Despite visiting Turkey on my own back in 2015, when the to opportunity return to Turkey a few years later arose, I eagerly said yes. I had visited one particularly snowy winter and was curious as to what it was like to not only visit in the summer, but also to visit more than just a couple of cities.
Intrepid’s Turkey Encompassed tour was my third trip with Intrepid and it surpassed all expectations. It’s no secret that I love Intrepid but I also love Turkey – it’s a unique and fascinating country with friendly people, spectacular landscapes and delicious cuisine (if you’re on the fence, this is me telling you to go ASAP).
So without further ado: my review of the Intrepid Turkey Encompassed tour, complete with a day-by-day itinerary and a side-by-side comparison to all of Intrepid’s other Turkey tour offerings.
Table of Contents
A Review of the Intrepid Travel Turkey Encompassed Tour
Having already visited Istanbul and Cappadocia, I was excited to return and see some of the other places I’d missed during my first trip. I’d already used Intrepid a couple of times before, so it seemed like a no-brainer to use them to book a comprehensive tour in Turkey, especially since I wanted to visit multiple cities during high season (summer).
In the end, I was deciding between the Best of Turkey tour and the Turkey Encompassed tour. Turkey Encompassed worked better with my dates but ultimately, I would recommend Best of Turkey due to the slower travel pace and unique experiences (more about that later). Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the Turkey Encompassed Tour and recommend it to anyone wanting to experience Turkey’s more popular spots (and some smaller cities too) in a two-week period. Keep reading to find out what I loved, what I didn’t, and what it’s like to travel in Turkey now.
Should you book a tour to Turkey?
First of all, let me just say that yes, Turkey is safe and can be traveled to independently. I visited once before with a friend and we traveled to both Istanbul and Cappadocia. However, Turkey can be a tad difficult to navigate on your own, especially if you don’t speak the language. It’s doable, but you definitely can’t cover all these places at the pace of a tour if you’re on your own. If it’s your first time visiting and you’d prefer not to worry about all these tips and the hassle of transporting yourself from place to place, I highly recommend booking a tour. I did the Turkey Encompassed Tour but you can check out all the Turkey tour options from Intrepid Travel as well.
Why Intrepid Travel?
I’ve been on four tours with Intrepid Travel across seven countries on four continents, so I’ve been fortunate to experience how they operate all over the world. (Read my reviews: Egypt, Peru, Jordan, and Southeast Asia). Yes, Intrepid is the world’s largest small group adventure travel company, but that’s not why I travel with them. These are just a few reasons I love traveling with them (you can also read my full review of Intrepid Travel here).
- Small groups: As an introvert, I hate big groups with a fiery passion. Intrepid limits their groups to a maximum 12 people, which means you’ll have enough time to get to know everyone on your trip.
- Local guides: The guides are always from the country that you’re visiting, ensuring that you’re both supporting the local economy and traveling with someone who truly knows the country you’re visiting. Even on multi-country trips, I’ve had a main tour guide and local guides for specific destinations.
- Responsible tourism: To Intrepid, responsible tourism isn’t just a buzz word. They carbon offset their tours, give back to communities through The Intrepid Foundation, promote gender-equity within their tour guide force, and discourage any and all plastic usage. You can read about their responsible tourism practices here.
- Balance of activities and free time: Just because you’re on a group tour doesn’t mean you want a jam-packed itinerary and 24/7 time with your group. I love that their itineraries always have free time so you can go do your own thing, whether it’s eating street food, going shopping, or just lounging by the pool with a book.
Which Intrepid Turkey tour should you choose?
Although I went on the Turkey Encompassed Tour, Intrepid actually has quite a range of Turkey tours to choose from. Each tour has something different to offer, depending on your budget, desired travel time, and sites you’d like to visit. I’ve broken them down below.
Best of Turkey
Intrepid’s Best of Turkey is a 15 day tour covering nine cities in Turkey. It includes the highlights of Turkey such as a few nights in Cappadocia, a visit to Pamukkale, and a guided tour in Ephesus. One of the coolest things about this trip is the multiple unique experiences it offers such as sleeping on a boat for two nights (when it’s warm), eating dinner at a Cappadocian family’s home, and a 4 mile hike to The Blue Lagoon. Although you cover a fair amount of ground in Turkey, you’ll get a chance to spend a good amount of time in most places, which I love. The only con is that this tour includes virtually no time in Istanbul, so I strongly recommend adding on a few days in Istanbul at the start of your trip. Since this tour is an Original style, it offers comfortable accommodation and a good mix of inclusions and optional activities.
- Duration: 15 days
- Cities visited: Istanbul, Bursa, Selcuk (Ephesus), Pamukkale, Kayakoy, Kas, Antalya, Konya, Goreme (Cappadocia)
- Travel style: Original
- Price: starting at USD $1,460
The Turkey Encompassed tour is Intrepid’s more luxurious Intrepid tour and the one I personally went on. Like Best of Turkey, it includes time in Cappadocia, Pamukkale, and Ephesus, but substitutes Bursa and Kayakoy for Beypazari, Fethiye, and Canakkale. It also includes a short city tour in Istanbul, unlike Best of Turkey. Because this tour is a Comfort style, all the accommodation is nicer hotels, transport is all private, and most activities are included. I chose this tour because it worked better with my schedule and because I wanted to experience a Comfort tour but ultimately, I think this tour misses out a bit on some of the unique experiences of the Best of Turkey tour (like the local Cappadocian dinner and the overnights on a boat). However, this tour is still awesome, covers a ton of amazing places in Turkey, and is an overall excellent choice for those looking to spend two weeks there. Psst: If you’re between 18-29 and want to travel with people your age, check out the mostly similar Real Turkey tour instead.
- Duration: 15 days
- Cities visited: Istanbul, Beypazari, Goreme (Cappadocia), Konya, Antalya, Kas, Fethiye, Pamukkale, Selcuk (Ephesus), Canakkale (Gallipoli)
- Travel style: Comfort
- Price: starting at USD $1,660
Turkey Highlights is Intrepid’s shortest Turkey tour, but is excellent for those that are limited on time. The itinerary takes you to the majority of Turkey’s most popular destinations, including Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Ephesus. It does skip Pamukkale though, which is a shame (although you can and should do it on day 4). Although you don’t get to visit a lot of the extra, lesser-known places like in the other two tours, I still strongly recommend this one for those who want to see the highlights of Turkey in a week.
- Duration: 8 days
- Cities visited: Istanbul, Kusadesi, Ephesus, Konya, Goreme (Cappadocia)
- Travel style: Original
- Price: starting at USD $1,115
Turkey Explored is Intrepid’s longest Turkey tour, but the best choice for those that are traveling on a budget. The itinerary takes you to the majority of Turkey’s most popular destinations, including Istanbul, Ephesus, Pamukkale, and Cappadocia, but also hits some truly local cities such as Darende, Kahta, and Nemrut. Additionally, you also get to experience an overnight boat ride and a traditional homestay. Unlike the other tours, many of the site entrances on this tour are optional, allowing you to pick and choose which sites you’d like to visit (excellent for those on a budget). If you’re looking for the absolute best bang for your buck, this tour is right for you.
- Duration: 18 days
- Cities visited: Istanbul, Gallipoli/Canukkale, Selcuk (Ephesus), Pamukkale, Fethiye, Antalya, Konya, Goreme (Cappadocia), Darende, Kahta, Nemrut
- Travel style: Basix
- Price: starting at USD $1,202
Real Turkey / Essential Turkey (18-29 year-olds)
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 29 and interested in traveling with people your age, consider the Real Turkey tour, a 15-day Basix tour that covers the highlights of Turkey like Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Pamukkale and more. It’s very similar to the Turkey Encompassed tour but swaps out a few spots. This trip offers some truly fun and unique experiences including a couple of overnights on a boat, a night of camping, and dinner at a Cappadocian family’s house. Many of the site entrances on this tour are optional, allowing you to pick and choose which sites you’d like to visit (excellent for those on a budget). If you’re a little short on time, the Essential Turkey trip follows the exact same itinerary, but ends in Antalya instead of continuing to Cappadocia and ending in Istanbul.
- Duration: 15 days
- Cities visited: Istanbul, Canakkale (Gallipoli), Ayvalik, Selcuk, Pamukkale, Faralya, Fethiye, Antalya, Cappadocia
- Travel style: Basix
- Price: starting at USD $963
Things to Know Before You Go to Turkey
Most people make certain assumptions about Turkey, knowing that it’s a Muslim-majority country that borders Syria. Just know that Turkey is much more European than Middle-Eastern and attire is fairly liberal (except in rural and small towns). That being said, I always err on dressing slightly more modestly (I wouldn’t recommend booty-shorts or midriff-baring shirts, for example). Also: PDA is a no-no. Besides that, Turkish customs aren’t too foreign compared to home.
Nowadays, Americans need to get a visa for Turkey before arriving, but it’s a really painless process with the online e-visa. It costs $20.
Intrepid requires its passengers to have travel insurance, but I wouldn’t even consider going to Turkey without travel insurance anyway. You honestly never know what could happen. My go-to insurance is World Nomads for every country I visit.
Packing for Turkey
Although Turkey is a Muslim-majority country, you don’t need to dress particularly conservatively there, with the exception of the day in Konya (and small towns / homestays if you choose a different tour). Ladies, I recommend bringing a scarf and cardigan for any potential visits to mosques, but otherwise, you can pretty much dress as you would at home. If you’re curious as to what sort of items I normally pack for my trips, check out my recommendations here.
P.S. If you’re planning on using public Wi-Fi (likely), i strongly recommend purchasing a VPN subscription. A VPN (virtual private network) is a service that allows you to securely and privately route your internet through a server. Basically, it makes your internet think you’re in one place when you’re in a different one. Why do you need this? Well, if you want to access your bank account or any secure online account, the sites get super sketched out when you’re in a foreign country, making it difficult to access said sites. Additionally, you’re more liable to have your accounts hacked on an unprotected Wi-Fi network. NordVPN is powerful, secure, and inexpensive and a must if you’re planning to login to any account using public Wi-Fi.
Turkey Encompassed Itinerary, Day-by-Day
Day 1: Istanbul
The first officially day doesn’t start until the 6 pm welcome meeting, but be sure to arrive at least one day before to adjust to the time difference and have a full day exploring the city on your own, since you’ll only spend a few hours in Istanbul with the group. If you’re short on time, consider getting a hop-on, hop-off bus pass (very touristy but helpful if you’re short on time) or booking a private 1-2 day Istanbul tour. If you have more time in Istanbul, the Tourist Pass is a seriously awesome way to save money on entrance fees to top Istanbul attractions.
That evening, you’ll meet your new Intrepid family for the week, then head to an optional group dinner. I have to admit that I ate a lot better when I was in Turkey the first time around, especially in Istanbul. However, this is a good time to get to know the group a bit better.
Day 2: Beypazari
You’ll wake up bright and early on the first official day of the tour and start your day off with a city tour around Istanbul, focusing on the area around Sultanahmet. You’ll also be visiting the famous Blue Mosque during the tour so be sure to bring clothing that will cover your arms and legs if you don’t want to borrow any from the mosque (plus a scarf for women). The Blue Mosque is beyond spectacular, with incredible ceilings and architecture. I also strongly recommend visiting the Hagia Sofia the day before if you can – that too is an incredible piece of architecture and history.
At around 11 am, you’ll board a bus to Beypazari, a cute Turkish town with historical Ottoman houses. It’s also well-known for carrots and sparkling water, a random combination that hilariously manifests itself in various desserts and souvenirs. It took us around 6 hours or so to arrive, and our tour leader, Fatih, gave us a tour around the small town, explaining the architecture to us. We also had the opportunity to visit the Living Museum, an interactive museum showcasing traditional Turkish life and culture. SO cool. Dinner was at the cutest outdoor restaurant – a truly locals-only kind of place. At the time, the World Cup was going on, so we hurried back to watch the game in the hotel lobby. Beypazari is a small town so I don’t think there’s much to do in the evening anyway.
Day 3 – 4: Goreme (Cappadocia)
Besides Istanbul, Cappadocia is easily one of Turkey’s most visited destinations, thanks to the hundreds of brightly-colored hot air balloons that the dot the sky almost everyday at sunrise. The ride to Cappadocia is long – around 4-5 hours – but we did stop at Tuz Gölü, one of the richest salt lakes in the world and where half of Turkey’s salt is produced. And yes, we all got some hilarious photos at the salt lake in case you were wondering.
We arrived early enough to Cappadocia that we decided to visit the Derinkuyu Underground City that day instead of the following as scheduled. Seriously, it’s SUCH an impressive place – it’s an underground multi-level city that has the capacity for tens of thousands of people and has tons of secret tunnels and shelters. SO fascinating. If you’re on a different Intrepid Turkey trip and this is an optional activity, do it!
We ended our evening by trying out the local delicacy in Cappadocia: testi kebab, a slow-cooked meat-and-veggie stew served in a sealed clay pot that’s later cracked open. Half the fun is watching the chef cracking the pot open before your eyes.
The next morning, you’ll wake up before dawn for a hot air ballon flight if you booked one (which you definitely should). There’s a monopoly on hot air balloons in Cappadocia (apparently one company owns all of them) and a standard ride costs $200+. Intrepid uses Kapadokya Balloons which were very good, but here’s another option for the same price if buffet breakfasts are important to you haha.
Anyway, after all of the morning excitement, we headed back to the hotel for a brief nap then met up with Fatih and did a walk around Love Valley and Pigeon Valley before making our way to the Goreme Open Air Museum. This outdoor “museum” is a fascinating collection of ruins of monasteries, churches, and houses literally carved into the rock. SO cool! Afterward, the rest of our day was free time. Everyone split off to do their own thing, but we all decided to meet later that evening to walk to Cappadocia’s famous Sunset Point. I was quite crowded but the views are stunning.
Afterwards, we stopped at a random traditional-style restaurant for dinner before heading to bed.
Day 5: Konya
Since we visited the Open Air Museum the day before, we headed to Konya straight after breakfast, stopping at the Caravanserai Sultanhani along the way – a restored historical caravan rest stop that was once a stop along the Silk Road. We arrived in Konya early in the afternoon and it was clear that it’s a much more religious city compared to the others we’d visited so far. Made sense since it’s the birthplace of Sufism and home to Rumi’s mausoleum. The guided visit to the Mevlana Museum was definitely the highlight of Konya – it was fascinating to learn about Rumi’s journey and Sufism, as well as to see a box containing some of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) beard hair. He was said to have always smelled nice and the smell coming from the box was quite pleasant.
After we stopped for lunch, we had the rest of the day free to explore Konya. A few of us decided to walk around a bit then stop at park for some dessert. Konya is hot so I opted for a konafa with ice cream – delicious! Eventually, the heat became too much and we headed back to the hotel for a few hours before dinner. The group reunited for dinner (I had the local slow-cooked lamb dish. So. Good.) then spent the rest of the evening wandering around town now that it had cooled down.
Day 6: Antalya
We arrived to Antalya early afternoon the next day, then did a quick orientation walk on our way to the hotel. I knew we’d be swimming for the next few days so I opted to explore the town we were in (Kaleici) instead of heading to the already-crowded beach area. Kaleici is a quintessentially cute European seaside town, complete with little boutiques, plenty of cafes and restaurants, and a few historical buildings here and there (like Hadrian’s Gate). The group reunited again for dinner, which included a gorgeous view of the sea and some evening exploring and live music. The town really comes alive at night – everyone who was swimming all day is out and about – making you realize just how popular Antalya is. I finally got to try Turkish ice cream (dondurma), which was quite the entertaining experience – all the ice cream vendors make a show out of pretending to give you the ice cream and it’s hilarious. It was the perfect end to the evening.
Day 7 – 8: Kas
After spending the morning at the Antalya Museum, we packed our bags and made our way to our next stop: Kas, a smaller, even more charming seaside town located four hours from Kaleici. This is where I decided it was time to re-experience the Mediterranean Sea: three of us bought some drinks and snacks at a seaside restaurant with access to the water and spent a few hours alternating between swimming and tanning. It was glorious. The fun continued at the restaurant Fatih recommended for dinner – it had the best seafood I ate during my entire trip to Turkey. SO delicious. And like Antalya, walking around Kas in the evening was a stark contrast to how busy it was during the day.
The next morning, we made our way to the port because we were spending the entire day on a catamaran! I was so excited to be back on a boat – my first time since my sailing trip to Greece. We got a chance to hike up to an ancient castle for some seriously stunning views and saw the remnants of The Sunken City from the boat, but we mostly spent the day swimming, tanning, and eating. It was so much fun and easily one of my favorite days in Turkey. We returned to Kas in time to catch the sunset and grab some dinner before heading to bed.
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Day 9: Fethiye
The next day was a busy one. Our first stop was at a women’s carpet-weaving collective, where we learned how carpets are weaved and how local women help keep the craft alive. Afterwards, we were shown the different carpets and how to distinguish the different types from each other. Although I had fun, we ended up spending a lot more time there than I’d expected. Next, we drove to Kayakoy, a “ghost village” abandoned by the Greeks during the Population Exchange in the 1920s. After a short walk around, and a stop for lunch, we continued on our journey to the Blue Lagoon, where we had a chance to swim for an hour or so – an unexpected but awesome stop considering the heat!
By this point, it was late afternoon and we had just enough time to stop at the Ancient Rock Tombs (aka Turkish Petra) before arriving in Fethiye in time for dinner. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to spend much time in Fethiye, because I’ve heard its an amazing city. Our hotel was driving distance from the center of town and we were all too tired to stay out on our own after dinner. What was awesome about Fethiye, though, was our dinner. We went to the local seafood market and picked out fresh fish, which was then cooked for us and served with some side dishes. If you’re eager to try fresh Turkish seafood, Fethiye is the place to do it!
Day 10: Pamukkale
The next day involved another five-hour drive, but I didn’t care because I was stoked to be going to Pamukkale, Turkey’s famous white “cotton castle” formed by sodium bicarbonate deposits. I learned that Pamukkale is actually part of the ancient city of Hierapolis and that our entrance ticket included the surrounding ruins (including the particularly impressive amphitheater). Be sure to visit that first before dipping into the pools at Pamukkale. I’m going to be honest – I was a tad overwhelmed by how crowded the site was (it was July after all) and the sheer number of people walking around and soaking inside the mineral pools. I ended up just dipping my feet in instead of soaking completely. However, I’m still very grateful that I had the opportunity to visit – it was way more spectacular than I’d imagined.
There isn’t much to do in Pamukkale besides this national park, so we headed back to the hotel after a quick dinner.
Day 11 – 12: Selcuk
The next day, we headed to Selcuk, our base for exploring the famous ruins of Ephesus. We actually arrived on the earlier side this day, and opted to explore Ephesus the same day instead of the next. We first stopped at the Ephesus Museum to gain a bit of historical perspective, then headed the ruins after checking in to our accommodation.
There are no words to describe just how magnificent the ruins of Ephesus are, by the way. The site is incredibly expansive and well-preserved. It always blows my mind to see how ancient cities were built for survival.
Afterwards, we returned to Selcuk for an early dinner. The restaurant was conveniently located next door to a barber shop, and most of the guys in the group opted for a traditional shave while we were waiting for our food because why not? A lot of us were still energized after dinner and decided to go to a hookah cafe afterwards. It was, in a word, entertaining.
The next day was a free day until the evening, but we all agreed to meet Fatih in the morning for a visit to the Isa Bay Mosque and the Basilica of St John. We had the rest of the afternoon to laze around the town, opting for lunch, coffee, and dessert at various points throughout the day (Selcuk is on the smaller side).
That evening, we headed to the cutest town ever, called Sirince. But first, we stopped at this leather shop, where we were treated to a fashion show and some shopping time. The whole experience was a tad strange and didn’t feel like it belonged on the tour, even though Selcuk is known for leather. But I digress.
Sirince, where we went next, is known for wine tasting – which nearly everyone in the group partook in with the exception of me and another girl – but the town itself is also incredibly charming. It has cafes serving Turkish coffee made in sand, independent fruit and vegetable vendors, and plenty of boutique clothing and jewelry shops. Fatih had really downplayed Sirince but I thought it was a delightful gem. We had dinner in the town before calling it a night.
Day 13: Canukkale
The next day we drove to Canukkale via the ruins of Troy, an optional add-on that we all wanted to do. Fatih told us that there’s no evidence that the Trojan Horse ever existed, which low-key blew my mind. Why is it written in so many history books and in so many movies if it might not be real? Sure makes for a good story though.
Anyway, we eventually made it to Canukkale in the late afternoon and guess what the first thing we saw was? A giant Trojan Horse! Specifically, the one they used in the film Troy. Even the Turks are keeping the myth alive. Anyway, we walked along the promenade in the group for a bit, sampling mussels from a street food vendor (YUM) and generally taking in the chill seaside ambiance. A few of us split off and walked around the town center for a bit, before meeting back for dinner at a great seafood restaurant. That evening, a few of us wandered back through the town again and stumbled upon a live cultural dance performance in town. Watching that with an ice cream in hand was the perfect end to the night.
Day 14: Gallipoli / Istanbul
The next morning, we took the ferry over to Gallipoli, specifically to the site memorializing fallen Aussie and Kiwi soldiers from when they fought in Turkey during World War I. We spent a couple of hours there visiting the various parts of the memorial site.
Traffic was insane on our way from Gallipoli, unfortunately. I know Istanbul is a big city so I imagine it’s often like this but it took us hours to get back to the city. Sadly, this meant we couldn’t do the DIY street food adventure Fatih had mentioned earlier (pending traffic, he’d said). The group ended up having one last dinner together at a restaurant near our hotel, knowing we were all leaving at various times the next day.
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Day 15: Istanbul
The tour officially ends after breakfast today. You can extend your stay and spend more time in Istanbul (I recommend it if you didn’t arrive early) or fly out later that day.
What’s included and what’s optional?
Since this is a comfort style trip, almost everything you’d want to do is already included in the itinerary.
- 14 breakfasts, 2 lunches
- All accommodation and transportation
- Istanbul – Blue Mosque and City Tour
- Beypazari – Yasayan Muze (Living Museum of Beypazari)
- Cappadocia – Valley Walk, Derinkuyu Underground City tour and Open Air Museum
- Konya – Mevlana Museum
- Antalya – Orientation Walk, Kaleici visit, Antalya Museum
- Kayakoy- Ghost Village
- Pamukkale – Hierapolis & Travertines National Park
- Seluck – Orientation Walk and Local Lunch taste of Gozleme
- Ephesus – archaeological site
- Gallipoli – guided tour
- Breakfast on the first day, 13 lunches (including the first and last day), 15 dinners (including the first and last day)
- Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia
- St. John’s Basilica in Selcuk
- Hierapolis Museum and Cleopatra’s Pool in Pamukkale
To be honest, since this is a comfort trip, almost everything you’d want to do is included. The only optional add-ons I did were the hot air balloon ride (totally worth it), St. John’s Basilica in Selcuk (skippable in my opinion) and a detour we did on day 13 to the Archeological Site of Troy.
The Tour Leader
One thing I love about Intrepid is that they always hire leaders that are native to the country you’re visiting. Fatih, our tour leader, grew up in Aydın, a small city just an hour east of Selçuk. He knew everything about every town and its local background, food, civilization, and history, which he enthusiastically demonstrated during the two-week long trip. His knowledge of Turkey’s history and sites was downright impressive and he was an excellent and informative guide.
Who travels with Intrepid?
Intrepid Travel attracts people from all over the world. In my experience, most of the travelers tend to come from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. The age range varies wildly – I’ve been on trips with 18-year-olds and 80-year-olds, and everything in between (which makes for some seriously interesting perspectives and characters)! I have to say that the majority of the time, travelers to be curious about other cultures and genuinely interested in gaining new perspectives and experiences. Out of all my trips, I’ve only dealt with one unpleasant passenger (it happens) but have often left the trips with plenty of new friends. On this trip in particular, I traveled with two Kiwis and nine Aussies.
What’s the transportation like?
Because this was a comfort trip, we took private, air-conditioned mini-buses as transportation everywhere. We did get to spend one day on a boat in Kas, which was awesome. We didn’t sleep on the boat overnight on this tour, although that’s included in the Best of Turkey tour.
- (1) Catamaran: On day 8, you get to spend the whole day on a boat, where you’ll visit the island of Kekova and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s seriously heavenly and was one of my personal favorite experiences.
- Plenty of mini-buses: We didn’t take any public transport on this trip. Instead, we traveled everywhere in air-conditioned mini-buses, which were incredibly comfortable.
What’s the accommodation like?
This is a comfort style trip, which means nicer tourist-style hotels (usually around 4 stars). Our hotel rooms were all clean and comfortable – I really didn’t have anything to complain about (although the Istanbul hotel room was definitely on the tinier side). Some of the hotels had somewhat spotty Wi-Fi, but most people found it tolerable – I purchased a local SIM and brought along my TEP Wireless hotspot and was fine. Overall, the hotel accommodation was pretty good!
What’s the food like?
Most people don’t know much about Turkish food, with the exception of the world famous döner kebab. But Turkish cuisine is so much more, influenced by spices and ingredients from its neighbors, while simultaneously retaining a strong emphasis on fresh and local ingredients.
The best way to sample multiple dishes is by ordering a mezze: a collection of small plates of dips and appetizers (usually chosen by you). Mezzes are different depending on where you order them but they’re always delicious.
Hünkar Beğendi (eggplant puree with shredded beef) is a personal favorite, but don’t miss pide (Turkish pizza), simit (breakfast pretzel) or manti (ravioli in yogurt), amongst others. Of course, Turkish delight is a must-try dessert as well.
Is Turkey safe?
I’ve visited Turkey twice: once in the winter of 2015 and again on this trip in the summer of 2018, shortly after elections. I also have several friends who have lived in Turkey over the past few years and I can assure you that Istanbul is safe. So are other parts of Turkey – I say this with confidence since I’ve now visited 11 cities across the country. Of course, use common sense in Istanbul – it is a big, cosmopolitan city after all – and avoid cities near the Syrian border (duh). It’s safe for solo female travelers as well, in case you’re reading this and wondering.
Would I recommend the Turkey Encompassed tour with Intrepid Travel?
Yes, I would recommend the Turkey Encompassed tour, especially if traveling in a more comfort style is important to you. It was incredibly organized, fun, and covered the highlights (and more) of Turkey. It was nice that a lot of the optional activities were already included, making it easier to budget ahead of time. Turkey is really a country where a local guide / organized tour is a seriously beneficial addition to a trip, especially if you want to visit more than just the top tourist cities.
However, if I had to choose a Turkey tour again, I would probably opt for the Intrepid Best of Turkey tour as it’s more my travel style. I find that I like Intrepid’s Original trips the most and in this case, the Best of Turkey had some awesome experiences that we didn’t do on the Comfort trip. Some of those include spending a couple of nights on a boat, having dinner at a Cappadocian Family house, and visiting a Dervish Lodge.
There were a few things that I personally didn’t love about the tour. Firstly, I wish the visit to Gallipoli was optional. I know this tour was set up to include all the activities, but I personally wouldn’t choose to visit it if I were planning a trip on my own (it’s a war memorial for fallen Aussies and Kiwis). Secondly, I was sad we hardly spent any time in Fethiye. Our hotel was outside the center and we didn’t arrive to the city until late afternoon / early evening, so we only had time to eat dinner at the fish market before heading back to our hotel.
Thirdly, we had a couple of shopping stops that lasted way longer than necessary. The first was visiting a carpet shop en-route to Fethiye. While the carpet-weaving portion was interesting, the shopping part lasted longer than I personally liked – we were there for a solid few hours. The second shopping excursion (which was completely unnecessary in my opinion) was this visit to a leather shop in Selcuk. Although the region is known for leather, it just didn’t flow with the trip and felt like a waste of time. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the travel time on this trip is a bit long – we spent a fair amount of time spent on the bus and not enough in the towns, which was necessary to cover the ground we did. The pace of the Best of Turkey tour is a bit slower.
Overall, keeping the above-mentioned things in mind, this is still an excellent way to cover a lot of the highlights of Turkey in two weeks. If you want to read even more reviews of the tour, check it out here.
Other Essential Information
The tour starts at USD $1,660 but averages around $1,725 depending on the departure date.
Best Time to Visit Turkey
Turkey is a year-round destination, busy from March – October and peaking in the summer. You can visit Turkey in the winter for fewer tourists and low prices, as long as you don’t mind the cold. And unless beach resorts are your calling, better to avoid it in the busy and scorching summer.
March – May: The weather starts to warm up in March into April, and days start to get longer. You may still experience some rain into April. This is the best time to visit: spring is somewhat busy (especially May) but no where near the crowds you’ll find in the summer.
September – November: Days start to get shorter and temperatures cool, but autumn is still a great time to visit compared to summer. You’ll see some residual crowds in September, but they’re mostly gone by early October, when the weather dips down into the 60s F.
The official language of Turkey is Turkish, which is spoken by everyone. In some touristy places, you’ll find that many people have a basic grasp of English, but you’re better off learning some Turkish phrases just in case you find yourself in a jam.
Turkey uses the Turkish Lira, and at the time of writing this post (July 2019), the rate was about USD $1 to 5.5 TL. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are plenty of ATM machines for withdrawing cash. If you’d like to exchange money, there are a couple of places on Hamidiye Caddesi in the Fatih neighborhood with really good rates.
Want to extend your trip?
While this itinerary certainly covers the highlights of Turkey, it lacks sufficient time in Istanbul, which is worth at least a few days on its own. Here are my recommendations if you want to spend some extra time there:
- Get the Istanbul Pass and explore the city on your own for a couple of days (or book a guided tour)
- Spend half a day cruising down the Bosphorus
- Take a day trip to Bursa
- Spend the day on The Princes Islands (via ferry or a tour)
- Book an awesome foodie experience
Although I don’t take group tours that often, this was my third trip with Intrepid Travel (I’ve now been on four total). You can read my review about why I like the company so much here. I don’t think group tours are necessary for every country, but I highly recommend doing one (specifically, this one) in Turkey.
Although I felt safe the entire time I was there (both with and without the group), there’s something to be said about having all the details of your trip already planned and having an awesome guide that is knowledgeable both about the history and the customs. English is not widely spoken (especially outside of Istanbul and Cappadocia), making it difficult to get around for non-Turkish speakers.
After visiting Turkey twice and spending a total of three weeks there, my resounding conclusion is this: it’s time for you to get to Turkey. With a welcoming and fascinating culture and plenty of beautiful places to see, Turkey will surely shatter any misconceptions you have about visiting.
More Turkey ResourcesPlanning a trip to Turkey soon? Check out ALL my posts on Turkey below:
- Turkey Travel Guide
- IstanBRR: The Best Things to Do in Istanbul in Winter
- Fairy Chimneys and Fairy Tales: Cappadocia in Photos
- The Foodie Guide to Turkish Cuisine
Tell me: Would you consider taking an Intrepid Turkey tour? Why or why not? Share in the comments below!
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