This post is about our holiday to Turkey during the last week of April. It was an 8 day trip with a 4 year old. If you are planning to visit this beautiful country, with kid(s), take notes!
Our itinerary included Antalya, Pamukkale and Istanbul. We arrived at Sabiha International Airport on day 1 and took a plane to Antalya (1.5 hours flight). We stayed in a place that is very close to the Konyalti beach. It was one of the beautiful beaches I have been to with mountains on one side, super lively stretch with restaurants, shacks and bars.
We had dinner in one of the shacks and spent the rest of the evening in the beach. The weather was cold and windy and we needed jackets. The sun set only around 8 pm so it was nice to have the daylight after the dinner as we walked around. The beach was clean and stroller friendly.
We rented a car and had planned to visit Pamukkale the next morning. It’s a 3 hour drive from Antalya. But then our child had fallen sick and we had to stay in the hotel. We had the medicines handy but then things got escalated quickly and we had to see a doctor.
It was the Eid weekend and all the hospitals and pharmacies were closed. We drove around looking for clinics on Google maps and none of them were open. We finally had someone direct us to the State owned medical center. We did have a hard time finding the pediatric ward as it was such a huge facility.
At the pediatric ward, we were asked to submit our passports to a translator. They verified our visa and got us an appointment. Once the consultation was over, we paid the fees in Turkish Lira and they gave our passports back. The hospital had a list of pharmacies that were open on the Eid weekend. We were very thankful for our decision of renting a car because without that it would have been a nightmare to get around the city to find a clinic that was open.
So if you are planning to visit Turkey, please note that the pharmacies and clinics are closed on Sundays and public holidays. Should you require medical assistance, please find the nearest State owned medical center. Also, the travel insurance that’s is part of the travel requirements apply only for private clinics and not the State owned centers.
We visited the upper Duden waterfalls and Antalya aquarium on our last day there. We reached the waterfall around 10 am and wasn’t crowded. Can spend around 2 hours there.
Antalya Aquarium isn’t really big but since we decided to keep it low key and wanted something to keep the child engaged, we decided to check the place. You could easily skip.
On day 4, we flew back to Istanbul. It was almost an hour drive from Sabiha International Airport to Fatih (downtown Istanbul) where we stayed, so have food/snacks and water handy for the kids.
Our hotel was at a walkable distance to Sultanhamet mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi palace. Since we were in Antalya during the Eid holidays, we avoided the crowd in Istanbul. The queues to Sultanhamet and Topkapi palace were longer and all thanks to the stroller. We covered all three places in a day.
We took the Bosporus Cruise on one of the days in the morning around 10 and the trip was around 2 hours. They dropped back at the bus station opposite to the Yeni Cami mosque. We spend the rest of the day the bazaar close to the mosque.
One of the days when it rained all day we chose to visit the Legoland in the Istanbul Forum Mall. You could take a metro or a taxi to the mall. The Legoland wasn’t big but was good enough to keep our child occupied for close to 5 hours indoors. The café inside didn’t have anything much so it is better to have snacks in hand. There is a food court in the mall but you can’t get out in between from Legoland once you are in. The tickets are for single entry.
The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are so vast and you would want a day to walk around. The bazaars were the favorite part of the trip. The markets were very lively, colorful and had a lot of stuff to choose and shop. The lanes were very narrow but we managed to use the stroller. On the last day of the trip, we went to the Galatta Tower and Istiqlal street. Do check out the side-lanes of the Istiqlal streets for tiny cafes and shops that sell souvenirs for a good bargain.
All the food vendors inside the Grand Bazaar close by 5 pm so you will have to come out to find one to eat. We had many mini-supermarkets like Migros, BIM, etc and street vendors selling fresh fruits close to our stay. We got fruits everyday freshly as we stepped out for the day and the child survived mostly on them. You can’t miss Simit and corn carts on the streets. There were a couple of Indian and Pakistani restaurants near by to our stay. Doner and Simit and all good but one needs the Indian food fix on any holiday.
I was secretly very happy that there were very less of McDs and Pizzahuts. Instead you have Simit Sarays and doners stalls! You could keep yourself hydrated with the Turkish tea and Ayran!
Our flight was on Friday evening and we had planned to leave the hotel before 5 hours ahead of our flight time but then we reached the airport just on time to board the plane. The roads to the Sabiha airport might get busier during the evenings/weekends so plan to leave accordingly.
Though the trip started with running into pediatric emergency, we loved the trip equally. The beautiful landscapes, the variety of places to visit, the convenience of metro/tram/taxis, the food that the country offers, the people made all the difference.
Antalya was very laid back while Istanbul was very busy. Antalya had beaches and waterfalls while Istanbul has its old charm and history.
Having lived in Kuwait for close 7 years and been to 3 other GCC countries, Turkey is definitely not another middle-eastern country. And it wouldn’t definitely not disappoint!