When I found out that I had an opportunity to go on an educational to Turkey with Qatar and Fez Travel, I was so excited as it had been on the top of my list of places to visit!
There were 19 agents from Sydney that participated in the educational and we met at Sydney Airport for our first flight Sydney-Doha on our way to Bodrum. Qatar’s newest destinations in Turkey are Bodrum, Antalya, Hatay and Adana.
The Flight – Qatar
I was lucky enough to get an economy exit row seat in the upper deck area of the A380, this is a much quieter section of the aircraft versus the main economy cabin downstairs. There was lots of leg room enabling me to stretch out, which is what I needed for the 15-hour flight. Service was very good, and refreshments were offered constantly throughout the flight. The French Toast on the breakfast service was delicious and I’m not a huge fan of plane food! Entertainment was also very good with lots of choices.
Doha is a very modern and large airport, we had to catch a train to our gate it was that big. At the airport it was expensive to purchase food and alcohol although is very cheap to purchase your Duty Free. We checked in for our next flight Doha-Bodrum and took a bus to the plane. Again, I was lucky enough to get an exit row seat with a spare seat next to me! Flight time was 4 hours and 40 mins, we arrived into Bodrum in the afternoon and made our way to check into our hotel, The Grand Yazici.
What a great hotel overlooking the town. My hotel room was spacious with its own separate lounge room and a view of one of the pools. The property also had a gym, spa, bar and restaurant. They also offer a complimentary shuttle to the beach which has its own private deck from which you can jump into the ocean.
Bodrum is a gorgeous seaside town, our first night we were invited to a Sunset Dinner Cocktail cruise on a traditional Gulet. Gulet's are generally hired for a week at a time and cruise around the Mediterranean, they also come complete with their own captain and crew. We were lucky to have such a vessel for the evening. It is a lovely way to view Bodrum from the sea and take in the surrounds. We could even see the Island of Kos (part of Greece) from the boat! We were treated to a delicious meal of fresh fish and Turkish cuisine.
The next day we toured around Bodrum and visited the seaside town of Yakilkavak. The marina is dotted with luxury yachts that are mostly owned by retirees. I was shown a great shop that sold a wide variety of spices, along with dried fruits and the most amazing Turkish delight. I purchased a box of Turkish Delight to bring home and savour, however it was so delicious it has been devoured by family and friends instead!
We stopped at a local coffee house to have Turkish coffee which was strong but delicious, those members of our group that didn’t want coffee opted for the Cay, which is tea and also delicious. This is a nice way to unwind and watch the world go by.
Next stop a place called Yenikoy for a delicious lunch of kebabs and pides which were sensational! Meals in Turkey are never small and always involve lots of courses! Afterwards it was free time and I decided to enjoy the hotel's private beach and pool. The sea water was quite salty and warm, perfect for a swim. Dinner was at a fancy yacht club located on the main marina of Bodrum and we were spoilt again with a four-course meal, the perfect way to finish our final night in Bodrum.
The following morning, we rose early to depart for Aphrodisias about a four-hour drive from Bodrum. We stopped at a quaint little restaurant for lunch on the way, the view was incredible, vines of fresh fruit surrounded the property and we were given fresh figs and grapes to try, amazing! We also enjoyed a meal of lentil soup, pides, a selection of BBQ meats and sides. To cap it off we were serenaded by a musician playing local music.
After lunch we visited Aphrodisias which is home to the Temple of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, the amphitheatre and ‘the largest ancient stadium in the world’ and one of the best preserved. The stadium was the highlight for me it was huge, I can’t believe it is over 2000 years old!
Our next hotel was the Colassae located in Pamukkale. On the way there we stopped to see how Turkish rugs are made out of silk threads. These carpets are beautiful, they take many months to create and therefore are an investment piece, if you are looking at buying. One of our group members did buy one of the smaller carpets. We arrived at our hotel quite late, there are not many hotels in this area and this was one of the best. It was a comfortable hotel and quite big, as it caters for the tour groups, this is best for a stopover. Dinner and breakfast were buffet style and served in a large communal dining hall. The property boasted a number of pools and a bar to enjoy. They also had local music and a belly dancer at night.
The following morning, we were up early as we had a big day. First stop was Pamukkale a Unesco Site, also known as the Cotton Castle. This is quite an amazing natural wonder, basically it is white terraces and pools which have been formed by ancient hot springs. There were fantastic photo opportunities and we saw many a hot air balloon and hang gliders overhead. On route to our final destination Antalya, we stopped to have a quick lunch of pides and visited a leather factory outlet that sells to fashion houses such as Versace! This factory stocked high quality leather jackets and accessories and if you can afford to buy, it is well worth it.
Our final stop of the day was Antalya where we checked into the Kempinski Hotel the Dome. What a show stopper! An amazing all-inclusive hotel located in Belek overlooking the Aegean Sea. The lobby foyer was a standout decorated with amazing Turkish designed ceilings and beautiful flowers. We were welcomed with a drink and chocolates.
Then to my room, it was huge with two double beds, working desk, sitting area and a balcony that overlooked the tennis courts. Some of the group were fortunate enough to get a room with pool and sea views. The mini bar was complimentary, and the bathroom stocked with Salvatore Ferragamo products was divine. The property boasted a spa, indoor/outdoor pools including a pool bar in the main pool, fitness centre, private beach with pavilions, water sports, tennis courts and a golf course. As it was early evening by the time we settled in, we headed to the bar and cabanas which were located on the beach. It was a perfect spot to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean and enjoy a drink. Dinner was at the main Lale Restaurant which had an Italian themed buffet dinner, of great quality and a large variety of options. It was a nice a change from the traditional Turkish meals we had been enjoying.
The last full day in Antalya was a free day. I opted for a couple of hours of indulgence at the day spa located at the hotel. I very much enjoyed my traditional Turkish Hammam, which you must try if you visit Turkey, and a one-hour massage. I then decided to get out and about and visit the old town of Antalya-Kaleici. This is approximately a 30-minute drive from Belek and is definitely worth a visit.
Dan a history teacher, who is also a tour leader for Fez Travel Study Groups, joined me. I am so glad he did as he was full of knowledge and knew his way around Kaleici. Hadrian's gate and its walls surrounds this town, there were many cobble stone streets with old Ottoman style buildings, along with restaurants and bars. The marina is the highlight with its beautiful turquoise water perfect for swimming. It was visually stunning and the major highlight for me on this trip. After touring Kaleici it was time to head back to the Kempinski for a well-earned drink at the pool bar. The theme for our farewell dinner was Chinese which we all enjoyed! We then headed to the Dome Cafe for one last cocktail with the group before calling it a day.
The Flight Home – Qatar
On the way home, I was lucky enough to fly business class from Antalya to Doha which was just under five hours. The seat was spacious, and I loved the blanket which was quite heavy and warm. The service was excellent, and I enjoyed the Champagne, Godiva chocolates and barista style coffee very much! The last flight Doha -Sydney was in economy class but upper deck. I didn't get the best seat, it was at the rear of the aircraft, so it didn’t recline. Fortunately, I had a spare seat next to me, so I could stretch out. The Qatar staff on board were very friendly and helpful. All in all, not a bad flight just very long.
To sum it up, Turkey is an amazing destination and if you have not been you must go! The scenery is divine, the people are friendly and hospitable, the food is fantastic. I am already planning to go back and see Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus around September next year it was that good!