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May 30, 2009 12:25 PM

one Place Beyond Istanbul?

My husband & I are traveling to Turkey in August and looking for some advice. We have just over a week, but would like to spend the majority of the time in Istanbul exploring the city, enjoying the culture and the food and generally relaxing. The question is, if we want to visit ONE other location for approximately three days, where should it be?

We are looking for a place with strong cultural and food traditions, if possible - we love to learn about different ethnic cuisines, explore markets & farms and learn about the home cooking in countries. We are both adventurous eaters, especially my husband. I do not eat red meat or poultry and cannot handle too much dairy, but have no qualms about being around meat.

We have traveled alot - Thailand, South Africa, Argentina (twice!), Portugal, as well as a fair amount of time around Europe.

Any thoughts? We are open to anything.... Thanks in advance for the help!

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  1. Istanbul would take you weeks to absorb. If you do insist going somewhere else try going to Cappadocia. I was there a few years ago.

    Ahmet Toprak
    Director, Turkish Radio, San Francisco
    Host, Orient Express

    Listen to us through our archives:

    2 Replies
    1. re: topraka

      We thought about Capadoccia, but were concerned that it might be pretty touristy and so a) was a place that one spends a lot of time looking, but not much time 'experiencing,' if that makes sense and b) wouldn't have a great food culture.

      Any thoughts on Princes Islands? For a day trip or an overnight? What about Bursa?

      1. re: jdubboston

        Bursa might not be worth it. I drive through the city on my trips to Northwest and stop by to eat Iskender kebab where it was allegedly invented, but I wouldn't go out of my way to visit there.

        Cappadoccia food will be very meat heavy. I also find it less interesting in the culinary sense, compared to other recommendations. The site and sights, on the other hand, are breathtaking.

        Assos is good, but tends to get isolated. It is a fantastic place to curl up with a book, eat, swim, eat more, read more, but you might get better experience per your buck in other places. But if you have a car, antman's recommendation of village hopping might be interesting.

        I would go to Ayvalik/Cunda. It is perhaps my favorite vacation spot in Turkey. Don't go to Sarımsaklı beach unless your priority is beaching, lounging, and partying. The beach is lovely, but it is a tourist hell/heaven. I'd try to find a place in the town of Ayvalik, or better yet Cunda Island (right off the town, connected with a bridge, but has very limited accommodation options). You can also take a ferry to Lesbos island from Ayvalik if you are bored.

        Ayvalik is an old pirate/fishing town that is predominantly inhabited by Greko-Turks that were forced to migrate from Crete and Lesbos (in exchange for Turko-Greeks that were living on the island) after the First World War. You can still see some of the abandoned houses, the ghosts of forced migration and sins of the religion/ethnicity politics of the post-Ottoman era. The food is distinctly Aegean, with fish as the main protein, supplemented with lots of olive oil based dishes and limited red meat/carbs. The experience (what I can recall from my most recent trip 4 years ago) is still quaint and reasonably authentic. If you end up going, I can give more specific eating recommendations.

    2. your dietary restrictions make this a pretty easy recommendation: N. Aegean region. A few days village hopping between Ayvalik and Assos will offer you some really good opportunities to get up close and personal with olive groves, olive oil production, and the great vegetarian meze that this region is famous for. I strongly recommend visiting and staying in the village of Adatepe. Kaldera hotel in Bektas village is supposed to be very nice. we stayed in a place that had just opened right down the road from there. i cant recall the name of it. But at the shore just below Bektas village is a great little shack that serves up grilled fish and raki right on the beach. the beach was deserted when we went but for a few tables of diners. great experience. Avoid the big tourist ghettos as much as possible (Behramkale, Assos, etc) and go for the villages. We toured the whole area in a 4 day trip, driving from Istanbul.
      for dining in Istanbul check out for good reco's on local, no-frills eating.
      have a great trip!

      3 Replies
      1. re: antman

        Many thanks on the suggestions - I am going to look into Ayvalik, Adatepe and Bektas. The thought of being on the coast and the amazing seafood & veg mezes. Yum.

        Two questions:
        First, if I allow for three days/two nights in one of these places, is that OK?
        Second, what are my travel options - can it be done via boat/ferry, or am I better off looking into flights?

        1. re: jdubboston

          you can fly from Istanbul to Ayvalik and i think you can fly to edremit as well. there you can rent a car and set off for the villages. if you are thinking to go to adatepe, bektas, assos and kaz dagi then edremit will be more convenient. splitting 3 nights between adatepe and bektas will be plenty to get the spirit of the place. ayvalik is farther south and with just 3 days probably another trip.
          for a trip like this you will probably need a car. the mobility will be very rewarding though. the drives through the pine-forested hills looking down on the sea and lesbos island (greece) in the distance are magical.