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Tips for Travelling to Western Turkey

I just completed my WHS-oriented trip to Western Turkey. Saw 7 new WHS, 3 upcoming possible WHS and 8 TWHS. I had been to this region twice before so I skipped the WHS I had already been to (Bursa, Ephesus, Cappadocia, Hierapolis/Pamukkale). I did a clockwise loop by rental car in 9 days, with Izmir as the most western point and Konya as the most eastern. Then I flew/bussed to Ankara, Safranbolu and Edirne to clear all that was left!

Below are my tips for travelling to Western Turkey as a WH Traveller. 

1. Beware that entrance fees have risen sharply

Despite rampant inflation, food and public transport are still inexpensive in Turkey when you come from abroad and accommodation I found good value. Entrance fees however have risen sharply over the past couple of years (you'll notice the little stickers on the tickets overriding the original prices). The most prolific sites now charge 200 TL – at about 10 EUR, this still is reasonable for a classy WHS I think. But it will add up as they charge mostly per location: Pergamon is 200 TL for the Akropolis and 180 TL for the Asklepion (and 180 TL for the cable car), and Troy is 350 TL for the museum + site combination. The price asked for seems to correlate with the number of tourists a sight attracts – so the Aspendos TWHS is 200 TL as it lies close to the beach resort of Antalya.

Xanthos is on the lower end at 50 TL (but no surprise since hardly any effort at site interpretation has been made here). Çatalhöyük is still free to enter, but they are building what looks like a large new visitor center next door so I guess it will become payable in the near future. In total, I spent 80 EUR on entrance fees for this trip.

2. Choose your TWHS wisely

Turkey’s Tentative List at the moment consists of 84 places. It looks like the result of a brainstorming session where they forgot to cluster and prioritize afterward. Within the vast realm of possibilities, I think this is their way to already ‘give’ something to the hopefuls. But the sites aren’t all great, and some are double or already inscribed in one way or another. I am a firm believer in ‘chasing tentative sites is a fool’s errand’, but fortunately many community members have already made the effort to check most of them out. I found their ratings and reviews a good indication of whether a site is worth a stop – so go for the ones rated 60% or higher on Turkey’s country page.

3. Good luck with the ‘Karts’

During the final days of my trip, I was city hopping between Izmir – Ankara – Istanbul – Edirne, and I had a full day in Konya earlier as well, all the time relying on public city transport. There is no shortage of buses, trams, and metros in these big cities – but good luck trying to pay for them as a casual visitor. Each city has its own ‘Kart’ (Izmirim Kart, Konya Kart, Ankara Kart, etc.) that you must load and swipe to open the turnstiles. They all have different instructions, which are a bit of an enigma to the non-Turkish speaker. The biggest issue is purchasing a new card - sometimes done at supermarkets (Konya), a kiosk (Izmir airport) or God knows where in Ankara. Only in Edirne it was easy as you can check in with a credit card as well.

4. Driving is a breeze

The 'Turkish Mediterranean WHS loop' lends itself well to be done by rental car. That way you can stop at multiple (T)WHS per day. The road network is good and intuitive, with plenty of places to stop for gas or a drink/lunch. Drivers behave generally well, although they may sneak up on you from the right when waiting at a traffic light. The infrastructure investments seem to have gone a bit overboard with the multi-lane highways around Konya, as they seem hardly used. For some roads a toll fee is applicable - this is automatically charged via the HGS system present in the car. Traffic police is a common sight, and I was stopped three times at routine traffic checks (in 25 years of driving in NL I was only stopped once). Slightly annoying, but the officers were all friendly and wished me Gute Reise.

5. Don’t miss the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

There seems to be a trend in Turkey to move archaeological findings back to their place of origin – think of the Troy Museum. But those from the more fragile sites such as Gordion and Çatalhöyük are in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. This is probably the only sight not to be missed in the capital. I found the museum smaller than I remembered it (I had been there in 1992 as well!) and only needed an hour, but both the layout and the objects on show are excellent. 

Els - 14 May 2023

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Clyde 14 May 2023

Thanks for the tips. I'll make sure to visit the capital for its museum next time.