My Big Fat Turkish Vacation

July 26, 2012 7 Comments »

sunrise over cappadoccia

Everyone has parts of their job that they dislike – even if your job is your passion. Not everything can be lollipops and unicorns ALL the time. For me, it’s the hours spent online trying to figure out my next move, the cheapest airfare, where I will sleep, how to get around, where to find markets, and how to communicate. Even though I’ve been on the road for 6 years these things still don’t come easy to me. I don’t have a shortcut or tricks that I use to make it easier – it’s just work and planning that has to be done if you live my lifestyle.

However, for the past few weeks, I’ve taken a vacation from all of this travel planning and I’ve let someone else take it on for me while I simply enjoyed Turkey. No, I didn’t hire an assistant; instead, I went on an Intrepid Travel trip through Turkey for two weeks.

Independence Within A Group

I know what you are thinking – “A tour group?!” But before you conjure up visions of big buses and some woman carrying an umbrella as a group of 40 people follow dutifully around over-touristed sites, just wait and hear me out. Intrepid specializes in small group travel that focuses on local experiences more than ticking off tour sites. In fact, I’m sitting here in my hotel room typing this right now while the other 11 people from my group are out visiting a museum and felt maker in Konya.

The activities on an Intrepid itinerary are suggested, but not mandatory. So I decided that I’d rather take a rest and catch up on some writing with a leisurely breakfast instead of going to see a museum that I wasn’t 100% interested in. No big deal – I just met up with the group later.

Bus Travel in Turkey

Intrepid’s small group tour model is perfect for an eternal independent traveler like me and for anyone who really just doesn’t want to deal with all of the research and planning aspects of a trip because they need a break from it or simply don’t have the time. They have an itinerary such as my Best of Turkey itinerary and they provide all of the transportation (which is most of the time on local buses and trains), accommodations (basic 2/3 star guest houses locally owned), and they provide a local guide who facilitates all of this movement and communication and is with you every step of the way.

Discover the ins and outs of European train travel

The guide will get you to/from the locations and give you an initial orientation walk around the city/location, provide you with a map and recommendations on what to see, do, where to eat, where you can find ATMs, markets, etc and then you can decide what you want to do. You can do more organized things with the group, or you can do your own thing

My intrepid travel group Cappadocia

A True Vacation

This is why I love small group travel – it’s like a vacation from my normal travel life as they take care of logistics and I can just focus on learning about and experiencing the culture that surrounds me. If I consider the area we covered in Turkey over the course of 14 days via local transportation and transfers (ferries, trains, buses, dolmus, and taxis) – it would have taken me about 1 week of trial and error to figure it all out and plan it myself. There is a part of me that loves to have control and do the planning, but when you are doing it 24/7, it’s nice to take a break. Plus, the Intrepid guides are locals themselves and they tend to provide you with a lot of insider information and opportunities to really be more local in your travels.

Local Experiences

Dinner at a local family's home in Bursa

Here are just a few of the things I experienced on my recent 2-week tour of Turkey that I would have been very hard-pressed to find myself and there’s no way I would have figured it out without a lot of pain and confusion!

Check out all the best gifts for friends going traveling

Whirling Dervish Lodge
Skip the tourist dervish shows in Istanbul and get to the real thing. Yenner our guide took us to the Whirling Dervish Lodge in Bursa for their nightly spiritual gathering where we were among a very small handful of foreign tourists in the crowd. I honestly only saw two other foreign tourists and they were from Korea. This show is presented nightly for religious reasons and tickets were not sold.

Whirling Dervish Show Bursa Turkey

Istanbul neighborhoods – how to choose where to stay

Sunset at Pamukkale
We went to the popular tourist stop of Pamukkale to see the alien-like white chalky terraces with milky blue water. But since we had Yenner leading the way we knew the best time to go climb up the calcium-coated cliffs as well as a perfect spot to see the sunset. As we all picnicked watching the sun go down I looked around and there were no other tourists around, only a few stray dogs hoping to get some of our leftovers.

sunset picnic in Pamukkale
blue pamukkale pools

Chartering a boat on the Mediterranean
We spent 2 nights on a boat in the Mediterranean near Kas.  Yes – I could have figured out and done this pretty easily as an independent traveler, however as a solo traveler I never would have been able to charter a big boat for 2 days! Sometimes there are benefits to being part of a group!

Selin 3 boat Kas Turkey
Gilling out on the boat

Maybe you’ll never be a ‘tour’ person, but, I like the diversity that the Intrepid style of travel brings to my nomadic life. I love to pepper in some small group tours into my longer travels just to mix things up, make my life easier, see things I might not have otherwise seen on my own, and get to more places faster. And how can I forget – it’s also an amazing way to make new friends from around the world!

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Intrepid Travel for this experience, however, the opinions expressed are all mine.

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