Day 1 Welcome to Turkey
Welcome to Istanbul! You will be transferred to your hotel and the remainder of the day is yours free to explore at your own pace. Overnight Istanbul.
Day 2 Best of Istanbul
We would suggest that you go ahead and have the tour on the day following your arrival so that you will be familiarized with your surroundings enough to enjoy the remainder of your time visiting some other spots that you may like to see, those can easily be negotiated on your own after you’ve had a good day of orientation.
This morning, embark upon a fully guided tour of the only city that spans two continents, Europe and Asia. Before lunch, we start with Eyup cable car, and then ride up it to the Pierre Loti Café, where the French poet Pierre Loti wrote while admiring views of the Golden Horn. Sit down and relax here, while soaking up commanding views of the horn-shaped fjord below that splits the city’s European shoreline into two. Step inside Rustem Pasha Mosque for a short tour. Small yet spectacular, this city secret boasts an eye-catching interior with a liberal smattering of geometric and floral tiles that adorn the walls and ceiling before a visit to the Egyptian Spice market (stock up on bargain saffron, spices and Turkish delight here!).
Why hit just one continent when you can get double value from the city that straddles two?
No stay in Istanbul would complete without a traditional and unforgettable cruise along the Bosphorus, the winding straits seperating Europe and Asia. The humble fishing villages and suspension bridges set against the dramatic outline of the Strait exemplify the newest link between the East and West. While onboard, seeing Bosphorus Bridge and Rumeli Fortress, built in just 4 months in 1452 by Mehmet the Conqueror in preparation of his planned siege of Byzantine Constantinople.
The Marmaray provides you a unique chance to make a link between the European and Asian continents by train in a sub-sea tunnel (resting upon the sea floor beneath the waters of the Bosphorus Strait). This engineering feat was first conceived by a legendary Ottoman sultan in 1860. Designed to withstand earthquakes, this is the world’s first underwater tunnel that connects two continents. In theory, it brings closer the day when it will be possible to travel from London to Beijing via Istanbul by train! The giant rail system of Istanbul’s Marmaray Project was inaugurated and opened on October 29, 2013 following four years of construction delays that were largely due to the discovery of ruins dating from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
After lunch, a visit to the Hippodrome area – famed as the centre of Byzantine life for 1000 years and of Ottoman life for another 400! Continuing, visit the stunning Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, built by Emperor Justinian. Once a church, then a mosque, today it is a museum. Before tour’s end, visiting the Basilica Cistern an ancient underground water tank replete with carved and fluted Corinthian columns and a puzzling head of Medusa. Visitors walk on walkways suspended above the clear, now shallow water. It’s very cool and peaceful. Overnight Istanbul. (B, L)
Day 3 Istanbul (Free Day)
Day at leisure. Istanbul is easy to get around on foot and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes dotted about the city. Perhaps check out the Grand Bazaar for exotic souvenirs or soak up the ambiance of the city at your own pace. Overnight Istanbul. (B)
Absorb yourself in history and beauty of Istanbul on our optional Rest of Istanbul tour and visit the home of legendary Ottoman Sultans, Topkapi Palace with accommpanying Harem Museum. Continue to the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, the interior of the building is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes and Turkey’s largest covered market-Grand Bazaar and more. Marvel at these famous monuments alongside your expert guide who will give you individual attention on this small-group tour.
Explore Buyukada, the largest of Turkey’s Princes’ Islands, on this optional full-day trip from Istanbul! Cruise across the Sea of Marmara, watching the sights of Istanbul slip from view, and then explore the pedestrianized island in the best possible way – by horse-drawn carriage!
Optional Rest of Istanbul Tour
Enjoy an extensive tour of the Topkapi Palace and Harem Museum, the royal residence of the legendary Ottoman Sultans, now converted into a museum. Originally constructed between 1460 and 1478, the lavish palace boasts four lush courtyards made up of pavilions, kitchens, barracks and kiosks; an impressive treasury with an assortment of treasures and artefacts; and fantastic views over the Sea of Marmara.
The royal quarters where the sultan, his family and, yes, many concubines lived are there, but be sure not to miss the Chamber of Holy Relics, which has King David’s sword, a fragment of Moses’ staff, and John the Baptist’s arm and a section of his skull. Relics of Mohammed are also on display.
Before lunch, check out the labyrinthine and chaotic, Grand Bazaar sprawling over a huge area in the heart of the Old City. This was the first shopping mall ever built during the time of Mehmet the Conqueror. Starting as a small masonry bedesten (covered market), today, the bazaar has 16 hans (caravanserais), 64 lanes, mosques, banks, a police station, restaurants, workshops and more than 2000 shops, making it a world within itself. Before long, it became the center for trade in the entire Ottoman Empire. At its prime, the market was locked down and guarded by more than a hundred soldiers every night, like a fortified castle.
After lunch, enjoy a visit to the Suleymaniye Mosque, built by the greatest, richest and most powerful of Ottoman sultans – Suleymaniye I, better known as Suleymaniye the Magnificent and the nearby Kariye Museum, where you will see some of the finest examples of Byzantine art, frescoes and golden mosaics. Your guide will take you through the lifetime of Jesus and Mother Mary following the artefacts on the walls.
Your tour then ends with a visit to the City Walls, initially built by Constantine the Great, the walls surrounded the new city on all sides, protecting it against attack from both sea and land. As the city grew, the famous double line of the Theodosian Walls was built in the 5th century. Ultimately the city fell from sheer force of Ottoman forces on 29 May 1453 after a 6-week siege.
Optional Princes’ Islands Leisure Tour
Leave your central Istanbul hotel by air-conditioned coach and head to the port with your guide to board your boat to the Princes’ Islands. The largest and most interesting one is Buyukada – your destination of the day! While cruising, look back on the sights of Istanbul, seeing iconic landmarks like Topkapi Palace and pretty Kiz Kulesi (also known as Maiden’s Tower or Leander’s Tower), which was featured in the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.
Dock in Buyukada and then amble through the streets with your guide, soaking up the laid-back atmosphere of island life. Vehicles are notably non-existent here, and the pretty roads resonate with the pleasing clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages. Hop aboard your own carriage and explore Buyukada at a fittingly relaxed pace. Your guide will explain the island’s history as you travel, talking about its time as a place of exile for banished statesmen and royalty, and of its life as a monastic settlement during Turkey’s Byzantine-Christian period.
Pass the lovely wooden mansions that exemplify the island’s late Ottoman-era architecture, and look out over the sparkling sea lapping on the shores. Seagulls are everywhere in Buyukada, and if you want to feed them your guide will give you simits (bread with sesame seeds) so you can throw them a treat.
Stop for lunch at a seafood restaurant and then spend the rest of your day at leisure on the island. Bring your bathing suit if you want to swim, or perhaps explore the island’s craft shops and waterfront cafés. Meet your guide at a pre-arranged time for your boat ride back to Istanbul. The last leg of your journey is made by coach to your Istanbul hotel, where your tour ends.
Day 4 Istanbul to Gallipoli
12:00-12:30 We meet at our central meeting point in Istanbul and departure for the 5-hour drive to the WW1 battlefields of Gallipoli. We’ll stop for a bite, stretch our legs and stock up on supplies, as we drive along the shores of the Sea of Marmara and the straits of the Dardanelles, we’ll be viewing the waterway that the British, French and Anzac troops were intended to secure during the Gallipoli campaign.
17:00-17:30 On arrival at the Gallipoli battlefield area we will enjoy free time for dinner in the port town of Eceabat before we head to ANZAC Cove at 20:00 where the ANZAC legend was born, to secure a good spot at ceremonial site in readiness for the long night ahead.
(Please note: No accommodation is available on this night – you will sleep under the stars as the ANZAC’s did 102 years before * The evening may be very cold – please come prepared with appropriate shoes and clothing * Food and drinks are available to purchase near the dawn service site)
Day 5 Dawn Service
The battlefields cover an extensive area from Cape Helles at the southern tip of the peninsula north for over 35 km (22 miles) to the Anafartalar hills. Around 100,000 were killed and 400,000 wounded during the nine-month campaign (1915-1916).
This tour gives you the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the 60,000 Australians and 8556 New Zealanders who served at Gallipoli, including the 11,500 who never came home.You’ll have plenty of time to independently explore the many trenches and memorial sites as you make your way up to Lone Pine or Chunuk Bair for the Australian or New Zealand National services.
05:30 Start with a poignant bugle call, as dawn breaks over the Gallipoli peninsula, we will join thousands of fellow Australians and New Zealanders in an once-in-a-lifetime event, the Dawn Service at Anzac Cove. As the sun rises behind us, the strains of the Last Post will echo across the valleys and ridges of Gallipoli, silent now but once the scene of so much sacrifice and tragedy. The service lasts for an hour.
The dawn service continues until around 08:00 and then your tour guide will bring you up to Lone Pine and Chunik Blair for the Australian and New Zealand Services.
After the service, walk 5km (3.1 mi) to the Australian cemetery at Lone Pine, before continuing a further 2km (1.24 mi) uphill to Chunuk Bair for the New Zealand ceremony, which will end at approx. 1:30. The service at Chunuk Bair starts 45 minutes after the Australian service at Lone Pine. If you’re a New Zealander, you will need to head straight to Chunuk Bair. It’s a good walk uphill and you’ll be struggling to view both services.
10:00 Australian National Ceremony at Lone Pine (Please note – as of 2016 onwards, the Australian ceremony at Lone Pine will no longer be conducted. Passangers can still visit the Lone Pine site following the dawn service, but the ceremony will no longer take place)
11:45 New Zealender National Ceremony at Chunuk Bair.
Late afternoon you will meet up with the coach again and drive back to your hotel. Overnight Gallipoli.
Day 6 Tour of Gallipoli
The World War I battlefields of Gallipoli are now a serene site. Here, we’ll embark upon a guided tour of the region, once the site of fierce fighting and today almost hauntingly beautiful, with its wooded landscape dotted with understated memorials to the war dead. Our guided tour of the region will take in sights such as ANZAC Cove and Commemorative Site, Lone Pine Australian War Memorial and cemetery (the site where Albert Jacka became the first Australian to be awarded a VC in WW1), Chunuk Bair New Zealand War Memorial and cemetery, the Nek (where the Australian Light Horse Brigade suffered heavily in August offensives), Johnston’s Jolly and the many fortified trenches still clearly visible amongst the scrub after all these years. Roughly 3 feet deep, the system of trenches provided much need safe cover for troops as they desperately fought the enemy.
You will also have the chance to visit the Turkish 57th Infantry Regiment Cemetery and Memorial and the sculpture ‘Respect to Mehmetcik’ at Pine Ridge. (Mehmetcik – ‘Little Mehmet’ – an affectionate Turkish nickname for Ottoman/Turkish soldiers).
Among the many statues, cemeteries and memorials at Gallipoli, this one stands out. Recalling a true event, the Mehmetcik Memorial revive the moment an incredible event occurre:
‘A piece of white underwear was raised from one of the Turkish trenches and a well built, unarmed soldier appeared. Everyone was stunned and we starred in amazement. The Turk walked slowly towards the wounded British soldier gently lifted him, took him in his arms and started to walk towards our trenches. He placed him down gently on the ground near us and then straight away returned to his trench. We couldn’t even thank him. This courageous and beautiful act of the Turkish soldier has our love and deepest respect to this brave and heroic soldier’. First Lieutenant Casey
Richard Casey later became Governor-General of Australia and served at Gallipoli as aide-de-camp to Major-General Sir William Bridges.
The day ends on the small Kabatepe Information Centre and Museum – a museum of modest proportions which exhibits period uniforms, weapons, copies of letters from servicemen and other poignant personal possessions. Outside the small museum are some memorial gardens and top views of the peninsular memorials dotted across the landscape. Overnight Gallipoli.
Day 7 Troy and Pergamum
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Troy! If you’ve seen the movie – ‘Troy’ or read the poet Homer’s – ‘The Iliad’ you’ll be familiar with Paris – Prince of Troy, his prized Helen and Hector – Prince of Troy on the Trojan side and Agamemnon and Achilles (he of the heel) on the Aechaean (Greek) side. The legend of the lost city of Troy and Homer’s poetry was bought alive by it’s rediscovery in 1863. Subsequent excavations revealed 9 ancient cities, one on top of the other, dating back to 3000 BC!
We enjoy a tour of the ruins and bear witness to a replica of the stoic Trojan wooden horse that, as the story goes, was filled to the gunnels with Aechaean soldiers who helped sack Troy. Canakkale city is also home to a replica of the Trojan horse used in the 2004 film Troy. Movie of Troy features an ensemble cast that includes Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom.
Visit the ancient Acropolis of Pergamum en route to Kusadasi, once the capital of the East Roman Empire. Sitting in a stunning location on top of a hill, Pergamum is also famous for its awesome hillside amphitheatre, one of the steepest in the classical world. The highlight of any visit is the Temple of Trajan, the ruins of what would have been a colossal marble temple, that has been carefully restored using ruins found on the site. There is also the dramatic amphitheatre, carved steeply into the hillside, and thought to date back to the 3rd century BC.
In the early Christian era, Pergamon’s church was a major center of Christianity and was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. We’ll follow a picturesque route along the Aegean coastal to the cosmopolitan resort town of Kusadasi where your hotel awaits. Check into your room, enjoy dinner and then spend the rest of your evening at leisure. Overnight Kusadasi.
Day 8 Ancient city of Ephesus and Sirince Village
09:00 Today, we explore legendary Ephesus open-air museum – positively the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. Ephesus, under the Romans was a vast city with a population nearing 250,000, revelling in prosperity from commerce. We have plenty of time to tour the marble ruins of Ephesus. Be sure to see the famous Library of Celsus, the gymnasium of Vedius, Stadium, and the Great Theatre. We’ll see ancient public toilets, a brothel, fountains and various temples.
You will also have the chance to visit the pilgrimage point claimed to be the last home of the Virgin Mary before driving to the nearby Ottoman-Greek village of Sirince, trying some of their specialty fruit wines and take a break to enjoy a delicious lunch of Turkish cuisine at a local restaurant, while your local guide explains interesting facts about gourmet’s paradise of Turkey. As you approach the village, the road passes through vineyards, orchards and olive groves which is why it is sometimes referred to as the Tuscany of Turkey. Have your cameras ready as you stroll with your guide up and down the narrow cobblestone lanes between buildings of stone, wood, and plaster. The fragrance of burning wood or the local orchards in bloom will captivate your senses.
Continue to the nearby site of the Temple of Artemis also known as the Temple of Diana, built in around 550 BC and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. See the restored column that marks the site and hear how the temple was rebuilt three times before its destruction in 401 AD. It was discovered during excavations that were undertaken by the British Museum, in 1869-1874 under the supervision of J.T. Wood and in 1904-1905 under David G. Hogart. Many of the ruins are displayed at the museum in England.
Before tour’s end, visit the wonderful example of the Seljukian architecture, Isabey Mosque located just beneath the citadel in Selcuk near the Basilica of Saint John. It’s interior is carved and decorated beautifully and a masterpiece of its time. There is an inscription to God that decorates the main doorway.
Opt to visit amazing tile murals and artwork of the Terrace Houses in the free time given while you are inside the Ephesus open-air museum. Excavated from the 1960s to the 1980s, the structure is a city block of 1st-century AD (Roman) private residences, comparable to a condominium and occupying about 4,000 square metres (about an acre). In many regards, the remains are on a par with the famous ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy – making them one of the world’s key sites to experience and admire the sophistication, luxury and aesthetic refinement of upper-class Roman domestic life. Surprisingly, only about one in twenty visitors to Ephesus explores this unique structure. (Entrance to the Terrace Houses is not accommopanied by a guide and requires additional entrance fee paid on the spot, 15TL or 5 Euro). Overnight Kusadasi. (B, L)
Day 9 White calcium formations of Pamukkale
08:00 Driving east, we arrive at Pamukkale – home of the famous gleaming white calcium terraced pools. Known locally as the Cotton Castles, they are a natural phenomena and gift of Mother Nature. Pamukkale was formed when warm, calcium rich mineral water cascaded over the cliff edge, cooling and depositing in the process. The calcium built natural shelves and pools on the cliffs, known as travertines. Today, many of the pools are closed to tourists. However, areas of the travertines can be walked upon, albeit in bare feet.
We can also opt to enjoy a unique and very pleasant dip in the warm waters at the Pamukkale Thermal, with its submerged fragments of fluted marble columns near the centre of the ruined spa town of Hierapolis, which was a was a cure centre founded around 190 BC by the Romans. The Romans were aware of the curative powers of mineral springs and created communal baths. Overnight Kusadasi. (B, L, D)
Day 10 Kusadasi to Cappadocia
Leaving Kusadasi behind, we take a flight to Cappadocia’s Kayseri airport and depending on flight schedules; we may head straight for the airport after breakfast or enjoy some free time to explore this harbour town before being transferred to the airport.
On arrival you will be met and transferred to Cappadocia. Cappadocia is an extraordinary national treasure and is perhaps even the jewel in Turkey’s illustrious crown. Turkey’s most visually striking region, where erosion has formed caves, clefts, pinnacles, fairy chimneys and sensuous folds in the soft volcanic rock. Overnight Cappadocia. (B)
Day 11 Northern Cappadocia
09:30 Start the tour by visiting Esentepe, a hillside with spectacular views over the Goreme Valley. Here, take photos of the magnificent, lava-formed landscapes as a taster of what’s to come, and then set off with your guide to explore properly. Visit Pasabag (Monk’s Valley), whose chimneys are widely regarded as the best in Cappadocia, see a chapel dedicated to the well known reclusive monk, St. Simeon as well as some small cave habitations that were carved and used by monks one thousand years ago. and ogle the Devrent Valley, where more mushroom-shaped pinnacles cover the hillsides.
Drive to the pottery town of Avanos, where the longest river Kizilirmak (Red River) in Turkey passes through. Have the chance to view the pottery making demonstration and even try your hand at making your own unique pot. Break for a buffet lunch at a local restaurant before visiting the UNESCO-listed Goreme Open-Air Museum, famous for its rock-cut chapels coated in Byzantine frescoes. Admire the beautifully painted chapels. Marvel at the numerous cave churches and monasteries with their richly frescoed walls painted by Orthodox Monks around 1000-1200 AD.
See also the Uchisar Castle. Situated at the highest point and providing superb panoramic vistas, it is a large rock formation full of interconnected rooms, tunnels and passages that have been carved from the tufa. Scattered throughout the immediate surroundings are several Roman tombs also cut from the tufa. Board back to your coach and end your experience with a hotel drop-off. Spend the evening at leisure amid Cappadocia’s magical landscape or don’t miss the optional traditional Turkish folklore evening and performance of a whirling dervish. Overnight Cappadocia. (B, L)
Optional Whirling Dervish Ceremony & Traditional Turkish Folklore Evening
19:30 A great night out where dinner, unlimited drinks and entertainment is included in the price, which takes place in a cave restaurant, which is carved into the region’s soft volcanic rock. The show features belly dancers, traditional folk dancers and traditional Turkish musicians.
Before drinks are served, Mevlevi Dervishes perform the whirling sema ceremony with Sufi music concert. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the ‘The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony’ of Turkey as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The dervish music and whirling event lasts about 15 minutes. These shows not only to introduce you to Turkish culture and various Anatolian dances, but provide you with a genuinely entertaining show.
Day 12 Southern Cappadocia
This morning you have the option of taking a hot-air balloon ride in a region famed for being one of the best places in the world for ballooning.
Optional Hot Air Ballooning
05:30 Start the day with a balloon ride over the moonscapes of Cappadocia. Discover the stunning landscape of the region from a hot-air balloon! Admire Cappadocia’s beautiful scenery of tall, volcanic rock spires and high plateaus from the air on a 1-hour flight.
Toast to your unforgettable experience with a glass of Champagne during the post-flight celebration and receive a souvenir medal. Your Cappadocia hot-air balloon flight includes a complimentary pre-flight buffet breakfast and convenient round-trip hotel transportation.
09:30 Today you will begin with a visit to the remarkable underground city of Kaymakli, which was occupied during the period of early Christianity when the local population went underground for protection. When the Arabs invaded Asia Minor in the 7th and 8th centuries, Cappadocia remained relatively undisturbed by the conflicts; perhaps due to the fact that the monks and local Christians went underground, literally, excavating the subterranean cities and richly frescoed cave churches which you can explore today. Kaymakli is one of many such complexes that have been discovered in the region. Wind through the network of tunnels and chambers as you descend several levels underground.
The tour will then visit Cavusin, an old Christian village, where you will see a triple apse church and the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. The day’s touring includes lunch and an easy grade, three kilometer hike through the Red Gulludere Valley, inaccessible by automobile and providing absolutely breathtaking scenery. Walk among the fantastic rock formations and along the way discover hidden frescoed cave churches. Before tour’s end, visit the natural landmark of Ortahisar Castle.
18:00 This evening you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight to the exotic city of Istanbul. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your accommodation. Overnight Istanbul. (B, L)
Day 13 Istanbul
You are free to depart at any time today. After breakfast your tour draws to a close and we say goodbye to our new friends before being transferred to the airport. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally noon, but luggage storage facilities are available.
We are able to organise extra post-trip accommodation and day tours/activities if you wish to extend your stay. Happy travels! (B)
(B – Breakfast, L –Lunch, D –Dinner)