Back in 2012, we have done first real roadtrip with our now well-known Land Rover Defender. A road trip to Turkey.
More than 5000 km during a 3 weeks holiday. That was a crazy adventure and it is an unforgettable experience.
My husband bought his dream car back in 2009, but we didn’t have the chance to experience a long roatrip until 2012.
Money budget planning
We are good holiday budget planners. We always know how much money we will need for our stay. This is due to having an approximate map planning, calculating gas we would need, food costs and deciding whether we would sleep in the car or in a hotel.
By the way, if you need help to define a budget for your holiday this is a very helpful post.
Despite the money planning, we never organize day by day our vacation. We vaguely think of where we want to go, but never know exactly where we will sleep (unless it is a necessity). Now I can say, we rarely stick 100% to our trip plans. This is freedom!
So as usual, our trip was planned approximately 🙂
We knew we were going to drive from Geneva in Switzerland to Venice in Italy, sleep overnight near Venice, take a ferry and sleep two nights on it, arrive in Igoumenista in Greece, then drive to Turkey. And repeat in reverse to come back home.
Our holiday destination was Turkey. We were planning to drive along the Aegean sea coast, sleep in campsites in different places and join Marmaris. After that, we were going to visit family members in the center of the country and finally drive back to Switzerland taking the same route as before.
Apart from that, nothing else was really planned.
As it was our first long roadtrip, we only had the basic for traveling by car: a GPS, the Garmin Nuvi 550. It was really helpful in any situation. We could search for gas stations, campsites and any points of interest.
We had the hardtop car tent and this is a must. You simply open it and it’s like a tiny home with a comfortable bed. As the children were little, we slept all four together. It was so cool as we didn’t have to worry about anything. All our stuff was in the car. If you want to know, it is a James Baroud hardtop tent.
As I said before, budget planning is the only thing we do before traveling. We tend to live day by day, being grateful for what we are doing. This is why we often leave home only with necessities.
In this case, we didn’t even think about having all the camping furniture most people take. No chairs, no table, no cutlery, no plates, no glasses and for sure nothing for cooking. Only a Swiss knife! Like McGyver!
Whilst visiting Turkey, we finally bought 2 chairs and also glasses for the children. That was because it became a necessity 😉
When I think about it, it makes me laugh. We are almost in the same situation now! Still no camping furniture except our two Turkish chairs 🙂
Driving to Venice, Italy
We drove in one day from our home to Venice. It was a long day but the road was nice. Driving Through the Alps is always beautiful. We passed the ‘col du Simplon’ to go to Italy. The valleys you go through to get to the Simplon are simply beautiful. Many little mountain villages with charming chalets.
Then Italy is Italy. Packed roads with many many trucks. Nothing more to say! If you’ve been driving there, you understand the situation 😉
I had booked a hotel outside of Venice because of the car and because of the price. Unfortunately, not all hotels have rooms for a family of four or a car park, so I did my best. I recommend using Booking.com or Airbnb to choose a place to stay. This time I had booked a hotel room with booking.com as it was only for one night.
We went to Venice and visited this exceptionally beautiful place. We walked and walked and walked with our young kids. They did impress me ! Especially my two-year-old son, he didn’t complain and we walked for hours. Okay, we did get lost, but it was still fantastic to walk around. And we managed to get to the San Marco square 😉
The Ferry experience
We bought the ferry tickets on the internet when we were planning our trip. We booked a room with four beds from Venice to Igoumenitsa in Greece. It was the most effective itinerary for our plans. We stayed for 1 night.
It was nice to be on the boat. Not much to do but nice and relaxing. There were an empty swimming pool and a restaurant. We ate once at the restaurant and if I remember well it was expensive and not good.
For this special occasion, my husband took some already prepared army meals. The taste wasn’t better than what the restaurant was serving but it was fun and we had a good laugh with the children. I think we had some spaghetti and lasagna 🙂
Driving through Greece
The road from Greece to Turkey was brand new and it was pleasant to drive on. It was desert and the tolls were quite cheap, 2 euros every time. We had a stopover in Greece for one night as we couldn’t get to Turkey in one day.
I remember we had a map with campsite points. But the first campsite we decided to stay at was absolutely abandoned and closed. We tried to find another place, drove around and didn’t find anywhere else to stay. We went to eat and as it was late, we simply slept in front of the abandoned campsite.
Turkey and the Aegean sea coast
When we arrived in Turkey, we decided to go to the Aegean coast without passing by Istanbul. We wanted to spend most of our holidays by the sea. Therefore, we had to take another small ferry to cross the Straits of Dardanelles. It wasn’t long, maybe one or two hours. The children still remember we saw some jellyfish in the water, or maybe it’s because we told them many times while looking at the pictures 🙂
We drove many miles down the coast, choosing day by day where we would go the next day or if we would stay one more night where we were. It was a nice time to go, it was in June/July. We were lucky with the campsites we stayed. Places were beautiful, not packed at all and people were friendly.
The sea is clear as glass. No colorful fish, only small greyish ones near the coast. They will come and pick your feet if you don’t move. You feel you are in a big bath as the water is so clear.
As I remember, we were driving about 150 to 200 km when moving from one place to another. That way we weren’t driving too long and could still enjoy long days on the beach. We also had a goal, Marmaris, so we had to move on.
A day on a boat
Going down the Aegean coast to join Marmaris was a beautiful experience. We stopped in lovely places, ate delicious food and enjoyed friendly moments with locals.
When joining Marmaris, we decided to stay in a hotel for a few days in the little neighbor city, Içmeler. It was the only place we stayed where the beach was so packed that we didn’t even go one day. Instead, we appreciated a little off road to visit the surrounding hills. We also wandered around both cities and had some nice walks with the children.
We met a friend of my father in law who had a boat. He was offering day tours around the lagoon, we couldn’t leave Marmaris without having a day out on his beautiful boat. That was the most amazing day. We had the boat for us, the captain and his wife treated us like family, they cooked delicious Turkish food and showed us many wonderful places. We were able to jump from the boat and had the lagoon just for us. An awesome day!
Unfortunately, he has sold his boat. But if you are over there, maybe consider doing this activity, it is truly wonderful.
Honaz and surroundings
After these amazing days of driving along the Aegean coast, we had to head to Honaz. It is next to Denizli, inland. We visited family members and enjoyed driving around and site seeing. There are many places to visit like Pamukkale and old Roman ruins.
It was nice to meet all the family and as usual, we ate good food and enjoyed nature’s beauty by going offroad.
We took the shorter route to join Igoumenista to take the big ferry. Again without passing by Istanbul, taking the little ferry again and driving all the way through Greece.
As the ferry from Igoumenitsa to Venice was early in the morning, we had to arrive the evening before to be sure not to miss it. That’s what we did. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any places to stay except a gas station. And oh my god, it was invaded by enormous grasshoppers. It seemed to be normal for the truckers staying there, but I was terrified, hahaha 🙂
We took the ferry back to Venice and drove back safe to our home sweet home. We did the return all in one go. It was very tiring but we had to be back for work.
Said like this, the return seems to be fast and that we were back home in no time, but it took hours and hours 🙂
Locals and food
People are really nice and helpful, especially when traveling with kids. We have experienced this in many different countries. But traveling in Turkey with young children is absolutely pleasant. We had a great time and the children enjoyed all the places we went to. Locals made this possible because they were kind and friendly.
For a first long roadtrip, we never found ourselves in an uncomfortable or bad situation with locals nor other travelers.
And the best of it was the food. Have you ever tried Turkish food? Not fast food kebab but Turkish food. It’s simply delicious! Lots of grilled meat and fish with delightful salads and vegetables. If you like pizzas, you should also try pide, the one with cheese and small cubes of meat. So delicious!
The food in Turkey is truly delicious. The only place we didn’t like the food was a traveler’s packed restaurant in Marmaris. The menu wasn’t Turkish food and thus the food wasn’t good.
It is best, in our experience, to stop in local restaurants. You simply have to be logical. Eat local food so it’ll be fresh, don’t eat fish if you’re not near the coast, avoid touristic restaurants with non-local food.
Greek food is quite similar to Turkish food. So nothing more to say: it is also delicious.
Italian food, what to say ?! We like pizzas and pasta!!! So we did enjoy delightful pizzas in Venice.
We had a wonderful time for our very first long roadtrip. So many good memories and fun stories to tell.
This is the short version 😉
Discovering new places and being free to decide where to go, where to stay and how long was awesome.
We truly enjoyed traveling with the Defender. Sleeping in the hardtop tent and eating in places we didn’t know, stopping wherever and whenever we wanted. We could decide to stay longer in a place or move on. This way of traveling enabled us to see a large part of the places we went to and their surroundings.
It was freedom! And we loved it!
How do you travel and how do you experience freedom?
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