Best of Turkey
|Resort:||Best of Turkey|
|Destination:||Middle East, Turkey|
Get your Turkish delights on a 15-day Istanbul round-trip adventure. Its a mix of ancient ruins and modern cities, Islamic mysticism and Ottoman influence, inland discoveries and coastal cruising, and everything in between. Get lost in a traditional sema performance of whirling dervishes in Bursa, unlock the secrets of the ancient city of Ephesus, admire Oludenizs Blue Lagoon from high up on a mountain hike, and swim and snorkel in the Mediterranean on a traditional gulet cruise from Kas. From the winding laneways of Istanbuls Grand Bazaar to the to the bizarre landscapes of Cappadocia, take the plunge and discover a new way of experiencing Turkey.
Day 1 Istanbul
Welcome to Turkey! Your adventure kicks off in Istanbul the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have all called home. Theres a welcome meeting planned at 1 pm, where youll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. Afterwards, maybe get out and explore the frenetic streets of Turkey’s crown-jewel metropolis. Your group leader will take you on a walking tour of the nearby neighbourhoods so you can get your bearings on whats around. Later on, why not gather together your new pals and seek out some Turkish cuisine in a street-side cafe.
Day 2 Bursa
Depart Istanbul this morning by a fast ferry to the port of Mudanya (approximately 1 hour). Then its a local bus to Bursa (approximately 1.5 hours), where youll spend the night. Bursa is an old and important city with a rich and varied history. With elegant mosques, such as the supremely beautiful Yesil Camii, an intriguing covered bazaar, and teahouses filled with locals, Bursa offers a glimpse into the day-to-day of Turkish life. Spend this afternoon exploring the fascinating warren of streets and old Ottoman hans (warehouses). Bursa is also home to thermal springs nearby at Cekirge, famously used by Byzantine imperial families, so why not treat yourself to a soak, steam, and scrub Turkish-style. Otherwise, you could book into a traditional shadow puppet shows, or go find some local iskender kebab. Tonight, youll be a guest at a Dervish Lodge to see a hypnotic performance of the sema (the Sufi ceremony of the whirling dervish) and learn about their mesmerising rituals.
Day 3 Selcuk
Travel by public bus to the farming village of Selcuk (approximately 7 hours). Selcuk will be your base for exploring the nearby ruins of Ephesus tomorrow. In town, on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill lie several historical buildings youll see the Isa Bey Mosque, a beautiful example of 14th-century Seljuk Turkish architecture, and the imposing Byzantine citadel of the Grand Fortress. Just below the fortress are the ruins of the Basilica of St John, built by Justinian I in the sixth century. A short distance out of Selcuk is one of the ancient world’s Seven Wonders the Temple of Artemis although, sadly, only a single column (of 127 originally) remains. It was destroyed in AD401, after being successively damaged by floods, a Greek arsonist seeking notoriety, and the Goths. Youll arrive in Selcuk with enough time to check in to the guesthouse and then take a leader-led orientation walk around town.
Day 4 Selcuk
This morning, take a private minivan to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman classical cities in the world. Once the capital city of Roman Asia Minor, the city has a fascinating history, which really comes alive with a local guide to enhance your experience. Considering their age, the ruins are in incredible shape, and its not difficult to imagine them in their full glory over 2000 years ago, equipped with running water, public toilets, a medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved and regularly hosts concerts, but it’s perhaps the magnificent library that is the most striking. Later you will stop for lunch at a family-run restaurant, where youll feast on gozleme made fresh before your eyes. This afternoon, drive out to the nearby picturesque village of Sirince and taste some locally produced fruit wines. This authentic Greek Ottoman village seems to have been overlooked by modern development and the unique local architecture nestled in the hills make for a photographer’s dream.
Day 5 Pamukkale
A train ride inland through mountainous landscapes (approximately 3.5 hours plus a short bus ride) brings you to one of Turkey’s most photographed sites Pamukkale which literally translates to cotton castle. Here, natural hot springs with a high calcium content cascade over the edge of the cliffs, leaving the earth bright white; hence the cotton. Though you won’t be able to bathe in these travertines, you can wade through them, and these pools are said to have many healing properties. Take some time to visit the nearby ancient city of Hierapolis and have a dip in what used to be Cleopatras old pool. You can also check out the other ruins of the city Hierapolis is known for its abundance of temples and religious structures, vast necropolis, amphitheatre and strange tombs.
Day 6 Kayakoy
Take a bus ride south approximately 4.5 hours off the tourist trail to the village of Kayakoy. This small town acts as your base for exploring the Mediterranean coast, including the resort town of Fethiye and the renowned Blue Lagoon. Kayakoy was once a thriving place and now its considered a ghost village, as its ancient stone houses were abandoned after their Greek inhabitants left Turkey during the great population exchange of the 1920s. Now protected by the Turkish government, it provides the opportunity to see an untouched, traditional Turkish town in quite an eerie location. One church in the lower area of the village, Kataponagia, is of particular interest due to an interesting room out the back it was used to collect the bones of the dead. Pay to wander the ruins, enjoy the solitude, or simply chill out with a game of backgammon and sip tea with the locals.
Day 7 Kayakoy
Today, set out on a half-day trek along a section of rugged coastline, following part of the ancient walking trail of the Lycian Way to nearby Oludeniz (approximately 6 kilometres), where you can swim in the Blue Lagoon. Youll walk up a steep rocky path up the hillside, make your way through forest, and then up a hill with fantastic views out across the Mediterranean. At the final descent into Oludeniz, youll be greeted with a breathtaking view of an arching peninsula of white sand beach separating the crystal waters from its lush banks and the towns trademark panorama. The myriad hues of colour between the waters and pine-forested hills is a sight to behold, and youll soon realise why this is one of the most photographed beaches in Turkey. This evening, join your hosts for a Turkish barbecue dinner, relaxing in their garden and enjoying some delicious local food and lively company.
Day 8 Kas
Make your way the short distance from Kayakoy to Fethiye by dolmus a Turkish shared taxi. From there, take a public bus to Kas (approximately 2.5 hours), with some spectacular coastal scenery along the way. The picturesque village of Kas whitewashed buildings covered in bougainvillea and cobbled streets is the southernmost of all the Turkish resorts, and the starting point for your coastal cruise. The best places in town to swim are from the waterfront restaurants that have their own private water access. For the price of an occasional drink, you get your own deck chair, umbrella and unbeatable views. When the sun goes down there is the chance to explore the handicraft markets, where you can find beautiful handmade wares with a distinctly Turkish flavour. Once you have checked in, take a leader-led walking tour of the town.
Day 9 Kas
Today, transfer to the village of Kekova, some 50 kilometres from Kas, where you will board the gulet for a real Mediterranean experience. During the day, youll have the chance to swim and snorkel in crystal blue waters, feast on fabulous local cuisine, cruise over an ancient sunken city and explore Lycian tombs. If the weather is right tonight, you and your group can get comfortable on deck and sleep beneath the stars tonight.
Day 10 Antalya
Take a short journey today as you continue your exploration of the Turkish Coast. Travel 3.5 hours to the jewel in the Turkish Mediterranean Antalya. Its hard to get a bad photo of Antalya thanks to cobblestone streets framed by the marina on one side and the Taurus Mountains on the other. Arriving in the afternoon, your leader will introduce you to the delights of the old city with an orientation walk. Visit such sites as the clock tower, Hadrians gate and the old Roman Harbour. Kaleici the old city area thats now a historical zone and protected from modern development is home to relics of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman eras. Theres also an opportunity to swim, relax and enjoy stellar views overlooking the crystal blue Mediterranean, or to check out the Antalya Museum one of the best in the country. Tonight, be sure to try some delicious local cuisine with some of your travel crew.
Day 11 Konya
This morning, take a bus away from the coast and towards Konya (approximately 5.5 hours). While its a long day of travel, the scenery will keep you entertained as you cross the Toros Mountain range. The city is closely linked with the whirling dervish sect of Islam developed by Celaleddin Rumi one of Islam’s greatest Sufi mystics. Mevlana our master as he came to be known, believed that music and dance could induce a state of love and divine union, and so devised the whirling sema ritual. In town, you can visit the original Tekke of Mevlana, which holds many relics and is also the final resting place for Rumi. Also, get your bearings on an orientation walk to Aladdin Hill in Konyas centre. On the side of the hill are the sheltered remains of the palace of the Seljuk Sultans of Rum, while beneath the Alaettin Mosque are artefacts dating back to the Stone Age. Tonight, perhaps enjoy a refreshing tea or try some central Anatolian cuisine.
Day 12 Goreme
Leave Konya this morning by bus and head to the heart of Cappadocia (approximately 4 hours). The town of Goreme lies in a fantastic region of cones, needles and columns, fashioned by nature from the soft volcanic tuff rock. It’s honeycombed with caves scooped out to make churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles. In times of peace, the people in this region lived on the land, but in times of war or persecution they took to living underground. When you arrive in Goreme, stretch your legs and take a leader-led orientation walk. Then grab a beer, a tea, or perhaps a strong Turkish coffee if you need a pick-me-up. Don’t forget to pack sturdy walking shoes or boots and a comfortable daypack for exploring the valleys of Cappadocia.
Day 13 Goreme
This morning is an ideal time to discover Cappadocias unique landscapes from above in a hot air balloon! Although this activity isnt included in your trip, it is a highly recommended optional experience that most travellers opt for to see the wondrous desert scenes at sunrise. Speak to your group leader earlier on in your trip to pre-book a spot. Otherwise, in your free time today, maybe visit the World Heritage-listed Goreme Open Air Museum. Its a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings, and one of the earliest centres for religious education. There are at least 10 churches and chapels in the museum area, dating between AD900 and 1200, each one named after a prominent attribute by the local villagers, who were exploring these caves long before there was an entrance fee.
Day 14 Goreme
Take a walk through one of the nearby valleys this morning. It could be the Valley of Love where the fairy chimneys, deserted rock cut homes, and churches with frescoes will astound you, or any of the other fantastic scenic routes that your leader knows. You can also explore the underground cities. Beneath Cappadocias rock formations is a network of fascinating subterranean cities, which housed up to 10,000 people each. The largest are almost ten levels deep, with narrow passages connecting the floors like hamster tunnels. Your leader is available to make suggestions and help organise a guided visit, if youd like. This evening, your leader will offer you the option of enjoying a meal with a local family in their own home. This is a unique experience, enjoying the warm hospitality of a Turkish family and admiring the spectacular views of surrounding countryside all at once. Otherwise, why not try the local testi kebab, an evening nargile (hookah) in one of the cafes, or a glass of the local wine, overlooking a valley of fairy chimneys.
Day 15 Istanbul
This morning, have an early start and wave the fairy chimneys a fond goodbye as you transfer to one of the regions airports for a flight back to Istanbul. Depending on flight times and scheduled changes, expect to arrive back into Istanbul between 11.30 am and 2.30 pm. Once arrived at the airport, you are free to leave at any time, and your group leader can assist you with your onward journey. There is no accommodation for tonight; however, if you wish to spend a few more days checking out the sights of Istanbul, well be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability), with an included transfer back to your Istanbul accommodation.