Introducing Istanbul: Touring the Top Sites in 48 hours

Introducing Istanbul: Touring the Top Sites in 48 hours

If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, then you will undoubtedly pass through the fascinating city of Istanbul. Not only is it the largest city in Europe with a population of nearly 14 million people, but it is also the only city in the world to straddle two continents. The Asian side of Istanbul, which I regrettably didn’t have time to visit, is separated from the more famous and touristed European side by the Bosphorus strait – a beautiful waterway that I fortunately did take the time to sail across.

In a city that has served as an imperial capital for the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman empires over the past 1600 years, it would be impossible to see it all in just 48 hours. But, we sure did our best to tackle the medley of Christian and Islamic historical sights – a truly intoxicating mix of East meets West.

These are the top sights I would recommend if you only have 48 hours to explore Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)

Named for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior,  this is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets (tall towers used for the call to prayer). Visitors are welcome free of charge but must abide by a few important rules. There is a strict dress code (women must cover their hair, shoulders, and knees), every one must cover their shoes with plastic bags, and you should avoid entering at prayer times. Our group were eager to take on the challenge of being culturally respectful – and I think I would have loved wearing a scarf on my head if it wasn’t so hot.

IMG_1986

IMG_4268

Unfortunately my experience was a bit frustrating as I became increasingly annoyed by other tourists who were incredibly disrespectful and ignored the clear signs and instructions about proper dress. It was a strange feeling inside the blue mosque because although I was grateful to see such an important and beautiful building up close, I felt like we visitors shouldn’t have been allowed inside. It felt like a place that was too sacred and special to be a spectator. I wonder… Where do we draw the line between respect and tourism?

IMG_4269

Hagia Sophia

What a history! Right next door to the blue mosque is this ancient structure with quite the varied past. Beginning as a Greek Orthodox Cathedral in 537 AD, the Hagia Sophia transitioned into a Roman Catholic Cathedral, then back to Greek Orthodox, to an Imperial Mosque, and finally to the museum it is today. It’s quite something to see the fragments of various religions peeking through the cover-up attempts.

IMG_9988

IMG_2013 IMG_2003

Basilica Cistern

One of our favourite stops of day one turned out to be the Basilica Cistern – but not for the reason you may think. The  largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, the basilica provided a water filtration system for many palaces over the centuries. Okay, so yeah that’s impressive. And, we very much enjoyed the cool underground location as a way to beat the heat. But, what really made it our favourite stop of the day was the ridiculously cheesy photo shoot that we happily forked over 20 lira in which to participate. The four of us dressed up like a sultan and his wives and were taken through a series of hilarious poses with props and everything. The final product is simply priceless.

IMG_4281

IMG_4297

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi palace was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years and one of the best examples of palaces from that period. It also contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed’s cloak and sword. We spent a couple hours wandering about the grounds and visiting various museums. The crowds, heat, and sheer size of this compound definitely wore us down so come prepared with water and snacks.

IMG_2060

IMG_2058 IMG_2048 IMG_2059 IMG_2052

Grand Bazaar

I’ve never been much of a shopper when I travel. I prefer to spend my money on experiences rather than tangible souvenirs but I have to admit that the Grand Bazaar won me over. It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops – the word overkill comes to mind. I still didn’t make any purchases but I really enjoyed the incredible variety of products and labyrinth like maze of shops. It’s definitely worth a visit even if you don’t like shopping.

IMG_2068

Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey and the most opulent place I’ve ever seen up close. My travel partner, Mindy, has been to Versailles and even she agrees that this place takes the top spot. It definitely had a different feel than the other sights in the city as it was built in the mid-1800s and evoked a much more contemporary and luxurious style similar to that of other European monarchs. We took a 45 minute guided tour of the inside and we were gutted that we couldn’t take photographs. However, I couldn’t resist sneaking a pic of the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier that we came across at the end of our tour in the Ceremonial Hall. A gift from Queen Victoria, it has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tonnes!

IMG_2109

IMG_4284

Fortunately, the grounds were equally gorgeous so we took plenty outside to make up for the lack of indoor footage.

IMG_2094 IMG_2111 IMG_2095 IMG_2084

Bosphorus Cruise

I love water. I love lakes. I love the ocean. I love rivers. So it was a no-brainer when I learned that you could take a two-hour round-trip ferry cruise (one of my favourite forms of travel) on the Bosphorus for only 12 Turkish lira (less than $6 CAD). It was a very relaxing way to take in the sights from a completely different vantage point.

JMG (64)

JMG (55) IMG_2114 JMG (90)

Istanbul has a ton to offer. And even though I was impressed by many of the world-class sights I saw during my stay, I left feeling a bit disappointed. I don’t think Istanbul quite lived up to my expectations.

I blame the majority of this on the fact that Istanbul was our last stop of the trip and followed our time in Cappadocia which was nothing short of magical. Our apartment was probably the least favourite accommodation of the trip and we were all getting a bit tired of being together 24/7.

Honestly, I don’t think Istanbul got a fair shot. I would LOVE to go back and spend a whole week. Without the pressure of needing to see all of the famous sights, I imagine myself getting lost in some of the local neighbourhoods and indulging in more of the delicious street food. I would revisit some of the places I really loved, spacing out the visits so that I could stay longer. Overall, this was a great introduction but not enough for me to fall in love. I guess I’ll just have to come back again someday. Aww shucks!

Captivated by Cappadocia: History & Adventure in Central Turkey

Captivated by Cappadocia: History & Adventure in Central Turkey

The first thing I realized after stepping out of the airport shuttle in front of the Kelebek Cave Hotel in Goreme is that two nights wouldn’t be near long enough. I was instantly smitten by the fairy chimneys, valley views, and our cozy bedroom (with fireplace!). I got lost pretty much every time I tried to go anywhere on the property but who really cares when the place looks like this!

IMG_4240 IMG_1689 IMG_1635 IMG_1634 IMG_1633

Even though I could have happily hung out at the hotel all day, I was eager to explore.

Goreme is the most popular village in Cappadocia but since it is still relatively small, we decided to check out the nearby Open Air Museum on foot. It is important to note that I was expecting a casual wander not an epic hike, which is of course what happened. We reached the museum near closing time so we opted to check out the caves and hills in the surrounding area instead.

What seemed like a gentle incline soon turned into a treacherous climb due to my flimsy sandals on shale rock. We spent the better part of two hours playing in the hills with many screams and much laughter. Rachel and I were hobbling around like old ladies with Caleb mocking us while trying to keep us from falling. It ended up being one of my favourite evenings and we got some incredible photographs too.

IMG_1647 IMG_1648 IMG_1650 IMG_1662 IMG_1671 IMG_1683 IMG_9864

The next morning we were supposed to go on our hot air balloon ride but it got cancelled due to bad weather. It eventually got rebooked for the next day (THANK GOD!) but in the meantime we consoled ourselves with an amazing day tour by Heritage Travel.

The History and Adventure Tour picked us up from our hotel at 10:00am and drove us 5 minutes to the start of our hike in the beautiful Rose Valley. The weather didn’t cooperate very well with some light rain cutting our hike a bit short but we were still able to see fairy-chimneys, local farms, pigeon houses and cave chapels.

IMG_1696 IMG_1713

The weather cleared up just in time for our next stop at the Monks Valley (Pasabag), where we got to see the mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys and St. Simeon’s monk cell.

IMG_4229 IMG_1736 IMG_1746 IMG_1761

By this time we were ready for lunch in the Kings Valley. After some pretty lacklustre buffet lunches on previous tours, we had very low expectations for our meal. We certainly never expected it to be the best meal of the entire trip! Our group was taken to a private organic farm where some local ladies cooked us a fresh, vegetarian meal in a picturesque outdoor setting straight out of the movies. Now that’s farm to table!

IMG_1764 IMG_1766 IMG_1772 IMG_1769 IMG_1771

In the afternoon, we toured the Kaymakli underground city, the first and most popular underground city in Cappadocia. This complex carved underground was used for hundreds of years by locals to hide from Romans, Persians and Arabs. We were able to explore 4 levels deep and get a sense of what life was like underground.

IMG_1783 IMG_1782 IMG_1787

That was supposed to be the end of tour but because our hike was cut short, we were able to add one last stop at the Panoramic View. This is a popular viewpoint in Goreme that earns its name in spades.

IMG_1796 IMG_1804 IMG_1811 IMG_1807

Our tour guide was informative and interesting and the stops on the tour gave us a great overview of the region. I had no idea there was so much to see in Cappadocia but I sure hope I make it back someday. It’s a one-of-a-kind place like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Eating my Way through Greece & Turkey

Eating my Way through Greece & Turkey

When I first started telling people that I was planning a trip to Turkey, the one thing that everyone told me was that food was ahh-mazing!

Now I already rank Mediterranean cuisines like Italian and Greek on the top of my list so I was confident that Turkish would be just as delightful (pun intended). After two weeks of indulging in meal after decadent meal, I couldn’t help but share some of my favourites. Hope you’re hungry :)

Tomato keftedes (fritters) & Greek Salad   Skala Restaurant (Oia, Santorini)

IMG_4085 IMG_4083

Santorini is famous for its flavourful tomatoes. We sampled them many times in our daily Greek salads but we also sampled the local island delicacy of deep-fried tomato fritters. They were so good that we ordered them more than once. And with a view like the one from Skala restaurant… I could have sat and savoured them all day long, especially when a parade of donkeys passed by our table. Dinner AND entertainment… what’s not to love?

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki     Fanari Restaurant (Fira, Santorini)

IMG_1342 IMG_4154

For our final dinner in Santorini we headed to Fanari Restaurant in the main town of Fira where we enjoyed flawless sunset vistas and a classic Greek dish – souvlaki! It’s simple but it’s famous for a reason – you simply can’t do Greece right without this dish.

3. The best Gyro in Greece  Lucky’s Souvlaki (Fira, Santorini)

IMG_4149

If there is one meal that stuck in my mind for the entire trip it was this gyro in Fira. A gyro is like a doner or a kebab, essentially meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then wrapped in a pita or sandwich. The toppings differ from place to place but I prefer mine fully loaded. I did some pre-trip research and found out that the best gyros on the island could be found at Lucky’s. The internet did not let me down because this place was cheap (2-3 euros) and mind-blowingly delicious.

4. Authentic Greek Frozen Yogurt   Selatrevo (Fira, Greece)

IMG_9597 (1)

I’m was already a frozen yogurt fan before this trip but now I’m craving a Greek fro-yo place to frequent at home. The flavour of the Greek yogurt is so much richer and Selatrevo has even caught on to the craze of letting you add your own toppings. The store clerk told us that she knew we were from North America because no one else knows what to do with the self-service bar. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment but we certainly knew what we were doing :) It may have been the priciest cold treat we bought during our travels but it was well worth it.

5. Gözleme   Kelebek Hotel (Goreme, Turkey)

IMG_4208

Our cave hotel in Cappadocia ended up having a very nice restaurant terrace that became a permanent fixture during our stay. For our first dinner, I ordered a dish that I had never heard of before called gozleme, which is a savoury traditional Turkish flatbread made of hand-rolled dough that is lightly brushed with butter and eggs and filled with cheese, chicken, and mushrooms. It’s basically a pancake that you’re allowed to eat for dinner – so that made this breakfast obsessed traveller verrrry happy.

Farm to Table Lunch   King’s Valley Farm (Goreme, Cappadocia)

IMG_1772

IMG_1766

The best meal we had in Turkey was this unbelievable lunch that was included in our History and Adventure tour by Heritage Travel in Cappadocia. They took us to this private farm in the King’s Valley where a group of local ladies cooked us a four course, vegetarian meal consisting of bread, salads, stuffed peppers, soup, bean stew, and dessert. I’m not exactly sure what I ate but it was all quite delicious and the experience of sitting outdoors in the middle of this hidden valley was definitely a highlight.

Chicken Curry  Kelebek Hotel (Goreme, Turkey)

IMG_4246

IMG_1634

I said we couldn’t stay away from our hotel restaurant and I wasn’t kidding. We returned for another dinner and the Turkish version of chicken curry did not disappoint. But then again, I think everything on the menu was a win.

Meatball Durum Wrap    Mama’s Shelter (Istanbul, Turkey)IMG_4263IMG_9969One thing that I knew we HAD to do in Istanbul was eat dinner on a rooftop terrace. I found Mama’s Shelter online and even though the price tag was a bit steep for this crew of backpackers – the sunset views of the Sultanahmet were well worth it. And they didn’t even charge me for my delicious rose sangria so I can’t really complain.

What are some of your favourite travel dining experiences? What country tops your list? Leave a comment below.

Travel Highlight: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Travel Highlight: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

This is what $100 million dollars looks like. IMG_4259 Do I have your attention? This is without a doubt the best thing that I did in Turkey. Not only was riding a hot air balloon a giant check off of my travel bucket list, but it was the reason I wanted to go to Turkey in the first place. That’s a dangerously high mark to live up to. Fortunately, Cappadocia and it’s famed hot air balloons delivered one of my favourite travel moments ever!

But, it almost didn’t happen at all…

Everyone knows that things can go wrong when you’re travelling. And unfortunately, Murphy’s Law often comes into play at the most inopportune times.

When I started organizing this trip, I wanted to leave very little to chance. Not only did I have some newbie travellers joining me but I had some major travel dreams that needed to come true. So, I used my expert planning skills to secure our flights WAY in advance with a top notch balloon company in Goreme. The best flying weather is from April through October when the skies are clear and the winds are light at dawn. We booked our flight smack dab in the middle on June 30th. I triple confirmed our dates with the hotel and was ready for the experience of a lifetime. But, as we got closer and closer to the designated date my weather app stalking revealed a blip in our weeks of sunshine-filled Mediterranean bliss. I started to get very nervous. What happens if they cancel our flight? We were only spending two nights in Cappadocia and had a flight to Istanbul scheduled on our second morning. We only had one shot.

On the morning of our flight we woke up before dawn for our 4:40am hotel pick up. It was at this point that my friend Mindy informed me that she had been sick all night and after taking one look at her I knew she wouldn’t be joining our group. With strict orders to stay in bed and drink lots of water, I left with Caleb & Rachel. We arrived at the balloon office to a light buffet breakfast and a waiting game. The weather forecast was not promising. After repeatedly being informed that they would decide in 20 minutes and then again in 20 minutes, we got the news. What CAN happen DID happen. Our balloon ride was cancelled.

I had mentally prepared myself for this disappointment and had already begun working on a back-up plan. We would simply rebook for the next day and if necessary push our flight to Istanbul back a few hours – it only cost €15 anyway. What I was not prepared for was the news that they were fully booked for the next day. WHAT!!!! For those of you who know me, I’m sure you can imagine my reaction and the full scale meltdown that proceeded. Not my finest hour.

Rachel and I tore back up the hill to our hotel reception and begged the night manager to help us. Keep in mind that it’s still before 6am. We asked if we could call the other balloon companies in town to check for other openings. He politely informed us that reservations at all the balloon companies would be closed until 8am and that we should come back later. We all decided to go our separate ways – Rachel & Caleb to get some more sleep and me, to sulk alone on the breakfast terrace. I ended up making friends with some of the kitchen staff and had a long leisurely breakfast with bottomless coffee and apple tea – so I guess there are worse places to be disappointed. Did I mention that we stayed in a cave hotel? IMG_1634 IMG_1633 When 8am rolled around – Rachel & I were back at the reception. We hijacked the front desk and basically demanded that the receptionist call every balloon company in town, which he did. We are quite a convincing pair. Unfortunately, he got the same response from every single company. Full. At this point we had to get ready for our History and Adventure tour (more on that later) that was departing at 10am and I needed to tend to my sick room-mate. But, not to be deterred, I went back to the front desk at 9am to speak with the daytime agent. She promised to call around while we were on our tour and sounded quite optimistic.

And what do you know… she came through with a confirmed booking on Deluxe Balloons and an earlier pick-up time that would allow us to still make our original flight to Istanbul! I couldn’t have been more thrilled to find out that I had to wake up before dawn yet another morning.

So early on Canada Day, my travel crew with a mostly recovered Mindy, woke up to clear skies and minimal wind. We were a go! IMG_4255 IMG_4254 IMG_1821

This is what happiness looks like :)

This is what happiness looks like :)

After a chilly dawn launch in our 16 passenger basket, we floated for one hour over the Cappadocian moonscape dotted with villages, vineyards, and the show-stopping Rose Valley. Our pilot informed us that no two flights are the same because we go wherever the wind takes us. We watched the sunrise over the mountains cast the most picture-perfect lighting over the dozens of balloons that joined us in the skies. It’s crazy to think that this is an everyday occurrence here. Each balloon costs roughly a million dollars and with approximately 100 balloons launched each day, we helped fund a 100 million dollar view. And we were happy to do it!IMG_1839 IMG_1864 IMG_1904 IMG_1908 IMG_1848 IMG_1866 IMG_1898 IMG_1935 IMG_1938 IMG_1912 IMG_1852 IMG_9896 IMG_1927 IMG_1943 IMG_1948 IMG_1874 After taking approximately a trillion photos and videos we proceeded to land in a nearby farmer’s field, narrowly missing some fruit trees and a vineyard. The ground team that had been chasing our balloon from below arrived within minutes to help guide the basket onto the truck and return us to our hotel.

But first, some bubbly for a traditional champagne toast to a successful aeronautical adventure! IMG_4250 Have you ever been on a hot air balloon ride? What’s on your travel bucket list? Leave a comment below.

Pamukkale: A Cotton Castle in the Sky

Pamukkale: A Cotton Castle in the Sky

After a walk back in time through the ancient streets of Ephesus, it was time to move on to another famous UNESCO site. I never would have guessed but our visit to Pamukkale-Hierapolis was one of the most unexpected delights of my time in Turkey.

I honestly had never even heard of Pamukkale until I saw it coupled with a 2-day tour to Ephesus (both sites are relatively close) and really had no idea what was in store for us. We woke up bright and early to stop by a lovely viewing spot at the base of the cliffs near a gorgeously colored lake. I was mesmerized by the “snowy” mountains and very curious to get up close and personal.

IMG_1537 IMG_4193 IMG_1533 IMG_4195

Before we could head to the terraces we made a pit stop at Cleopatra’s Pool (Antique Pool of Pamukkale). Legend has it that this artificial pool was a gift from Mark Anthony to Cleopatra. After an earthquake in the 7th century, the remains of the surrounding structures ended up tumbling into the pool. Today you can swim among the massive marble columns while enjoying the thermal hot springs. We skipped out on the extra 30 Lira price tag to spend our time in the much cooler (and FREE) terrace pools.

Cleopatra's Pool

Cleopatra’s Pool

On our way to the terraces we passed by the ancient city of Hierapolis, which was founded in the 2nd century as a thermal spa. Many people believed that the waters had healing powers and the city became known as a healing centre. We casually walked by but again… the cotton castle was waiting…

IMG_9760 IMG_9761

When we finally approached the edge of the 200m cliff, we were instructed to take off our shoes. Giddy with excitement we carefully tip-toed our way over the rocky terrain before reaching the springs. The landscape before us was surreal. Created by flowing hot springs and travertines (limestone deposits), the natural phenomenon here has resulted in mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins. The 17 hot water springs range from 35 – 100 °C and have been bathed in for 1000s of years. We spent the better part of an hour photographing every angle, dipping our feet in the pools, and even swimming.

IMG_1581 IMG_9784 IMG_1607 IMG_4196 IMG_1568 IMG_1609 IMG_1625 IMG_1614 IMG_4312

It’s easy to see why Pamukkale garnered the nickname of Cotton Castle. Other descriptors we used included glacial, lunar, and cotton candy! I’m so glad that we added this to the itinerary at the last minute (okay… it was still like 3 months prior… who am I kidding?) because it should be on every traveller’s Turkey bucket list.

Ruined by the Ruins of Ancient Ephesus

Ruined by the Ruins of Ancient Ephesus

What superlative should I use to describe my visit to Ephesus… only the best preserved ancient city in the world! I should really just stop visiting ruins from this point forward because is anything really going to compare? I’ve been ruined for all future ruins! (See what I did there?)

IMG_1432

Now if you haven’t heard of Ephesus, it was an ancient Greek city on the Ionian coast, which is now modern day Turkey. It was the third largest city in Roman Asia Minor and the centre of trade in the ancient world. It’s also famous for being the site of one of the original seven wonders of the world – The Temple of Artemis. It’s basically just a pile of rubble these days, but still pretty cool.

Not much left of this world wonder...

Not much left of this world wonder…

Ephesus was nothing short of impressive. We easily wandered around the 2000 year old streets for hours, continually awed by the next monument around the corner. I was shocked when I learned that Ephesus wasn’t on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites only to find out that it was added to the list mere days after my return home. It’s about time!

IMG_1382 IMG_1403 IMG_1426

We majorly lucked out during our mid-morning visit. The weather was much cooler and we even had a brief rainstorm that kept us quite comfortable for our mostly exposed touring. And the crowds were relatively sparse, which is a total miracle when you’re visiting the number one tourism site in Turkey during high season.

Now I could continue to list off dozens of noteworthy facts and figures but I think I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian

The Library of Celsus

The Library of Celsus, built in 117 AD was one of the most beautiful structures in Ephesus.

IMG_4190 IMG_9697 IMG_1457 IMG_1473 IMG_4182

The most magnificent structure in Ephesus, The Great Theatre, seated 25,000.

IMG_1502 IMG_1505 IMG_1522

IMG_1508

Ephesus was a perfect start to my time in Turkey, setting the stage for some of the most awe-inspiring sites I’ve ever seen.

In My Bag: Packing for Summer in Europe

In My Bag: Packing for Summer in Europe

While I’m currently gallivanting around Europe, I thought it might be apropos to provide another dose of packing advice.

It is my travel mission to pack as light as possible (hello carry-on!) while still managing to look stylish. I look back at the photos from my 8-month back packing trip to Europe in 2005/2006 and I cringe at the outfits I put together. I wore a ski jacket in 80% of my photos and couldn’t have looked more like a tourist if I tried. Since then, I’ve learned that comfort and efficiency does not have to sacrifice style. With some strategic choices and some handy tools (read: packing cubes!) I am travelling in Europe for 2 weeks with less than 20 lbs on my back!

Here is the breakdown of what I packed in my bag:

CLOTHING AND SHOES

  • 1 pair of walking shoes (BOBS with memory foam)
  • 1 pair of dressier sandals (Clarks)
  • 1 pair of flip flops (Flojos with arch support)
Three is the perfect number for travel shoes.

Three is the perfect number for travel shoes.

  • 1 pair of jeans (for the plane and chilly evenings)
  • 1 pair of loose fitting hippie pants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 3 dresses
  • 1 skirt/dress (convertible)

IMG_3927

  • 8 tops (3 t-shirts, 5 sleeveless)
  • 2-3 cardigans (for the plane, chilling evenings, hot air balloon)

IMG_3928

  • 1 bikini
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • 12 pairs of underwear + 3 bras (excessive maybe)
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of bandelettes
  • 1 belt
  • 1-2 scarves (for the plane or to use as a shawl)

IMG_3930

Note: Packing Cubes!

All of my clothing easily fits inside three small packing cubes. The larger blue one is for all of my bottoms and dresses, the medium red is for tops, and the small red is for underwear. These packing cubes make it insanely easy to pack and repack quickly when living out of a backpack. Read more about my packing cube obsession here.

TOILETRIES & ACCESSORIES

  • Stella & Dot Hang On Travel Case (toiletries/make-up/jewelry/sunscreen)
  • Norwex Cloth
  • Small Medicine Bag (Kleenex, band-aids, medication, hand sanitizer, wet wipes)
  • Travel Flat Iron
  • 1 Pair of Sunglasses
  • Tote Bag (for beach use/extra stuff for airplane)
  • Cross-body Bag (Lug – Moped Day Pack) – The best travel day bag that I’ve found!

ELECTRONICS

  • iPhone 5C
  • Headphones
  • iPhone Charger
  • Camera + Charger (Canon Powershot SX700)
  • Spare Memory Card
  • Portable Charger
  • E-reader (Kobo Aura)
  • Voltage Converter
  • Adapters

DOCUMENTS & MISCELLANEOUS

  • Passport & Visa
  • Wallet
  • Travel Documents & Insurance
  • Sleep Sheet
  • Pillow Case
  • Ear Plugs
  • Travel Journal / Pen
  • Travel Umbrella
  • Luggage Locks

This was my first time bringing only a carry-on to Europe. Do you find it difficult to travel light?

Departure Lounge: Greece & Turkey

Departure Lounge: Greece & Turkey

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!! Summer is swiftly approaching and with it… my next big travel adventure!

In many ways, this trip has been 5 years in the making. It all started in a crowded pub after the first day of an economic conference. My university friends, married couple Rachel & Caleb, were hilariously sharing the story of their disastrous honeymoon in Paris. It was a 3-week comedy of errors and the retelling had our table in stiches. But this story was more of a tragedy in truth because poor Rachel virtually swore off international travel ever since. Being the travel evangelist that I am, I promised that someday I would take her back to Europe and show her how awesome it can be. Well, that someday has finally arrived.

In just a few weeks I am travelling to Greece and Turkey with both Rachel & Caleb (wish me luck!) as well as my frequent travel partner Mindy. If summer in the Mediterranean can’t win them over, then nothing will. We only have 2 weeks but I am confident that our itinerary has something for everyone: Beaches, History, Culture, Adventure, and Food!

Itinerary

June 20-21: Athens, Greece

June 22-25: Santorini, Greece

June 26: Bodrum, Turkey

June 27: Ephesus, Turkey

June 28: Pamukkale, Turkey

June 29-30: Goreme, Turkey

July 1-4: Istanbul, Turkey

These are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • Renting ATVs and driving around the island of Santorini.
  • Drinking wine while watching the famed Oia Sunset
  • Exploring Ephesus, one of the best preserved ancient sites in the world
  • Riding a hot air balloon in Cappadocia!
  • Sinking my teeth into Turkish cuisine (rumored to be A-MAZING!)

map

I am SOOO excited for this trip and I can’t wait to start posting about it. Stay tuned this summer for all the details!

Where are your summer plans taking you? Have you been to Greece or Turkey? Any tips? Leave a comment below.