Valerie Wilson Travel

Turkey Travel Guide

with Jennifer Bradley

About Jennifer

Jennifer Bradley has served as a Senior Leisure Travel Advisor on Will Jenning’s team since 2018. Before joining VWT, she spent a decade at another small boutique travel agency. Additionally, Jennifer gained valuable experience working for Ritz Carlton properties in Aspen, New York, and Marina Del Ray, California.

Jennifer, originally from a small town in Massachusetts, eagerly explored the world after college. Despite living in bustling cities like Los Angeles and Manhattan, her recent favorite travels have been more focused on nature. She appreciates the tranquility and slower pace of life that the great outdoors has to offer. Jennifer prefers active vacations and always makes sure to include fabulous dining reservations along the way.

Currently residing in Norwalk, CT, with her family, Jennifer cherishes the balance of getting her “city fix” in the office a couple of days of the week, while enjoying her newfound suburban lifestyle.

Rediscovering Turkey’s Charms

Ten years ago, I went on a 48-hour FAM trip to Turkey. Although my visit was brief, (I only saw a few hotels and the Blue Mosque) it left a lasting impression, prompting my desire to return and explore the country more extensively. Turkey is one of the best sellers on our team, so my aim was to experience the country as our clients would. This past July, my husband and I, accompanied by another couple, spent two weeks immersing ourselves in the rich cultural tapestry of Cappadocia, Istanbul, and Bodrum.

For those yet to visit, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Turkey exudes an exotic charm, transporting you to a world that feels European, yet uniquely its own. There is something for every type of traveler offering the cosmopolitan ambiance in the cities with exceptional shopping and historical sites, coupled with stunning nature and beachfront bliss – Bodrum, in particular, stands out as Turkey’s St. Tropez.

Having immersed myself deeper in the beauty of Turkey, I’m thrilled to share my insights, including some top-notch hotel recommendations and must-try activities in each region. If you’re eager to dig deeper or have any burning questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally. I’m here to make sure your Turkish adventure is as incredible as mine was!

Cappadocia: Where Dreams Take Flight

Cappadocia is home to unique and otherworldly landscapes, steeped in a rich cultural history with a plethora of activities to indulge in. The city lies in the heart of Ancient Anatolia, where the earliest cites in world history have appeared. Today, you can find thousands of cave dwellings, churches, and underground cites left to explore. The fairytale allure of this region is chiefly attributed to its iconic “fairy chimneys,” which are distinctive formations crafted by ancient volcanic explosions.

Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge

Located at the top of the Uchisar Valley, the views are amazing. The lovely terrace and garden serve as prime vantage points often featured in iconic photos of the hot air balloons drifting over Cappadocia. The staff is very hospitable, and the property feels very intimate, comprised of 11 unique and spacious suites named after different Mesopotamian goddesses. The hotel breakfast was the best we had throughout the trip. If you go, be sure to try the homemade gozleme!

  • Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride: There are many reputable companies in the area and the hotel would be happy to book this excursion for you.
  • Explore Derinkuyu Underground City: Carved out of soft volcanic rock, this ancient subterranean city served as a refuge for early Christians during times of persecution. Wander through its intricate tunnels, marvel at the engineering ingenuity, and gain insight into the region’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
  • Göreme Open Air Museum: This UNESCO World Heritage site features a collection of cave churches adorned with exquisite frescoes, showcasing the unique blend of Byzantine art and Cappadocian architecture. The site provides a captivating glimpse into the religious life of the region over the centuries.
  • Hike through the Paaba and Rose Valley regions: These valleys are adorned with captivating rock formations, fairy chimneys, and vibrant hues, especially during sunrise or sunset. The hiking trails offer a peaceful escape into the heart of Cappadocia and allow you to witness the beauty of the landscape up close.
  • Visit Avanos: The Potter’s Village: A charming village renowned for its centuries-old pottery traditions. Witness skilled artisans at work using techniques passed down through generations.
Istanbul: Where East Harmoniously Meets West

Istanbul is the cultural heartbeat of the nation, pulsing with a cosmopolitan energy blended with Turkey’s historical marvels such as the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace with trendy art galleries and hip cafes. Remarkably straddling two continents, Europe and Asia, the city is packed full of diverse civilizations’ histories. Your choice of hotel becomes pivotal, whether you fancy a waterfront experience or crave the city life, there are options for both below!

Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus

Nestled right on the shoreline of the Bosphorus where East and West collide, is a gem that has quickly become a favorite. I had the pleasure of staying at this luxurious hotel and it is where I send clients these days. The allure begins the moment you step into the lobby, where a vibrant atmosphere resonates with a fashionable crowd – a perfect blend of locals and tourists.

The hotel’s location is slightly removed from the bustling downtown area, but they have successfully transformed it into a destination in its own right. There are 3 on-site restaurants that cater to a diverse range of culinary preferences, with the exciting addition of Hakkasan in the pipeline. The hotel offers a beautiful spa, where the hammam experience is a must. Additionally, the on-site hookah bar is a perfect setting for unwinding at the end of the day.

It’s worth noting that the hotel’s E-shaped structure may impact room views, especially for those on the spa level. While these are the superior rooms, there is no “real” view. Bosphorus rooms, on the other hand, are sea-facing only and offer scenic views. Additionally, while the hotel has taken measures to reduce noise from the neighboring nightclub, it’s advisable to request a room situated farthest from this area.

The Peninsula Istanbul

As the newest addition to Istanbul’s hospitality scene (the new hot spot in town), The Peninsula seamlessly blends modern luxury and convenience. Located in the vibrant Gallataport area, a burgeoning waterfront project, the hotel is within prime walking distance of museums, fantastic shopping destinations, and enticing restaurants, including the renowned Spice Market.

Comprising four distinct buildings, many adorned with balconies and outdoor terraces, The Peninsula boasts a design that harmonizes with its surroundings. All 177 plush rooms and suites provide sweeping views of the water and some accommodations provide direct access to the magnificent gardens, swimming pool, private boat dock, or the stylish restaurants and bars. One of the crowning jewels of The Peninsula is the presence of Michelin Star Chef Faith Tuck’s restaurant within the premises.

While it is situated next to the new cruise port, The Peninsula has maintained a sense of exclusivity for its guests with a wall that ensures cruise guests cannot wander onto the property.

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

Recently renovated to perfection, the 65-room Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet stands as a testament to timeless Four Seasons elegance. While it may not be on the Bosphorus, its prime location is within walking distance of numerous attractions makes it a standout choice for those who appreciate the city’s historical heart. The hotel’s main restaurant, Seasons, is located within a beautiful glass pavilion in the hotel’s courtyard garden. Even if guests do not stay at this hotel, a reservation for lunch is highly recommended.

A construction project that was initially aimed to add a pool took an unexpected turn when they began to unearth artifacts that have transformed the site into an archeological treasure. As a result, the planned pool construction has been put on hold and a majority of the rooms and suites face the construction zone. Given these circumstances, I recommend only booking the courtyard view rooms and suites.

The St. Regis Istanbul

Located on the Rodeo Drive of Istanbul, The St. Regis Istanbul promises a luxurious experience in the heart of the city’s vibrant energy. While some rooms provide partial water views, the main focal point is the picturesque overlook of Macka Park – the Cosmopolitan Suite is notably spacious with a beautiful view. Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant on the roof top includes a beautiful private dining space and terrace. Every guest is treated with signature St. Regis butler service.

Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus

Nestled closer to downtown, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus holds a prime location that puts guests in the midst of shopping and iconic sights. Comprising the historic palace and two newer buildings, the hotel offers a variety of accommodations, but my recommendation leans towards the palace for its unique charm. The beautiful spa is complete with an outdoor pool and sweeping views of the Bosphorus.

While your guests can expect to receive the high standard service levels that the Four Seasons is known for, it is worth noting that during my sight visit, I felt the hotel could definitely use a refresh. I think this is important to know so you may set expectations for your clients who choose to stay there.

  • Topkapi Palace – Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Ottoman history at this historical palace turned into the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. Wander through opulent chambers, lush courtyards, and discover the treasures that once belonged to sultans. The panoramic views of the Bosphorus from the palace grounds are not to be missed.
  • Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Suleymaniye Mosque – Marvel at the architectural wonders that define Istanbul’s skyline. The Blue Mosque, with its iconic blue tiles; Hagia Sophia, a testament to Byzantine and Ottoman eras; and Suleymaniye Mosque, a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, offer a journey through the city’s rich history.
  • Underground Basilica Cisterns – Descend into the mysterious Basilica Cisterns, an underground marvel featuring ancient columns and Medusa heads. The dimly lit ambiance adds to the intrigue, creating a unique and atmospheric experience.
  • Street Food Tour and Wine Tasting.
  • Hammam Experience.
  • Bosphorus Cruise.
  • Shopping Tour of Local Turkish Designers.
  • Experience the Amazing Restaurants and Cuisine: some favorites are Bebek Balikci, Murver, and Turk.
Bodrum: Seaside Sophistication

Bodrum is the ultimate “see and be seen” destination in Turkey. Just a stone’s throw away from the enchanting Greek islands, this glamorous hotspot is a haven for yachts, luxury hotels, beach clubs, and gourmet restaurants.

Travel Tip: Be mindful of summer traffic, which can be challenging. I recommend opting for a speedboat as a convenient and scenic mode of transportation. Many hotels offer speedboat services for an additional cost.

Macakizi Hotel

Nestled in the realm of boho chic, Macakizi Hotel offers a laid-back, (think barefoot luxury) yet stylish escape on the shores of the Aegean Sea. The real gem of Macakizi Hotel lies in its beach club. While the absence of a sandy beach may be noted, there is an option to dive directly into the water from the dock.

Our stay in a simple, no-frills, garden view room provided a comfortable retreat, though I recommend opting for the Seaview Suites for a touch of added luxury. The rooms, while close together, may lack some insulation against noise, especially during lively evenings. The property comes alive during the happy hour/DJ scene, drawing in an energetic crowd and music that usually mellows out by dinner time. Speaking of which, the restaurant specializes in fresh seafood and each dish is a work of art.

Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum

Nestled along the coast, the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum feels as though it was designed with families in mind, creating an environment that caters to both relaxation and recreation. There is a sandy beach, several top-notch restaurants, and its accommodations are built into the hillside, ensuring the best-of-the-best coastal vistas.

  • Rent a Gullet for the day: Experience the sheer bliss of the coastal waters by renting a gullet—a traditional Turkish wooden yacht. Cruise along the picturesque shoreline, taking in breathtaking views, secluded coves, and bright blue waters.
  • Enjoy the Beach Clubs at Macakizi and Mandarin Oriental.
  • Dine out at the Fabulous Restaurant Venues Lucca by The Sea, Paper Moon, and Sait.

Ready to plan your own getaway?