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Insiders Guide to Greece & Turkey

Blue Mosque Istanbul
Greek Islands

Insiders Guide to Greece & Turkey

story by: Tom Ricketts

1. Discover Istanbul's Mosques
The megacity of Istanbul has oodles of mosques, but two in particular dominate the city skyline, the Hagia Sofia and Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque. Interestingly, the Hagia Sofia was built as a cathedral ​but after the city fell to the Turks, minarets were added and the cathedral was converted into a mosque! The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is known as the Blue Mosque thanks to the millions of blue tiles which adorn its interior.
HOT Tip: Both men and women need to cover their shoulders and knees, so ensure you have a light top and/or a sarong. 

2. Sail through the Greek Islands 
Greece has a lot of islands. We’re talking somewhere in the range of 6,000 islands and islets. Amazingly, roughly only 200 of those islands are inhabited! Whether it be on a private yacht or aboard a luxury liner, hands down the best way to see the famed Greek Islands is island hopping or aboard a cruise.
HOT Tip: For quieter, less touristy islands, head east towards Turkey.

3. Step back in time to ancient Greece
Athens is arguably the most historic city in the world and the cradle of civilisation and democracy. You cannot take one step without coming across another gorgeous old building or historic site.
HOT Tip: Walk the Grand Promenade, a fantastic walking trail connecting most of Athens’ ancient wonders along a largely pedestrianised route, helping you escape the chaos choked Athens streets.

4. Make the pilgrimage to Galliopli
Of course, no trip to Turkey is complete without visiting Gallipoli Peninsula. Over 100,000 soldiers died here during the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign, including 2,721 Kiwis and 8,790 Aussies. Seen as a coming of age for both countries, travelling to Gallipoli is now a sort of pilgrimage for Kiwi and Aussie citizens alike.
HOT Tip: The memorials Chunuk Bair, Hill 60 and Twelve Tree Copse are more Kiwi orientated, whereas Lone Pine and Helles are Australian and British respectively.

5. Go caving in Cappadocia
Pick up any Turkey travel brochure and it’s bound to have a photo of hot air balloons over Cappadocia in it somewhere. Cappadocia is a lunar desert like landscape with huge pillars of stone call ‘fairy chimneys’ rising into the sky, ancient churches carved into the side of cliffs, and a slew of fascinating underground villages.
HOT Tip: Day tours are available from Istanbul, but we recommend taking a couple of days to see the region, and then you can stay in one of the underground hotels too!

6. View the magical sunsets of Santorini
One of the most famous and most loved of the Greek ​Islands is Santorini. The island was once a volcano which blew apart and became flooded by the sea, similar to Lyttleton and Port Chalmers. Perched on the rim of the crater are gorgeous towns full of whitewashed buildings topped with beautiful blue domes.
HOT Tip: The tourists arrive in droves an hour or so before sunset, so to guarantee yourself a great view, arrive early and dig in for the afternoon.

7. Rediscover Atlantis at Kekova
In an amazingly unique experience, head to Kekova and hire a kayak to explore this sunken city. The ruins of houses and churches can be seen perfectly through the bright blue waters. Some ruins lay on the beaches and poke through shallower waters.
HOT Tip: You’re not allowed to swim or dive on the ruins due to looting, but go on a tour with a local operator and they’ll take you to another secret spot where you can.

8. Soak up Pamukkale
If you’ve ever wondered what the Pink and White Terraces looked like, this might be its closest resemblance. Mineral rich waters bubble out of the earth and cascade down the hill, solidifying as it goes. What we’re left with is beautiful terrace hot pools covering the hillside.
HOT Tip: Atop the hill is the ruins of Hierapolis which has an impressive amphitheatre.

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