Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Greece & Turkey. Itinerary

Feels like it's been ages since I've posted up anything on this travelogue but aside from a three week visit to California during which time I thought little about this trip, I have been flushing out the details for the trip.  The actual trip dates were finalized months ago when Bro got his leave request approved.

As of today, we have our plane tickets.  Our flight route has us arriving into Athens and departing from Istanbul.  As always, I got Bro's tickets first and then managed to find a flight for me that basically has us both on the same flight from NYC to Athens and on the return, from Istanbul to Amsterdam.

Then, came the day by day itinerary breakdown.  We'll be renting a car and driving ourselves around on a road trip through ancient Greece - Olympia, Delphi and last but not least,  Kastraki/Kalambaka where we will spend our time visiting the famous monasteries at Meteora .  Kalambaka is the name of the larger town - we'll actually be bunking down in the smaller, neighboring village of Kastraki.  I just hope it's not too small a village, at least large enough to have a restaurant would be good so we don't have to go far to find dinner.

I put together the Greece road trip following similar routes offered by tour groups except we'll be book ending our drive with stays in two seaside towns - Nafplio and Kemena Vourla.  If there's any time to go off the beaten path and check out some smaller villages, we'll definitely take the opportunity to do that.

We'll only make it Athens six days into our trip and will be staying at an Airbnb apartment located in the heart of the city.  We'll no longer have the car so we'll make our way around by subway or taxi.

Saying goodbye to Athens, we'll then head to a Greek island.  I've not worked out the details yet because the ferry schedules for when we will be traveling have not yet been issued.  The tentative plan is to fly to Santorini and then go by ferry to Syros, Samos, finally arriving into Kuşadası which will be our entry point into Turkey.  Although the itinerary for this one portion of the trip is still very much up in the air, I went ahead and booked all the hotels.  Fortunately, I can change hotel booking dates/cancel without penalty up until about a week our arrival date.



Having visited Turkey twice in 2008, I'm very much looking forward to showing Bro why I love this country so much.
 
We'll be using Kuşadası mainly as our base to visit Ephesus.  Can't go to western Turkey and not visit this most wonderful of Greco Roman ruins.Bro will have his first ride in a dolmuş as we'll be traveling on local transportation to get to the nearby town of Selçuk and then taxi from there to the ruins.
 
A short plan ride will take us from Kuşadası to Kayseri which is the entryway to Cappadocia.  In trips past, I've flown to Kayseri and then immediately boarded a shuttle bus to head to the small village of Göreme which is located in the heart of Cappadocia. But for this trip, we'll be picked up at the airport by a tour company to go on a 3 day, 2 night trip to Mount Nemrut.

I've arranged for the tour company to drop us off t our hotel in Göreme. I've booked us into a cave hotel.  Can't come to Göreme and not stay at a cave hotel.


We'll have a few days to explore the magical landscape of Cappadocia. I plan to take him to all the usual tourist attractions and have reached out to my acquaintance Zeki to put together an itinerary to visit some of the more off the beaten path places.   Zeki, who is a licensed Turkish guide, was born and lives in the town of Nevşehir.   I met Zeki on my second visit to Cappadocia and he kindly took me around to see many of the places that I did not get to see on my first visit.  Then, Zeki took me around for free; this time I will pay for his services.  Only issue might be that we'll be traveling during high season and since there are only two of us, Zeki might opt to pass us along to one of his colleagues if a larger tour group comes his way.  In any event, I hope that we can at least share a meal with him, if not tour with him.

Also, typically, tourists to Cappadocia will do a hot air balloon ride to have a birds eye view of the surreal looking landscape.  I think Bro would enjoy the flight but I've not yet made the arrangements and we can even wait until we're actually there to sign up for a flight.

From Cappadocia, we'll be flying to Istanbul, one of my favorite travel destinations.  It's been six years since I was last there - seems like it was just yesterday that I was standing in front of the magnificent Hagia Sophia.  I'm really looking forward to returning and showing my brother around this beautiful city.

Although a lot of the details for this trip have already been worked out, there's still more planning to be done.  Luckily, there's plenty of time before we leave!

Can't wait to go!

Update July 10, 2014:  We've settled on going to Santorini instead of Syros and will still end our Greek island adventure in Samos.  The plan is to fly from Athens to Santorini and then ferry over to Samos with a quick layover in Mykonos.  Planning for Santorini and Samos now begins!