Road Tripping in Turkey : Cross-roads of two continents!

by Swapnesh Banerjee


Posted on 23rd Feb, 2015


Pamukkale Limestone Pools

Turkey is an ancient and fascinating country, strategically situated at the cross-roads of Europe and Asia. When we first planned a vacation there, a driving holiday was not initially on the cards. However, after doing a bit of research it looked that it would be a great option to drive around. Turkey has a lot of historical sights scattered around a rather large area, and roads were apparently pretty good – so I decided to take the plunge and plan a road trip there in April.

To cut the long story short, we landed in Istanbul and then took a short flight to the coastal city of Antalya. Antalya itself is beautiful, a port city on the azure Mediterranean and was the starting point of our trip. I had got an international driving permit made, and had got a great deal from Avis for a BMW 1 series. Our luck was in, and the non-availability of a 1 series led me getting a BMW 3 series for the same price!

First stop - Termessos: As I had mentioned before Turkey has a lot of Greek and Roman cities and this was the first one we visited. There are other ones which are larger and more well-preserved, but Termessos is undoubtedly the most spectacular in terms of its settings. It is situated high on a hill with a spectacular vista all around and you can even see the shimmering sea at a distance. We climbed up and explored the ruins. Most roman cities comprise of a theatre, a senate building and a few temples with the theatre typically the most impressive structure and Termessos is no exception. It was a good appetizer for the whole trip and set the the tone for one of the best vacations we’ve had.

Termessos Turkey

From Termessos we went to a place called Pamukkale. A word about the drives in Turkey – in one word – fascinating and extremely pleasing. Highways are of excellent quality in terms of the construction and the scenery is uniformly beautiful – with hills and forests making almost every drive a scenic one. Termessos to Pamukkale was a 260 km drive, but it felt a breeze and we reached there in 4 hours.

Click here for the detailed route plan.

Termessos Pamukkale Road Trip

Pamukkale is one of those places which you will never forget. It is a very small place, literally a village. All it has? One limestone hill. But that’s like saying that the Taj is just a block of marble with some carvings. Pamukkale’s limestone hill is unique. There are hot springs on the top of the hill and they flow down the white hill, carving out the limestone. As a result the cliff is honeycombed into a succession of infinite pools which creates a fascinating effect – which is in fact quite unique. There’s an old Roman city at the top of the hill called Hierapolis which was probably the first spa city in the world. We climbed up the hill and warmed our feet in the waters of those pools as the Romans would have done 20 centuries ago – and went around the old city. I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

Pamukkale Limestone Springs
Pamukkale Limestone Hills

Click here for the detailed route plan.

Our next stop was Ephesus which is the best preserved Roman city in the entire Mediterranean. We stayed at a small town called Selcuk, and on the way to Selcuk we visited another ruined city called Aphrodisias and found it to be one of the prettiest that we would visit. Spread out over a wide area with flowers growing all around, we took a relaxed walk around the ruins ruminating on how it would have looked in its heyday.

Ephesus

Selcuk was the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the temple of Diana. All that remains of that structure is just one pillar. But that loss is more than made up by the grand city of Ephesus which retains its majesty even after 2000 years. As we walked down its wide roads, marveled at the huge theater and the magnificent library we could only imagine how splendid it was in its prime. At its height Ephesus had a population of 250,000 and with a major port was one of the richest cities in the world at that time. One of the most interesting buildings in Ephesus is a block of flats very much like the ones we live in today, and it was amazing to walk around the apartments – drawing rooms, bedrooms, baths and stairs across 5 floors, no less!

From Selcuk we visited the coastal town of Kusadasi which is situated on the beautiful Aegean Sea. We drove through a national park along the coastline and visited some of the beaches. This drive, though short is a really scenic one and highly recommended. It gave us a glimpse of what was to come in the coming days.

Kusadasi Aegean Sea

One reason for doing the road trip was the wonderful coastline of Turkey – the Turkish Riviera was supposed to be one of the prettiest coastlines in the world to drive through. To that end we had planned to drive to drive to Fetiye from Selcuk and take a day’s break there before doing the Riviera route. Selcuk to Fetiye was another relaxing drive punctuated by me getting a speeding ticket. 110 km/h is the limit at highways with a 10% leeway. I got caught at 122 km/h – 1km/h over the allowed range. The police were very polite and I did pay the fine back in Istanbul and got a 25% discount for paying it within a week!

Click here for the detailed route plan.

Fetiye is a small town on the sea with a lot of condominiums on the coast. We had a wonderful lunch there and relaxed in our own condo for a night. From Fetiye the route was like an absolute dream. We took the road to Kas, and were rewarded by driving past picture perfect seaside towns shimmering on the Mediterranean and roads looking like a silver ribbon twisting through cliffs going down to the deep blue sea. Again pictures can illustrate our experience far better than words can.

Fetiye
Fetiye

I’ve not spoken about the food in Turkey. Mediterranean encapsulates the best of both worlds – it is healthy and light, but also incredibly tasty. Kebabs and shawarma along with grilled fish accompanied by hummus, pita bread and baba-ganoush was mostly what we ate during the trip and we don’t remember a single disappointing meal. We would often eat in restaurants frequented by locals in small towns and were almost invariably rewarded by fresh and tasty food which was extremely reasonable in terms of pricing.

Click here for the detailed route plan.

Turkey Coast

Anyway back to the trip. From Kas we followed winding road beside the azure sea through a bevy of historical places, the most interesting of which was Cirali. High up on a hill, flames burn underground and you can see tongues of fire flickering amidst the rocks. They call it the breath of the Chimaera – the mythological creature and it was definitely interesting to see the flames go out and mysteriously appear in another crevice a few seconds later.

Turkey Beach

Well, all good things come to an end, and after a few hours we were back in Antalya where I had to reluctantly hand back the keys of the car. Anyway I would that this drive from Fetiye to Antalya is one that will be memorable from the sheer beauty that unfolded before us all through the day. As a driver, there’s nothing better than piloting a wonderful car through curves in such pretty surroundings. The roads are excellent and traffic-free and driving was exhilarating and overall for me and my my family, the entire road trip will be a highlight amongst all our traveling memories. In fact, once the trip was done – we were already thinking – maybe the Eastern part of Turkey next time!

Fast Facts:

  • License requirements: Indian license + IDP
  • Left hand drive.
  • Excellent signage on highways – of course nowadays with Google maps and GPS we were never in any danger of getting lost.
  • Road quality is really good and generally traffic free.
  • What to see: Apart from the places mentioned above, Istanbul and Cappadocia are must see places – we went there after our road trips.











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About the Author: Swapnesh Banerjee

Swapnesh Banerjee

An avid reader and traveller, Swapnesh describes himself as working from vacation to vacation. In addition to the usual tourist spots, he likes high altitude trekking and is happiest both behind the wheel as well as wandering in the mountains. He works as a software architect to fund his travels and is also a sports fan, marathon runner and obviously, being a Bengali is a foodie as well.

Tags:

Road Trips, Turkey, Antalya, Termessos, Pamukkale, Selcuk, Fetiye, Coastal Drive, Beaches