TRAVEL: Your 4 Day Travel Guide to Romania

Quick Note: This article was first featured first in the Lale Magazine – Reminiscing Romantic Romania (pg.46-49) – Direct Link You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Bucharest, once known as the little Paris of Romania, set an example for its outlying villages, like Braşov. Following suit, they look like small Parisian villages with their crepe stands and cafes making a boulevard down main street. Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania remains an eminently worthy travel destination in its own right. Romania is a great country for those who’ve seen all the major European cities and want to get away from the overcrowded tourists hot spots. I found that Romania offers plenty of tourist attractions without the craziness of tourist groups, lines, and prices.

My husband and I met up with some of our expat friends in Romania for a 5-day reunion. Our traveling group consisted of 4 adults and 2 babies. Our friends, coming from Dubai, wanted to escape the boiling, brown desert for cooler green, lush forests. We just wanted to enjoy some European foods not readily available in Izmir and more reasonably priced than Paris or London, for example. And we both hoped to escape our towering apartments for a few hours via a road trip through the mountainous central area of Romania.

Romania’s 20 million people are spread over 240,000 square kilometers, perfect for a road trip meets city type adventure. After meeting our friends at Bucharest international airport, we picked up our rental car, purchased sim cards with 3G data for 40 lei (€8.5), and headed north on the 2.5-hour drive to Braşov.  The Romanian roads are easy to navigate and having a sim card helped with GPS directions and finding restaurants.

Lying in the center of the renowned Carpathian Mountains of Dracula fame, Brașov is a city in Romania’s Transylvania region. Established by the Teutonic Knights in 1211, and later occupied by the Saxons, Brasov was a walled citadel during the medieval times, for protection against invaders. Today the city is still surrounded by those medieval Saxon stone walls.

For centuries, the city’s central location has given it a strong political influence in the region, especially during the Ottoman Empire dynasty, while also providing a trading doorway into western Europe. Brasov’s German and Latin names mean “Crown City”. Its coat of arms bears a crown with oak roots, and can be seen on walls and buildings throughout the city.

Romania Travel Guide

The city center is lined with romantic cobblestone roads. The inelegant looking, yet stunning, Gothic-style Black Church (named for the fire that turned its walls black) peeks from behind colorful baroque houses that shield the Council Square of Piaţa Sfatului, and the former town hall, Casa Sfatului. 

Just beyond the city, towering mountains clad with thick forests cover the countryside. One of our favorite tourist activities in Brasov was riding the gondola to the top of Mount Tampa. For 17 lei a person (€3.7), you can purchase a roundtrip ticket, and it’s a great way to see panoramic views of the city. Or if you like hiking, and the weather permits, 10 lei (€2) will get you a one way ticket either direction.

For the history lovers, the free Braşov walking tour is ideal. This interesting two-hour tour covers 800 years of the city’s history. You’ll hear stories about the citadel and Dracula while walking through one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe. The tours covers the history of the Black Church, the Council Square, Rope Street, St. Nicholas Church, the Citadel’s Walls, the Schei Quarter and Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate. The tour runs daily at 18:00 in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Piata Sfatului (the Town Hall Square next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, the guides work from tips. We suggest tipping at least €5 per person, and we felt it was well worth it.

Braşov is a unique location. Even with its small-town, quiet feel in the middle of the mountains, restaurants and activities remains plentiful. Braşov offers much to explore within, and around, the city. The nearby city of Bran is home to Bran Castle, a.k.a. the famous Dracula’s Castle! A quick 30-minute drive from Braşov, the castle is easy enough to find.  

Romania Travel Guide Dracula's Castle Bran Castle

Castle tickets are 30 lei (€8) per adult. The uphill walk to the castle takes 10 minutes. While the attraction is kid-friendly, the castle itself with its many stairs and turns is not stroller friendly. The village of Bran offers tempting strolls along the streets, lined with local shopping goods and souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat along the way.  Other surrounding villages offer the same atmosphere usually with fortified churches or castles. 

Three days are sufficient to explore all that Braşov has to offer, but if you want to see more of Transylvania, you can easily add a few more nights! On our return from Braşov to Bucharest, we found the well-maintained Peles Castle, and the nearby city Sinaia, provided a cozy half-way stop. 

Bucharest

Bucharest started from a humble beginning; founded by a shepherd in the Transylvania area named Bucur, or joy. The area was name after the shepherd and the river named after his wife, Dambovita. 

From these humble beginnings grew a thriving city. Ironically enough, the Ottomans officially wrote about Bucharest when their dynasty was under occupation by Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula, of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire novel. Bucharest, by now the nation’s capital city, was an important stop along the Silk Road. Living in Turkey gives me an instant connection to Romania’s long forgotten history.

In the 1900s, Bucharest earned the name of “Little Paris” for its European architecture and tree-lined boulevards. But since then, World War II, earthquakes, and 45 years of communist rule, have taken their toll on the city’s former majestic beauty. 

However, today you can still find plenty of these majestic buildings and architecture like major boulevards, the Palace of the Parliament, and the Transfagarasan, considered by many to be the most beautiful road in Europe.

Nowadays, 25 years after the Romanian revolution against the Communism, Bucharest is once again starting to resemble its former title of “Little Paris” as an urban location, full of culture and life.

A visit to Bucharest will never leave you bored. It offers more than 50 museums, 12 theaters, 29 sites, and one Arc de Triumph. While I can’t vouch for any of the museums, I can tell you that the walking only area around Old Town provides plenty of walking-only historical sites, lined with international food options. 

The same company, Bucharest Walkabout Tours, offers free Bucharest walking tour of the Old Town. The two-hour tour covers a 500-year span of history, with stories about the life and times of Vlad the Impaler through to the 1989 Revolution, and how that has affected modern-day Romania. 

You’ll also hear about Romania under the “Golden Era” of communism. This tour runs daily at 10:30 am and 18:00 pm, in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Unirii Square Park in front of the Clock (next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, these guides also work from tips. 

Since 1692, Calea Victoriei has been one of Bucharest’s most famous streets. Lined with fine houses, palaces, churches, and hotels, you’ll also find upmarket shops and museums along its length. 

From the Brancovenesque houses at the northern end to the art-deco, 1920s apartment blocks further south, the vast number of architectural styles is an impressive sight. Several major attractions are found on Calea Victoriei including the monument to the revolution called Piata Revolutiei, the eloquent French architecture of the Atheneum and Athenee Palace Hilton hotel, and the National Museum of Art (once the Former Royal Palace). The Former Central Committee Building and the Revolution Memorial—which locals call ‘an olive on a stick’—are also found along the Calea Victoriei. If you start your walking tour at the northern end, and explore the full length of the street, you can then end up relaxing in one of the cafes of Old Town. 

Our days were filled with strolling past buildings of Belarus architecture, and resting on benches along shaded tree-lined boulevards lined with fountains. Bucharest’s mammoth Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. Once a symbol of Ceauceșcu’s utilitarian rule, the building is today a testament to Romanian history, and the country’s recovery from his iron rule.

Romania Travel Guide Bucharest

The Palace of the Parliament, known by the locals as ‘Ceauceșcu’s Palace’, with 1,100 rooms and 12 stories, can be seen from space. Its  construction took 13 years to finish! Depending on what you want to see, tickets can be purchased to see a certain number of chambers, the basement, and the main balcony. Ticket prices range between 25-45 lei (€5-10). For children and students (with student ID card) entrance is free.

If you want to see more than the Old Town and the Palace of Parliament, the popular Hop-On-Hop-Off  bus tour sells 24-hour tickets and covers a 10-mile route. This bus also takes you past the 27meter high Arc de Triumph and the 462-acre Herăstrău Park, built around a natural lake.  

Be sure to visit the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, Bucharest’s largest, open-air museum which showcases the diversity and charm of Romanian traditional village architecture. It boasts 300 houses, farms, windmills, and churches imported from all regions of Romania. Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tickets for adults are 25 lei (€5), children (age 7-14) are 10 lei (€2) and children under 7 travel free.

My favorite part about Romania is that neither Bucharest nor Braşov made us feel rushed. Instead, our first visit to Romania made us feel like we lived there like the locals, and not like tourists. Travel should always feel like that.

The rich history and sights in Romania’s capital city of Bucharest and the soon-to-be major tourist destination of Braşov in the Transylvania region made for a perfect week-long getaway.

Romania Travel Guide Peles Castle

SIDE BAR: 

From Bucharest to Brasov, we stopped about 1 hour outside of Brasov in a little railroad town of Posada for supper and let the children take a break from the car seats. Enjoy a traditional Romanian dish such as cabbage rolls or smoked sausages with a side of corn meal with salty cheese and sour cream at the restaurant called Cernica.

HOW TO GET THERE:

From Istanbul, Pegasus Airlines has direct flights to Bucharest via the Sabiha Gokcen Airport at around $150 roundtrip. As we live in Izmir, we has a short 1.5 hour layover between our Izmir to Istanbul then Istanbul to Bucharest airports. Turkish Airlines has a few more locations available besides Bucharest in Romania via Cluj-Napoca and Constanta.

IN COUNTRY TRANSPORTATION:

Because we wanted flexibility in our travels, our group decided to rent a car via the Pegasus’s car rental section of their website. The free shuttle provided by the car rental company took us from the airport to their company only 5 minutes away.  If driving in another country is not your cup of tea, taxis, buses, and even trains between cities are easy to use and inexpensive as well.

WHERE TO STAY:

Because our group was 6 people (4 adults and 2 kids) we opted for a more family-style lodging and stayed in Airbnb apartment-style housing. Before deciding to go the Airbnb route, below are a couple of hotels we had looked at booking:

  • Hotel Coroana  in Braşov
  • Chic Apartments  in nearby Sibiu
  • Sarah & David Studios  in Bucharest

WHERE TO EAT:

Braşov

  • La Republique – Laidback breakfast crepes in the town center
  • Trattoria Pocol – Stylish pizzeria but still kid-friendly
  • La Vatra Ardealului – Bakery near the Black Church

Posada

  • Cernica – Dinner stop on our way up to Braşov

Bucharest

  • Caru’ Cu Bere – Romanian food for lunch in Old Town
  • Emilia Cremeria – Personal favorite ice cream shop in Old Town
  • Chinese Garden – Chinese Food
  • El Toritos -Mexican food  we ordered online and they delivered!

WHAT TO DO:

Now to you!

  • Have you been to Romania???
  • What did you love about it?
  • What else should we see next time we go?

Baristas Best Travel Guides

Why Baristas Make the Best Travel Guides

NOTE FROM CATIE: Michael is a long time friend! It is crazy to think we met one another over 10 years ago now! He is also the one who encouraged me to give up my heavily flavored cream (with a bit of coffee) and to ‘just drink it black.’ It took me a few years longer than he probably would have liked, but now I am a very proud black coffee drinker! Now on to the article

The best-informed travel guide just might be the person making your coffee. The role of barista has long gone beyond the role of “bartender” like the original Italian might suggest. Baristas are cultural critics, political wonks, and amateur music historians. They know where the best Banh Mi is (which by the way, Catie cutting in here, is a Vietnamese sandwich). They’re probably eating it on their lunch break. 

Your barista very likely has a liberal arts degree if not an MFA. Their band has appeared on public radio and opened for some nationally known acts.  But more importantly for you, they’ve learned how to craft a perfect cappuccino, and that attention to detail has attracted the city’s top chefs, museum curators, and journalists to their café.

In short, they know people. 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

(Of course, this is contingent on being in a good, independent coffee shop. I cofounded thecoffeecompass.com to help people find the best cafés around the world.) 

Barista knows where the hidden gems are.

They know which sights are overrated, which restaurants are past their prime, and where the queue is too long to make it worthwhile. They’ve already been to the up-and-coming place no one has written about yet. 

Lucky for you, your barista will more than likely share a few tips with you— provided you’re a friendly customer and they’re not slammed making drinks.* (Do not— I  repeat—  do not ask for a travel recommendation in the middle of the morning rush!)

Baristas Best Travel Guides

The technique here is very simple. 

1. Order a coffee. If appropriate in local culture, leave a tip.

2. Drink said coffee. 

3. After you finish your coffee, thank the barista. 

4. Mention you are visiting from out of town, and ask if there are any restaurants/bars/museums/ etc you should see while you’re in town. 

Mosts of baristas love their cities, and can’t resist showing it off to out-of-towners. More than once, a barista recommendation has had a waiter or bartended asking me, “How did you find us? We don’t get many tourists here.” 

In short, your barista can curate an unforgettable travel experience

Just make sure you leave a tip.  

*Do not try this in Manhattan. Those baristas are battle-weary and interact with far too many tourists to care whether you find the best natural wine bar (it’s the Ten Bells, btw). 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

Michael Butterworth is the cofounder of thecoffeecompass.com. (Instagram)

He lives in Istanbul with his family. 

Trabzon Turkey

TURKEY: Your Travel Guide to Trabzon, Turkey

NOTE from Catie: I am so happy to have Kelsey guest post about Trabzon, Turkey! I met Kelsey when she was living in Izmir and immediately loved her! She has so much good information about Turkey since she lived here for 5 years! And Trabzon… it’s one of my favorite places! It’s perfect that this lovely gal is writing about a favorite place!

The Black Sea region in Turkey is home to some of the most beautiful coastline and mountains in the country. The Black Sea region of Turkey is home to the Turkish dish pide and Turkish dessert sütlaç. Along this coastline is the city of Trabzon, which both borders the coast and spans deep into the mountains. This article will serve as your ultimate travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey, covering topics such as:

  • Culture & Geography
  • Transportation
  • Seasons/Weather (i.e. Best time to visit)
  • Things to Do in Trabzon
  • Brief Review of our Hotel
  • Specialty Foods & Desserts 

Trabzon Culture and Geography

Trabzon is located in northeastern Turkey along the Black Sea. Black Sea in Turkish means Karadeniz, and Trabzon really has its own cultureThe Turks from this region have their own accent, dress and lifestyle. Across the sea from Trabzon are the countries Georgia and Russia. 

The culture in the Black Sea region is a conservative one. Turkey is over 99% Muslim and most of the women are covered. Trabzon has seen a rise in Arab tourists lately, so it is common to see women wearing a black burqa with only their eyes or face exposed. However, I did see one lady at the airport wearing flip-flop shoes with her burqa! The Turkish women in Trabzon are covered with a hijab, or a head scarf, but still dress with a variety of color and style. I find the varying degrees of Islamic fashion pretty intriguing.

Trabzon Turkey Location Map

Transportation in Trabzon

Transportation in Trabzon is relatively easy, as long as you have access to your own vehicle. Flying into Trabzon’s airport, known in Turkish as the Trabzon Havalimanı, is a sight to behold. The runway is parallel to the Black Sea, so you get an amazing view of the city and the sea as you arrive. If you are already in Turkey, you could consider driving but if you are coming from abroad, flying in is the way to go. You will get to road-trip plenty once you arrive, since most of the activities are very spread out from each other!

The airport is located right next to the sea, but most of the things to do in Trabzon are located about 30 kilometers inland. The best option for transportation in Trabzon is to rent a car from the airport. As a foreigner, you can utilize websites like economycarrentals.com or rentalcars.com to book in advance.

Seasons/Weather in Trabzon

The weather in Trabzon varies as the seasons change. The best time to visit is during the spring and fall to avoid the summertime humidity and wintertime cold. Realistically, to be able to see and do everything fully, any season other than winter is a good option. It just depends on your preference for temperature and weather conditions.

  • Summer (June-August) is humid and warm with temperatures around 26° C. You can definitely explore outdoors during this season.
  • Fall (September-November) sees a lot more rain and the temperature ranges from 10-20° C. Depending on rainfall, some activities might be less accessible, but it is still a beautiful time of year to go. We went in early October for our anniversary and were very happy with our trip.
  • Winter (December-February) are cold and wet with a good amount of snowfall. The snow may make some of the roads more difficult to drive on, but it will look like a winter wonderland. Temperatures can drop below 0° C, but average around 5° C during the day.
  • Spring (March-May) This season fluctuates a bit as winter transitions to summer but you can expect temperatures of 14-19° C and the highest number of clear days. 

So, When is the Best Time to Go to Trabzon?

Verdict: For good weather conditions and freedom to explore all that Trabzon has to offer, May is the best month to visit Trabzon. 

Things to do in Trabzon

Hagia Sophia Mosque

Visiting the Hagia Sophia Mosque is one of the quickest and best things you can do in Trabzon, because it is an amazing piece of history and has an incredible view. It is easy to get to and doesn’t take more than thirty minutes to explore. The Hagia Sophia Mosque (Camii) is west from the airport and located next to the Black Sea. It was initially built as a church in the 13th century but once the Ottoman Empire was established in the region, this structure was converted into a mosque. It is still open as a mosque today. 

Trabzon Turkey Hagia Sophia Mosque
Hagia Sophia Mosque in Trabzon

Like many Byzantine structures, it has a high dome in the center and is shaped like a cross if you looked at it aerially. There are many frescoes still visible on the ceiling of the Hagia Sophia Mosque depicting stories from the bible. In order to enter the mosque, out of respect, women should cover their hair using one of the complimentary scarves found for guests at the entrance.

There is a small garden behind the mosque which has an incredible panoramic view of the Black Sea. It is a peaceful place to sit and walk around, with a café located nearby to enjoy a glass of Turkish tea. 

Sumela Monastery

You cannot have a list of things to do in Trabzon without including Sumela Monastery. Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox Monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is one of the most iconic tourist attractions of the region. Sumela Monastery is located in the Macka district of Trabzon and is about an hour drive from the airport. The drive is lovely as you watch lush green mountain after mountain, eventually seeing rivers and streams as you get closer to Macka. 

The day we went to see the monastery was a very misty and cloudy one. We got to the entrance of the national park, which has an 11 TL entrance fee, and made it up the mountain to the entrance of the monastery. There was so much mist that it was not visible! We were a bit bummed, as this was our only opportunity on our trip to see the monastery, but we still enjoyed the national park and thought the mist was cool to see as it sat on top of the mountains.

There is a rest facility and bungalows within the national park at the foot of the mountain where the monastery is located, so there is the option to stay overnight. There is a photo studio that will take your picture in traditional Ottoman garments. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity and for 20 Turkish Liras purchased this photograph.

If you come anytime between May-September, it is likely the monastery will be visible. Since we came in October, there was a good amount of rainfall already and the precipitation was very high. We are excited to return again one day to see Sumela Monastery on a clearer, sunnier day!

Ataturk Köşkü (Ataturk’s Pavilion)

The Ataturk Köşkü, also known as the Ataturk Pavilion, is probably one of the most beautiful museums in Trabzon. We did not have enough time to visit this location, but if we had more time this was next on our list. I want to add it to the list of things to do in Trabzon, because it is a beautiful structure and for a time belonged to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. 

This mansion was gifted to Ataturk from the Trabzon Municipality in 1930, but then he donated it back to the Trabzon municipality seven years later, stating no man needed to have so many houses. After his death, it was opened as a museum and is still open to the public today. There are many pictures and belongings of Ataturk still there for tourists to observe. The building is reminiscent of French chateaus and has a beautiful garden around the premises.

Hamsiköy

Hamsiköy is a small village located in the Maçka district. It has beautiful scenery and is home to the traditional Turkish dessert sütlaç. You will really experience what life in a Turkish village looks like when you visit. Sütlaç is like a rice pudding that is often served with cinnamon or crushed hazelnuts on top. Do you know the Mexican dessert arroz con leche? It is essentially the same thing, so delicious. 

Where can you eat this delicious sütlaç in Hamsiköy? At Osman Usta’nın Yeri, who has been in business since 1972. The secret to this delicious sütlaç is that it is cooked for a long time and made from organic, fatty cow milk. Sadly, we did not make it to Hamsikoy, either, but we read such great things about it that we wanted to include it in our list.

Uzungöl

Uzungöl

Uzungöl rivals Sumela Monastery, as far as best things to do in Trabzon goes. Uzungöl means “long lake” in Turkish and it truly is a long beautiful lake wedged between tall mountains. It is about 1 kilometer long, with a circumference of about 7 kilometers. 

This is not located near the other places on the list of things to do in Trabzon. It is about an hour and a half drive, or 100 kilometers, from Trabzon’s city center. It is located in the Çaykara district.

We arrived at night, so we couldn’t see much of the lake, but it was an incredible view to wake up to in the morning. Uzungol has many Arab tourists, which is good to be aware of before arriving. A majority of the women will be modestly dressed. Their cultural norms are quite different than westerners, so behaving respectfully is important, as well. 

There are many things to do that revolve around the lake. Firstly, you can enjoy a walk around the lake. If you don’t prefer to walk, you can also rent bikes and bike around the lake. There are many shops, cafes and restaurants spread out around the lake which you can sit at to enjoy some coffee or tea. There is also paddle-boarding on the lake which would be a fun activity as a group or couple.

Hotels in Trabzon

Ilhan Kardesler Apart Otel

This small hotel in Trabzon is located just behind the mosque, which you see upon arriving to Uzungöl. It is quaint, the service is excellent, and the view of the lake from our balcony was lovely. We had a small kitchenette in our room, which was nice. The hotel was clean and had a modern interior design. The bed was very comfortable, which is so important! In the morning, we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast. Complimentary meals are always a great way to save on your food budget while travelling. We often try to book places where breakfast is included.

Specialty Foods & Desserts

Sütlaç 

We mentioned this delicious Turkish dessert already, as it popularly originates from Hamsiköy in the Trabzon region. Sütlaç is a baked rice pudding made mostly from cow’s milk, sugar, and cream, with just a few additional ingredients. This is a dessert you must try when you visit. You can find it anywhere in the Black Sea region.

Pide

Pide Turkish Food Trabzon Turkey

Pide is a traditional Turkish food that originates from the black sea region. The pide dough is hand-made, topped with butter, cheese and any variety of ingredients you want. I often just prefer cheese, while my husband enjoys ground beef, cheese, egg and onions on top of his. In the Black Sea region, they really loaded on the butter! 

I hope that this travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey inspires your next adventure! Like this post? Save it for later!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hi there! My name is Kelsey Cetin and I am an American girl from California. I live in Sacramento, CA with my husband, Oguzhan and our dog, Bambi. I was an expat in Izmir, Turkey for about 5 years, where I met and married my husband. We had a big Turkish wedding and my life forever changed once I became a gelin. Although we have relocated to California, Turkey still holds a very dear place in my heart. I love to travel to new places, but going to Turkey will always feel like going home to me.

My hobbies include photography, exercising, spending time with family, and of course, traveling! I love visiting new places, trying local cuisine, and making sweet memories. I recently earned my Masters degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and my “day job” is in Human Resources. I am passionate about creating healthy work environments through organizational development. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and have an intimate relationship with God. This is really the foundation for everything in my life.

I met Jason and Catie in Turkey and absolutely loved Catie’s mission with her blog, YouTube channel and podcast. It inspired me to start, too, and share all the wonder that Turkey has to offer with the world. It is an honor to be featured on her blog now!

TURKEY: Sailing Along Turkey’s Mediterranean Coastline

Quick Note: Being in Kalkan the last couple of weeks has made me reminisce about our FIRST sailing trip we took our FIRST week living in Turkey (September 2016). We actually stayed on the sailboat in this little Kalkan town’s marina! What a fun opportunity to be here again with Sofia and our friends seeing some of some places FOUR years later! I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me!

Also, this article was first featured first in the Lale Magazine May/June 2018 (Pg. 8-11)  – Sailing Along the Mediterranean Coastline

Sailing along the coast of Turkey may have been one of the best vacations my husband, Jason, and I have ever taken. With our ‘want to see every site’ wife married to the ‘one city is enough’ husband, we finally found a travel mode that suited both of our needs.

As we neared the marina, I was excited and had a fear of the unknown simultaneously. Jason summed it up thus, “This could either be a really great idea or a terrible one.” Although I agreed, I leaned more towards the optimistic side, and somehow knew this was a perfect way for us to celebrate his birthday.

Our small flotilla consisted of 3 yachts. Two narrow eight passenger premier yachts, that leaned into the wind when sailing, were equipped with double cabins. The cabins had bunk or double beds and at least two communal bathrooms. 

The larger, spacious catamaran held eight passengers. The private quarters had a double bed and bathroom.  Each yacht had a large kitchen, a communal lounge, and spacious decks for sunbathing.

Our week started with the rules, an overview of sailing protocols, and a review of our itinerary.  Since we were all adults, our skippers sped through the details knowing we were anxious to get on the water and experience what sailing was all about.

Our yacht left the marina and quietly slipped out into the quiet sea leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind. Soon, after our group soaked in the first sites and experiences of our new adventure in the Mediterranean, we all quickly became like old friends reuniting back together, instead of strangers. There’s truth in the saying that experiences together with others will bring people, known and unknown, closer together. 

Our soft-spoken and likeable skipper proved to be a skilled teacher. With the choppy water, sailing wasn’t always a viable option, so the majority of the time we had to use the engines. 

I quickly abandoned my dream of being silently driven by the wind, and settled for a book and the sun on our first day.

We all rapidly adapted to sea life. Our anchoring and docking skills shined as we assisted the skipper with the more menial sailing tasks. In unison, our group worked to tie the ropes which releases and retrieves the sail to push us one way or the other. We soon realizing how much there is to learn about wind and sailing. But the skipper still made sure we all had a chance to ‘take the helm.’

Our days on the boat were surprisingly serene. With nowhere to go, you’re forced to enjoy the water, sun, and the passing coastline. We noted the change from forest to bush to the rocks that descended straight into the sea. Other boats sailed by further off, respecting the unspoken rules of sailing on the open seas. 

In the mornings we dipped into the chilly water, cooled from the sunless nights. Our breakfast was self-serve and minimal. Halfway through the day our skipper, who also served as our chef, would surprise us with some creative lunch that we would enjoy in between our midday sea explorations. Personal snacks and drinks were welcome on board. We always ended up in a marina in the late afternoon and we ate dinner on dry land. No matter how much we consumed during the day, everyone was starving again by the time we landed at the marina.

Photo Credit: Eric Rowell

Our days went like this. Each day we sailed from one coastal town to the next, the evenings free for exploring the nearest cities by the marinas. The stopovers in the coastal villages allowed us time to browse the many bazaars and markets.

One evening we moored in a secluded cove accessible only by the sailors. Snorkeling in this secluded bay revealed waters packed with sea life and the ever popular sea turtles. This location has gained traction over the years and is now popular enough to boast a large open-air covered restaurant. 

This little oasis along the miles of uninhabited rocky coastline provides solid ground for wobbling first-time sailors to enjoy hearty Turkish casserole dishes, the local ‘catch of the day,’ and even wild hog hunted in the forest. After cruising all say, our dinner followed the Turkish customs, starting after sunset and visiting well into the night, with live music wafting from the background.  

Our group never lacked things to do when we docked at the thriving Turkish fishing villages. Lazier options include strolling on the pristine beaches or partaking of amenities like the hammam—a traditional Turkish bath. Alternatively, we could opt to simply sit at a local bar and enjoy the golden sunset, cocktail in hand.  

More active activities found us sloshing through the river and healing mud of a nearby gorge or hiking through world-famous UNESCO sites. Another day, we explored a ‘ghost town,’ deserted since 1927, where we meandered through thousands of dilapidated stone homes. 

Sailing is like a road trip on the water. Instead of stopping off at a park or a truck stop, you can do activities such as snorkeling and paddle boards, while cooling off from the summer heat, or if we felt energetic, taking a hike.

Patara Beach = Photo Credit: Eric Rowell

Championship yachtsman, K. Adlard Coles once said, “Our voyage had commenced, and at last we were away, gliding through the clean water, past the reeds. Care was lifted from our shoulders, for we were free from advice, pessimism, officialism, heat and hot air.” Sailing on the Turkish Coast lifts the cares and burdens from your life and takes you far away from what worries you.

As Ratty states in the book Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.

And from our experience at sea, I couldn’t agree more.

Photo Credit: Eric Rowell

Now to you:

  • Have you been sailing before?
  • If so, where did you go?
  • Have you sailed in Turkey?
  • What was your experience like?

I’m so curious to know! Let me know in the comments below!

 

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

TURKEY RESORTS : Marti Resort in Marmaris – Içmeler

*** Pre-note: As I wrote over on my Top 10 tips for choosing an All-Inclusive Resort in Turkey post, all hotels are required to abide by strict rules for reopening and hosting guests. Please visit the Marti Resort de Luxe website for this information.

Location:

Just a 10 minutes drive south from Marmaris along the Mediterranean coast, the 5 star Marti Resort de Luxe sits in a pine tree-covered bay. The cove is home to the small town of Içmeler, and if your goal is the enjoy quiet, more relaxed vacation, this is your go-to area. Even though the city is known for the more peaceful atmosphere, the area is not lacking when it comes diverse restaurants, souvenir shops, and local markets. Visitors can choose from Steakhouses, Italian Pasta and Pizzeria, Chinese, and several Indian restaurants. 

The hotel with its peaks tower design extending from the roof is hard to miss from the seaside, but the slow ascending hills and well-placed towering trees hide the private entrance from view. Since we came by car, we passed the gate a few times by mistake. The resort creates a slight semi-circle arching into the hillside. The pools and recreation areas strategically guide guests towards the many pool areas and eventually the reserve area on the beach.  

Most of the Marmaris hotels were built within the last 30 years, which means they fell under the government tree protection law. Established in 1969, Marti surpassed the tree rule being one of the first hotels in the area built 50 years ago but worked to retain as many trees as possible. In addition, the resort has continued to plant more trees throughout the grounds replacing any destroyed trees.

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort
Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

As we arrived, we were greeted warmly in English by a staff member who has worked with Marti for almost 20 years. Curious but polite, he led us to the check-in counter and then later on to our rooms. Throughout our stay, I found the staff not only greeting the guests kindly but also found their interactions with one another to be that of family. One of the staff members has been working with the hotel since it first opened and everyone seemed to have great respect for him.

The entrance of the hotel does not boast the size of the hotel. As you enter through a castle-like tower, guests must walk under the two ascending staircases that curve along the wall to the second floor. Cool, refreshing lemonade is offered upon arrival near the sitting area. The check-in is tucked to the left corner, adequate for the size but not overbearing. 

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

Rooms:

The 280 room resort provides several types of accommodations ranging from 40-200 meters: garden access rooms, standard rooms, ironically only two 1-bedroom Sultan Suites, a few 2-bedroom suites for families, and duplexes with a balcony area. Most of the hotel rooms are accessible from an outside hallway facing the mountain-view, but opposite the room is the sea-view balconies. The view from the sea-side rooms of the Marti Resort is better than any you can get in Marmaris. As well, each room comes with a sitting area for extra room and comfort. 

With over 31,000 meters of space, guests enjoys a variety of sitting areas, both inside and out in the shade or sun. Guests have the option of over 1333 meters of the outdoor pool, indoor heated pool or a children’s pool.  Otherwise, the private 115-meter beach comes setup with sun loungers and umbrellas for guests every morning.

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

Cuisine:

While the hotel offers half-board (breakfast and dinner only), it is advantageous to pay full-board. The bar won’t even give you water if they see your half-board blue bracelet. While the full-board orange bracelet gives you access to all the services like the meals, restaurants, al la carte menus, snack bars, and afternoon tea breaks. The al la carte restaurants are Chinese, Turkish, and Italian but guests must receive a voucher to eat there at a discounted rate. 

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort
Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

All the extras:

Premium service is also available at an extra cost and comes with a welcome basket and flowers with wine, daily newspaper, airport transfer, and a few discounts for the spa and activities. 

Marti also has a Marti Loyalty Card program for customers who enjoy repeated vacations to the area of Marmaris and the Marti hotels. The 3-tier credit card offers discounts for direct room reservations, early booking, room upgrades, and Spa and Pavilion expenses.

During the day, the kids club offers programs from 10-12 and 2-4 for ages 4 and up. In the evenings, guests can enjoy a mix of entertainment, from live music three times a week, beach party, and karaoke. Like most all-inclusive resorts, doctors, a spa, fitness area, and beauty center are all available at an extra cost.

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort
Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort
Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

The Dalaman Airport caters to guests heading to the Marmaris area and this hotel. If needed, the hotel arranges transfers to the hotel. While we had a car, there is a mini bus to Marmaris that guests can catch at the entrance of the resort every 10 minutes for 3 TL.

Marti Resort de Luxe is part of 7 hotels under the MARTI name scattered through the Marmaris region: two 5-star, one 4-star, three boutiques and 1 Marina and Yacht Club. Founded in 1967, MARTI is one of the oldest hotels offering unique Marmaris locations to guests and a leader in Turkish Hospitality. 

Some final and personal thoughts:

For $100 a night for a standard all-inclusive stay, I concluded that this hotel left room for improvement. 

CONS:

  • While the hotel was renovated in 2014, I found some of the wood floorings in the room to be scuffed and even some of the boards buckled. A few details like the phone not being updated during the renovation and electric plugs covers coming off of the wall left me frustrated after a few uses.  After many times of pressing the telephone buttons to call reception, I almost gave up. But I tried dialing 0 the second time and hoped it would work to connect after previously not working. And fortunately, it did! 
  • A few other quirks I found disappointing, some balconies are solid, and others are slitten, but all are slightly too tall when sitting in the balcony furniture making it hard to enjoy the view of the property and sea. As well, the standard room comes with a tv positioned in front of the bed, but the sitting area does not have a second TV. The angle to sit on the couch and watch the tv near the bed is awkward. 
  • The room did not come with the directions and services provided at the hotel, but perhaps it was just our room that was missing it. Don’t worry; all the emergency information was included. Robes and slippers, a standard room amenity even in the regular hotels around Turkey, were not provided here (perhaps it was our half-board status).
  • (Disclaimer: This is entirely a personal preference!) The rooms function off of a central cooling system, so while it looks like you can control the air temperature yourself, it is all a rouse. Since the hot weather season had yet to start, the central temperature inside the room was uncomfortably warm. After calling about a fan and being disappointed that they had none, we finally gave up and slept with our door open, and sheets turned down.  
Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

PROS: 

  • The pros of this location are the outstanding views from our seaside hotel. The hotel layout means that no sea-view is a bad one! Even though we only had one night to enjoy the room, I was up with the sun the next morning to see it rise over the tip of the Marmaris peninsula. 
  • Another pro of this hotel is the staff. Out of all of the hotels I toured in Marmaris, I found the resort staff to be the most relaxed and friendly. The chefs and staff enjoy their jobs and provide excellent service to the guests. My encounters felt more like a family (some of them working there a long time) inviting us into their home they loved.
  • The size of the hotel means they can provide all the extra services without all the additional people like Grand Yazici Club Turban and Sentido Orka Lotus Beach. This hotel has enough nooks and corners that you can enjoy your time without being surrounded by 100 people at once. 
  • This property is a good option for families because the hotel offers suites with a sitting area for families to enjoy together. Unless your kids are 4 and above, there are no services or activities for them. Our visit in the early season was mostly couples and families with older kids. 
  • The hotel sits on the walking/bike path built from Marmaris to Icmeler. If time, guests can enjoy a run, walk, or bike ride to either city for a few hours. 
  • While it’s not my first choice, the hotel is my first choice for the location. If I am coming to Marmaris and staying at an all-inclusive resort, I would for sure choose one further from the city of Marmaris and in a smaller, quiet, less-crowded town like Içmeler.  But if you are the bar and dancing all night type, hotels nearer to Marmaris would be your choice!

***Disclaimer*** For my travel article, I received a tour of the hotel and grounds. I did not receive any complimentary services, upgrades, or accommodations during our time at the hotel. All opinions are my own.