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Saturday, 01 March 2014 00:00

Turkey - Traveling Beyond Istanbul

Written by  Maxine Albert

It’s not surprising that Turkey scores high on everyone’s list of favorite destinations. Istanbul always dazzles; that’s a given. Its unique combination of mystical ancient city and fashionable, modern metropolis wows honeymooners as well as all lovers of fascinating, exotic locales. Add on a visit to Cappadocia with its fairy chimneys and underground cities plus a jaunt to Bodrum’s seaside with its famed yachts and beaches. You’ll have an itinerary guaranteed to satisfy even your most discerning client’s palate.

If you like magical places and subterranean cities, you will love Cappadocia. A favorite of the stylish set, the region boasts a surreal landscape and high end cave hotels. Volcanic eruptions and erosion created giant mushroom shaped rock formations, called ‘fairy chimneys,’ that make you feel as if you’re walking on the moon.

Goreme National Park’s wondrous open-air museum includes monasteries, chapels and churches cut from rock and adorned with colorful Byzantine frescoes. The ancient town of Zelve boasts buildings and caves carved into cliffs. Phenomenal underground cities Kaymakli and Derinkuyu, where Christians hid from marauding enemies, have rooms for wine aging, cooking, storage, animal stabling and anything imaginable.

A highlight of my stay in this magical land was watching the Whirling Dervishes as they twirled themselves into a mystical state in an ecstatic dance of devotion at Carevanserai. For the truly unforgettable Cappadocia experience, take in the fairy tale landscape from a hot air balloon. You set off at dawn, the rising sun’s rays playing on the otherworldly terrain as you glide silently through the sky.

Martha Stewart was so taken with the Argos Hotel perched on a hilltop, offering chic restored cave suites with fireplaces, indoor pools and private terraces with breathtaking panoramic views, she featured it on her show.

Also noteworthy is the posh Relais & Chateaux Museum Hotel with cave rooms and suites decorated with priceless antiques from the Ottoman, Seljuk, Roman, and Hittite periods.

Time to enjoy the good life in Turkey’s most popular seaside destination. Often compared to St. Barts and St. Tropez, Bodrum, in the southwestern Aegean, is regarded as the playground of the rich and famous. Long a favorite haunt of celebrities and the fashionable international set, now American travelers are flocking to this picturesque resort. One has only to bask in the stunning natural light and beautiful ambiance to understand its appeal to artists and creative types, along with jet setters.

During the day the action is aboard traditional wooden gulets and modern yachts offering trips along the turquoise coast to secluded beaches, inlets, nearby islands and romantic cruises along the Mediterranean. Join in the favorite pastime of the glitterati - yachting about here and there. For lunch, anchor at local favorite, Ali Riza’s Place in Gumusluk for excellent fish. Back in town, St. Peter’s Castle, situated at the middle of Bodrum’s twin harbors, offers panoramic views of the sea and the Greek style whitewashed houses splashed with colorful bougainvillea. Marvel at sunken treasure from a fourteenth century shipwreck at the cool Museum of Underwater Archaeology. You’ve never seen anything like this.

The glamour of the nightlife makes Bodrum the most popular party destination in Turkey, with each spot trying to outdo the next. You’ll find bars, discos, taverns and restaurants that sizzle till the wee hours all along the Bodrum Peninsula. I took in the scene over a dinner of delectable mezzes and luscious kebabs at The Marina Yacht Club, with live music and a stylish crowd of all ages. Then onto Campanella, an upstairs café, where I was mesmerized by dark haired beauty Gokce Yildir who sang ballads about love and longing like a Sufi mystic.

The 5-star Barbaros Bay Kempinski Hotel boasts a state of the art acclaimed spa, outstanding cuisine, suites with scenic floor to ceiling windows and expansive balconies overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Casa dell’Arte, is a mansion turned stunning 12 suite boutique hotel with museum quality art collection, private beach and 3 yachts for charter, plus a 37 suite family resort.

How To Go
Turkish Airlines offers direct service from New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and starting this May, Boston, to Istanbul. The carrier flies to Bodrum as well as Cappadocia from Istanbul. Passengers enjoy great service, excellent amenities, an on board chef, international WiFi and a newly renovated business class lounge in Istanbul that looks like a 5-star hotel.

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