Despite some of these issues, we had a great time on this itinerary (and recommend it). It was our friends who selected it and we were invited to join them after it was established so we had no say. The people of Turkey are incredibly welcoming and friendly and we enjoyed some of the rituals like the Hammam baths and Turkish coffee and clay pot cooking. It was interesting and special to see Cappadocia covered in snow but there were a few limitations getting around on foot due to icy conditions on streets and footpaths. Our travel agent, Tovi, was a dream and made it a point to meet us in Istanbul.
She was incredibly responsive to issues we had along the way. I recommend her highly.
First working with our agent in Istanbul, Tovi, was a great experience. We joined our friends trip after it had been planned and she was a great help to bring us up to speed and include us in all communication.
We liked Istanbul very much. The superior top floor rooms at Sirkeci Mansion were wonderful. It has an excellent location and wonderful staff. Our Istanbul guide, Ergul, was fantastic. She was very knowledgeable, friendly and spoke excellent English. She warned us that the Blue Mosque was under renovation and we wouldn't see it at its best, and in consideration of that she managed to get us inside without waiting in the long line. We expressed interest in Suleyman Mosque and she was excited to take us there. It was amazing. The food tour was fun since we got to try a lot of different uniquely local foods.
The Kale Konak Hotel in Uchisar was atmospheric and the staff was lovely. They had a wonderful breakfast and a beautiful hammam. The underground city of Kaymakli was fabulous as were the Open Air Museum of Goreme, the village of Zelve and the fairy chimneys. We had a fun evening at Memories with an entertaining host and the best Testi Kebabi.
We absolutely loved Ephesus and enjoyed Sirence with a stab at trying Turkish coffee. The family-run Ejder Restaurant in Selcuk was so enjoyable we went twice. We thought Aphrodisias was fantastic and Pamukkale/Hierapolis was uniquely amazing. Enroute to Izmir we stopped at the phenomenal Gymnasium at Sardes.
The superior room at Izmir's Key Hotel was fabulous and the shower at Venus Suites was the best.
I've never taken a food tour but in the Turkish world of exotic spices I thought we might hear explanations of and try foods made with different spices for comparison.
I expected to like Cappadocia the most but we had one day too many here; specifically, day 2, in part perhaps because the snow and ice made the proposed walk in the countryside treacherous, but there wasn't much more on the agenda except one church on a cliff which we could have skipped or fit into another day. Overall, there were so many monasteries and churches that our guide seemed to repeat himself to fill in time. We anticipated the balloon ride to be the highlight but it was not 'a mind blowing experience' (as stated in our itinerary), and in fact not a very good experience at all. It was too foggy so we couldn't see much and we 'landed' precariously after 30 minutes in the air, not even close to an hour as they advertise. Our pilot was agitated upon touchdown and it took 20 minutes for a crew to find us. By the time we were dragged to a trailer and the basket was secure I guess that totaled an hour - not really the kind of hour one expects from a flight.
We were not impressed with the lunch selection on day 1 in the Cappadocia area. I felt our guide in Cappadocia gave more attention to some of our group, and didn't always answer the questions of others. He also repeated himself a lot and it was sometimes hard to understand his accent.
It was a stretch to say the Greek village of Mustafa Pasa had 'lovely houses'. Maybe a couple but not really worth a stop.
At Selcuk the St John Hotel cannot be recommended. We had no hot water in our bathroom either morning and after going without the first day (and telling the staff to no avail) we showered in our friends room on the 2nd day. The lobby, breakfast room and halls were cold because they wouldn't close the doors because of 'a bad smell'. The breakfast options didn't appeal to us.
The breakfast at the Venus Suites Pamukkale offered lots of choices but the quality was not great.
We were not impressed with our vehicle rental from Izmir. A warning light was on from the moment we picked it up. The car was pretty old, not very clean and the 'extra' GPS did not work properly so we used google maps on our iPhones. We don't recommend you use this company again.