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Istanbul – Istanbul
Max. 14 People
Private | Regular | Combination of small group tours
Welcome to Athens! You will be transferred to your hotel and the remainder of the day is yours free to explore at your own pace. Overnight Athens.
Ancient and modern, with equal measures of grunge and grace, bustling Athens is a heady mix of history and edginess. Iconic monuments mingle with first-rate museums, lively cafes and al fresco dining – and it’s downright fun.
The historic centre is an open-air museum, yet the city’s cultural and social life takes place amid these ancient landmarks, merging past and present. The magnificent Acropolis rises above the sprawling metropolis and has stood witness to the city’s many transformations.
Post-Olympics Athens, even in the face of current financial issues, is conspicuously more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than ever before. Stylish restaurants, shops and hip hotels, and artsy-industrial neighbourhoods and entertainment quarters such as Gazi, show Athens’ modern face.
Meet your guide in central Athens and head off on your 5-hour sightseeing tour around the Greek capital by luxury air-conditioned coach. Pass the must-see Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that stands in front of Parliament House on Constitution Square, and see the Presidential Mansion that served as the Royal Palace before the country’s monarchy was abolished in 1974.
Watch out for Panathenian Stadium – site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 – and then relax as your coach drives along Panespistimiou, home to Athens’ National Library and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, known locally as Mitropoli. After seeing the highlights of modern Athens, you’ll step back in time with a tour of Athens’ past. Visit the Roman Temple of Olympian Zeus, and then stop at Athens’ crowning glory – the incredible Acropolis of Athens. Built on a rocky hill towering above the city, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Acropolis is a cluster of ancient buildings that acted as a fortress – all reflecting the splendor and wealth of Athens during the 5th century BC.
Highlights of the Acropolis include the Pantheon, the Propylaea gateway and the Temple of Athena Nike – built to represent Athens’ ambition to be the leading Greek city. After spending time at leisure here, you’ll make your way back to your starting point by coach.
If you opt to upgrade your tour to include an entrance ticket to the Athens Acropolis Museum, your guided tour will actually finish here at the Acropolis. After receiving your ticket from your guide, head inside this fascinating museum to see a staggering collection of more than 4,000 artifacts. Highlights include statues from the Archaic period and the impressive Pantheon Hall — dedicated to the history of the famous temple on the peak of the Acropolis. Overnight Athens. (B)
The ferry ride from Athens to Santorini is approximately ? hours (??:?? to ??:??).
Early morning departure today for the breathtaking Island of Santorini, your home for the next two nights It’s the most geologically interesting of all the Greek islands, and arguably the most picturesque, with idyllic villages perched on the rim of a collapsed and flooded volcano crater.
The island is famous for its breathtaking and rugged landscapes, whitewashed houses, open-air cafes and glittering boutiques which cling to steep cliffs, accessible by foot, cable car or mule. Overnight Santorini. (B)
This tour is semi independent in style from days 3 – 7, so from once you arrive in Santorini until you depart from Samos you will not be fully escorted by a tour guide.
Today is free to explore this Greek paradise. Be sure to walk the streets of bustling Fira, the island’s iconic capital city, a vision of pristine whitewashed buildings. Take an optional boat trip in the world’s biggest volcanic crater above sea level. Visit the active volcano, swim in the warm thermal waters and take a therapeutic mud bath. Perhaps head to one of Santorini’s volcanic beaches, such as red, white or black beaches of Perissa, Vlhada, Perivolos or Agios Georgios.
Consider optional tour of a traditional winery and sample the grape variety unique to Santorini. Santo Wine, the largest winery on Santorini. This winery is idyllically located with marvellous views over the island and the sea – a lovely place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine, chees and olives! Santorini is a feast for the senses.
Don’t miss the sunset for which the island is justifiably famous. They are spectacular from anywhere but particularly from Oia on the northern tip of the island, which offers an uninterrupted view of the sun as it sinks below the horizon. Santorini has an abundance of dining establishments to suit all tastes where you can dine on a full range of international cuisine, including Greek specialities. Overnight Santorini. (B)
The ferry ride from Santorini to Mykonos is approximately ? hours (??:?? to ??:??).
Leaving Santorini behind, we board ferry for another stunning Greek Isle. Mykonos is legendary both in ancient and modern times. Known in ancient Greek mythology as the battlefield where Zeus fought the Gigantes and named in honour of Apollo’s grandson. Today the island is best known for the windmill-topped fishing village slathered in white and thronged by a hard-partying international crowd, enjoying its many beaches and side-tripping to the ruins on nearby Delos. Time on your own to enjoy the energetic ambiance. Find a table at a harbor side taverna and just savor the bustle of Cycladic island life and experience the completely outrageous Mykonian nightlife. Overnight Mykonos. (B)
Today is yours to explore all this island paradise has to offer. Relax at one of the many golden sandy beaches, stroll through little Venice where colourful balconies hang precariously over the sea and the town with its labyrinth of winding alleyways and whitewashed cubic houses with blue wooden shutters and balconies line labyrinthine cobbled streets. Take an optional day trip to the neighbouring island of Delos, a charming island and the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo. This Mecca of Ancient Greece is today an island wide, open-air museum.
Maybe you would prefer to visit the Archaeological Museum or Aegean Maritime Museum displaying ancient and nautical artifacts relating to the island’s seafaring heritage.Grab a seaside table and unwind, sipping ouzo and watching the sunset while listening to traditional Greek music. Overnight Mykonos. (B)
The ferry ride from Mykonos to Samos is approximately 4 hours (12:45 to 16:20), from Samos to Kusadasi is approximately 1,5 hours (20:00 to 21:30).
Today our Greek Islands dream comes to an end as we leave Mykonos and board an early afternoon ferry to cosmopolitan resort town of Kusadasi via Samos, home of the great mathematician Pythagoras. Small window of time to explore this lush green island at your own pace before continuing onto Turkey. Overnight Kusadasi. (B)
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)
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 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)
18:00 This evening you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Kayseri. 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.
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 – EUR 45
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.
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 – EUR 175
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)
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 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.
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)