I’ve traveled to and through Turkey quite a few different times, but for whatever reason, it’s always been around the same exact season: FALL. And fall in Turkey is amazing. In fact, it’s my absolute favorite time of the year to travel anywhere, but when I was invited to attend the Inflow Travel Summit in Istanbul in April 2017, I was very excited to finally see what the city looked like covered in spring, as well as Antalya, Turkey’s famous/infamous resort hub, on a post-conference press trip. Mostly known for its summer shenanigans, would there actually be anything to see and do while it wasn’t quite yet bikini/Speedo season? God only knew, but I knew that you can never go wrong anywhere with a good crew and some rakı so no doubt we were going to have a good time.
Here are some scenes of what unfolded – taking it easy this time with more photos, less words (even though there is still over 1,000) – but if you’re curious, click or hover over images for more details.
What I was pleased to discover is that spring is probably the best time to visit Istanbul if you like pretty things because every year in March the city gets real extra and plants tens of millions of tulips everywhere from its parks to roundabouts to any open space where things can grow. While we didn’t have much time for sightseeing during the conference, the sightseeing we did get to do was pretty radical and I have to say the megacity was looking more gorgeous than I’ve ever seen it with all that excess flora.
With intense days full of informational sessions and networking, we really only had the early evenings to get out and do things. Taking this into account, Turkey’s Ministry of Culture & Tourism was awesome enough to organize a special “after hours tour” of the Hagia Sophia for us on our second day and it turned out to be quite the experience. Having visited once before on my own and amongst the masses, this time was something kind of spiritual with Turkey’s most visited museum all to myself and just a couple dozen other travel industry peeps.
Real talk, April 2017 certainly didn’t seem like the best time to be having a travel conference in Turkey nor parading us around a city where less than four months before one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on a nightclub took place. Oh, and not to mention where a year before there was a terrorist massacre at Atatürk Airport and 13 tourists were killed in a suicide bombing in the same exact square in Sultanahmet where we were standing- but in the end, I think that’s really why I chose to go. My friends and family were super worried about me and I kindly told them instead they should worry about themselves. These days terrorism is happening EVERYWHERE (like what, Turku, Finland?! Nothing bad should ever happen in Turku, Finland…) and writing off a place because of unthinkable events that occurred there is not fair and it’s actually not effective. Sitting home locked in your closet is what’s effective if you’re seriously that concerned. Don’t let them win.
Moving on to the last day of the conference, David’s Been Here and I decided to bounce out a little early from the
bullshitting networking to soak up a little more of Istanbul before we flew out to Antalya. We headed back to Sultanahmet and straight to the Grand Bazaar for some people watching, souvenir shopping, and battles against the area’s omnipresent human traffic jams.
If you’re looking for a great place to eat with killer views around Sultanahmet and the Galata Bridge, I highly recommend Hamdi which David found out about while he was filming the best places to eat in Istanbul. Their food is delicious, very reasonable, and they know how to serve rakı like bosses.
Istanbul is one of the greatest cities in the world and one of those places you can visit 20 times or live for 40 years and you will still discover new things about it every day. I’m lucky to have been as many times as I have – it helps that it has some of the best connections to the Balkans from North America and Europe – and I know there will never be a time I leave without being amazed by it yet AGAIN.
Okay, I lied a little. I was not actually that excited to visit Antalya. As a major hotspot for Russians and every Kosovar and their mother (my fellow citizens at the time), I assumed it was going to be as tacky as it sounded with characterless all-inclusive resorts, dirty foam parties, and ladies ne pushime with their sponsors. Sadly that was the only picture that had ever been painted for me of that area and even though I am ALWAYS down to explore new destinations, it kind of sounded like my worst nightmare. That is until I met Gloria…
The super sexy Gloria Serenity Resort in Belek ended up being our base for the three nights we were down there and thankfully helped break every negative stereotype that had been stuck in my head. I can now attest that not all Antalyan all-inclusive resorts are hotbeds of shadiness and that “all-inclusive” does not always equate to characterless. In fact, this one was quite classy and calling it “all-exclusive” seemed way more appropriate.
Gloria quickly showed me what it means to “live it up in the lap of luxury” while meeting all of my essential and very non-essential needs. Even though the weather wasn’t hot enough to be out bronzing nor swimming in the Med, it was perfect for chilling around with a nice glass of white and eating al fresco with friends (or at least pretending to eat al fresco for the ‘Gram).
As much as I could have just stayed in the serenity of my Pool Villa at the Gloria Serenity for the entire 48 hours we were there, I was stoked to learn we would have a full day out exploring the cultural side – who knew Antalya had a cultural side?! Starting in Aspendos, we hit up a few ancient Roman sites and then spent the rest of the day exploring around Kaleiçi, Antalya’s old town, and its harbor.
Final verdict is that while I still do believe 75% of Antalya is indeed a packaged-holiday nightmare and a sunny place for shady people, there is definitely a good 25% that is actually pretty fancy and tasteful. Gloria Serenity Resort is a fine example and that combined with the fact that there is actually quite a bit of culture to find around its vicinity, I’d definitely visit Antalya again. I’m thankful to all parties involved – Inflow Summits, Turkey’s Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Gloria Resorts, etc – for showing me yet another facet of this wonderful country, and as always, I’m looking forward to my next return.