I recently read a great “Best of Turkey” article in our Embassy newsletter, and the author, Bob Beck, has graciously allowed me to reprint it as a guest post on this blog. He and his wife spent 3 years here in Ankara and it’s great to get recommendations from someone with more experience here than me (I’ve been here 10.5 months, thought 4.5 months so far have been during Covid-19).
Best place to walk in the Ankara environs – Lake Eymir.
The 11km road around the lake offers a fairly quiet and often green respite from the cacophony of Ankara, a mere 15 minute drive from most of the current housing. It is also a good location for a safe and relaxing bike ride.
Best locale for a day hike – Soğuksu National Park, Kızılcahamam.
Less than 90 minutes from the Embassy, Soğuksu is a mountainous get away for the those craving a healthy hit of nature. Containing several marked trails, the park is a great place for a modest or more demanding day hike in terrain reaching 6,000 feet of elevation. It is also home to bear, wolves, and massive vultures, although I and my hiking colleagues have only seen the latter.
Best Turkish Restaurant in Ankara – Kumsal, Nenehatun Caddesi.
Understanding that most Embassy personnel will have their own favorites, this old school restaurant in GOP tops the list for my wife and I. They have indoor seating as well as a garden terrace for the summer months. Serving wonderful mezze – the hot hummus is the best in Ankara – and outstanding fish, Kumsal will forever beget fond culinary memories for us when thinking of Turkey.
Best Neighborhood Turkish Breakfast – Liva, in GOP on Uğur Mumcu
This bakery chain serves a serious, big boy pants Turkish breakfast, complete with just about everything you can imagine. It comes with freshly-squeezed orange juice and three cups of tea and costs a whopping TL 80 for two people. From a cuisine standpoint, we will definitely miss these breakfast feasts!
Best Pizza in Ankara – Double Zero, GOP, Uğur Mumcu.
Ok, so once we found Double Zero we stuck with them so this might not be the most researched choice. Nevertheless, Double Zero does only thin crust pizza and they do it
well. Bear in mind, however, that other than a couple salads, pizza is all they do. So if you are looking for a more traditional Italian meal, go elsewhere.
Best Italian Restaurant in Ankara – Mezza Luna, Iran Caddesi.
We have been to MezzaLuna almost monthly for the past couple of years and weʼve never had a bad meal. They do pasta well, meats well, and their pizzas are also high
quality. Add to that a very light and airy interior and you have the makings of a very enjoyable dining experience.
Best Comfort Weekend Trip – Cappadocia.
While there are many interesting places that can easily be reached on a
weekend trip from Ankara, the otherworldly fairy chimneys of Cappadocia kept calling us back throughout our tour. With easy access to fascinating hiking, extensive shopping options throughout the region, reasonably priced lodging, and excellent restaurants, Cappadocia has much to offer for the entire family.
Best “Get Away From It All” Weekend – Midas Han.
Approximately three hours to the SW of Ankara, located directly of the Phrygian Way long distance walking route, this simple, rustic lodge is an oasis of calm. Run by Ben, a retired Dutch Archaeologist, and Nihal, the wife of a German Archaeologist, the property sits at the edge of a small village overlooking a peaceful landscape of forest, fields, rock outcroppings, and an impressive stone temple containing tombs dating from Phrygian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine eras. As an added bonus, Ben will often hike with the guests, in the process giving them a guided tour of the hidden archaeological gems in the area.
Best Adventure Trip – The Kaçkar Mountains.
This range, to the northeast of Erzurum, is actually part of the Caucasus Mountains. They are remote, rugged, and simply stunning. While there are a few villages in which to bed down, I stayed at the Kaçkar Pension in Yaylalar, literally at the end of the road from Yusufeli. The village sits at 7,000 feet and the hikes go up from there. While I was there in September of 2019 I took a long day hike with the proprietor of the Pension, Ishmael, and his son, traversing a mountain pass at 10,000 feet before descending along a stream through a still-inhabited shepherd village back to our pick up point. Given the altitude and rugged terrain, this is definitely for the more adventuresome traveler.
Most Unique Turkish Geological Site – Pamukkale.
We did not make it to Nemrut Dağı so this selection is not based on the full range of Turkish sites. Nevertheless, Pamukkale is a fascinating place and one that deserves a visit. One can read about it and watch videos about it but to fully appreciate the uniqueness of the place, you need to hike barefoot up those white hills, taking time to cool off in the various pools along the way to the top.
Best Archeological Site – Sagalassos, Isparta.
This site, situated at 5,500 feet in the Western Taurus Mountains to the south of Isparta, offers stunning remnants from its Greek and Roman glory days including working fountains, a lovely main square, and an impressive agora area. While other sites may be
more popular (read Ephesus), Iʼll take the quiet, rugged beauty of Sagalassos any day. It is located close to the Turkish Lakes region – Eğirdir being our favorite – which offers extensive and affordable lodging. There is even a Ramada in Isparta though we chose a B&B in the town of Eğirdir.
by Bob Beck, Retired USG