Travelogue: Turkey in a motorhome

Turkey in a motorhome

May/June 2011


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It was a great experience! We were on the road for five and a half weeks in May/June 2011 and drove 8.300 km (5.158 miles). Two things impressed us most: the scenery (especially in Cappadocia) and the friendlyness of the people.

From the abundance of impressions and about fifteen hundred photos I picked a few for this report. Added are some hints for those who are planning to go on such a trip.


Reiseroute Türkei
Itinerary (click to enlarge)



1. Basic hints

Traveling to Turkey by motorhome

Basically there are two routes to travel to Turkey from Western Europe, one is by land across the Balkan countries, the other is including a ferry passage from Italy to Greece – both of them in several variants. It pays to calculate the cost - fuel, toll, ferry ticket (depending on length and weight of the motorhome) and the time needed.


Anreisewege in die Türkei
Routes to Turkey (click to enlarge)

By land

The best route by land from Germany is via Austria (Linz, Vienna), Hungary (Budapest), Serbia (Belgrade, Niš) and Bulgaria (Sofia) to Edirne, Turkey. The route via Slovenia (Maribor) and Croatia (Zagreb) is of about equal length but much more expensive due to the higher toll in Slovenia and Croatia.


By ferry

For a short camper under a length of 6 meters the ferry Italy-Greece is certainly a good option. But after crossing the Adriatic Sea from Venice or Ancona to Igoumenitsa there still remain 800 km of driving across Greece to Eceabat resp. 900 km to Istanbul. Another fast and comfortable option (but a very expensive one for bigger motorhomes) is taking the ferry Venice-Patras, driving from Patras to Piraeus, ferry Piraeus-Chios, then ferry Chios-Cesme (TR). Of course the different national road tolls of the journey to the ferry have to be added to the respective ferry fare that depends on the length of the motorhome. In Switzerland and Austria that is the vignette (toll sticker) for small motorhomes or the higher toll for bigger motorhomes, in Italy the interstate toll.


Camping in Turkey

Free camping is permitted everywhere in Turkey. Most of the campgrounds are located along the coast, in the interior there are only a few; many of them are open only in summer, however. Except for the short summer season the rate is usually between 18 and 30 TL (8 – 13,50 Euro, US$ 5,50 – 9,50). The facilities do not match West European standards with very few exceptions.


Campingplatz Dusche
Campingplatz Waschbecken

Campground facilities open air

Roads and traffic in Turkey

Road construction seems to be the biggest economic sector in Turkey. Everywhere the main roads are enlarged to four lanes. Often beside the road on 20 or 30 kilometers two more lanes are in different stages of construction. Remarkable is, too, how wide the roads are. Often the width would be enough for four lanes instead of two.

Landstraße Türkei

The condition of these wide roads is a very different story. The surface of the roads is that rough and bumpy that one is always afraid of losing parts of the furniture inside the motorhome. So it is mostly appropriate to drive much slower than the line of the road requires. Side roads are often cluttered with potholes to such an extent that it is hardly possible to drive faster than 30 or 40 km/h (18-25 mi/h). Except in cities and their surroundings there is not much traffic.


Interstates are toll roads. The fee cannot be payed cash, but the driver has to buy a prepaid card “KGS“ and deposit a minimum amount. We disregarded buying the card because we would have used it only once for the Izmir bypass and so would have used only a small part of the prepayment.

The Turkish style of driving could perhaps be described as pragmatical instead of according to regulations and dogmatic. I gladly got used to it on the first day and felt the change on the journey back much more unpleasant. Want some examples ?

A no passing sign obviously means that while passing you are supposed to watch oncoming traffic. If you do not see a vehicle approaching you can pass, whether no vehicle is approaching or you do not see it due to a hilltop or a curve. Is the road wide enough you can pass, too, the oncoming traffic will get out of the way as will the passed vehicle.

A stop sign at a junction is a suggestion only for crossing the main road; turn right without feigned hesitation if the road is wide enough, everybody can pass on the left. Traffic lights mean “caution“, nothing else. Actually this is all going nicely and is fun.


Provision in Turkey

(Groceries, Water, Drugs, Diesel, Cash)


Even in the smallest village there is at least one small grocery shop, plenty of them in the bigger ones. Apart from that supermarket chains such as Bim, Migros, or kipa are widespread. More fun of course is shopping on the farmer's markets or in the many fruit shops, greengroceries, bakeries etc.


Drinking tap water is not recommended. Potable water is sold cheap in 5-liter-containers or bottles in almost every grocery shop. On the road you often pass wells that are referred to by a blue sign with a tap symbol. In the mountains this is mostly clear and good tasting spring water that we drank without problems. 


In almost every village there is a pharmacy ("Eczane"), often some of them. Drugs are reasonable.

Tankstelle Türkei

Diesel (motorin or dizel) and gas are very expensive in Turkey (June 2011: Diesel 3,48-3,70 TL = 1,57-1,67 Euro = US$ 2,25-2,40 per liter). Almost all gas stations are on a similar price level, but sometimes, often hundreds of kilometers apart, you suddenly find one or two or three that ask ten percent less. Better go for it at once. Rumors about poor diesel quality may be justified along the border to Syria or Iraq, otherwise forget them. Even when there are two different pump nozzles side by side for “motorin“ and “Eurodizel“ usually both comes from the same tank (the sign “Eurodizel“ is only to reassure foreign tourists I was told by trustworthy sources).

Our motorhome uncomplainingly consumed the cheapest "Motorin".

All gas stations on our journey accepted a credit card. Except in small hamlets in almost every village there is a bank with an ATM to withdraw cash (Turkish Lira/TL).



2. Our journey to Turkey

Access route via Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria

We leave on Saturday, May 14. On the first day we head 650 km southeast through Germany to Passau, the next day we drive 350 km across Austria to a little village in the southeastern corner of Austria, only a few kilometers from the hungarian border. In Austria we take the side roads, even iif it takes a little longer, because on the Austrian interstate we would have to pay more than 70 Euros (US$ 100) toll for our motorhome (as its weight is over 3500 kg = 7700 lbs.).

Wohnmobil

The next morning we cross the border to Hungary, buy the toll ticket for the hungarian interstates (13 Euro / US$ 19 one day for a motorhome our size) and enter the interstate to Budapest.

The route through Hungary is 350 km long, too, and all interstate except the four-lane Budapest bypass, which is very congested. The only annoying thing is the 80 km/h (50 ml/h) speed limit for bigger motorhomes.

In Serbia the interstates are toll roads, too, but instead of a countrywide ticket they have toll plazas and charge for each sector. Going through Belgrade is a struggle because of the heavy traffic, but from Belgrade to Nis there is a relatively new interstate with light traffic (toll 22,50 Euro = US$ 32). They even take Euros.

Right behind the toll plaza in Nis we stay overnight on the parking lot of Hotel Nais above the eastern side of the highway. Unfortunately it is not exactly quiet, but for comfort there is WiFi.


Tunnel zwischen Nis und Bulgarien

From Nis remain about 100 km ordinary road to the Bulgarian border. On the first 20 km the road winds through a deep canyon with some tunnels. Due to the narrow road and many oncoming big trucks the passenger is much more able to enjoy the scenery than the driver.




At the border Serbia-Bulgaria ours is the only vehicle and we pass within two minutes. At the first gas station we have to buy a toll sticker (road use fee) for 6 Euros and put it on the windshield. Except the capital Sofia transit everything goes quite smoothly; behind Sofia most of the road is an interstate. It is roughly 350 km through Bulgaria and we make it in about six hours.

Moschee

At 3 p.m. we arrive at the Turkish border. It takes about 20 minutes, because the motorhome is registered in the driver's passport. It might have gone faster, but the scooter which also is registered obviously caused some small administrative problem. And then we are in Turkey; we put our clocks one hour ahead. From Cologne we drove 2.250 km so far.


With the ferry across the Dardanelles to Asia

Of course we do not take the bypass but drive through the middle of Edirne. After all we want to see something of Turkey. It is busy, but it works out quite well.

Later we turn south in the direction of Çanakkale (we already know Istanbul so we skip that region). In Uzunkoeprue we stop and get our first turkish lira from an ATM. So far we could use our euros or the credit card at the gas stations. At 7.30 p.m. we call it a day and stay at a small campground right on the banks of the Dardanelles, 20 km before Eceabat.


Auf der Fähre

The fare for the big ferry at Eceabat is 35 TL plus 5 TL parking fee at the landing pier (18,50 Euros / US$ 26). Made smart by the internet we go 3 km further to the smaller ferry at Kilitbahir. It just arrives, we can drive on board at once, and ten minutes later we take off; travel time is 15 minutes, the fare is 30 TL (13,50 Euro / US$ 19). And then we are in Asia !!


Hint: There are two nice campgrounds close to the ferries to Çanakkale. Access: 2 km north of Eceabat turn-off to Kabatepe, later left turn (signposted). Right before the ferry port to Gökçeada on the left is the entrance to Kabatepe Orman Kampi (N 40°12'01,6'' E 26°16'21,2''), very large shady wooded terrain, but cold showers and a long way to the sand beach, 18,50 TL.
A few kilometers further to the left
Hotel Kum Camping (N 40°09'32,9'' E 26°14'50,9'', http://www.hotelkum.com), clean and good facilities (excellent shower), nice sand beach with chairs and sunshades, however about 400 m away, WiFi, 30 TL, extra fee for the pool.


From Çanakkale via Dikili and Izmir to Ephesus

From Çanakkale we take D550 south. We skip Troy, as some travel reports describe it as quite disappointing (there will be more than enough “old rocks“ on our trip). Early in the afternoon we settle on a small campground behind Dikili (west of Bergama) that is situated above the sea with a view to the greek island Lesbos. We are the only guests. The access road is actually much too steep and narrow for a motorhome.


Dikili - Cam Camping
Camping near Dikili

Hint: Çam Camping, Bademli near Dikili; the extremely narrow and steep access road as well as the confined campground is more suited for van-type campers. We had both sides of the motorhome scratched by olive trees.

May 19 is a turkish holiday and we also have a day's rest. Unfortunately our plan to go the four kilometers to Dikili with our scooter in the afternoon is spoiled by a thunderstorm and rain from 3 p.m. on.

The next morning we leave the campground and mill about in the busy village of Dikili doing some shopping before we drive further south again.

Hint: Between Aliaga and Menemen (before Izmir) we found the cheapest gas of the whole trip in Turkey. The reason is probably the nearby refinery.

In Izmir, either, we do not take the bypass but the four-lane road through the town. Our transit is delayed only by too many traffic lights.


Ephesus

Early in the afternoon we arrive at Pamuçak near Ephesus and settle at Camping Dereli on the beach.

Hint: Dereli Camping, Pamuçak, (N 37°56'25,3'' E 27°16'33,8'', http://dereli-ephesus.com), nice campground right on the beach, good facilities, WiFi only in front of the small shop, 30 TL.

Saturday, May 21, we are on the road for a week now. Today for a change we will have some culture. A little after eight already we take our scooter 6 km to Ephesus. As usual it's fun to park the scooter free of charge (motorhomes 10 TL = US$ 6,50). The entrance fee is 20 TL (US$ 13) each. We are not the first visitors of the day, but it seems there have arrived only a few tourist buses yet. For 90 minutes we mill around between the quite impressing excavations and reconstructions of the former capital of the roman province Asia. At the end we are encircled by dozens of busloads, whose guides speak in english, french, italian, german, japanese and even brazilian portuguese.


Ephesus - Bibliothek

Ephesus - Straße zum Hafen

Ephesus - Theater

Ephesus - Stein

Ephesus - Besuchermassen
One hour later it looks like this

Afterwards we take the scooter 3 km to Selcuk. There we plunge into the huge farmers market and buy only some (due to the limited transport capacity) and very cheap fruits and vegetables. And in the afternoon: beach. Our campground is right on the beach and the weather is eventually just right.

When it gets too breezy late in the afternoon we take the scooter a few kilometers to Kusadasi. High-rise buildings and hotels as far as the eye can see. Restaurants and bars all along the beachline and already now in May lots of tourists. How is that going to be in a month ? Of course we are tourists, too, but such crowds, that's not for us. One round with the scooter is enough and we flee.

The next morning we head further south, first to Priene. But by the ruins there we are a little disappointed.


Ruinen von Priene - Säulen
Ruinen von Priene - Säulen

Hint: Parking 5 TL, admittance 3 TL; it is possible to park free of charge at the bottom on the parking behind the restaurants and walk 200 m uphill.


At Bafa Lake (Herakleia/Kapikiri)

Along a dead straight fast and unfamiliar smooth road we head on. About an hour later we reach Bafa Lake (15 km long, 5 km wide), 160 km south of Izmir. Trusting in our guidebook behind the lake we turn into the narrow 9 km cul-de-sac leading to the back side of the lake. At the very end, in the hamlet Herakleia/Kapikiri, we find a small campground.


Blick von Kapikiri auf den Bafa-See

Bafa-See

Insel im Bafa-See

Bafa-See - Boote


We camp about 12 m (40 ft) above the lake right below the small restaurant that the campground belongs to, with a terrific southwest view over the whole lake. At first we are the only guests so we take the best site between two big rocks a little above the actual camping area. Right on cue it is over 30° C (86° F) hot, and several times a day we climb down the rocks right by the motorhome (on the photo hidden at the right edge) to go for a swim in the lake.

Unser Platz am Bafa-See

Unser Platz am Bafa-See

Hint: There are two possibilities for camping in Herakleia/Kapikiri: first Zeybek Camping (N 37°29'55,6'' E 27°31'28,1''), turn left before the curve that leads to the right uphill into the hamlet, the entrance is 100 m further, one nice site beside the big rock, the others below on the lawn at the small beach, simple facilities, small restaurant with a beautiful view over the lake, 20 TL; secondly a little further beside the guesthouse Herakleia by the shallow pebble strand. There is WiFi up in the hamlet at the guesthouse Agora. If you order a drink the friendly owner will give you the password.


The hamlet Kapikiri is situated on a hill above the lake on the walls of the antique Herakleia, still to be seen everywhere.


Kapikiri, Straßenszene im Dorf
Village street in Kapikiri


Across the backcountry

Three days later an overcast sky and even a few rain drops make it easier to leave. We drive around the lake back to the main road. Right behind the junction we buy a bottle of olive oil for 8 TL in the outlet of the local olive oil factory. In Milas, the next village, we then buy some groceries in the BIM supermarket and find a bottle for 7,45 TL. We console ourself with the thought that the oil from the factory will certainly be much fresher.

East of Milas we turn right towards Bodrum (one of the busiest tourist places on the coast), and suddenly we drive on the best turkish road we experienced so far: four lanes with a smooth asphalt surface (because this is the road link for the tourist buses between Bodrum and the nearest airport). But soon, far before Bodrum, we turn east onto a small country road and for the longest time we leave tourism and modern world far behind. Via Karaova we struggle through the hinterland to Maziköy and pass smallest villages and later an impressing mountainous region.




Unfortunately the road comes to an end on the beach at Maziköy. On the last narrow stretch we get stuck with the wide motorhome and have to back up about 100 meters around a bend. Right then a “jeep safari tour“ of eight vehicles from Bodrum comes honking down the hill, occupies the small parking lot, and almost thirty frenchmen storm the only restaurant. We can turn around just barely and have to drive seven kilometers back steeply uphill to the turn-off to Oeren.


Next are about 20 km of roughest road with more potholes than pavement, in many parts only manageable with walking speed. In Oeren the road continues to Akyaka, first along a dry river bed, then back into the mountains on rough road again. About 18 km and more than half an hour behind Oeren the road branches out, straight on it continues to Akyaka.

Suddenly not only the road improves considerably. We drive above the sea and have terrific views on a turquoise blue sea, small bays etc. The next 25 km were worth the trouble.


Before Marmaris

In Akyaka we get back on the fast mainroad and shortly after turn right towards Marmaris. And again four lanes with a smooth asphalt surface, the contrast could not be more extreme.

Shortly before Marmaris we once more turn into a cul-de-sac leading to the sea (12 km). The first half is flat to the pier of the ferry to Sedir Adasi (by the way, the turkish word for ferry is feribot), the second half is a serpentine road over the mountains. The last kilometer is rough dirt road, walking speed once more, then we see Boncuk Camping in a bay deep down.


Fähre nach Sedir Adasi
Ferry to Sedir Adasi
Blick von oben auf Boncuk Camping
View onto Boncuk Camping

Actually the campground is rather suited for small campers, we can hardly squeeze in between the trees on the edge in the first row. But this is really the first row. With table and chairs we are no more than ten meters (11 yards) away from the sea. The water is crystal clear, and in the small bay it is completely quiet.


Boncuk Camping

Boncuk Camping


Hint: Boncuk Camping (N 36°58'33,3'' E 28°13'01,9''), turn right 6 km north of Marmaris (at the bridge, N 36°57'11,1'' E 28°17'08,8'') to Camli/Sedir Adasi, 6 km to the ferry to Sedir Adasi, another 5 km steep and narrow, then 1 km dirt road (but it is worthwile); a little narrow for bigger motorhomes, situated beautiful and quiet on a palm beach at a small bay with clear water, acceptable facilities, 30 TL.


Unhappily the next day the sky is overcast, but it is 25° C (77° F) warm. Around noon we take the scooter for the 25 km to Marmaris. Coming down the mountain one has a great view on town and bay, but unfortunately everything is gray.

And once again we are in a different world. Along port and old town only shops and bars, lots of tourists, most of them british. How will it look here a month later during the season. In front of the bars and in the big sheltered bazar we see lots of english signs and price tags in euros. After an hour and a half it's really enough and we gladly return to our quiet bay.


Marmaris - Rollerparkplatz
Marmaris - Am Hafen
Marmaris - Am Hafen
Marmaris - Basar
Marmaris - Basar
Marmaris - Basar
Marmaris - bereit für die Saison
Marmaris - ready for the season
 (or: what campers usually miss)
Marmaris - Gasse in der Altstadt


Köycegiz

The next morning we drive on in the direction of Fethiye. We leave the main road for a side trip to Köycegiz on the same-named lake. Actually we had planned to drive through only, but we like it so much that we park the motorhome and stay for more than two hours.

There must be some tourism here, too, because the small town has a long lakeside promenade with some bars, but it is totally quiet there now.


Köycegiz - Promenade am See

Köycegiz - Promenade am See

From a plaza close to the lake the modern main street with many shops branches off, but much more interesting is the next street over – Turkey au naturel, with all kinds of small stores and repair shops. No english signs, not a single tourist in sight, terrific. We eat two excellent and really reasonable doner kebap; at a pastry shop we cannot resist and buy two sweet cupcakes.


Köycegiz - Laden

Köycegiz - Handwerker

Köycegiz - Handwerker

Köycegiz - Handwerker

Köycegiz - Konditorei

Köycegiz - in der Konditorei


Before Fethiye

Around 2 p.m. we inspect a very small campground on the beach 13 km before Fethiye, Doga Camping. Actually we were planning to get a lot further today, but beyond question, here we have to stay !! We are right on the beach, already on the sand between palms and eucalyptus trees. And they even have WiFi here.

Shortly after our arrival the owner puts a plate with a few oranges, tomatoes and eggs as a gift in front of the three motorhomes on the campground. On our departure the next day she is standing on her doorstep (see photo) and hands us a small flower and her card through the window.


Doga Camping - Einfahrt

Doga Camping - Strand

Doga Camping - Stellplätze

Doga Camping - Blick auf den Strand

Doga Camping - die freundliche Gastgeberin


Hint: Doga Camping, Yaniklar (N 36°41'15,2'' E 29°02'51,8''), in Yaniklar turn to the sea at the east side of the bridge (big sign Majesty Hotel Tuana), before the hotel turn left, then signposted; nice location under trees right on the beach, simple facilities, WiFi, very friendly owner; unfortunately night-time noise nuisance by the disco of the beach club next door.

Everything could have been so beautiful. We are on a dreamlike small campground right on the beach, nice people from Austria next door, the sun is shining, but the motorhome is in the shade of the trees, we only hear the light surf. Well, actually it is suspiciously beautiful – until friday night 9 p.m. About 200 m (220 yards) next door is a beach club, and dead on 9 p.m. the acoustic irradiation starts (the term music would be misleading). The club must have a hi-fi equipment like the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden. Actually one hears resp. feels only the bass, the motorhome seems to vibrate. At 1.30 a.m. it is finally over.

On Saturday morning we only think of escape, but since 7 a.m. it has been raining. It keeps raining until 4 p.m. with only short breaks. At this weather we do not want to drive and do not want to be somewhere else either. So we stay, at least here we have wifi. We write some e-mails, have some conversation via skype, read and so on and wait expectantly for the next night.

At night the music from next door is surprisingly low, audible, but not very bothering. Why in the world such a difference ?



In Kas

Even on Sunday morning it rains until 9.30 a.m. Soon after we decide to drive on. Our destination today is Kas, only 115 km further.

Blick von oben auf Kas

Blick von oben auf Kas und Hafen

In Kas we camp at Kas Camping, a quite small and narrow campground, but situated very nice on terraces right above the sea. We are lucky and manage to grab the last of two sites that are big enough for our motorhome. From our site we have a view across the bay to Kas. And guess who is parked on the next site already ? Our neighbours from Munich at Boncuk Camping a few days ago.


Kas Camping - Blick auf den Ort

Kas Camping - Badedeck

Hint: Kas Camping (N 36°11'57,6'' E 29°37'57,2''), in the village before the harbor entrance uphill to the right, after a few hundred meters on the left; small terraced and quiet campground with wooden platforms on the sea, few space for bigger motorhomes, good facilities, WiFi, nice view over the bay to the village, 35 TL. Ten minutes walk to the harbor. The second campground in the village, Mocamping, is situated noisily right on the main road at the western village exit.

As soon as we have settled it rains again for two hours. Later we walk ten minutes to the village center and the harbor. Very nice, although quite touristy; there is a lot of hotels, but no big ones. As the village is rather small, too, the whole thing is rather enjoyable.


Kas - im Ort
Kas - im Ort



Between Kas and Antalya

Today is May 30 and not exactly our lucky day, but unfortunately we know only by the end of the day.

We had intended to stay in Kas for two days, but in the morning it stays overcast, so we can as well drive on. We want to go to Cirali/Olympos national park, around the most southern point of the coast south of Antalya, a drive of only 100 km.

That is more arduous than expected. Between Kales and Finike over almost 30 km the coast road provides great views, but is very narrow and extremly winding. In the end it took us two and a half hours for 100 km.


Cirali - Einfahrt
Cirali - Einfahrt

In Cirali we arrive at the free camping on the beach that our guidebook and other campers praise so much. But unfortunately the magic of this camping is not really revealed to us, so after a while in the afternoon we decide to drive to the next campground that is said to be situated on a remote bay. A big mistake as it will become apparent later.



Cirali - Stellplatz zwischen Bergen und Meer
Cirali - free camping between mountains and sea

This next campground is open, but completely empty, the grass knee-high everywhere, the entrance blocked by branches hanging down to the heads. It all looks very uninviting, so we drive on without much hesitating.

Our guidebook lists the next campground in Kemer, 17 km further. We slowly and in wonder drive through this long stretched tourist village. On the beach side to the right a long line of huge hotels, on the left side of the street an endless row of boutiques, souvenir shops etc., on the street mostly buses of all sizes and of course hordes of tourists. This is pure package holiday, now we really see what we are always missing. Where there once was a campground now is a beach club with the same name.

The next village is Göynök. Here, too, a long row of beach hotels. This time we have the coordinates of the local campground. But unhappily they are apparently wrong. After an extensive search and repeatedly asking some taxi drivers we finally are standing in front of it. But no sign, it is looking messy, it is occupied by turkish permanent campers, there is no public campground any more.

Meanwhile we have been looking for two and a half hours for a campground and it is beginning to get late. Because of the endless rows of hotels there is not even a quiet free overnight parking in sight. If we only had stayed in Cirali !

The next village is Beldibi; the same sight here, only the level is noticeable lower than before. Just before the village exit we see an open grass area on the right with two german motorhomes parked. We stop beside them and are told that there is no single campground left on the whole way between Kas and Antalya. They were parked here for two days already. Having no alternative we decide to stay here overnight despite the noise of the nearby road. And at 9 p.m. sharp ….. oh no, not again !! A hundred meters away there is apparently a disco, the basses are blasting, here it goes until 1 a.m. ....


To Cappadocia

In the morning after not enough sleep we leave our unpleasant site already shortly after 7 a.m. We are heading to Göreme in Cappadocia.

We have been told by travelers coming from the south that the coastal road stretching about 350 km between Alanya and Mersin/Adana is under construction for the most part with miles and miles of gravel road. Anyway this section is said to be much less attractive than the coast we saw so far. Therefore we prefer to turn off from the coast east of Antalya and continue northeast via Konya.

There is a lot of traffic in Antalya, but the road is good and with four lanes until behind Manavgat. There we turn north into the mountains. At a roadside fruit stand we stock up on our supplies. The route to Konya is a wide and well constructed road; the first half winds through an awesome mountain scenery, then it leads over the high plain.


In den Bergen nördlich von Manavgat
In the mountains north of Manavgat

Surprisingly the whole route Konya-Aksaray (140 km) is built like a freeway, four lanes, plane, dead straight, and above all a smooth surface, a blessing against the usual road condition.


Karawanserei Sultanhani
Caravansary in Sultanhani

In Sultanhani we briefly visit the caravansary, something to be quickly done with; after that we take a look at Kervan Camping around the corner; quite good and quiet, fee only 20 TL; here we would have liked to stay after six hours of driving, but the campground is almost completely occupied by a group of 18 to 20 dutch camping trailers. We plan to keep it in mind for the way back.


Arrival at Göreme

All day long the sky was blue, but on our arrival in Göreme a thunderstorm with heavy rain starts. The relatively busy road to Camping Kaya has a short section where it ascends steeply (10-15% ?) in two sharp bends and just there the pavement is cobblestone. We have to drive uphill in the first gear. In the steepest curve the front wheels are spinning because of the wetness (the problem with front wheel drive and the scooter load on the rear axle), I have to back up 50 m (the two cars behind me, too) and then go in a dash on the left outside around the narrow bend to the right (the photo shows the spot the next morning – on a dry road and with a wide arc it is easy).


Serpentinen in Göreme

Today we made 580 km in eight hours (72 km per hour) thanks to the good roads in the highland. Along the coast our speed mostly averaged at not much more than half of that.


Hint: There are three campgrounds in Göreme. Kaya Camping: above the Open Air Museum on the road to Ortahisar (N 38°38'12,2'' E 34°51'13,6''); very nice panoramic view, very well kept, excellent facilities, WiFi near the office, 36 TL. Panorama Camping: coming from Uchisar shortly before Göreme on the left. Göreme Camping: on the road from Göreme to the open Air Museum on the left; right next to the balloon take-off site, thus every morning after 5 a.m. noise nuisance.


The first day in Göreme

Early in the morning before 6 a.m. about 50 hot-air balloons rise in Göreme, from the campground they can very well be watched. Many of them go deep down into the valleys, then up again. After about one hour they touch down not far away (hint: click on photos to enlarge).


Kappadokien - Ballons

Kappadokien - Ballons

Kappadokien - Ballons

Kappadokien - Ballons

Kappadokien - Ballons

Kappadokien - Ballons


At 9 a.m. we take the scooter one kilometer down the hill to visit the Göreme Open Air Museum. But we see crowds of people, one bus after the next unloads more groups. Then we rather give it a new try tomorrow morning right after opening at 8.

We ride around with the scooter in Göreme, but there is not much to see except souvenir and carpet shops. Next we visit Uchisar, situated a few kilometers away on a steep hill, after that we go to Ortahisar. The village center is typically turkish, no tourist place, only at the big rock near the center, the village's landmark, once in a while a bus stops.



Orthahisar
Ortahisar
Straßenbild - überall nur Männer
Street scene - men only everywhere

While we eat a king-size doner kebap it unfortunately starts raining. In a rain pause we return to the campground only a few kilometers away.

HintTo get to Camping Kaya (e.g. with a big motorhome) you do not need to turn left behind Nevsehir and follow the brown sign to Göreme, but rather keep going ahead. After 7 km (sign Ortahisar, gas station) turn left at the intersection to the Open Air Museum (brown sign). The campground is on the right after a few hundred meters. Thus you save the descent to Göreme and the steep cobblestone double bends up again (and cannot miss the right turn in Göreme). But then you miss some spectacular views onto Uchisar and Göreme.

Along the way we stop at a gas station. The liter gas is priced at 4,28 TL, that is 1,93 euro or US$ 2,74 (or more than US$ 10 per gallon) !! The only consolation is that the scooter tank holds only seven liters and we only need six liters. However the scooter burns up four liters/100 km with two passengers on the mountainous roads.



Open Air Museum in Göreme

The next morning at 8 a.m. sharp we are in front of the Open Air Museum again. The first bus group of Italians already enters the grounds, but the ticket office is still closed (admission 15 TL). Five minutes later a bus full of Russians arrives, they also hold tickets in their hands and pass the turnstile. With the eight individual travellers in front of the still closed ticket office an uproar starts to arise that escalates to open protest when a few minutes later (8.13 a.m.) another group, Japanese this time, marches by and on the road the next three buses already come in sight. The two officials at the entrance shrug, and when someone suggests “we all pay later“ they simply wave us through and let us hop the turnstiles. It's a most enjoyable start of the day.

Kappadokien - Göreme Open-Air-Museum

Kappadokien - Göreme Open-Air-Museum

Kappadokien - Göreme Open-Air-Museum

Kappadokien - Göreme Open-Air-Museum

Kappadokien - Felsenkirche im Göreme Open-Air-Museum

The Göreme Open Air Museum is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The sight of the rock-carved churches and chapels (that are unexpectedly small and narrow) is certainly impressing. As we do the loop clockwise and therefore against the way of the guided groups we are by ourselves for the first half and do not have to wait anywhere. So all in all it takes us only 45 minutes for the tour.


Underground city Kaymakli

There are several underground cities around Göreme, each one a multistory cave labyrinth of tunnels and rooms. The biggest one is Derinkuyu, but that is also the highest attended one with the biggest bus parking. That is why we rather ride the scooter to Kaymakli and visit the second biggest one (admittance 15 TL). The corridors are very narrow and low which is quite troublesome for broad-shouldered and tall visitors. Here are relatively few tourists, all corridors and rooms are well accessible. Our british campground neighbours were in Derinkuyu today and could hardly see anything because of visitor congestion.


Kaymakli - Unterirdische Stadt
Kaymakli - Unterirdische Stadt


Surroundings of Göreme

All the next morning we are on the move with the scooter in best weather around Göreme. Today we have completely changed our tactics – we go where we see the big tourist buses halt.


Kappadokien - Feenkamine

Kappadokien - Feenkamine

Kappadokien - Göreme - Felsenkirche

Kappadokien - Felsskulpturen

Kappadokien - Felsskulpturen

Kappadokien - Felsformationen

Kappadokien - Felsformationen

Kappadokien - Felsformationen


Kappadokien - Felsformationen


Blick von der Flussbrücke auf Avanos
Pottery town Avanos, 10 km north of Göreme

Balloon flight in Göreme

We saw them take off every morning, and it has tempted us. Today we get up at 4.30 a.m. From 5.30 to 6.30 a.m. we do a one hour balloon flight above the rock valleys around Göreme (unfortunately at 120 euros not really inexpensive).


Ballon - Startvorbereitung
Ballon - Startvorbereitung
Kappadokien - Ballonstart
Kappadokien - Ballonstart
Kappadokien - Ballonstart
Kappadokien - Ballon über den Schluchten
Kappadokien - Ballons über den Schluchten
Kappadokien von oben



Hiking in the canyons around Göreme

At noon we do a four hour hiking tour from the campground to see the terrific scenery from the bottom, too. It is so impressing that we now want to stay another day.

The next morning we again climb down two parallel canyons and up again, a variation of the tour of the previous day.


Kappadokien - Wandern in den Schluchten nahe Göreme
Kappadokien - Wandern in den Schluchten nahe Göreme
Kappadokien - Begegnung mit Eselreiter beim Wandern nahe Göreme
Kappadokien - Begegnung mit Kindern beim Wandern
Kappadokien - Wandern in den Schluchten nahe Göreme
Kappadokien - Wandern in den Schluchten nahe Göreme
Kappadokien - Wandern - Rast im Teehaus in der Schlucht
Kappadokien - Wandern - Rast im Teehaus in der Schlucht
Break in a "teahouse" in the canyon

Kappadokien - Wandern bei Göreme

In the afternoon we load the scooter and make arrangements for the departure. But who knows ...


Ihlara Canyon

Göreme was our most eastern destination, now we head back west. But first we make a little side trip in Cappadocia to the Ihlara Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of Turkey“.

On our way to the canyon we stop in Güzelyurt, a busy mountain village with a view to snow covered peaks. And we do not believe our eyes. In the parking lot we see the camper of the Munich couple that despite different routes we now meet for the third time. We find them around the corner at the market square sitting in front of a bar and for an hour and a half we exchange stories of our experiences.


Before Güzelyurt
Güzelyurt
Güzelyurt

The Ihlara Canyon is only a few kilometers further. We climb in at the south entrance and hike for one hour on the valley bottom to the main entrance, where we climb 390 steps and walk back along the road in 25 minutes.

Blick auf Ihlara-Schlucht
Ihlara Canyon

Hint: Close to the south entrance there is a free parking on the right down in the village; the footpath to the south entrance leads left of the hotel/restaurant up the hill, then before a bar downhill to the right, admission 5 TL. To the main entrance the road leads 1 km further uphill, then right about 2 km to the parking (motorhomes 6 TL); 200 m before on the right there is a big square that is suited for free overnight parking.


We spend the night in Sultanhani, west of Aksaray, at Kervan Camping, that we already visited before and that was then occupied by 20 Dutchmen. Today we are here all on our own.

Hint: Kervan Camping, Sultanhani, a few hundred meters east of the caravansary, signposted from D300, basic facilities, 20 TL.

Opposite the caravansary in Sultanhani there is a bakery with a wide range of products where we stock up with supplies first. Our next destination is Egirdir on Lake Egirdir, exactly westbound. On very good roads we make the 310 km in four hours.


Lake Egirdir and Lake Salda

On the last kilometers we have a great view on Lake Egirdir that is gleaming turquoise between the mountains. Near the village center a road on a one kilometer pier leads into the lake with some hotels and cafes at the tip (vaguely perceptable in the photo).


Blick auf Egirdir

Egirdir-See
Lake Edirgir

We rove around for four hours in the busy village, at the lake and on the pier. Around 4 p.m. we cannot make up our minds by the best will in the world to stay on the only campground Altincamp (a short visit of the noisy and dirty place was enough) and a nice free overnight parking is not in sight either.

So we drive on for two more hours to the smaller Salda Lake. At its southwestern end we find a small picnic area in a pine forest on the pebble beach. We stay there overnight. At 1 a.m. someone knocks at the door, out there are four police officers and ask to open the door. They ask where we are from, and when they hear “Almanya“ (Germany), they only say “okay“ and disappear. The reason for this disturbance remains unclear to us. Otherwise it is very quiet there.


Picknick-Gelände am Salda-See
At Lake Salda


Here just now the dictionary is running hot (concealed on the photo)


Unfortunately a problem almost everywhere in Turkey: garbage, wherever one looks

Hint: Picnic area at Lake Salda N 37°31'11'' E 29°40'20''.


Pamukkale

The travertine terraces of Pamukkale are a big sight. Obviously that word got around all over the world. Accordingly they attract a large crowd of visitors.

We already arrive at Pamukkale in the morning and first take a look at the local campgrounds. Seyir Camping is mostly occupied by 20 Dutch travel trailers. We choose Baydil right beneath the travertine terraces. It is more than 30° C (86° F) hot, so as a start we spend several hours among other things with some dips in the campground's pool and watch the crowd on the opposite slope. Only in the afternoon we walk over, but it did not get less crowded (admittance 20 TL). Behind the entrance everybody has to take off their shoes and walk carefully barefeet uphill in the flowing water. In some small man-made pools on the hill it is even possible to take a bath.


Pamukkale

Pamukkale

Pamukkale

Pamukkale

Pamukkale  Blick nach unten
Above in the center our motorhome is parked at Baydil Camping

HintThere are several campgrounds in Pamukkale, they all have a pool. Baydil (N 37°55'06,9'' E 29°07'18,0'') is located best right across the terraces, good facilities, WiFi, 30 TL. Seyir is located 200 m further, the facilities do not hold what the modern restaurant promises, 40 TL. Five kilometers further in Karahayit (access: in the village the second street left) are located next to another Termotes (several pools, basic facilities, 20 TL) and Arslan (small, basic, WiFi, 25 TL). Unfavorably situated is Tepe Camping, up a seven kilometer long very steep and narrow road, however with a panoramic view.

Right above the travertine terraces of Pamukkale the ruins of Hierapolis are situated.


Hierapolis

Hierapolis - Theater


Back to the Aegean coast (Ören)

Via Salihli and Manisa we head back to the coast. On the outskirts of a village the road is blocked because of road work, no signs, the only way out is a dirt road to the right into the village. A little further a paved road comes from the left, I think it might lead back to the main road and briefly stop to take a look at the map (as I distrust the GPS and of course have forgotten the complicated name of the next town). At once an oncoming old farmer jumps off his tractor, comes running over and makes a detailed turkish speech of which I do not understand a single word, but his hand gestures to the sidestreet are unmistakable. I most amiably thank him, he gets back on his tractor, we wave at each other once more and all go happily our way.

In Ören, in the bay of Edremit, 140 km south of Çanakkale, we settle on a campground right on the sea to put in two or three days at the beach for now. No muezzin who calls for prayer over speakers from the mosque before sunrise, no noisy roads nearby, no disco next door, only the faint surf, we did not have it this quiet for a long time.


Altincamp in Ören

HintAltincamp in Ören, (N 39°30*35,9 E 26°56'06,3'', http://altincamp.com), in Burhaniye turn-off to Ören, signposted at the northern edge of the village, shady grounds right on the beach, good facilities, WiFi near the hotel, 30 TL.



Back to Europe (Gelibolu)

After four days in Ören we get back on the road, but only for 150 km. But we make a big step: back to Europe. From Çanakkale we take the ferry across the Dardanelles to Kilitbahir and are back again in the european part of turkey.


Hint: In Çanakkale the ferry to Kilitbahir is not easy to find. It is located only about 100 m south of the ferry to Eceabat. Right before the big ferry in the traffic-circle turn left into the narrow side street, then turn right into the next even narrower street.


From Eceabat we only go 20 km further to the west coast of the Gelibolu peninsula where we spend the afternoon (for the last time ?) in the sun on the beach of Camping Hotel Kum (see hint on the journey out). It seems to us as if we had already accomplished a big part of the way back, but there still remain 2500 km.



Return trip Turkey-Bulgaria-Serbia

It is going to be a long day so we leave at 5.30 a.m. already. This is made easier by the fact that so far east it gets light before 5 a.m.

Later in the morning we stop in front of a bakery in Uzunköprü, 60 km south of Edirne, to buy some bread for the next days. The baker greets us in German “welcome in Turkey“. He grew up in Berlin and then returned to his home village. We are just back in our motorhome when he knocks at the door and invites us for a coffee. We sit by the house and chat for twenty minutes about all kinds of german-turkish issues. Eventually we promise to stop by again on our next trip to Turkey.

The border Turkey-Bulgaria was not busy at all on our entry four and a half weeks ago, but unfortunately it is different today. Leaving Turkey is fast, three border posts in a row, we pass within three minutes. At the Bulgarian border post we have a long line of cars in front of us, only one lane is open. Every two minutes we edge forward one car length and see that each vehicle is inspected thoroughly. That looks like fun when it will be our motorhome's turn. But when after 25 minutes only eight cars are left in front of us an officer waves us out of the line, takes a short look through the door into our motorhome, hands us a slip with a stamp, obviously a confirmation for his inspection, and waves us through. At the next post we have to submit the slip and pay a fee of 3 euros.

Behind the border we need a Bulgarian toll sticker again. Between the gas stations are several shacks with the sign “vignette“. In the first one someone tells me on german that since June 1st the price was 10 euros (on the way down we payed 6). Well, good try, he addressed the wrong person. The next one asks 7 euros and I do not want to argue about the one euro.

In Sofia this time we try the ring road, but this is not any better than driving straight through the city. Except the first part it is a narrow road in bad shape where an endless row of trucks rolls along with about 50 km per hour. So the detour of at least 15 km does not pay.

Whichever way you take the transit through Bulgaria takes about six hours. At the border Bulgaria-Serbia ours is the only vehicle again and we pass within two minutes. Only now we remember that we had to set our watch back one hour when leaving Turkey. We spend the night again near Niš on the parking in front of Hotel Nais right before the toll plaza.

For the remaining way back we take a route different from the one on the journey to the south. We go through Croatia and Slovenia to Carinthia (southern Austria) where we arrive in the evening. There we put in a two days break at a small lake. So far we drove more than 7.000 km. So the remaining 1.000 km home are a peace of cake. Two days later we drive across Austria and Germany and arrive at home a day later after five and a half weeks.


Author: Wolfgang Mueller

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