We are soon travelling to Istanbul and then Greece for four weeks. While we'd be interested in some (brief) travel down the west coast of Turkey, we mostly want to see the Greek Islands - friends have suggested Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Crete. We then need to get back to Istanbul. Can you suggest some options?
Make sure you allow a few days to see the incredible sights of Istanbul. The stunning Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque, as well as the Topkapi Palace, shouldn't be missed. Highlights down the west coast of Turkey include the ruins of Pergamum, site of the pre-eminent medical centre of ancient Rome. To visit here you'll need to base yourself at the market town of Bergama. Taxi tours to the archaeological sites from here cost around $50. The sparkling jewels of Turkey's west coast, however, are the remarkable ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus, the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. Base yourself in nearby Selcuk, where many pensions offer free lifts to the ruins. A taxi there costs around $12.
We suggest long-distance buses for speed and comfort. From Selcuk, continue to the low-key, white-washed town of Bodrum, from where there are two weekly hydrofoils to Rhodes. If big, bold and brash is more to your liking, then head to the harbour town of Marmaris from where you can get a catamaran to Rhodes. Tickets are around $35 one way.
Your friends have advised you well. Rhodes offers not just resorts, sandy beaches and plenty of sunshine - there's a lush and forested interior and many unspoilt villages nestling in the foothills of mountains. Santorini is regarded by many as the most spectacular of all the Greek islands. The sheer cliffs of the volcanic caldera are truly awesome. Crete is Greece's most diverse and arguably most beautiful and fascinating island. There are some wonderful landscapes and unique cultures to enjoy. Mykonos is the place for people-spotting and oiled-up lounging on the beach. The island hasn't lost its Greek identity, however, and the nearby sacred island of Delos makes it all the more intriguing.
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For information on getting from Turkey to Rhodes and between the Greek islands, go to www.ferries.gr. There are far too many accommodation options to list here - your best bet is to buy a reputable guidebook, such as Lonely Planet's Greek Islands. There is a huge range of hotels, pensions and dolmatia (B&Bs) available.
As part of your trip planning, make sure you read MFAT's travel advisories for both Turkey and Greece at www.safetravel.govt.nz.
India and Bangladesh
I am travelling to India for four weeks in October and would like to travel to Bangladesh to visit my sponsor child in Cox's Bazar. Can you give me information on getting there from India and accommodation options?
Your sponsor child would very much enjoy a visit from you. Prepare to be his or her show-and-tell for that day. Cox's Bazar is unlike any other place in Bangladesh. It's really a beach resort and a favourite place for middle-class Bangladeshis to come and hang out by the sea. Don't expect too much, though. It's hardly Southern California or the Whitsundays, but it is relaxing and the beach is clean and long - very long!
A good accommodation choice is the Mermaid Cafe Eco-Resort (room around $35). Of the many mega hotels, the Hotel Coral Reef is one of the more charming (room $45), which has two hotels to choose from for around $52, after the discount you shouldn't forget to ask for.
You can fly to Dhaka with GMG Airlines from Kolkata ($180 return) or from Delhi ($740). Flights from Kolkata are more frequent.
Before heading off to India, be sure to read the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade's (MFAT's) travel advice for the two countries you're visiting at www.safetravel.govt.nz.