When I Went: March 28-April 4, 2011
Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? No. The reason we got the package so cheap was because it was off-season. It was still relatively cool, and there were occasional showers and thunderstorms. Some of the resorts were conducting renovations, and even though the beaches were open, it was still a bit cold for a dip. It was, however, rather nice when the sun shone and the clouds hid. This part of Turkey can be brutally hot in the summer.
Why I Went There: It was a relatively cheap package from my standpoint. Turkey is also a country I’ve heard lots about. It’s rich in history, and the people’s friendliness towards tourists makes it an intriguing destination for me.
Who Went With Me? A couple of friends
We Stayed Here: Our trip was packaged via Voyage Prive, a travel site that’s by invite only. Our first major base was in the city of Kemer. It is a tourist-laden city on the Mediterranean, southwest of Antalya (the biggest city in the south). We stayed at the Rose Residence for a couple of nights, but if you’re going to Kemer, I recommend one of its neighbors, in particular the Orange County Hotel. It’s a few blocks south of the Rose and appears to be much nicer. They have a lovely pool, a happening bar crowd, play area for children, and the buildings were artistically modeled after the houses lining the canals in Amsterdam. The second hotel that we stayed at was Herakles Thermal Hotel in Pamukkale. Pamukkale is the city famous for its travertine and the adjacent Hierapolis. This UNESCO World Heritage site has been a tourist destination for years. Although this was a significant improvement from the hotel in Kemer, it is not a grand resort by any means (again, it was advertised as a 4-star establishment). The rooms are small and outdated, but it is the spa that makes this a worthy place to stay. They have a thermal pool that is kept at a balmy 97 degrees Fahrenheit and contains the same minerals produced by the travertine pools. This is, perhaps, one of those establishments worthy of a night or two stay; further days and the hotel will lose its charm rather quickly. The food here was also better than at the Rose, and the service was definitely an improvement. We even exchanged friendlies with the staff here after dinner. Our last hotel was called Siam Elegance Hotel and Spa and is located near Serik, a town about 25 miles east of Antalya. We stayed here for a few nights. The resort is modeled after historical Thailand. The hotel is well kept, fully staffed, and has entertainment for its guests every night (this was a good thing since there’s hardly anything else to do there come nightfall). This was, by a long shot, the best of the three hotels we stayed at. The food selection was more extensive, the spa had twice the services to offer, and the amenities were what you would expect from a four-star resort.
You Won’t Want to Miss: Pamukkale and Hierapolis. This UNESCO site is home to the Pamukkale travertine and the adjacent ancient city of Hierapolis. The travertines are formed by deposits of minerals (i.e. calcium, sulfur) from flowing water. For hundreds, even thousands of years, visitors to Pamukkale were able to swim in one of its many pools, but in order to protect and maintain this natural wonder, that was discontinued. You can, however, still dip your feet in them and travel down the cascading pools of warm cyan colored water. The adjacent ancient city of Hierapolis contains some of the best preserved Roman and Greek ruins outside of their respective countries. The site is massive and contains several areas of interest. There’s a theater uphill, still in use to this day, that overlooks the city, a temple to the Roman god Apollo, and a necropolis so large that it had to be divided into sections.
Play Here: Hierapolis’ ancient pool. The current location of the swimming pool has been the same for hundreds of years. Of course, it’s been kept and renovated over the years, but it overlooks the city of Hierapolis and has a view of the Pamukkale travertines.
If I Went Again: I will definitely spend some time in Antalya. This largest city in Anatolia has history going back to the times before Christ. It is also rather picturesque and quite diverse. It is said in many travel books that Antalya is suitable for any traveler because it is a place (depending on the time of year) where you can ski in the morning and spend the afternoon at one of its many beaches.
How Did You Get There From Dallas? Our Turkish package originated from Paris, so I flew to Paris De Gaulle, stayed overnight, and took a flight from Paris to Antalya. For more conventional approaches, American, in conjunction with Turkish airlines, offers a flight with two connections (Frankfurt and Istanbul) for approximately $1,200. You can also opt to fly to London or Paris and connect from there. Antalya is a popular tourist destination for much of Western Europe, so you’re bound to find deals originating from one of its major cities.
Other Tips For Fellow Travelers: If it is your first time in Turkey, my suggestion is to join a tour group. It will provide you with a good overview of this part of the country (considering there’s so much to see). “Merhaba” is Turkish for “hello,” and “tessekur” (pronounced: teshekur) is the word for “thank you.”