Central Turkey travel tips

Our experiences in Central Turkey were limited by the tour we took, which covered a lot of ancient sites while neglecting some of the finer things in life – like a good meal. Here’s what was memorable.

Where we ate:

  • Kahramanmaraş Ice CreamMaraş dondurması is a special Turkish ice cream made with salep (orchid starch) so it melts more slowly in the heat, and this is the place that created it. It was interesting to try but not worth a special trip: MEH

Where we stayed:

  • Tas Saray Hotel, Kahta – The Lonely Planet guide says this town is full of rip-off hotels, so it’s not surprising that this one was grungy, loud, and half of the items on their breakfast buffet looked recycled from the previous night’s dinner buffet: NAH
  • Hotel Rabis, Sanliurfa – The nicest hotel we stayed at in Turkey. The breakfast buffet was the best food we got on the tour, it’s too bad we were rushed out of there: YEH

What we saw:

  • CEM Travel’s Nemrut Tour – May also be referred to as “GEM Travel.” Overpacked schedule led to the majority of our time being spent in the van. Every so often we’d stop at a site and have 10 minutes to roam. They skimped on the food – we ate at two of the restaurants twice, and a few people who ate from the warming trays instead of getting kebap got sick. If you visit Cappadocia in peak season, you are better off looking for an alternative company: MEH
  • Mount Nemrut a.k.a. Nemrut Dagi – Worth the schlep, this ego-trip of a mountain ruin is stunning (and cold) at sunrise: YEH
  • Arsameia, Cendere Bridge, Women’s Tumulus – We stopped briefly at all these ancient sites, and each was worth a view if you’re on a tour or have rented a car: YEH
  • Ataturk Dam – Our favorite part about this dam was how much our tour guide exaggerated the dam’s and river’s size, claiming they are amongst the world’s biggest (which it turns out all depends on what dimension you’re measuring): MEH
  • Sanilurfa a.k.a. Urfa – We wish we’d had more time in this town, since the tour sped us through the bazaar, the uber-macho cafe scene, the sacred carp pool, and Abraham’s cave: YEH
  • Birecik Kelaynak al Uretme Istasyonu – The bald ibis bird sanctuary, this was the most tacked on stop on the tour – they had to show us something, we couldn’t spend the entire third day driving. The sanctuary is doing good work but it’s only worth a visit for serious bald ibis freaks: MEH