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 to Gallipoli
Start your day at 06:30 with a pickup from your hotel and departure for the 5-hour drive to the WW1 battlefields of Gallipoli, 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. Enjoy included breakfast half way between in the small port town of Tekirdag.
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. (B)
Day 4 Ancient city of Troy, Anzac Day Eve
This morning we enjoy one-hour 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.
Free time (approx. 8 hours) until 19:30 and you have the option to stay in Canakkale or stay with your guide and driver on the bus and return back to your accommodation in Eceabat with a short ferry-ride across. Canakkale is a small city with a sizeable student population that loves nothing more to eat, drink and party in the atmospheric cobbled lanes around the clock tower, Naval Museum and along the sweeping kordon (waterfront promenade).
20:00 We head stright to ANZAC Cove where the ANZAC legend was born, to secure a good spot at ceremonial site in readiness for the long night ahead. (B)
(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 Gallipoli to Istanbul
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 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 farewell Gallipoli before we return to Istanbul where your tour concludes at our central drop-off point and sadly it is time to say goodbye to new friends. We are able to organise extra post-trip accommodation and day tours/activities if you wish to extend your stay. Happy travels! (LB)