Istanbul – Istanbul
Max. 14 People
Private | Regular | Combination of small group tours
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.
Called Byzantium and later Constantinople, Istanbul is the only city to span two continents, sits on the Bosphorus – the strait of water that divides the continents of Europe and Asia and encompasses the natural harbour – the Golden Horn.. Its illustrious past leaves a rich legacy of churches, mosques, palaces and museums, complemented by the behemoth Grand Bazaar with over 6,000 shops, the aromatic Egyptian Spice Market and the colourful street life.
Sultanahmet, the compact old city of Istanbul, is full of parks, gardens and stunning sights. The Blue Mosque is famed for it’s blue Iznik tiles and unique 6 minarets. The Hagia Sofia, constructed in the 6th century, reigned as the grandest and biggest church in Christendom until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, when it became a mosque. Just around the corner is Topkapi Palace.
Istanbul was a capital city for many empires – Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman and today, although it is not the capital, it is a thriving, eclectic city in present day Turkey. With its mix of Ottoman, Byzantine, Islamic, Baroque, Rococo and Art Nouveau styles of architecture, nightlife and excellent cuisine options, Istanbul is a wonderful and exciting city to explore. Art galleries and museums are doted throughout the city and it hosts film festivals, as well as many major art, music and cultural events. Istanbul also hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Air Race World Series.
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)
05:00 This morning 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
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 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 flight to Izmir. You will be met upon arrival and transferred to your hotel located in the sea side town of Kusadasi approx. 1 hour drive south along the Aegean coast from Izmir.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 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)
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.
This afternoon you are transferred to the bus station and board an intercity coach to your choice of destination along the Aegean or Mediterranean coasts.
Tonight you choose to stay in the capital of the Turkish Mediterranean coast Antalya or, Bodrum where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean and where all the arts were born or, Marmaris rests on a broad Mediterranean bay boasting some of Turkey’s best beaches and yachting or, sea side resort town of Oludeniz famous for paragliding and once voted as the most beautiful beach of Europe. Overnight Aegean or Mediterranean. (B, L)
Days at leisure to explore one of the stunning sea side resorts along the Turquoise coast. Overnight Aegean or Mediterraneanx2. (B:2: D:2)
Situated directly on the Gulf of Antalya, this quickly growing epicentre of both ancient history and thoroughly modern Turkish culture has, since the 1960s, become known as a gateway city for the country’s so-called ‘Turkish Riviera’. Over the past decade sun-worshippers heading to nearby Mediterranean resorts have been laying over in Antalya in such great numbers that the guesthouse industry has experienced astounding growth of its own – by more than 200%, according to tourism officials.
It isn’t difficult to discern why: The preserved Roman-Ottoman quarter of Kaleici commands a heart-stopping view of the Beydaglari (Bey Mountains), as well as the Roman harbour at Kaleiçi’s base and the refreshingly clean body of water in between. And although its populace hasn’t yet reached the level of urban sophistication found in Istanbul or Ankara , life here nonetheless pushes forward at a remarkably modern clip. Antalya lays claim to some of Turkey’s finest restaurants, one of its most impressive archaeological museums, and some of its best-preserved Ottoman architecture.
Bodrum may be just as much of a hyperresort as Kusadasi and Marmaris, but with its sugar-cube houses, draped in bougainvillea, and the palm-lined streets it has been more successful at clinging to its original charm.
Despite the influx of charter deals and lager louts in high summer, a short walk along the waterfront will show Bodrum is gaining a reputation as the Monte Carlo of the Aegean, with a smart new marina, sophisticated restaurants and millions of dollars worth of sailing craft laying over for a night or two. Bodrum’s outstanding Museum of Underwater Archaeology is also well worth a stop in itself.
But it’s certainly not a place for those whose idea of a dream holiday revolves around peace and quiet. For years the outdoor Halikarnas disco revelled in its fame as the loudest disco in the Med and these days it has competitors too. Come in spring or autumn, however, and Bodrum reverts to a pleasant, relatively low-key resort. Not surprisingly, tourism is the local economy’s lifeblood, although there’s a plentiful tangerine crop in winter.
The once-sleepy fishing village of Marmaris sits on the marvellous natural harbour where Lord Nelson organised his fleet for the attack on the French at Abukir in 1798. The setting may still be glorious but the picturesque old part of town around the harbour and castle is now all but lost in the concrete sprawl trailing off to the west.
In the summer the town’s population swells to around 200, 000, mostly package holiday-makers. The bazaar is full of expensive souvenirs and budget tourists, the streets are full of traffic, and the restaurant scene is based on fish and chips with beer by the gallon. But, to its credit, the town council has woken up and the harbourside promenade now boasts some handsome albeit modern stone buildings. The town also has a disarmingly liberal attitude – there aren’t many other places in Turkey where a bikini-clad, tattooed tourist draining a can of beer on the main street at noon doesn’t raise an eyebrow.
If it’s a last night out, a boat cruise or a ferry to Greece you’re after, this is the place. Marmaris still has Turkey’s largest and most modern yacht marina and is consequently the country’s busiest yacht-charter port; and the bar district and harbour have a great range of places to drink.
The rugged coastline around Marmaris is an undiscovered gem – only 10km from Marmaris’ bright lights, the deeply indented coastline holds bays of azure sea backed by pine-covered mountains. When you need to escape, hire a car or motorcycle and cruise around the rugged Reşadiye and Hisaronu Peninsulas.
Oludeniz (Dead Sea), about 15km southeast of Fethiye, is not devoid of life like its biblical namesake. Rather, it’s a sheltered lagoon hidden from the open sea. The scene as you come down from the pine-clad hills is absolutely beautiful: in the distance open sea, in the foreground a long spit of sandy beach.
Unfortunately the paradise that many past travellers fondly recall has all but been ruined by the tightly packed belt of hotels behind the beach. Oludeniz (the lagoon) and Belcekız (the adjacent beach resort) used to be one of the highlights of independent travel in Turkey but the development of identical air-conditioned hotels, loud bars and overpriced restaurants has hardly bolstered its appeal. Many travellers may prefer to shoot straight through. Note that the name of the lagoon (Oludeniz) is becoming synonymous with the town and that asking for Belcekiz may draw a blank.
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. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally noon, but luggage storage facilities are available.
If you are planning to fly out of Turkey today, why not include an outbound airport transfer and combo with a suprisingly cheap domestic flight to Istanbul and perhaps get connected with your onward international flight. Approx. EUR 95
We are able to organise extra post-trip accommodation and day tours/activities if you wish to extend your stay. Happy travels! (B)