7 Days Camping in Turkey

After securing a 4 berth campervan in Istanbul we set out on a 7 day adventure down the coast of Turkey. We covered 1,654 kilometres, stayed in 4 camping sites and spent two nights on the side of the road.

The roads in Turkey are great. Big lanes, rules that are on the whole obeyed, clear signage and reasonable toll charges. Some intersections that take you off one stretch of freeway onto another are interesting. As you approach you wait for signs to indicate merging etc. but are greeted by large figure eights that send you easily but in a disorienting way toward the next stretch of road. The driving was easy and fortunately for us the weather was perfect, not too hot or cold and no rain.

Self-drive holidays are very appealing to us because we need to pay for four seats on any mode of transport. They save money on across country travel and you are able to pull up and look at the view whenever you felt like it. Another stellar reason to self-drive, or camp in our case, is the ease of access to remote locations. The camping grounds we visited were located in the most remote and idyllic places. We were delighted by the scenery, people and activities.

Day 1

Our first night was spent in a truck stop on the side of the road, the E80 freeway near Gebze. We found a camping site online but we quickly realised it was shut for the winter as the beach adjacent to the site was being stripped for new sand to be layed. It was getting late at night and so we headed back up to the E80.

Not a great start but we got to know the van and had had dinner before we got on the road, so sleep was welcomed.

Distance travelled: 60 Kilometers

Camping cost: None

Problems encountered: a fuse in the 24 volt to 240 volt inverter blew and we had no wifi meaning no good map or ability to charge our devices.

Day 2

We toured Gallipoli today. We kept to the E80 until Izmit then changed to a smaller but still good quality highway, the E881. After hugging the coast we travelled South West in-land past many small towns before joining another large freeway, the E90.

The E90 took us away from the coast through towns and past lakes before returning to it at Bandirma. The neat square agricultural fields blanketed the hills past Bandirma and so we stopped to take in the view and had lunch in the van. Yellow, pink, white and blue flowers as well as the bright red poppy’s seem to grow wild near Bandirma and line the road, making for a pretty rolling landscape.

Workers in the fields, Bandirma, Turkey.

Workers in the fields, Bandirma, Turkey.

We continued to Cardak and followed the signs to a ‘feribot’, these pedestrian and vehicle ferry’s are everywhere along the coast. It cost $80 Turkish Lire to cross ($40 AUD) and only took about 20 minutes to get to Gallipoli town.

We drove South to the headland looking at the Dardanelles on our left the entire time and once around the end we headed North to Anzac Cove. After spending hours in this sombre and sacred site we cut across the woods to Eceabat and caught another feribot over to Canakkale, this time paying $75 Lire ($32.50 AUD) and arriving 40 minutes later. This port town was modern and busy but we could’nt stop we had to find an actual camp site for a proper nights sleep and so with that we headed toward Troia National Park, only 10 kilometres South of Canakkale.

Distance travelled: 524 Kilometres

Campsite: Troia Pension and Camping site

Campsite cost: $45 Lire ($22.50 AUD)

Problems encountered: Another fuse went on the inverter and so Winter inserted a soft drink lid and it worked. Also we were hungry when we arrived at the Troia camp site and ate in the campsite restaurant, called the Helen & Paris Cafe. Now this would normally be ok except the owner told us the menu but we did’nt see the prices and he charged top dollar for everything, even the bread and olives, nothing was free. In total we spent $309 Lire ($154.50 AUD) including two little trinkets for the girls from his gift shop. We left feeling totally ripped off.

Day 3

First thing in the morning we headed to the Troia Archealogical Site only 700 metres up the road. It cost $40 Lire ($20 AUD) for two adults and the children were free. We all enjoyed this site and took our time.

Spring and Autumn in the Trojan Horse, Troy, Turkey.

Spring and Autumn in the Trojan Horse, Troy, Turkey.

We then headed North to take a look around Canakkale and cooked some lunch in the van. We found a shopping centre and stocked up on food supplies. In the afternoon we drove South on what was now the E87 to a town called Ayvalik. Once there we followed the google directions across two short causeways out to an attached islet. We got lost a little bit on the small islet but gained directions from a local.

We found the campsite after dark, in a very remote part of the forest. We were given directions to park the van and hooked up electricity. We cooked a late dinner in the van and in turn didn’t get to bed until quite late.

Distance travelled: 145 Kilometres

Campsite: Ada camping Otel, Ayvalik

Camping cost: $40 Lire ($20 AUD)

Problems encountered: the fridge started to warm up during the day and we realised it is was not working and so we couldn’t buy meat. The inverter has also failed again.

Day 4

Waking up was hard as it was so quiet, but when we did we were floored by the view. The water was not moving and was crystal clear. There were rocks on the short strip of beach behind our van and some foreign sand had obviously been brought in to cover the strip of land between the camping site and the pebble beach but it was nicely furnished with lounges and large straw umbrellas.

A few emails back and forward to our campervan support man and we worked through the fridge issue. We had inadvertently turned off the switch that said ‘bilge pump’ not knowing that it supplied power to the fridge. As for the inverter, Winter got the tools out and repaired two wires on the terminals that were not attached properly and kept blowing the fuses. Lucky we have an electrician on the trip. We were now up to full speed.

We spent a lazy day taking in the scenery, enjoying the slow pace and skimming stones on an isolated beach not far from our camp site. On one side of the camp ground they had fabricated a sand beach and on the other they had built a small rock retaining wall to divide the rocky bank and the faux sand lounge area, which was behind our van.

Unfortunately we had no meat and so we had to eat out for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant served deliciously fresh food and the setting added to the overall enjoyment of our dining experience.

Ayvalik camp site

Ada al fresco dining overlooking the water.

The campsite has great shower facilities and plenty of room to wander around and take in the beauty of the surrounds. There is a small jetty that ends past the many stones in the water and it is only about waist deep. Heaps of fun for kids and very safe.

Distance travelled: 153 Kilometres

Campsite: Ada camping Ayvalik

Camping cost: $40 Lire ($20 AUD)

Problems encountered: We couldn’t stock up on meat and so ate both lunch and dinner at the campsite restaurant. This cost us a reasonable $30 Lire ($15 AUD) for lunch and $40 Lire ($20 AUD) for dinner. Including beer and soft drink, our two nights stay in Ada was less than our one night stay in Troia.

Day 5

After making breakfast in the van we headed out of the forest further South again.

Our aim was to only drive for 2 hours and stop somewhere so that we could enjoy ourselves at the next camp site rather than arrive too late. We also stocked up the fridge along the way.

After driving past Izmir we arrived at a very busy tourist town called Selcuk, we turned off the main road and headed toward the coast line. Only ten minutes down the road and we arrived at a large campsite on a long stretch of a golden white sandy beach. We pulled up on the beach, after some direction from fellow campers, and had a late lunch in the van.

The beach beckoned us to explore it and so with that we went for a long walk, stopping to take in the view and crossed a bridge toward rows of lounges and beach umbrellas. On the other side we headed toward music coming from a hut. We had a beer and ended up taking a quad bike tour across horse fields and sand dunes. They also offered horse rides and rented rods for beach fishing at this hut. It was a surprising afternoon but perfect for a travelling family who have been on the road for a few days.

Autumn and Summer on a quad bike in Turkey.

Autumn and Summer on a quad bike in Turkey.

On our walk back to the van we stopped at the campsite restaurant and found they had large mince meat pides for only $8 Lire ($4 AUD) so we couldn’t help ourselves, we bought 2 and headed back to  enjoyed them with the beer and softdrink we purchased at the supermarket.

The campsite was a sprawling aray of cabins, powered and non-powered sites with an enormous dine-in/alfresco restaurant that looked like it could cater for 400 people. They had a good variety of Turkish food and fresh fish, all laid out, deli style in front of the kitchen past the dining area. Guests are able to wander in, view the pre-prepared salads, raw ingredients, meats and make a selection then either eat in or take away. There is also a corner store with the usual necessities.

I hand washed all of our clothes in the large tubs at the facilities while the girls had long hot showers. The sun doesn’t go down until close to 9pm on the coast and so the clothes were mostly dry by the morning.

Distance travelled: 232 Kilometres

Campsite:  Campsite Dereli in Pamucak

Camping cost: $40 Lire ($20 AUD)

Problems encountered: None, fortunately we didn’t get lost and had a pleasant stay.

Day 6

After breakfast we checked out and drove into Selcuk to take the freeway South again. We saw many brown tourist attraction signs and I forced our Griswald driver to stop. We visited the Temple of Artemis for free and then followed the lines of tour buses to Efes. We entered an overflowing car park, walked to the entrance of the Ephesus Archaeological site and paid $30 Lire each adult and a teenager and $15 Lire for under 12 year olds. So that’s $105 Lire ($52.50 AUD…are you realising that for every Lire we spend we are actually spending 50C Aust?) which we think is money well spent.

We took our time here and enjoyed the enormity of the site. Many structures were either still in their original place or the surrounds were cleared in such a way that you could immediately see the size and significance of the remaining ruins. It appears that the site has been cleaned recently because all the sandstone is the whitest we have seen since the Taj Mahal.

On exit we wandered around the market stalls and stopped to see a woman making spinach gozleme in a glass box. She was seated waiting for a ticket to come her way from the wait staff and then she made large flat folded fried bread. Our mouths started to water and so we ordered some for the road.

It took some time to make it back up to the E87 but once on it we made short time of the trip to Marmaris. We parked in the street and met up with some Aussies and went out to dinner. We were in the streets parked next to the local football field and decided to stay there the night. It was late, there were no camping sites close by and we wanted to explore Marmaris in the morning.

Distance travelled: 213 Kilometres

Campsite: Street somewhere in Marmaris

Camping cost: wrestles sleep for Winter

Problems encountered: None, the street became quiet after midnight and the remaining three of us  had a nice sleep.

Day 7

After breakfast in the van, we locked it up and walked toward the wharf and marina. Marmaris is a very busy port with pleasure craft and tourist boats filling every boat parking space as far as the eye could see.

The party boats were interesting, especially one called the Barbosa.

Pirates of the Caribbean inspired Barbosa party boat, Marmaris, Turkey.

Pirates of the Caribbean inspired Barbosa party boat, Marmaris, Turkey.

We wandered along the wharf and then headed up to the hill to a restaurant to take in the view. Spectacular, the blue water and surrounding green hills really make this place shine. West past the marina is rows of beaches all with lounges, umbrellas and water sport businesses. Of course across the road from the beaches are shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

The main street along the waterway is called Ataturk Street, which we drove, it takes you West past Marmaris Palace around a small headland to a town called Icmeler where the more wealthy stay and play.

We needed to fuel up and find another camping spot and so asked some locals at the service station at the top of Icmeler. They gave us directions to a forest West of Marmaris but not as far as Datca.

While this was a nice enough spot, we realised the next day that we should have headed East of Marmaris and stayed in Dalyan. While in town earlier in the day, we had picked up a tourist booklet and it had a map of Marmaris and the boat tour schedule to Dalyan. The map was upside down. Dalyan is East of Marmaris and when we were given directions West we thought we would see signs for Dalyan. Once we had driven through the winding mountainous roads we decided to stay.

We were hoping to stay in a camp site right near Dalyan, where you can take a cruise on the river and see tombs cut into the side of the cliffs called Kings Tombs. There is also a large mud bath for all ages. Instead we found ourselves in a ‘Turkish only’ camp ground with lots of staring and no service at the campsite shop for Winter to buy beer. ‘We are closed’ was the reply when he asked to buy some beer. This is the first time we have not encountered smiling welcoming Turkish people.

Cubucak Mesire Yeri, camping in a beautiful forest, Turkey.

Cubucak Mesire Yeri, camping in a beautiful forest, Turkey.

Fortunately for us we had enough supplies to cater our lunch and dinner and breakfast the following morning.

The camp site is set in a thick green forest and we had to literally weave between the many trees to find a spot as close to the water as possible. We had a great night sleep here and the girls had a swim, even though it was icy cool.

Distance travelled: 27 Kilometres

Campsite:  Cubucak Mesire Yeri, near Datca

Camping cost: $35 Lire ($17.50 AUD)

Problems encountered: We couldn’t purchase anything from the shop and the facilities were the worst we had encountered.

Return the van

We woke in the morning to another bright and sunny day. We needed to return the van to Ismir International Airport over 300 kilometres away. Our problems started when we headed out of the large forest we had settled in, up the winding roads over several mountains. Our youngest daughter Spring could not take another hairpin turn and we had to pull over. I walked on the side of the road for a short distance with her to try and help her recover. We were now an hour late to our meeting point.

We fuelled up just before the airport and handed the keys over in the arrivals bay of the airport. We then headed over to the domestic side with our campervan man and picked up tickets for a Havas bus bound for Cesme.

How we did it:

We hired a van from Casavan in Istanbul. www.casavan.com

It cost us $400 Turkish Lire ($200 AUD) a day with wifi. Fueling up was costly, a tank of diesel was $150 Lire ($75 AUD) and we filled up every two days.

The van had good quality bed linen, pillows and two doonahs. There was a large storage bay under the van and plenty of storage inside the van. The kitchen supplies covered our needs and so we had no problem making our meals. The awning was good for shelter from the long days of sunlight but one side was broken and needed help getting back into it’s position against the van.

Casavan has a list of camp sites which we used for Troia and Ada but we continued to look at other sites and found Campsite Dereli on a UK site.  And of course we took advice from some locals for one site but didn’t really enjoy the atmosphere, although the scenery was picture perfect. All sites had electricity, fresh water and sewage waste tanks and were easy to use.

The wifi was a good consistent modem that only dropped out when we were deep in the woods West of Marmaris. This meant the girls could do school work while we were on the road. For us this made our adventure all the more special because when we stopped we were able to spend the down time at our leisure.

Navigating the freeway system in Turkey posed no problems.

We were all sad to see the back of the van. It was an expensive decision but one we would never change. We will remember this trip as a highlight. We saw some fantastic land marks, secluded Turkish camp site gems, did fun family activities and the girls got through a great deal of their schoolwork. It just felt like win, win, win. We will be doing it again this year we know it.

Have you been camping overseas? Do you have any tips for our next camping trip?

Leave a comment