Earl Starkey planned a fantastic trip for us with excellent guides that went out of their way for us. We were a group of 10 and Earl made sure there was cold bottled water at all times in our van. The van was always clean and the guides were always on time. Earl planned our trip exactly to our specifications. All the hotels were perfect and his recommendations for restaurants were spot on. Originally, I did not want to go on a boat for the day in Bodrum and now I am very glad I did. Actually, the fresh fish on the boat was one of the best meals we had. When there were any bumps and/or mishaps, Earl and his staff were able to take care of things immediately. Our guide in Istanbul, Adnan Duvenci, was exceptional and if I go back to Istanbul I would request Adnan again.
So far, every travel agent I have found from Wendy’s WOW List has been excellent.
We recently returned from a trip to Turkey arranged for us by Earl Starkey. We were combining this with another trip and had just five days to spend in Istanbul and Cappadocia. Earl helped us make the most of it. We went back and forth on the things we wanted to see, and Earl gave us good advice on the pros and cons of different sites and experiences.
We’ve found that a key factor in our enjoyment of a trip is the guide. And Riza, our guide in Istanbul, was fantastic — deeply knowledgeable, very energetic, passionate about his country, and fun! We also had an excellent guide in Cappadocia, Basri, who on the spur of the moment got us tickets to see the whirling dervishes and recommended a great restaurant for us. Both guides were wonderful at asking us if we wanted our photos taken — something I forget to ask guides to do. With Riza and Basri, I didnt have to remember. They just did it.
For more than a decade, we’ve used Wendy’s recommendations for planning our trips and we experienced our first WOW Moment on this vacation. We cruised the Bosphorus on a beautiful private yacht. Lovely. Just lovely.
We traveled to Turkiye in late September 2022. Earl Starkey outlined an excellent literary and experience. We first considered enlisting in a group tour, but decided to go with Earl’s services as we wanted more individual attention than one typically receives with a group tour. To our surprise, this personal experience was less expensive than the group tours we considered. The individual guide and driver services exceeded our expectations. Such personalized service was excellent, as it was crafted to our desires and interests. From beginning to end, our experience in both Istanbul and Cappadocia could not have been better.
Our guide in Istanbul was Reza. He spoke perfect English, and provided a warm and friendly welcome. He openly discussed many of the issues in his country that we were curious about. He was quite engaging in his telling of the story of Turkiye, its history, and its relics from the long past. He knew the best times to go to each venue, got us in ahead of the crowds, and was one of the best and most informed guides I have had the good fortune of working with.
Our guide in Cappadocia, Basri was excellent—a very friendly and personable individual who assumed responsibility for taking care of us. He was informed by his lifelong residency in the region and provided some of the best experiences we have had while traveling in a foreign country. He brought us to a place in the country where we met with a family with whom we had tea, and we got to see spots that are not typically offered in group tours. Going to lunch was something that was also a great experience. We had him order for us, as we had tried with some dinners and it was hit and miss. He ordered some of the most fabulous food I have ever eaten, and our service was exceptional. His personal knowledge of the region gave us a passport to an adventure of a lifetime.
In summary, the quality of the services were the best we could have experienced. I highly recommend Earl Starkey and his team to show you their part of the world in a friendly, safe, and entertaining way.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Earl Starkey was very easy to work with and met all our expectations. The guide he assigned to us in Istanbul was named “Erkut.” Erkut is extremely knowledgeable, excellent English, and very much wanted to meet our needs. It was a perfect addition to our stay in Turkey. The only minor complaint was our Hotel rooms were very small, but hotel service and location was excellent. Earl with Erkut created a great and enjoyable trip for us. Thank you.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our request to Earl was a bit of an unusual one – we already were joining a cooking seminar in Antalya and Istanbul for a week prior, so were just looking for someone to plan a four day extension to Cappadocia in March 2022. Earl went above and beyond. He recommended and booked an exquisitely beautiful, perfectly located hotel in Cappadocia that turned out to be one of my favorites anywhere (great rooms, great food, great service). He paid attention to our interests and planned an itinerary accordingly. He was always super responsive to our emails and requests, and handled everything with a nice sense of humor. And perhaps most importantly, the guide he picked for us, Riza, was among the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. A wealth of knowledge with a can do, flexible attitude, and a great conversationalist, Riza quickly got our vibe and interests and made everything just that much more fun and interesting. As an obsessive with respect to all things food, I liked that he made sure I tried all the local specialties. Between Earl, Riza and our driver Mehmet, it was a seamless and truly memorable trip and they will be my first call (through Wendy of course!) when I return to Turkey, which I now hope will be very very soon. Now – with respect to Covid – we had a little bit of chaos when the Turkish Airlines representative wouldn’t accept our test results because they were more than 24 hours before our international flight (and contended that Emed video testing was a “home test.”) Anyway, that was in no way Earl or Riza’s fault, and in fact, we were thankful that Riza was still with us and was able to advocate with us with the airline, translate for us at the testing center, and generally manage the process until we were safely on the plane. Can’t recommend this team enough.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL What a spectacular trip! I was desperate to go anywhere this fall after a long quarantine in New York. Earl was incredibly responsive and after just one phone call, our itinerary was quickly assembled. Our amazing guide Riza and our lovely drivers could not have been more thoughtful and careful given the pandemic, and our itinerary was constantly being tweaked to avoid crowds, maximize time outdoors, while not missing a single sight! All our hotels had rigorous pandemic protocols that made us feel safe as we enjoyed the magical cities we explored. Earl also helped us adapt our itinerary throughout the trip. We booked the Bosphorus cruise while in Turkey after initially opting out and it turned out to be a true highlight. We appreciated all the helpful guidance from Riza, who blended tremendous historical knowledge, with incredible recommendations for restaurants, quick bites, and quality vendors for souvenir purchases. He made sure we missed absolutely nothing while making sure we weren’t exhausted. I don’t know how he did it, but his guidance truly made the trip. It was incredible having him as a constant presence throughout our trip. This was a truly remarkable trip and I strongly encourage anyone who feels comfortable traveling to take the opportunity to visit Turkey without the crowds.
One word of warning, no one in the Cappadocia balloon ride apart from us wore their mask and there was little enforcement although the pilot did try. Most tourists were from Russia and showed an utter lack of regard for the pandemic. Warn any guests that might be sensitive. I don’t want to recommend against the balloon company though because they objectively were excellent pilots and got down into the canyons in a way that other companies did not.
We had a great time in Turkey planned by Earl. The selection of hotels was fantastic. The guides in Istanbul and Izmir were extraordinary and the local transportation was great.
The trip was designed very well. We had visited all the places that we needed to visit and also had time to ourselves. Hotel recommendations were superb, the guide was very good – I would not change anything. Earl is absolutely amazing at all the recommendations and details. Thank you, Earl!
Earl was easy to work with. He was knowledgeable, helpful and made our trip easy. We loved the hotels that he chose for us and we would recommend them. The guides and drivers were all very pleasant, fun and they made our trip special.
My wife and I chose Istanbul as the place we wanted to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Overall, we had a fantastic experience, and especially enjoyed our super-guide/confidante – Mr. Reza Yenice. His encyclopedic knowledge of the city and country, as well as his excellent spoken English, made our visit informative and worry-free. We spent most of our visit in Istanbul but traveled to Ephesus for a day trip. My wife and I would highly recommend Earl and his team to anyone considering visiting Turkey. Also, we found it to be safe and friendly — no security issues whatsoever.
This is the 2nd time I have used Earl Starkey to plan our vacation in Turkey with my Turkish husband and in-laws. Earl and his team exceeded our expectations in planning and executing our itinerary. Earl is gracious, quick to respond when contacted, knowledgeable, and well connected. We switched some of the itinerary around at the last minute which Earl and his team handled seamlessly.
The hotel we stayed at was a perfect match for our likes. We had the best room location in the hotel.
The driver, Ali, did small extra touches for us without us asking. The guide, Burju, was excellent. She is well versed in ancient history, modern history, as well as open and willing to talk about any question we asked. She shared with us local cultural highlights. When we went to a restaurant that did not have the menu items we were looking for, Burju and Ali were able to quickly take us to another that was exactly what we were looking for. In addition, I asked Burju to simultaneously translate for me stories being told by a native Turk at one of the sights we were visiting which she did flawlessly. This enabled me to participate in the conversation as if I was a native speaker and part of the group. I felt like a local. This was a priceless experience that can only be done with a top-tier guide.
Traveling in Turkey with native Turks provides an extra challenge for any travel expert as Turks are very discerning clients. As they are native speakers as well as familiar with the country and culture, a travel expert, driver, guide, or hotelier will be quickly spotted if anything less than top-notch service is provided. My Turkish family raved about all facets of our trip. We will be contacting Earl again for our next family vacation in Turkey.
If you want to have a wonderful trip to Turkey, feel well cared for with all your desires met, then without a moments hesitation contact Earl to plan your trip.
We traveled to Turkey in April 2016 with Earl Starkey. We travel a lot and have experience with various travel companies. Earl and his team didn’t disappoint, actually truly exceeded expectations! All guides were exceptional, knowledgeable and enthusiastic! Nothing was missed, the hotels – perfect, the sites -fascinating, the choices for dining – perfect. I would highly recommend.
Visit Turkey—it will not disappoint—and use Earl Starkey. He will help you to design the PERFECT trip!
Earl and his team have done amazing work with trips. It is our first time in Turkey, and I am glad I got in touch with Earl. Earl was there every step of the way. I was very vague in my initial email to Earl, I simply informed him what I like and what my mother likes to do. Earl was able to read my mind. He gave good advice and pointers on what we can do in Turkey, and designed an itinerary that was very relaxing and easy for my mum to follow. It was also flexible enough for some last minute changes. As a result, we had an extraordinary time in Turkey. We enjoyed every moment. The food was amazing (I’m still dreaming about the tomatoes!!), the sites were all that I wanted to see (if not more!) and the hotels…. My mum couldn’t stop talking about the Gulu Konak and Museum Hotel… Amazing places! Let’s not forget the guides and drivers…. Guzin in Istanbul, Basri in Cappadocia, and Tan in Izmir were all wonderful and very knowledgeable. And let’s not forget Ali! What an amazing person!! I left my mobile in the car a few times, and he always managed to find it.
One of our domestic flights was delayed for 3 hours, and Earl & Co was able to reorganize our transfer to hotel- so that is very much appreciated! For me the idea of being able to contact Earl and/or his team at Sophisticated Travel gave me the peace of mind that I needed on this trip especially since I was traveling with my mum. In addition, we were upgraded in every hotel that we stayed in courtesy of Earl and Sophisticated Travel. So thank you very much!!
We left Turkey feeling that we needed to come back for more, thanks to Earl and his team at Sophisticated Travel.
My husband and I used Earl to plan a 3-day itinerary in Konya for ourselves and my in-laws. My husband and family are all native Turks, which provided an extra challenge to planning the itinerary.
After an initial phone conversation with Earl where he took time to understand our desire to see Konya and what our needs were, we were presented with a 3-day touring itinerary with private car, driver, guide, restaurant, and hotel arrangements.
The itinerary was perfect. In fact a friend who was originally from Konya commented that she had not heard of some of the places we went to visit. She was going to go and visit them after seeing our pictures.
One challenge we presented was I only speak limited Turkish, my mother-in-law speaks limited English, and my father-in-law speaks no English, so we needed a guide who could give a tour in both English and Turkish. Our guide, Eyup, did a beautiful job in going back and forth between both languages. He brought his personal love for Konya and it’s surrounds into his narrative. He also was gracious and honest in answering all of our questions on Mevlana, the modern city of Konya, and general questions about Turkey. The driver, Cengiz, was very professional and courteous. The car was always clean and ready to pick us up at whatever location we ended up at.
We also used some of Earl’s recommendations for restaurants in Istanbul which were spot on. My brother and sister-in-law, who live in Istanbul, had not heard of these restaurants and loved them too.
After our great experience with Earl, I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone considering a trip to Turkey.