Where do we stay and What to do when we get there?
The itinerary is planned, the flights and intercity connections are booked. We are good to go.
This is when I prefer to book the hotels. My fiancée prefers to book the hotels first then go around booking the flights and other connections. For me it’s kind of chicken and egg thing. Both are dependent on one another. If you don’t get flights and other connections for the correct date and route, you cannot finalize the hotels. And what if you don’t get the hotels after you book the flights? See what I’m saying. In our case we booked the hotels after the flights but before the intercity connections.
When researching for places to stay I start with googling “Best places to stay in Santorini” for example. I focus on travel magazine websites and personal travel blogs that feature in the first 2-3 pages of the search results. (Surprisingly I found that Lonely planet website not only had out of date information but also limited as compared to say Tripadvisor.)
One interesting website I found was Santorini Dave. This guy has all the info on Santorini, how to get there, where to stay, what to eat and so on. Similar website for Turkey is Turkey Travel Planner I had mentioned in my last post.
I do not take hotel information listed on face value. I verify references of hotel on various other sites and finally on Tripadvisor. Basically I research on Google but finalize on Tripadvisor. I trust the reviews there, they have never failed me! Tripadvisor also gave a comparison of room rates across various websites like Expedia, Agoda and the hotel website itself which was pretty helpful.
Now, what to do when you get there? People ask friends, google and professionals. Sometimes in that order. In our case none of our friends had been to Greece or Turkey so it was pointless asking them.
This is when I glanced upon the dusty Lonely Planet guidebook lying on my bookshelf. Yes yes I had said earlier LP has outdated information but their guidebooks are surprisingly good (Maybe a ploy to force people to buy their books?!).
I had bought this for my solo backpacking trip way back in 2011. I also had half a dozen magazine subscriptions I could finally utilize. And then I had Google 🙂 I also referred to Lonely Planet’s travel forum (Thorn Tree), Wikitravel, Pinterest, YouTube and a nifty little app called Trover.
Trover is like the traveller’s Instagram. Users submit pics that they have clicked during their travel categorized into Food, Outdoor and Art. You can group pics you like (called “discoveries”) into your wish list. It also shows a feed of pics based on location. Very helpful in getting a feel of the place you going to visit. And you can find hidden gems in there too.
Whatever source you choose, the trick is to know what you want out of your trip. My fiancée and I both have interest in history, culture, local cuisine, markets and so on. We also have a sense of adventure. We like to have an immersive travel experience. And because of this we are staying in a cave hotel in Cappadocia and a traditionally styled villa in Santorini.
Agreed that there are some mandatory “have tos” like the hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia, the Turkish Bath in Istanbul, watching the sunset in Santorini. And these have to be experienced.
Every place is famous for something, there are the Souks, the Turkish Delight, Baklava, archaeological sites like the Acropolis and other ruins, healing waters of the Cleopatra hot springs in Pamukkale, textiles of Bodrum. I try to find out these specialties and where to best sample them. Remember the detailed bucket list in my last post? And why we keep it that way? Very useful here!
Unfortunately there is no single consolidated source that can be utilized. But there will always be pointers. In my experience you will need to utilise those pointers and build up a guidebook for yourself. Yes you have other people to do that for you but doing it yourself provides a different level of satisfaction. After all travel should be enlightening, inspiring, educating and relaxing.
Well that’s all we had to share. We hope it was interesting. Do let us know what you think. And keep visiting!