Lale Sürmen Aran

What to wear in Iran?

What to wear in Iran? Packing the right suitcase is a common concern for women travellers to Iran. Lackness of an official written directory makes it further complicating. To explain in one sentence, idea is to cover your hair and not to expose any bare skin other than hands and face. Other than that, Iranian officials leave it […]

Turkish Coffee: From Ethiopia to Bosphorus

Coffee is a beloved drink and has a special place in the Turkish culture. A fruit indigenous fruit to Ethiopia, it has a long story before it became to be known as the “Turkish Coffee”. Coffee first appeared as a food item, then it became a drink. Out of Ethiopia, it first made it’s way […]


Photos and short videos are better for captivating an audience. However, as a guide I also know that greater majority of our travelers want to know about Turkey and EU relations. Hence, the following article, while oversimplifies, capsulizes the history EU & Turkey relations in a nutshell. SHORT HISTORY OF EU – TURKEY RELATIONS The […]

Impressive Video of Turkey

By the young Italian film maker, Leonardo Dalessandri, “Watchtower of Turkey” is one of the most expressive and captivating videos I have ever seen. In case you have not come across it yet:   Enjoy! Watchtower of Turkey from Leonardo Dalessandri on Vimeo.


Culture is strongly bound with language, food and beverages. Every good traveler knows that it is essential to taste and sip local delicacies.   The story behind the national drinks of different cultures can be amazing. In Turkey, mystical cloudy “rakı” takes the center stage. Once tried, travelers are guaranteed to remember the strong anise […]

A Mediterranean Get Away

It is a business routine for me to join Rick Steves’ groups randomly to inspect what goes on first hand. Last week I had a trip to the amazing Mediterranean coastline of Turkey for this purpose. This time my sons joined me benefiting their weeklong spring break, morphing my business trip into a Mediterranean family […]

Interview with Imam in Cappadocia

Watch the short interview Rick Steves and I had with a village imam in Cappadocia!   “Watch Rick Steves’ complete TV episode about Central Turkey online for free”

Istanbul Off The Tourist Track, Side Trip to Asia

There are many benefits of staying in a city more than couple of days. It enables you to go behind the tourist scene to discover the living city, see the inhabitants in their daily routine, and be a temporary local. With a population over 5 million people, Asian part of the city hardly is “off […]

National Sovereignty and Children’s Day

95 years ago, on April 23, 1920 first Turkish Grand National Assembly opened in Ankara. This was a big deal for a people who had been subjects to the Ottoman Dynasty for 600 years and who walked out of the WWI as the defeated sick man of Europe. Bright days were ahead. After a 3 year War […]

Bosphorus Cruise

A visit in Istanbul is not complete without a cruise on the Bosphorus!   Asia and Europe connected with the Bosphorus bridge.   This is a top level experience and it is the best way to appreciate the massive size and scale of 15-million- strong Istanbul, and a convenient way to see many of its outlying landmarks.   In […]

Happy Easter & Meeting the Patriarch

Happy Easter & Meeting the Patriarch Diverse week long Rick Steves’ Istanbul tour aims to unfold the history of 3,000 years and the vibrant contemporary life of the city. Istanbul was Constantinople. It was first the capital of Roman Empire under the name Nea Roma, than the capital of Byzantines as Constantinople and finally the […]

Cooking Class

Learning about eating habits, traditions and cuisine of a culture is an important element of travel.   For this reason, we modified a city walk of the Rick Steves Istanbul tour and incorporated a culinary experience within. The city tour is conducted with food tasting now. So, our travelers joining this tour are getting a great exposure […]

Where is the 12th man?

I visit Seattle frequently and I am very aware how much Seattleites love and support their team. As the 12th man, they have a rightful recognition nation wide in USA. Past January, as Sea Hawks had a big game, as always fans were very excited. At Rick Steves headquarters in Edmonds, WA, we saw some 12th man […]

Istanbul, March 2015 – Rick Steves Best of Turkey Tour

Istanbul, March 2015 – Rick Steves Best of Turkey Tour Join Rick Steves group as they discover Istanbul. All visuals are from mid March in 2015,  “fresh from the oven”!

Tour Season Started!

Mid March is a busy time for us in Istanbul. Rick Steves’ tours in Turkey start usually around this time of the year. First of the 2015 Best of Turkey tours started last week and the first Istanbul tour started yesterday. Both tours have two common components which stand out, that is the location of […]

Weekend in Turkey

Travelers ask me about when the weekend in Turkey is. As greater majority of population in Turkey are Muslims, they fairly assume that weekend is Friday, which can be considered Sabbath for Muslims in a “conventional understanding”. I said in a “conventional understanding”, as in the Holy Quran, source of Islam, Muslims are encouraged to […]

Tour Guides’ Summit in Istanbul – Final Preparations for 2015 Travel Season

Dear Reader,   Final preparations for the 2015 travel season was last week. Our colleague, Debi Jo Michael arrived in Istanbul from Edmonds, WA. Debi Jo is in the Tour Ops department of Rick Steves Europe and we manage Turkey tours together with her.    Rick Steves Turkey team in Istanbul at SRM Travel. Lale […]

Is it very hot in Turkey?

Is it very hot in Turkey?   Weather in Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus Main travel season is approaching, travelers are getting prepared to be out and on the way. Many wonder what the weather is like in Turkey for sake of packing smartly. There is a misconception about climate of Turkey. Honestly, if it was me looking […]

Why travel to Istanbul?

Dear Travelers, Based on reviewers of TripAdvisor number one destination of the world is Istanbul, beating fancy names as Rome, London, Paris and countless others. I value this rating much as it is based on reviews of real travelers rather than generously paid and sponsored travel journalists. Yet, latter also agree on this review, during […]

Whose flower is tulip?

Spring is fast approaching and I am anxiously waiting for the tulips to bloom.For about two decades now, city municipality in Istanbul is dedicated to turn Istanbul into a large tulip garden. Starting in mid March till about end of June we see parade of different kinds of tulips, all shapes and colors cheerfully color […]

What is Rick Steves guides doing?

Dear Reader,   Slower winter months give all of us, guides, a chance to focus on meetings, plans and professional training. Rick Steves annually holds a reunion for tour members, and workshops for guides in January.   Turklish guides in Seattle     During the past January, more than 120 of us from different countries […]

Flying Between Seattle and Istanbul

Dear Readers, I recently returned from our annual trip to Edmonds, WA.  The main purpose of this trip for us was to attend the annual Rick Steves guide workshops, Rick Steves Travel Reunion and do public presentations and slide shows.  Following each public event there was a Q&A session when travelers could ask us specific […]

Christmas in Istanbul, Part II

The Epiphany in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Blessing of the Waters Dear Readers,Istanbul is a very colorful mosaic, while majority of the population define themselves as Muslims, there are also followers of many different denominations of Christianity.Last group celebrating the Christmas are the Apostolic Armenians, A.K.A. Gregorian Armenians. They still celebrate the Christmas […]

Christmas in Istanbul

This entry is about my marathon of Christmas masses in Istanbul. I remember suggesting an American traveler to spend the Christmas holiday in Istanbul. He had raised an eye brow in hesitation and said “Christmas in a Muslim city? I don’t think so”. This was a quick answer without giving a thought to the fact […]

Public Transportation in Istanbul

Dear Reader,   I get a lot of questions about transportation in Istanbul.   Many people seem to tend towards engaging a chauffeured vehicle, or manipulated towards this choice. While I have no objection to the comfort of exploring Istanbul in your private vehicle driven by a driver, but I must also say that this […]

Impressions of Rick Steves guides of their trip in Turkey

Dear Reader, I was anxiously waiting to hear back from my colleagues about their impressions of Turkey. Small businesses such as ours thrive on the word of mouth as we don’t advertise. Because of this, traveler feedback is very important to us, especially if the are from our experienced colleagues. Below are the feedback from my colleagues. Thank you for reading. […]

Where to stay in Istanbul?

Dear Reader,   A very common question I receive is where to stay in Istanbul. Istanbul is a large and diverse metropolitan with very bad traffic. So, the question does not have one answer, it depends on what you want to do and purpose of your trip.   To pick up the right place, first […]

Good Appetite or Good Digestion, being a Gourmet and the Ottoman Topkapi Palace

I try hard not to forget wishing “Good Appetite” to my travelers before meals, as, in my language and culture we wish “Afiyet olsun” and it is uttered after meal is finished. Afiyet means well being, health. When we say “Afiyet Olsun” after a meal, we wish a person well being and health, meaning may […]

Menu of Rick Steves’ guides last supper in Istanbul

Dear Friends, The taste of the food we had at Mezze Restaurant is still fresh in my mind. Gençay, chef and owner provided the explanations of the dishes, they are below. At the very bottom is my recipe for an easy to prepare Turkish bulgur salad called “kısır”. It isn’t as trendy as the new Istanbul cuisine, but delicious […]

December 06 – Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast

Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. You can hop a ferry to the Greek island of Samos (where you’ll find easy plane/boat connections to other islands and Athens), or take the tour bus to nearby Izmir for quick flights to Athens or Istanbul and home. Güle güle! New Istanbul Cuisine Dear […]

December 05 – Day 12: Roman City of Ephesus

Official plan of the day: Today we’ll tour the ancient city of Ephesus. Famous for its spectacular Temple of Artemis — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — it was one of the wealthiest cities in Ancient Greece. It also played a role in the formation of the early Christian Church, drawing […]

What goes on in Turkey?

Syrian Refugees in Turkey   It is the task of any good tour guide to provide a clear “unbiased” look into the country for her (and his) travelers. Therefore, it is among my and my colleagues’ primary goals to help travelers understand the facts as they are, and help them to try to evaluate from the perspective of the locals. […]

Below article and photos are by Mark Seymour

Today we left the coastal city of Antalya and head North. We’re all looking forward to our visit to Aphrodisias, but for the men, there is a side trip planned. We are all going to visit a Turkish barber, in a small village, to have a cutthroat shave… I am also going to have a haircut. […]

Now that some of our friends enjoyed a Turkish Bath

Dear Reader,   Now that some of our friends enjoyed a Turkish Bath, I want to give you a further insight about what it is. The article below is from the Rick Steves Istanbul guide book I co-authored.    The Turkish Bath       Going to a Turkish hamam (bath) on a regular basis […]

December 04 – Day 11: Ancient Aphrodisias and Kuşadası

We’ll work our way west toward Turkey’s Aegean Coast, where Ancient Greek colonists settled 2,500 years ago. Freed from the “establishment” norms of Athens, these communities thrived as centers of learning, creativity — and wealth. This morning we’ll tour the ancient site of Aphrodisias which, under Greek and Roman rule alike, prospered as a center for the arts. After lunch together […]

December 03 – Day 10: Wonderland of Pamukkale

This morning we’ll take off for the amazing weekly farmers’ market in the town of Korkuteli, where you can assemble your own delicious picnic lunch. We’ll then drive to the hilltop overlooking Pamukkale, where we’ll get oriented to its spectacularly-calcified cliffs and the impressive ruins of Hierapolis, where Ancient Greeks and Romans considered the thermal springs sacred. During your free time […]

December 02 – Day 9: Seaside Antalya

Antalya is an ideal place to enjoy a “vacation from your vacation.” The day is all yours to enjoy the impressive Ancient Greek sculptures in the Antalya Museum, one of Turkey’s finest archaeological museums; explore the narrow cobbled streets of Antalya’s old town and Roman harbor; or experience a traditional Turkish bath (your guide will help arrange it). No bus. […]

Can we be warm and cozy in Istanbul without Russia?

Dear Reader,   Putin has gone with the wind thru Turkey! Below is a summary of this visit I have compiled from national and international press.    In spite of significantly different and clashing policies in Syrian crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Turkey at the beginning of the week. During this visit, President Putin […]

December 02, 2014 Tuesday – Potbelly Hill, Göbeklitepe, Turnpoint in History of Mankind

Dear Reader, My colleagues on tour indicate that they are impressed by Turkey’s rich history and diversity. It impresses me too! Alacahöyük, near Hattushash, capital city of ancient Hittite Kingdom. Ishakpaşa Palace near Mt. Ararat in east Turkey.    Lycian sarcophagus, Kas on the Mediterranean.   Beehive Houses in Urfa, south Turkey. Sumela Monastery, north […]

December 01 – Day 8: Konya and Antalya. Sleep in Antalya (2 nights).

We’ll begin our day with a tour through Konya, including the busy maze of its sprawling bazaar — a time-tripping treasure trove of hardware, household items, clothing, jewelry, religious paraphernalia and cell phone accessories. Then we’ll head over the Taurus Mountains and down to the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya, where we’ll take an orientation walk and set you free for dinner on your […]

December 01, 2014 Monday – Pope Franciscus in Turkey

Dear Reader,  I am Lale, writing from my small study in Istanbul while my colleagues are having a great time discovering Turkey. While I am jealous of the fun and the wonderful energy they are sharing, I am grateful they are here! With this entry, I want to share some of what is going on currently […]

November 30 – Day 7: Mosque Visit and Mevlâna’s Konya. Sleep in Konya (1 night).

This morning we’ll travel to the village of Güzelyurt and meet with the local mosque’s Imam (counterpart to a minister or rabbi), with an opportunity to ask questions about the Muslim faith and the separation of mosque and state in Turkey. After lunch we’ll hit the road and, like Silk Road travelers hundreds of years ago, stop to admire the intricate carvings of […]

Here are some more photos taken by our enthusiastic group.

Here are some more photos taken by our enthusiastic group. Photo by Mark Seymour.  Beautiful dried fruit and nuts… Great after a ballon trip and a visit to some of the earliest Christian sites in Turkey.     Photo by Mark Seymour.     Photo by Mark Seymour.  It’s dawn and the balloons are up… […]

November 29 – Day 6: Countryside Charms

Official plan for the day: Weather permitting, your guide will take interested hikers on a scenic walk through a Cappadocia valley. Non-hikers can spend the morning in Mustafapaşa, or ride with our bus driver to the colorful weekly market in the nearby village of Ürgüp. After lunch, we’ll tour the ancient underground city of Kaymaklı — […]

November 28 – Day 5: Ancient Churches of Göreme

Following entry was collectively written by Susanna Perrucchini (Italy), Virginia Agostinelli (Italy), Stephanie Bergmen (USA), Federico Garcia Barroso (Spain) and Nina Bernardo (Italy). They lead Spain and Italy tours. November 28 – Day 5: Ancient Churches of Göreme     Official plan of the day: Surrounded by Cappadocia’s other-worldly “fairy chimney” rock formations, we’ll begin our day with […]

Story of a Cappadocian cave hotel!

Dear Reader,   There is a Turkish proverb, it goes as, “the postman takes a day off and decides to take a walk in the neighborhood”. Likewise, with my husband, we used to visit Cappadocia in our private holidays, a place we would normally go when we were hired to lead tours.  After countless visits […]

November 27 – Day 4: Ankara and Cappadocia

Official plan for the day: After breakfast we’ll tour the world-class Anatolian Civilizations Museum, and marvel at its collection of treasures from Turkey’s pre-Roman civilizations. We’ll pay our respects at the monumental Anıt Kabir, Atatürk’s Mausoleum, where we’ll learn about the revered founding father of modern Turkey. After lunch, we’ll travel to what feels like another planet — the scenic and historic Cappadocia region […]

November 26 – Day 3: Istanbul and Ankara. Sleep in Ankara (1 night).

Official plan for the day: We’ll explore Istanbul’s more recent past and present today, beginning with the opulently-Ottoman Topkapı Palace and Harem. Then we’ll visit the New District, with its Art Nouveau façades, restaurants, and trendy boutiques, all along pedestrian-packed İstiklal Street, where you’ll have free time for lunch on your own. Afterward, we’ll board our bus for the drive to Ankara, Turkey’s bustling […]

November 25 – Day 2: Old Christian and Islamic Istanbul

Official plan of the day: Today we’ll focus on the era when the city was known as Constantinople, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. We’ll start at the exquisite 400-year-old Blue Mosque and then move to the Hippodrome — the ancient racing course that was the social heart of Constantinople. We’ll also visit the 1,500-year-old Hagia […]

Here is the tour itinerary:

November 24 – Day 1: Welcome to Turkey. Sleep in Istanbul (2 nights).  November 25 – Day 2: Old Christian and Islamic Istanbul November 26 – Day 3: Istanbul and Ankara. Sleep in Ankara (1 night).  November 27 – Day 4: Ankara and Cappadocia. Sleep in Cappadocia for 3 nights November 28 – Day 5: Ancient Churches […]


Here are some cool facts about Turkey: