Best WOW places you could ever imagine of Turkey and Greece only in 10 days including 4 days all-inclusive cruise on the Aegean Sea to some of the world’s most beautiful islands.
Welcome to Istanbul. Transfer to your hotel and free time to explore the city or take a rest. Overnight Istanbul.
After breakfast, we embark upon a fully guided tour of the city that spans two continents, Europe and Asia.
We visit the Hippodrome area –known as the centre of Byzantine Empire for 1000 years and Ottoman Empire for the other 400 years! Continuing, we visit stunning Blue Mosque and then Hagia Sofia, built by Emperor Justinian. Once a church, later converted into a mosque, then a museum and the mosque again, nowdays. Before tour’s end, we have time for the Basilica Cistern, an ancient underground water tank decorated with carved and fluted Corinthian columns and a puzzling head of Medusa. Visitors walk on walkways constructed above clear, now shallow water. It’s very cool and peaceful.
Our tour will finish with a Bosphorous tour, because no stay in Istanbul can be complete without a traditional and unforgettable cruise along the Bosphorus, the stream separating Europe and Asia, without the humble fisherman villages and impressive bridges set against the dramatic outlook of the Strait, exemplifying the newest link between the East and West and the Rumeli Fortress, built in just 4 months (in 1452) by Mehmet the Conqueror in preparation of his planned siege of Byzantine Constantinople.
The end of the day we will visit, the Egyptian Spice market (to stock up on bargain saffron, spices, and Turkish delight )
Overnight Istanbul. (B, L)
05:00. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Kayseri airport then transfer to Cappadocia (about a 1-hour drive). Cappadocia is an extraordinary national treasure and it may be 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. The tour begins by visiting Esentepe, a hillside with spectacular views over the Göreme Valley, taking photos of the magnificent lava-formed landscapes, as a taster of what’s to come. Then, exploring properly with the guide, starting by visiting Pasabag (Monk’s Valley), whose chimneys are widely regarded as the best in Cappadocia, then 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, then admiring the Devrent Valley, where more mushroom-shaped pinnacles cover the hillsides.
We drive to the pottery town of Avanos, where the longest river in Turkey “Kizil Irmak” (Red River) passes through. You will attend the pottery-making demonstration and even try your hand at making your own unique pot. A meal break will be taken 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. Then, You will 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.
Then, a visit to 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. End of the excursion with a hotel drop-off.
Spend the evening at leisure amid Cappadocia’s magical landscape. Overnight Cappadocia. (B, L)
OR don’t miss the “Optional Whirling Dervish Ceremony & Traditional Turkish Folklore Evening”
19:30. A great night out where dinner, unlimited drinks, and entertainment are included in the price, which takes place in a cave restaurant, 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 a 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 last about 15 minutes. These shows not only introduce you to Turkish culture and various Anatolian dances but provide you with a genuinely entertaining show.
Optional Hot Air Ballooning
If you choose the option of taking a hot-air balloon ride, the day will start as described below:
05:30. A balloon ride over the moonscapes of Cappadocia, a region famed for being one of the best places in the world for ballooning. You will discover the stunning landscape of the region from the air! Admire Cappadocia’s beautiful scenery of tall, volcanic rock spires and high plateaus 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.
OR, without Hot Air Balloon:
09:30. The tour begins with a visit to the remarkable underground city of Kaymakli. During the period of occupation in early Christianity, the local population hid underground for protection. When the Arabs invaded Asia Minor in the 7th and 8th centuries, Cappadocia remained relatively undisturbed by the conflicts; maybe because 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 tunnels and chambers as you descend several levels underground.
Then we will visit Cavusin, an old Christian village, to see a triple apse church and the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. The tour includes lunch and an easy grade, three-kilometer hike through the Red Gulludere Valley, inaccessible by automobile and providing breathtaking scenery. Walk among the fantastic rock formations and along the way discover hidden frescoed cave churches, and to end the tour, we visit the natural landmark of Ortahisar Castle.
18:00. In the evening, transfer to the airport for a flight to Izmir. then upon arrival transfer to your hotel located in the seaside town of Kusadasi (approx. 1-hour drive south along the Aegean coast). Overnight Kusadasi. (B, L)
09:00. Start our tour, we explore the legendary Ephesus open-air museum, positively the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. Under the Romans, Ephesus was a vast city with a population nearing 250,000, reveling in prosperity from commerce. We have plenty of time to visit the marble ruins of Ephesus, the famous Library of Celsus, the gymnasium of Vedius, the 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. The road to the village passes through vineyards, orchards, and olive groves sometimes referred to as the Tuscany of Turkey. Get 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.
Then the Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana. Built around 550 BC, it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. and while listening to the history of the temple, you can see the restored column that marks this site. 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 David G. Hogarth in1904-1905. Many of the ruins are displayed at the museum in England.
To end the tour, a visit of ‘Isa bey Mosque, a wonderful example of Seljukian architecture, located just beneath the citadel in Selcuk near the Basilica of Saint John. Its interior is carved and decorated beautifully, a masterpiece of its time. Overnight Kusadasi. (B.L)
During your free time in the open-air museum, opt to visit the amazing tile murals and artwork of the Terrace Houses. 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 meters (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 accompanied by a guide and requires an additional entrance fee, paid on the spot“.
OR, SECOND CHOICE:
08:00. Driving east, we arrive in Pamukkale, home of the famous gleaming white calcium terraced pools. Known locally as “the Cotton Castle”, they are natural phenomena and gifts 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 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 center of the ruined spa town of Hierapolis, which was a cure center 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)
The Greek Islands are waiting for you. Transfer to Kusadasi port mid-morning and embark on a cozy floating resort, for your 4 day Greek Islands cruise, to take you to some of the most beautiful Greek Islands and Athens on a perfectly planned trip – (one that includes Patmos where St. John the Divine wrote the Revelation, Crete for the famous capital of Heraklion, nestled picturesquely between 2 mountain ranges with archaeological treasures and beautiful scenery, the breathtaking Island of Santorini where you can soak up the sun and relax on the beach, or explore Fira, the picturesque capital, or swim in the warm thermal waters and take a therapeutic mud bath in the world’s biggest volcanic crater.
We will sail into the deep-blue waters of the Aegean Sea, easily settling into the cruising routine of sunbathing, sipping cool drinks, splashing in the pool, and reveling in the delights prepared by the ship’s expert chefs. Plus, during your cruise, you set the pace: choose from a range of optional excursions or relax in any way you want.
Board your ship in the early afternoon and leave for Patmos, in the Greek Dodecanese archipelago. Known for its picture-postcard looks, Patmos boasts two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the hilltop Monastery and the Grotto of St John, where the saint reputedly penned the bible’s Book of Revelation.
After mooring, join an optional excursion to visit these religious sites, with the chance to see the capital of Chora spread beneath the monastery. Afterward, enjoy dinner on board before we sail overnight to Rhodes. (B, L, D)
The day is dedicated to Explore the historic Old City
of Rhodes, with its ramparts and palaces built by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades.
Another possibility is to join an “optional excursion” to Lindos and Athena’s fabulous temple, but if sightseeing is not your thing, Rhodes’ sun-drenched public beaches and colorful shopping districts are within easy walking distance of the port. Sail from Rhodes around dinnertime. (B, L, D)
Arrive at Crete in the early morning, breakfast on board. Greece’s largest island, Crete is a fabulous mix of archaeological treasures, bustling towns, brilliant shopping, and beautiful beaches.
After docking at the capital, Heraklion, set off to explore the historical highlights of this interesting town at leisure, or choose one of the “optional excursions” on offer, including a trip to the Palace of Knossos.
After lunch on the ship, we sail to Santorini, the breathtaking Greek island that overlooks a semi-submerged volcanic crater (caldera). We explore the capital, Fira, at leisure or we enjoy an “optional excursion” (own expense), discovering the interior by 4×4, island-hopping in the crater, or visiting the village of Oia for magical sunset views over the caldera. Return to your ship and sail for Athens overnight. (B, L, D)
Moor early at Athens’s Lavrion port and enjoy breakfast as you absorb the views of the Acropolis before heading to the hotel, set right in the heart of Athens.
5-hour sightseeing guided 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 Metropolis. 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 there, and Overnight Athens. (B)
After breakfast, your tour draws to a close and you will be transferred to the airport. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally noon, but luggage storage facilities are available. Happy travels! (B)
(B – Breakfast, L –Lunch, D –Dinner)