February 9, 2022

Jaafer Khani

The world is so full of beautiful destinations and its hard to pick top choices and places. But in terms of things to see and do and diversity, I would rate Turkey as top 5 places in the world. Now that is a big statement I know and I am yet to visit many other countries, but this is a must see. Located in the cross between Europe and Asia, it is a place vast in history and culture. I landed in Istanbul, which is the best place to start exploring this vast country. Istanbul is food culture galore… I fell in love with the food here and the diversity is unreal. Almost every place I tried had wonderful flavours and extremely unique flavours. Turkish cuisine is top rated worldwide and I really got a sense for that.

On a personal level, I also felt nostalgic in this wonderful but weird way. As a refugee, I lived in Istanbul many years ago between the ages of 4 and 8. I don’t remember clearly everything, but at times, I would walk somewhere and get a feeling like I’ve been here before. So, this place was extra special in some way to me, since I called it home for a while.

The Turkish people are extremely proud of their history and legacy and they love talking about it. They also love foreigners and treat them with utmost respect. However, I got to say if you tell them you are from an Arab neighboring country, the treatment changes and I was able to witness that which was unique. I guess from what I learned is that the surrounding countries also had many refugees that now call Turkey home and some of the locals think it takes away from their opportunities and jobs. However, as a whole, the people love to indulge in other cultures and learn about each visitor to their country. The first question they great you with is… hello followed by… where are you from?

From Istanbul I went south to Izmir and met a retired Irish lady that has singlehandedly created a center to help Syrian refugees and locals that can’t afford meals. She is a wonderful soul and her story inspired me so much. I spent a few days visiting the center and learned about some personal stories of them living in horrendous conditions but are surviving. Izmir has over 4 million Syrian refugees living there and many are looking for opportunities to work or gain access to income. This creates a real need and the center tries its best to provide for the refugees. The Turkish government also tries and provides support and resources to the ones that can’t work or are suffering from illness. It was an eye-opening experience but I was proud to see some doing their best to help. There will be awesome stories and videos on our social media pages and videos page.

From Izmir, I rented a car and drove north to visit a remote area called Canakkale. There I met a awesome professor who is using his vast experience to help create opportunities in small neighboring farms. He teaches the villagers how to extract resources and create opportunities for themselves. I visited his small farm and how they focused on sustainability. It was beautiful to witness and an experience to say the least.

I drove back to Istanbul and spent a few more days out there before meeting another friend from Canada and flying over to Antalya. This is a must visit place for any tourist. We did the whole touristic stuff, such as visit nearby the Pamukkale thermal pools and ruins of Termessos. Both are a must see for any tourist. I then flew over to Cappadocia region and loved the little towns there and the history. I did the whole touristic balloon rides and enjoyed my time there. I then took a long bus ride to the capital Ankara and spent 4 days to finish off my Turkish adventures. It was such a beautiful experience and I would love everyone to visit this cool place.

Oh, I forgot to mention: Medical tourism is massive in Turkey, in fact my friend got a free hairline transplant in exchange for a marketing video that we will make for the medical clinic. SO MANY people come here for a medical procedure, you will see it almost everywhere.

Overall impressions: Culture is rich and beautiful and full of history… people are great, but keep in mind to negotiate and take everything you hear with caution and do your own research and comparison. Geography is vast and scenic and offers some of the most wonderful experiences.

Travel routes and tips:

Landed in Istanbul. Must see and explore the food culture, shopping galore, and explore the famous mosques and sites in Istanbul.

Fly to Izmir: Domestic flights are extremely cheap in Turkey (About 20 USD anywhere you go (December 2021). Izmir has some beautiful history and was a strong defence point during many wars. Turks are proud to be one of the only nations who have never been taken over during an invasion. There are famous sites nearby Izmir that you must see but I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see.

Drive to Istanbul: If you want to see some of the coastline, I recommend you drive up the coast. It is wonderful experience but if time is limited you can skip this.

Fly to Antalya: This is also a must do. I would recommend shopping around for good priced tours to Pamukkale thermal pools and Termessos. You can even take a cab to Termessos and do a day trip, it’s much cheaper than getting a tour there. Hike around to the ruins of Termessos and take some breathtaking pictures.

Fly to Cappadocia region: Flights are cheap and worth seeing this touristic destination. Do some horseback riding in the unique village and if you aren’t afraid of heights, do the balloon rides.

Fly to the Capital: It’s easy to leave to other countries from here, so I do recommend staying here for few days to get the full experience in Turkey.