Plan Your Next Trip to…Istanbul + Antalya, Turkey

Hey family! Long time no post. It’s been a busy few months, but one of the biggest highlights was my recent trip to Turkey! Read on to see all the details of the trip!

A trip to Turkey. Always been a dream of mine, and Alhamdulillah my husband & I made it come true just a few weeks ago.

We both had wanted to go to Turkey, so picking our destination for our next vacation was never an issue. But planning a trip abroad requires a lot of work and planning and research. We knew our time of travel were within a 10-day window in mid-April. We started our search in February and everything was booked by March.

I would allow a solid 2 months before the trip begin planning and booking airline tickets, hotels, and anything else you might need.

How we decided what we wanted to do and where to visit – Initially, I was hoping to get 2 countries in on this trip. Istanbul, Turkey + something else. However, my husband heard about the city of Antalya, Turkey through a cousin of his who visited both. We investigated it and my husband was sold, so we decided to do 2 cities within Turkey and I don’t regret it at all! Antalya is beautiful and about an hour and half flight from Istanbul, on the other side of the country on the coast. We decided to split our time between both cities in 4ish days at both places. It is the perfect amount of time at both places! The weather in Turkey is (on average) in the 60s. We did experience some colder days, but overall (going from MI) we felt that the weather was nice. I would never want to go in the summers because it would just be too hot.

Airline tickets – I knew I wanted to travel Turkish airlines if possible, so when we started to search, we were able to purchase tickets at the most reasonable cost through them. Unfortunately, from Detroit there are no direct Turkish Airlines flights, so we had 1 stopover on the way there and back. But it wasn’t bad at all, we welcomed the layover, so we could stretch our feet. Airline tickets were the biggest chunk of the cost of our trip. But that is to be expected because you are going abroad. Overall though, we found a great deal and were able to keep our total for 2 roundtrip tickets under $3k. P.S. I liked Turkish airlines service, food and flight. They fly all over the world, so definitely book them for your next international travel!

We used Turkish Airlines for our domestic travel between Istanbul and Antalya as well. Those tickets were quite cheap, $120 total probably for the two of us. Their domestic travel is better than any US domestic airline I’ve taken. On a 1&1/2 hour flight – they serve you a full sandwich for lunch or breakfast. A full sandwich, free of cost! We barely get pretzels here in American flights. Shaking my head so hard!!

Visas – Turkey requires an e-visa for US citizens visiting them. Its $20/per application, and it is a super easy process and you print out your visa right on the spot. Take it with you with your passport and travel documents and they will check it only upon arrival into Turkey.

Hotels – We booked our flights in early March and hotels by the end of March. Let me tell you, the options of hotels in Istanbul are endless. It’s honestly hard to decide because everything looks good. But we decided to pretty much stay at an average or budget type hotel that was close to all the main tourist sites because you would be spending most of your day outside of the hotel, there isn’t a need for super luxury. Unless you got that $ to throw around, then go for it!

We decided to stay at Hotel Empire Palace – Best Western which was a branch of Best Western out there. Free breakfast was included daily and that was one of the top things I looked for in a hotel. Because we’d be out all day, its best to find a hotel that can feed you breakfast so you don’t need to buy all 3 meals outside. The staff was friendly and accommodating so that really helped as well. Free WIFI through the hotel so that was great as well! The bed wasn’t the most comfortable, and the shower didn’t have a door that closed completely so those would be my only issues with the place. But overall, it was a fine stay. Biggest perk – all your major sites are walking distance!

Istanbul – There is so much to do and see here. We were able to see all the major tourist attractions I wanted to see, so I was happy with that.

  • The first day we got there, we arrived in the evening, so we were able to book a night/dinner cruise through our hotel. They provided pick up and drop off shuttle to the boat, and the cruise lasted about 4 hours. In our total time at Istanbul, this was probably our least fun/favorite activity. The cruise was just too long, and after awhile there wasn’t enough to do. It was fun for the first portion seeing some of the belly dancers, performances and the food was decent as well. Seeing the city at night time was nice as well. But I also think we were tired from our trip and could have benefited from just a low-key night in, exploring local area and getting some food.
  • The second day we were there was Friday and we did all the major sites on this day. Since they were walking distance from our hotel, it was convenient but LADIES #1 ADVICE – BRING SNEAKERS. I was a fool for not because I wanted to have ‘cute outfits and looks’, No. the amount of walking you will do, you need sneakers. On my last day in Istanbul, we had to buy me some Adidas (super cheap in Turkish Lira conversion), because I had blisters and swelling on my feet.
  • We saw Topkapi palace, Gulhane Park, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Grand bazaar. I cannot pick what I liked more than the other, everything was stunning in its own way. We had lunch at this super cute café called ‘Sura Café’ which was right near Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. We had our first set of Turkish tea here. And let me tell you, Turkish people are obsessed with their teas and coffees. They were way too bitter for us, because they drink it straight with no milk and not enough sugar, but it is an experience!
  • Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are right across from each other, with a little park/fountain in between them. Both are going under reconstruction right now due to repairs needed before heavy tourist season of the summer. But still, what we saw of both were stunning. The architecture of Turkey is something else, just unbelievably beautiful. I wish I could have my home look like that one day!
  • In retrospect, we could have split up some of what we did all in this one day over two days, but we were really set on hitting everything and didn’t realize how much time things would take. A note – Topkapi and Hagia are both museum’s and because of that they charge 60 Turkish Lira per person for entry which is about ~$10 which is cheap. The Blue Mosque is obviously free because it is a place of worship, and Grand bazaar and Gulhane park are also free. April is Tulip season in Turkey so allllllll of Gulhane park was filled with tulips, all colors and it is such a well-maintained park, I was in love!
  • I was slightly disappointed by Grand Bazaar only because, they are somewhat rude and don’t haggle enough, and it is just too big. We didn’t get through all of it, like there is just too much to see and shop at, so I’d just recommend going to go and enjoy whatever you can.
  • On the following day, we started our day with breakfast and Turkish Coffee at a coffee shop near our hotel called ‘The Coff’s’. Super cute vibes! We also booked a half day cruise (Again through our hotel), which was much better than the night cruise. This was about 2-3-hour cruise, but took us through the Golden Horn, and then the Bosporus sea which is the water that splits Istanbul between the European and Asian side. We were able to get off on the Asian side as well and explore a little, which was awesome. On the way back, the boat docked near the Galata area. So, we walked the Galata bridge to reach the Galata tower. Which is another site to see. The lines at Galata tower are long, so we grabbed lunch at Peopo’s Galata and tried Turkish doner! Food is incredible everywhere in this country, you cannot go wrong. We walked from here all the way back to our hotel, so, the amount of walking done each day was insane. And that evening, we tried out Hafiz Mustafa. Which is a ‘chain’ dessert shop in Istanbul, offering all types of Arab sweets, ice creams and cakes. So delish!
  • And on our last full day in Istanbul, we went to Arasta Bazaar which is close to Blue Mosque basically on the left side streets of it. This was a much more affordable bazaar and not nearly as big, so it was easier to shop here.
Blue Mosque
Tulips of Gulhane Park
Topkapi Palace

We got Turkish ice cream here as well, and I’d recommend every tourist to try out street side ice cream! The ice cream man behind these little ice cream carts are hilarious and mess with you (The customer) and basically play a game with you as you try to get ice cream.

We went to a Domino’s Pizza for lunch because we wanted a quick lunch this day, and the pizza there was delish! We also stopped by another cool coffee shop on the same street as our hotel this day called Perk Coffee, and I loved their vibes!

  • And we ended our day at Taksim Square in the evening, and this area is the furthest from our hotel. We had to take a taxi there and back. I can describe this like Times Square or NYC because it is insanely busy streets, and all filled with shopping. We went to the H&M there, and let me tell you, one of the best H&Ms I’ve been to in my life! So many stories high and amazing variety and cheaper than here. I couldn’t buy anything because our suitcase was already right at the weight limit, but if I could, I would’ve!
  • The next day, which was Monday the 15th we flew from Istanbul to Antalya and arrived at our hotel around 4ish in the afternoon. So, since my husband was super excited about this part of the trip, I booked our hotel resort for this trip as my birthday gift for him for this year as his birthday is May 4th.
  • We had done an all-inclusive resort in Mexico for our honeymoon, but we did another all-inclusive here, and let me tell you, it was half the cost. And since Turkey is a Muslim country the food is entirely halal, so that was a major win for us! We could eat everything, and we did. We stayed at Melas Lara Hotel and I’d recommend it!! Our room had a partial sea view and full pool view, which was super nice! The room was much more comfortable, so we were happy about that.
  • The goal of this part of the trip was to relax. And we did so much. So much lounging on the beach, pool, going down the water slides, having amazing food and enjoying the nightly games and shows offered. I read a book poolside which I enjoyed, and my husband swam daily (I did only one day) and we had a lovely time.
  • On our last full day there, we decided to explore a little bit of Antalya. Mind you, if you want to site see here, there is plenty to see. But nothing is as close as it is in Istanbul because this city is set up totally differently. We didn’t want to do all that as we really wanted to relax here, so we didn’t look too much into it.
  • We went to the Duden waterfalls via the public bus, which was a bit of a tough ride because the lack of English. So, we had to get off halfway and walk, but the sites were stunning to see! Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it!
  • After that, we booked Turkish Hammams through our hotel spa, and let me tell you – if you go to Turkey, get a hammam done. They have them all over the country, we could have done it in Istanbul, but kept if or the Antalya part of the trip because = relaxing. We got a hammam + massage + face mask for a total of about ~$130 total, which is a steal given the fact that in American massages alone run up to $100+. It was an amazing experience!!
Mountain views from Duden

And the last day, we spent the whole day travelling back home.

Duden Waterfalls

Amazing trip for sure, Alhamdulillah! No complaints, just a nice tan and amazing memories from this trip! I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, especially my Muslim peeps out there because this is the epitome of East meets West life. It feels like you are in Europe when you walk around and do everything socially, but you hear the Azaan 5 times a day, see the plethora of mosques and the food is Halal. So, you can live a very Muslim life there as well.

Overall – a few tips I’d give anyone thinking of travelling here:

  • Budget! Set a goal of a total # you want to spend or spend less than, and you can meet it. Be realistic but know that the Lira to USD conversion is quite favorable.
  • Bring sneakers or comfortable shoes! Walk as much as you can, and you’ll save on transportation
  • Plan a general itinerary of each day, know what sites you want to see and allow for the right # of days to see everything. I would say 4 full days in Istanbul are enough to see the big stuff, if you have a week, then you can do even more. If you have more time, go to another part of Turkey, you won’t regret it!
  • Pack smart. I think I did for the most part, I did run out of underwear basically by the end, and laundry was piling up.
  • Bring all the necessities and some medicines just for emergency. Thankfully we didn’t have to use any, but it was good to plan in case of emergency!

And that’s it! Enjoy your trip! It is so well worth everything.

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