Travel & Food Guides to Turkey for First-Time Visitors

Travel & Food Guides to Turkey for First-Time Visitors

Ren and I visited Turkey in November 2015 to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. A friend of ours is there right now so seeing the pictures on his Facebook feed is making me feel all kinds of emotions.

I get nostalgic whenever he shares photos of familiar sights like Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys or Pamukkale’s calcium travertines. In many of his photos, I could see myself standing at the exact same spot where he is.

I get a yearning for Turkish food whenever he posts pictures of it on his feed. The pot of mushrooms and cheese he shared the other day brought me back to that al fresco restaurant near Aphrodisias where I tasted it for the very first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

I become envious when he posts pictures of places we didn’t get to visit, like Konya. Seeing the whirling dervishes there would have been something special.

Yes, I guess you can say I’m pretty jealous of his trip. I wish Ren and I were there right now. But as envious as his trip makes me, I’m also excited for him because I know what an unforgettable experience it will be.

If you’ve stumbled upon this page, then chances are you’re planning a trip to Turkey. I’ve put together travel guides to the four major destinations we visited on our trip — Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Pamukkale. If it’s your first time there, then you’ll probably be visiting at least one of those places. And if you enjoy food as much as we do, then you may find this list of 27 delicious things to eat and drink in Turkey useful as well.

Have an awesome time in Turkey. I hate you. 😉


Istanbul, in a word, is awesome. One of our favorite cities, it’s home to delicious food, breathtaking architecture, and some of the warmest, most genuinely hospitable people we’ve ever met on our travels. We felt so at home in Istanbul that it wasn’t hard to see ourselves packing up and moving there. Like tomorrow. Well maybe not tomorrow, but we’ll be back again for sure.

HIGHLIGHTS: Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, Grand Bazaar, Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Boshporus Cruise, Topkapi Palace

Check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Istanbul, Turkey for help in planning your itinerary.
The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Istanbul, Turkey


Cappadocia has got to be one of the most unique and visually stunning places on the planet. It doesn’t feel like you’re on Earth when you’re there. Whether from the ground — marveling at these phallic spires called fairy chimneys — or flying 3,000 ft in a hot air balloon over its lava-sculpted topography, Cappadocia will leave you breathless. We’ve been to many beautiful places on our travels but none as remarkable as this.

HIGHLIGHTS: Hot air balloon ride, Red Tour, Green Tour, horseback riding, Turkish Night

Check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Cappadocia, Turkey for help in planning your itinerary.
The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Cappadocia, Turkey


If you like archaeological sites, then I’m sure you already know about Selçuk. It’s home to the ancient city of Ephesus, one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations. As much attention as Ephesus gets, it isn’t all this town has to offer. Selçuk is a picturesque hilltop community with cobblestone streets and a rural vibe that’s a pleasant destination in itself.

HIGHLIGHTS: Ephesus, Şirince, Meryem Ana Evi, Basilica of St. John

Check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Ephesus in Selçuk-Izmir, Turkey for help in planning your itinerary.
The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Ephesus in Selçuk-Izmir, Turkey


The calcium travertines of Pamukkale are one of a kind. Gleaming white with cascading pools of powdery blue, they look straight out of a dream. Meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, nowhere else on the planet can you see something like this. Though the calcium travertines are the main draw, the region is home to several archaeological ruins including Aphrodisias which is often described as Turkey’s most beautiful ruins.

HIGHLIGHTS: Calcium travertines, Cleopatra’s Pool, Aphrodisias, Kaklik Cave

Check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Pamukkale, Turkey for help in planning your itinerary.
The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Pamukkale, Turkey

27 Delicious Things to Eat & Drink in Turkey

Food plays a major role in our trips so nothing whets our appetite for a trip more than the promise of good (or interesting) eats. Ren and I sometimes differ in our food preferences but we both fell madly in love with Turkish cuisine. It’s SO damn good.

HIGHLIGHTS: Dürüm, börek, midye dolmas, lahmacun, meze platters, köfte, testi kebap, künefe, anything with lamb

Here’s a list of 27 Delicious Things to Eat and Drink in Turkey and where to try them.
27 Delicious Things to Eat and Drink in Turkey

This barely scratches the surface of what this magical country has to offer, but it’s a start. I’m not an expert on Turkey but I do hope you find these travel guides helpful. I’m just sharing what I learned from our trip. At the very least, I hope it makes planning that maiden trip a little easier for you.

To make it even easier, you can download our entire 2-week Turkey itinerary in editable Word format by signing up for our FREE newsletter below. You’ll receive the download link via email. Thanks and have an awesome trip!

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JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. JB Macatulad at 11:34 pm

    You’re welcome Shara May! Turkey is an incredible country with the nicest people. It saddens me to see them hit with these terrorist attacks. 🙁

  2. Rons at 3:39 am

    I’m still kind of leery whether my beau and I should go or not, as they announced a State of Emergency in July because of terrorist attacks which would last up to 3 months as per their tourism website. Really saddening. 😔

    Nevertheless, I’d like to know how you got there. Did you come all the way from the PH or US to Turkey? And which city did you visit first? I’m very eager to know! 😉

    Thanks for this very intuitive post! I’ve been re-reading your blogs for days, tbh!!! Can you imagine? Trying to go back and forth your blog and Skyscanner and Took notes of your tips! 😉

  3. JB Macatulad at 7:44 am

    Hi Rons, happy you found the guides useful! I do understand your concerns. Before we went, one of the first bombings just happened in Anakara. Even that made us apprehensive so I can only imagine how travelers must feel now. 🙁

    But to answer your questions, we flew in to Istanbul from Manila via Dubai (Etihad). We wanted to leave Istanbul for last so we stayed there just one night and flew to Izmir the next morning via Turkish Airlines (best airline ever!). We took a train to Selcuk and stayed there a couple of nights. We then took a bus to Denizli from Selcuk, though I don’t recommend this. It’s best and fastest to go by train. You can take a minibus from the Denizli bus station to Pamukkale. We stayed in Pamukkale just one night. We arranged for a day trip to Aphrodisias the next day then took an overnight bus that night from Denizli to Cappadocia. We stayed 3 nights in Goreme then flew back to Istanbul via Turkish Airlines for 5 nights to round out our trip.

    Hope that helps? Let me know if you have any more questions. 🙂

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