Bank, crossing at the Allenby bridge. You could then do Israel and fly out of Ben Gurion airport..

    Syria may not be a good idea. :smile:

    I would not try to "do" sub-Saharan Africa on this trip. That is just too big a place. That's like trying to "do" Canada in a day. Impossible.

    If you PM me I'd be happy to work out a time to talk on the phone. I could also dig out the names of companies (in-country) that we used.
  7. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Oh I have no doubt you could spend 3 weeks there. But there is a high opportunity cost when you have limited travel time/money. There is a lot of the world that I would like to see in a relatively short time on earth, so with that in mind, I am always thinking of how much time I spend visiting one place. I'm not sure what I would do there for that amount of time, but if you have some ideas of regions or sights to see, I certainly would be open to spending the entire trip there.
  8. Phrenic, I live in the Middle East. It's a big place, it's not that cheap to "hop" around. It will be much cheaper to spend your three weeks in Turkey than to hop to other places, but you can be the judge of that!
    Egypt is safer than you would think though, and there are some great deals to be had.
    We spent a week in a single village in Cappadocia (Goreme), living in a cave hotel. That was barely enough time.....we flew in & out of Ankara.
    We will spend at least a week in Istanbul on the next trip, and will also spend about a week visiting Gallipoli and Antalya.
    I would suggest visiting Greece if you don't want to spend all your time in Turkey. Mykonos for example is the same distance from Turkey as it is from Athens.
    I wouldn't advise you to book anything that you can't back out of though. Next April is a long time away in the current economic climate, and there may be some big changes in the region by then.
    If full civil war continues to develop in Syria, Turkey may become enmeshed in that. Wait and see how things go before planning too much!

    Cheers, Tom
  9. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    Yes. Excellent point!

    I wouldn't be overly worried about Turkey & Syria because even in Cappadocia you are a long way from the Syrian border. But if the Israelis decide to whack the Iranians, that whole part of the world will become a very exciting and unpredictable place.

    This may be a good time to buy trip insurance. Travelex is well respected I think. We have never bought cancellation insurance from them but have bought medical evacuation insurance policies that looked pretty good. Never tested, though.

    Read all policies carefully re cancellation in the event of political unrest, war, etc. The bold print giveth. The fine print taketh away.

    Another excellent point. IIRC there are only a couple of flights a week between Egypt and Israel. And with the Turks and the Israelis snarling at each other over the Israelis' killing of 9 Turks on the Marmara, air service between those countries may be limited or nonexistent.
  10. Alf

    Alf Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 23, 2010
    Northeastern Tuscany
    I agree with the previous opinions.i spent a few days in Istanbul, but I could easily spend weeks there. There is a lot to see in the rest of the country, and one of my pet projects is the night express from Istanbul to Teheran, then on to Mashhad, and then to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan right near Mashhad. But this could be too interesting a year to do it.

    I'd give plenty of time to Istanbul, eat at Ciya on the Asian side at least once ( and then choose a few places more around there. And drink nar (pomegranate juice) continuously!
  11. Tom Waits: Step Right Up!:tongue:
  12. hanzo

    hanzo Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 22, 2010
    Real Name:
    Turkey is an incredible place.. you might want to visit Cappadocia and take the hot air balloon tour. Lots of things to do in Istanbul, but it depends of your preference. Don't forget to visit Ara cafe in Istanbul, and the newly opened Orhan Pamuks Museum of Innocence. I can go on and on.. but you get the idea :wink:

    Petra in Jordan is not a bad idea either.. I assume you had visited Greece ?
  13. MizOre

    MizOre Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 26, 2011
    Are you cutting notches on your passport or what?

    I've been in one city in Nicaragua for two years and still don't know everything about it and the surrounding area, nor have I taken all the photographs there are to take. If you're able to pick up some Turkish (get a phrase book), it goes better than if you expect everyone to speak English (they won't outside maybe the upper class parts of Istanbul and Ankara.

    Get the guide books, hang out on the Lonely Planet forums for Turkey, read a few Turkish novels in English, be an informed tourist, and you can spend a year there without running out of things to do. If you're just going to photograph the Haga Sophia, the Tokapi, and a few other famous buildings, yes, you'll be bored soon.

    Ask Turks what the most beautiful part of their country is and go there. Hire a bilingual guide for a day to a week if you don't speak Turkish; do the local equivalent of the Circle Line tour if there is one (boat trip around Manhattan Island with narration).
  14. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    Well, that seems a little snarky.

    None of us will llve long enough to spend months or years in every interesting place in the world. Further, few of us have the money and the free time that would be required. As the OP said, " ... there is a high opportunity cost when you have limited travel time/money. There is a lot of the world that I would like to see ..."

    I agree with him. In the two years you have been in Nicaragua, my wife and I have been on three continents (not counting North America) and in the Caribbean. Not impugning Nicaragua, I am pretty sure we have seen more interesting things and taken more interesting photographs than we would have had we parked ourselves there.

    Life's a tradeoff. We spent two weeks in Turkey, saw a lot, and missed even more. Interesting though it is, I would not advise the OP -- especially considering his comment -- to spend all of his three weeks there. Egypt, Jordan, and Israel/Palestine all beckon.
  15. Gwendal

    Gwendal Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 6, 2010
    I haven' seen it mentioned, but once you're in Turkey, you can easily get to a lot of great mediterranean islands, including the Greek ones - and that's more than enough to fill three weeks or even three months. And I'll also chime in on how big Turkey is, and varied too...
  16. Old and rickety here, but, were I to visit Turkey my top three to visit would be: Capadoccia(sp), Haija Sophia and Blue Mosque.