The best places for photography in Turkey and general travel tips for Turkey (adventure, luxury, and culture).
“This place should be a World Wonder… definitely over Petra.”
Alyssa took the words right out of my mouth. We’d both been booked as speakers for the World Tourism Forum in Turkey and leveraged it to explore Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Izmir, Istanbul and Ephesus.
“Can whole countries be world wonders?!”
Wow. One of the best weeks of my life. But we almost didn’t come to Turkey.
We agreed to disagree with our initial thoughts — we regret our hesitation to visit Turkey. We’d asked ourselves and our American friends, is it safe to travel in Turkey now? Is it safe to travel to Turkey as Americans?
Both Alyssa Ramos and I are solo female travelers. While we intended on meeting up, per usual, we asked ourselves about travel warnings of traveling to Turkey as women.
The answer is that Istanbul is a major city as safe as NYC, Barcelona and Rome. Quite frankly, there is more political unrest and crime against women in the USA than there is most parts of the world that we brand with “dangerous.”
That being said, Turkey and Turkish culture is as delightful as Turkish desserts. We spent over a week exploring Turkey and had the most incredible time!
In this post:
- What’s in my camera bag
- Photo guide to the best places in Turkey.
- How to get around while traveling in Turkey.
- The best things to do for bucket list experiences in Turkey.
- When to travel in Turkey.
- What to pack for Turkey.
What to shoot photography with:
First things first, I shoot with a DSLR and an iPhone. Check out these tools to get the best photos on your next trip!
- Canon 70D, available via Overstock with a free extra battery + memory card.
- Canon 24-70 mm lens (standard zoom lens) available on Spring (with warranty) which is great for lifestyle photos.
- Canon Wide Lens 20 mm which is great for wide landscapes.
- I mostly shoot photos of myself by using the Manfrotto tripod, it folds up nicely.
If this all sounds a bit confusing, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Photography | Which Camera is Right for You post.
I also do a lot of iPhone Only Photography (check out my guide)
Here’s all the must-do photo experiences in Turkey:
1. Take a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia
A bucket list experience for travel in Turkey, sunrise in Cappadocia is magical. Start your pre-morning with a quick (limited) continental breakfast before embarking on a flight with 12 – 26 of your *closest* friends.
Excuse the sass, it really is a perfect experience and you can upgrade from a standard to a private tour when booking in advance! Regardless, you’ll find yourself 4 – 20km above the ground, and love every bit of it no matter who you’re sharing it with.
Tips for the Turkey hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia:
- If the winds are too strong, the company will delay flights until the following morning — give yourself an extra day or two in Cappadocia as a backup — or to catch the balloons from looking point.
- If you’d like to get beyond the main town in Cappadocia, you’ll need a car — however, the hot air balloon companies do hotel pick ups.
- It gets a little cold, so bundle up! You also have to climb in and out of the hot air balloon basket, so wear pants or leggings.
Floating like a butterfly in the magical land of Cappadocia.
Hot air balloon Cappadocia, Turkey with Alyssa Ramos from My Life’s a Movie
2. Get aerial photos while paragliding in Pamukkale.
We had just finished strolling the travertine pools of Pamukkale when our driver surprised us with great news: “It’s not too late to go paragliding in Pamukkale.” Within in 15 minutes, we were at the top of a mountain… running off of it with a parachute.
You can book paragliding through your hotel or anywhere in the town. It’s AMAZING a bucket-list adventure for sure!
BTW check out my ultimate guide to GoPro Photography Tips + Accessories
3. Actually, take a walk in Pamukkale too.
If you’re not in a dare-devil mood, the Pamukkale thermal pools are the unicorn of natural national parks. Translating from Turkish to “cotton castles,” these white terraces mirage as snow glaciers, but are actually deposits of calcium carbonate.
During the winter, the park closes at 5:00 PM (which is why we took cheeky photos at 5:15, thus dodging the crowds). During the spring and summer, the park is open until midnight.
You can bring your swimsuit for a swim, but it does get cold during the winter.
4. Explore Ephesus
The Greek City of Ephesus holds strong Christian significance in the Book of Revelation. It’s an Ancient World Wonder and a quick trip from the Andan Menderes Airport.
I took on to photographing Alyssa for this part of the trip! Follow her on Instagram @MyLifesAMovie
But the sites stand majestically on their own.
5. Visit the Blue Mosque
Notoriously, the most popular of all points of interest in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque lives up to the hype! So nice, I visited it twice at sunrise.
It’s free to visit the mosque; however during hours of prayer, you will be asked to respectfully give those in worship due space. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get to parts of the mosque or set down a tripod during prayer.
6. Stay in a Cave in Cappadocia
Move over seven star hotels of Abu Dhabi! There’s nothing like living in a cave of an underground city. Volcanoes hollowed out rocks over centuries; these became people’s homes and eventually, Turkey points of interest for a luxe lodging experience.
Enjoy a rooftop meal of your cave hotel in Cappadocia.
And sleep in a restored cave where antique classics meet modern restrooms, electricity and comfort.
We stayed at the Amber Cave Suites (above) and Museum Hotel (cover photo).
7. Tour the underground city.
There are thirty-six underground cities in Cappadocia, with the most popular being the Kaymakli Underground City (pictured below). The cave dwelling boasts an intricate defense against enemies. From ventilation systems, to traps, wineries, churches and nurseries, the engineering of 100 tunnels and eight stories makes this one of the most fascinating cities I’ve yet to visit.
8. Find a rooftop in Istanbul.
Istanbul is known for eccentric art and funky rooftops. Indulge in hookah, wine or Turkish coffee with a view of the only mid Euro-Asian metropolitan city.
9. Chase the blue eyes in Cappadocia
Iconic of Turkey, the blue eyes or “Nazars,” protects against the evil eye — all those with envy wishing bad upon you.
Just up the road overlooking the trees is a restaurant. We asked them if we could take our tea outside to the rooftop, and they concurred.
10. Have a walk within Hagia Sophia
Meaning “Holy Wisdom,” the now museum has evolved as a Christian Church, Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Roman Catholic Cathedral, and Imperial Mosque. Take a walk inside and you’ll appreciate its majestic domes too.
11. Goreme National Park, Cappadocia
Goreme National Park describes the entire area, but there are rock sites that have nicknames including Rose Valley, Mushroom Valley and Imagination Valley. Ask your guide or driver to tour you through the fairy chimney and volcanic rock formations.
12. Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul
Great at sunrise or sunset, capture the mosques from afar via Istanbul’s Bosphorus bridge.
How to Get Around in Turkey
- Fly into Istanbul Atatürk Airport, making the Istanbul tour of your trip the first or last bit of your loop. Next, we flew to Neveshir airport (super cheap… $25 – $40) to see Cappadocia for a couple days. We then flew to Izmir to meet our guide and took an hour drive to Ephesus. Next a three and a half hour drive to Pamukkale. We then drove an hour to the Denizli airport where we flew back to Istanbul.
- Get a visa online before arriving to the Istanbul airport. You can get one on arrival, although it takes another line and they only take cash. They also seemed to be very upset that I didn’t have my visa ahead of time.
- Taxis vs Uber: Use an Uber whenever possible in Istanbul. They only have Uber X which seats six, however Istanbul is notorious for over-charging tourists in cabs. Your cab rate will end up being 2 – 3xs it’s actual cost — you’re better off taking an Uber.
When to travel in Turkey
- The high season is during the summer. The weather is hot and prices shoot up to almost three times the cost.
- You’ll catch low rain during the winter, but you’ll dodge the crowds.
- The best time to travel is really during the spring.
What to pack for your trip to Turkey
Definitely pack a pashima or scarf to visit the mosques. They also make for an easy way to dress up a much more comfortable outfit.
I wish I would have packed more maxi skirts. Not only are they comfortable and adhering the the conservative needs of the mosques you’ll visit, but they look great in photos!
For photos, I shoot with an iPhone 7, GoPro 4, Go Pro Session, and Canon 70D.
See complete packing lists
Which spots would you add as the
best places for photography in Turkey?
A big thank you to the World Tourism Forum for inviting me to speak on behalf of destination marketing. I was able to take cheeky side trips with their help and some planing with Alyssa Ramos of MyLifeIsAMovie.com
World Tourism Forum February 2017, in Istanbul, Turkey
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