Turkey is a large country with numerous sites of interest， which one cannot even adequately cover in a few months' time. With the 16 days I have, I decided to focus on sites that combine natural beauty and cultural heritage.
I usually start planning a trip quite far in advance to allow time for extensive reading about the destination. A quick start is usually the list of its UNESCO world heritage sites and a copy of the Lonely Planet Country Guide. By pinpointing sites I wish to see on a map of Turkey, I have an idea of the relative location and distance between each of them. Then a research on available modes of transportation will help work out the most efficient way of travelling.
Below is a rough itinerary of my trip to Turkey from March 24 to April 8, 2013 for reference to anybody who's planning his own trip there.
Day 1: Mar. 24, TK021, Beijing to Istanbul. Departure from Beijing at 00:50 and arrival in Istanbul on the same day at 05:00; Check into Hotel Grand Peninsula in the old town (EUR60 per night)
Day 1 to 4 (Mar. 24 to 27): Istanbul for 4 full days. Overnight bus to Safranbolu on Mar. 27 with Safran Bus Company, departure from Istanbul Otogar (easily reachable by Istanbul's metro system) at 23:00, arrival in Safranbolu around 7am the next morning.
Day 5 and 6 (Mar. 28 to Mar. 29): Checked into guest house MehvesHanimKonagi (EUR65 per night) early in the morning of Mar. 28. Leaving for Ankara with 9am bus (3-4 hours), then another 4-hour bus ride to Goreme, Cappadocia. Checked into Heybe Hotel (EUR40 per night) in the evening on Mar. 29.
Day 7- 9 (Mar. 30 to Apr. 1): 3 well-justified full days in Cappadocia. Stayed at Heybe Hotel. On Apr. 1, night bus to Antalya Metro Bus Company, arriving around 7:30am on Apr. 2.
Day 10 and 11 (Apr. 2 and 3) : Perge, Side, Aspendos with hired car. Antalya old town and the wonderful musuem. Stayed at Villa Verde (EUR55 per night). Afternoon bus with Pamukkale Bus Company to Pamukkale (about 3 hours) on Apr. 3. Checked into Melrose House Hotel (EUR41 per night).
Day 12 (Apr. 4): Pamukkale. Late afternoon bus to Selcuk. Checked into Bella Hotel (EUR60 per night) in Selcuk.
Day 15 (Apr. 7): One more day to round up istanbul.
Day 16 (Apr. 8): TK020, Istanbul - Beijing. Departure at 00:35 and arrival at 14:00.
Back from the trip, I was quite pleased with the trip planning. The itinerary includes rich combination of various sites, allows enough time for each site and also takes adequate rest and refreshment into consideration. End March and early April is a good time to travel thanks to the pleasant weather condition and less crowds. Those who love Mediterranean coasts for water and beaches will have to come later.
(Pictures from this trip are in the Album Turkey in my galleries.)