Fairy Tale Turkey In 1 Week: 8 Places To See & Things To Do!

Clelia Mattana BLOG, EUROPE, TURKEY, USEFUL GUIDES 52 Comments



A year ago, Turkey was hardly on my mind and I had not really considered visiting. I had no particular reasons for that – I simply didn’t know much about it and I had not bothered researching about its attractions.

Except for a picture I discovered on Pinterest and I became obsessed with: Pamukkale natural pools. I HAD to go there one day!

Then a tour operator, Ada Vegas Travel, contacted me to see if we could collaborate together and after months of talking, I got very curious and decided to accept their offer to finally visit Turkey!


This might sound convenient, but for those who know my work ethic, I am usually very reluctant when it comes to accepting trips from companies (and I turned down more offers than you can imagine). If I say yes, there must be a good reason behind it.

In the end, I’m SO glad that I’ve chosen to work with them! Murat and Yuskel were amazing, knowledgeable and most importantly I could see the love they have for their country.

So I went – and fell in love with it. Of all the amazing trips I took last June, Turkey has been the absolute highlight! I felt like a princess coming out of a fairy tale πŸ™‚


I loved it and I’m sure you will too!

If you are heading to Turkey, take 5 minutes and download this App, it’s super useful, free and will give you tons of info to find your way around the country!

What I loved the most about it was the currency conversion, obviously the free Wifi and the ATM locations, but there is so much more to it. It’s basically a pocket guide to Turkey!

Within the application, you can access information that you may need during your Turkey trip and local recommendations that you can’t find anywhere else.The app lists the touristic sites and places worth seeing based on your location, provides directions for getting there and helps you determine a personalized route and lists.

Moreover, when you download the app, you immediately get 300 minutes of free Wi-Fi. And you get 100 minutes more every time you withdraw cash from Garanti ATMs. Brilliant!!

Additionally, when you need cash, you can find the nearest Garanti ATM based on your location. Furthermore, you can take advantage of exclusive campaigns and opportunities, get information about local events and find useful tools such as currency converter.


Scroll To see How Unlock Turkey Looks Like!





Me, finally fulfilling my dream/obsession in Pamukkale!

Eventually, in the course of the last 8 months, I have visited Turkey twice. I have recently returned from my second visit to Istanbul and, needless to say, I found the city as splendid as I remembered it. During my first time in Istanbul, I stayed in Sultanhamet and revisiting it, the area was as vibrant and as full of life and colors as always, reminding me of all the reasons why I had fallen in love with it in June.


However, Istanbul is just one of the places I explored during my first trip to Turkey. There are many things and places I loved in Turkey, and each of them is special to me for a different reason. But some are simply unforgettable and deserved to be mentioned.

So here they are, the fairy tale places everyone need to visit when in Turkey!


These suggestions are based on my personal experience during my week in Turkey, but they are truly unmissable for everyone!


– And the Ephesus Ruins-

I started my tour of Turkey in Kusadasi, a lovely resort town on the Aegean coast where I arrived after flying into Izmir.

I enjoyed walking around Kusadasi, which actually proved to be very pretty. I particularly liked strolling along the waterfront, as well as getting lost in the maze of little alleys at the back, browsing through small shops selling all sorts of souvenirs, sipping a cold drink to escape the heat, and exchanging a few words with the locals.


Kusadasi is an excellent starting point for further exploration of the surrounding area. It actually is a popular cruise port, as the range of activities on offer and the day tours available is incredible.


-One of the many reasons I loved it!-



-Get into the time machine!-


The most popular attraction near Kusadasi is the archeological site of Ephesus. It’s easy to understand the big hype about it.

This site is simply spectacular, and I felt like I was walking through history when I roamed around. Built on the 10th century BC, Ephesus flourished under the Roman Empire, who got control of it in 129 BC.


The main feature of Ephesus is the Temple of Artemis. Although nowadays only the fundaments, the columns and fragments of the sculptures remain, when I saw it, I had no trouble understanding why this is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its magnificence and importance were such that it was a famous site already in the Renaissance period.

CAT_EPHESUS_TURKEY_THINGS_TO_DO_IN_ONE_WEEKOne thing I really enjoyed in Ephesus is that there are cats all over the site. It’s no secret that I love cats, and thus seeing them there, completely at ease in the ruins and among the tourists, made me like it even more.


-A religious sanctuary –


Not far from Ephesus, on Mt. Koressos there is the Catholic and Muslim shrine of the House of the Virgin Mary. This was discovered in the 19th century, and although the Catholic Church never confirmed or denied its authenticity, it is still a place of pilgrimage for many.

Catholics believe this is the place where the Virgin Mary was taken by St. John and where she lived until her Assumption.

I am not really a religious kind of person, but as most Italians I was raised Catholic and thus I found it very interesting and in a way touching to learn a little piece of religious history.

The place is very quiet and even if you are not religious, just like me, I still reccommend a visit for its peaceful vibe, check out the wall full of white piece of paper with lovely messages and dedicated places where people light a candle and pray surrounded by nature.


Check out Ada Vegas Travel Tours official website. And see the daily tours for the Kusadasi area.I really recommend them, love the way they organize the tour and most importantly…they are super friendly and knowledgeable!





-A dreamy place you CAN’T miss!-


About 3 hours drive from Kusadasi, Pamukkale is a spectacular site. No, wait… it’s more than spectacular, it definitely has the so called  “WOW FACTOR”.

After years drooling over the pictures online I was finally there and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the pools. Yes, they are THAT beautiful. No disappointment here!

Its name in Turkish means “cotton castle” and as soon as I got my first glimpse of it I understood why.

Everything is white, a series of natural pools created by the erosion of the travertine rocks with clear, warm, and turquoise waters where you can sit, relax and cover yourself with mud (Don’t forget your towel and a bathing suit).


-And extra Info about this paradise!-


Pamukkale is so unique that, together with Hierapolis, an ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city that was built on top of it, it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Although I am not a morning person, I am glad I went to Pamukkale really early: it surely is worth a very early wake up call. I left my hotel at 4:00 am, when it was still dark outside.

I got to enjoy a beautiful sunrise on the way, and arrived there when the site was still completely empty, and saying that the atmosphere was surreal is an understatement!

I had the site all to myself for a few hours, and enjoyed walking around, dipping my feet in the warm waters, and just staring at such beauty.




I would gladly go again just to put on my bikini and enjoy those marvelous pools!As you can see from the pictures here, no mud bath for me…

I was so mesmerized by the whole site that I had to take pictures (and videos), so with my backpack and all, I had to be super careful. My advice is, if you have a GoPro, just take that with you or get a waterproof camera and a towel. Nothing more.

I left again at about 11:00, right after the tour groups from Kusadasi had begun to arrive. Having an entire site to myself was really special, and I do recommend making the extra effort to travel in the early hours for that.



Do you want to visit Pamukkale from Kusadasi (just like I did?), check out this page to book it directly online. Do I need to tell you that it’s totally worth it? No, I don’t think it’s necessary! Definitely one of the best places I’ve ever seen during my trips πŸ™‚ 




-Let the fairy tale begin!-


I wasn’t sure what to expect about Cappadocia. I saw so many pictures of it that, almost as with my Pamukkale experience, I was a bit worried that the reality could be a bit disappointing.


After visiting, the only word I have to describe it is…pure magic! All the time I have spent there, I felt like being in a fairy tale.

From Goreme Open Air Museum (never a name felt more appropriate) to the monks valley, from Esentepe village to Avanos, it is easy to see why a lot of people consider this one of the places they have to visit at least once in their lifetime (and I’m now obviously one of them!).

Goreme Open Air Museum is another of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is a monastic complex where churches are carved in the rock and the frescoes retain their beautiful colors.

There even are refectories with tables and chairs that are also carved in the rock. I surely had never imagined anything like this could possibly exist!

I remember sitting on the rocks and just admiring that view…. mesmerizing to say the least! It’s so damn difficult to express with the right adjectives the wonders I’ve seen in Turkey. 


Cappadocia is famous for its houses and hotels carved in the rock. In fact,  my hotel room was like that. The famous “Cave Hotels”

I found it so amusing, so unique and weird that the minute I walked in my room I could not stop jumping up and down from the happiness of being there.

Imagine a room with a fireplace, walls made of stones with candles inside, typical Turkish carpets and so many sofas that I had to try them all, just like a kid would do.

If you go to Cappadocia it’s mandatory for you to stay in a “cave Hotel”, and possibly act like a kid. All part of the fairy tale package!

I also enjoyed chilling out of my room on the sofa, taking in the view, and walking around the village just to get a nice feel of it. Little did I know then that the best was yet to come!


Sneaking inside one of the fairy houses at Groeme open air museum

The surprises and wow’s in Cappadocia really never end (that’s why I didn’t want to leave!)


Not to be missed!



Indeed, the most spectacular thing I did while in Turkey (and perhaps in my life!) was going on a hot air balloon ride.



The Göreme Open-Air Museum is an essential stop on any Cappadocian itinerary and deserves a two-hour visit (at least!)

Interested in a tour in the beautiful Cappadocia?! (you’d better be!) πŸ™‚ check this tour out! It’s a 3 day trip from Antalya but there are also other options available. Enjoy the fairy tale!!!



-A city like no other!-


I usually don’t like big cities and whenever I travel I try to get out of them as soon as possible. Istanbul is definitely THE exception!

I enjoyed it so much that I actually went back for a second visit. In fact, I think one is hardly ever done exploring Istanbul, as there are just too many things to see.


What impressed me the most about Istanbul is that it is an incredible mixture of cultures, all living together in harmony.

After all, it is the only city in the world spread across two continents. Walking in the streets, I could spot men and women wearing the latest fashion items, and others strolling about in more traditional clothes, veiled.

Such peaceful heterogeneity impressed me.

In a time when many countries are building walls to stop migrants and refugees from entering, and when some members of the EU are suspending the Schengen agreement, Istanbul is the physical proof that different cultures can happily coexist; it is a symbol of a bridge that shortens the physical and emotional gap between peoples.

Aside from the emotional aspects, Istanbul is simply a gorgeous city where I truly enjoyed getting lost.

Later I explored its landmarks, such as Hagia Sophia, a former Christian basilica, later on a mosque and nowadays a museum; and the stunning Blue Mosque.


I spent hours in the maze of the covered bazaar, using my haggling skills to buy some of the beautiful ceramics, and sitting in one of the many cafés to enjoy a strong Turkish coffee accompanied by baklava, a filo pastry sweet packed with honey, butter and various kinds of nuts.

I smelled the fragrances of the Egyptian Spice Market, shop after shop of fantastic tea infusions, herbs, dried fruits.


At sunset time, I climbed up the Galata Tower, from where I admired an impressive view of the city. And then I joined the thousands of people who strolled along Istikal Caddesi for a night walk, till I got to Taksim square, nowadays a meeting center and the site of many protests against the government.


One of the most fun things I did in Istanbul was taking a cruise on the Bosphorus. Lots of travelers overlook this as they consider it too touristy, but I have to say I really enjoyed it! (Quite windy so grab a wind breaker with you!).


The cruise lasts about one hour, during which one can enjoy the views of all the bridges, the coffee shops and restaurants along the Bosphorus, and of quite a few of Istanbul landmarks. My recommendation is to actually do the cruise in the late afternoon, so as to enjoy the beautiful sunset light.


I also definitely enjoyed the nightlife in Istanbul! I would say it is thriving. Restaurants are packed; bars, coffee shops, and clubs invite customers to walk in, relax and have a chat.

Music is blasting till the early morning hours. People are busy and know how to have a good time in Istanbul! I certainly did πŸ™‚


Take your time, at least a whole afternoon to visit the Gran Bazaar, even I, not a huge fan of shopping was swept away by all the colorful merchandise!


I discovered that I have an obsession for colorful lamps, I think I took something like 500 pictures of them, all different colors and shapes! I wanted to buy a few but I didn’t have enough space in my suitcase. Next time!

If your time in Istanbul is limited, I recommend booking a tour like this one (but there are also other options available!), so that you don’t have to organize everything by yourself, possibly missing out on the top spots of this amazing city!





How can one not love Turkish people? Both times I have visited Turkey I found them to be incredibly kind, friendly and generous.

They were as curious about me as I was about them, always ready for a chat and always available to share information, point me to the right direction, and have a fierce yet friendly haggling session in a shop.

Not to mention that one of my dearest friend, is actually a Turkish girl, Behye! I met her years ago in London and she’s super sweet and can’t wait to see her again!





I have one word for Turkish food: mouthwatering! There is no such thing as starving there, as the food is delicious.

Turkish food is mostly a continuation of Ottoman cuisine, and many of the dishes found here are similar to those that can be found in other countries that were under Ottoman rule, such as Egypt, Greece, the Balkans and even Israel.

Turkish breakfast is very rich, and completely different from the one I may have in Italy. It includes hard boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes and cucumber salad, a mild cheese, sucuk (which is a kind of sausage) and bread.

It was enough to fill me up until dinner time, except I wouldn’t skip lunch because the food was just too delicious and tempting.

Fresh seafood and fish is easily available, especially on the coast. It is usually cooked in very simple ways – for example, grilled – and as such retains all of its flavor and nutritional value. I love fish, so when I visited Kusadasi I feasted on it!

When in Turkey, one simply can’t miss kebabs. I had to “oblige,” so I tried both the doner and the shish (I think the shish is simpler and tastier – just my humble opinion).





At the cost of sounding like a crazy cat lady, one of the things I love the most about Turkey is that there are lots of cats.

Pretty much wherever I walked, I could see a cat resting in the sun, peacefully. Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has a colony of cats that live on the site – one of them is actually a celebrity.

Many shops have pillows on their windows, where cats sleep and admire the view and pose for photos. Ephesus was packed with kitties too.

One of the funniest memories I have of Istanbul is giving water to a kitty. I noticed he had been trying to drink from a bottle, and as he didn’t manage I poured some for him.

When he was done drinking, he jumped on my lap to be petted. I suppose it was his way of thanking me and saying we could be friends. So sweet!!





Turkey has gone through some significant changes in the last few decades. At a time when many countries in the European Union have been experiencing a credit crunch, Turkey’s economic growth has been impressive.

This growth is visible everywhere. But there’s more than that.


I found Turkey to be culturally very vibrant. This is a country where people participate in the daily political life expressing their views.

A country where they protest for their rights, where they welcome positive change and progress and where they are not afraid of confrontation.

After having visited twice, I can wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Turkey. There is something in it for just any kind of traveler: archeological sites, culture and history galore; beautiful cities; incredible landscapes and nature to inspire some great adventures; beautiful beaches; and delicious food.

In fact, I would actually like to visit again (and I probably will very soon!)

Yep, Turkey really has it all and I left a piece of my heart in that beautiful country! I was so happy to see Yuksel from Ada Vegas Travel again in London at the WTM, we took some time to remember our fun times together with the promise that we will see each other once again!

On the left -and on my left- is Yuksel! Such a fun, lovely guy, and our guide for most of the week! (Plus a few other shots from my incredible time in Turkey…memory lane mode on! )

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Gurpreet Singh

Definitely one of the best posts I’ve come across being an avid traveler myself. I’m inspired enough to pack my bags immediately but my family is equally keen so want to ask you some quick questions: 1. Is December (anytime from 15-25th) a good time keeping i mind the weather and what could be enjoyed in these places, esp Capadoccia and Pamukkale? Will we be bale to soak in the pools of Pamukkale? 2. If we follow the same itinerary as yours, how many days would we need? As a background, we are a family of 4 and my daughters… Read more Β»


One of the best articles till now, I read on Turkey it really gives deep insights about the country. It really helps people like me, who have never been to Turkey, but, planning to visit.


I just recently became hooked with the idea of visiting Turkey, Cappadocia especially but after reading this article I want to delve into all over! I thank you for sharing your experiences! I aspire to visit sometime in May.


Thank you so much for this post. I was contemplating where to do our trip in March, but after reading your post about turkey, there is absolutely no doubt left where it will be. I am planning my trip now. Since I am travelling with kids, I would like to avoid unnecessary travel. You said you landed in Izmir. So was your return also from Izmir? or any other airport? I loved the way you did. Do you mind sharing the order of places you visited each day? Thanks again in advance. Great post!

Sara Rasiwala

Enjoyed your blog , I have just been to Istanbul but next year sept I want to go to all the places you have mentioned. Thanks for all the tips.


Well written travel article. Simple, to the point and helpful. Thank you!!!!

Excellent blog post about travelling to Turkey. Anybody should read this article and check the pictures before planning a trip to Turkey. The photos seems very exciting and inspiring! Thank you for the good read.

We would like to see you in Marmaris next time. Come and join excursions in Marmaris with us.


Hi! I was wondering, how many days were you in Turkey on this trip? Was it a standard 10 days/ 2 week trip? Looking for my autumn trip and have been considering Turkey for ages…really want to go!


Hey Clelia!

I’m really excited I was planning to go to Eastern Europe but plans changed and now I’m really thinking on going only to Turkey instead.
How did you feel being a woman wandering in the streets and mosques and all that?
I’m traveling solo. I’ve traveled solo to SEA and I felt really safe and people were really nice to me. I want to feel the same way in Turkey. What is your experience around this?


Hi Clelia,

Thanks for all the tips very helpful.
I was wondering you said you left your hotel early to go to Pamukkale so you can beat the crowds.
Did you have a driver take you there or a specific tour group?
Also are you just able to just dip in whenever?



I just recently became obsessed with the idea of visiting Turkey, Cappadocia in particular but after reading this article I want to explore all over! I appreciate you sharing your experiences! I hope to visit sometime in May.


I visited in Turkey in 2014 and to this day still find myself daydreaming about it. Not sure when my next trip will be but I mysteriously fell in love with this country so I will once again walk among the dazzling colours, sights, smells, people and Ephesus. Love, Love, Love.

Loving your blog.


Very Nice Article..


Great post! And so bright pics from Pamukkale!
I’ve been twice to Istanbul and a bit outside of it! It was amazing to discover it with the friends living there!

The biggest impression was the sunset on those small roofs of Cihangir houses ..)


Hey Clelia,

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful article and amazing pictures. Though Turkey is full of attractions, but i like the most is Pamukkale.



We took an trip to Turkey during the last Christmas break. While we were a little worried about the possibility of an attack – we weren’t going to let that affect our plans. I absolutely agree with Pamukkale and Cappadocia as being one of the highlights of the trip – and I would say one of the highlights across all of my previous trips. For Pamukkale we took a day trip from Istanbul – Turkish Airlines has a flight early in the morning which gets there around 10:00 AM and a they offer a return flight to Istanbul in the… Read more Β»

Anne P

Beautiful place. Excellent content. It will help me a lot!


Awesome! I’ve been debating between Jordan and Turkey….any preference?

Traveling LADY

Hello Clelia,

Thank you for your post ! You made some great points. But for the next time you visit Turkey, I would be happy to show you around mediterranean coast, it is delightful !


What a comprehensive post … my favorite part was the section about the cats … crazy about them too!


We visited Turkey (Istanbul and Ephesus) as part of a 5 day cruise. Ephesus was wonderful, being a cat person as well, I absolutely loved it there. I lost our tour guide a couple of times because I was busy taking photos of the cats haha.
Anyway, we decided to come back and do a full tour of Turkey in the near future. Your itinerary is great, we’ll pretty much use it the way it is and just add some side trips πŸ™‚
Thank you so much for sharing this! Love your blog

Nicky Plegge

Going but not yet gone, this incredible medieval ruined city, perched above the Tigris, will disappear beneath the waters of a controversial dam.


Thanks to luck (and Google) I stumbled across this article. Definitely a good read and esp for me as I am in the process of assembling a trip for myself to Istanbul. I think can def related to what you said in the first para “Except for a picture I discovered on Pinterest and I became obsessed with: Pamukkale natural pools. I HAD to go there one day!”.

I’m going through same for Istanbul – want to roam through its bazaar and take 1000s of photos. I will share my blog post with you once I am back.


I have been talking to a few Turkish people online who tell me tourist numbers have dropped drastically in places like Istanbul over the past year. Did you experience this? Turkey has been on our radar for years now and can’t wait to visit soon.