Why visiting Istanbul during wintertime is a good idea

I have visited a lot of cities in my life but there was always one on top of my city-bucket-list; Istanbul. Why? It’s the perfect mix between Asia and Europe and has so much to offer, even in winter!

Yes, Istanbul is in fact separated by the Bosporus into European and Asian portions. One of my best friends even told me it’s his favorite city in Europe. Time to check it out. Instead of visiting Istanbul during spring or summer, I booked my ticket for the end of February, hoping the weather would be good so far out on the east side of Europe. But one day before I was about to fly, the news reported that Istanbul was coping with the worst snowstorms in 15 years! Bad luck, but ey, that’s traveling and I got to see snow in Istanbul! (That’s me trying to stay positive) Lucky enough it stopped snowing on the day of my departure so I could fly.

Istanbul birds

Getting Around & Good To Know
Arriving in Istanbul it was a little confusing because I wasn’t aware that you need a tourist visa so… that’s my first tip! A tourist visa will cost you 25 euro’s and you can buy this online
here. Always check with your local whether is safe enough to travel due to political issues in the country. Traveling to Istanbul is declared save again since of July 2018. You can also buy the visa on arrival like I did, but then you need to wait in line and it can take a long time getting through customs so my advice is to buy it beforehand. 

During the winter period, it’s less crowded, cheaper but still beautiful

Getting to my hotel was pretty easy. There are big comfy busses going into town and cost 14 Lira, which is about 5 euro’s. They leave every half hour and take you into the city centre in about 1 hour. For more info, check hereThe nearest busstop from my hotel was Taksim Square. This is a famous square which collides with the endless Istiklal street where you can go shopping or visit a nice Starbucks. You can take the Tünel, this is a cute small tram which runs straight through the shopping street.

Tram Istanbul
The Tünel in Istiklal Street

Where to Stay
I booked my hotel via Booking.com and because of the low season, I got a very good rate: 120 euro’s for 3 nights! 
The rate included breakfast and the manager was very friendly and even gave his own Travel Card for me to use. (this is a card you can use for public transport) My only warning, if you are staying near a Mosque (and chances are you will), you will hear the people sing though the loudspeakers, also known as ezan, around 5 times a day. If you are not a morning person, double check your location.

Luxury: Raffles Istanbul (nice view, spa, swimming pool, great service)
Mid Range: Bankerhan Hotel or Sub Karakoy (trendy area!)
Budget: Empress Zoe Hotel (Lush garden, great breakfast. Rooms go from €40,-)

I stayed near the Galata tower and picked this area because it’s authentic and you can really taste the Turkish culture here. The tower itself is worth a visit if you want to check out the nice view and take some good pictures. It will cost you 20 lire to get in and there is a restaurant on the top.

Tip: Go in the morning if you want to skip the queues. From the hotel I could walk right across the street to catch the tram which takes you over the bridge and into the westside of Istanbul. Taking the tram over the Bosporus is only a short ride which takes no longer than 10 min from the Galata area.

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paint Istanbul
Istanbul is full of spices and colors

On this side there are a few big tourist attractions that are just too good to skip:

» The blue Mosque (make sure you bring a scarf to cover your hair. Same thing applies for the Hagia Sofia)
» Hagia Sofia
» The Grand Bazaar (Great for Turkish shopping like handbags, Scarf, Lamps
» The Spice Market (Get ready for some crazy scents and flavors!)

Istanbul
Inside the blue Mosque

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I loved the Spice Market the most because of all the colours and different tea’s.

Walking through the grand Bazaar Istanbul

Where to Eat & Drink
After a day of walking around, you should definitely take a coffee break or try traditional Salep. My new Turkish addiction. This is a hot milky drink topped off with cinnamon. You can pretty much get it in every Turkish Café. For the best Meze you should try Ciya and At night Istanbul really comes to live. Restaurants stay open late, and it’s rooftop galore with many restaurants and bars that you wouldn’t expect to be hidden away all the way up there.

Here a few of my rooftop favorites:

» 5Kat is a traditional restaurant/bar that has been there forever. You can eat in or outside on the roof terrace. The entrance looks a bit shabby but once you go up, you are rewarded with a wonderful view of the Bosporus. www.5kat.com

» 360 is a great place. For food, drinks and even dancing. Killing view. Reservations are required and leave your sneakers at home. http://www.360istanbul.com/

» Vogue is upscale and also serves sushi for those that are in for a lavish night out. The music isn’t for dancing but for catching up and drinking cocktails. www.voguerestaurant.com

Vogue Istanbul
Vogue Istanbul

» LTERA is a rooftoop restaurant which opens up in the summer. Looking over the river, it has a beautiful view and the food is tasty! http://www.literarestaurant.com/

» Mikla is posh but well worth it if you love to get dressed up one evening and go for that amazing wine & dine experience. It was once voted in the top 50 best restaurants in the world. This a-claimed restaurant also has a rooftop but during the winter it may be closed. www.miklarestaurant.com

Also check out Limonlu Bahçe Beyoglu, this hipster garden is great for amazing coffee, drinks and western style dishes.

drinks Istanbul
Source  Drinks at Limonlu

A little further along side the Bosporus river you have amazing chique clubs like the Supperclub and Reina. I didn’t manage to go there because of the chilly nights but I will be back to try those out!

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Fishermen trying to get their catch of the day

The Asian District
Most tourists only visit the European part of the city but you should definitely take the time for the Asian part! 
There is the lively Kadikoy where you have markets on different days of the week. Small shops and nice lunch spots make this a super fun day trip. To get there, you take the boat across the bosporus which takes about 30 min. When you are departing Istanbul from Sabiha Cökçen airport, you can also take the bus from there which makes it a shorter ride and you can combine this with a visit to this vibrant part of the city.

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Fresh fish at Kadiköy, the Asian part of Istanbul

Be sure to visit Istanbul when it’s a little warmer but even so, it was magical and my friend was right. It’s great!

Love,

Elke

This town in Turkey is full of Disney-like abandoned Castles

One build for rich foreign buyers, Burj Al Babas now looks like a ghost town with over 500 abandoned castles  Take a look and be amazed. 

Sources say that the project costed over $200 million, but because Turkey experiences an economic downturn, the project’s developers have filed for bankruptcy, and buyers have backed out of their purchases. Some of the French Chateau looking houses even have some of the inside building works finished such as the floor heating.

The building project started back in 2014 and the houses are were planning to sell from $400,000 each. It’s located in between the mountains in West Turkey.

Even though the economy in Turkey doesn’t look very promising, the Burj Al Babas’ architect remains hopeful that the development will open by October 2019. To see how the castles would look like when finished, check here. For the latest images (sorry, we are not allowed to publish them) check here.

Love,

Wander-Lust

Explore the magnificent landscape of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon

You’ve probably seen the photos of dozens of colorful balloons floating through the sky above a magical moon landscape and wondered where it was? This historical region is called Cappadocia and is located in south central Turkey. We sent over our photographer Ilsoo van Dijk to shoot this spectaculair sight and enjoy some of Turkey’s best treasures.

The Beautiful landscapes of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is home to one of the world’s most unique landscapes in the world and therefore placed on the World Heritage List in 1985. The region has a surface of 2000 km2 and lies in between the rivers: the Kizilirmak and Euphrates. It’s best known for its unique moon-like landscape, underground cities, cave churches and houses carved in the rocks. The remains of a traditional human habitat dating back to the 4th century!

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This unforgettable experience and will definitely set the bar for you next adventure.

Hot Air Balloon
If you want to get the best impression of Cappadocia, you have to fly in a hot air balloon. It’s total magic to say the least. Imagine spectacular surrealistic landscapes while the balloons to gently drift over and between the unique rock formations, orchards and vineyards. You will fly over and through impressive valleys, each with distinctive rock formations and beautiful colors. You will continue to float up over rippled ravines for breathtaking views over the region. Even if you have a fear of heights, the view will keep your mind of it. To experience all the beautiful colors, you need to get up early and be ready at around 5am, so you can see the sunrise.

Hot Air Balloons over Cappadocia
What a sight!

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Like something out of a fairytale

Wander-Lust in Cappadocia
Up in the sky

Where to Book
You can say that no trip to Turkey is complete without treasuring this unforgettable experience and will definitely set the bar for you next adventure. (plus you will have the best Instagram feed for weeks!) An 8 day trip to Cappadocia is available for as little as 199,- euro per person with Corendon (inclusive flight, transfer and accommodation) Do you want a little more luxury? You can also opt for 8 days to Antalya and stay in the luxurious All Inclusive Delphin BE Hotel (inclusive of flight and transfers) for 620,- euro! Check all the trips to Turkey on www.corendon.nl

Hotel Dephine BE in Turkey
Hotel Delphin BE in Antalya

Love,

Wander-Lust

All the images were shot by Ilsoo van Dijk

Çigköftem » Veggie Turkish Delight

It’s Turkish, it’s delightful and yes, this one is vegetarian. Çigköftem!
Once in a while I discover some lovely vegetarian hotspots and a few years ago, the first Çigköfte shop opened in Amsterdam West.
Çigköfte is a typical Turkish dish that is usually prepared with raw meat and spicy herbs.
The ingredients to make meat-free Cig Köfte can be listed as fine bulgur  (it is referred as simit), chili flake, garlic, red pepper paste, tomato paste, dry mint, thyme, powdered pepper, cumin, black pepper, onion, parsley, tomato juice and sunflower oil.

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Vegetarian Çigköfte

At the store, you can buy a wrap or a pack which you can then use to prepare yourself or indulge the next day.
I usually buy a box of 10 pieces with all the extra ingredients for just 6 euro’s. You can prepare about 3 wraps from this.
You can choose the normal option or the spicy version. I can take a lot of spice, but think twice before you pick this one!

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Wrap it up!

The extra boxed ingredients consist of; lettuce, fresh coriander, fresh mint leaves, a spicy sauce and lemon juice.
I always add some avocado because i’m just simply addicted to it.

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Finish up with some fresh lemon and your wrap is ready to be eaten!

So where can you buy it?
It’s available in Turkey, Germany and The Netherlands.
I always get mine here:
Jan Evertsenstraat 140 | 1057 EK Amsterdam

Check out the Dutch website where they also do delivery!
http://www.cigkoftem.com/

Enjoy!

Elke