Cycling itineraries in Turkey
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Nov 15, 2012 7:02 AM Last Post By: sarikanarya
Nov 14, 2012 12:21 PM
Cycling itineraries in TurkeyHi all,
I am leading a group of 20-25 students on a cycling tour next summer, and one destination being considered is Turkey! I was hoping someone here could provide some basic itinerary suggestions to get us started. We just have a few constraints:
- We have a total of 5 full days available, not including half-days on both sides when we will be traveling. Ideally, 1-2 of these days would be spent touring Istanbul, so that gives us 3-4 days of cycling.
- We are poor students and trying to keep travel costs minimal (both in terms of time and money). Ideally, the cycling part of the trip would start off in a hub city that is no more than $200 round-trip costs from Istanbul via direct flight.
- Fitness levels will vary, so we'd like to keep cycling distances under 40 miles per day on average. If we have to go higher / lower on one day it may be okay, but nothing too strenuous. Also, let's try to keep the elevation gain reasonable.
- Things we like: beaches, ancient ruins, beautiful landscapes, interesting towns of historical significance.
From my preliminary research, we believe the Aegean coast (via Izmir) or the Mediterannean coast (via Antalaya) might be good options. I'd love to hear about some suggested itineraries around these parts, but certainly welcome other ideas as well.
Thanks in advance for your help!
Nov 14, 2012 2:58 PM
1Turkish cities are a nightmare to cycle out of. One you get out of a city in Turkey and onto smaller roads, you are fine because drivers - despite the reputation - are actually good. However, you'd be nuts to try to bike out of Istanbul (actually that's one of the best because even though it's 80 km only 20 km is on the highway), Izmir (mountains, windy roads, and blind corners), or any other major centre. Your only other choice would be to take a flight to a non-hub such as Mugla and bike from there.
1 day is not enough for Istanbul. Two days is enough if you are quick-smart.
Turks will have no clue what you are talking about if you mention miles. Start thinking in km.
In Turkey, traditional food is cheaper than western imports. Pide and pizza are exactly the same thing, only with different shapes and an extra 25 cents' worth of vegetables on top, but the pide will be much cheaper.
In smaller towns, there are basically two choices. One is a pension, which is excellent value for money in tourist towns - a year ago I paid 25 USD for two people, brek, air-con, and swimming pool included in Fethiye. The other choice is cheap hotels which cater to bottom-bracket business travellers. They usually have grimy carpets and broken toilet seats but clean linen. Don't travel in summer, many are closed.
Camping is not cheap and usually not in very good places. Wild camping and "request camping" at a farm is excellent but of course that's out of the question if you have a bunch of students with you.
There are sights worth seeing scattered all along the coast but fewer things to see inland, and they are much further apart. If you go, don't go more than about 150 km inland.
The road from Antalya to Fethiye is beautiful but hilly and has lots of blind corners. Dangerous. The road from Pamukkale to the coast is good.
Istanbul is actually quite interesting for cycling provided you keep your wits about you. Assume you are invisible to traffic at all times. Get your bikes on the train from Sirkeci station and then take the train out to the western suburbs. (ie Yesilkoy). Bike back to the town centre with the Istanbul skyline before you. When you come to the old city walls - which few tourists see, as they don't have transport - turn inland and follow them to the golden horn. Return along the golden horn to Eminonu, the centre of it all in the past and still a major centre.
You are looking after a group of high school students in Istanbul? Get them to do a project on scams and problems in the city. And get very comprehensive insurance.
Getting past Izmir is a major pain on a bike. Don't try it.
1. take the ferry to Bandirma from Istanbul. Bike to Canakkale and take a day-tour of the battle fields. From Canakkale head south along the coast. See Troy. Do a day-trip out to Bozcaada. Take an overnight bus back to Istanbul (buses are fine taking bikes if there is enough room, so you will have to book tickets with several different companies and arrange to meet up in Istanbul.)
2. Fly to Denizli. Bike west to Soke and then south to Didyma. From there you can take an overnight bus back to Istanbul. (Ditto above).
3. Fly to Izmir. I've never biked out of Izmir to the south (it may be OK) but get yourself to Selcuk. If you take the bus, do a day trip around the area - it's nice. Day two, bike around the area and see Efes. Day 3, bike to Priene and see the ruins there. There's a good pension there too - or there was, 5 years ago. Day 4, bike to Didyma and see the temple of Artemis or laze on the beach. Take a night bus back to Istanbul.
With only 3 days and only 80 km per day, you'll have a lot of trouble getting from one airport to another. Accept that you will have to take an overnight bus. I have only ever taken one alone or with one friend, but in my experience they are much more accommodating than airlines.
A final tip - Istanbul is hard work and you are more likely to be ripped off there if you have never been to Turkey before. Do the cycling firs,t and then do Istanbul at the end of it.
Nov 14, 2012 4:13 PM
2I've never cycled in Turkey but have toured nearly everywhere by car. Cyclists are NOT a common sight!
I agree that the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts are beautiful areas with much to see. Beyond the heat (35C-40C) and humidity (22C-24C dewpoint) common in the summer you have to contend with quite heavy traffic on roads that I would say are far from bicycle friendly. The best (four-lane with good paved shoulders along relatively level terraine) have rather uninspiring scenery as you are on the inland edge of a coastal plain typically out of sight of the sea--such roads are mainly East of Antalya. Secondary roads in the region rarely have shoulders and people--especially the Turkish--tend to drive too quickly. South of Antalya you must traverse small mountains again typically out of sight of the sea. The most beautiful seaside stretches while fairly level are extremely rugged (read LOTS of blind curves) and two lane with seaside shoulders that have sections that have disappeared down the cliff and cliffside shoulders often filled with debris from higher up.
South of Izmir towards the Bafa Lake area is a place I would call decent for cycling but you will be well inland with only some side roads leading to the sea via a coastal mountain range. Much is following a wide river valley so not much in the way of mountains to traverse and no crazy, curvy sections.
I will suggest the Cappadocia region as a very good alternative. No sea or beaches and no ancient Greek/Roman cities but the area is scenically spectacular. Summer weather will be quite warm but with low humidity. The area is so highly touristed by both Turkish and foreign that drivers are normally on the lookout for things like cyclists and big groups of people wondering across major roads. There are some hideously steep roads but for the most part they can be avoided. You could easily stay based at one hotel while taking cycling circuits to various points of interest with little or no backtracking.
Nov 14, 2012 10:24 PM
3I took a look at your profile page to try to learn where you are from but couldn't.The reason was to know what sort of climate you are used to.As students you'll be here during the summer holidays,i.e,the hottest part of the year.The south coast whilst lovely is as Mike indicated extremely hot(40oC is normal)and is coupled with unpleasantly high humidity.Just strolling around leaves you running with sweat so what you'd be like on bikes I don't know!You mention that the group is mixed ability and this could mean that some are just 'weekend cyclists' who could find conditions like this very hard going.Only truly ardent saddle jocks could find this a pleasant experience :)
Therefore given your limited time and budget I would agree with the first suggestion made by Maenad,spend a few days around the northern Aegean/Marmara area.The roads are fine,the ferry crossings cheap,importantly the weather will be cooler than the south and the humidity levels far more acceptable.The area around Çanakkale and the Gallipoli peninsula has plenty of interest to see too.There are quite a few camp sites if you'd prefer this to hostels and plenty of hostels if you'd prefer those.
Doing this would also save you the hassle of flying your bikes for just a couple of days.Domestic flights are generally pretty cheap but during the high season not that cheap for those on an über tight budget.Allowing a couple of days for Istanbul it isn't worth the hassle of flying for another couple of days cycling.
If you take the ferry over to Bandırma be sure to stop off at Kuş Göllü at Manyas,an important bird area and pretty too.Maybe taken a cycle around the Kapıdağ peninsula at Erdek,this too is nice and then head west towards Çanakkale and onto Gallipoli peninsula.
Nov 15, 2012 6:31 AM
4Sorry, I meant that some cheap hotels are closed in WINTER, not summer.
Sarikanarya usually offers super advice about Turkey but I totally disagree re. campsites (above). I've biked from Istanbul to Bulgaria twice, around the Marmara once, all over Yalova and Iznik, and to Ayvalik once plus some biking south of Izmir. I've only ever seen 3 campsites that were open and one was rotten, two mediocre.
Nov 15, 2012 7:02 AM
5There are several decent camp sites around Manyas and Gönen and also on the Gelibolu peninsula too,south of Eceabat around the southern tip.There is also one at Güzelyalı not far from Çanakkale.Sure to be others around that area too.
(5 star Hotel)
From US$2426.55 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$182.75 per night
(5 star Hotel)
From US$459.08 per night