What happens when you close your eyes and think of Turkey?  It’s not like Hawaii, France, or Thailand.  There are no instant images that come to mind—except maybe camels, deserts, and turbans.  The image of Turkey is so skewed that that even my friends and family would ask me, “Why are you going there?”  And I didn’t have a good answer.  My impression of Turkey was about the same.  After spending weeks there however and traveling to almost every corner of the country I realized something.  Turkey is the travel treasure chest of the world.

I traveled much of Turkey with Flo-USA, a travel company out of Istanbul, but with offices in the USA, that arranges a wide variety of exciting tours around Turkey.  What I experienced on my tour truly astonished me.  Turkey is a country more rich in what it has to offer than most any you will find.  Consider just a glimpse of what Turkey has to offer:

The Coastal Paradise




Sunset over Asia Minor.

The southwest Mediterranean and Aegean coast is a beach lover’s paradise.  Palm trees and luxury resorts line the hilly island-like atmosphere. You can arrange to go skydiving, kayaking, hiking, biking, or spend time just relaxing at a beach hotel right on the ocean.  Evenings are spent walking the quaint towns tasting delicious foods and listening to the authentic sounds of Turkish music.







The Blus Mosque - Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.

The city life in Turkey is bustling with style and energy.  Large European shopping malls are intermixed with patio cafes, carpet stores, bread stands and nightclubs.  Sometimes Istanbul can look a lot like London — modern, fashionable and buzzing with tourists.  But there is also a part of Turkish cities unlike any other I have seen.  The grand minaret’s of Istanbul’s many mosques pierce straight up into the air.  Many women dress in full-length skirts and headscarves.  Men with thick black mustaches and suits sit drinking chy (black tea) and playing tavla (backgammon).  Venders slice succulent beef and lamb for traditional “doner” kebabs.  And the bazaars are truly something to marvel.  At the large Bazaars you can literally buy anything imaginable (for about 50% of whatever they are asking).  Carpets, crafts, souvenirs, clothing, spices, electronics, food, and everything else imaginable are lined up and down the narrow corridors that make up this grand outdoor market.




Cliff clinging monasteries.

Mountain Wonderland — Zele Kale

Northeast Turkey is an outdoor enthusiasts dream.  The Katchcar Mountains, near the border of Armenia and Georgia are one of the most grandiose majestic scenes I have ever witnessed.  The climate there is humid and wet. The mountains are lush, vibrant green, and the rivers rage below steep fields of tea farms.  There are trails winding up the cliffs that arrive at small local villages, abandoned castles, and ancient monasteries.




Cappadocia cave dwellings.

Central Turkey — Cappadocia

The area roughly in the middle of Turkey is called Cappadocia.  The geography here is equally impressive but totally different from the Northeast.  This arid landscape is one of the most unique in the world.  Formed mostly by two large volcanoes, Cappadocia looks like it could be the stage for a science fiction movie.  Pointed sandstone cliffs span the horizon and are still home to some local residents.  Many “cliff caves” have been converted into small hotels so you can actually stay in these dwellings overnight.  During the day you can walk for hours amongst the valleys of rocks, viewing the abandoned monastery caves with well-persevered frescos. You can visit the underground cities (some 7 and 8 levels deep) where ancient peoples lived to avoid wars and persecution. You can do all this plus countless other activities, like hot air ballooning, biking, hiking, etc. 

Western Coast




Ephesus Library and Stadium.

.When you visit the Western Coast of Turkey you will realize why it is referred to as the “cradle of civilization”.  Most of the art, science, and philosophy that we think of as “ancient Greece” were actually in present day Turkey.  Ancient cities like Ephesus and Termessos are some of the largest and best preserved in the world.  If you’ve ever thought of going to Athens to see where the Western world was born , go to Turkey instead.  These unearthed cities with their giant marble columns, opulent fountains, theaters, and grand stadiums give you a real idea of ancient life during the Greek, Persian, Ottoman, and Roman Empires.  The ancient cities are almost always accompanied by archaeological museums containing the treasures from each place.  Marble statues, gold and silver coins, swords and javelins, and all the other artifacts from these ancient peoples can be found there. 

And More!




Ancient Haran.

It should also be said that Turkey is great for a whole lot of other reasons.  The people are wonderful.  Most speak at least a little English and it is prevalent in the cities.  The food is fantastic: spicy chicken, beef, lamb, and fish, and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers everywhere, salads, and breads, and the sweetest desserts!  Turkey is also an interesting place to study.  Turkey is a place of duality.  Half modern, half ancient, Eastern and Western, religious and secular, Europe and Asia.




Ancient Greece or Turkey?

Turkey is a place where so much of the wondrous world converges in a single country.  The best part is that you can see and experience all this at a very reasonable price.  The currency has a favorable exchange rate of 1 US dollar = 1.3 Turkish Lira.  Meals cost only about $4.00 for lunch and $7.00 for dinner.  Four- and 5-star hotels are cheaper than in the U.S. by far, and entry prices for the most stunning ancient cities are a fraction of that of your average amusement park.  Traveling Turkey on a tour arranged by Flo-USA is also easy and convenient.  Turkey has to offer; you are traveling throughout a land as large as California.  This means you get lots of time at your vacation destination and not much time getting there.




Turkey is a treasure chest of art.

No matter what kind of vacation you’re looking for Turkey has something to offer.  Why pick between tropical islands, European cuisine and history, Middle Eastern culture, or an outdoor adventure for your next vacation?  You can go to Turkey and get it all!

Why Flo-USA?

I have to admit that I have never taken a bus tour in my life before this one.  To tell the truth, I never much wanted to.  If you’re like me, or if you’ve tried a tour once and didn’t like it, you’ll want to learn more about Flo-USA. 

All the arrangements are made for you.

That’s right, everything!  All you have to do is get on the plane.  You’re picked up at the airport and you are on vacation quicker than you could get a rental car.  The hotels are all first class, dinner and breakfast are provided each day, and there is a lunch stop built in to all the travel plans.  Some might think that everything being arranged leaves you with few choices.  Not true.  Flo-USA has unlimited choices in tour itineraries.  They even customize tours to include only the things that want to do—they will make it happen.




Ancient influences still abound.

You get to see more.

There is simply no way I could have seen everything that I did in only seven days on tour had I been on my own.  Even if I rented a car and followed the same exact path I would have lost tons of time navigating, fueling, planning, etc.  On tour with Flo-USA you get to see everything without the headaches.  They even fill the gas tanks while you’re out enjoying the sites. 

It’s NOT expensive.

Naturally I was shocked to see how cost effective the tour was.  But it makes sense.  They get breaks at all the hotels because they are paying in bulk throughout the entire season.  Same thing with plane tickets, site entry fees, and meals.  Everything is purchased in bulk so after you pay for the services of the tour you’re still paying less than you would to do the same travel on your own.

It’s far more than a bus ride.




Flo-USA guides are invaluable.

I wondered during the first day of the tour how our guide (Berkant) knew so much about the artifacts at one of the ancient cities.  He even corrected some misinformation written on the board entering the site.  When I asked he explained that he’s an archaeologist and he worked on excavations at that very site!  This wasn’t some guy who was paid to memorize the post card information—this was a bona fide expert.  It turns out all the guides at Flo- USA are experts.  Every guide is an archaeologist, an art historian, or a sociologist.  Whether we were strolling through Ephesus or exploring the mosaics at the Hagia Sophia, or the Topkapi Palace, or the birth cave of the prophet Abraham, we were given all kinds of interesting information.  Occasionally we would pass by another group on a tour with a different company and some guide would be quoting the placards in broken English while Berkant was giving us a rich context of culture, history, religion, and politics, which enhanced our experiences tremendously.

Tours have built in flexibility.

If you’re like me you worry about everything being planned out.  The trips are completely customizable.  Flo-USA will set up day trips, week trips, single event trips, etc.  Whatever you can imagine, Flo-USA can make happen.  The great thing about the tour with Flo-USA is that there was always flexibility.  There was a general schedule, and some plans were set in stone as far as what hotels we stayed in and on which nights, but we got a lot of free time and we could make decisions as a group on where to go and what to do some of the time.  Some days were light schedules so we could take time to go into the city for 3-4 hours just to shop or explore.  I never felt rushed and I also never felt I was waiting around for everybody.  We would often go through the museums ourselves and finish on our own time.  The difference between the first through and the last was never more than 30 minutes.




Travel in comfort with Flo-USA.

It’s comfortable.

I was not on a bus with 70 or 100 people.  There were eight others on the mini-bus with me (some of the tours are larger, depending on when you go and what you do). We had air-conditioning, comfortable seats, and there was a cooler that stayed full of bottled water.  All the hotels were great—some were extraordinary.  The food we ate was always delicious.  And probably the greatest comfort of all is not dealing with all the plans, directions, fees, hotels etc.  When you get in from a day of exploring the keys to your room are given to you and good night!




The beaches of Kas.

I can’t think of a better way to travel and see so much of a wonderful place like Turkey.  Whether you plan an extensive 21-day tour or just a couple of days in and around your other travel plans Flo-USA is a resource that should not be ignored.

I saw so much of Turkey with Flo-USA that I couldn’t possibly show you all of it.

Flo-USA
www.flo-usa.com
1-800-435-6872.

Feature and photos by Justin Clifton, Jetsetters Magazine Colorado Correspondent.


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