Five states in as many days from New York to Illinois via Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana!
The border crossing at the Peace Bridge from Fort Erie to Buffalo was easier than we expected and took us just over an hour. At the first checkpoint we were asked if we were carrying any alcohol, tobacco and uncooked or fresh meat, fruit or vegetables, which we weren’t. There are several official websites which occasionally seem to contradict each other on what is permitted food wise, so we erred on the side of caution and emptied the fridge!
We were then pointed towards immigration where we were asked a few questions on why we were entering America and for how long we would be staying. We had previously obtained a B2 Tourist Visa in the UK which allows, subject to the immigration officer’s approval, stays of up to 180 days as opposed to the 90 days allowed on an ESTA.
We were granted leave to stay for the full six months and after paying $6 each immigration fee, we were free to go on our way.
Our first mistake was getting on to the interstate out of Buffalo! It’s a toll road and we, incorrectly, assumed there would be toll booths to pay but it’s all automated based on your number plate and when trying to pay online the only option is for US and Canadian registered cars. After a conversation with a very helpful lady on the helpline, we were assured that we’d be OK with not paying provided we don’t use a New York State toll road again. We had no option to pay despite trying so let’s hope she’s right!
After that little hiccup we ticked off the states on our way to Chicago from where we were going to start Route 66. Much of the drive was rolling agricultural land and we passed through a couple of Amish townships.
We spent a couple of days in Chicago, walking miles and taking a boat tour to see the city from the river. Two days really wasn’t long enough but it gave us a feel for the city and it’s definitely worth a visit.
We joined Harvest Hosts (US$84.15 for the year) as they offer non-campsite park ups and are found all across the country. Typically stays are free and in exchange you are encouraged to purchase something (lots of these are on farms, vineyards or breweries) or leave a donation. Our first stay was at a Law Enforcement Dog Training Centre where the owner had installed hook up points and provided fresh water.
Walmart is known for allowing overnight stays in its car parks (check though as not all stores do this. Boondock WM is a good app to check this on). We also stayed at a Bass Pro outlet. These are obviously not the quietest of nights but they come in handy for the odd overnighter.
Chicago has a designated RV parking area within a truck car park just to the south of the city. There are no facilities and it costs $38 per night but the city is walkable from there or you can take a Metra Train from a short distance away – the short ride cost us $2 each. Despite it being a fairly open car park (although there is an extra/eit barrier) it felt safe and we were happy to leave the van to explore the city.
After leaving New Brunswick we moved fairly quickly through the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, knowing we were on borrowed time in respect of the weather, pretty much driving in a straight line along the northern bank of the St Lawrence river and the border with the US.
We spent a few hours exploring the old town area of Quebec City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cobbled streets have a very European feel and French is the main language.
The old buildings are now mostly restaurants, art galleries or tourist shops and parking issues aside (more on that below) we enjoyed our time there.
We found a great spot near St Geneviève-de-Berthier where we stopped in the carpark for a nature reserve on one of the small interconnected islands in the St Lawrence River.
After a good walk along a couple of the marked trails, we awoke the following morning to our first sprinkling of snow!
On our way to Niagara Falls we drove through Toronto but didn’t stop having visited just a couple of months previously.
Niagara Falls are as you would imagine and the noise of the water and the water spray can be heard and seen long before you get to the actual falls. We found the actual town to be quite underwhelming!
Our final stop in Canada for this visit was near Fort Erie on the banks of Lake Erie and looking across the water to Buffalo, USA. Whilst here we were on a mission to eat anything we couldn’t take into the US which was mostly fruit and vegetables so we had a very healthy couple of days!
This was the end of our stay in eastern Canada and we will return to the western provinces when the weather starts to warm up a little next spring. Now all we had to do was clear the van of anything not allowed into the US and hope that they let us in when we cross the Peace Bridge into New York State.
Motorhoming in Quebec and Ontario
We’re having no problems finding diesel (despite not all fuel stations selling it) and LPG, but water sources are starting to get harder to find in these northern regions where public taps are switched off for winter.
Park ups have also been easy to find via iOverlander but day parking in Quebec was a nightmare – we had parked overnight in a small carpark a few kilometres outside the city which was just too far out to walk and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t really work out the buses! Parking for RVs was shown by the marina but when we got there we found the space full with boats that had been taken out of the water for winter. We eventually found another carpark where we fitted into one space and where another (Canadian) van had stayed overnight without an issue. However when we came back to the van after exploring the city, we had a ticket, thankfully without a fine, telling us there was no RV parking in that car park. At least we had seen all that we came to see.
Niagara, not surprisingly, has plenty of parking. We opted for the car park furthest from the city but still within walking distance (shuttle bus is also available).
The guidebook mentioned that the province of New Brunswick was heavily forested and it wasn’t wrong! However there is more to New Bruswick than trees and the whole of the Fundy coastline is stunning.
The province is also home to the world’s largest axe (Nackawic) and lobster (Shediac), a waterfall where the water flows uphill (Saint John), a road where you appear to roll uphill (Magnetic Hill) and the world’s longest covered bridge (Hartland) – thanks to our Atlas Obscura app for these gems!
We had to spend a few days in and around Moncton for an appointment at Mercedes to get the handbrake checked. They were really helpful and squeezed us in following a cancellation. They even offered us a cab back into the city or a courtesy car whilst the work was being done however we decided just to wait around to drink their coffee and use the wifi – seemed fair enough given the £££s we’d soon be handing over!
We’d also managed to get an appointment for a COVID booster through the local NB healthcare agency (really easy and free, which we weren’t expecting). And once we arrived for the appointment at a drugstore pharmacy we were also offered a flu jab at the same time.
We spent most of the time in the province on the coast exploring more of the Bay of Fundy, visiting Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park, Fundy National Park and Fundy Trail Parkway. The extreme tides in the bay have created some amazing rock formations (our inner geologist went into overdrive here!) and although we didn’t get to see the tidal bore wave, we saw so much else.
There are multiple walking and hiking trails ranging from a few hundred metres to multi-day hikes in the parks. We did a couple of hikes combining a couple of smaller trails and found ourselves wandering through forests, clambering over rocks and up the sides of waterfalls.
We entered the National Park using an annual pass but there were separate entry fees for Hopewell Rocks and Fundy Trail Parkway (around £20 and £13 respectively for the two of us) but both were well worth the fees.
Motorhoming in New Brunswick
We didn’t use any paid for campsites or car parks during our time in New Brunswick, staying at places we found via iOverlander.
Many attractions have specific motorhome parking areas which makes visiting really easy.
Again we picked up water at fuel stations and in the National Park.
From Pictou, Nova Scotia we took the 75 minute ferry to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island on a beautiful sunny day. PEI is Canada’s smallest province and is mostly rural with pretty villages interspersed by extensive agricultural land.
PEI has three main regions and each has its own clearly marked scenic drive; we drove the eastern and central routes which included the capital of Charlottetown. The tourist information centre just after leaving the ferry was a great source of information and maps.
We had some amazing park ups along the coast all of which were very quiet at this time of year. The main tourist season here is very short, just July and August so a lot of places were closed, although the cruise ships still dock in Charlottetown. The capital is a very pretty town and worth a visit. Whilst there we treated ourselves to two local delicacies – lobster and chocolate covered crisps (not at the same time I should add!).
We drove along the Green Gables coast (as in Anne of Green Gables – the book was written here by Lucy Maud Montgomery) but found the area to be overly touristy and think it would probably overrun in the summer.
We were lucky with wildlife too – watching the seals and a bald eagle from one spot. If there had been a water source nearby it would have been much harder to drag ourselves away.
The coast is littered with lighthouses which make for great park ups (although not all allow overnight parking) and the beaches of the north coast were stunning. This was a very relaxing week!
After almost two weeks apart and sleeping in five beds in nine days, we couldn’t wait to get back into the van. Don’t get us wrong, we loved seeing everyone and people’s hospitality has been endless but as they say, there’s no place like home!
After a couple of days of shopping (still trying to get our heads around prices, taxes and conversions back to GBP), it was time to hit the road again and see as much of this region as we could before the winter set in. Whilst fuel is significantly cheaper, about £1.25 per litre, food seems for an average shop more expensive, and alcohol is definitely more expensive and sold only through government stores.
We spent almost three weeks in Nova Scotia exploring the province via a figure of eight route starting in Halifax, then north to Cape Breton, south to Yarmouth and back to Halifax following the coast. There are a number of well signed routes around the province and roads are in reasonable condition but are not always tarmacked.
As we left Halifax for the first time we were avidly watching the weather keeping an eye of the severity and route of Hurricane Lee (it’s the middle of the hurricane season) as we headed to a campsite to continue sorting the van. We also wanted to be around people should the storm be particularly bad, but luckily for us we escaped with just a lot of rain.
There is so much to see and do here taking in the scenery, the history and wildlife. The indigenous people were the Mi’kmaq Indians but the land has been settled by the French, English, Germans and Scots (Nova Scotia means New Scotland) and many of the town names are familiar to anyone from the UK!
We drove in a clockwise direction around the island of Cape Breton from the relatively flat south to the winding roads of the highlands of the Cabot Trail in the north. Lots of Scottish influence here; some of the road signs are in Scottish Gaelic and the language is still taught in some schools. It’s also a licence for the tourist shops to sell anything and everything tartan themed!
The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s largest tides and watching an incoming tide is apparently a sight to behold (I say apparently as we haven’t yet got our timing right to actually see it!). The tidal bore can be surfed and a couple of companies offer rib trips out to play in the bore and the local red mud – too cold to do this now. At low tide it’s possible to go out onto the rocky seabed in places with the knowledge that in a few hours the spot will be underwater by up to 16m!
The southern coves are home to many small fishing villages and the coastline is dotted with lighthouses, with the most famous being Peggy’s Cove. Being in the van we were able to stay in the carpark overnight and take photos before the place was overwhelmed with tour coaches.
Nova Scotia was a great place to start our tour; friendly people, good food and plenty to keep us busy. Next stop will be Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island.
Note re campsites! Due to power differences, we will not be hooking up on this trip, relying on our solar/inverter/battery set up to keep everything charged and working. Our travel style means no more than two or three days in any one place so even if there is little solar power coming in we will recharge the leisure batteries via the engine. Having swapped from a cassette toilet to a separating one over the summer this also means that we are not looking for black water disposal. This page explains the changes and improvements we have made to the van.
Porters Lake Provincial Park: small lakeside camping area in the park. Grass pitches with some gravel, BBQ pits and picnic benches. Some pitches have power and water. Walking trails and a small boat launch. Booking was via online system (www.parks.novascotia.ca).
We paid CAD28.85 p/n without services.
Nimrod’s Campground, Sherbrooke: small lakeside camp with a lot of seasonal trailer pitches. We parked on a small lakeside pitch (we are small by local standards) which was supplied with water and EHU. Pitches are grass and some areas were, not surprisingly, very muddy. Lots of activities available in peak season but our reason for visiting was to sit out a storm!
We paid CAD46 p/n over a weekend.
Other overnight spots:
We find our spots via the iOverlander and Park4night apps with the former having more entries in the Americas. These are usually public car parks where overnight parking is permitted and out of season, there is much more choice. Most are free but not always flat. We always review where we’ve stayed – just check out the app to see if we’ve stayed in a particular place.
Cape Breton – Baxter’s Cove, Pleasant Bay, Donkin and Gabarus Bay.
Mainland Nova Scotia – Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre, Cape Split Provincial Park, Cape Fonchu, Peggy’s Cove (need to be aware of restrictions in the two car parks), Halifax city centre near Pier 21 (daily rate of CAD12) and Salt Springs car pool carpark.
Two and a half years later than intended, we have finally realised our motorhoming dream and shipped the van to Canada!
We were originally planning to leave the UK in Spring 2021 but COVID, ongoing shipping delays and finally family commitments meant that we wouldn’t begin the trip until September 2023.
We travelled up to Liverpool and left the van on the docks, unlocked and with the keys in the cab, on 30th August with a scheduled shipping date of 3rd September. At this point we have to thank our friend Myles who works on the docks and gave up part of his day off to guide us through the checking in process and then drop us back at Lime St Station to catch the train home. Hopefully we’ll see him and his wife Helen on the road at some point!
After a few days at home saying goodbyes to family and friends whilst watching the MV Atlantic Star carrying our van, start its journey across the Atlantic, we took a flight from London to Toronto (via Dublin) where we were proper tourists in Toronto, enjoying the warm weather, walking miles and visiting the main attractions including the CN Tower. Lots of eating too!
No sooner had we arrived then it was time to leave and we flew a couple of hours back to Halifax, Nova Scotia to await the van’s arrival. We were lucky to be staying with an old work colleague of Bob’s who emigrated from the UK several years ago with his family. We can’t thank Simon, Laura and Rachel enough for their kind hospitality, for their tips for travelling in Canada and for letting us park the van on their drive whist we unpacked everything we had stowed away for shipping.
Despite leaving Liverpool a day late, the vessel docked on time and just a few hours later we had picked her up; thankfully all our fears relating to damage and theft were unfounded – nothing was missing nor broken.
After restocking the food cupboards and refilling all the tanks (fuel, water and LPG) it was time to hit the road properly. Just an incoming hurricane to contend with…..
Very much on our way home, Slovenia was the penultimate country (excluding those that we simply drove through) of this tour. We said when we visited briefly in 2022 that we wanted to come back but didn’t expect it to be quite so soon!
Our route was basically straight across the north of the country from Hungary to Italy taking in some of Slovenia’s most scenic spots. Given we were back in Schengen, the border crossings were simple and usually unmanned.
We were keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts as they were not looking good. Our next stop would be northern Italy where they were currently experiencing severe flooding and most of Europe was wet to say the least!
Having decided to slow down the drive to Bled, we first stopped in the small town of Sentjur where we stayed a couple of nights in a new, free aire. It was a great place to park up but just a shame that they didn’t appear to have switched on the fresh water and EHU posts!
With a small break in the weather forecast we moved on to Velika Planina, which literally translates as “high pasture”, a high scenic mountain plateau. It is home to numerous shepherd huts used by herdsmen when they move their animals up to higher pastures in the summer and some are now available to rent as holiday homes. The area is also a ski resort during the winter with a couple of chair lifts and a cable car from Kamniska Bistrica, although nothing was running at the time of our visit.
Having driven up the mountain roads and paid our park entrance fee, we were directed to a car park where we could stay overnight and set off for a walk. The break in the weather was sadly brief, so cold and wet, we headed back to the vans for the evening.
By contrast, two days later we had a fabulous day visiting Bled! Still with Jason and Katie (@forevercopilots), we strolled around the lake, stopping halfway round for lunch and maybe #justtheone, and then stuffed ourselves beyond full with Bled cake delivered by a robot waiter in a lakeside hotel.
Slovenia is a stunningly beautiful country, the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park in particular. After driving the 50 hairpin bends of the Vrsic Pass where it was snowing at the top (1,611m above sea level), we stopped at Camp Soca for a few days from where we could explore the Soca Gorge and swim in the icy waters of the river.
Having seen a write up on another Hymer owner’s Facebook page and having a couple of days spare, we doubled back on ourselves to visit the old mercury mine in Idrija. It’s a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours and have a history and geology lesson all rolled into a 90 minute tour (€15 each entry fee). The town itself grew around the mine and many of the original buildings still stand.
On our way back from Idrija we stopped at the Tolmin Gorges and the lowest point in the national park at the confluence of the Tolminka and Zadlascica rivers. Free parking is available in the lower car park which is a 15 minute or so walk from the gorge entrance. There is an entry fee for entering the gorge of €8 per adult and access is in allotted time slots. You follow a self-guided walk down into the gorge and back up again crossing the rivers whose water is the most vivid shade of turquoise. We thought it was well worth the visit.
So another short but very sweet visit to Slovenia, a country we find to be safe, clean and easily accessible in a motorhome, especially as there seem to be more aires popping up so avoiding expensive campsites. We haven’t spent any time at the coast but the northern mountains are an area to which we’d happily return.
Next stop Italy and lots of men in Lycra riding very fast bikes!
Camp Soca: €29 per night. EHU available at extra cost. Water taps across the site, several black tank disposal points, two toilet/shower blocks (one with washing machines and dryer) and a drive over motorhome service point. Grass/gravel pitches. A large campsite right on the Soca Gorge with all usual facilities plus a small coffee shop and bar. Fresh bread available to order. Wifi was a little flakey and depended on proximity to the router. Parking was a free for all meaning that in the areas close to the river, vans were jammed in – there were no rules/guidance on keeping any sort of distance. We did manage to find a quiet part of the site, still next overlooking the river – turn left immediately after entering the campsite and there are several pitches by the chalets. Private access to the river and gorge.
Other overnight parking:
Sentjur Camperstop: a new five pitch aire with fresh water and EHU which should be available at a small cost but it looked like the services had never been switched on! With the weather not looking great we parked up here in the quiet car park for a couple of days to catch up on stuff. A short walk into the town centre where there is really fast public wifi – a good excuse to stop for a cup of coffee!
Velika Planina: car parking €20, payable on entry and we were able to stay overnight. No facilities but toilets are scattered throughout the national park.
Preddvor/Hrib: free overnight parking next to a sports stadium. No facilities. Close to a small lake with a cafe although that was closed when we visited.
Bled aire: €25 per 24 hours and payable via a machine in cash only! The parking fee includes up to 150l of fresh water, a small amount of electricity, grey/black disposal and free wifi. The aire is close to a couple of supermarkets and is a 10 minute walk into town and the lake. Not picturesque but definitely functional and the spaces are large and hard standing.
Idrija Camperstop: free aire close to the mercury mine and town. Surprisingly quiet given its location by the bus station and on a supermarket car park access road. A small service point offering fresh water (€1 for 100l of water), black and grey disposal and EHU (paid for as required). Hard standing but slightly on a slope – we are not fussed about being exactly level but we did get the ramps out here.
Our original plan was to head to Serbia after Romania but we decided to follow Jason and Katie from Forever Copilots into Hungary.
By doing so we were heading back into the Schengen area but at least this time we had no time restrictions other than to be home by the end of May for family reasons. The border crossing was straight forward and with our passports stamped we drove straight into the Great Plain region.
Our destination was Hortobagy National Park, an area known for its bird life and cowboys. Sadly when we arrived at the small town of Hortobagy, it was mostly closed, including the tourist information centre. We took a stroll to see the “famous” Nine-Hole bridge, apparently the most photographed and painted bridge in the area, and then given the lack of overnight spots, drove straight on to the city of Eger.
The historical town of Eger is full of grand baroque buildings, some of which are from the time of Turkish occupation, including an original Ottoman minaret.
Just outside the town is the Valley of the Beautiful Women, home to more than two dozen wine cellars which are built into the rocky hillside. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon wandering from cellar to cellar sampling the different wines (tasting was usually around 80p to £1.50 for a 100ml glass). There are also some food options here if needed. It was then just a short stagger, oops I mean walk, back to the campsite!
We’re not usually city people but thoroughly enjoyed our couple of days in Budapest, a lot of which was down to Jason’s planning! We bought a Budapest Go travel card which for HUF5,500 each (just under £13) gave us 72 hours of unlimited travel on the buses, Metro and trams. The motorhome park up is close to the Mexikói Metro station from which trains departed every few minutes and arrived in the city centre about 15 mins later.
We walked miles, saw lots and ate ourselves silly. We didn’t go into any of the museums but if you have time it might be worth considering buying a pass which will give you free or discounted entry.
We timed our visit perfectly – we had good weather and places were busy without being overcrowded. We’d definitely recommend Budapest as a place to go as there’s something for everyone there to many of the attractions.
City Park was a short walk from the camperstop so, as it was another sunny day, we took a picnic and had a wander around. The Millennium Monument in Heroes Square is also close by and features important figures from Hungarian history.
Our whistle stop tour of Hungary would finish at Lake Hefiz but on the way we stopped for a little Urbex (urban exploration for those not in the know!) of two abandoned areas. Firstly it was the Hajmasker Barracks, one of the largest military barracks of the Austro-Hungarian period. The buildings became a POW camp during World War I and it grew so big it even had its own currency. World War II saw it move into Nazi hands and then post war it became a Soviet army base. The buildings were abandoned in 1990 after the fall of the Soviet Union.
We also visited another abandoned Soviet base at Szentkiralyszabadja which has been out of use since 2004 when the last Hungarian helicopter regiment which was based there was disbanded. The base is gradually succumbing to nature but a few buildings are still accessible.
There are so many thermal springs across Hungary but it’s very hard to find any natural springs as they have mostly been developed into spa resorts or health centres. Lake Heviz is a small lake fed by underground springs and even in winter the water temperature doesn’t drop below 22°C. Sadly though it is fully fenced off and you have to pay to access the water. We opted for a “closing hours” ticket which allowed us for the last two hours of the day (and you can’t get in a minute earlier!) which was the cheapest option at HUF3,600 (about £8.50) each and we had plenty of time to float around the entire lake. There are multiple spa and recuperation clinics around the lake and in the town.
However, it is possible to swim in the thermal water for free! You need to follow the river out of the lake, passing by the campsite and to an open area where you can easily get in and out of the river. The water here was just as warm as the lake but as it’s used by locals, is probably very busy in the summer.
And that was our brief tour of Hungary! The country is very clean (a welcome change) and easy to drive around but we found few opportunities for overnight parking outside campsites. That said, we were visiting the most popular places so that always limits where we can park but they haven’t really embraced the idea of aires yet.
With the weather taking a turn, it was time to move on an next stop, Slovenia!
Kemping Tulipan, Eger: HUF8,500 (approx £20) per night, EHU extra. Well marked and maintained gravel/grass pitches. Toilet and shower block with washing machine (paid for token from reception). Fresh water and toilet dumping area are next to each other and people were using the fresh water hose to clean their cassettes – we used our own hose! Despite being advertised as such, the Wifi didn’t cover the whole site. Easy walk into the town centre and the wine cellars in the Valley of the Beautiful Women.
Castrum Camping, Heviz: HUF9,994 (approx £23 per night), EHU extra. Large riverside campsite with grass pitches. Pricing is partially based on pitch size but there are few cheaper pitches available. Two bathroom blocks with washing machines and one dryer (a rarity we’ve found!). Small restaurant on site and daily visit by a bakery van. Easy walk to Lake Heviz and the town.
Other overnight spots:
Stellplatz Budapest: Approx EUR20 p/n, payable EHU available. The actual cost is charged by total parking time via the PARKL app which you need to activate the access gate. Fresh water and dumping facilities are available. It’s a large car park with an area specifically for motorhomes so not picturesque but great for easy access to the Metro into the city and despite being on a main road, it was fairly quiet at night. The City Park is a short walk away.
We finished the last post at Camping Honigberg, taking a few days to catch up with ourselves. Whilst there we were joined by friends and fellow travellers, Jason, Katie and Elsa aka Forever Copilots. We had planned to meet up in a couple of weeks in Slovenia but as often happens with this lifestyle, plans change.
We left them the following morning with arrangements in place to meet up again in a couple of days and then wend our way out of Romania together.
Having not seen any bears in the wild we decided to visit the Libearty Bear Sanctuary near Brasov, a large enclosure for bears rescued from captivity and often traumatic lives in circuses, zoos and private owners. You have to take a guided tour (daily tours in English are available) and we were lucky to time it so the lunch truck was doing the rounds so the bears were all coming out for food. Some of the back stories are truly awful and whilst we’d rather not see animals in captivity, they were definitely living better lives here.
We met up again with Jason and Katie at Rupea Castle, the partially restored remains of a 14th century fortress on a basaltic outcrop which separately is a protected geological natural reservation.
Although the town of Bran is closely linked to Dracula, Sighisoara was actually the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula. The UNESCO protected hilltop old town is worth a visit to explore the narrow cobbled streets and take in the pastel coloured houses. There are lots of tourist shops and the town is probably overrun in the summer, but whilst busy when we visited, it wasn’t too overwhelming.
Next stop – Turda, to visit a salt mine. Oh and it was Mr C’s birthday so we wanted to be on a campsite to be able to celebrate without worrying about getting moved on. We had read and heard various reports about the salt mine so we visited it with low expectations and had a great time! Where else can you ride on an underground ferris wheel and row a boat on an underground lake? The mining operation closed down in 1932 and there are still remnants of the former industry on display as well as information boards explaining the history of the various chambers. Yes, it is aimed mostly at tourists but it’s a fascinating place nonetheless.
We finished the day with a BBQ and birthday cake after the campsite let us decorate the communal outside kitchen with balloons for the birthday celebrations and maybe a glass or two of the local hooch was consumed….
After a quiet night parked outside the Lupsa Monastery, in which is the oldest (built in 1429) remaining wooden church in the country, we moved towards the Apuseni National Park stopping high in the hills outside Garda de Sus to visit the Ice Cave (Pestera Ghetarul), one of Europe’s largest underground glaciers.
It’s a steep climb down a metal staircase to the cave which contains a large lake of ice which also descends into three vertical chambers. The “Great Hall” which you walk around on a wooden walkway over the ice, has many stalactites and stalagmites. You then follow the same route back up the stairs to exit. Visits are all guided and group size varies – we had at least 100 people on our visit and couldn’t hear (nor understand) the guide said!
Our final night in Romania was a quiet night near the village of Finate, next to a small stream and with an occasional flock of sheep passing by. To get here from the cave we drove along road number 75 which takes you through the Apuseni National Park, a stunning drive with amazing views over the surrounding countryside.
Camping La Foisor: Lei70 p/n (EHU at extra cost). All usual facilities available plus a washing machine at Lei20 per wash. Flat grass parking. Communal kitchen area plus shower and toilet block. Once parked the owner shows up with his bottles of homemade Palinka and fruit brandy. This scenario was repeated a few times during our stay, ie each time we stepped out of the van! They were very friendly and chatty and not just because they always seemed to have a drink in their hands. It’s an easy walk into the town centre and the salt mine is within walking distance but is about 3km and mostly uphill on the way there.
Other overnight parking:
Poiana Narciselor Nature Park: A small hard standing carpark surrounded by rolling countryside. No facilities and very quiet.
Rupea Castle: hard standing parking in the castle car park. We asked if we could stay when we visited the castle. The security guard puts a chain across the car park entrance at night. Toilets in the upper car park but no other facilities.
Sighisoara: Lei10 per day parking in a busy town centre car park. No facilities but great access to the old town. Lots of restaurants and bars nearby.
Lupsa Monastery: free parking in their car park (we did talk to one of the monks first). Again we were asked if we needed anything and were told the toilets would be accessible all night. There is a water tap just inside the gate.
Ghetari: Lei25 for overnight parking in a field close to the ice cave. All grass and not many level areas. Cars parking for the day got tickets/receipts but we didn’t – there was no advertised going rate for overnight motorhome parking. It’s an uphill walk to the entrance to the cave and there are a few eating places and souvenir stalls around.
Finate: parking at a popular local picnic spot but quiet enough overnight. Grass parking next to a small stream – needed ramps to get somewhere near level. Shame about the rubbish strewn around the place but that has been par for the course in a lot of areas.
Well the Romania blog is now going to be in three parts! We were enjoying the country so much and after meeting up with friends (more of that in the next post) we extended our vignette twice more to spend six weeks there.
The Moldavia region of northeast Romania (not to be confused with the neighbouring country of Moldova) is home to the Bucovina Monasteries, UNESCO protected painted monasteries dating from the 15th and 16th centuries and one of Romania’s top tourist attractions. There are in fact so many monasteries in the region, it could be difficult deciding which ones to visit so we opted to follow a route suggested in our Lonely Planet guidebook and take our time over a few days.
Initially we based ourselves at the Neamt Monastery where we were welcomed by one of the priests to stay in the car park as long as we needed. From here visited the monasteries at Sihastria, Varatec and Agapia. We had also tried to get to the wooden Sihla Monastery but access is via a muddy forest track and after the recent clutch incident, we didn’t dare attempt the last few hundred metres up a steep hill to the carpark!
Whilst visiting Sihastria, we were asked if we would like to join the monastery staff for a meal but politely declined as we had so much to see.
As we arrived at Varatec, the man who had earlier invited us jumped out of his car with fresh bread, stuffed cabbage leaves and a bottle of wine which he insisted we took. He also gave us an impromptu tour of the church at Varatec, explaining the different icons and paintings. Our brains seem to be hardwired into thinking that he’d want something in return, but no, he was just a kind man sharing the generosity and hospitality we still struggle to accept.
Following the loop in the guidebook we took in the monasteries at Moldovita, Sucevita, Arbore, Dragomirnaa, Voronet and Humor. The northwestern part of the loop is over the Ciumarna Pass which sits at 1,100m above sea level and is reached via winding mountain roads which were still covered in snow when we visited.
Most of the monasteries were free to park at and visit but we were out of season. Where we paid entry fees, it was usually lei10, under £2, each
After visiting so many monasteries we were looking for something different and headed into the mountains of the eastern Carpathians. Romania has a few famous driving roads and high passses but the two big ones we had on the list, the Transfagarasan and the Alpina passes were both closed for the foreseeable future but luckily for us the Transraraul was open….well sort of!
The Transraraul Pass is reached via either the 175A or the 175B and our first attempt was from the 175A near Campulung Moldovenesc. After tackling a few steep sections (one tight hairpin was on a 16% slope) we found the road closed until 30 April so we backtracked to the main road and tried again via the 175B. All looked good and after spending a couple of glorious nights near the top we tried to rejoin the 175A to come down the southern side of the pass. As we got to the top there was another sign to say this part of the road was also closed but we met a local who told us to ignore the sign – it was definitely OK to drive as he’d done it the previous week. Glad to say we got down the narrow winding road without incident!
We drove through the Ceahlau National Park which includes the 1907m high Ceahlau Massif, Moldavia’s highest point. Unfortunately we were unable to park anywhere overnight so drove straight on to Bicaz, and then the following day we headed into the Bicaz Gorge. The road here cuts through 300m high limestone walls which you can almost touch in places, the road is so narrow.
Following the road 12C out of the gorge you reach Lacu Rosu (Red Lake) which doesn’t live up to its name and even less so on a murky, drizzly day. It is a good place to stop though for lunch and souvenir shopping, not that we did the latter!
One last mountain drive took us to Lake Saint Anne (Lac Sfanta Ana) which is actually a lake in the crater of and old volcano. There is a good path down to the lake from the car park (a minibus is available for less mobile visitors) and there is a walk around the lake. This is bear country and although we didn’t see any, we did spot large birds of prey and got a great shot of an owl sitting in a tree by the road.
As we were in the area we decided to head back to Camping Honigberg to catch up with ourselves for a few days before beginning our drive westwards and out of the country.
Camping Cristal, Sucevita: Lei40 per night without EHU (usual rate is Lei70 p/n). Flat grassy area for motorhomes. Shower and toilet block. Lots of open space which would be great in the summer. An easy, flat walk along the main road to the Sucevita Monastery.
Cabana Turistica Lac Sfanta Ana: Lei80 (a little over £14) for 24 hour parking. At the time of our visit there was no water to the campsite as it was still too cold to switch it on but toilets are available at the ticket office/reception when open and because of the grass/mud parking it was difficult to find a level spot. We were given a 5l bottle of water and offered firewood when we checked in but it wasn’t the weather to sit outside! The campsite is surrounded by an electric fence to keep the bears out and there is a path down to and around Lac Sfanta Ana directly from the campsite.
Camping Honigberg: EUR18 p/n for two adults, the van but no EHU (available at additional cost). Grass parking within the vicarage garden. Washing machine available. We liked this campsite so much we came back! We were in the general area so decided to come back here to do the washing and make use of the good wifi.
Other overnight spots:
Neamt Monastery: we stayed in the overspill car park, a short walk to the monastery and the Church of St Nicholas. Water available close to the monastery library from an unthreaded pipe, and there are toilets at the monastery (not sure if they’re open when the monastery closed).
Transraraul Pass: in a roughly north to south direction, two roads cover the pass, the 175A and 175B. We initially spent one night at the end of the 175A near Campulung Moldovenesc in a large gravel car park. On the 175B we found a layby close to the top surrounded by snow and with stunning views over the mountains. We had a couple of peaceful nights parked here. No facilities.
Bicaz: a small carpark next to a small stadium. Flat, hard standing car park. No facilities. OK for one night.
It’s easy to split the Romania blog into two parts – before and after the mud incident! We’ll start with the former and the latter will follow in a couple of weeks once we’ve moved on to our next country.
Before entering Romania we bought an online vignette (www.roviniete.or and there is an option to select the site in English) which cost Lei157.39, just over £28 for 30 days. We then renewed for a further seven days for Lei79.18, about £14 after receiving an email a week before our first vignette expired.
We entered Romania on a grey, wet day and drove through extensive flat agricultural land which in places looked unchanged from centuries ago – we saw so many horse and carts on the road!
We were on a mission to reach Bran where we were meeting up with Ali and Martin (aka The Triggols), fellow travellers and also Hymer owners. The sun had finally come out and we had a couple of glorious days exploring the famous Bran Castle (admission Lei55 each) and the surrounding countryside.
If visiting the castle, which tenuously has links with Dracula, we would advise avoiding the weekends – even out of season we could see the long queues on the Saturday (we had been the previous day). Whilst some of the rooms display local myths and legends, one floor has been restored to show artefacts from the actual history of the castle and overall is worth a visit.
We also had our introduction to the sweet delicacies of langos and kurtos – hate to think of the calorie count but nonetheless, delicious!
With the need for a washing machine starting to nag, we headed to a campsite in Harman, the former Saxon town Honigberg. The campsite is in the vicarage garden of the Harman Fortified Church. Within the walls is the Church of St Nikolaus which dates back to 1240 and houses “women’s benches” in place of pews from 1753 when ladies’ stiff clothing didn’t allow them to lean back!
After three peaceful days by the church it was back to nature and this time, mud volcanoes…yes they are a thing. The mud mixes with gases and rises from about 3km below the Earth’s surface to erupt and form cones or large burping pools of muddy water. There are two areas of these volcanoes close to the campsite and we visited both. We found the smaller area to be the better of the two – there is more going on there and not so many school parties. Each area cost Lei4 per person to enter.
Our next destination was to prove an expensive one! We drove to the Danube Delta, a large area of wetlands with a large migratory bird population. Having walked the dry mud road first, we parked up on the bank of the Danube looking forward to a couple of days watching the comings and goings on the river.
We had a visitor in the form of Kate (Overlanding Solo on Instagram) who we had previously met in Turkey and spent a few hours chatting to a couple of local fishermen who shared their food and wine with us. All seemed well in the world but then it began to rain….and it continued to rain.
We had been watching the river and the water level was fine but we had come down a steep slope off the road to get here. The weather forecast had changed to show rain for the next few days so we decided to move on after one night. Just had to get back to the road and after 4 hours we did, being towed behind a tractor driven by a local farmer. It was lucky that we’d seen Kate the day before as she’d been on a boat trip so put us in touch with her tour guide who contacted a friend in the area who found us the farmer. No matter the situation, it seems there is always someone who will help. We saw no birds.
The whole sorry episode is played out in our “Stuck in the Mud” video on YouTube and the upshot was we needed the clutch looking at so we drove to the closest Mercedes truck shop which was a couple of hours away in Galati.
We ended up needing a new clutch, flywheel and bearing and luckily for us, they were able to fit us in within two days. We were in a free car park down by the Danube (couldn’t get away from it!) and had a launderette a short walk away, so a couple of days’ wait was not a problem.
With the clutch sorted we headed north only to wake up the next morning with a rapidly deflating rear tyre. Fortunately tyre shops are everywhere in Romania and once we found one with a jack big enough to lift us, it was a 20 minute repair job after removing a piece of metal which was embedded between the treads.
Having also broken the toilet flush handle (and in the absence of a Thetford dealer in the immediate vicinity, mended with an improvised spindle cut down from a 9mm knitting needle) during this time, we needed a change of scenery so it was back to the mountains for us. More of that next time when we visit the beautiful painted Bucovina Monasteries.
Camping Honigberg, Harman: EUR15 p/n for 2 people and a motorhome without EHU (EUR3 extra). The campsite is within the walled garden of an old vicarage and parking is on grass. Standard water and WC facilities are available plus a washing machine at EUR2 per wash. Immaculate shower/toilet block – so much so that we used it rather than our onboard shower, which is a first since COVID. The fortified church is just across the road and there are shops close by. In fact we liked this campsite so much we came back!
Muddy Camping: Lei60 p/n (approx £11) without EHU. Clean water and black dump on site. All grass. Didn’t use any other facilities. Ongoing building work re toilets and showers. Great onsite restaurant offering traditional home cooking. Easy walking distance of two mud volcano sites.
Other overnight parking:
Snagov: free overnight spot next to a small football stadium. Quiet and flat – great for one night. No facilities.
Bran: parking is currently on the land of a house owner just outside the centre of Bran, who is in the process of building a small campsite. Currently just fresh water available and he is only asking for donations to the new facilities. Really friendly owner who can advise on walking in the local area. Short walk to the town and Bran Castle.
Near Garliciu: after a long day driving we tried a few places before settling here for the night. It’s nothing other than a pull off from the road and grassy (potentially muddy) but OK for the night. No facilities.
Danube Delta: one of several grassy areas used by fishermen right on the banks of the Danube and just across from the nature reserve. You are supposed to buy a permit to stay overnight – there are no signs but one of the fishermen gave us the website so we bought one each online for Lei5, less than £1. Access is via a mud track with steep banks down to the parking areas – great when it’s dry but in the wet, the mud turns very quickly to clay making driving out very difficult. In our case, a tractor was required to pull us out of the quagmire, up the slope and back along the track until we hit the tarmac.
Galati: Free riverside car park by the border force building. Flat and hard standing but no facilities. Easy walk into town. The road is busy but does quieten down a little at night.
Bacau: roadside park up next to the old stadium. No facilities but OK for one night to break up a long journey. A busy road which did calm down a little overnight.
The second half of our Bulgaria trip involved more monasteries, huge concrete monuments, fortresses, the coast and a peaceful nature park.
From Velingrad we headed to the Shipka Pass and the UFO-shaped Buzludzha Monument perched high above the pass and built as a communist assembly hall. Our tip for driving to the monument is to access it from the south and not take the road by the Freedom Monument to avoid over 5 miles of potholed road! We spent a couple of nights in the car park at the base of the Buzludzha Monument, one of which was very windy to say the least.
We headed back to the Black Sea coast, starting right at the most southerly point on the border with Turkey. In the area of Resovo we were stopped a few times at police checks and also had a subtle visit from the border police whilst we were parked up – they didn’t question us but walked around the van a few times. We also stopped at Varna to find a beachside thermal pool which was an experience – definitely a meeting place for locals.
The Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo is worth every penny of the entrance fee (less than £5 each). It’s a large area to explore and on a good day, it would be a good place to take a picnic and enjoy the views. The unconsecrated church in the Patriarch’s Complex is home to some modern frescoes which are very different to those we had seen so far on historical monasteries. After leaving the fortress we had a wander around the picturesque old town which was full of craft and antique shops.
If you’re looking to escape everything then visit Shumen and the Rusenski Lom Nature Park. Shumen is home to the Founders of the Bulgarian State Memorial, a huge brutal concrete structure high on a hill overlooking the town of Shumen and surrounded by forests which were great for walking. Rusenski Lom is an area of rock churches and steep gorges and again great for walking.
On the whole motorhoming in Bulgaria was easy and there was plenty of parking available. Water wasn’t as easy to find as it was in Turkey as a lot of roadside springs didn’t have tap fittings or were dry so we had to resort to buying bottled water again. Fuel was still relatively cheap at around £1.30 a litre and LPG everywhere, costing just over 50p a litre.
All in all a good place to visit and even more of a reason to visit soon is because Bulgaria, whilst in the EU is still not part of the Schengen area so a stay here helps to offset the 90 day limit and enables a longer visit to continental Europe.
Burgas Camperstop: BGN30 (£13.50) for 24 hours. Price includes EHU, fresh water tap, showers, WC emptying and fast WiFi. Flat parking on the dockside inside the marina gate. Very quiet overnight.
Other overnight parking:
Troyan Monastery: Parking is BGN3 (approx £1.35) and we were allowed to stay overnight. A large hard standing car park for the monastery. No facilities.
Buzludzha Monument: several hard standing parking spots around the monument. Need to check weather (especially wind direction!) and park accordingly. No facilities but stunning views for miles. May not be accessible during heavy snow.
Veliko Tarnavo: a free P4N spot by the State Art Gallery. No real flat spots and no facilities but relatively quiet (apart from the local busker who was there in the afternoon!). We drove to a paid car park to visit the Tsarevets Fortress – it’s a hilly town strung along the steep sides of a river.
Resovo: A couple of nights parked up by a closed beach bar at the most south-eastern point of the EU. Relatively flat and quiet, overlooking the narrow river border with Turkey. No facilities.
Varna: Free parking at the northern end of the town, next to the beach. Flat with no facilities and a short walk into the main beach area with bars and a thermal pool. Parking is next to a road which is busy during the day but was quiet overnight.
Shumen: Free parking in a large car park close to the Shumen Fortress and a restaurant. Flat and no facilities but great for exploring the local area with lots of marked walks in the surrounding forest.
Rusenski Lom Nature Park: One of our quietest park-ups in the nature park close to some rock churches. Flat and no facilities although maybe some cafes during the summer. Great place to walk and then to sit and listen to birdsong.
Ruse: Free parking between a railway track and the River Danube about 20 mins walk from the city centre. The trains run back and forth to the docks but don’t run overnight so a surprisingly quiet stop. No facilities. Close to the Romanian border crossing.
It was with a heavy heart that we left Turkey and crossed the border into Bulgaria. We had had an amazing three months exploring Turkey and hope to return some day but new adventures lay ahead as we began our slow journey back to the UK.
The border crossing was fairly straightforward and it’s worth noting that you have to pay €6 (in Euro) to have the van disinfected as you enter Bulgaria.
Tolls in Bulgaria took a little thought as we are over 3.5T so couldn’t buy a simple vignette and had to use a pay as you go app. We used the Bulgarian Tollpass app which allowed us to input that day’s route and pay the appropriate toll. The tolls were often just pennies and over a four week period, it cost a total of around £10.40.
We had very little idea of what to expect in Bulgaria and had a route which would cover the most popular tourist spots plus see some of the quieter countryside. The weather was variable and in the mountains there was still plenty of snow.
The old town of Plovdiv was worth seeing and we spent a few days in Sofia, as our daughter flew out at the last minute for a visit. June was treated to an afternoon in a hotel spa (bliss!) and we wandered around the city admiring the buildings and many churches including the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral.
We visited several other churches and monasteries in the region including the Rila Monastery which was quite simply stunning. We stayed in the car park right outside the gate so were able to visit early the next morning, having the place almost to ourselves.
We met Oxsana and Brad, aka Frenchy Le van, who we had previously spent some time with in Turkey. Oxsana introduced us to the tradition of “Baba Marta” or “Granny March” which marks the beginning of spring on 1st March and is when Bulgarians exchange red and white tassels and bracelets which are then tied to the branches of trees.
Bulgaria has a number of natural thermal springs and we visited a couple, going from one extreme to another! The first was at Repite where there are a number of shallow outdoor pools used by locals (a paid, more landscaped area was also available) and then we visited Thermal Camping Velingrad, a campsite with properly built pools filled with naturally heated water.
Kamping Kromidoro: BGN40 p/n (approx £18) which was BGN16 for the van, BGN8 per person and BGN8 for hook up. A small eco-campsite run by a very friendly English couple who kindly opened up the site despite being closed for the winter. Washing machine available at BGN10 per wash – includes powder. Lots of communal space and BBQ area. Free wifi. Lots of walking around surrounding vineyards and fields. The road through the local village is full of potholes but if driven slowly, it’s definitely worth weaving your way around them!
Thermal Camping Velingrad: BGN90.20 (yes, about £40) p/n including EHU. Fully serviced pitches, free wifi, washing machine and tumble dryer. The site has its own thermal pool complex including indoor and outdoor pools, two saunas and a steam room – dressing gowns provided free of charge. BBQ area, bar and restaurant area. Although the per night cost is expensive, taken the facilities in account, it is worth it and if you can arrive on a Sunday or Monday, you can get 4 nights for the price of 3.
Other overnight spots:
Plovdiv Stadium: a large car park next to the sports centre just outside of the town centre. Fairly quiet once everyone had left but the trains across the road ran all night. No facilities.
Devin: the car park at the entrance to the Devinska River Gorge and next to a thermal pool complex. There was a port-a-loo in the carpark but no other facilities. There is a hike into the gorge and up the valley side to a waterfall.
Rupite thermal pools: a large open grassed area close to the pools – some are free and others you pay to enter. There is a walk to some ancient Roman ruins which are still being excavated. There are a couple of port-a-loos in a small car park. Only noise was from a building site close by.
Vitosha, near Sofia: a slightly sloping car park at the base of Mt Vitosha and next to the Dragalevski Monastery. Water is available at the monastery but only for filling small water bottles. No other facilities.
Vasil Levski National Stadium: BGN20 p/n and there didn’t seem to be a limit on how long you could stay. No facilities. Parking is on the road around the stadium – we were asked to get as close to the back as possible and did manage to find a long space although slightly sloping. The stadium is in almost constant use but mostly quiet and we backed on to a large park. Great spot for walking into the city and good value given the location.
Rila Lakes: BGN10 p/n and parking just below the lower cable car station. A large gravel car park. No facilities but cafes nearby (limited opening off-season). Lots of walking and it’s worth taking the cable car up to the lakes (although all covered in snow when we visited). The cable car was BGN25 each for a return ticket – it’s possible to walk down when the snow has melted.
Rila Monastery: small car park outside the monastery costing BGN10 per day and if staying overnight, you have to pay for two days. A must visit if in Bulgaria, the monastery is free to enter and by staying overnight you can wander in before any coaches arrive. Water available but not via a threaded tap. The bakery is also worth a visit for a freshly cooked “mekitsa”, a fried bread/donut pastry and utterly delicious!
We spent just short of our permitted 90 days exploring Türkiye from December 2022 to February 2023, driving around the Asian side in an anti-clockwise direction. We thought it might be useful to some people to put together a few details of our experiences.
We covered 4,883 miles in total but with fuel at less than £1 a litre it didn’t make such a huge dent in the budget! We also managed to do almost the whole trip without using a toll road, only using one to go around Istanbul and where we had no choice. We didn’t have the HGS tag which allows easy access through the tolls so selected the cash lane and took a ticket but when it came to the pay station the gates were open and there was nowhere to pay. We fully expected to be charged as we left the country but nothing was outstanding against our registration so it seems we were lucky!
We did very little city driving which we know from Istanbul can be a little chaotic, and whilst we did see some adventurous manoeuvres, the pace seemed a lot slower so never dangerous. The larger roads were in reasonable condition and in the snow in the far east of the country, they were cleared regularly. Off the main roads, the surfaces were a little hit and miss and sometimes nothing more than dirt tracks.
Don’t underestimate the size of the country – it’s huge and there’s still so much for us to go back and see.
Police checkpoints are common and we were mostly waved through. When we were stopped the officers were polite and courteous, asked us a couple of questions and sent us on our way. Along the Syrian, Iranian and Aremian borders the checks were slightly more (and understandably) intimidating with plenty of machine guns, tanks and barbed wire on display but again we were politely asked for our passports and our destination before being allowed to move on.
Costs – a summary of roughly what we spent on the main items
Van insurance payable at the border €140 for 3 months
Food, including eating out – £1,225
Diesel – £820
Campsites – £230 (most expensive on the SW coast which is the main tourist area)
LPG – £32
Entry fees – £167.50. We didn’t buy any of the available museum passes as although they represent good value for visiting the museums and archeological sites, they are time limited so didn’t work for us as we travel slowly.
Campsites – we had to occasionally venture on to a campsite to use a washing machine (no self service laundries to be found!) and empty the toilet cassette. We’re not precious about campsites – they just need to be functional rather than look good and offer facilities we won’t use! Prices ranged from free, on a municipal site in Tarsus, to tl450 (approx £20) per night in some of the more popular areas. We also stayed on a campsite for a few nights over the New Year holiday to be able to enjoy the celebrations.
Availability of essentials
We had no issues finding fuel, lpg, food and water. We filter all our onboard water as it leaves the tank, plus a pre-tank filter if needed, so we’re happy to fill from roadside water taps along with locals. The only time we had an issue with this was during a snowstorm and we physically couldn’t get to the taps or they were frozen!
The local markets were great for fresh produce but it’s worth getting store cards for Carrefour and Migros to get cheaper prices.
Safe to say we had it all! We spent Christmas and New Year on the south-west coast and were on the beach a lot of the time, swimming and paddle boarding in temperatures of over 20°C. However, when we headed to the eastern regions we had driving snow and roadside drifts higher than the van. In one place we experienced a daytime temperature of -11°C, admittedly we were at about 8,000ft in altitude, but had regular overnight temperatures of -5°C.
We had seen and heard lots of stories about stray cats and dogs. Yes, there are a lot of dogs running around and we noticed cats in towns and at tourist sites, but we have to say they all looked well fed and healthy. We saw locals pulling up in their cars and leaving food out for the animals and a number of dogs were tagged to show they had been neutered. A couple of places we visited even had machines dispensing food either for cash or when you deposited items for recycling. We can only speak for what we saw and appreciate this may not be everyone’s experience.
Quite simply some of the most hospitable and welcoming people we have ever met. Turkish hospitality is renowned and we were frequently given tea wherever we went. We even left a fuel station with a cup of tea and a bag of fresh eggs! At no point did we feel unsafe or in any danger.
If for any reason our plans for the rest of the year fall through then we will be heading straight back to Türkiye!
To complete our trip to Turkey we had planned to follow the Black Sea coast pretty much as far as the border with Bulgaria but as usual we took a few detours along the way!
The coastline itself was a never ending series of, well to us anyway, very similar towns spread along one of the main truck routes from Georgia and Azerbaijan and not very inspiring. Maybe it was the weather, or that places were busy so we had problems parking but we just weren’t feeling it. Heading inland a little though, the hills are covered in tea plantations and very quickly you are back in the mountains again, much more our thing.
We did however enjoy our visits to the old towns of Safranbolu and Edirne, our final stop in Turkey.
Safranbolu made its name as an isolated source of the precious spice saffron. Nowadays the old cobbled streets cater for tourists but it’s well worth visiting. We loved the workshops of the Metalworker’s Bazaar where Bob was invited to try his hand at forging something.
Most people leave here having bought saffron or local Turkish delight but we came away with a hand forged axe and some handmade cups and saucers from the pottery next door.
We had to stop for the obligatory gözleme and this time we got to see the café owner making the pancakes.
We stopped in Edirne to see the Selimiye Mosque but it is currently undergoing extensive renovations. However there are several other beautiful mosques close to the old town so we visited those – we both love the architecture and the internal decoration of the mosques. We will miss the daily prayer calls, even the dawn ones!
We have really enjoyed our trip to Turkey and will come back again one day and not just because we were buying fuel at under £1 a litre! Motorhoming was easier than we expected as water and LPG were readily available, although the roads can only be described as variable! Don’t underestimate the size of Turkey (we drove just under 5,000 miles in all) and even after almost three months, there is still so much to see.
There is something in Turkey for everyone – beautiful coastline, high mountains, ancient history, modern cities and great food. The people are so friendly and we were welcomed everywhere we went.
We will post a summary of the trip shortly but if you are thinking of visiting Turkey in your motorhome then do it!
Danzi Camping, near Ardeşen: tl250 per night including EHU. A relatively new riverside campsite close to the Georgian border, run by a very friendly couple. The site is mostly for tents but there are a couple of mostly grass but flat pitches for vans. Newly built block housing showers, toilets and a communal kitchen which has a washing machine and tumble dryer (both cost tl50 a use). Small lounge area in which food and drinks are sold.
Safranbolu Karavan Kamp, Safranbolu: tl250 per night with metered electric extra. Very sloping site although the owner said he intends to level out the pitches, and when we visited, it was very muddy! Pricing was a bit confusing and he didn’t mention metering the EHU until the following morning – not that we had an issue with that but we just like to know upfront! Great site for walking to the old town of Safranbolu.
Other overnight spots:
Sumela Monastery: we would have stayed in one of the payable car parks but because of the snow, they were all closed! We managed to tuck ourselves away for a free night. Toilets close to the monastery but closed when we visited.
Terme: an overnight stop on a beachside track to the east of Terme. A rough track surrounded by lots of rubbish but it had been a long driving day and all the campsites were along the main road. No services.
Vezirkopru Park: tl95 for entry to park. A beautiful country park that allows overnight parking. Toilets and freshwater taps throughout the park. Slightly sloping but hard standing parking spaces.
Horma Kanyon: another park up disrupted by heavy snow! We couldn’t get into the official car park for the canyon so tucked ourselves into a little pull in and spent a night there wondered if we’d get out the next day! No services.
Alapli: large beachside car park and picnic area. Given it was a Saturday night there were a few locals around revving their engines but they quietened down as we went to bed. Toilets nearby but no other services.
Silivri: a large grassed area, a short walk to the town with its restaurants and cafes. Lots of cars coming and going but quiet at night. Close to a supermarket. No services.
Selimiye Otopark, Edirne: tl105 for overnight parking. Large flattish car park close to the Selimiye Mosque, with large spaces for motorhomes and coaches. Be careful of some people trying to steer you to parking in less salubrious areas! We nearly fell for it but gut instinct told us we were not in the right place. No services.
As usual, I’m writing this post a few days after we were in this region and if some of the names seem familiar, it is because this is the region that was struck by the horrendous earthquake in the early hours of Monday 6 February. As of now the recovery process is still ongoing but it is being hampered by the weather which turned cold and snowy just before the disaster struck.
The people of this region have been some of the most friendly and hospitable people we have ever met and our thoughts go out to them all.
We left the cold of Cappadocia to head back to the coast at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Our first stop was Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul, although we have to confess that our primary reason for visiting was the free washing machines at the municipal motorhome aire! With the washing drying we wandered into town and followed a tourist walking route which took us past most of the main historic attractions – well worth a few hours of our day.
After Tarsus we drove around lakes close to Yumurtalik but couldn’t find a park up there so we headed to a car park near Yumurtalik Beach. As we were sitting outside the van having a coffee, we were approached by a family who were having a picnic nearby and who asked if they could look inside. No problem, we said, and after all three generations had stuck their heads through the door, we suddenly had an invite back to the grandparent’s house for coffee, so we packed up the van and followed them the 30km or so to Ceyhan. Having settled down for a cup of tea, we were then offered dinner, a shower and a bed for the night! Not wanting to offend anyone, and knowing the Turks are incredibly hospitable, we ate the delicious soup and the kibbeh but very politely turned down the bath and bed.
The family would have been in the region impacted by the earthquake and we just hope Yusuf and the rest of the family are ok.
From here we drove further south along the Mediterranean, spending a couple of nights beside the beach at Arsuz, catching up on admin and housework.
We visited the Titus Tunnel near Samandag, a flood prevention tunnel built by the Romans in the first century and whilst there had a great homemade flatbread stuffed with cheese and spinach – that was worth the entry fee alone!
We reached our southernmost point a few kilometres south of here, about 12km north of the Syrian border, when the track became impassable so we turned north again towards Antakya (also known as Hatay).
Sadly the city carpark was unable to accommodate us so after a few twists and turns through the busy narrow streets we found a campsite out of town. This meant we missed exploring the town and all that it had to offer.
Our bellies were looking forward to our next stop at Gaziantep, known for its baklava and other foodie treats! The town is in the centre of the pistachio growing region and given our habit of stopping occasionally for coffee, we had to try the local pistachio coffee. Well, what a revelation – we really liked it!
We wandered around the old bazaar area where we had all our kitchen knives sharpened in a small workshop and had our first kebab of the day.
The Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum is definitely worth a visit. The mosaics were unearthed at the Roman site of Belkis-Zeugma and moved when the Birecik Dam flooded the area. The size and detail of the mosaics is phenomenal.
We had taken a taxi from the campsite with another English couple, Rich and Sarah, aka tracey_van_ness on Instagram, and met up with them again later in the day for an early dinner at Kebap ve Baklava (worth a visit and don’t be put off by the queue as it moves really quickly). We don’t eat out much as a rule as we’re on a budget but we knew we’d blow that in Gaziantep! We had different kebabs so we could share and of course had to finish with a couple of pieces of pistachio baklava.
We were now beginning our journey east and spent a couple of nights near Halfeti on the banks of the Euphrates. The old town of Halfeti (Eski Halfeti) was partially submerged following the construction of the Birecik Dam. It’s now a destination for boat tours to view the Rumkale fortress on the opposite bank and the flooded village of Savas, where the minaret of the submerged mosque stands above the water.
We had hoped to visit the famous statues at Nemrut Dagi but knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t get there and indeed, at a height of 5,500ft we found the snowbound and very much closed approach road.
We spent three nights in Mardin but had only one day when we left the van – can’t be helped travelling in this region during the winter! We did have one glorious day when the sun came out so we could explore the old town and look across the plains to Syria.
Our final stop of this leg was the Mor Gabriel Monastery where we spent a couple of nights in their very snowy car park! The monastery is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world having been founded in 397AD and is located near Midyat. Although still home to practising monks and nuns it is possible to take a guided tour of the monastery.
The snow of the last couple of days was a gentle introduction to what was to come next!
Tarsus Municipal Campsite, Tarsus: Free, including EHU and limited use of a washing machine. Small individual pitches for 10 vans and any overflow was accommodated in the car park – it’s worth arriving early to secure a pitch. The maximum stay is initially 3 nights and return visits are limited. The washing machine is under lock and key and used under the supervision of the site manager but it’s free so can’t complain! Great restaurant next door and others within short walking distance. The city of Tarsus is about 2km away, a flat, easy walk.
Esenbahçe Kamp Alani, near Hatay: tl150 p/n (£6.50) including EHU. Small, rural, riverside campsite. All grass pitches. All the usual facilities but we only stayed overnight (only because we were on our way to somewhere else) so can’t comment on them.
Gaziantep Karavan Park, Gaziantep: tl150 p/n including EHU. Free use of washing machines and DRYERS – yes, tumble dryers, although it did feel like you had to fight with local caravan owners who had bought their week’s washing from home with them! A fairly new, 24hr guarded, large, tiered site with hard standing pitches next to a lake. Reception building with a communal seating area and terrace. Pitches available for long term rent and lots of caravans seem to be long term. Taxi point just outside the front gate and it cost us tl150 to get to the centre of Gaziantep.
Mardin Karavan Camping, Mardin: tl150 p/n including EHU. A small car park run by a really friendly and helpful family – we drank lots of tea with them! A great location for access to the old town of Mardin and it has all the facilities you need, albeit it’s not a pretty site. Some noise as you are right next to a mosque and the owner’s dog barks at anything and everything passing the front gate day and night.
Other overnight stops:
Buyuk Ataturk Park, Ceyhan: Free overnight spot in the car park. A few cars around in the evening but once they had gone, it was quiet enough.
Arsuz: Free parking on grass close to the beach (no swimming allowed though at this point). Some noise from the construction site behind the parking area but quiet at night. A great place to rest for a couple of days. Short walk into town.
Siverek Picnic Area, Siverek: Free parking overlooking a dammed lake on the Euphrates. Large parking area. Toilets at the entrance. Very quiet night.
Halfeti: Free parking on a track alongside the Euphrates river. They are working on the track so some lorry noise during the day. Short walk to a few shops.
Mor Gabriel Monastery: Free parking in the outer carpark. We arrived during a snow storm and staff from the monastery came out to see if we needed anything. Great views across the countryside.
This small area needs its own post – we spent longer in the Cappadocia region than anywhere else so far on our travels!
Moving towards the east, we first stopped in the Ihlara Valley and began at the north of the valley at Selime Castle, the largest cave complex in the region. The valley was a favourite retreat of Byzantine monks and many of the buildings carved into the rock are monasteries and churches.
We spent a couple of hours here exploring the churches and other buildings before driving a little further south to a small hot spring we had read about. We have visited a few hot springs and this was definitely the hottest but also the smallest! Shame about all the rubbish lying around though.
We then parked at the visitor centre near the town of Ihlara and from where we took the 350+ steps down to the valley floor to walk along the valley and explore the churches here. There are a dozen or so churches built into the valley walls and some still have amazing frescoes dating from as early as the 9th century. The total walk was about 10km.
If timed correctly you can probably explore the whole valley in one day and pay only one fee of tl90 but we took our time so paid for two days.
Goreme is the main town of the Cappadocia’s tourist industry and much of the town is geared towards tourists (several Chinese, Korean and Indian restaurants are just one example of this!). Although we stayed on a campsite for a couple of nights, we much preferred being parked up overlooking the valleys from where we could watch the hot air balloons, one of Cappadocia’s biggest tourist draws, and view the strange rock formations. The balloons only fly when the weather allows and we saw them twice in six days.
Whilst here we visited the Goreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site of a Byzantine monastic settlement built into the rock. There seemed to be a few churches closed when we visited but it was still worth going and also buying the extra ticket to visit the Dark Church which has the most breathtaking frescoes. The church gets its name from the lack of windows which has gone a long way to preserve the frescoes and their strong colours.
There are some fantastic hikes in Rose Valley and we covered a lot of it, from the peak of Aktepe Hill and down a few hundred metres onto the valley floor.
The Columned Church (Kolonlu Kilise) is well worth hunting out.
Between Ihlara and Goreme we visited Derinkuyu, one of several underground cities in the area.
If on a quick visit to the area it is possible to cover a lot with the Cappadocia Pass which gives access to seven locations for 400tl (just over £17) and is valid for 72 hours. We decided to take our time and paid for each place we visited (3 out of the 7 but we had to pay twice for Ilhara Valley) which cost us a total of tl480 (around £20.50).
We’re not usually ones for big tourist centres but Cappadocia was a must, although we were grateful that it wasn’t overly busy. Saying that on our last morning we think they hit the maximum permitted number of balloons flying, which is 100, and some of those baskets carry 28 passengers!
It has been quite cold here (we’ve been in thermals for the past two weeks!) so time to head south again for some warmth.
Panorama Camping: tl450 (£19.50) per night including EHU. Tiered, hard standing campsite, close to the town. Small pitches but plenty of room out of season – upper terrace has the views and lower terrace the best wifi signal! Swimming pool and washing machine were out of service when we visited. Friendly, helpful owner who is very responsive on WhatsApp.
Other overnight spots:
Ilhara Valley Tourist Facility car park: was free when we visited. There was building work going on close to the main car park so we used the overflow area. There are toilets but they were closed when we visited.
Love Valley viewpoint: no pay point on the track we used. Parking is a free for all along the western ridge overlooking Love Valley and which has great views of the balloons, some of which land in this area. Access is via bumpy tracks which could be muddy if there’s any prolonged period of rain. Restaurants and toilets nearby.
Rose Valley viewpoint: tl50 for a motorhome to access the valley (only pay to enter and not a daily fee). Bumpy mud tracks again off the main access road. Great views of the balloons taking off and plenty of local hiking. Restaurants and toilets nearby.
We left the coast and headed inland after a disappointing trip to Decathlon in Antalya with our shopping list barely touched – probably not a bad thing!
On the map, along the route we were following, were a number of caravanserais (also kervansaray, han or hanı), basically lodgings built for travellers on the Silk Road and where they could resupply themselves and their animals. The caravanserais were built 30-40km apart which would have equated to about a day’s travel
The buildings are in various states of repair and some now house museums, shops and cafes. The largest caravanserai in Anatolia is Sultanhani which was built in 1229 and reconstructed after a fire in 1278. The covered lodging area is now a carpet museum (not as boring as it sounds!).
Of course we came we had to visit some ruins; the Roman city of Sagalassos which are found at an altitude of 1500m in the Taurus Mountains. The site is one of the Mediterranean’s largest archaeological projects with lots of ongoing excavations. Something we were not expecting was to be handed the keys to the Neon Library which houses a 4th century mosaic. We thought this was one of the most stunning sites we have visited so far.
The Turkish Lake District is found in the mountains of western Anatolia. We had already visited Lake Salda so this time we stayed on the edge of Lake Egirdir, admiring the sunsets.
We also spent a night close to Lake Tuz, one of the world’s largest salt lakes. It’s often pink but only when it is warm and dry, and is slowly drying up as the water feeding it is diverted for towns or agricultural use.
In between the two lakes we spent a night in Konya. As it was a Saturday this meant we were able to catch the weekly sema, the Mevlevi worship ceremony of the whirling dervishes. You can turn up at the Mevlana Culture Centre about 30 minutes before the show and entry was tl50 (£2.15) each and the ceremony lasts about an hour. If you can time a visit to catch the mesmerising ceremony than we’d highly recommend it.
The nearby Mevlana and Panoramic Museums are also worth visiting. The former houses the tomb of Celaleddin Rumi, later known as Mevlana and who bought the whirling dervishes to the world. It is an old lodge of the whirling dervishes and one of the biggest pilgrimage centres in Turkey, attracting over 1.5 million visitors a year.
Kervansaray Camping, Sultanhani: tl250 p/n including EHU. Small grassy campsite just across the road from Sultanhani Caravanserai. Probably quite cramped in the summer and wifi only really worked in the central building. Washing machine but it was out of order when we visited but the owner took my washing and returned it the following morning (I suspect his wife or mum did it for us!). Very friendly and helpful staff.
Other overnight stops:
Susuz Kervansaray: free parking to the rear of the building. The site is covered in litter and the local children were running around the van but they soon got bored when we ignored them. Bumpy, rock strewn ground but fine for an overnight stay. There was an old toilet block there but there was no water connected.
Egirdir: free parking on the peninsula. We parked on an the site of an old cafe which was flat and quiet. One of the other car parks had a couple of hole in the ground style toilets so we were able to empty the toilet cassette. No other facilities but water is plentiful from roadside public water fountains (we have a filter system on the van so are not unduly worried about where we get water).
Konya: large free car park behind the Panorama Museum and next to the Hilton Hotel. No services and a little noisy – it was Saturday night and locals have a habit of parking next to the van and playing loud music.
Lake Tuz: a track off the main road took us down towards the lake but not too close as the ground became very soft and muddy. Parked next to a farmer’s field so no services but spectacular views!
We spent Christmas with our children, who had flown out from the UK, in an amazing villa up in the mountains just south of Fethiye.
If you are looking for somewhere away from it all and with spectacular views and sunsets then Villa Blueview is the place to be. We found it on AirBnB.
After Christmas we headed back to Fethiye to join John and Kellie again to continue travelling along the south coast, exploring various beaches and more ruins. We had the best of everything here – places were quiet because it was out of season and the weather was perfect and warm enough to swim and paddle board in the sea.
We celebrated New Year in Kas joining the locals to watch the fireworks over the harbour as a DJ played in the main square. Earlier we’d had dinner with another couple, Simon and Lorraine of Silo Adventures, who we know via social media. This has been a great trip so far for meeting up with fellow travellers!
Having given ourselves a day to recover from New Year (anything after 10pm is a late night for us!) we said goodbye, at least for the moment, to John and Kellie and followed the coast a little further towards Antalya.
The coast road, D400, is a stunning road to drive and the Turquoise Coast lives up to its name.
As it was on our way we visited the rock tombs and ruins of Myra. The rock graves date back to the 4th century BC and the ancient village has origins in the 5th century BC. The theatre is Roman, built over a smaller Hellenistic one, and was the largest in the region, seating over 10,000 people.
Our final stop along the coast was the “burning rocks” of Chimaera. Whilst ancient peoples attributed the flames to the breath of a monster, in reality the source of the flames is natural gases seeping through the rocks.
We came equipped with marshmallows and sticks to toast over the flames!
Kas Camping: tl450 (£19.50) per night including EHU. Tiered gravel campsite next to the sea and close to the town. Small pitches but plenty of room out of season. Washing machine was included. Relatively expensive for Turkey but paying for the location.
Other overnight spots:
Fethiye public car park: town centre car park right on the harbour and close to the shops and the old town. The car park is open 24 hours, access is through a security barrier and payment is charged by the hour. We paid tl220 (£9.50) for two nights, arriving late afternoon and departing after breakfast. A small amount of noise but to be expected from the location. No services.
Kalkan: free parking in an old quarry just outside the town. Rough ground but no issue with finding a flat area. No services.
Tekirova: Free. Small beachside carpark next to an old bar. No facilities.
Once we had driven past all the lorries queuing to get into Turkey, our border crossing was relatively easy.
We had to stop to buy van insurance at the border – EUR140 for three months, and the office is easy to find. One tip is don’t use the cash machine here as the bank loads a huge handling fee on to the withdrawal!
Once away from the border find a Ziraat Bankasi ATM as they don’t charge at all. Back at customs we were only asked if we were carrying electrical goods. Our cameras, iPads, phones etc were not an issue and we were waved through. The Turkish border makes quite an impression!
We had a vague route in mind for this first part of Turkey having watched several other travellers on YouTube and a couple of weeks to explore before spending Christmas in Fethiye with our children who were flying out to join us in a house we have rented for the week.
Our first stop was the Gallipoli (Gelibolu in Turkish) peninsula, the site of several battles in 1915. It’s a site of particular importance to Australians and New Zealanders as well as Turks and the southern end of the peninsula is home to 40 Allied and at least 20 Turkish war cemeteries. The Allied cemeteries are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and their website (www.cwgc.org) can be checked if you are trying to locate a particular grave. The area is now pine covered rolling hills and is well sign posted for the individual cemeteries and memorials. A very thought provoking trip.
We left the peninsula and crossed the Dardanelles Straits to Canakkale via a small ferry. This also took us to a new continent as we left Europe and arrived in Asia.
As well as changing continents we moved from recent history to ancient and a region, to quote our Lonely Planet guidebook, with an “embarrassment of ruins”!
We didn’t stop in Canakkale and instead drove to the town of Troy (Troia), a short distance to the south. We parked at the Troia Pension and were able to walk to the museum and the ruins from there. If not using a guide (we didn’t) then buy a joint ticket (tl150 each) and visit the museum before the ruins to get some sense of the history. Compared to other sites the ruins here are exactly that but there are a couple of spots where they have excavated enough that you can see multiple layers of Troy’s history.
The Pension offered food albeit not from a menu so we ate there one night. Meatballs, rice and salad which although basic was tasty. Watch out for the wine though – it was good but expensive at over £4 a glass!
We had a couple of days at the beach before heading to Bergama and the ruins of the ancient city of Pergamum where we drove up the hill to the Acropolis rather than take the cable car. These ruins were UNESCO listed in 2014 and date from at least the 5th century BC. The site is scattered over the hill top and includes a steep 10,000 seat theatre. Well worth the tl100 entry fee (tl50 for an audio guide).
Next was the site at Ephesus, once the 4th largest city of the Roman Empire with over 250,000 inhabitants and was previously located by the sea although over time the harbour silted up and the water is now some distance away. This site is huge and yet they think about only 20% has been excavated. The theatre here seated an impressive 25,000 people although the three Singaporean lads singing a Christmas carol from the stage were playing to no more than 50 people (but I imagine many more on Tik Tok or Instagram!).
We bought the ticket which covered the main site and the terrace houses (tl250 per person). The latter is a live excavation site which is within the main Ephesus city but fenced off and under cover and the buildings are very well preserved.
Ephesus is Turkey’s most visited ruins and in the summer we can imagine that it is overrun with tour buses so probably best to visit as soon as it opens. One of the positives for travelling out of season is visiting these sites when they are relatively empty.
Our whistle stop tour continued on to Pamukkale where you can visit the travertine terraces and the ancient spa city of Hierapolis (same ticket – tl200 per person). The white water filled pools of the terraces can be reached by several gates but we used the north one which is located at the top. You can park and walk up from the bottom or from the town but as shoes are not allowed on the terraces themselves it would be quite tough on the feet! We would also suggest following the path away from the main pools area through the ruined fort and on to some more pools there. You can’t access these pools but the area is quieter making photos easier.
One extra you can do once on the site is swim amongst the ruins in Cleopatra’s Pool, a small geothermal heated pool close to the restaurant and coffee bar. It costs an extra tl130 and the ticket has a 2 hour time limit (probably summer only as nobody was checking during our visit).
The city was a destroyed by a series of earthquakes and the fault line is marked by a couple of signs. We had a wander through some of the ruins and climbed the hill which took us to the top of the Roman theatre which was worth the effort.
As well as seeing the area on foot, several companies offer sunrise balloon flights over the terraces but we think the weather had grounded them the morning we were there.
After all the tearing around over the past two weeks and before the children coming out to visit, we decided we needed a few days to relax and catch up with ourselves. We spent a couple of days parked up next to Lake Salda, a beautiful lake but cold at an altitude of over 3,700feet.
From here, after a visit to Carrefour, we headed out to the coast near Marmaris to a campsite on a cove surrounded by wooded hills.
Troia Pension, Troy: tl300 p/n (approx £13.50) including EHU. Small parking area next to the restaurant with toilets, a shower and access to a washing machine.Site is across the road from the Troy Museum and a short walk to the ancient ruins of Troy.
Antique Lodge Campsite, near Kusadasi: tl330 p/n (£14.60). EHU available based on usage – tl6 per unit. Great campsite with all you need including a swimming pool and lots of communal space around the bar/restaurant area.
Catlak Beach & Camping: tl300 p/n including EHU. Small beachside campsite accessed via the small beach road. Bar and restaurant on site. Great place to sit and chill for a few nights.
Other overnight stops:
Boomerang Bar, Eceabat: Free but buy a drink at the bar. Small hard standing, seaside parking area on the edge of the town. Good site from which to explore Gallipoli.
Bademli Beach near Dikili: Free beach side parking – grass and mud and flooded in places. Toilets and restaurants nearby (closed when we visited).
Aliaga: free beach side carpark located between a police and an army base. Lots of locals coming and going (we were there on a Saturday night), a few stray cats and rubbish lying around (lots of bins though). Toilets but they were locked. Fine for an overnight stay.
Atca: Free overnight park up in the Aqualand car park just off the main road. Quiet as the park is closed and fine for an overnight stay.
Pamukkale: Free park up just outside the town on the balloon take off/landing site (sadly no balloon flights during our night there).
Salda Lake: Free parking on the west side of the lake close to a restaurant (currently closed but toilets open). Flat grass parking away from the water’s edge although the ground was a little soft (very soft close to the water). Several local dogs who stayed with us the whole time we were there – very friendly and harmless and just wanted food, although they were fed by a local each day.