Turkey is an enigmatic fusion wrapped in a Western/Eastern cultural ball. Once you’ve decided to sample its delights, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its dizzying array of choices for accommodations, from the glittering five-stars of Istanbul to caves deep in Cappadocia and gulets roaming the high seas. Following are some accommodation options to help you figure out where to stay in Turkey.
The most obvious choice is a traditional hotel, either one run by one of the large hotel chains that straddle the country or a family-run commercial operation in the busier western and southern coastal holiday centers.
For those looking for a city break — Istanbul, Ankara or Izmir — you’ll have many choices in terms of comfort, security and food. But essentially, your budget will determine the room you stay in.
If you’re staying in the cultural heart, Istanbul, then there’s a mind-blowing array of luxury hotels (Pera Palace, Kempinski, Amira, Four Seasons) and regular hotel chains (Hyatt, Novotel, Hilton). Dig a bit deeper, and you’ll be able to get a cozy hotel on a budget with great service, dining options, travel advice and a comfy bed (Ambassador, Faros).
Most of these city hotels will offer breakfast as an option, and front desk personnel will often be able to speak English. Check-ins are routinely at noon or 2 p.m., and housekeeping comes at least once a day.
Away from Turkey’s number-one destination, the hotel choice is still vast when you look at the western and southern coastal strip running from Cesme, near Izmir, through Kusadasi, Bodrum, Marmaris, Dalaman, Fethiye, Side and Antalya.
As there is no official star rating system in Turkey for hotels, the options can go to extremes, but the current trend is hotels that offer all-inclusive packages, allowing you to pay for a lengthy stay with your food and drink included in the price.
Given the economic crisis, all-inclusives are a great idea for families on budgets or for independent travelers without a lot of extra cash to spare. All-inclusives offer as much as a three-star chain, plus all-day dining options, a beach, entertainment, pools — basically everything to discourage you from having to wander off the complex. Of course, independent travelers will want to rent a car so as not to be 100 percent tied to the hotel.
You’ll find that most hotels provide room service, TV’s with international stations, telephones and Wi-Fi.
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Turkey Bed and Breakfasts/Guesthouses
B&B’s in Turkey can vary widely in cost, comfort and surroundings, but you’ll be sure to have a unique experience. They usually offer a great location, independent travel and the chance for you to get down to the brass tacks of Turkish life — rather than the superficial feel of the large hotel chain. You will find a more personal touch at B&B’s; examples include gardens to sit in and tea- and coffee-making facilities in each room.
Guesthouses within the larger holiday centers of Bodrum, Kusadasi and Marmaris cater quite easily to the B&B sector, mainly because the Turkish people are keen on their breakfasts: cheese, olives, yogurt, bread, etc. Because Turkey is a Muslim country, bacon will not be on the breakfast menu.
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Turkey Villa and Apartment Rentals
From a small apartment in Istanbul to a five-bed villa and pool overlooking the Bodrum peninsula, the rental route offers a long- or short-term option without the restrictions you’d find at an all-inclusive hotel (such as strict meal times). This option offers an independence that’s akin to living like a sun-kissed expat.
The rental market, while still largely in its infancy, has grown significantly. The construction boom and buying frenzy of the Turkish real property sector, when it was opened to foreigners in 2006, has led to those same buyers now falling back on their properties to become cash generators during the current hard times.
Perhaps the best part is that you don’t have to be stuck in the wilds of nowhere to benefit, as most of the properties are close to the beach and central amenities. There are many affordable options available.
What you need to bear in mind when booking a villa or apartment is location, facilities, needs, budget and reliability of the renter. If you have never done it before, consider using the services of a rental agency to walk you through the experience. If you have, then ensure you get pictures of the property, references from satisfied clients, and research the area around you.
The last thing you need is to book a dream fortnight’s holiday in a villa standing on the outskirts of an industrial town, with only the occasional minibus passing by. Research is key to your satisfaction in the rental market, and that means asking lots of questions. Is that 10-minute walk to the beach really 30 minutes for an elderly couple or a family of five with a stroller? How regular is the minibus service — could a night on the tiles end up being a very long walk home after hours?
Renters should also find out where their nearest supermarkets are and if there are any produce markets nearby, as you will need to stock your own kitchen.
Booking a rental on your own means that you will be on your own without the support network you’d have at a hotel. Renting a car is often essential, even if it is only to get you from the airport to your rental spot and back again.
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One of the more novel ways of enjoying a Turkey vacation is to travel on a traditional gulet, sailing the Med and Aegean while also calling on the nearby Greek islands. Trips aboard these two- or three-masted wooden sailing boats, often called blue cruises, are a popular option for small-group rentals.
Gulets are popular for roaming the western coastline between Kusadasi, Bodrum and Marmaris, and in the south in Fethiye and Antalya. They offer a chance to top up your tan, search out isolated beaches and catch up on your fishing. Plus, if you don’t like the beachside location in which you’ve stopped, you can simply pull up anchor and move on.
The type, luxury and capacity of gulets can range considerably, depending on the size of your budget. Gulet owners have staff onboard to captain the boat, and the larger ones come with their own hotel services staff to see to your every whim.
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Turkey Cave Hotels
For a truly different vacation experience, you might want to book a hotel dug out of the ancient caves that riddle Cappadocia. The caves have been used over the centuries as storage facilities, living quarters, chapels, libraries and bolt-holes for families evading warring tribes.
Now, in more peaceful times, they’re utilized as accommodations, particularly in the heart of the historic village of Goreme, with views of the surrounding area. They offer fascinating insight into the history of the area.
Most of the cave hotels also come with surprisingly 21st-century amenities and a boutique ambience. Vacationers will usually combine a visit to Cappadocia with a balloon trip, which offers a fascinating view of the harsh moonscape below.
Cave hotels are increasingly popular options for honeymooners to relax in or for more adventurous types to experience the landscape with a variety of outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, rafting and horseback riding.
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–written by Andy Probert
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