Friday, 27 March 2015

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Kyrgyzstan is a nation defined by its topography: joyously unspoilt mountainscapes, stark craggy ridges, and rolling summer pastures (jailoos) are brought to life by semi-nomadic, yurt-dwelling shepherd cultures. Add to this natural beauty a well-developed network of homestays and the recent introduction of visa-free travel, and it's easy to see why Kyrgyzstan is rapidly becoming the gateway of choice for Western travellers in Central Asia. As can be expected in a country where the vast majority of attractions are rural and high altitude, the timing of your visit is crucial. Summer is ideal with hikes and roads generally accessible. Midsummer also sees Kazakh and Russian tourists converge on the beaches of never-freezing Lake Issyk-Köl. From October to May, much rural accommodation closes down and the yurts that add such character to the Alpine vistas are stashed away. So think twice about a winter visit unless you've come to ski.
Kyrgyzstan is situated in Central Asia, its neighbouring countries are Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tadjikistan to the south and China to its East and South-East. The former Republic of the Soviet Union became independent in the year 1991 and since then is a democratic Presidential Republic. Bishkek, formerly called Frunze, is the capital with about 1 million inhabitants, the country as a whole has about 5 million inhabitants and an area of 198.500 km².

As a result of its varied and turbulent history, the country throughout the centuries became a real melting pot of nationalities: The ethnic group of the Kyrgyz, traditionally nomads that still nowadays often live as half-nomads (see also "Kyrgyz people and their traditions"), makes up only a bit more than 50% of the population. The two other important ethnic groups are Russians and Uzbeks, both with about 15 % of the population. The Russians came into the region during the 19 th century, and especially the capital Bishkek, only 125 years old, is heavily influenced by the Russian way of life and Soviet architecture. Because of this people, also the second-biggest religious group in the mostly muslim country (83%) are Russian-orthodox.

The Uzbek people lives to its biggest part in the south of the country, close to the border to Uzbekistan. This part of the country is also much more influenced by muslim traditions than the rest. Other people out of those more than 80 nationalities and ethnic groups living in Kyrgyzstan are European ones like Germans or Ukrains, muslim chinese people like Dungans, as well as Tatars and Uighurs.

Although there are so many different people living in the region, whose lifestyle and traditions sometimes differ a lot, they all have one thing in common: The typical Central Asian hospitality, that can in no way be compared with the way guests are greeted in the western world: Never you will come across a yurt without being invited for a cup of the national drink Kymyz and a snack, never you will be invited into the house of locals without facing a table, completely full of delicacies already before the main dish is served.

Nontheless, gastronomy is only one way where hospitality is shown: The warmth and openness of the people can be felt already when you first get acquainted, and at the second meeting you're very often already considered as a family member!

Bishkek - the Capital of Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek, KyrgyzstanBishkek, the capital of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, with a population of about 1 million, located in the Chui valley at the northern foot of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too on an inclined plain, at an altitude of 700-900 meters above sea level.

Its progenitrix was a fortress of Pishpek that appeared in 1925 – a fortification to protect the caravan routes running from Tashkent across the Chui valley to Issyk-Kul Lake.

After the battle with the Russian imperial troops and Kokand conquerors this fortification was destroyed and became part of the marginal lands of the Russian Empire. In 1897 the Pishpek population listed only 6,600 inhabitants. Pre-revolutionary Pishpek was more like a dusty village of mud houses. With the advent of Soviet rule, the city became rapidly developing. In 1926 he was renamed in honor of the revolutionary and military leader Mikhail Frunze who was born here. In 1991 the city got back its old name in the new interpretation - Bishkek. According to experts, "bishkek" means a stick for beating koumiss - the national drink of sour mare's milk.

Bishkek - one of the major cities of Central Asia and the largest city in Kyrgyzstan with a population of over 800,000 people, the multinational city with over 80 nationalities. The main language of international communication is Russian.

Bishkek, KyrgyzstanThe city has many places for recreation. There are several major museums, the most interesting of which is the Historical Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum named after M.V. Frunze. Downtown is flecked with posters Opera and Ballet Theatre, Russian and Kyrgyz Drama theaters, Bishkek City Drama Theatre, State Philharmony named after T. Satylganov.

It kept a lot of places reminding of the city history. Especially the centre is heavily influenced by the Soviets, and you can enjoy quite a number of typical soviet-style architecture (Philharmonia – concert hall, government building, Historic Museum, Monument for the Great War of the Native Country) but also modern monuments pointing out the traditional Kyrgyz culture (Monument of Manas, Monument of Independence, as well as many statues of Akyns, manaschi and local governors of different periods). It is interesting to note that Bishkek is the only city in Central Asia, where there is a monument to Lenin on the Central Square. Bishkek remembers its history and is pleased to tell it to anyone who wants to visit the small but cozy capital. Also, the city is famous being one of the greenest in the world, due to its countless parks and avenues, which make the town a nice place to live also in the heat of the summer.

Bishkek is an easy, inexpensive city to get around in. It is on a grid and relatively small capitol city, so navigating on foot or by car is easy. The mountains to the south are nearly always in view. Bishkek is wide and flat, and it's "center" is regarded as an interestingly large percentage of the overall city, usually including the area of Sovietskaya to Manas several blocks on either side of Chui. Public transportation (mini-buses and trolleybuses) usually runs from 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning till 9:00 or 9:30 at night.


One can cover a large part of Bishkek on foot in under an hour. It is relatively easy to get a bearing even if one isn't familiar with the city. However, hazards exist: Pedestrians are not given the "right-of-way" by cars as they usually are in other parts of the world, unmarked potholes, ditches and uncovered manholes are frequent, streets are poorly lit at night and violent crime relating to drunkenness happens. Travelers are advised to visit the Alpine Zone's page on "safety" - especially concerning foot travel at night. Westerners are picked out by locals nearly instantly. In general, people are friendly but unapologetically curious.


Taxis are readily available and cheap. Official taxis are marked but most people don't have a problem getting in the unofficial ones, which may or may not have a removable taxi sign on the roof. As a rule of thumb 70-100 som is a basic price for a short ride from one part of the city to another, but it might cost anywhere from 70 to 200 soms depending on distance, time of day, venue and your charm. 

It is best to give a landmark that is close to your destination, and when going to restaurants, mentioning the intersection of two streets (like Moskovskaya-Razzakova) is better than saying Navigator Bar. The drivers might be tempted to charge you more money if they figure you've got it. You will definitely have to bargain. Make sure the driver isn't drunk and agree on a price before getting in. You may or may not be supplied with a seatbelt - and can expect an heart-felt protest if you try to find one.

Additionally there is a more professional, standard priced but more expensive "Super Taxi." Super Taxi is the most reliable way to get somewhere. Order one phone (dial 152), tell them your location and destination and they will pick you up in 10-20 minutes. Fares within the city start at 90 soms. If reliability, safety and not haggling is your priority Super Taxi is the best option.

Other official taxis in Bishkek

Mini-buses ("Marshrutki")

Marshrutki are the hundreds of VW, Mercedes and other vans driving in all different directions with numbered signs. Marshrutki are cheap (8 soms in Bishkek, 6 soms in Osh) and go just about anywhere, but the trick is figuring out which one is going where you need to. 

Flag a passing Marshrutka by sticking your arm and hand out parallel to the ground, hop in and pay 8 soms upon entrance (in the southern part of the country pay up exiting). Marshrutka etiquette is that passengers farther from their stop should move to the back, young men and boys should give their seats to older folks (especially women), and one should take care not to step on or otherwise insult other passengers with their feet. 
Marshrutki can become very, very crowded and drivers, understandably, are not known for their customer service with confused tourists. Many tourists decide to forego Marshrutki, opting instead for taxis. The following two pieces of advice can be given for new riders:
1. Along Chui, the vast majority of Marshrutki are commuting from Osh Bazaar to TsUM and say so relatively prominently on their front sign (in Cryllic script). This route will take you within blocks of a large part of Bishkek.
2. At a bus stop, ask a local person what number Marshrutka is heading where you need to go, hop in, pay the driver, and say "asta-naveetsya" when you want to stop.


Trolleybuses are the big electric busses. The are slow, dilapidated and their electric rods frequently become disconnected from the overhead lines forcing a squealing stop. Enter from the back and pay 5 soms fare to the driver in the front upon exiting. Those who can afford it avoid trolleybuses. The best advice for trolleybuses is to stay well out of their way (and especially the path of their air horn).

Issyk-Kul (“hot lake” in Kyrgyz) is the world's second largest salt lake ( after Caspian) and is 1609 above sea level. The lake is about 180 km long by 70 km wide and 668 meters deep at the deepest point, (the average depth is about 300 meters ).The lake never freezes ( hence the name), even though surrounded by mountains.

The area was basically unknown to the Western world until Russian “explorers” like Tianshansky Semeyenov ventured into the mountains nearby. There was greater contact with the East, however, and the Chinese traveler Jan Chan Tzan reached the lake in about 128 BC as part of a 6-year journey of exploration (138-126BC). The first written account of the lake comes from another Chinese traveler, Suan Zsan, when describing his 16-year journey of exploration. The first written example of the use of the name, Isi-kul, dates from an anonymous work – “The boundaries of the world from East to West” – written in Tajik in 982 AD. It also accurately states the size of the lake.

From Bishkek the lake is approached through Boom Gorge, and it is possible to cut into the mountains here to the Chon Kemin valley. The lake lies at the bottom of a drainage hollow, or depression and has no outflow.

Issyk Kul, KyrgyzstanMountains ring the lake and there are several valleys worth visiting, Gregorievka and Simeonevka on the North, Barskoon on the South and numerous others around Karakol. To the North are the Kungei (“Sunny”) Ala-Too mountains and are criss-crossed by trekking routes including ones that connect the lake with Almaty – while to the South lie the Teskei (“Shady”) Ala- Too mountains. These mountain ranges protect the Issyk Kul hollow from winds bringing either extreme cold – or extremely hot winds. Moreover, the lake valley is a unique combination of sea, steppe, mountain climates and eternal ice zone. The very appearance of Issyk-Kul Lake is a “geological mystery”.

Issyk-Kul is a special place famous for its warm, sandy beaches, thermal mineral radon springs, alpine meadows, coniferous forests of the park type. All this is beside the enchanting and alluring peaks and glaciers, including many of the highest mountain verticals.

The lake Issyk-Kul has been held in high regard by the Kyrgyz – it is known as the “pearl of the Tien Shan” – and in 2004, the government declared the lake as the “property of the nation”.

Issyk Kul, KyrgyzstanDue to its size it sometimes appears like an inland sea, and it has a fair number of beaches. Most of these are on the Northern shore and have long acted as a magnet for tourists. There is a large number of hotels, sanatoria, guesthouses and homestays at various points around the lake, many of which can make arrangements for services to the neighbouring mountains. Some of the sanatoria have hydrothermal springs and offer mud baths.

The tourist season usually runs from June until September – but the peak season is from about 25 th July until 25 th August – and it may be difficult to find places and prices are at a premium. A number of the sanatoria, hotels, guesthouses and homestays around the lake operate all year round – although some are open only during the summer season.

Those who have health problems are offered a wide range of effective health treatment and spa. There is a beautiful resort area with mud and thermal mineral spa. There is a dead lake, an analog of the Israeli Dead Sea 200 m from Issyk-Kul Lake and 8 km from the southern highway.

Issyk-Kul region is also home to many nesting and resting migratory and wintering birds, including swans, geese, ducks, cranes and many other representatives of the fauna.

The area relishes in some 2900 hours of sunshine a year. Because of the effect of the mountain ranges North and South, it does not suffer from extreme Continental climatic conditions. Summer temperatures are usually around 25-28 °C, but as the lake lies at an altitude of some 1606m, it can get quite chilly, especially at night. Winter temperatures can be around –5 °C.
10 things to do in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, the 90% territory of which is located on the height of 1500 meters and above, first of all it is famous for its beautiful mountain peaks and high-mountain pearl of the country – Lake Issyk-Kul. Vacation in Kyrgyzstan is not only golden sand beaches of Issyk-Kul and mountain resorts, we will tell you about 10 things to do in the country glorified by “Manas” epos; without them your trip won’t be complete.

Issyk-Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan1. See Lake Issyk-Kul - the pearl of Tyan-Shan. Crystal clear mountain lake Issyk-Kul does not freeze even during the coldest time. Its inspiring beauty reminds a fairy-tale. People say that a journey here presents more impressions than a month long travelling. Protected with the mountain chains, the valley of Issyk-Kul has several climate types: sea, steppe, mountain and the zone of glaciers. Issyk-Kul attracts with its golden sand beaches, alpine meadows and coniferous forests. The Lake is well-known for its resorts, sanatoriums and spa treatment. The resort area is rich for its thermo-mineral radon springs and offers wide range of mud and thermo-mineral treatment. It’s hard to imagine vacation in Kyrgyzstan without diving into the turquoise waters of beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake.

Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan2. Climb the Burana Tower. No other architectural monument on the Kyrgyz land is as famous as the minaret of the Karakhanids Khanate – the Burana Tower. The tower was erected in the 11th century from bricks. Brick tower differs much from other towers built earlier in Central Asia, thus founding a new direction. According to various evaluations, the initial height of the tower was from 40 to 45 meters. Today the tower is no more than 20 meters. Make sure you take a trip there, where once there was Balasagun – the capital of the Karakhanids Khanate owning at those times a huge territory. Burana Tower was erected in the period of Khanate’s heyday and you will definitely hear many beautiful and sad legends related to the tower from your tour guides.

Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan3. Hear the roaring sounds of the waterfall in Arslanbob. Did you know that the origin of the walnuts (known in Russian as “Gretskiy orekh”), beloved in different parts of the world, is in the valley of the Arslanbob river with the biggest nut woods. So is the opinion not only of those who live in this resort area located 1700meters above the sea level, but many other scientists as well. The story goes back to the Alexander the Great and his legions. The square of the reserve of the Arslanbob valley makes 16,300 hectares, out of which 7,255 hectares are planted with nut woods. At present around 1500 tons of walnuts are harvested annually. The mountain resort with its waterfalls, cliff gorges, nut valleys and fruit forests (pistachios, apples and cherry plums) and healing air has been the most beloved vacation resort for the dwellers of the Ferghana Valley. If you are on your vacation in Kyrgyzstan, make sure you visit Arslanbob and climb there where there are icy mountain river streams falling down the cliffs into a waterfall. There are well-known Big and Small Arslanbob waterfalls. According to one of the versions, it is the Big Arslanbob waterfall falling down from the 80 meters resembling the sound of a roaring lion had given the name to this paradise valley – Arslonbob – “Lion gates”.

4. Touch the holy rocks of Tamga-Tash. Tamga-Tash is a chain of three rocks engraved with the Tibetan inscriptions. On the first rock, a huge boulder, there is inscribed in Tibetan: “Om mani badme hum”. It is a mantra of bodhisattva Avalokiteshravra – the oldest and one of the most famous mystic formulas of Buddha tantrism. Its meaning is much wider from its literal translation: “O, pearl, shining in the flower of lotus”. Inscriptions are made on two more boulders, each of which is one km away from another. The approximate creation time of the inscriptions differs: not earlier than 8th century and not later than 17th century. And during all these centuries, Buddhist pilgrims walked to the Tamga gorge on the south shore of Issyk-Kul, to see with their own eyes and feel with their palms the roughness of the rocky sanctuary. Experience the mystery of the holy place.

Sary-Chelek Lake, Kyrgyzstan5. Draw some water from the “Yellow cup” of the Sary-Chelek Lake. If Issyk-Kul is the most famous lake in Kyrgyzstan, then the Sary-Chelek is doubtlessly the most picturesque, mysterious and fantastic. The lake, located in the height of 1873 meters above the sea level, stretches for 7,5 km long. The width of the lake ranges between 350 and 1500m. It is not that easy to get here as the lake is situated on the territory of the Sary-Chelek State Biosphere Reserve, in the western part of Tyan-Shan, on the southern ridge of the Chatkal mountain range. The reserve stretches for 23,868 hectares and is situated on the height of 1200 till 4247 meters above the sea level. There are flora and fauna being preserved there, most of which have entered the Red Book. There you can see bears, wolves, lynx, foxes, deer, boar, porcupine and rulers of the snowy cliffs – snow leopards. Fishing in rivers flowing into the lake is prohibited, but in the lake itself you can try your luck on fishing. The lake is called “The Yellow Cup” due to its amazing feature of reflecting the autumn forest on its deep waters that gets till 234 meters.

Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan6. See the “stone garden” of Cholpon-Ata. If you are on a vacation in Kyrgyzstan – you should definitely visit the museum of rock paintings under the sky stretching on the territory of 42 hectares on the shores of the Issyk-Kul Lake. Here, on the square of 4 thousand km and the width that ranges between 600m and 2000m lie thousands of boulders in the size of 0,5 and 3 meters that have petroglyphs inscribed on them. Many of the pictures of ancient artists have been done in Saka-Scythian “animal” style: pictures of hunters, scenes from hunting with tamed snow leopards. Easy to recognize are the exquisitely done pictures of argali and deer, bulls and horses. The main part of petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata date back to the period of the 2 B.C. – 4 A.D., though there are also later pictures too. Most of the stones face south-east and south-west thus they relate their origin to religious rituals and ceremonies. It could be that these cromlechs served as astronomical tools. The best time to visit the museum is early morning or late in the evening when outlines of the pictures are seen clearly.

Tash-Rabat, Kyrgyzstan7. Visit the rocky caravan-saray under the sky. Ancient caravan-saray Tash-Rabat is located on the height of 3500m above the sea level. The stone building has been restored where once there was an inn on the Great Silk Road, and had preserved the medieval atmosphere. The first building in this picturesque gorge Kara-Koyun turned out here already in the 10th century, and in the 15th century a fundamental building was erected on its place. Tash-Rabat was used for protection from bad weather and robbers of caravan going from the Chu and Ferghana Valleys to Kashgar and back. Also it was a resting and worship place. Gorge slopes are filled with meadows where herds of horses and yaks, flocks of sheep and goats are grazing. There are no similar caravan-sarays in the entire Central Asia.

8. Buy Uzgen rice in the markets of Osh. If you are on your vacation in Kyrgyzstan, then take a trip to Osh. And when you are finally in Osh, make sure you go to one of the oldest markets of the world – bazaar “Jayma” stretching along the west shores of the river Ak-Bura for a kilometer. This bazaar is famous for its location on the crossroad of trading routes from India to Europe for already more than 2000 years. There is everything there - literally everything. Food and household appliances, crafts rows and textiles, perfumery and souvenirs, fresh fruits and pistachios, hot bread and plov. There are even some stockyard rows too. Guests from all corners of Ferghana Valley and adjoining countries flow to this biggest bazaar in Kyrgyzstan. Make sure you leave bazaar with Uzgen rice in your shopping basket. How many people, so many opinions, but the best plov is made of Uzgen rice bought in the Osh bazaar.

Suleiman-Too, Kyrgyzstan9. Climb the Mount Suleiman. Four-headed mountain range of Suleiman-Too (Suleiman Mountain) is situated in the centre of the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan, the city of Osh. For centuries pilgrims have been going to this holy mount where, according to the legend, the biblical King Solomon had prayed. It is considered that forehead and knees of the prophet have been imprinted on the rocks of that period. Unique historical and architectural monument that the founder of the Great Mogol Dynasty Bobur had cared for, lived through different moments. The place especially suffered during the rule of the Communists. In 2009, the Mount Suleiman-Too had been included to the UNESCO World Heritage List. These days the biggest part of the mountain is included in the list of the National Museum-Reserve “Great Silk Road” and comprises of the Mausoleum of Asaf ibn-Burkhiya, mosque “Takhti-Suleiman” (The Throne of Solomon) and mosque Jami Ravat Abdullakhan; both mosques are of 9-11th centuries.

World Nomads Games, Kyrgyzstan10. Visit the World Nomads Games. Plan your vacation in Kyrgyzstan to the ethnographic tourist festival “World Nomads Games” that is held in the city of Cholpon-Ata on the shores of the Issyk-Kul Lake. The event is the unique opportunity to take a trip through the time. You will see contests on ten kinds of sports: alish (belt wrestling), alaman bayge (hurdle-race on a long distance), jorgo salysh (races on amble horses), kazak kurosh, kok boru (goat bashing), kunan chabysh (races of 3-year old horses), Kyrgyz kurosh, ordo (Kyrgyz national game on bones), toguz korgool (Kyrgyz intellectual board game), er enish (wrestling on horses). World Nomads Games is not only a sport championship; it is also a rich cultural program. It also includes cooking numerous rare dishes; even the royal dish like lamb cooked in sour cream. You will also hear old songs, explore ritual dances and even the ceremony for expulsion of evil spirits.

Culture of Kyrgyzstan - The blend of various great cultures of the world

The nomadic heritage of Kygyzstan and its historical association with several cultures of the world has beautifully driven a new distinct culture of the Kyrgyz which is similar, yet beautifully apart from other cultures.


Kyrgyz villager clothes are typically nomad-like which can be explained from the past mode of life as well as the temperature of the mountainous regions where they dwell. Therefore their clothes are usually thick and made of material like woolen robes or sheep-skin coats. Clothes made from fells of wild and domestic animals and woolen-burlaps are also widely used. 

Male’s apparel consists of coarse top and wide trousers paired with a sleeveless jacket, boots and a special hat made of white wool, known as Ak-Kalpak – the Kyrgyz National hat. Whereas, the women dressing consists of a long and wide A-line dress, long and wide trousers paired with a camisole and a special head-dresses (worn according to age groups and relationship status) called 'Elchek' 'Tebetei' and 'Shokulo' . Married women also wear skirts with broad belts and vibrant embellishment.

Cities of Kyrgyzstan like Bishkek have adopted more of the modern methods and traditions do not exist here as strongly as in the villages. People wear any clothes they want like jeans, shirts, shorts etc. Russian women wear exposive clothes whereas the Muslims are rather modest. However, a funny thing to notice in Kyrgyzstan is the overly formal dressing of people for football matches, work and other event but a very casual look for special occasions. You may be shock-stricken by the sight of men in 3-piece suits attending a football match and in jogging-gear for a concert in Music Hall. Another interesting fact is wearing the same clothes every day is part of the tradition and people do not prefer changes in get-up at all.


Yurta for the people of Kyrgystan is more than just a comfy housing. They are sort of spherical camps with several felt layers fastened by ropes, designed thousands of years ago by Kyrgyz who had a nomadic way of living and Yurt Inns are since then a part of culture. You can still find them all around the country. They have ample supply of carpets, juk blankets, and pillows heaped-up on special places of rest.

Yurta is divided into 2 parts. The right side, is the “women’s side' (the eptchi zhak). This is the place for kitchen utensils and dish-washing. Threads needles, needle-work, knitting and all sorts of females articles are kept in bags over here. The left side part is for male (er zhak). Here one can find fasten saddlery, kumchas (whips), knives for hunting and all the essential tools that one requires for cattle-breeding, handicraft and hunting. In the families of Kyrgyzstan kids are taught to aid their parents in chores of the household- a practice that has been carried on from generations. Yurta Inns are the sign of the preserved heritage of the Kyrgyz.

Modern living is the cities are more of an urbanized settlement. People usually live in concrete housings and apartments with proper sanitation and facilities. International standards-based hotels can also be found in the region for taking abode.


Kyrgyz music is rich and royal, which serves as a symbol of the country's heritage. Their music is both vocal and instrumental. The genres of the tunes include traditional folk as well as professionally made classical music for concerts and occasions.

All of the Kyrgyzstan's musical-instruments are categorized into 4 major groups:

Stringed instruments:
- with the origin of sound from the tensions of the strings:

Conventional stringed instruments of Kyrgyzstan are and Kyl-Kyyak and Komoz. The variation amongst these two is in the way of playing the tune. Komoz is a pinch device, while Kyl-Kyyak is the device.

Wind instruments: 
- with the origin of source being the tube of air in the device

Traditional wind instruments of Kyrgyzstan are countless but the most famous are Sybyzgy with diametrical aero phone and Choor with Kyrgyz conventional longitudinal aero phone.

Percussive instruments:
- with the origin of sound being the tension of the membrane in the device.

The most popular of these are Dool- metal or wooden membrane-phone and Karsyldak – wooden spoon that give clicking tunes of various pitch.

Self-Sounding instruments:
- with the origin of the sound being the device body (idiophones).

Most widely known of these are Djylaajyn - idiophone involving small double or single tambourine-shaking for tune-play and as a-Musa - braced idiophone with hanging pendants that make their own sounds.

National Games:

Kygyz games are very appealing and attractive to the locals as well as the tourists. These games are distinct from the world and fun.

The game of wrestling while horseriding. The game consists of two people on horseback who struggle to push the opponent off the horse. The total time given is about 10 minutes. The person who succeeds to push the competitor off the animal, falling with or without the animal wins the contest.

This is a very interesting traditional game of Kyrgyzstan. In this game the guy is required to chase the girl and kiss her while riding on the horse. This sport is usually associated with the wedding traditions of the country.

This game involves the art of picking up coins from the road horse riding.
Every player is permitted 3 consecutive tries and whoever manages to pick the coins is declared the winner of the competition.

Famous game of horse-racing.

Horse-Racing of two-three years old foals.


Each craft of Kyrgyzstan is associated with their ancient nomadic style of living. Their nomad lifestyle left its impression on the lodgings, wear and crockery of these people. Even though the nomadic life is no more, the arts and crafts of the historical significance are still the part of the beautiful heritage of the country.

The main craft includes the Carpet-weaving, woodwork, crockery-making, teasel-weaving, embroidery and making of reed-screens, leather items, jewelry, Kuraks – patchworks, and horse-saddles.

Kyrgyzstan - The marvels of nature and traditions to explore and to pump up the sport

When you are in Kyrgyzstan, the possibilities of enjoyment are endless. The region is to some extent safe and studded with the most exquisite sights one would ever get to see in his life. This is one of the very few places of the world where nature is conserved in the most original form.

Kyrgyzstan is the dreamworld of the people who have desires of adventurous journeys with a touch of traditional and natural ways. There is a a lot to explore in this country ranging from historical sites to modern constructions, from rural settlements to urban cities, from Persians to Russians, from level roads to rugged mountains and lakes, from folk music to modern songs. Every step ahead is sure to take you on a new journey of amazement and fun! It is no doubt in saying that Kyrgyzstan is where beauty and diversity lies combined.

The exquisite landscapes

In the places mentioned below, you will experience not only the very rich culture and traditions of the place, but also its modernized side. There is a lot to explore in the wonderful land of Kyrgyz.

There is also wide range of sporting activities you can engulf in when you visit these places in Kyrgyzstan. The chances of the availability of these activities depend on the region, however you can contact tourist agencies for special arrangements and guide. The list includes:

Horseback riding
Issyk-Kul lake

This lake is what one would call the height of natural beauty. It is probably the most attractive feature of the country.  Often called “The Pearl of Central Asia", it has the ability to change color, from green to blue-ish turquoise, according to the time of the day and the positioning of the sun. The water body is enclosed by celestial Tien-Shan snowcapped ranges – the most popular mountains of Central Asia. It is the 2nd largest alpine lake of the word after Titica (USA). 

The region close to the lake is renowned for its beauteous sandy-blonde shores amongst natives, Kazakhs and Russians. A lot of hotels and holiday resorts are located on the north. The region between the lake and Almaty (Kazakhstan) is fantabulous for trekking. There are also several extraordinary valleys with several climbing and trekking or even camping outlooks at south-east area of Issyk-Kul. 

Ala Archa National Park

Located just an hour's drive from the Capital, this area is a marvelous place of exquisite scenery.  It opens horizons to trekking, mountaineering and hiking possibilities because of the beautiful ranges and the glaciers/waterfalls; it is Kyrgystan's hiking and climbing club. Ala Archa is basically a Kyrgyz word which means 'varicolored juniper' and this juniper grows copiously over the slopes of the ranges.

Upon entree at the gate, you have to pay a small fee and then you are led to the inside of the park to discover endless range of fun-filled activities. The place is crowded on weekends but empty on working days. This place is not to miss when you go to Kyrgyzstan. You can get involved in vigorous sports or just relax by the waterfall; it’s up to you as everything has its own charm here.

Note: It is best to visit this area with a guide as visiting some parts is to be avoided.


It is one of the greatest glaciers of the world enclosed by the great Tien-Shan ranges. Located in the east-Kyrgyzstan on the Kyrgyzstan-China boundary, this 58 km extended glacier is an eye-catching wonder.

Non-climbers can use the helicopter facility to get over this glacier and adjacent Merzbachar lake which is surely giving you the experience of a lifetime.

Sarry Chelek

It is a renowned natural reserve with six Alpine lakes and rich fruit and walnut woodlands. It is located at the distance of one-day drive from Jalal-Abad.


This is a wonderful place of beauty with alpine lake paired with the surrounding alpine pastureland. It's got the largest lake in Naryn region and is a habitat for pretty ducks, geese and other waterbirds .  It is one-day drive from the Capital and has ravishing sights waiting for you.

Places to stay here are distinct and interesting 'Yurt Inns' where you can enjoy a shared accommodation and serving of traditional meals.

Djety Oguz

The importance of this place can be deduced from the fact that its picture is printed on the Kirghistan’s currency note. Djety Oquz is a beauteous gorge/valley which is known as “Seven Oxen” because of the seven beautiful crimson sandstones located. The area also has meadows of variety of pretty flowers which will give you a sensational time. The region is also famed for multiple trekking and climbing possibilities. 

Ala Kol lake

This alpine lake is great for climbers as it has popular gorges and trek routes. It is about 3532 meters above the sea-level. The waterfall that traces its route from the lake is safe and cool making it a lovely spot for taking a dip and enjoying the swim. The region is also inhabited by many furry animals including Snow leopards that are rarely spotted.

Altyn Arashan

Altyn is an extremely marvelous valley in terms of beauty with a plethora of naturally occurring hot springs. There are also man-made water pools that claim to make people healthy and wise.  The fine gorges and ranges make this place great for trekkers and climbers too. You can get to this valley on a four-wheeled bus spotting very lovely sights along the way, including a  spectacular waterfall.


It is an urban settlement in Jalal Abad region of Kyrgyzstan. It is adjacent to the beautiful Toktogul reservoir which gave the place its name. The area offers wide possibilities of horseriding.
Many tourist offices can be contacted if you want to explore Kyrgyzstan on a horse like the famous horseback riders of Changez Khan's era.  

Torugart Pass

Broad mount pass on the Kyrgyzstan-China boundary. The pathway leads through pasturelands with shepherd-dwellings all along the route. It is situated at 2-3 hour drive from the Naryn region. Owing to its beauty and attractive sights, this pass is to check out when one visits Kyrgyzstan!

Shopping is a lovely activity in Kyrgyzstan. It is distinct from the shopping ways of the highly modernized countries of the world. There are no malls in the country. Yet, traditional Bazaars exist which are full of life during the day time with tradesmen and merchants selling off their items in negotiation prices. Bargaining  with Kyrgyz is a fun-filled activity. Some of the most popular shopping centers include:

Osh and Alemadin Bazzaars

These are traditional Eastern-type shopping centers where one can find everything from clothes to cutlery. The rates are cheap and negotiable. The tradesmen here are the locals who do not speak English and may charge more from foreigners.


It is the largest super-market in the Capital city and offers almost everything from toilet articles to new electronics. It also offers traditional handicrafts and souvenirs which can be found on the fourth floor. This is a modernized shop and you may expect sellers here who are versed in English. Bargaining can also be done.

Asahi market

Located in Chui Prospect, this market offers a huge range of  handmade wool and silk carpets. Metallic/wooden and felt articles, pots, 'chiy',  and unique antiques pieces are also to be found over here. The timings of the market are 9 am in the morning till 8 pm in the evening.

Art Gallery

Located at 57, Manas Prospect, this Art Gallery is not just a gallery but a shop too. You can buy traditional paintings, rugs, carpets, souvenirs, crafts, etc from here.

Musical/ Drama Theatres

There are numerous Musical and Drama Theaters in Kyrgyzstan, offering many different shows. Some of the most popular ones are mentioned below:

Abdylas Maldybaev - The Opera and Ballet Theatre

Located in 167, Abayrabnanova St, the theater provides resident opera and ballet institutions with guest organizations. Mainly, the shows are usually held during autumn – spring season, however performances are held at different times of the year too. The tickets cost 50 to 300 soms.

Kyrgyz Phillharmonic

Located in Chui Prospect, this place is a gigantic theater; it has set-ups for modern and classical symphonies and local traditional and orchestral musical shows. The tickets cost range from 70 to 3000 soms as per the grandness of the show.

Kyrgyz Drama Theatre

Located just behind the government house, this theater features dramas and plays which are local as well as international. The plays are usually conducted in the Kyrgyz or Russian language. The tickets cost 20 to 200 soms, according to the length and richness of the play.

Russian Drama Theatre

Located in 122, Tynistanova St.Oak Park, this theater features a variety of international and local dramas in the Russian language. The tickets cost 30 to 300 soms.  

The Conservatory

It is a concert hall for students and teachers of musical institutions in the country. It is a hub for promotion of new music. Ticket pricing is usually promotional and cheap.

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More than anywhere else, the Greco-Roman world comes alive at Ephesus. After almost 150 years of excavat
ion, the city's recovered and renovated structures have made Ephesus Europe's most complete classical metropolis – and that's with 82% of the city still to be unearthed.

As capital of Roman Asia Minor, Ephesus was a vibrant city of over 250,000 inhabitants. Counting traders, sailors and pilgrims to the Temple of Artemis, these numbers were even higher, meaning that in Ephesus one could encounter the full diversity of the Mediterranean world and its peoples. So important and wealthy was Ephesus that its Temple of Artemis (en route to present-day Selçuk) was the biggest on earth, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Excavations are ongoing, with new surprises popping up as archaeologists continue to dig. In 2007 a gladiator’s cemetery was discovered near the Stadium, and Roman-era synagogue remains reportedly lie behind the library; these are among several areas where new discoveries may be made.
In the future, Turkish authorities are planning to wage war against the silt accumulation that defeated all previous Ephesian civilisations. If accomplished, their marvellous idea of dredging a canal to the Aegean would allow visitors to come to Ephesus by boat, or to gaze out from it onto the sea, thus restoring the city's original identity as a romantic port.

The ancient Greek city of Ephesus was famous for its Temple of Artemis (near present-day Selçuk), which was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After a messy period of conquest and reconquest and after the population was moved from Selçuk to the the present site, Ephesus became a Roman city in 133 BC.

When Augustus made Ephesus capital of Asia Minor in 27 BC, it proved to be a windfall for the seaport city. Its population grew to around 250,000, attracting immigrants, merchants and imperial patronage. The annual festival of Artemis (Diana to the Romans) became a month-long spring fest, drawing thousands from across the empire.

Ephesus also attracted Christian settlers (Greeks and Jews), including St. Paul who lived in Ephesus for three years (in the AD 50s) There is a tradition that St. John settled here with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also wrote his gospel here.

Ephesus was at its peak during the 1st and 2nd century AD. It was a major Roman city second in importance and size only to Rome. Ephesus has been estimated to be about 400,000 inhabitants in the year 100 AD, making it the largest city in Roman Asia. In 123 AD, the Library of Celsus (third largest library in the ancient world, after Alexandria and Pergamon) was constructed at Ephesus.

Despite several dredging and rebuilding efforts, Ephesus' harbour continued to silt up. Malarial swamps developed, the seaport was lost, and the lucrative Artemis/Diana cult diminished. In 263 AD, Germanic Goths sacked Ephesus, marking the decline of ancient Ephesus as well as the Roman empire.

Archaeology and Tourism
History forgot Ephesus until the 1860s, when a series of British, German, and Austrian archaeologists rediscovered and excavated the site (see e.g., Vienna's Ephesus Museum). Although only about 15% of the site has been unearthed, it is still the largest excavated area in the world.

The Ephesus archaeological site has developed into one of the most highly frequented archaeological sites, due not only to the excellent state of preservation but also to the visitor-friendly presentation of the monuments. Mass tourism is a great challenge for archaeology: in the 2010s, an average of 1.5 million tourists visit the ruins every year; 90,000 of them find their way to Terrace Houses, which some consider as the gold standard for accessible archaeology. Thus, in recent years, the highlight of a visit to celebrated Ephesus has shifted from the theatre and the Library of Celsus to the Terrace Houses. Visitors make Ephesus well-known and leads to a great acceptance of archaeology. Visitors, however, place a great strain on the ruins as well, and it is a balancing act to unite goal-oriented research, public relations, and tourist marketing without neglecting any one of the sometimes competing components.

Visiting the ruins of ancient Ephesus might seem disorienting because of the lack of superstructures, but meandering through and reflecting upon the city that was once second only to Rome is a highlight of any trip to Turkey.

Get in

You can walk from Selçuk. Most of the hotels have bikes that you can borrow for a while. It is a 4km walk in a good walking way.

It's also possible to take a taxi, which is relatively expensive, compared to other Turkish transportation.

Most pensions and hotels in Selçuk offer rides to Ephesus. The cheaper way is to go by minibuses (or shared taxi called a Dolmus in Turkish) which are available every 10-15 minutes from Selcuk central bus station or from Kusadasi Dolmus stop for TRY5 (Sep 2013). The Kusadasi Dolmus stop is located at the intersection of Adnan Menderes Blv and Candan Tarhan Blv. The minibus will leave you at around 1km from the lower gate situated downhill near the Great Theatre. If you start at this end (which is perfectly fine) you'll be walking in the opposite direction of the tour groups.

At the upper Magnesia gate, immediately to one side is the East Gymnasium at the foot of Panayir Mountain. The first monumental work one comes to is the semi-circular Odeion (c. 150 AD), which seats about 1500, with the Varius Baths beside it. Ephesus had a bicameral legislation, the first being the Congress of Councillors, which met here, hence the name "Bouleterion". In front of the Odeion was business council called the Basilica. Beside this was the Municipal Building, the Prytaneion marked with only two of its massive columns. The Prytan's most important function, as the mayor of the city, was to keep alive the flame that had been burning in the building for centuries in the name of the local deity Hestia. The Artemis statues on display in the Ephesus Museum were found in the vault of the Prytaneion.

Temple of Hadrian.
The area in front of the Odeon was the State Agora (Upper Agora). In the middle was a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis. In 80 AD Laecanus Bassus erected a fountain in the southwest corner of the Agora. From the agora one proceeds to the Square to Domitian where things like the Pollio and Domitian fountains, the Memmius Monument and the Hercules Gate are clustered together.

The famous Avenue of the Curates leads west from the State Agora to the Trajan Fountain, the façade of the Temple of Hadrian and the Scolasticia Baths. On the front arch of the Temple of Hadrian, the keystone is a bust of the mother goddess Cybele and on a semicircle on top of the center doorway is a relief of the snake-headed Medusa. Immediately beside the Temple are the Bordello and the Latrines.

Terrace Houses, how the wealthy lived during the Roman period.
On the left side of the Curates avenue, protected by a modern roof, are the most significant dwellings thus far excavated (c. 1960), the so called Terrace Houses[1]. These residences (c. 1C AD) of the wealthy are the most beautiful examples of peristyle houses and, each with its own heating system and bath, were as comfortable as houses are today. They all had exquisite frescoed walls and mosaic floors, being painstakingly preserved by an Austrian-Turkish archaeological team. These houses are eminent in archaeological literature and very well-worth seeing. In recent years, the highlight of a visit to celebrated Ephesus has shifted from the Great Theater and the Library of Celsus to these exquisite Terrace Houses.

At the end of the avenue of Curates is that beautiful structure of Roman times, the Celsus Library with its two-story facade. When Ephesus governor Celsus died in 106 AD, his son had the library built as his monument and grave. The sarcophagus is under the west wall of the library. Four female statues represent the qualities of human character: Sophia (wisdom), Arete (goodness), Ennoia (judgement), and Episteme (knowledge). The originals are in Vienna's Ephesus Museum.

One of the most interesting structures in Ephesus is the Temple to Serapis, immediately behind the Library. Beside the Library is the Mazeus Mithridates Gate that leads to the Market Agora (Lower Agora).

Great Theatre, seating capacity 24,000.
Market Agora is the starting point for the Marble Avenue. At the end of the avenue is the largest and best preserved theatre in the Greco-Roman world, the Great Theatre, with a seating capacity of 24,000. This was the site of a mass riot in which St. Paul's life was threatened by the silversmiths of Ephesus for his preaching against the cult of Artemis (see Acts 19: 21-41). Near the entry to the theatre is a lovely Hellenistic Fountain, one of the oldest structure in Ephesus. The Theatre Gymnasium and Baths across from it were built in the 2nd century AD.

The longest street in Ephesus is the Harbour Avenue (Arcadian Avenue) once lined with statues, and stretching from the Theatre to the presently silted-in harbour. The Four Apostles' Monument was in the middle of the avenue. At the end of the avenue was the Harbour Gymnasium and Baths next to the ancient harbour. In the complex there stands the Church of Mary, site of the General Church Council of 431 AD. To the right of Harbour Avenue is the lower gate, through which you may exit.

A Turkey vacation maybe the perfect choice for you because it is a travel heaven and a tourist hotspot. Turkey is one of the top ten destinations in the world, according to number of visitors and revenues. Are you still wondering “why go to Turkey?” Here are some Turkey information and the top 10 reasons why a Turkey vacation is the ideal getaway.

1. Sun and Sea Lovers’ Paradise: The unique Mediterranean climate and beautiful nature of Turkey allows almost 6 months of summertime in southern parts, especially in Antalya and Bodrum which are the most popular “sun and sea” tourist destinations. The sandy beaches are splendid and the sea, especially the Aegean coastline, is the most amazing. It is a mildly cold sea that allows for a refreshing experience.Blue Voyage or Blue Crusing is the most favorite way to visit all the beaches with a yacht while enjoying the “turquoise” sea. This may surely be the highlight of your Turkey vacation.

2. History: Turkey is extraordinary rich in history. Did you know that Turkey hosts the most arhaeological sites in the world? Anatolia is the birthplace of many civilizations, empires, historic figures and legends. One of the oldest known human inhabited areas is in Çatalhöyük, Konya dating back to 6500 BC. Ephesus (Temple of Artemis), City of Troy,Cappadocia and the cave church of St.Peter are among some of the countless important sites to visit in your Turkey vacation.

3. Accommodation: Turkey has the most amazing luxury and boutique hotels in the world, especially in Antalya region. The lavishness and the extravaganza in these hotels are probably unmatched since most of them cater to Russian oligarchs and tourists as well. On the other side, you may find the most beautiful hotels at very affordable rates due to intense competition among travel agencies.

4. Shopping: Authentic gifts, carpets, rugs, kilims are among the tourist favorites and shopping is breeze if you know where to go. There are more artistic features and special creativity in Turkish carpets than any other carpet in the world.

5. Culture: Turkey’s population is a diverse mixture of many different ethnic origins and that shows when you visit different regions of the country. Each region has different traditions, their own arts, music and foklore, and even their eating habits are totaly unique to the region. Even though they all pride themselves in being Turks, this multicultural environment adds great richness to the country.

6. Eating: Turkish cuisine is among the best in the world. It is a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. There are so many culinary delights like the Turkish tea, Turkish coffee and the famous Turkish delight. You can find these almost anywhere in Turkey, while the most delicious kebabs are in souteastern part. The foods that are brought in small portions before the main course are called “Meze” in Turkish and they are fabulous. They are usually consumed with the most famous Turkish alcoholic drink called “Raki” (anise flavoured national drink). It is also referred to as the “lion’s milk”. Fish also holds a very important place in Turkish cuisine and Fish restaurants and taverns can be found near the bay areas.

7. Turkish Bath – Hamam – Spa Experience: This is definitely a must if you are intending to visit Turkey. Turkish Bath or hamam as it is called here, will help you relax and unwind and get rid of all your nervous energies. A Turkish Spa is also a favorite among tourists nowadays since it combines traditional hamam experience with more Far Eastern touches like using aromatic smells and certain massages.

8. Nature Sports: If you are into nature sports you are in the right place. Hiking, trekking, mountain biking, river rafting, scuba diving, windsurfing, wave surfing, kite surfing, paragliding, parasailing, skiing, jet-skiing are among the many nature sports that you can truly enjoy in Turkey. One more Turkey information: The golfing industry has grown very fast over the last few years and Turkey established itself as one of the leading golf destinations in Europe. The golf courses especially in Belek, Antalya are spectacular.

9. Business Opportunities: Turkey is one of the largest economies in the world yet it is still considered a developing nation. This provides enormous business and investing opportunities, especially in the real estate sector. Your Turkey vacation may turn into a great investing decision as well.

Hos geldiniz! Welcome …to Cappadocia, the amazing wonderland right in the middle of Turkey. 

In an extraordinary meeting of nature's artistic splendor and humankind's resourcefulness, Cappadocia is one of those rare places that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime. With soaring rock formations, uniquely-rippled landscapes, splendid walking trails, mysterious underground cities and rock-cut churches, Cappadocia is the must-see destination in Turkey. 

Located just one hour away from Istanbul or Izmir by plane, adding this wonder of nature & man to your Turkey Itinerary couldn't be easier. Turkish Heritage Travel is your local expert in all things Cappadocia – allow us to tailor-make your entire Turkey experience and be your regional specialists in Cappadocia.

Cappadocia Map
Rich in history going back to Hittite times (+4000 years) and once a province of the Roman Empire, Cappadocia is now the sprawling area of central Turkey which lies between Aksaray in the west, Kayseri in the east and Nigde in the south. Modern Cappadocia is an incredible place, criss-crossed with valleys and dotted with dramatic rock formations. Whatever your expectations or travel style, it's impossible to go home disappointed. 

Turkish Heritage Travel, located in Goreme – a village in the heart of Cappadocia (and where most travelers prefer to stay) – is your local authority on the Cappadocia region. We offer a variety of tailor-made tours and organize travel itineraries for all of Turkey. 

Goreme and the Cappadocia region is easily accessible from all parts of Turkey. Once here you can easily comfortably explore all the highlights and the hidden gems that this area is known for. By far the best introduction to Cappadocia is gently floating above the rippled landscape in a hot air balloon. Known world-wide as one of the best places to fly hot air balloons, you will glide just above orchards, between the famous fairy chimney rock formations and up and over the rippled ravines. Alternatively, saddle up and travel like the first European explorers and the Scythian nomads on horseback through the many trails and valleys. The valleys and villages of Cappadocia are also easy to explore on foot. We offer several guided hiking tours as well as daily tours (private and group) to see the highlights of the region.

Mt. ErciyesThousands of years ago a group of ancient volcanoes, Mount Erciyes, Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz, spewed out layer upon layer of thick tuff which blanketed the countryside for miles around. Over the centuries the wind and rain worked their magic on the soft rock, carving out spectacular gorges and leaving behind the dramatic pinnacles of rock - the 'fairy chimneys' - that have created the Cappadocian moonscape. 

But Cappadocia has always been much more than its dramatic scenery. Humans, too, have left their unique mark on the region, carving cave storerooms, cave stables, cave houses and even entire underground cities out of the rock. To this day many of the soaring pinnacles are still inhabited and many of the rock-cut storerooms are still stuffed with grapes, lemons, potatoes and flat bread waiting for the winter. 

Long, long ago Cappadocia was inhabited by Christians who also carved thousands of cave churches, chapels and monasteries out of the rock. Many of these churches were decorated with frescoes of medieval saints whose ghostly images still gaze down from the walls. In the 21st century these ancient churches make some of the most remarkable sights for visitors.

Fairy Chimneys in CappadociaIn the days before tourism local people called the strange rock cones that surrounded them kales, or 'castles'. Nowadays these amazing structures are usually called peribacalari, or 'fairy chimneys'. They come in an extraordinary range of shapes and sizes but most are tall and phallic-shaped with a cap of harder stone that protects the softer rock underneath from erosion. Eventually these caps fall off, whereupon the wind and rain start to whittle away the cone until eventually it, too, collapses.

There are so many fascinating things to see in Cappadocia that you could spend a lifetime here and still discover new places. The main 'must-see' attractions are the two large open-air museums and the best of the underground cities. However, there are also many small, all-but-forgotten rock-cut churches and monasteries, splendid hiking trails, several spectacular caravanserais and many dramatic rock formations well worth going out of your way to visit.
Goreme Open Air Museum: cave churches with frescoes
Zelve Open Air Museum: an empty cave town with churches
Kaymakli Underground City: the largest underground city
Derinkuyu Underground City: the deepest underground city
Ihlara Valley: the deepest gorge of Anatolia
Uchisar: Roman rock-cut castle
Ortahisar: Roman rock-cut castle
Avanos: center of pottery since the Hittites
Pasabag: mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys, monks valley
Devrent: animal-shaped fairy chimneys, imagination valley
Hacibektas: center of Bektasi sect of Islam
Gulsehir: first settlements in Cappadocia
Forgotten Cave Churches: churches located in the valleys
Caravanserais: 13th century hotels on the silk road

Pamukkale has been made eternally famous by the gleaming white calcite shelves overrunning with warm, mineral-rich waters on the mountain above the village – the so-called ‘Cotton Castle' (pamuk means 'cotton' in Turkish).
While it is tempting to wallow in the travertines, just above them lies Hierapolis, once a Roman and Byzantine spa city which has considerable ruins and a museum. Unesco World Heritage status has brought more extensive measures to protect the glistening bluffs, and put paid to the days of freely traipsing around everywhere, but the travertines remain one of Turkey’s singular experiences, even with restricted bathing.
While the photogenic travertines get busloads of day-trippers passing through for a quick soak and photo op, staying overnight allows you to visit the site at sunset and dodge some of the crowds. This also gives time for a day trip to the beautiful and little-visited ancient ruins of Afrodisias and Laodicea, and to appreciate the village of Pamukkale itself. It is a dedicated tourist town around Cumhuriyet Meydani, but in quieter parts of the village life is still soundtracked by bleating goats and birdsong.

Pamukkale, which has been used as a spa since the second century BC, literally means "cotton castle" in Turkish.

The travertine features have their origins in the shifting of a fault in the valley of the Menderes river (between here and Denizli). As the fault shifted, very hot springs with a very high mineral content (notably chalk) arose at this location. Apart from the slightly radioactive minerals, the calcium and hydrogen carbonate react to create calcium carbonate (also known as travertine) and limestone. This is what gives Pamukkale its whiteness and created the pools.

It can get quite hot in summer, a hat and especially sunglasses will certainly be very helpful against the sun and the reflecting sun rays from the chalky cascades. On the other hand, the cold winter climate could make the experience slightly uncomfortable. Climbing up the cascades barefoot, with cold water running downstream will be a tough task

By plane
Closest airport is Denizli - Cardak Airport is 65 km or 1 hour away and there are 3 flights daily to Istanbul. From the airport you can take a shuttle to Denizli or Pamukkale. Turkish Airlines offers the service to their customers for 10TL, and the company Baytur offers the service for 20TL.
Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport is another alternative to the area. Pamukkale is 252 km from the airport, a drive of about 4 hours (4-1/2 to 5 hours by bus)or 6-7 hours by train. (Check TCDD [1] for train schedule.)

By train
The nearest train station is in Denizli, which currently has services from Izmir only. The Istanbul service (Pamukkale Express) was suspended in 2008, presumably because of track renovations, and it is not certain when/if the services will re-start.

By bus
Bus to Pamukkale/Denizli can be found from almost all the cities of Turkey. Bus services include water, hot drinks and a snack. There are virtually no bus companies that take you directly to Pamukkale despite what the ticket sellers tell you. The bus will drop you in Denizli and then you have to get on the minibus to Pamukkale (about 20 km away). The minibus is not free despite what the bus company will tell you, but is about 10 TL.

By dolmus
From Denizli bus station, take a dolmus, a type of cheap communal taxi that usually seats about 10 (but it's possible they'll squeeze in more), from nearby Denizli. Frequent mini-buses serve the village of Pamukkale in a 20 minute ride. It cost 3 TL per trip. It is also possible to make reservation the bus ticket from Pamukkale Village. And the bus company can arrange shuttle bus to bus station if there is enough number of people.

Get around
Even when you're way on the edge of the village, you can reach everything (i.e. the village center and the travertine pools) on foot in about ten to fifteen minutes.

The Travertines of Pamukkale

These are a set of bizarre calcium cliff bathing pools overlooking the town of Pamukkale. You can access them via a toll-booth, however tough pollution control regulations require removing your shoes in order to walk on them (so bring something to put your shoes in!), so the travertines stay white as ever. This job is made tougher in winters when the water flowing down the chalky cascades will be freezing cold. You can avoid the climb and take a taxi to the top of the hill and enter from the side of Hierapolis. But the real charm of the place lies in experiencing these travertines

These petrified waterfalls/travertine are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The admission cost is 25 TL (as of June 2014). This price includes addmission to nearby Roman city of Hierapolis as well. Lower parts of the travertine cascades are reported to have better views than the top.

Day tours are offered for around 45 Lira (as of January 2010) including English-speaking guide, entrance fee to Hierapolis and the travertines (this alone costs 20 Lira) and buffet lunch. Different companies seem to offer similar tours, ask around. Such tours leave from the Pamukkale bus company office on the main street opposite the travertines, and the Koray Hotel. There may be tours starting from other places around the town as well. For those who rather not visit the travertines under the scorching sun, there are also night tours as well, which start from small guesthouses.

Roman theater
Other than the travertines, places worth a look around Pamukkale are:

The great (12,000-seat) Roman amphitheater of Hierapolis should not be missed, and lies just above the travertines.
Swim with roman ruins in a large natural swimming pool located just past the topmost travertines.
Another lesser known site, but one that holds a considerable significance Biblically is Laodikya, just 10 km (10 minutes on a local dolmus) from Pamukkale on the Denizli road. It's mentioned in the Bible as one of the 7 Churches of the Revelations and even though it hasn't been reconstructed as much as the more famous sites like Ephesus, is a great place to experience the Roman history without the crowds. A peaceful way to spend a day looking at ruins but also the beautiful scenery there as well.
Karahayit, the red spring is also 5 minutes from Pamukkale, not even nearly as big as the calcium outcrop, but worth a look or if you want to try their mud baths. Springs and mud bath located at the northern edge of the town.
Kaklik caves are like a small version of Pamukkale, but in a cave, underground and are about 30 minutes from Pamukkale.
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You can walk down barefooted in the waterfalls from the village. The place is crowded when the tour-buses arrive. No shoes are allowed on the travertines. If you don't want to walk back to top, you can use the buses dropping off people back to top, which depart from near lower end of the travertines. You should wear swimming suit. A lot of people bath in the baths here.
It is also worth making the effort to get to the remains of the ancient city of Aphrodisias—one of the best preserved Roman sites in southeastern Aegean. You can rent a van from Denizli to get there. Local bus companies will arrange bussing for 30-40 TL.
Bathe in the mineral hot springs. This is an enclosed pool, with additional entrance fee of 30 TL as of October 2012, above waterfalls.
Of moderate interest might be visiting Denizli. It's a bit dull but there's a lively market.

Antalya, city on the MediterraneanAntalya, Turkey coast of south-western Turkey, is the Turkish capital of international tourism.

Situated by the Gulf of Antalya, the city of Antalya can be traced back in history as early as the 1st century BC when, as the legend has it, upon discovering this land, king Attalos II told his men that “this must be Heaven”. Today, tourists who come here from all the corners of the world say that only after seeing a sunset at Antalya can one say they have seen everything a man is allowed to see in a lifetime.

Antalya is a tourism destination characterized by a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and fairly warm and rainy winters, one of the reasons why increasing numbers of tourists are turning to Antalya not only as a summer destination but also as a winter vacation resort.

Once you have tasted the Antalya cuisine, the flavour of the spicy Piyaz or of the many cold Mediterranean dishes with olive oil will get stuck on you forever, and no matter how hard you try to cook it at home there will always be a secret ingredient that you miss... the flavour of the places or the flavour of the local colour that people have learned to use in their dishes. 
Apart from its cuisine, Antalya also boasts about golden beaches (Konyaalti and Lara) and foaming milky waterfalls (Düden, Manavgat) which are chief tourist attractions added to the list of reasons why people choose this vacation destination for the first time or come back here ever more.

The city of Antalya seems to have taken in all of Turkey’s cultural and historic past so well preserved and sealed by the traditional archaeology of the mosques, churches, madrasahs and hamams which stood the ruthless test of time.

The historical part of the city, Kaleiçi, is also the tourist centre of Antalya: hotels and clubs, restaurants and bars are the edifices that the modern tourist world has raised next to the Yivli Minare, a symbol of the restored historical city centre and to the Kesik Minare, a former Byzantine Pangalia church, later converted into a mosque.

Despite Antalya’s growing popularity among tourists, the main transportation here is by air, although sea and land routes have only recently been taken into consideration. However, of late, the International Antalya Airport has opened a new terminal to face the hustle and bustle of the ever increasing numbers of international tourists.

The whole urbanized Antalya transportation system makes it easy for its tourists to move from one place to another and visit all the sights they want, while still preserving their energy for the grand tour of restaurants and bars.

Thus, they can choose from tour minibuses that follow a set route, taxis, or trams so that a tour day at the Antalya Museum can be ended by a walk in the Antalya Beach Park or on the shore of the Konyaalti Beach. Likewise, they can get out of their hotel (either luxurious like Sheraton Voyager, Falez Hotel or inexpensive but comfortable) along the coast, just above the Konyaalti and Lara beaches, get on a tram, and get off at the city centre, with its streets crammed with old Turkish and Greek houses.

The legendary Turkish baths, the spicy foods, the colourful gift shops, the noisy streets and bars packed with other euphoric tourists, just like you, the historical traces preserved into Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine or Ottoman edifices, the Antalya festivals all are reasons why you should at least once in a life time indulge yourself with this Heaven.

Ankara is the capital city of Turkey and the second largest city in the country after Istanbul. It is located at the heart of both Turkey and Central Anatolia. The population is around 4.5 million.

Ankara is the administrative center of Turkey and a huge university town, so it has a large population of government workers and university students. As the national capital, Ankara is home to a large population of foreign diplomats and embassy staff, so it offers goods and services that might be more difficult to find in other Turkish cities.

Ankara is a sprawling, modern city which can appear as little more than a dull, concrete jungle at first glance. As a result, many tourists tend to use it merely as a transit point for getting to places like Konya or Cappodocia. However Ankara does have a lot to offer for those prepared to look a bit deeper.

Ankara has a symbolic significance for the secular Turks. It is the place where a new era for the Turkish people started. It is a symbol for independence, development and Western values.

Ankara was a small town of few thousand people, mostly living around Ankara Castle, in the beginning of the 20th century. The fate of the city has changed, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his friends made Ankara the center of their resistance movement against the Allies in 1920, and established a parliament representing the people of Turkey, against the Allies’ controlled Ottoman Government in the occupied Istanbul of post World War I. Upon the success of the Turkish War of Independence, the government in Istanbul and the empire is abolished by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara in 1923, and the Republic of Turkey is established. When you look at the modern Ankara of 5 million people today, almost all you see is built afterwards.

This doesn't mean that Ankara does not have history. Located in the center of Anatolia, Ankara’s history goes back to second millennium BC. Footsteps of Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Galatians, Romans, Byzantines and the Turks are still present.

The name Ankara is originated from the Celtic word of Ancyra, meaning Anchor. The original reason of the use of the name anchor in an inland city is not certainly known, but there are several different myths. King Midas, whose touch has turned everything into gold in the mythology, is buried in the ancient site of Gordion, in suburban Ankara.

If you are traveling through Ankara’s Esenboga Airport, look to the wide fields around. This is where Timur the Lane defeated Ottoman sultan Bayezid I in 1402, on the great Battle of Ankara. The district of Esenboga keeps its name since then, as one of Timur’s famous generals and the commander of his famous elephant fleet “Isin Boga” has set his base here.

Ankara is recaptured by the Ottomans in 1403, and remained under Turkish control since then.

Apart from the old town in and around the citadel near Ulus and unplanned shantytown neighbourhoods inhabited by people from rural areas in the last five decades, most of Ankara, which was a provincial town of 20,000 people in the early days of the Republic, is a purpose-built capital due to its strategic location at the heart of the country. The history of settlement in the area is millenia old.

The biggest claim to fame of the town used to be the long-haired local breed of goats named after former name of the city (Angora), out of which high quality mohair textiles were produced, today the only place where you can spot them in city is the lawns on the side of a clover-leaf interchange on the highway west—in the form of cute sculptures.

Ankara being a young and modern city makes her face an identity problem. The increase of population from couple thousand to several million in less than a century means that almost everyone came here from somewhere else. Finding a native "Ankarali" is challenging, as a result. The population and culture of Ankara, therefore, is a mixture of everything Turkey offers, with people of origins from all cities of Turkey.

Ankara is quite a large city, with different towns and neighborhoods of their own characters. In a very simplified manner, most attractions of the city run through the long Ataturk Boulevard, running and diving the city north to south. Starting from Ulus Square, going towards south in Ataturk Boulevard, you will reach Kizilay, Kavaklidere and then Çankaya. As you pass through these districts one by one, the standards visibly increase.

Ulus is the historic center of Ankara, with most museums, early republican buildings, and the ancient Ankara Castle. Being the most elegant center of the republic in the beginning of the 20th century, now the area has left its charm, and is a messy, crowded neighborhood. Unless you are looking for the real cheap, (rather than some specific selections) not recommended for dining, accommodations or nightlife. In case you are interested to get a feeling of how life was once in Ankara, find Hamamonu District, the newly restored neighborhood with old Ankara houses. A famous spot for the conservative Ankarans, walk through the narrow traditional streets, and sip your Turkish coffee in an historic wooden house, especially at the night. Do not expect to find alcohol at Hamamonu.

Next, Kizilay is the working class center of Ankara. The famous Kizilay Square, named after the now-demolished "Red Crescent" headquarters building, is Ankara's political center. Throughout the decades, lot's of protests and rallies has taken place in the square, and even today, this is the center of the political protests. Many roads and streets around Kizilay are better discovered on foot, and there are lot's of budget restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs of different taste. Sakarya Caddesi (Sakarya Road) is a messy pedestrian area with fisheries, street sellers and restaurants. Pass over the southern side of Ziya Gokalp Caddesi, the parallel vehicle road, and you will reach the district around Yuksel Caddesi (Yuksel Road). This pedestrian neighborhood is a left oriented area, with several culture centers, cafes, pubs, restaurants and bookstores. Many locals looking for quality avoids Ulus and Kizilay.

Continuing southern, the area after Kizilay and up to Kugulu Part (Swan Park) is Kavaklidere, also simply known Tunali district (Tunali Hilmi Caddesi/Road runs parallel to Ataturk Blvd, and locals simply name it and around as Tunali.) The area is more cosmopolitan, open minded, and popular among the young. The back streets are full of cafes, restaurants, pubs to rock venues.

Walking up from Kugulu Park (Swan Park), pass to Arjantin Street and in the end, turn left to Filistin Street. These two are where the top end cafes and restaurants are found, full of Ankara's chick and elegant going there to see and be seen. Further south, you reach Atakule Tower at Çankaya, the diplomatic center of Ankara, with the Presidential Palace and most embassies. From Kugulu Park to up, Ankara's nicest parks are aligned, namely Segmenler Park and Botanical Garden, in addition to small but cure Kugulu Park.

Rather than this alignment on Ataturk Blvd., check Bahçelievler District, west of Kizilay. 7th Road (7.Cadde) and around is a student oriented and family friendly region with shops, cafes and restaurants.

Further west, through Eskisehir Road, you will pass through the once suburban neighborhoods of Bilkent, Umitkoy and Cayyolu, which are new modern towns, less of an interest to tourists, but offers good dining and nightlife. Visit Park Caddesi, the areas newly created nightlife center.

Getting Around
Ankara is well connected by a good public transport network system. Private and public bus operators compete for your patronage and there are the 'dolmus' minibus transport providers that offer rapid tranfers and get you to your connection points. The underground subway 'Metro' is highly efficient which runs between outer suburbs and the interstate bus terminal 'ASTI'. Taxis are readily available and are probably the best way to get to your destination, relatively inexpensive for the time poor traveller.

As any other part of the Anatolian highland, Ankara has continental climate. The winters are cold and usually snowy. Temperature is commonly below the freezing point during this season, but it rarely drops below -15 at nights° C. Thanks to the low levels of relative humidity, the hot and dry summers are more comfortable than coastal regions of Turkey. Summer nights are cool, though, so be sure to bring at least a cardigan with you to wear outdoors. Summer days can reach over 35 C. Spring and autumn are the wettest seasons, but with an annual rainfall amount of 415 mm (i.e., a semi-arid climate), you are unlikely to get much wet during your trip to Ankara, anyway.

Get in

Modern cityscape of Ankara, as viewed from the path leading to Anitkabir

By plane
Ankara Esenboga International Airport (ESB) is located some 28 km northeast of the city. International flights are rather low in frequency and scope - apart from Turkish Airlines (THY), Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and British Airways offer direct flights to their respective European hubs. Iran Air also has two weekly flights to Tehran. For other carriers flying into Turkey, a flight into Istanbul is necessary, followed by an air transfer to Ankara by Turkish Airlines or Anadolu Jet (a low cost brand of Turkish Airlines).

The brand-new airport terminal was opened in 2007. It features many more gates, a more orderly parking system, and in general, better traffic flow. The road connecting Ankara's airport to the ring road has also been fully renovated.

Airport buses are operated by Belko Air, who operate a fleet of modern coaches. The bus number is 442 and it stops at multiple locations including Asti (where intercity buses depart), Kizilay (the city centre) and Ulus (the historical center of the city, close to the museums and baths). The price is 8 TL. Bus 442 runs in a loop and buses depart frequently (roughly every 20 minutes). It is possible to take this bus from any of its stops back to the airport. Tickets can be bought on the bus after boarding. Note that announcements are made only in Turkish and you may not find any English-speaking staff. This is the most economic way of reaching the city center, after which you can take a taxi. A taxi drive from the airport to the city center should cost around 60 to 80 TL, depending on your destination.

By train
Being in a central location in Turkey, Ankara is also the centre of the Turkish rail network and can be reached from many cities. There are now high speed services to Istanbul and Konya. The new high speed train from Istanbul to Ankara takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes. Services are currently leaving from Pendik station, which is a suburb on the Asian side of Istanbul reachable by bus from Kadikoy (1 hour) or taxi from Kartal metro station (10m). The price is 70 TL.

High speed trains also run frequently during the day to Eskisehir and Konya, and both destinations take less than 1 and a half hours, allowing day trips from Ankara.

All trains are operated by Turkish State Railways.

The train station is located north of Kizilay Square, which it is connected to by a wide number of public buses which stop at right in front of the station. About 10 minutes walk, on the other side of Gençlik Park, is Ulus metro station which has services to a number of central locations in the city in addition to Kizilay.

Turkey's 'other' city may not have any showy Ottoman palaces or regal facades, but Ankara thrums to a vivacious, youthful beat unmarred by the tug of history. Drawing comparisons with Istanbul is pointless – the flat, modest surroundings are hardly the stuff of national poetry – but the civic success of this dynamic and intellectual city is assured thanks to student panache and foreign-embassy intrigue.
The country's capital has made remarkable progress from a dusty Anatolian backwater to today's sophisticated arena for international affairs. Turkey's economic success is reflected in the booming restaurant scene around Kavaklidere and the ripped-jean politik of Kizilay's sidewalk cafes, frequented by hip students, old-timers and businessmen alike. And while the dynamic street-life is enough of a reason to visit, Ankara also boasts two extraordinary monuments central to the Turkish story – the beautifully conceived Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and the Anit Kabir, a colossal tribute to Atatürk, modern Turkey's founder.

Bodrum is the site of the ancient city of Halikarnassus, the location of the famous Mausoleum of Halikarnassus (built after 353 BCE) - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, the ancient monument was destroyed by earthquakes in the Middle Ages - some of the remnants can be seen in London's British Museum.

View of the castle and the marina
Bodrum is a fascinating place as it has a pleasing contrast between the Ancient city - where there are discernable fragments everywhere in the town -and a playground for rich Turks and an array of foreign visitors. It is one of the centres of the Turkish Tourist industry and is the market town for the Bodrum Peninsula which consists of a number of towns and villages nestling on the edge of the Coast. Until the 1960's the town was a fishing village which changed when a number of Turkish intellectuals gathered and wrote about Bodrum. Most notable of the these was Cevat Sekir 'The Fisherman of Hallikarnassus', an Oxford Educated Turk who devoted his time to writing and planting numerous plants and trees which continue to dot the landscape of the Town. His book the 'Blue Voyage' describing gullet trips around the Turkish coast, and his descriptions of the astoundingly clear Blue Seas of the Aegean and the delights of a trip around the coasts adjacent to Bodrum inspired a whole generation who have come to emulate his trips. Bodrum has therefore grown as a sailing destination and thanks to its warm but not humid climate has become a top destination for visitors who enjoy the combination of the ancient past together with all the usual tourist paraphernalia. There are large numbers of shops and restaurants - from humble cafes to exquisite Turkish cuisine served by an array of waiting staff.

Modern Bodrum strangely seems to have two contrasting sides to it.

The east half of the town has a long thin but reasonable beach, which has been added in the last few years, with the authorities trying and largely succeeding in creating a good beach. Behind the beach lay all the bars, restaurants, and night clubs that are typical of Mediterranean resort towns. This means open fronted bars that do not come alive until 10PM when everybody goes out. As well as some nice beach fronted bars (e.g. cafe del mar being a reasonably chilled out and attractive bar, with attractive staff so that helps) it also has some terrible ones, if you do not like the hard drinking culture of some tourists. It does have some reasonable clubs. Halikarnas being the obvious one as it is huge (4000 people). It also is mostly outdoors and hosts foam parties on regular occasions.

The other half of the town is the west side. This mainly revolves around the Marina and Yacht Club. Here life is a little more sedate with shops catering mainly to those who have stepped off their boats. Expensive supermarkets with proper wine and olive oil as well as the obligatory Helley Hanson to be able to purchase your new jacket. There are a number of nice restaurants if you look hard enough and some good clothes shops. Like all resorts being directly on the sea front increases the prices. During the evenings there is a wonderful atmosphere as the locals and tourists all seem to promenade along the sea front.

There are many cultural events - notably the Ballet Festival in August, a wide range of pop concerts at the Castle or in the Amphitheatre which has been restored in the last few years, having been built some 2,000 years ago.

According to Herodotus, born B.C. 484 in Halikarnassus (ancient name for Bodrum), the city was founded by the Dorians. Megarans enlarged the city B.C. 650 and changed its name to Halikarnassus, and then Persians started to rule the city from B.C. 386

A drawing of the mauseloum from the British Museum
Halikarnassus had its glorious days, when it was the capital of the Karia B.C. 353. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum, was built there by Artemisia for the memory of King Mausolos.

After the Roman and Byzantium rule for ages, Ottomans have conqured the city in 1522, during the time of Suleyman, The Magnificent. The city was named "Bodrum" after the Turkish Republic was declared.

Known as one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World, The Mauseloum was built by Artemisia, the sister and the wife of King Mausolos, B.C. 355.

This work of art, stood on a 21 stepped pyramid which was 46 metres high and carried a horse car symbolising victory on it, had 36 marble columns in Ionian style.

The mauseloum was destroyed in an earthquake; and the ruins were used in building of the Halikarnassus Castle. Many statues and reliefs from the mauseloum were carried to The British Museum by archeologist C. Newton, in 1856 and now lies there for public viewing.

During winters and springs, November through April, the weather in Bodrum is generally very good with a few heavy shower periods, usually taking place in November, and then some time after new year and the last one in March/April. February is especially pleasant with not too cold nights and the almond blossoming and the abundance of wild ruccola all over the place.

Summers, arriving after April, are as hot as it can get (expect temperatures higher than 40 C) and sunny with no rain.

Although more than a million tourists flock to its beaches, boutique hotels and clubs each summer, Bodrum (Halicarnassus in ancient times) never loses its cool. More than any other Turkish seaside getaway, it has an enigmatic elegance that pervades it, from the town's grand crowning castle and glittering marina to its flower-filled cafes and white-plastered backstreets. Even in the most hectic days of high summer, you can still find little corners of serenity, in the town and especially in its outlying coastal villages.
Only in the past few decades has Bodrum come to be associated with pleasure, paradisical beaches and glittering summertime opulence. Previously, it was a simple fishing village, and old-timers can still remember when everything was in a different place or didn't exist at all. Long before the palmed promenades and epicurean seafood restaurants, Bodrum wasn't even desirable: it was the place where dissidents against the new Turkish republic were sent into exile.
All that started to change after one of the inmates took over the prison. Writer Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçli (aka the 'Fisherman of Halicarnassus') was exiled to sleepy Bodrum in 1925, and quickly fell in love with the place. After serving his time, he proceeded to turn on a whole generation of Turkish intellectuals, writers and artists to Bodrum's charms in the mid-1940s.
From then on, there was no going back: by the 1980s, well-heeled foreigners were starting to come, and today Bodrum is a favourite getaway for everyone from European package tourists to Turkey's prime movers and shakers. But it was Kabaagaçli's early influence, giving the town its arty identity, which saved it from the ignominious fate of other Turkish fishing-villages-turned-resorts.
Urban planners have also sought to preserve Bodrum's essential Aegean character, which was influenced by the Cretans who moved here during the population exchange of the 1920s. Today, laws restrict buildings' heights, and the whitewashed houses with bright-blue trim evoke a lost era. The evocative castle and the ancient ruins and Ottoman mosques around town also help keep Bodrum a discerning step above the rest.

Must Do’s in Kusadasi
Kusadasi is a lively resort that has something to offer everyone. Whether you like exploring, relaxing on one of the many beautiful beaches or snapping up a bargain, Kusadasi has it all. Here are 41 must-do’s when on holiday in Kusadasi…

1 – Visit the ancient city of Ephesus and the Virgin Mary’s House
Visit Ephesus
A holiday to Kusadasi is not complete without going on a tour to the ruins of the spectacular ancient city of Ephesus and the peaceful Virgin Mary house.

2 – Sit at the Port and watch the Cruise ships come and go
Kusadasi Cruise ships
Sip a frappuccino in Starbucks located in the shopping center of Scala Nuova and watch the cruiseships come and go.

3 – Eat in a Turkish restaurant to get a true idea of the delicious Turkish cuisine
Turkish food
Visit Bul Bul, Avlu, Alo24 or one of the many other Turkish restaurants and eat like a local, great food & great prices.

4 – Spend the day at one of Kusadasi’s many beaches
Kusadasi beach
Ladies Beach, Long Beach, Silver Sands Beach or Love Beach, each one offers different activities for a perfect day of relaxation.

5 – Have a drink in the rooftop bar at Dejazar Wine Bar
Dejazar rooftop view
Chill out with an ice cold Efes or a glass of wine on Dejazar’s fabulous roof terrace and watch a beautiful sunset over Kusadasi Marina.

6 – Explore Pigeon Island and visit the museum
Pigeon Island
Pigeon Island, also known as Bird Island, is the symbol of Kusadasi and where the name Kusadasi (meaning Bird Island) originated from. Visit the Museum inside the old Byzantine Castle or simply sit down and enjoy the panoramic view of Kusadasi.

7 – Go on a Jeep safari and explore the surrounding areas of Kusadasi
Jeep Safari
Spend the day exploring the mountains of the National Park or the hills behind Sirince in an off road jeep. It’s a fun, dirty day out with constant water fights between the jeeps going on, lunch is included.

8 – Spend the day whizzing down the slides at Adaland or Aqua Fantasy
Kusadasi waterpark
Adaland and Aqua Fantasy are the two main waterparks in Kusadasi. Spend the racing down slides with names such as Black Thunder and Kamikaze, join in with the rain dance or simply take the relaxing option and float around the Lazy River on a rubber ring.

9 – Visit the town of Selcuk
Selcuk castle
Selcuk, a small town 20 minutes away from Kusadasi, is is one of the most visited touristic destinations within Turkey because of it’s closeness to Ephesus. There are also other places of interest in Selcuk including The Castle, The Basilica of St John and the Isa Bey mosque. You should also try the famous (and very delicious) ‘çöp ?i?’ (small chunks of grilled lamb and fat) in one of the many restaurants.

10 – Spend Saturday morning at Selcuk Market
Selcuk market
Selcuk Market is held every Saturday from early in the morning until late at night. Browse around the many stalls where you can pick up bargains. The Dolmus (minibus) departs from Kusadasi to Selcuk regularly and costs 4 lira per person each way.

11 – Pay a visit to the old Greek Village of Sirince
Located 30kms from Kusadasi, this picturesque village with small cafes and wine houses with a magnificent view over fields, orchards, vineyards and olive groves is worth a visit. Eat traditional Turkish pancakes known as ‘gozleme’ in one of the many cafes and try the fruit wines which Sirince has become famous for producing. Take the dolmus to Selcuk and then another to Sirince from the Selcuk bus station.

12 – Go on a horse safari and swim with the horses
Horse Safari
If you’re into horses this is an excursion for you. Trek through forests and over mountains until you reach the rural beach of Pamucak where you have the chance to swim with the horses and gallop along the sandy beach.

13 – Take a day trip to Izmir
Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city and 85km’s away from Kusadasi. With palm-lined promenades full of bars, restaurants, cafes and shops. Old fashioned ferries, the best way to travel around the city, take you over the beautiful bay and are a great way to experience one of Turkey’s most cosmopolitan and lively cities. In June/July Izmir is host to an International Arts Festival and in August/September the International Fair is held in the Alsancak district.

14 – Visit The National Park for clean crystal clear beaches
National Park
Located 30 km (19 miles) south of Kusadasi towards Guzelcamli, you’ll find the beautifully preserved National Park, known in Turkish as the Millipark. Whether you like hiking in the mountain trails or lying on a beach relaxing, the national park is a little piece of paradise. It’s a great place to snorkel or enjoy a picnic on one of the four main beaches.

15 – Take a dip in the Cave of Zeus
Cave of Zeus
Hidden away by trees and flowers before the entrance to the National Park you’ll find the secret and mystical Cave of Zeus. It’s often one of the last stops on a jeep safari as the sparkling clear and deep mineral water inside the cave makes it a perfect place to swim. It’s very very cold during the summer and is a real welcome relief from the searing heat.

16 – Enjoy a delicious meal on Ladies Beach whilst watching the beautiful sunset
Ladies beach sunset
The Ladies Beach promenade full of shops, bars and restaurants is a perfect place to end the day. One of the most popular restaurants ‘Somewhere Else’ offers great meals and a lovely seating area outside where you can eat a delicious meal and watch the Sunset over Samos.

17 – Take a boat trip around the bays near Kusadasi
Boat Trip
A trip to Kusadasi isn’t complete without going on a boat trip. Discovering the nearby areas only accessible by boat makes for a wonderful day out. Stop off to swim in the crystal clear water followed by a lunch at sea which usually consists of fish, hamburgers, rice, pasta, salad and bread.

18 – Visit a Hamam and have a Turkish bath
Turkish bath
A Turkish Bath, known as a Hamam, is an experience that should not be missed when visiting Turkey. Relax in the steam room on a heated stone table called a goebektasas while the tellak (member of staff) massages and exfoliates your skin with a coarse mitt. You should visit the hamam during the first few days of your holiday, as it prepares your skin for the sun and makes your tan last longer.

19 – Go on a day trip to Pamukkale
Pamukkale is one of the most extraordinary natural wonders in Turkey. The big attraction is a vast white cliff side with scallop-shaped basins of water and frozen waterfalls. It looks as if it’s made out of snow or cloud or balls of cotton, it really is an amazing sight. It’s a weird and wonderful experience to walk along the top of the cliff, where centuries of mineral-filled water spilling over the edge has left snowy white cascades. Take a dip in the enchanting thermal spring known as Cleopatra’s pool. With collapsed Roman columns at the bottom and surrounded by beautiful blossoming flowers, it’s a very relaxing experience.

20 – Discover the ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias
The ancient city of Aphrodisias was once a small city in Caria, Asia Minor. It is located near the modern village of Geyre which is roughly 170 km from Izmir. Wander around the archaeological zone, and have a look at the theatre and the ruins of the Baths of Hadrian. A visit to the Museum which has a collection of sculptural treasures, Graeco-Roman statues and ceramics dating from Bronze Age is a must.

21 – Climb to the top of Ataturk Hill for a truly spectacular view over Kusadasi
Ataturk Hill Kusadasi
High on the hill overlooking Pigeon Island you will notice a statue of the famous Ataturk, who was the founder of the Republic of Turkey. The views from the top are arguably the best in Kusadasi with a panoramic view over the entire bay. The road leading to the top is fairly steep, so getting a taxi is the best way to travel there.

22 Spend the day and/or night at one of Kusadasi’s Beach Clubs
Beach Club Kusadasi
Kusadasi has four main beach clubs – Eleven’s, Jade, Miracle and Elias. By day you can lounge around on the big cushions and hammocks soaking up the sun and by night as the music gets louder and the drinks start to flow you can dance until the early hours of the morning. A small entrance fee is charged, the price is usually higher at the weekends.

23 – Go on a quad safari – a guaranteed fun, dirty day out
Quad safari Kusadasi
Much like the jeep safari, the quad safari is for those that like an action packed day out. Take the quads along the dirt tracks before quadding to the beach for more exciting driving over the sand dunes and a dip in the sea.

24 – Goto the Degirmen Restaurant
Degirmen Restaurant Kusadasi
Located on the road between Kusadasi and Davutlar you’ll find the Degirmen Restaurant. Set in luscious green grounds with a large pond with lots of ducks and an Indiana Jones rope bridge, a petting zoo, a cafe, a bakery and lots of animals including horses, peacocks, donkeys, chickens, goats and even camels The Degirmen Restaurant is a favourite for families with children. Open all year round the restaurant, with it’s old Turkish decor and log fire offers, a fine menu. There is also a small cafe which serves gozleme and other Turkish snacks.

25 – Step back in time in Kirazli Village
Kirazli Village Kusadasi
Kirazli Village, known in English as Cherry Village, is worth a visit if only to see the real, peaceful Turkey that still exists. This picturesque village which can be reached by dolmus or car, makes you feel like you’re in a different world after the hustle and bustle of Kusadasi. Kirazli is a nice place to wander around, there are some lovely restaurants serving meals from organic local produce – Kirazli is big on organic farming – where you can enjoy a slow meal and the peace. There is a weekend cherry festival in June and it’s then that the village is at it’s busiest. There are displays of traditional dancing and handicrafts and stalls everywhere selling fruit.

26 – Visit a mosque
Kusadasi Mosque
Visiting a mosque is a profound experience and one that will leave you feeling very calm and serene. Be sure to follow the rules such as do not aim your camera at anyone who may be praying, dress appropriately as to not disrespect worshipers and take off your shoes before entering the mosque.

27 – Mingle with the Turkish people as much as you can
Turkish people
Turkish people welcome you to their country with open arms and warm smiles. Learn a few simple phrases in Turkish, they will not go unappreciated. The Turkish people truly go out of their way to make your holiday the best that it can be and the Turkish hospitality is often something that brings tourists back year after year.

28 – Visit one of the Kusadasi Markets
Kusadasi Turkish market
There are 3 markets held in Kusadasi;
*The Tuesday market is the fruit and veg market.
*The Wednesday Market is the clothes and textiles market. It’s very busy with lots of hustling and bustling going on. Bargains aplenty with all the latest genuine fake designer goods.
*The Friday Market is held in the same place as the Wednesday market and sells fruit and vegetables.
The Wednesday Market is the most popular, with stalls full of spices, souvenirs, bags, jeans and other clothes. Haggling there is a must and if you feel like you are getting ripped off, walk away.

29 – The old Village of Doganbey
Village of Doganbey
On the edge of the National Park, you’ll find the Old Village of Doganbey, which dates back from ancient times. The village is like an open air museum, demonstrating the most beautiful examples of Turkish and Greek architecture carrying the traces of pass civilizations. The visitor and information centre is housed in a historical building, along side a chapel and a church. The village, previously know as Domatia was populated by Greeks until the population exchange in 1923 when it became a Turkish village. Some of the buildings where restored in 2001.
The site is open 8.30 – 18.00, 7 days a week and is close to Priene.

30 – Shop ’til you drop
Shopping in Kusadasi
Kusadasi is a shoppers paradise. There are lots of tourist shops that sell souvenirs, jewelery, carpets and leather as well as markets, and shopping centers. You can find many fake brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein to name but a few. Jeans, handbags, sunglasses, belts and watches seem to be the most popular purchases and you have to haggle over the price. A tip would be to start with a ridiculously high number and gradually work your way down until you feel like you’re getting a good deal. Some shops have price tags on their goods, you don’t need to haggle in them.

31 – Indulge in a traditional Turkish breakfast
Turkish breakfast
A typical Turkish breakfast consists of slices of beyaz peynir (white cheese), honey or jam, black olives, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, clotted water buffalo cream (kaymak), boiled eggs and piles of delicious fresh Turkish bread all accompanied by hot black tea in small tulip-shaped glasses. It’s a great way to set you up for the day. The most popular places to eat a Turkish breakfast is in the village of Sirince or the Hanimaga restaurant on the way to Kirazli Village.

32 – Try the Orient bar in the old town always a top night out
Orient bar
Tucked away in the heart of Kaleici, the old part of Kusadasi, you’ll find The Orient Bar. With live music, grape vines hanging from the ceilings and old Turkish instruments and pictures on the walls you get a true feel of a Turkish tavern.

33 – Go white water rafting at Adaland
Rafting at Adaland
Adaland is one of the most popular waterparks in Kusadasi, and was voted by the New York Post as one of the best waterparks in the world.
White water rafting is a must-do if you visit Adaland. It can be done daily at 14.45 until 15.45 and costs an extra 10 lira per person.

34 – Visit a Turkish hairdressers
Turkish hairdresser
With generations of harem ladies preceding them, Turkish women know all about looking after themselves. If they can afford to they will visit their local hairdresser on a weekly basis. If you forgot to wax before coming away, try the heated sugar and white linen strip method perfected in this part of the world and for the perfect eyebrow shape, all it needs is a twisted piece of cotton, a good eye and a steady hand.

For the men a trip to the barber’s will be an unforgettable one. After an old fashioned shave with a sterile disposable blade attached to the razor. The face is then rinsed, patted dry, cologne is slapped on and cream massaged in before a dusting of powder completes the process. For those with a hairy nostril or ear lobes there is a treat in store! Brandishing a small, lit, poker type instrument they deftly burn the offending hairs away and then for the stubborn stray hairs remaining on the upper cheeks a tweezer is produced. An unforgettable experience and probably the best shave you will ever have.

35 – Enjoy an evening out at the Turkish Night
Turkish hairdresser
The Turkish Night, held in the beautiful old Caravanserai every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, is a night out you won’t forget. With traditional Turkish music, folk dancing and belly dancing it makes for a great evening of traditional Turkish entertainment. Beers and wine are included in the ticket price and you can watch the show whilst dining from a delicious buffet.

36 – Do a tandem sky dive at Selçuk and see the wonders of Ephesus from the air
sky dive
The Ephesus airport in Selcuk gives holiday makers the chance to Sky Dive, parachute, go on airplane tours or take to the air with a microlight flying session. If you’re an adrenaline junkie then this is for you, with wonderful birds eye views over Ephesus, the port, the beaches and the rest of Kusadasi this will make an unforgettable holiday memory. Customized routes are available.

37 – Visit Adaland’s new Seapark
Adaland Seapark
The latest addition to the Adaland Empire is the new Seapark which makes a great day out for all the family. Start off in the Aquarium room with the big ship wreck and glass windows that allow you to discover the underwater worlds of dolphins, sharks and the tropical reef. There’s a Dolphin pool, Shark Tank, Tropical Reef, Stingray Pool and a man made beach. It’s very nicely laid out with gardens and a lazy river where you can relax. For those of you that would like to get more hands on, there are opportunities to cage dive with the sharks, swim with the dolphins and feed the stingrays.

38 – Deleted
39 – Davutlar Thermal Baths
Thermal Bath
Enjoy a relaxing day at one of Davutlars thermal resorts – the Natur Med Hotel and Radon Thermal. The Natur Med has a mineral content of 5 grams per litre and a temperature of 41ºC and Radon Thermal has a mineral content of over 6 grams per litre and a temperature of 42ºC. Because they contain so many natural minerals – Turkey’s thermal baths are known to have healing properties and therapeutic effects.

40 – Scuba Diving
Scuba Diving
Discover the underwater world of Kusadasi on a scuba diving adventure. There are three main locations for diving in Kusadasi bay – the shore dive, Barabaros Reef and Adabanko Reef. There are many Diving centers in Kusadasi, the most popular being Aqua Venture, where various scuba diving programmes and certificates are available. Uncertified divers will always be with a qualified and experienced diver so if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, now’s your chance.

41 – Soke Shopping Outlets
Soke Shopping Outlets
Soke factory outlet shops are located approximately 40 minutes from Kusadasi, along the main road on the way to Bodrum. There are 4 outlets next to each other where you will find a range of stores including Quiksilver, Adidas, Nike, Benetton, Billabong, Levis and Toys R Us. The outlets can be reached by dolmus from Kusadasi to Soke.

Istanbul has two major tourist attractions that will take almost a full day out of your holiday: a visit to one or more of the Princes’ Islands and a boat tour on the Bosphorus. People rightfully ask me if it’s worth sacrificing one or two days of their often already short stay in Istanbul?

That is a tough question to answer, and completely based on personal preferences. So let me explain what you can expect from a daytrip to the Princes’ Island, and how to best go about.

What Are the Princes’ Islands of Istanbul

The Princes’ Islands (Kizil Adalar or just Adalar) are a chain of nine rather small islands in the Sea of Marmara. They evolved from a place of exile during the Byzantine era, to a popular destination for tourists and Istanbulites alike to escape the hectic city life for a day. Of those nine islands, only four of them are open to the public: Büyükada, the biggest and most popular, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Kinaliada.

Princes’ Islands Features

Horse-drawn carriage on the Princes' Islands in Istanbul, Turkey.
Horse-drawn carriage on the Princes’ Islands.
The main feature of any of the Princes’ Islands is the sound of … silence. All motorized vehicles are banned, making the islands an oasis of peace and quiet. The only sounds you’ll hear are bicycle bells and the typical sounds of horse hoofs. Yep, that’s right. Horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the main transportation means on the islands.

But that’s not the only feature that makes the Princes’ Islands unique. You’ll find yourself walking or riding through narrow streets flanked by either untouched pine-forests or fine, wooden Victorian cottages. How is that for a unique fin-de-siècle flash back?

How to Get to the Princes’ Islands … and Back!

By boat, that goes without saying. But there are different ferries to choose from. There are the sea buses (fast ferries) operated by IDO, and the regular ferries operated by Sehir Hatlari.

Both ferry types depart from Kabatas — easily accessible with public transportation. From Taksim you can take the F1 Kabatas-Taksim funicular or from Sultanahmet you can get on the T1 Kabatas-Bagcilar tramway.

The sea buses are the fastest option. If it stops at all the islands, the trip will last for 55 minutes maximum and sets you back for 9 TL (7,10 TL with the Istanbul Kart) per person — one way.

The regular ferries are slower and can take as much as 100 minutes, depending on the amount of stops it makes. The upside is that they are cheaper (only 5 TL per person, or 3,5 TL with the Istanbul Kart) and make more runs back and forth.

Take my advice! If you plan to visit the islands, make sure you get on the very first sea bus (fast ferry) to the islands on any given day. You’ll beat the (local) crowd to the islands — and check upon arrival when the last ferry (fast or conventional) departs back to Istanbul! Although some islands have nice hotels, you don’t want to miss the last ferry. Then, spend as much time as you want on (one of) the Princes’ Islands, and return to Istanbul with whichever ferry you prefer.

Most Istanbullus refer to the Princes' Islands as 'The Islands' (Adalar), as they are the only islands around the city. They lie about 20km southeast of the city in the Sea of Marmara, and make a great destination for a day escape from the city.

You'll realise after landing that there are no cars on the islands, something that comes as a welcome relief after the traffic mayhem of the city. Except for the necessary police, fire and sanitation vehicles, transportation is by bicycle, horse-drawn carriage and foot, as in centuries past.

All of the islands are busy in summer, particularly on weekends. For that reason, avoid a Sunday visit. If you wish to stay overnight during the summer months, book ahead. Many hotels are closed during winter.

There are nine islands in the Princes' Islands group and the ferry stops at four of these. Year-round there are 15,000 permanent residents scattered across the six islands that are populated, but numbers swell to 100,000 or so during summer when Istanbullus - many of whom have holiday homes on the islands - escape the city heat. The small islands of Kinaliada and Burgazada are the ferry's first stops; frankly, neither offers much reward for the trouble of getting off the ferry.

In contrast, the charming island of Heybeliada (Heybeli for short) has much to offer the visitor. It's home to the Deniz Lisesi (Turkish Navel Academy), which was founded in 1773, and which you'll see to the left of the ferry dock as you arrive, and it has a number of restaurants and a thriving shopping strip with bakeries and delicatessens selling picnic provisions to day-trippers, who come here on weekends to walk in the pine groves and swim from the tiny (but crowded) beaches. The island's major landmark is the hilltop Hagia Triada Monastery (%351 8563). Perched above a picturesque line of poplar trees in a spot that has been occupied by a Greek monastery since Byzantine times, this building dates from 1894. It functioned as a Greek Orthodox theological school until 1971, when it was closed on the government's orders, and has an internationally renowned library. There are signs that it may re-open soon. You may be able to visit if you call ahead.

The largest island in the group, Büyükada (Great Island) shows is impressive from the ferry, with gingerbread villas climbing up the slopes of the hill and the bulbous twin cupolas of the Splendid Otel providing an unmistakable landmark. It's a truly lovely spot to spend an afternoon.

The ferry terminal is an attractive building in the Ottoman kiosk style; it dates from 1899. Inside there's a pleasant tile-decorated café with an outdoor terrace, as well as a Tourist Information Office. Eateries serve fresh fish to the left of the ferry terminal, next to an ATM.

The island's main drawcard is the Greek Monastery of St George, in the 'saddle' between Büyükada's two highest hills. To get there, walk from the ferry straight ahead to the clock tower in Iskele Square (Dock Square). The shopping district is left along Recep Koç Sokak. Bear right onto 23 Nisan Caddesi, then head along Çankaya Caddesi up the hill to the monastery; when you come to a fork in the road veer right. The walk (at least one hour) takes you past a long progression of impressive wooden villas set in gardens. About a quarter of the way up on the left is the Büyükada Kültür Evi, a charming spot where you can enjoy a tea or coffee in a garden setting. The house itself dates from 1878 and was restored in 1998. After 40 minutes or so you will reach a reserve called 'Luna Park' by the locals. The monastery is a 25-minute walk up an extremely steep hill from here. Some visitors hire a donkey to take them up the hill and back for around YTL10. As you ascend, you'll see countless pieces of cloth tied to the branches of trees along the path - each represents a prayer, most made by female supplicants visiting the monastery to pray for a child.

Bicycles are available for rent in several of the town's shops, and shops on the market street can provide picnic supplies, though food is cheaper on the mainland. Just off the clock tower square and opposite the Splendid Otel there are fayton stands. Hire one for a long tour of the town, hills and shore (one hour around YTL45) or a shorter tour of the town (around YTL35). It costs around YTL16 to be taken to Luna Park. A shop just near the fayton stand hires out bicycles (per hour around YTL3-3).

Fourteen ferries run to the islands each day from 06:50 to midnight, departing from Kabatas' 'Adalar Iskelesi' dock. The most useful departure times for day-trippers are 09:30, 10:00 and 11:30. On summer weekends, board the vessel and grab a seat at least half an hour before departure time unless you want to stand the whole way. The trip costs around YTL3 the islands and the same for each leg between the islands and the return trip. The cheapest and easiest way to pay is to use your Akbil. To be safe, check the timetable at, as the schedule can change.The ferry steams away from Kabatas and on its journey treats passengers to fine views of Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque on the right, and Üsküdar and Haydarpasa on the left. After 20 minutes the ferry makes a quick stop at Kadiköy on the Asian side before making its way to the first island, Kinaliada. This leg takes 30 minutes. After this, it's another 15 minutes to Burgazada; another 15 minutes again to Heybeliada, the second-largest island; and another 10 minutes to Büyükada, the largest island in the group.Ferries return to Istanbul every 1.5 hours or so. The last ferry of the day leaves Büyükada at 22:00 and Heybeliada at 22:15.

Princes’ Islands take their name from the fact that during Byzantine and early Ottoman period, members of dynasties who fell out of favor were sent to exile there. Until late 19th century, when regular steamer transportation showed up in the seas around Istanbul, these islands were considered remote and far-away places. Apart from the exiled princes, only a handful of monks found these islands inhabitable then, a fact which gives the islands their former name in Turkish: Kesis Adalari (“Islands of the Monks”).

Princes’ Islands consist of four major and five minor islands. Major ones are as follows (from west to east, also from smallest to biggest): Kinaliada, Burgaz, Heybeliada, and Büyükada. Apart from these, only one more island of the archipelago is inhabited, that is Sedef which lies east of Büyükada. The other, unhabited ones are: Tavsan south of Büyükada, Kasik (between Burgaz and Heybeliada), Yassiada and Sivriada (both lying further away in the sea, southwest of Kinaliada). This article will focus on the four major ones, as public transport to uninhabited islands is virtually non-existant, and much of Sedef is private property with limited access.

The islands are an interesting anomaly because they allow for a very rare, albeit incomplete, insight into a multicultural society in modern Turkey, possibly alike to the multicultural society that once existed during the Ottoman Empire in places such as nearby Istanbul/Constantinople. Prior to 1950s, each of the inhabited islands had significant communities of ethnic minorities of Turkey, which still is the case to a much smaller extent. Since the vast majority of the residents and visitors are Turkish, today their legacy is of cultural rather than of demographic importance: Kinaliada (Greek: Proti) used to be the summer retreat of the Armenian archbishop and the Armenian community of Istanbul, Burgazada (Greek: Antigoni) used to be a sleepy village inhabited by Greek fishermen. Heybeliada (Greek: Halki) was the main Turkish settlement on the Princes' Islands, while Büyükada (Greek: Prinkipos) was mostly favored by local Jews and foreign residents of Istanbul, mostly of European descent, although all of these ethnicities could be encountered on Büyükada. This is partially responsible for the different characters of the islands that lie so close to each other.

These islands prove to be a good day-trip especially when you are bored of the crowd, noise, and traffic of Istanbul. Quite a shock is what many travellers experience upon their return to the city, when full-blast car horns are still the way how they were when left behind early in the morning.

One of the best times to be on the islands is during spring (April-May) and during autumn (September-October). During these seasons, the air is neither that cold nor hot, the islands are not very crowded and during spring (especially in late March), the mimosa trees, which are some sort of symbol of the islands, are in full bloom of their yellow flowers. At weekends during summer (June-August), all of the islands are really crowded, and so are the ships. Avoid if you can. During winter, the exact opposite is the case. However, if you want to enjoy the islands blanketed by snow and/or a very gloomy and almost deserted “ghost-town” experience and don’t mind the biting cold, then winter is definitely that season.

If you don’t have time to visit all of the islands, pick Büyükada: it’s undoubtedly the “queen” of the islands.


Central square of Büyükada, with the historical harbor building at the back
Upon getting off the ferry, you’ll recognize the clock at the square just a block up in front of you. This is the main square of Büyükada, and around it is the town centre. Most grocery stores are to your left, as well as the restaurants which also occupy the waterfront to your left when exiting the quay. From the clock, major roads of the island diverge left (east), right (west), and straight ahead (south) among some mansions (best of which are lined on the main road to right) towards the hill, as well as narrower streets and alleys connecting these. These roads join each other again in Birlik Meydani Square (lit. "union square", perhaps because the roads "unite" there), the geographical centre point of the island, lying amongst pine woods between the two main hilltops. From that square, whether you take the road to left or right, you will end up in the same square, as that road encircles the southern half of the island, at a distance to the sea. The Chuch of St George lies at the end of another cobbled uphill path starting from Birlik Meydani.

There is a large and detailed map of the island posted at the left of exit of ferry quay.

Istanbul has it all: over 2500 years of history, culture, and traditions, amazing landmarks, vibrant nightlife, and breathtaking views. This transcontinental metropolis is a fast-paced cultural melting pot you can’t afford to miss.

Here are the top 7 reasons why you should plan a trip to Istanbul right now.

Istanbul – the City of Four Empires

Rome and Istanbul are both over two-and-a-half millennia old, but for the majority of the time Istanbul was larger, more influential, and wealthier than Rome.

Istanbul has been the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), the Byzantine Empire (1261-1453) and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). Istanbul’s history is very rich, and remains of each of these empires can still be witnessed.

Istanbul – the City of Contrasts

As the cliché goes, Istanbul is where east meets west, or vice versa. This unique location combined with its history and occupants of different cultural background make this city a true melting pot.

In Istanbul century old buildings stand near modern skyscrapers. In the same area mosques, churches and synagogues call for devote inhabitants. Liberal and conservative Muslims peacefully live side by side, together with people from a dozen other religions or beliefs. However, they all have one thing in common: the world famous Turkish hospitality.

Istanbul – the City of Amazing Landmarks

Picture of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
Hagia Sophia, one of many landmarks in Istanbul.
Despite the city’s age, thankfully many remains of Istanbul’s opulent past remained intact. The cultural heritage of the metropolis is impressive.

Who hasn’t heard of landmarks such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Dolmabahçe Palace, Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar.

And then there are the lesser known, but not less beautiful, spots such as Süleymaniye Mosque, Basilica Cistern, the Galata Tower, as well as numerous churches from the Byzantine era.

Istanbul – the Perfect Mix of Eastern and Western Food

Picture of mezes in a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey.
Array of mezes in an Istanbul restaurant.
The century old mix of cultures also had a huge impact on the food scene. In Istanbul, you can enjoy different cuisines, varying from authentic Ottoman food, over typical Turkish food with its delicious mezes and meat or fish dishes, to the modern kitchen of the West. If you still have some appetite left, by all means, try one of the many Turkish desserts. Please, don’t ask me directions to the closest McDonalds … live a little!

Did you say drinks? Sure, you can go for raki, the national anise drink, choose one of the quality Turkish wines or enjoy an array of fresh juices.

Istanbul – the City with Vibrant Nightlife

Image of Sortie, waterfront night club in Istanbul, Turkey.
Sortie, waterfront night club in Istanbul.
Thanks to Istanbul’s unique geographical location many the top nightlife venues are located by the Bosphorus or on a rooftop offering a view of the magnificent skyline. The nightlife is vibrant, with an abundance of choice to satisfy everybody’s taste.

If partying through the night is not your thing and you prefer to relax with on a cafe terrace, then you have plenty of options for that too.

Istanbul – the City of Serious Shopping

Picture of the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.
Shopping in Istanbul.
Shops galore in Istanbul. You can go luxurious and mainstream by a visit to one of the many modern shopping centers spread all over the city. Or you can hunt for authentic, handmade items by local designers and craftsmen in less touristic parts of town.
If you like to bargain, then the Grand Bazaar is of course shopping heaven on Earth. Also, don’t forget to stock up on exotic spices, olives or the great selection of nuts available.

Istanbul – the City with Breathtaking Views

There is no shortage of breathtaking views from the city. One of my favorites is the city’s silhouette seen from a boat on the Bosphorus during sunset. In second place comes the view from the bridges, unfortunately you need a ride to experience that. For a 360 panoramic view of Istanbul, you can visit the Galata Tower or one of the many rooftop bars.

Basilica Cistern
The city's most unexpectedly romantic attraction, the Basilica Cistern, offers an insight into the complicated system that once brought drinking water into Istanbul from Thrace (an area of the south-east Balkans now constituting Turkish land n the European mainland, and a chunk of Bulgaria). Constructed in the sixth century and then forgotten for centuries, the cistern that once stored the water has been fitted with lights and music. Fish flitter around the bases of the 336 columns that support the ceiling. Don't miss the upside-down head of Medusa that forms the bottom of one column, proof that Byzantine builders saw Roman relics as little more than reusable rubble.

Aya Sofya
After decades in which scaffolding cluttered the interior of Emperor Justinian's sixth-century Byzantine masterpiece, the thrill of being able to experience the extraordinary spaciousness of this famous church-turned-mosque-turned museum is hard to overstate. Downstairs the building is largely empty; the best of the glittering mosaics lurk in the galleries upstairs. Newly opened are the tombs of several early Ottoman sultans and their slaughtered sons – before primogeniture new sultans immediately had all potential rivals killed. Before the end of the year, the city's finest carpets will go on display in the soup kitchen added after the church was turned into a mosque.

Topkapi Palace
If there is one absolute must-see in Istanbul, it has to be the Topkapi Palace, home to generations of sultans and their wives, who were closeted in the famous harem. A collection of lush green courtyards and delicate kiosks, the Topkapi boasts a treasury to put the crown jewels in the shade, as well as views to die for over the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn. The secretive harem – really just the family quarters – is a warren of lushly-tiled rooms wrapped round a gem of a Turkish bath. Try to visit on a day when no cruise ship is in town to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam
There are several magnificent steamy Ottoman bathhouses to choose from in the city, including the Çemberlitas, Cagaloglu, Galatasaray and Sülemaniye baths, but in 2011 for the first time it's also possible for visitors to try out the spectacular 16th-century Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam right in Sultanahmet Square and designed for Suleiman the Magnificent's scheming wife Roxelana. Think acres of marble, the sound of running water echoing around stupendous domes, and a massage fit for a sultan. You'll come out almost purring.

Blue Mosque
Facing Aya Sofya across a small park and mirroring its domed silhouette, the early 17th-century Blue Mosque is one of only a handful of mosques in the world to boast six minarets. Is it really blue? Well, not noticeably, although all the walls are papered with fine Iznik tiles. To view it as the architect, Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, originally intended, enter via what looks like the side entrance from the Hippodrome. Afterwards, pop your head into a building the size of a small mosque on the corner of the complex. This houses the tomb of Sultan Ahmed I, the man who gave his name to both the mosque and the neighbourhood.

Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Walk to Istanbul's three-in-one equivalent of the British Museum via the grounds of Topkapi Palace or through Gulhane Park. If time is tight, go straight to the large porticoed building housing the glorious sarcophagus of Alexander which depicts scenes from the life of Alexander the Great in vivid 3D. Kids will love the model Trojan Horse in the children's section. Then pop into the lovely Tiled Pavilion, one of the city's oldest Ottoman structures, beautifully restored to show off its finest ceramics. Finally, catch a glimpse of a peace treaty from 1269 BC preserved in the part of the museum nearest to the gate.

Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
Housed in what was originally the palace of Ibrahim Pasha, a favourite grand vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, and overlooking the Hippodrome where Byzantine lovers of chariot racing once brought the same passion to their sport as modern Turks do to football, this museum houses a magnificent collection of gigantic carpets from all over the country. Its basement features reconstructions of everything from a fully-fitted nomad tent to a grand interior from a 19th-century Bursa mansion. Don't leave without trying a thick black Turkish coffee in the pretty cafe in the grounds. 

Süleymaniye Mosque
Unmissable as you stand on the busy Galata bridge and look up at the city's historic skyline is the mosque designed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan for Suleiman the Magnificent. Newly restored to its original splendour, it is generally regarded as the finest of the 42 surviving mosques he designed for Istanbul. Unusually, it retains much of the original complex of social service buildings that came attached to it, including several madrasahs, a hospital, a library and a hamam. Locals come here to eat kuru fasuliye, the Turkish take on baked beans, in a street once haunted by opium addicts.

Chora Church
It's a bit of a schlep to get there but the restored Chora Church in the old city walls offers a stunning glimpse of late Byzantine splendour, its walls and ceilings adorned with glittering mosaics and breath-taking frescoes. Like Aya Sofya, it has made the journey from Byzantine church to Ottoman mosque and then to modern museum, and now stands in a neighbourhood of restored Ottoman wooden houses, prettily painted in pastel colours. Before you go back to your hotel, take a look at the nearby walls that ringed old Constantinople and date back to the fifth century.

Galata Tower
Watery Istanbul is a city that cries out to be viewed from on high, and you can get a bird's-eye view of everything from the balcony at the top of the Galata Tower in Beyoglu, the modern part of old Istanbul that, in pre-Republican days, was home to the city's foreign residents. Built in 1348, the tower once formed part of a sub-city belonging to the Genoese that stretched right down to the Bosphorus. In a footnote to aviation history, it was from this tower that Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi flew across the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia in 1638, thus inaugurating the first ever intercontinental flight.

Istanbul is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.

Ortaköy Mosque, along the Bosphorus
Istanbul (Turkish: Istanbul) is Turkey's most populous city as well as its cultural and financial hub. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe and the world.


Istanbul districts
Sultanahmet-Old City 
Essentially the Constantinople of the Roman, Eastern Roman/Byzantine, and much of the Ottoman periods, this is where most of the famous historical sights of Istanbul are located.
Housing many of the nightlife venues of the city, this district includes Beyoglu, Istiklal Street, and Taksim Square also its own share of sights and accommodation.
New City 
Main business district of the city with many modern shopping malls and districts such as Elmadag, Nisantasi, and Etiler.
European bank of the Bosphorus dotted by numerous palaces, parks, water-front mansions, and bohemian neighbourhoods, such as Besiktas and Ortaköy.
Golden Horn 
Banks of Golden Horn, the estuary that separates the European side into distinctive districts. Eyüp, with an Ottoman ambience, is located here.
Princes’ Islands 
An excellent getaway from the city, made up of an archipelago of nine car-free islands—some of them small, some of them big—with splendid wooden mansions, verdant pine gardens and nice views—both of the islands themselves, and also on the way there.
Asian Side 
Eastern half of Istanbul, with lovely neighborhoods at the Marmara and Bosphorus coasts.
Western Suburbs 
Western chunk of the European Side.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque at dusk
Expanding the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium by the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the imperial city of Constantinople was for nearly a thousand years the last remaining outpost of the Roman (later termed Eastern Roman or Byzantine) Empire. It was finally conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II on 29 May 1453, an event sometimes used to mark the end of the Middle Ages. It was the nerve centre for military campaigns that were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid 1500s, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial centre. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in WWI and Istanbul was occupied by the allies. When the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Kemal Atatürk moved its capital to the city of Ankara. However, Istanbul has continued to expand dramatically; today its population is approximately 14 million and increases at an estimated 400,000 immigrants per year. Industry has expanded even as tourism has grown.

Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait (Istanbul Bogazi), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn (Haliç) bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) forming a boundary to the south. Most sights are concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet, to the west of the Bosphorus between the Horn and the Sea. Across the Horn to the north are Galata, Beyoglu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Kadiköy is the major district on the comparatively less-visited Anatolian side of the city. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of Istanbul.

Atatürk Airport

Duty Free area, inside Ataturk Airport
Most planes arrive at Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IATA: IST), 20km west of the city centre. From the airport, there are various options for getting into Istanbul: you can take a taxi (about TRY35-40 to Taksim. There is no night fare in Istanbul anymore - the price would be the same at midnight or midday. About the same to Sultanahmet), the express bus service run by the local airport service called "Havatas" [1] which departs half-hourly between 4AM-midnight and costs TRY10 to Taksim and Aksaray, the public bus (line #96T) run by IETT costing TRY5 (TRY3.50 with IstanbulKart), which has fewer departure times now, due to Havatas, which is also a municipality engaged bus service.

Then, there is the metro (06:00-00:05) (signposted "light rail" in the airport, when you get outside the baggage claim its about a 10 minute walk in the airport to the metro line. Just follow the signs), which will take you directly to the Otogar (bus station) or to numerous stops within Istanbul (Aksaray in the city centre is the last stop, transfer stations for tram heading for deeper into old city is available at Zeytinburnu and Aksaray). It costs TRY3, by token (+an extra TRY4 when boarding the tram) and getting to Aksaray takes around 45 minutes. It is possible to be at your bus departing from Otogar within less than one hour after landing by taking the metro.

When entering the metro station, you need to buy a jeton (token) for TRY4. Just hand the cashier TRY4 and he'll give you a token, or use the automatic dispenser (Jetonmatik), which accepts banknotes (TRY5, TRY10, TRY20) as well as coins. Use 'select' to choose the number of jetons and then push 'ok'. They don't accept credit card or foreign currency here. This will get you on the red metro line (towards Aksaray). From this line, if you are going to Sultanahmet, you can transfer at Zeytinburnu and buy another jeton (TRY4) - see the section on "Istanbulkart" if further travel within Istanbul's metro system will be undertaken. Note that the jeton token here is different than the first one. From Zeytinburnu, take the blue tram line T1, towards Kabatas which passes by: Sultanahmet, Eminönu and Tophane. The trip from the airport to Sultanahmet takes about 45min.

To get from Ataturk to the Asian side of Istanbul, the quickest way is to take a taxi to Bakikoy IDO Iskele (ferry pier), which takes about 10m and costs 20TL, and then take an IDO high-speed catamaran to Kadikoy (20m) or Bostanci (40m) for 7TL. This is much faster and cheaper than a taxi, which could take up to 2 hours if there is a lot of traffic. The boat runs from 7am to 9pm.

Other Notes: Note that people are working on commission at the airport trying to make you use special shuttle buses for very high fees (TRY30+), so for people who wish to travel more economically the Metro/tram-combination is easy and fairly quick, and offers very good value. Travel by metro/tram cost 1 token per trip which is equal to TRY3. No matter how long you travel, it costs 1 token per trip.

Visa: Depending on nationality, foreigners arriving in Istanbul may need to purchase tourist visas (around 20 nationalities including USA and some EU citizens). This can be done either online at (pay for your visa on-line and print it out at home prior to your trip) or in one of the automatic machines before clearing the immigration (the price should be the same whether you purchase it online or in the airport but several travellers reported that the machine in the airport charged him 20 TLY (around 10 USD) instead of 20 USD as it displayed). Visa can also be purchased in the visa office in the airport but it's reportedly more expensive.

Food and drink at the airport may cost up to five times more than in the city proper, like in other international airports. If you are travelling on budget and plan to spend some time at the airport, it may be wise to bring your own meals from town instead of buying them there. If you come from the Metro, there is a supermarket in the tunnel leading to the elevators / stairs to the airport proper where you can do some last-minute shopping.

Sabiha Gökçen Airport
Istanbul also has a second airport, Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (IATA: SAW), located in the Anatolian side of the city.

The cheapest way to arrive from Sabiha Gökçen to the European side of Istanbul is by bus (E10 or E11 lines, from Sabiha Gökçen to Kadiköy) + ferry (from Kadiköy to many ferry stations, including some in the Sultanahmet area). Using Istanbulkart or Akbil (see below), the price is less than TRY7. That's about €2.50 in total. Every other option priced at €10 and above (TRY23 and above-by Feb 2013 rates) makes sense ONLY if you can't use this. Be aware that last ferries are between 10 and 11pm, yet the E10 continues throughout the night.

A pricier option is the Havatas bus connects this airport with Taksim in the city centre for TRY16 (Aug 2014) and takes about an hour and a half (closer to two or more in heavy traffic). There is also a Havatas service to the ferry pier in Kadiköy, a transportation hub of Asian Side, which costs TRY8. If you arrive in the middle of the night, you can move to the departure hall after passing customs and rest on very comfortable seats — you will even find coin-operated Japanese massage chairs. Then, at 05:00 the first Havatas bus will take you to town. The Havatas bus schedule is sometimes linked to the arrival/departure times of planes.

Various private operators offer internet bookable shared minibuses to central locations — a good choice when arriving late. A typical price being €90 for 4 people to a hotel in Laleli. A taxi to Sabiha Gökçen airport from Taksim, which lies around 50km from the airport, takes c. 35 minutes at 03:30 with no traffic. The meter will show c. TRY75, plus there is c. TRY6 in tolls. Note the security screening is before the check-in counters, so add some extra time to make the cut-off times (45 minutes for international, 30 for domestic).

Beware of the company running the "Hotel Information" office in the Sabiha Gökçen airport which offers "shuttle-to-hotel" services from €15 (they pretend to make a discount based on your group size, you can get it as low as €12.50 for 4 people) because their drivers are totally uninformed about any hotel address and they may get lost/the trip may take 2-3 times more than normal because of their lack of knowledge with hotel addresses.

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