By Lauren Baxter, Travel Consultant at The Travel Connection
“We had such a great time on our adventure in Turkey and the Greek Isles! I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in amazing history, culture, delicious food and meeting wonderful people. Almost everyone spoke English, communication was never a problem anywhere. The Istanbul airport is clean and easy to navigate. We started off in Turkey in the very interesting Cappadocia region. We stayed in one of the many Cave hotels that are available in the area. It was definitely the way to go. We booked a private two day tour with a local tour guide so that we would be able to experience everything possible in our short amount of time. One of the many highlights of the region is exploring the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. Hiking in Pigeon Valley with the dovecotes is not to be missed.
We spent a few days in Istanbul exploring the city as well as visiting the many attractions including Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia and of course the Grand Bazaar. We just had to try the unique Turkish Bath experience and my skin never felt so soft. Another highlight was visiting the ancient city of Ephesus. It’s excavated remains reflect centuries of history. It would be easy to spend the whole day there just exploring.
The second half of our adventure was cruising on the Azamara Journey with port stops along the Turkish coast, Volos Greece and to a few of the Greek Islands. With just under 700 guests, the ship was a great choice for what we wanted to do. We enjoyed wonderful cuisine with a very efficient and friendly staff, and casual ambiance.
Santorini was a beautiful picture postcard island with its whitewashed buildings perched high on the cliffs above the blue sea. We hired a local tour guide who gave us a full day tour around his island. One of our stops was to a local restaurant in his village where we had an authentic Greek lunch including Greek salad and little sardine-like fishes (really good). The island of Skiathos had beautiful beaches with fun shops and restaurants. Mykonos gave St. Barts a run for its money with the amount of luxury yachts in the harbor. Evidently they have quite the night life as well.We went horseback riding on the small Island of Hydra, where no vehicles are allowed.
We ended our adventure with a full day private tour of Athens and ancient Corinth, which was the perfect way to see everything on a limited time schedule. Our guide previously drove large trucks throughout Europe and was a taxi driver for many years in Athens. We couldn’t have asked for a better driver and host. Our day went flawlessly as we avoided the throngs of tourists visiting the many sites at just the right time. Although a private tour guide is more expensive, I highly recommend it.
Though our whole trip lasted two and a half weeks, it felt like two and a half days. I am often asked about safety in Turkey and if it is worth including. The answer is yes! It is the perfect place to begin a Greek Isles Cruise. I can’t wait to return to Turkey and experience more of what this wonderful country has to offer.”