Sofia Adventures

Welcome to Sofia!

Sofia is an intriguing city, with corners that show at various times a glint of the splendor of Vienna, the charm of Istanbul, the quirkiness of Budapest, and the brutalism of Moscow. You’ll find Roman ruins in our subway stations, medieval icons in the church basements, and Thracian relics in the former presidential palace. Yet Sofia brings all of these seemingly disparate traditions together into one magical, inspiring city.

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Planning a Trip to Turkey: An 11-Step Checklist

Planning a Trip to Turkey: An 11-Step Checklist

Turkey is one of our favorite countries in the Balkans! Besides Bulgaria, it’s our most-visited country, as between Stephanie and I we have made eight trips to this stunning country over the past decade… starting in 2011 and returning nearly yearly. We can’t help it: the delicious breakfasts, the beautiful mosques, and the friendly locals (both human and feline) keep us coming back time and again.

From epic landscapes to delicious food to incredible history and fantastic urban culture, planning a trip to Turkey can be a bit complicated at times due to visa requirements and certain websites being inaccessible within Turkey… but a headache is entirely avoidable when you use our guide! And trust us, figuring it out is worth it.

Step 1:  Check to See if You Need a Visa

Passport Pixabay Stock Image
Turkey has complicated visa rules, but don’t let that stop you from coming!

Turkey is neither part of the EU nor the Schengen zone, so if you have a multi-entry Schengen visa it won’t help you out here.

There are 78 visa-exempt countries and territories who can enter Turkey without a visa, as well as 42 countries and territories whose citizens are eligible to apply for an e-Visa online.

Keep in mind, though, that many people with traditionally “strong” passports are not visa-exempt, and actually do have to apply for an e-Visa online. It is not a different visa to get at all, but given that people with strong passport privilege like myself often forget to double-check visa requirements, especially in a country as European and West-facing as Turkey. I had an Irish friend have a bit of a panic when they learned they needed a Turkish visa at the last minute!

Americans, Canadians, British, Irish, Australians are all frequent visitors to Turkey who require an e-visa before flying to Turkey, among many other nationalities, aside from the below-listed countries. If you’re not sure if you require a visa to go to Turkey, check this list of nationalities who require a visa on the Byevisa website (they can also help you out with the application process if you’re overwhelmed).

Countries who DO NOT need a visa

The countries on the list below are allowed to enter Turkey without a visa, using a passport (or ID if marked with an *), for tourism and business purposes (with the exception of the countries listed at the end, which require a visa for business purposes but not tourism). They are allowed to enter up to 90 days per 180-day period, with a maximum of 90 days in a single visit.

Note that as always, your passport must have over 6 months of validity to enter Turkey!

Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France*, Georgia*, Germany*, Greece*, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Israel, Italy*, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein*, Lithuania, Luxembourg*, Malaysia, Moldova*, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland*, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine*, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela

Note: Of this list, people from Albania, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia are permitted to enter visa-free for tourism only; citizens from these countries require a business visa if entering Turkey for business purposes

Second note: Those marked above with an asterisk (*) can enter with either a national ID card and/or passport.

Russians are allowed to enter visa-free with just their passport for 60 days per visit and up to 90 days per 180-day period. So theoretically, a Russian could spend 60 days on one visit, leave, and return for another 30 days spread out over that 180-day period.

Finally, there’s one more group of people who can travel visa-free, but only for up to 30 days per visit and up to 90 days per 180-day period. So theoretically, they could plan three 30-day trips within a 180 day period, or divide that into any other period and still be covered under this law.

Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brunei, Costa Rica, Latvia, Macao, Mongolia (tourism only), Thailand, and Turkmenistan

There are a few exceptions due to the current geopolitical situations worldwide. They are as follows:

People from Cyprus who reside in Northern Cyprus (Turkish occupied) can enter for 90 days out of 180 visa-free, granted that they arrive from Ercan Airport or seaports in Northern Cyprus.

Libyans who are 12 or under, or 65 or older, may enter for 90 days within 180 days. Anyone between the ages of 13-64 would need a visa.

Palestinians who hold a VIP passport (not sure what that is, to be honest) are also allowed a 90 day stay per every 180 days.

That sums up the nationalities who are allowed to enter Turkey without a visa. Note that many traditionally “strong” passports are not on the above list: the UK, Canada, Ireland, US, and Australia are all missing, because these countries (and others) require an e-visa.

Countries who require an E-Visa

Americans, don’t expect to get into Turkey visa-free! In fact, we’re lucky we can go at all, after a diplomatic spat led to non-issuance of Turkish visas for 3months in 2017.

Getting a Turkish e-visa is quite simple, so don’t get intimidated. As an American, it took me about 15 minutes to fill out the form and I heard back almost immediately. It cost me $20 USD for a multi-entry visa that gave me 90 days out of the following 180. Some are free, some cost up to $65 (sorry Canadians!) and others more – your fee will depend on your countries’ agreements.

Here is a list of countries who require an e-visa. Note that those with asterisks can enter with a national ID card and do not necessarily require a passport. Anyone without an asterisk requires a passport. The list below is for 90 days within a 180-day period, but there are exceptions to that below.

Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium*, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Fiji, Grenada, Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Maldives, Malta*, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands*, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal*, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain*, Suriname, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

People with passports for the following countries can only get a single-entry visa good for 30 days: Armenia, China, Cyprus, East Timor, Fiji, Indonesia, Mauritius, Mexico, Suriname, and Taiwan.

Conditional E-Visas

As if it wasn’t complicated enough, there are also many countries which are eligible for conditional e-visas: either single entry e-Visa received online in advance, or a e-visa on arrival. This would give them a 30 day stay, single entry. These are the conditions:

  1. Must hold a valid visa or residence permit from one of the following countries: Schengen visa, Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States. Electronic visas or e-residence permits are not accepted. This does not apply for Egyptian citizens under 20 or over 45, who do not need a visa or permit. Similarly, Algerian citizens must be aged below 18 or over 35 years old to be eligible for e-Visa (otherwise they need a sticker from an embassy).
  2. Must hold a hotel reservation and adequate financial means (US$50 per day).
  3. All citizens except for the citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Philippines must travel with one of the airlines that has protocols with Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The following airlines meet the criteria: AtlasGlobal, Onur Air, Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines. Citizens of Egypt may also travel on flights operated by EgyptAir.
  4. Afghanistan, Iraq, Zambia and Philippines citizens are not eligible for e-visa on arrival at Istanbul airports

And these are the countries eligible, given they’ve fulfilled the above requirements:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

If your country is not listed on this, or if you don’t meet the above requirements, you will need to apply for a visa in a physical embassy (sticker visa).

Step 2. Book Your Tickets

Turkey doesn’t always have the best cheap flight details because Turkish Airlines has a pretty strong hold on the market here. For example, living in Bulgaria, it’s quite expensive for me to fly to Turkey (despite being right next door!) as there are no low-budget airlines operating flights between the two countries. However, Turkey often has fantastic deals from far-away destinations – I once flew direct from San Francisco to Istanbul for under $500 USD roundtrip!

However, that’s not to say you can’t find cheap flights into Turkey. To find the best value for your flights, we suggest Skyscanner and Google Flights. Use Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” feature to check all of the various airports in Istanbul, since there are multiple ones. Google Flights has a nicer interface and updates with the correct prices faster, so there are no disappointments when you click through, unlike Skyscanner.

That said, you can also get to Turkey overland. Stephanie and I have both taken the night train from Sofia to Istanbul (also works Plovdiv to Istanbul) and my boyfriend has taken the bus from Sofia to Istanbul as well. This may be a good option for getting to Turkey, but book at least a day or two in advance as Stephanie once had tickets sell out on her sleeper train! Theoretically you can also get a bus from Athens to Istanbul or Thessaloniki to Istanbul, but I’ve never tried this route.

Step 3. Plan Your Turkey Itinerary

Turkey - Canva - Cappadocia - Best Places to Visit in Turkey

Many people who visit Turkey explore a combination of Istanbul and the mainland. However, there are so many places to visit in Turkey that it would be impossible to give one sample itinerary that would cover all the best options. Here are some things you need to ask yourself when it comes time to plan your trip to Turkey.

  1. Am I interested in exploring Turkey’s history and seeing ancient sites like the Hierapolis and Ephesus?
  2. Do I want to spend time in Cappadocia and Pamukkale in the interior?
  3. Do I want to spend time exploring multiple islands or beaches?
  4. Do I want to explore one city in-depth?

The answer to these questions will help you figure out how best to divide your time. Stephanie and I have each spent months in Turkey, and we’ve both barely scratched the surface! Don’t feel bad if you can’t see everything you want to on your first trip here. You can always come back!

Here are some good guidelines to keep in mind when planning a Turkey vacation.

If you have four days or less to travel in Turkey, stick to one place. This would be a great amount of time for an initial trip to Istanbul. If you wanted to do a day trip to Bursa or the Princes’ Islands, that would be possible, but a bit rushed.

If you have a week, you can explore two or possibly three places in Turkey. In this case, we’d recommend a trip to Istanbul and Cappadocia. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could go on from Cappadocia to Pamukkale by night bus (it’s safe – I did it solo!) and then fly or bus back to Istanbul from Denizli.

Domestic flights within Turkey can be absurdly cheap – cheaper even then the bus, at times! I flew from Istanbul to Kayseri (near Cappadocia) for $20. So don’t discount flights on Turkish Airlines or Pegasus when it comes time to getting around Turkey. Turkey also has some of the best buses I’ve ever taken in my travels, and they are quite a viable way of getting around.

Finally, don’t discount the coast if you are visiting Turkey in the summer! Fethiye, Bodrum, Antalya, and many offbeat coastal cities and islands are all wonderful places to soak up the sun.

If you are trying to decide where to go in Turkey, we’ve created a guide to help you get ideas: 17 of the Best Places to Visit in Turkey.

If you are combining a trip to Turkey with visits to additional Balkan countries, you’ll want to check out these Balkan travel resources. We think Bulgaria or Greece is the best country to combine with Turkey, personally, though we tend towards Bulgaria as we’re a bit biased!

  1. These are the 12 Balkan Countries Plus the Top Reason to Visit Each One
  2. The 10 Balkan Itinerary Commandments
  3. 41 Balkan Travel Tips
  4. Balkan Bus Trips: 10 Things You Must Know Before Your Ride

Step 4. Plan Your Activities

After you decide where you’re going to go, you’ll want to decide which activities to enjoy. In Istanbul, the city is so large that we actually advise against picking day trips unless you really want to get out and see the Princes’ Islands or something else you can get to by boat, like Bursa, since getting out of Istanbul by car or bus is such an ordeal! We’d recommend booking things like Bosphorus cruises, food tours, walking tours, and cultural events. Here are our top 3 tour/activity recommendations for Istanbul.

Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

Turkey - Istanbul - Turkish Spices - Pixabay

Easily the most delicious thing you’ll do in Istanbul all weekend, we highly recommend a food tour as a way of getting to know Istanbul better. Turkish food is one of the best cuisines out there, and this tour will give you a tasty introduction to it.

This food tour covers several neighborhoods and two continents over the course of five hours, so wear your best walking shoes (and stretchiest pants)! You’ll sample lots of different small tastes, travel by tram and ferry, and enjoy a full meal consisting of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. To cap that all off, you’ll enjoy four drinks over the course of the evening, plus a nargile (aka shisha) to cap off the night.

People love this tour! Check out prices, availability, and reviews of this 5 star rated tour here!

Bosphorus Cruise

A Bosphorus cruise is an essential way to explore the best of Istanbul. One of the world’s most important rivers, the Bosphorus connects the Marmara Sea with the Black Sea and provided the foundation for centuries of empires.

A sightseeing cruise up the Bosphorus is extremely relaxing and a great way to rest your feet while you still take in the beauty of Istanbul and its history, learning about the gorgeous palaces, bridges, fortresses, towers, and buildings which flank the river banks. This ultra-affordable 90-minute tour is a can’t-miss addition to your Istanbul city break itinerary.

»» Book your Bosphorus river cruise today! ««

Landmark Highlights Day Tour

Turkey - Istanbul - Hagia Sofia

If you prefer to have a little guidance during your trip to Istanbul, we recommend spending one day doing a guided tour which will explain the history of Sultanahmet’s most important sites: Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome, and the Grand Bazaar.

While you can certainly visit all these sights independently, visiting with a tour will give you essential historical context, allow you to skip the lines, and hop around from site to site in an organized, logical fashion that doesn’t waste any time.

»» Book your Bosphorus river cruise today! ««

If you’re going to be on the coast or islands, you will want to look into boating activities, water sports, and walking tours.

We generally use and recommend GetYourGuide for booking tours in Turkey and the Balkans.  We like that they have a best price guarantee and that they tell you the name of the tour companies they partner with (unlike Viator), so you can research it and be sure it’s worth your money!

If you are traveling between April and September, you will want to make sure your tours and activities are booked in advance since Turkey is a hot tourist destination. I have traveled to Turkey in the shoulder season (early April and October), and I still found that my tours were full or almost-full. However, if you visit Istanbul in winter, you likely won’t have to worry about that.

Step 5. Budget Your Trip

Once you know where you want to go and how long you have, you can put together your trip budget.

Thanks to a depressed Turkish lira, Turkey is a great budget-friendly destination compared to much of Europe. However, if you’re traveling through the rest of the Balkans first, especially places like Albania and Macedonia, prices will seem a bit higher. Personally, I find it on par with places like Greece and Montenegro, but not as expensive as Croatia or Slovenia.

Even in cities like Istanbul and touristy destinations like Cappadocia, there are budget options available. We personally choose to stay in private rooms in hostels or AirBnB apartments over hostel dorms, but there are dorm beds available basically everywhere to help you save money.

You can travel through Turkey on $30-40 USD per day by staying in dorms, eating cheap streets foods, minimizing alcohol (which is pricy in Turkey), and paring down your activities and travel between places.

When I travel through Turkey, I typically spend closer to $50-60 USD per day and enjoy that Turkey offers some true bargains in this price range, especially when it comes to accommodations.

For someone wanting the best of everything, like fancy hotels, fine dining, and the best activities, you’ll find that this will cost much less than a similarly luxurious trip in Spain, France, or Italy. So if you want to have a seriously bougie time somewhere, Turkey is a great value.

Good ways to cut down costs without sacrificing quality is to travel with someone so that you can split costs, enjoy your nicer meals at lunch when there are specials, and to weigh the cost of flying vs. buses as sometimes flying can be cheaper (pro tip: it helps to use incognito mode and search in the local currency, the lira!)

Step 6. Book Your Accommodations

Turkey - Istanbul - Hammamhane
The lovely Hammamhane – my top pick for where to stay on an Istanbul city break

Once you’ve decided out what you want to spend per night on accommodations, it’s time to get booking! Please, read this carefully as you can run into problems with your trip!

We use Booking.com because we like that they have free cancellation if you end up changing your plans. HOWEVER, Booking.com does not work once you’re inside Turkey unless you are using a VPN (Wikipedia doesn’t either, so say goodbye to fun facts on the go!). You can definitely pre-book your trips on Booking and access your information about your trip while you’re there, but if you search, the inventory will look to be 0. This freaked me out a lot when I was making a last minute plan to stay in Pamukkale after Cappadocia and there was no inventory available! I was able to work around it by using Hostelworld instead.

Still, we recommend Booking.com: it has the widest selection of types of accommodations, from guest houses to hostels to luxury hotels to apartments (without the Airbnb service and cleaning fees that can add up). One great way to keep accommodation costs down is to stay somewhere nice at one destination, and then pick a budget hotel at your next destination.

We have guides on where to stay in Istanbul as well as the best cave hotels in Cappadocia, so if you want to book, you have our recommendations at your fingertips (literally)! Just be sure to book before arriving in Turkey.

Step 7. Research Any Vaccinations You May Need

Crete - Rethymnon - Cat with Green Eyes

Turkey has a lot of stray animals, particularly cats. I mean, there is even a whole documentary about Istanbul street kitties! They are generally very friendly and well-behaved, taken care of by local business owners and families. Since we can’t help ourselves, visiting Turkey is basically like visiting one giant petting zoo of friendly kitties.

Be cautious and only touch kitties who approach you first. Or don’t at all, but I think that may be actually biologically impossible. I actually got bit by a cat in Ukraine and had to undergo five rabies shots – it’s not something I recommend, but it also hasn’t stopped my cat-head-scratching habit yet. I’m unstoppable, what can I say?

If you do get bitten by an animal in Turkey, go to the doctor immediately (within 48 hours, the sooner the better!) so they can assess the risk. Rabies does exist in Turkey, but I don’t recommend getting pre-exposure shots as they are 1) expensive, 2) often unnecessary, and 3) don’t even mean you won’t have to get post-exposure shots since you’ll still need to do more shots after a bite.

Here’s what the CDC recommends regarding vaccinations:

Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

They also recommend most travelers get Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations, as there is some risk of contamination. And if you’re in Turkey for a medical procedure or plan to get a tattoo (or indulge in any risky sexual or drug-related behaviors), you should also consider getting a Hepatitis B vaccine.

Step 8: Learn a Few Common Turkish Words and Brush Up on the Turkish Alphabet Pronunciation

Turkey - Istanbul - Local Wine Turkish Food

One thing that a lot of travelers from North America and Western Europe overlook is that Turkey uses a slightly different alphabet that looks like Latin but has a few unique letters. This means that pronunciation can be a bit difficult.

Check out this guide to Turkish pronunciation, which you should find quite helpful.

Most tourism professionals and people in the service industry speak amazing English, and it’s getting better every year. My first visit to Turkey in the winter of 2012 was a challenge; every year since, it’s gotten far easier to communicate with locals and tourism professionals.

Still, it’s kind to learn some Turkish (and it will definitely win you some fans and perhaps some free rakı). Here are the Turkish phrases we recommend you have handy for your trip to Turkey:

Hello = Merhaba

Good morning = Günaydın

Good afternoon = Tünaydın

How are you? = Nasılsın?

Goodbye = Güle güle

Please = Lütfen

Thank You = Teşekkür ederim

Excuse Me = İzninizle / Pardon

Cheers = Şerefe!

Yes = Evet

No = Hayır

I Don’t Understand = Anlamadım

Do You Speak English? = İngilizce biliyor musunuz?

Remember that some of these words have tricky letters, like ı which sounds more like “uh!” (i.e. it’s rak-uh, not rak-ee!) We always recommend a good translator app, like Google Translate, just in case!

Step 9. Pack Your Bags

Bulgaria - Sofia - Packing
We recommend packing beforehand to avoid last-minute stress!

We are in the process of creating packing lists to help you know what to pack for Turkey, but until then, here are some items you don’t want to leave home without:

  1. A Lonely Planet guidebook, to help you plan when on the ground
  2. An unlocked smartphone, so you can buy a cheap SIM card and use apps like Uber and Google Maps
  3. An extra swimsuit so you can enjoy Turkey’s hammams and beaches without having to put a wet one back on.
  4. Motion sickness pills for windy roads, Istanbul traffic, ferries, hot air balloon sides, etc.
  5. Sunscreen (if you’re bringing checked luggage). Sunscreen and other cosmetics can be expensive in Turkey compared to back home.

Step 10. Prepare For Your Arrival

Turkey - Istanbul - Bus from Train Station to Istanbul

Since there’s no universal way to arrive to Istanbul, you’ll want to do some prep work beforehand to make sure you know how you’ll get from the airport, ferry station, or bus station to your hotel.

Flying into Istanbul

This is the most common way for visitors to arrive in Istanbul. There are two: Sabiha Gokcen International Airport and Istanbul New Airport (which is so new I’ve never taken it, as it just started running flights in April 2019!) Flights to Ataturk are no longer running. Anything with the airport code IST is going to the new airport.

We recommend using Uber to get an affordable taxi into the city rather than relying on cab drivers as it can be a crapshoot as to whether you’ll get an honest one. A taxi would cost about 105-135 lira, not counting traffic (about $18-23), and I’d imagine an Uber would be a bit less.

You can take Havaist, a shuttle service operating between the new Istanbul airport and central Istanbul. A ride costs 18 lira, about $3 USD. These will go to Taksim, Beşiktaş, and Sultanahmet as well as other destinations. The ride takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours (Istanbul traffic is relentless), but there’s WiFi, chargers, and movies on board to keep you entertained.

We have a complete guide to getting into Istanbul overland from Sofia here, so read this guide if you plan to take the bus or train.

If you fly into Sabiha Gokcen, I recommend the Havabus shuttle to Taksim, which costs 18 lira ($3 USD) and takes about 90 minutes. You can then take a taxi to your final destination if it’s not within walking distance of Taksim. Alternately, you can Uber or pay for a cab.

Flying into Other Airports

I’ve also flown into Kayseri and took a shared shuttle organized by my Cappadocia cave hotel. It was inexpensive and easy!

I’ve also flown out of Bodrum, but I flew too early in the morning to take public transportation and had to take a pricy cab that cost more than the airplane ticket itself! Though, to be fair, I only paid like $20 USD for the plane ticket.

Keep in mind that with early and late departures, you may be forced into taking an expensive cab, and that can add onto your final transportation bill!

Before You Leave the Airport

You’ll want to have some Turkish lira on you for your taxi or to get on a bus. You can take them out at the ATMs in the airports for the best exchange rates. Just make sure you don’t have big ATM withdrawal fees from your bank (Americans, we recommend Schwab!). Some banks require a travel notice, and others will still put fraud blocks on cards making purchases outside of their home country.

Tell your bank when and where you’ll be traveling to avoid this. They may still put a block on your card at some point (mine frequently does). To rectify this, you’ll need to call them or respond to an email if they send one. This is one reason its good to always travel with multiple cards attached to different accounts. I always travel with two credit cards and two debit cards if possible.

Note that many places in Turkey take Visa and Mastercard (AmEx and Discover, so much). You’ll still need some cash to be able to travel through Turkey smoothly, especially if you want to shop!

Step 11: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

We put this last so it’s fresh on your mind: travel insurance is essential for Turkey and for travel in general! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last two years.

We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption. While we think Turkey is just about as safe to travel as anywhere else in Europe, it has a slightly higher risk of political unrest or terrorism. While it shouldn’t dissuade you from going to Turkey (I mean… we’ve never let it stop us, and we never will!) it is better safe than sorry.

While Turkey is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always risk inherent in everyday travel, from theft to accidents to trip cancellations, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” and we believe it’s true!

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

One Day In Athens Itinerary: The Ultimate Athens Guide In 24 Hours

One Day In Athens Itinerary: The Ultimate Athens Guide In 24 Hours

Looking for the perfect one day in Athens itinerary?

For many first-time visitors to Greece, a quick stop over in Athens whilst on route to exploring the gorgeous Greek isles is usually their first and only introduction to this incredible city.

With so much history, culture and charm, you really should be spending at least two to three days at minimum in order to really get to grips with the city.

Regardless, if you are pressed for time, you can certainly still see many of the major sights and attractions to get a feel for ancient Athens! In this guide I’ll provide a rundown of all the key essential information you may need to plan for a perfect day in Athens!

How To Get Around Athens In A Day

Greece - Athens - Ancient agora athens greece

Getting around the capital city is easy.

If staying centrally, the city is easily walkable, especially for this one-day Athens itinerary.

Additionally, there are plenty of transit options provided. Take a look at some of the popular modes of transportation around the city to enjoy the top things to do in Athens.

Metro and Bus

The metro is considered one of the best ways to get around the city. It’s a cheap and reliable service and takes you within walking distance to some of the top attractions.

To save money, you should buy a day pass for €4.50, or you can purchase a 90-minute ticket for €1.20 – excluding airport transfer. Another inexpensive option to get around the city is the bus system.

Tram

Alternatively, you can take the tram. There are three tram lines that run between downtown Athens and some coastal destinations like Moschato, Glyfada and Palaio Faliro.

Taxi/Uber

A taxi is the most reliable and safe way to get around the city. Keep in mind most taxis are metered, and you won’t know what your trip will cost in advance.

Athens used to have Uber, but now it’s been replaced by Taxibeat. We recommend downloading the app before going to avoid any taxi issues.

Hop-Off Hop-On Bus

Finally, if you want to get a combination of sites to see with a group, book a hop-on hop-off bus ticket and explore the city of Athens.

Where To Stay For 1-Day in Athens

With only 24 hours in Athens, you’ll want to stay somewhere that isn’t too far from the main attractions and has easy access to the public transportation system. Plaka is one of the best places to stay in Athens for sightseeing.

Where To Eat In Athens

Greece - Athens - Traditional greek dishes in a tavern in the old town of Athens (Plaka), Greece

What better way to immerse yourself in the unique culinary heritage of the famous Mediterranean menu, than indulging in different Greek cuisines?

Apart from strolling the streets with an abundance of superb eateries, take a look at some of these exquisite restaurants to satisfy your tastebuds – for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfast – Yiasemi

Start your day the right way and enjoy homemade tarts and delicious pies at this quaint traditional cafe-bistro, before venturing out for the day.

Lunch – 2Mazi

This restaurant captures the essence of classical Greek cuisine. Enjoy fresh salads, perfectly cooked fish and amazing tarts. 

Dinner – Art Lounge

The Art Lounge is situated in Syntagma Square and provides delicious cuisine. A must-try is the Kritharoto, a delicious type of risotto, with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and slow-cooked pork, yum!

What To See In Athens In One Day

Set your alarm clocks for a bright and early day to explore the ancient wonders around the spectacular city. You’ll want to squeeze as much into your one day as possible, before heading off to a magical island adventure, like the popular route from Athens to Mykonos.

Let’s dive straight into the ultimate city guide to Athens in a day.

Ancient Acropolis

Greece - Athens - The Erechtheum, an ancient Greek temple on the Acropolis near the Parthenon in Greece. Shot on winter day with bright blue sky with some cloud. The Caryatid statues and sacred olive tree are visible.

When visiting Athens, the first stop on your one-day itinerary should be to Greece’s crown jewel, the Acropolis. An ancient complex that was built in the 5th-century and is made up of several structures.

Try and aim to leave your hotel by 7:30 am, so that you can get to the Acropolis as soon as it opens at 8 am. This way, you can avoid the crowds, and have time to absorb the historic sites.

Start exploring the Acropolis from the south slope. As you enter, you’ll first find the Theatre of Dionysos and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Climb the marble steps to the top of the hill. There, you’ll find ruins of the grand Parthenon, and a spectacular view of Athens below.

Your walk around the spectacular grandeur structures should take about 2-hours. You can book your tickets in advance, or join a small group tour . You can buy multi-site tickets for €30 (recommended), or you can purchase a single ticket to the Acropolis for €20.

As you leave the Acropolis, stop at the Areopagus Hill. Here you can get a sight of the Ancient Agora, where Socrates developed his philosophy.

Plaka Neighborhood

Once you’re finished exploring the magnificent Acropolis, make your way to the city’s oldest and most colourful neighbourhood, Plaka. It’s one of the best places to visit in Athens. 

It’s a pedestrian-friendly area lined with charming restaurants, cafes and fascinating architecture. Stroll along the shopping streets of Kydathineon and Adrianou. Interrupt your stroll and spend some time in an authentic Greek cafe. Along your way, keep a lookout for antiquated Athens sites such as the Byzantine churches, museums and 19th-century homes. 

The Temple Of Olympian Zeus

From Plaka, it’s a quick 10-minute walk to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, a large temple that was built to honor the gods. It was completed in 131 AD, and today it houses 15 remaining Corinthian columns. Also on-site, you’ll find the remains of ancient Roman bathhouses and Hadrian’s Arch.

Learn about the fascinating history of the Temple of Olympian Zeus with a self-guided audio tour. Alternatively, if you’re interested in Greek mythology and legends, take a small-group walking tour  to learn more about the Plaka neighborhood, Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus.

Although this is one of the largest ancient temples of the Greek-Roman Empire, you don’t really need to spend much time here – maximum 15-minutes. A single ticket entrance fee is €6, or you can use the combination ticket.

The National Garden

Your next stop on the itinerary is the National Gardens, neighbouring the Temple of Olympian Zeus. On-site you’ll find the Zappeion Exhibition Hall, which was built in the 1880s for the first Olympic Games. The hall plays a significant role in Greek history and is certainly worth taking a look inside.

To get from the National Garden’s to your next stops, you can use the closest metro station to the Monastiraki Metro Station.

The Library of Hadrian

Located in the heart of the city, next to the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library was created by the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, in 132 – 134 AD. With its grandeur facades and large surrounding walls, it was clearly built to impress.

The building was used to store important legal and literary works. It also included lecture halls and served as a place for schools of learning and philosophy debates.

Combination tickets for the Acropolis are included here, otherwise, a single entry costs €6. Like most archaeological sites, opening times are from 8 am-8 pm, daily.

Ancient Agora

A 3-minute walk from Hadrian’s Library is the Ancient Agora. It was once the political and business hub of the Greek capital, and on the north side, it houses the 5th-century Temple of Hephaestus and Athena.

A single ticket entry fee to the Ancient Agora is €12 unless you have a combination ticket.

Roman Agora

Your next stop will be a quick 5-minute walk from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora. These ruins date back to the 1st-century, during the reign of Julius Caesar and Augustus.  It was once used as a commercial market place and is well worth the visit.

Another fascinating part of this site is the octagonal Tower of Winds, a Pentelic marble clocktower.

A single entry ticket to the Roman Agora is €6; otherwise, you can use your combination ticket to enter.

Monastiraki Square

As your one day in Athens comes to an end, head to the Monastiraki Square.

It’s around 3-minutes walking distance from the Roman Agora and is a great place to shop around for souvenirs and enjoy the hustle and bustle of street musicians and street vendors.

About the Author

Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 3 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way.

Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain, and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo.

You can follow along on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter!

How to Visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos (from Heraklion + Elsewhere)

How to Visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos (from Heraklion + Elsewhere)

One of the best things to do during a trip to Crete is to take some time to discover the past of the island.

A complex series of events that span for centuries until the present date. Arguably one of the most important civilizations that lived and ruled on Crete were the Minoans, an advanced culture that left stunningly beautiful traces in several areas of the island.

Let’s take a look at the most remarkable of them, the Minoan Palace of Knossos, an easy day trip from Heraklion.

Bull fresco

Who were the Minoans?

The Minoan civilization flourished on the island of Crete and other islands of the Aegean during the Bronze Age from 2700 to 1450 BC. Their decline period started around that time and the civilization finally faded aways in about 1100 BC.

It was a very advanced civilization, a maritime trading power maintaining commercial routes with other important cultures around the Mediterranean, exporting products such as wine and olive oil in places as far as Egypt and Syria.

Their palaces were more palatial complexes, buildings with areas dedicated to religious rituals, but also important workshops and spaces mainly devoted to the storage of goods produced.

Other places inside the complex included dwelling areas for the ruling and sacerdotal (religious) classes.

Buildings usually developed around a large open courtyard that would provide air and ventilation to other rooms and areas. The would have complex and advances piping systems too.

The wall paintings and frescoes still surviving the period usually portray scenes related to nature and everyday life.

There are not battling or violent scenarios, which leads to deduce that it was a peaceful civilization: an idea also reinforced by the fact that no Minoan Palace ever had defensive walls.

Minoan culture.

The Minoan Palaces of Crete: More than Just Knossos!

Four different palaces have been unearthed on the island, although it’s believed that there were many more scattered in every region. They were probably powerful centers of different city-states ruling in every area.

In the region of Heraklion, three palaces have been discovered and excavated, and the three of them are open to the public.

The biggest and most important and one is Knossos, followed in importance by the Minoan Palace of Festos, on the southern area of the region, and the smaller Minoan Palace of Malia, on the eastern coast of Heraklion, about 30 minutes away from the center of town.

In Lasithi, eastern Crete, the fourth palace that has been discovered is the Minoan Palace of Zakros, the smallest of the four. All of them can be visited.

A fifth Minoan Palace is believed to lie under the modern city of Chania, Ancient Kydonia.

Although some portions of it have been accidentally discovered following the Nazi bombing of the city, after WWII, the area has an extremely high number of inhabitants, and no further excavations are bound to take place.

There several are other archaeological sites worth a stop on Crete. However, many of them belong to different periods and civilizations. 

The following are some of the ones worth a visit:

Chania region

  • The Archaeological Site of Aptera
  • The Ruins of Ancient Falassarna
  • The Archaeological Site of Polyrrenia

Rethymnon region

  • The Archaeological Site of Eleftherna
  • The Ancient City of Lappa

Heraklion region

  • The Archaeological Site of Lato
  • The Ancient Ruins of Gortyn, 
  • The Ancient Port of Kommos, 
  • The Archaeological Site of Agia Triada  – The last three archaeological sites are relatively close to the Archaeological Palace of Festos.

Lasithi region

  • The Archaeological Town of Gournias
  • The Sunken City of Olous, 
  • The Archaeological Site of Spinalonga 
  • The Archaeological Site on the Islet of Mochlos

Facts about the Archaeological Palace of Knossos

Dolphin fresco.
  • The first excavations in Knossos started around 1878; however, they were stopped for political reasons. 
  • Formal works of excavations were later carried out by the Englishman Arthur Evans, who purchased the land in order to be able to excavate without interference.
  • Evans revealed the entire palace in 1931 and created important controversy in the archaeologic community due to the liberties he took to recreate the architecture of the palatial complex.
  • The Palace stands on Kefalas Hill, just a few kilometers away from the sea.
  • There are intricate corridors and staircases that shape a sort of labyrinth structure.

Things to See Inside the Minoan Palace of Knossos

Central court

This is a huge open space and the most important courtyard. It’s located in the center of the complex. This might have been the place where the different religious ceremonies took place.

West court

This could have been a place for public meetings and it could also be the area where the marketplace stood. In this court, you can see three circular pits, probably used to store goods.

Throne room

The room of the throne.

One of the most visited places in the palace, a very reduced space with the throne probably used for sacerdotal rituals. You will have to queue to enter and take a good look, there’s reduced time to see everything, so get your camera ready!

Grand staircase

An imposing staircase made of stone, clearly visible, that takes you directly to the underground level to see the rest of the royal rooms. These rooms are closed to the public, but it’s possible to observe their magnificent frescoes from the outside.

Royal apartments

These gorgeous rooms with ample spaces and probably comforts od all kinds where probably the residence of the members of the ruling class as well as other authorities since they are not big enough to be considered the rooms of the royalty.

Queen megaron

The suite known as the room of the Queen is the one housing the fantastic fresco with the dolphins (of which you can see the original in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion).

King’s room

It’s located under the Queen megaron, and it has a personal chamber for the ruler known by the name of the Hall of the Double Axes.

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

It’s a great idea to visit the Archaeological Site right after or soon before having also seen the exhibits in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which gathers objects coming from most Archaeological Sites on Crete, not just from Knossos.

The building has two floors devoted to the different civilizations that flourished on the island over the years, from the Minoan Period onwards, covering also the Mycaenean, the Dorians, the Hellenistic Period and the Roman Times, to name a few.

A visit to the Archaeological Museum is key to better understand the complex structure of the Minoan civilization as well as to picture everyday life within the walls of the Minoan Palaces of Crete.

How to Visit Knossos Palace from Heraklion

You can get to the Archaeological Site of Knossos from the center of Heraklion by car or bus. The site is only 5 kilometers from Heraklion and the trip takes about 15 minutes. 

If you choose to get there by bus, remember the following:

  • The bus leaves from the (old) public bus station of Heraklion.
  • The bus is number 2 – Knossos.
  • The bus runs 3-5 times per hour all year round.
  • Its final stop is Knossos. The ticket is 1.50 € one-way. 
  • Running hours: from 8.00 to 19.00 in summer and from 8.00 to 15.00 in winter.

It’s always better to visit early in the morning or just before sunset to avoid crowds and extreme heat.

Things You Need to Bring with you to Knossos Palace

  • Plenty of water, the visit can last from 2 to 3 hours and once you pass the ticket control there’s no place inside the complex to buy water.
  • Sun protection, especially if you visit between May and October. Most of the site is exposed to the elements, there’s no shade or another way to protect yourself. The area is very hot too.
  • A hat and sunglasses for the same reasons stated above.
  • Comfortable walking shoes. Forget about heels or flipflops, you will be climbing stairs, walking on irregular soil and slippery rocks thousands of years old. Avoid incidents and wear closed shoes or hiking sandals.

More Tips for Visiting Knossos Palace

Set aside at least 2 hours to see the site, a bit more if you’re seeing the place with a guided tour.

Likewise, allow enough time to visit the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion (at least 2 more hours). It’s always better to combine both visits on the same day.

Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon, around sunset time to avoid extreme heat and sun as well as to skip lines faster and avoid crowds. There are tours you can book to especially skip the line both in the site and the museum.

What does it cost and what are the hours of Knossos Palace?

Buy a combined ticket to save some money. The entrance to both places is €16. Otherwise, you will be paying €15 to enter the museum and another €15 to enter the site. The ticket is valid for 3 days.

The following are the hours for visiting Knossos Palace from Heraklion or elsewhere in Crete.

Archaeological Site


Winter:  8:00 – 17:00. Last admission at 16:45
Summer: 8:00 – 20:00. Last admission at 19:45

Archaeological Museum

Winter: 9:00 – 16:00.
Summer: 8:00 – 20:00.

Where to Stay in Heraklion

We have a complete guide on where to stay in Heraklion here, with suggestions for every budget category and type of traveler, but we’ve chosen our favorites here for you to peruse when planning your Heraklion itinerary.

Budget: Intra Muros Boutique Hostel 

Crete - Heraklion - Hostel
Stephanie stayed at this boutique hostel in Heraklion and loved it!

The hotel is named after the Latin phrase that translates as “within the walls,” and you’ll love how they work to make the space between their walls a home away from home.

Backpackers and group travelers will enjoy this boutique hostel; not only is it strategically located in the heart of the city (and close to most tourist spots) but it also has a nearby bus stop so you can save on transportation expenses. You can also walk to the port if in case you want to ride a ferry and go to other locations and dreamy islands near Crete.

They have dormitories with shared bathrooms available for as low as $13 USD for a night with bunk beds with privacy curtains. You can choose from a mixed or all-female dorm room.

There’s also a shared kitchen equipped with a stove, oven, refrigerator, and utensils. You can cook quick meals here since there is a nearby mini market outside! The service desk is not open 24 hours, but if you inform them of your late arrival then they can arrange someone to meet you at the said time.

>>Check guest reviews, prices, availability, and more photos here.<<

Mid-Range: Infinity City Boutique Hotel 

Infinity City Boutique Hotel is a very modern hotel that features contemporary style and comfort. The hotel is a bit narrow due to the building’s structure, but it has spacious and soundproof rooms. It has 6 floors and a total of 21 rooms that have their own balcony with a view of the amazing blue sea plus a private bathroom with complete amenities.

Each room has flat wooden ceilings and tiled floors to match the contemporary and modern style of the hotel. Guests love how the hotel design balances style and comfort, with a mini-fridge and other in-room amenities. The private bathrooms are a bit small, but comfortable, with toiletries included.

You can try their free continental breakfast and have some of their coffee, juice and some tasty croissants. Of course, for many people, mornings aren’t complete without eggs, which they make to order!

>>Check guest reviews, prices, availability, and more photos here.<<

Luxury: Stella Palace Resort and Spa 

The pool view of this resort hotel is marvelous – actually, everything about the hotel is! It has its own water park, bars, spa, and so many more world-class features to offer its guests. They have rooms, suites, and maisonettes where you can even have your own private pool or hot tub.

They have 4 restaurants on-site which means you have many options of what to eat (though every restaurant in Heraklion is delicious as well). Elia serves Greek dishes, Enso offers yummy authentic Asian dishes, La Veranda treats you to an Italian dinner or lunch plus a good selection of wines and lastly, Poseidon, which offers a huge selection in their buffet. A night of fun won’t be complete without checking their different bars where each offers a different ambiance and a different selection of drinks and snacks.

Fitness freaks will love their gym because it has everything you could ever look for when it comes to getting your daily exercise. You might not find some of the treatments they offer at their spa elsewhere, because most of the ingredients they use are locally sourced in Crete. Highly-skilled therapists and massage practitioners will bring you the ultimate relaxation experience here!

>>Check guest reviews, prices, availability, and more photos here.<<

What to Pack for a Crete Beach Vacation

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

If you’re planning a trip to Crete, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more, check out our Essential Crete Packing List.

– A Physical Guidebook – While travel blogs are great, we also definitely see the benefit of having a good paper guidebook in hand to refer to in your on-the-ground travel. We own and recommend the Lonely Planet Greece book as a starter, but you may also want to pick up the Lonely Planet Crete which covers the island more in-depth. 

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in big cities on Crete is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Crete bus rides can cause motion sickness! If you have a weak stomach like we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans on trains and buses tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

 Travel safety items. We think Crete is very safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison or I use these.

Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

Read more: Essential Crete Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Crete

More Crete Travel Resources

Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Stephanie Selfie

Headed to Crete? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Greece and local tipping customs.

If you’re still trying to work out where to go on the island, check out our guide to the best places to visit in Crete and our favorite Crete beaches.

If you’ll also be spending a few days in Chania, here is our guide to visiting Seitan Limania from Chania (which is our favorite beach in Crete) and Chania’s best Instagram spots. 

If you will be spending time in Heraklion, check out our guides to the best Instagram spots in Heraklion and the city’s best restaurants and cafes. 

If you’re interested in taking a day trip to Rethymnon, check out our Instagram guide to Rethymnon next, and perhaps our guide to things to do in Rethymnon and the best Rethymnon hotels.

If this will be one of your first trips to the Greek islands, check out our massive Greek Island hopping guide as well as our recommendations for where to go in Greece and when is the best time to visit. 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Crete, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! We have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption. 

While Greece is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe.

>>Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.<<

Your Picture-Perfect 2 Days in Corfu Itinerary

Your Picture-Perfect 2 Days in Corfu Itinerary

The island of Corfu, known as Kerkyra by the Greeks, is located off the Northwest coast of Greece, right in the heart of the Ionian sea.

The island is a hot holiday destination in Europe, a favorite place to visit in Greece for its culture, history, and amazing beaches.

The old town as seen from the port.

About Corfu

Green and with a varied rugged landscape, the island is an excellent place to hike, practices water sports, and discover unique experiences. 

Although Corfu presents itself as one of Greece’s most popular holiday spots, the island is big enough to be able to find isolated sandy beaches. There are off-the-beaten-track regions that you can discover too if you have enough time and if that’s the kind of vacation you’re looking for.

In this article, though, we will focus on Corfu’s best-known places. With this short but intense 2 day Corfu itinerary we want to give you a great first-timers guide to explore the island. Let’s see some of the best things you can do in Corfu in two days.

Day 1 in Corfu

The Old Town

Old Town Corfu

Devote your first morning to learning about the unique past of Corfu. The best place to start your day is in the picturesque old town, where you will bump into unique Venetian buildings and fortresses that have shaped the architecture of the city and the past of the island.

Corfu Old Town is still under the spell of the beautiful buildings left behind by the Venetian rulers which dominated the island from the 15th to the 18th centuries. The capital of the island is listed in the UNESCO for its outstanding universal value. 

Take some time to visit the system of fortifications, some of which date back to the late Byzantine period (8th century). The city is, in fact, one of the many major Mediterranean fortified port cities.

Once you’ve wandered the romantic yet busy alleys of the old town, stop for a quick bite.

One of the most popular places to eat in town is Taverna Diporto, just a few steps away from the Catholic Church of Saint Giacomo. The restaurant has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, and it’s a great place to try traditional Greek food at very convenient prices.

Tower Bell of Annunziata.

In the area, you can take a look at the fantastic Tower Bell of Annunziata, a remarkable monument that stands as a memory of the Church of Annunziata (the Italian for the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary).

Although the church was lost due to the German bombings in 1943 and later, it’s still possible to admire the impressive tower dating back to the 14th century.

Paleokastritsa Beach and Monastery

Paleokastritsa Monastery.

One of Corfu’s most enchanting beaches is Paleokastritsa, about half an hour from the old town.

Once you get there, it’s a good idea to first head to the Monastery of Paleokastritsa.

You will not only get a magnificent view of the beautiful beach standing below, but you will also visit one of Corfu’s most beloved religious centers.

The sea of Corfu as seen from the Monastery of Paleokastritsa.

The beautiful location rewards you with unique views of the spectacular sea of Corfu, breathtaking cliffs and lush vegetation. 

Next up, head down to Paleokastritsa Beach to enjoy the cool pristine waters. Here it’s also possible to rent a boat and explore the magnificent caves in the area.

The beach of Paleokastritsa.

Gastronomic staples of Corfu

End your day learning about the local gastronomy. The island is known for its quality honey and extra virgin olive oil, however, nothing screams Corfu louder than Kumquat. So, it’s our suggestion to book a tour that takes you right into the heart of Corfu’s kumquat.

Kumquat originally comes from China, and its name means golden orange in Chinese.

The kumquat trees have a very old tradition on the island. The small, sweet fruit was first introduced on the island back in 1846 by an English botanist and the local climate has since then proved to be excellent for this plant to grow.

Some of Corfu’s staple products are made from kumquat, among them the liquor, the marmalade, and the unique spoon sweet that is served after every meal with a small portion of Greek yogurt.

Day 2 in Corfu

Explore Canal D’Amour and Corfu Beaches

The lovely Canal D’Amour

Pack your beach bag because you will be spending a fantastic day in some of the most famous beaches of the island.

Our beach day starts traveling North from the capital to reach the romantic Canal d’Amour, in the town of Sidari.

Also known as the Love Canal, the unique landscape is formed by clear rocky formations with quite odd shapes and textures. 

You can simply lay on the sand and enjoy the dolce far niente in perfect Greek style, sipping a frappe (Greek cold coffee) or a chilly with a local beer. 

Otherwise, you can also do what most people that get to the area actually come for: jumping off the cliff into the turquoise sea.

The canal that gives name to the beach leads you under the cliff above. And as everything in Greece, it comes with its own legend.

According to popular belief, swimming through the canal is all you need to do to find a perfect match and get married in no time. It’s quite easy to swim the canal as it is shallow and not very long. So there you go, it’s up to you to include that swim among the things you must do in Corfu!

Bonus day trip: The nearby islands of Antipaxos and Paxos

Sailing towards Paxos.

If you’re lucky to be able to add one more day to your Corfu itinerary, don’t doubt it and jump on a boat.

A really popular excursion in Corfu is the one that takes you along a whole day of adventure, sailing from Corfu’s port to the nearby islands of Antipaxos and Paxos.

I bet that if you’re reading this article it’s because Corfu has been on your radar for a while now, Therefore, you’ve most probably already seen those fantastic shots in which sailing boats seem to be floating over an incredible light blue sea. Haven’t you? 

Boat off the coast of Antipaxos.

If the answer is yes, and you really want to enjoy this view in person, a sailing trip around the island of Antipaxos is all you need. 

You will be able to jump off the boat and swim in such clear waters for a while. You will also find that such a trip is great for snorkeling too. The submarine landscape around this tiny island is colorful and truly gorgeous.

If you booked a full day tour, your next stop will be the somewhat bigger island of Paxos, where you can spend a few hours exploring the coast as well as the old town, with its picturesque church, houses, and tavernas.

The colorful village of Gaios, in Paxos.

Choose any of them for a bite of local seafood, shop gastronomic souvenirs, such as honey or olive oil, and head back you Corfu island for a dinner in style.

There’s a little bit of Italy all over Corfu. And there’s definitely a lot of Italy on the menu you’ll find at Pomo d’Oro. This cozy restaurant in the heart of the city center is not your regular Italian joint. Here, flavors are infused with Corfu’s flavors and Mediterranean style.

Where to Stay in Corfu

We have a full post on where to stay in Corfu Town here, but if you want our quick and easy top 3 picks, you can find them below.

Budget: Local Hostel & Suites

This brand new hostel (with private rooms available) is small, offering an intimate and personal experience with only 10 rooms. You can choose from a dormitory type room or a private room with an ensuite bathroom.

Location is the name of the game here: it is very close to the port (great for doing day trips to other islands or even Albania!), yet it’s also located just 10 minutes from the heart of Old Town.

While it’s easy to walk to the Old Town, there is also a nearby bus stop that can get you back and forth from the town easily — great as taxis in Corfu are crazy overpriced, similar to many other touristic Greek islands. The facilities are all brand new because they just opened around August of this year, so you’ll enjoy comfortable and modern amenities.

All of their rooms have clean and crisp minimalist styles. They have a minibar which serves snacks during the day, and every morning, they offer coffee (with refills)! Past guests commended the cleanliness of the place – calling it squeaky clean! The only issue some guests found was that there can be some noise from the kitchen in the morning or at night.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Local Hostel & Suites ««

Mid-Range: Corfu Mare Boutique Hotel

Despite being a short trip by bus or taxi to the heart of the Old Town from this hotel, it still gets plenty of guests for its phenomenal amenities. In fact, you should hurry if you see there’s a room available – virtually every past guest of this hotel says that it is 100% worth staying here!

Corfu Mare has multiple room types and configurations (with a total of 51 total rooms). For a more modern room, look to their junior suite for stylish vibes. Most of the rooms have simple, classic decor elements to make each room look elegantly fabulous. Their beds use Coco-mats for the mattresses: they’re made out of natural fibers, and they’re also very comfortable and sturdy.

All of their rooms and suites are fully equipped with all the best features you can expect for a mid-range priced hotel. Interconnected rooms are also available if you are a large group of travelers. The hotel is tucked away from the main streets of Corfu Town. You will love how enclosed and exclusive the entire property is, and the fact that there’s also free and secure parking.

Just be reminded that there’s not much in the way of shops and restaurants nearby, so you’ll have to head into the heart of the Old Town for more action. The main views of the hotel are its private pool, garden, and the sea nearby, so if you want Old Town vibes, other Corfu Town hotels may be a better fit. Still, it is a wonderful, classy, and afforable place to stay in Corfu Town — and that’s one reason of many that so many guests return.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Corfu Mare Boutique Hotel ««

Luxury: Bella Venezia

Bella Venezia is a luxury hotel in the Old Town of Corfu that showcases what a typical mansion looked like during the 18th century. It stands out from the other buildings in the town due to its peach-painted exterior. The location is also perfect, bothnearby to the attractions in the Old Town plus easy access to a local beach.

It was recently renovated in just 2016, transforming it into the modern hotel is it now. It’s a cozy hotel, with just 30 rooms and 1 suite, so service is individualized and personal. In terms of style, the interiors are decorated with exquisite furniture and embellishments. The lobby showcases pure elegance and class with its style choices.

Their rooms have parquet floors, and some bed frames are made out of wood and others from iron. One thing’s for sure: the mattresses are soft and comfortable, and many of their past guests raved about it! The hotel mixes and matches different classic pieces to create that romantic and sophisticated style for all the rooms. Most of their rooms have a balcony and the views are mesmerizing!

Check out the fridge in the room for a complimentary bottle of wine or champagne, plus a bunch of gorgeous roses to welcome you on your first day! A/C and heating give you choice over the climate control to keep you comfortable regardless of the season.

You will love how they put tealight candles in the ensuite bathroom to make it even cozier, and toiletries and towels are for your disposal here as well. It also has an enclosed shower to keep the toilet area dry and comfortable.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Bella Venezia ««

5 Things to Bring with You to Greece

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Greece packing list.

– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We own and love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in most of Greece is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! There are places in Greece, especially on the islands, where the water tastes like minerals or have been desalinated and have a funky taste.

We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Often, Greek roads are winding, especially around the coast. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

 Travel safety items. We think Greece is safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie or I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack (the small bag pictured above).

It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

Read More: Essential Greece Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Greece

More Greece Travel Resources

First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a separate guide to tipping in Greece so you know what to give to different servers and staff while you’re here.

Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.

If you are still trying to figure out your Greece itinerary, check out our guides on where to go in Greece, the best places for island hopping in Greece, and when is the best time to visit. 

If you know you’ll be spending time in Athens, check out our Athens Instagram guide, the best Athens day trips, and our complete Athens hotel guide. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Athens in winter

We also have Athens safety tips so your trip can be hassle-free. We are currently working on our mega-post of things to do in Athens as well as our itineraries, so stay tuned! 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world!

Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption. 

While Greece is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

5 Things to Bring with You to Greece

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Greece packing list.

– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We own and love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in most of Greece is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! There are places in Greece, especially on the islands, where the water tastes like minerals or have been desalinated and have a funky taste.

We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Often, Greek roads are winding, especially around the coast. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

 Travel safety items. We think Greece is safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie or I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack (the small bag pictured above).

It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

Read More: Essential Greece Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Greece

More Greece Travel Resources

First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a separate guide to tipping in Greece so you know what to give to different servers and staff while you’re here.

Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.

If you are still trying to figure out your Greece itinerary, check out our guides on where to go in Greece, the best places for island hopping in Greece, and when is the best time to visit.

We have more Corfu content on the way, but for now, check our guide to accommodations in Corfu Town.

Want more Greek itineraries? We have guides to 2 days in Mykonos, and 2 days in Chania, Rethymnon, and Heraklion (all on Crete).

If you know you’ll be spending time in Athens, check out our Athens Instagram guide, the best Athens day trips, and our complete Athens hotel guide. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Athens in winter

We also have Athens safety tips so your trip can be hassle-free. We are currently working on our mega-post of things to do in Athens as well as our itineraries, so stay tuned! 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world!

Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption. 

While Greece is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

How to Spend a Magical One Day in Istanbul: Mini Itinerary

How to Spend a Magical One Day in Istanbul: Mini Itinerary

Have you ever visited a city and developed an instant connection with its striking architecture, bustling streets, and amazing vibe? This article is about the city that has the potential to make one fall utterly in love with it in just 24 hours: Istanbul.

Istanbul, the most populous city of Turkey, is celebrated as one of the most favorite tourist destinations around the world, offering a tangible meaning to the phrase where “the East meets the West”: the city itself literally spans both Europe and Asia.

With a magnificent history, rich culture, compassionate people, and scrumptious cuisine, Istanbul has something for everyone.

Whether you’re planning to make the most of a long layover in Istanbul or adding a while-stop one day in Istanbul during your European tour, this brief guide brings to you to the best of Istanbul in 24 hours!

Before It Begins: At the Airport

Turkey - Istanbul - Arriving at Ataturk Airport
The old Ataturk airport, now no longer in use

I am certainly not one of those who follow a strict itinerary when traveling, but it’s best to plan a little ahead and have a rough idea about the places you would like to visit, especially when it’s a race against time.

Getting the e-visa in advance and choosing to land on the New Istanbul Airport on the European side of the city instead of Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Kurtkoy on the Asian side is an important decision. Since almost all of the touristic spots are situated on the European side, this saves on transportation costs as well as time.

Google Maps is undoubtedly a traveler’s best friend, but since one won’t always have access to Wi-Fi, buying a tourist welcome SIM card pack with several GBs of internet is a good way to begin. At the airport, you’ll find the three biggest mobile Internet providers of Turkey: Turkcell, Vodafone, and Turk Telekom. Check out their packages online and buy the cheapest one as you’re here for just a day!

Also, don’t forget to get your local currency exchanged into Turkish Liras, and if using a debit card, make sure the bank is notified of its use abroad. When taking out money from the ATM, beware of the extra ATM charges, which are deducted from your account. Make sure you have enough 5 TL, 10 TL, and 20 TL bills, as credit cards and bigger bills won’t work in the local transport systems.

Another thing to sort before you finally go out to explore Istanbul is to get your hands on the super-useful Istanbul Kart! If you don’t wish to spend all your hard-earned money on the taxi rides or get stuck in the crazy Istanbul traffic, spend 6 TL on an Istanbul Kart, load it with around 50 TL, and travel through the well-established public transportation system of the city. Keep in mind that you’ll be exploring Istanbul majorly on foot so make sure to invest in a good pair of walking shoes!

First Stop: Sultanahmet Meydani

The New Istanbul airport is situated about 49 km from the famous Sultanahmet Meydani, the heart of the old city.

Also known as the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the square is often the first stop on any Istanbul itinerary, as most of the touristic sites are situated here at a walking distance from each other.

The best way to reach here is to take the airport shuttle service, Havaist. Take the bus that reads Sultanahmet, as its final destination and it will drop you at the Hagia Sofia in just 18 TL. The tramline here connects almost every touristy place!

Kahvaltı Platter or On-The-Go Breakfast? You Decide!

Being a true foodie at heart, I would recommend starting the journey early with authentic Turkish breakfast. The options are numerous! Depending on your preference you can either choose to eat at a restaurant or grab a quick bite.

Head Southwest and then take a left to reach the Dervish Café, a 24-hour open café located at the Kabasakal Caddesi.

Here you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Blue mosque and a delicious kahvaltı platter with ekmek (Turkish bread), eggs, olives, a variety of cheese, jam, butter, honey, sausages, ham, vegetables, and a steamy cup of Çay (Turkish tea).

However, if you are planning on treating yourself with a scrumptious kofte lunch, I would suggest sticking to the on-the-go breakfast staple, simit (a Turkish roll similar to a bagel covered in sesame seeds) and a cup of çay, available everywhere on mobile carts.

Walking Down History Lane

Turkey - Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Canva

Arriving early for your one day in Istanbul will have its benefits. You can start from the magnificent Sultan Ahmed Camii, also known as the Blue Mosque.

This is the smartest way to begin as most sites and museums open at 9:00 AM, whereas the mosque with the six-minarets is open for visitors at all times (except during the five prayers).

Entering from the Hippodrome, which is at the West side of the mosque, you’ll relish the peaceful ambiance of the glorious prayer hall adorned with 20,000 blue Iznik tiles.

Turkey - Istanbul - Hagia Sofia

Walk right across the mosque and in two minutes you’ll reach the Hagia Sophia Museum – an architectural testament to the historic significance of Istanbul.

The grandiose of the chandeliers handing from the giant dome, the intricate Arabic calligraphy, well-preserved Biblical mosaics, and the beautiful paintings would surely get you some Instagrammable pictures!

As of 2020, the entrance fee is 100 TL. You can even buy the entrance tickets online by paying a little extra or invest in the Muze Kart (museum card) if you wish to visit Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum for free for the whole year.

While Topkapi Palace is just 3 minutes away, I would not include it in my one-day tour, as exploring the palace alone would take half a day.

Instead, it’s best to head northwest and add the ancient Basilica Cistern to your one day in Istanbul itinerary, as it’s only a minute away and would cost you no more than 30 TL.

The eerie beauty of the underground Roman reservoir is accentuated with the dimly lit passageways and two blocks carved with Medusa’s visage. You can notice several gleaming coins thrown by the tourists inside the little water that remains in the cistern!

A Mouth Full of Köfte and Souvenir Shopping

While walking out of the Cistern, you might hear your tummy grumbling and that’s what I call the köfte-cry!

After all the sight-seeing, all you need is a hearty meal comprising of delectable Turkish meatballs doused in flavorful tomato sauce, served with pickled green peppers and crunchy ekmek bread. Match it up with a side of piyaz (Turkish bean salad) and a glass full of frothy ayran (a sour buttermilk-like drink) and you’ll be good to go!

My favorite lunchtime spot is the Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta, located alongside Divan Yolu. Don’t be surprised to find this multi-floor restaurant full and buzzing, as it’s as popular among tourists as among locals.

Assuming that it’s NOT a Sunday, you should next be headed towards the largest covered bazaar of the world, the Grand Bazaar.

You can either opt for a short tram ride from Sultanahmet to Beyazit or take a 10-minute walk. My vote goes to walking, as it would give you a chance to explore the eye-catching gift shops and people-watch the crowd.

The crowded narrow streets of Grand Bazaar, bustling with energy, colors, and chaos, can easily make you lose the sense of time. Someone who knows the art of haggling would have a chance of finding everything from ceramics to jewelry and from spices to rugs to crockery!

If you’re a fan of spices, pay a visit to the Mısır Çarşısı, also known as the Spice Bazaar in Fatih. But I would recommend saving some shopping for Istiklal Street!

Crossing the Galata Bridge

Sunsets in Istanbul are to die for! Don’t you believe me? Take a stroll across the Galata Bridge, spanning the Golden Horn or the inlet of the Bosphorus River.

Watching the reflection of the last of the sunrays into the twinkling river filled with ferries and fishing boats and the spectacular view of the Süleymaniye Camii from this bridge is surreal.

With an upper level lined with fishing lines and lower levels housing floating eateries, the Galata bridge takes you straight to the Beyoglyu district.

And, while you’re there, don’t forget to grab a Balik Ekmek (Fish Sandwich) from Osmanli Balikçisi.

The Panoramic View from the Galata Tower

A 10-minute walk from the Karakoy Station takes you to the skyscraping Galata Kulesi. The tower is a personal favorite as the view is like a dream!

You can go up the medieval stone tower and experience the most breathtaking panoramic view of Istanbul and its surroundings by paying an entrance fee of just 35 TL.

However, keep an eye on your wristwatch as the line to this hot tourist attraction can be pretty long!

Istiklal Caddesi – A Street Full of Music, Food, And Budget Shopping

To me, Istiklal is the street that never sleeps. In fact, it becomes alive just as the sun sets.

Lined with shops showcasing branded clothes and shoes, glittering, colorful Turkish lamps, hand-made leather products, customized t-shirts, gift items, books and stationery, fridge magnets, key chains, mugs, home décor products, musical instruments, paintings, ancient coins and maps, and what not!

Sprinkled among these shops are eateries offering Turkish fast food and cute cafes with the most amazing deserts and coffee! You can also have a look at the Madame Tussauds Istanbul on Istiklal Street for a touristy treat.

You can get a Turkish mosaic lamp perfect for your bedside table in less than 60 TL – a must buy! If planning to buy some cool and affordable clothes, drop by LC Waikiki or Koton, two popular shops on Istiklal Caddesi. You’ll find brands like Zara and Mango here as well.

Even if you’re running short on the shopping budget, you can appreciate the street musicians playing a variety of instruments and ensuring that the people have a good time.

Thanks to all the walking, you’ll have some space for the melt-in-the-mouth favorite, a potato-based fast food called Kumpir. You’ll find a couple of shops selling the best kumpirs – try them out!

In case you have a sweet tooth like me, try out the warm cheesy kunefe served with a quenelle of kaymaklı dondurma (Turkish ice cream) at MADO.

If you’re in a mood to have a more traditional dinner, walk straight to the Hatay Medeniyetler Sofrası – a restaurant by the Internet celebrity chef, CZNBurak!

The restaurant is always full, but you might not have to wait if you get lucky. The food is finger-licking good, but the best part is the awesome music played by the servers with the spoons and plates to entertain the customers.

Be sure to click some pictures with the vintage tram moving along Istiklal Caddesi and with the Republic Monument in the middle of Taksim Square.

The Bosphorus Night Cruise – A Perfect End to the Perfect Day in Istanbul

The end to such a memorable journey has to be as unforgettable and I am sure you’ll cherish the Bosphorus tour for the rest of your life.

You can choose a Bosphorus tour offered by a private company (will most probably offer pick and drop as well) or choose the light-on-the-pocket, moonlight cruise on the Bosphorus offered by Şehir Hatları, Istanbul’s official ferry company.

You will have unlimited options when booking a private tour. If you haven’t had your dinner, a Bosphorus dinner cruise would probably be the best. Many cruise tours offer Turkish Night Shows with belly dancing, traditional food tastings, and live performances.

If booking the Mehtap Gezi tour by Şehir Hatları, you can save big as it will cost you just 20 TL. You can check the schedule and other information on their website.  The ferry leaves at 10:30 PM from Eminönü and takes you all the way to the Black Sea and back.

Last Words of Advice

Even though Istanbul is a dream destination throughout the year, the best time to visit the city is late spring, during May and June, as summer could get really hot and winter can be pretty cold.

When visiting mosques or other religious sites, please respect the dress code. Wear long skirts, pants, and full-sleeved shirts. Women are supposed to cover their head with a scarf as well. Also, don’t forget to check the opening hours of the places you wish to visit beforehand.

You’ll find the streets of Istanbul full of cute cats and dogs. These animals are vaccinated and are often pampered by tourists, so don’t hesitate to pet them or share a bite with them.

Turkish people are extremely compassionate and welcoming, so return the warmth by smiling and saying ‘Merhaba’ (hello in Turkish)!

So, book your trip to Istanbul and let the magical city make you fall in love with it!

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Turkey - Istanbul - Hammamhane

We have a ton of resources to help you decide where to stay in Istanbul!

Check our giant neighborhood guide and hotel recommendations, or look specifically for our favorite Sultanahmet hotels near the Blue Mosque or our favorite Bosphorus view hotels.

If you just want our quick recommendations, here are our top picks for each budget category.

Budget: For a great budget-friendly hotel, you can stay in single or double rooms at the Dreamers B&B. Colorful and cozy, the B&B boasts a fabulous location in Beyoglu, less than a kilometer from Taksim Square. You can explore all of Beyoglu from here, and then head to Sultanahmet when you’re ready to see the old city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: For an affordable, yet trendy boutique hotel, we recommend Peradays. It’s perfect for all Istanbul visitors, from first-timers to Istanbul veterans. The lofted rooms are generously large, so you can spread out and relax after a long day of sightseeing. They also have two cats that live here, Pera and Daisy, which you’ll be happy to greet after counting cats all day when out in the city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here. 

Luxury: Istanbul has no shortage of fabulous hotels, but we love Hammamhane, a boutique apartment-hotel that was originally a hammam, and the sister hotel of Peradays. Built in a historic hammam (Turkish bath), the suites are spacious and luxurious. Located in the heart of Cukurcuma, the antiques district, Hammamhane is within walking distance to art galleries, design stores, antique shops, and chic cafés. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.

What to Pack for Istanbul

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

We have a guide of what to pack for Turkey, but here are five things you definitely want to bring with you!

The Lonely Planet Turkeya good guidebook can help you with the kinds of safety tips you need if you’re out in the city and feel a bit lost, especially if you don’t have internet or a cell signal. These also have specific neighborhood information that will help you in different parts of the city, and it’s a great supplement to blog posts like this one!

Unlocked Cell Phone: Stephanie and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (Stephanie uses a Samsung and I use an iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use a Turkish sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!

Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Stephanie and I use for all our travels. It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag, yet it’s still quite stylish for all of its security features. If you’d rather bring something smaller, you can pack a money belt instead. 

Grayl Water FilterWhile the water is *technically* safe to drink in much of Turkey, I would still avoid it. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. If you’ll be traveling outside of the major tourist centers, check if the water is potable locally.

Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Seabands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Turkey – being on the water! A trip to Turkey isn’t complete without a cruise or at least a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!

More Turkey Travel Resources

Turkey - Istanbul - Istanbul in Winter Snow Selfie Stephanie

Headed to Turkey? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip.

If this will be your first time traveling to Turkey, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide beautiful places to visit in Turkey. You can also check out our Balkan currency guide, which explains how the Turkish lira works and guidelines for tipping in Istanbul.

If you’re heading to Istanbul, we have you covered. Start with our essential Istanbul Travel Tips and guide to staying safe in Istanbul

We’re working on our massive things to do in Istanbul post, plus you can check out our guide to the best Instagram spots around Istanbul, tips for shopping in Istanbul, the best Turkish food to eat, how to plan an Istanbul honeymoon, and what to do in Istanbul at night.

If you will be visiting in winter, we have a special winter in Istanbul guide plus an overview of Istanbul weather in January.

If you want to be in the city for just a few days (four or less), check out our Istanbul city break guide, which breaks down the best of the city so you won’t miss anything!

Headed to Cappadocia? If you’re curious about the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia, we’ve got you covered. We also have posts on the best things to do in Cappadocia, and how to plan a perfect 3 day Cappadocia itinerary, plus how to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul.

We have tons more Turkey and Balkans resources, and we publish new content nearly daily. Bookmark our Turkey and Balkans travel pages so you can find any new resources that come out before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Turkey (or really, any part of the world)! We have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While Turkey is safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

10 Crete Hidden Gems & Secret Places for Your Next Crete Adventure!

10 Crete Hidden Gems & Secret Places for Your Next Crete Adventure!

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you are preparing your next trip to Crete. Therefore, you’ve already heard about the beaches of Elafonisi, the city of Chania, and the old town of Rethymnon.

You’ve probably read about the archaeological sites, the magnificent Knossos Palace and the capital Heraklion. You may have even discovered the lesser-known east and the best things to do there. Now you’re here because you want to know a bit more. Well, you’re in the right place.

Although it’s one of the most touristic Greek spots, visited by thousands of tourists year after year, Crete is such a huge island that there are several places still unknown to those who visit often and even to locals themselves! Hidden beaches, gorges, and bizarre landscapes are not an oddity on Crete… on the contrary, they are the norm. So keep your eyes wide open. In this article, we will reveal some of those secret places of Crete that only a few know about, including my favorite hidden gems in Crete and the best offbeat places.

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

Secret Crete Hidden Gems

The Best Crete Hidden Gems & Secret Spots

In no particular order…

Lake Kournas

Not many are aware that Crete is not just the perfect beach paradise of the Mediterranean. The island is also home to awe-inspiring mountain ranges, valleys, plains… and even lakes! 

And when it comes to lakes and wetlands, artificial reservoirs and several dams can be found in different areas of the island. These have been built to meet the local needs of water supply and are often filled with snow that melts from the high peaks of Crete. However, the island is also home to one natural freshwater lake of stunning beauty. Lake Kournas.

Kournas is a small village about 50 km from the center of Chania, in the western region of Crete. The village overlooks the beautiful lake which stands surrounded by fantastic green hills. Kournas is home to several natural species and a variety of birds, and it is also a great place to relax away from the most popular resorts usually crowded in summer.

On the lake, it’s possible to rent paddle boats or eat in one of the many fantastic Cretan tavernas that populate the waterfront in the area. The village is a great place where to buy Cretan ceramics and other crafts to take back home as an original souvenir.

Sfinari Beach

Everyone knows and loves the spectacular beach of Falassarna, on the western coast of the island. Falassarna is a wide bay better-known for being the hotspot on Crete when it comes to witnessing the best sunsets in the Mediterranean.

However, not far from Falassarna, on the same coast and therefore, with the same western orientation, favorable to observe those magnificent sunsets, stands Sfinari, a rather hidden pebble beach, with almost no organization, where you can spend a holiday in total isolation. 

Sfinari is not as crowded as many other beaches of west Crete, but it’s definitely a hidden place you should check out on the island.

Roman Cisterns of Aptera

Usually less-crowded than other archaeological sites, such as Knossos, Malia or Festos, Aptera is a fairly big archaeological site located in the regional unit of Chania. It’s located up on a beautiful hill facing the spectacular natural bay of Souda, one of Crete’s main ports.

Aptera, which has been occupied since the Minoan times until the Byzantine period, hides one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts and cisterns of the island. The archaeological site is open to the public from 8.30 to 15.30, every day except Thursdays, and the entrance fee is 4€.

Richtis Gorge

Greece - Crete - A girl admiring the Richtis Gorge waterfall. It is a state protected park near Exo Mouliana, Sitia, eastern Crete. The hiking trail is about 4 km in length of easy to moderate difficulty.

Moving towards the eastern region of Lasithi, several are the off-the-beaten-track places that Crete hides. The gorge of Richtis is one of them.

Located halfway through the city of Agios Nikolaos and the port of Sitia, Richtis is a hidden small gorge that you can walk all the way until you reach its fantastic waterfall and isolated beach.

The area is covered with abundant vegetation, colorful flowers and even fresh berries that you can pick and eat on your way.

Once at the entrance of the gorge, you are welcomed by a stone ancient bridge, from there, follow the course of the small river that lands you directly on the beach of Richtis after a walk of about forty minutes.

Palm Tree Forests

Crete hosts Europe’s biggest palm tree forest at the beach of Vai, on the extreme eastern coast of the island. This unique grove of  Crete date palm is located on a very wide shore and limited by high rocky cliffs on both of its extremes. 

The beach of Vai is shallow and well-protected from the winds, which makes it a perfect destination, especially for families.

Vai, however, is not the only palm tree forest in Crete. In the region of Rethymnon, the beautiful beach of Preveli, on the southern coast of the Rethymnon prefecture is another area with abundant palm trees, this time growing on the sides of a river that ends its course on a wonderful sandy beach.

Agia Lake

We said before that Crete’s only freshwater lake is Kournas, however, there are also some artificial lakes worth a visit on the island. One of them is Agia, not far from the Omalos Plateau in the prefecture of Chania and less than half an hour from the city center.

Agia is one of the most important wetlands in the region home to one-of-a-kind biodiversity. The rich flora is characteristic of the area, while several species of birds migrate from and to Agia during the different seasons making it a fantastic natural environment, ideal for a walk in summer, or a cup of hot Greek coffee in winter, in one of the few cafeterias located right in front of the lake

Potamida

One of the weirdest sights you can witness in Crete is the odd formation of Komolithi. Located also in the region of Chania, the village of Potamida hides the small but impressive hills in the valley of river Tyflos.

These low grey mountains are surrounded by lush vegetation and have a characteristic green top while the rest of them is made of arid and dry clay.

They are easy to climb and the perfect place to see a completely different image of Crete. Those coming from Chania can reach Komolithi about 15 minutes after the detour to Elafonisi beach.

Argyropouli

The small village of Argyropouli is in the region of Rethymnon, about 27 km from the city of Rethymnon. Formerly home to the Ancient Settlement of Lappa, Argyropouli is a fantastic natural environment made of countless natural springs and waterfalls that descend from the mountains.

The area is permanently green and has pleasant temperatures, and it’s a perfect place to spend a day away from the coast. In the area, several restaurants serve grilled trout and other fish varieties that are directly picked from the ponds and coked right in front of you.

Ravdoucha

The mysterious Rodopou peninsula is the wildest and most remote area of Crete. Largely uninhabited due to its harsh landscape and lack of accessible roads, the peninsula hosts fantastic beaches that only a few people know about.

One of the lesser-known beaches in Cape Rodopou is Ravdoucha, with pristine waters and a mix of sand and dark rocks, Ravdoucha offers great shelter and isolation to spend some time in complete disconnection from the rest of the world.

The only way to reach Ravdoucha is by car or taxi (there’s no public transport reaching the area), traveling for about 35 minutes from Chania’s city center towards the west.

On the beach, there’s almost no organization, just a one to eat, and only a few rooms to rent. The best place to stay if you want to reach the area is the small village of Kolymbari, at the base of the peninsula.

Odigitrias Monastery

Remain on the same peninsula of Rodopou to visit another unique hidden spot on the island.

Crete is a land of churches and monasteries, some of them very famous, others, extremely old and abandoned, and many of them remarkable for their role in Crete’s history and yet pretty much unknown to visitors and even to locals!

Everyone floods the monasteries of Preveli and Arkadi, but not many are aware of the beautiful Odigitrias Monastery, also known as Monastery of our Lady of Gonia, less than 25 kilometers from the center of Chania. 

The religious building is on a steep hill facing the Gulf of Chania and played a key role during the Nazi occupation of Crete as the place where local groups for the resistance of Crete would gather forces and organize to fight against the Nazis.

The monastery is known also for its fortified walls and the beautiful floor of the courtyard made of small cobblestones completely surrounded by the cells of the monks.

Key Things to Pack on Your Trip to Crete

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage
 

If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Essential Crete Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Crete

– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.

– A water bottle with a filter. While often, the tap water in Greece is drinkable, there are places where it isn’t, including some popular tourist destinations like Santorini.

We generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant!

We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Many Greek roads are winding, especially around the coast. Not to mention how choppy the ferries can be if you’re not lucky with the weather! If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in Greece aren’t always well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

 Travel safety items. We think Greece is very safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie or I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack.

It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

Crete Travel Resources

Crete - Rethymnon - Neratze Mosque or Gazi Hussein Mosque in Mikrasiaton Square

Most people who come to Rethymnon also explore other parts of this beautiful island. Here are additional Crete travel resources to help you with your trip.

We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Greece and local tipping customs.

Since you’ll be in Rethymnon, check out our Instagram guide to Rethymnon next, our guide to things to do in Rethymnon, and the best Rethymnon hotels.

We also have Chania, Heraklion, and Rethymnon itineraries.

If you’re still trying to work out where to go on the island, check out our guide to the best places to visit in Crete and our favorite Crete beaches.

If this will be one of your first trips to the Greek islands, check out our massive Greek Island hopping guide as well as our recommendations for where to go in Greece and when is the best time to visit. 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Don’t Travel to Crete without Travel Insurance

Finally, make sure you always travel to Crete with a valid travel insurance policy. While Rethymnon is a very safe place to travel, you want to make sure you have your possessions covered if they’re stolen and your medical bills covered if you get sick or injured.

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

Pin this Guide to Crete Hidden Gems & Secret Places for Your Trip!

Secret Crete Hidden Gems

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