June 12 / Day 1: Arrive Istanbul
Welcome to Turkey, where hospitality is a way of life!
Meet at the Istanbul International Airport for our private group transfer to the historical peninsula of Istanbul, known as Sultanahmet, where we’ll check-in to our accommodations, relax, freshen up and enjoy a welcome dinner at an atmospheric restaurant.
Transfer time: 1 h; transfer distance: 28 miles
Overnight in Istanbul at the Levni hotel or similar. Meals: D
June 13 / Day 2: Istanbul Walking Tour
After breakfast, we head out for a fantastic walking tour through Istanbul. We start the day with a visit to Beyoglu district, walking over the famous Galata Bridge to visit Galata Tower, one of Istanbul's main attractions. The tower consists of nine stories and it measures just under 220 feet in height. When it was built, it represented the tallest structure in Istanbul and was designed with military purposes, so walls are over 12 feet in thickness. Galata tower offers an amazing view of the historical peninsula, Golden Horn and Bosphorus through Princes’ Islands and has an observatory deck with a 360 degree view of the entire city.
Afterwards we take a walk through the historical peninsula area where we visit Topkapi palace, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome square, blue mosque, Basilica cistern and covered bazaar (Kapali Carsi).
The Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years of their 624 year reign. As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. The palace is among the monuments contained within the "historic areas of Istanbul", which became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985. Next to Topkapi palace we also visit to famous Hagia Sophia, considered to be one of the world’s most important monuments, a masterpiece and example of great architectural beauty. The marvel complex anchors the old city of Istanbul and has served for centuries as an Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later as a mosque and as museum.
On our way we also pass through Hippodrome square, once a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. The surviving monuments of the Spina (the middle barrier of the racecourse), the two obelisks (Obelisk of Thutmose III & Walled Obelisk) and the Serpentine Column, now sit in holes in a landscaped garden. Our next visit takes us to blue mosque (Sultan Ahmed mosque), built between 1609 and 1616. The design is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development. It incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighbouring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. Our last stop takes us to famous Grand bazaar (Kapali Carsi), one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
We conclude the day with a traditional cup of Turkish tea, known as cay and afterwards return to our hotel.
Overnight in Istanbul at the Levni hotel or similar. Meals:B/ D
June 14 / Day 3: Morning flight to Izmir
Drive to Selcuk, visit ancient Ephesus & terrace houses
In the morning we drive to Istanbul Int. airport and fly to Izmir and continue from there to Selcuk, where we visit the ancient city of Ephesus, one of the former twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era. In the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire; ranking behind Rome. Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15 % has been excavated. The ruins that are visible give some idea of the city's original splendour and the names associated with the ruins are evocative of its former life. During our visit we also head over to Ephesus terrace houses, located on the hill opposite the Hadrian temple. Also called as "the houses of rich", these houses, with amazing mosaics and frescos, are covered with protective roofing which resembles Roman mansions.
In the afternoon, after visiting Ephesus, we head over to a special highlight and visit a local winery house. Here you will experience a very fine example of a boutique winery, try a light taste cheese plate menu on the balcony from where you can take pleasure in the stylish architecture and enjoy the view of the courtyard or on the terrace looking down to the vineyards and feel the nature around you. Also, we will have a round walk through the winery where we see the production area with its tanks and the storage cellars with oak barrels and bottled wines.
Afterwards, depending on time, it is also possible to Sirince village, located on the top of a mountain with impressive wine yards and peach trees on his way. The village itself offers a perfect mixture of Turkish and Greek cultures.
In the early evening we take time for a short walk to the old city centre, famous for its traditional Turkish culture and lifestyle. The old quarter of the town, known as Ayasoluk Hill, dominates the surrounding area with several historical buildings on its slopes, including the Isa Bey Mosque, the grand fortress and the 6th century Basilica of St. John the Apostle. We conclude the day with a traditional cup of Turkish coffee before we return to our hotel.
Transfer time: 1 h; transfer distance: 37 miles (Izmir to Selcuk)
Depending on arrival time visit to Sirince village: transfer time: 10 - 15 min.; transfer distance: 5 miles
Overnight in Selcuk at the Saint John hotel or similar. Meals:B / L / D
(Lunch today will be at a very special local winery house near Selcuk.)
June 15 / Day 4: Pamukkale, travertine terraces & ancient Hierapolis
Today we leave Selcuk and drive to Pamukkale where we visit the famous travertine terraces and the ancient site of Hierapolis.
Pamukkale has the meaning "cotton castle" and is one of the most remarkable natural sites with its cotton white plateaus, pale blue waters topping of the shallow pools and gently cascading down the drape-like stalagmites onto the lower levels for over 300 feet. The city contains hot springs and travertine, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. Hierapolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the hot springs have been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC; people came to soothe their ailments, with many of them retiring or dying here. The large necropolis is filled with sarcophagi, including the sarcophagus of Marcus Aurelius. Parts of the archaeological site of Hierapolis are the great bathes, which were constructed with huge stone blocks without the use of cement and consisted of various closed or open sections linked together.
Transfer time: 3 h; transfer distance: 118 miles (Selcuk to Pamukkale)
Overnight in Pamukkale at the Lycus River hotel or similar. Meals:B / L / D
June 16 / Day 5: Pamukkale to Kas via ancient Laodicea, Xanthos & Patara
We leave Pamukkale in the morning and drive towards Kas, on our way we first visit Laodicea, an ancient city located close to Lycus river valley. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt several times through the centuries, most significantly during a great earthquake around 60 AD.
Nevertheless, the existing ruins are still well preserved and attest to the greatness of the former city. Excavations have revealed temples, a Greek Agora, a stadium, baths, a gymnasium, theatres and a bouleuterion (Senate House).
In the region of Kinik valley we also visit ancient Xanthos, inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site and mentioned by numerous ancient Greek and Roman writers as the largest city in Lycia. The prosperity of the city during the Persian occupation is demonstrated by extensive architectural achievements, particularly the many tombs, culminating in the Nereid monument.
Close to Kas our final visit takes us to Patara, a flourishing maritime and commercial city on the south-west coast of Lycia on the Mediterranean coast. Possessing a natural harbour, Patara was said to have been founded by Patarus, a son of Apollo. Ancient writers mentioned Patara as one of the principal cities of Lycia; it was Lycia's primary seaport and a leading city of the Lycian league.
Over a cobbled road we also walk to the sandy beach of Patara. With its gorgeous landscape, unspoilt Patara is one of Turkey’s longest beaches. As part of a national park, it is a key biodiversity area, rich in birdlife and the breeding ground of the endangered loggerhead turtle (caretta caretta).
In the early evening we arrive in Kas, a small fishing, yachting and tourist town. A quiet pleasant place with its blue sea and narrow streets scented with jasmine flowers and with plenty of little quiet cafes to relax.
Here we conclude the day with a traditional cup of Turkish coffee and spend the night at a charming hotel.
Transfer time: 4 h; transfer distance: 192 miles (Pamukkale to Kas)
Overnight in in Kas at the Villa Tamara hotel or similar. Meals:B / L / D
June 17 / Day 6 : Sea-kayak in Kas/Ucagiz village with a short hike to Kekova peninsula
Visit ancient Myra & St Nicholas church - Antalya & the old city centre Kaleici
An amazing day with sea-kayaking awaits you today, you start your kayaking adventure with learning essential paddling and safety skills on calm water. This trip will also be good introduction to sea-kayaking; covering equipment and paddling technique. Practicing basic skills in calm waters and warm temperatures ensures a comfortable and enjoyable learning experience.
The tour begins in Ucagiz regions. While beginners are being informed about sea kayaking, experienced ones can paddle for warm-up exercising. We then begin to kayak towards Kekova peninsula, a great place for its coastal scenery as well as for its archaeological sites well preserved because they are not easily accessible. During our pleasant excursion we will see the ruins on the northern coast of Kekova island, some of the old houses were completely submerged due to earthquakes during the Byzantine period. On route you can also see remains down to 2 meters deep, in the bluish light on the seabed. A true ancient sunken city!
Afterwards we walk up to Simena castle, rewarding us with a view all around and on numerous rock tombs.
From Kekova peninsula and the castle we start for a short hike towards Ucagiz village, where our vehicle is already waiting for us.
On our way to Antalya we also visit Myra, according to Strabo one of the largest towns of the Lycian alliance. The ancient city consists of an impressive necropolis including tombs of rulers and family members and a large Roman amphitheatre. Close to Myra we take a stop at St Nicholas church as well, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1982 with over half a million pilgrims and visitors each year. Saint Nicholas, also known today as “Santa Nick” or
“Santa Claus”, lived in Myra where he was a Bishop and dedicated his life to humanity and serving others. It is believed that he has fallen into his eternal sleep in this place. The Byzantine church was originally used as a house of worship for Orthodox Christians between the 5th and 12th centuries.
In the late afternoon/early evening we arrive in Antalya where it is possible to walk through the old city centre (Kaleici), with its narrow cobbled streets of historic Ottoman era houses, with streets and buildings still bear the marks of Antalya’s history. The old city centre has been restored to retain much of its historical character, most famous the Hadrian’s gate, the clock tower, Yivli Minare and Hidirlik tower.
Sea-kayak in Kas: approximately 3 h
Transfer time: 3 h; transfer distance: 130 miles (Kas to Antalya via Ucagiz)
Overnight in Antalya at the Prime boutique hotel or similar. Meals: B / L / D
June 18 / Day 7: Via ancient Aspendos, Konya Mevlana museum
And Caravanserai of Sultan Hani to Cappadocia
Today we leave Antalya and drive to Cappadocia, on our way we visit Aspendos, known for having the best-preserved theatre in the world from antiquity. Nearby stand the remains of a basilica, agora, nymphaeum (a monument) and 15 kilometres of a Roman aqueduct.
In the afternoon we arrive in Konya; the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum from 1097 to 1243. Konya reached the height of its wealth and influence in the second half of the 12th century when Sultan Kayqubad I. fortified the town and built a palace on top of the citadel.
In Konya we visit Mevlana museum; the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Sufi mystic also known as Mevlana or Rumi. It was also the dervish lodge of the Mevlevi order, better known as the whirling dervishes, who had a prolific impact throughout the Ottoman Empire in classical poetry, calligraphy, visual arts and music.
Also, on our way we take a stop at the caravanserai of Sultan Hani, the largest caravanserai of the country and a hostel for caravans during the 13th Century. Sultan Hani is one of the most magnificent Seljuk caravanserais and was built by Sultan Aladdin Keykubat.
In the early evening we arrive in Cappadocia, undeniably a nature fantasy and it almost feels like another planet with its exceptional geological formations. Wind, rain and frost have sculpted this superb scenery in the volcanic rock during millions of years and eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars and forms. In this creation of nature, the curiosity of the landscapes is added to the historical richness.
We spend the next three nights in Cappadocia to explore the landscape of this wonder of nature.
Transfer time: 6 - 7 h; transfer distance: 335 miles (Kas to Antalya via Ucagiz)
Overnight in Cappadocia at the Alfina Cave hotel or similar. Meals: B / L / D
June 19 / Day 8: Cappadocia sightseeing;
Uchisar citadel, Akvadi, Cavusin village, Pasabaglari & Zelve monastery valley
Optional activity: hot air balloon ride
In the early morning before Sunrise, it is possible to go on a Hot Air Balloon Flight. Cappadocia is awarded as one of the world's best balloon flight areas and it is one of the best ways to discover the unique landscapes of this impressive wonder of nature.
Afterwards. we go out to explore some of Cappadocia’s most impressive and important sites. We start the day with a visit to Uchisar village where we visit the high viewpoint known as “the fortress”. Many rooms hollowed out into the Rock, are connected to each other with stairs, tunnels and passages. The top of the Citadel provides a magnificent panorama of the surrounding area.
After visiting the citadel we walk through narrow and pictures streets of the village down to Akvadi, a famous valley following an old river bed, used today for vineyards. Especially a special section at the end of the valley is worth seeing.
In the early afternoon we arrive in Cavusin village, one of the oldest settlements in Cappadocia area, a small village made up of rock cut dwellings and elegantly carved stone houses.
From here we drive to nearby Pasabaglari (monk) valley. Here the fairy chimneys are unique and feature bizarre large toadstool like caps which protect the rest of the chimney from erosion. The area was formerly a monastic retreat and used to be known as monk’s valley and features a rock cut church dedicated to St Simeon.
Close to Pasabaglari we also visit Zelve monastery valley, where once Christians moved during the Persian and Arab invasions and the region, though recently uninhabited, became an important settlement and religious area. Spreading out over three valleys, of which two are connected by a tunnel, the amazing cave town is famous for its honeycombed dwellings, religious and secular chambers. The monastery is rich in its own beauty; main decorations are high relief crosses representative of the Iconoclastic doctrine.
We conclude the day with a cup of traditional Turkish coffee and afterwards drive back to our hotel.
Walking time: 2 h; walking distance: 3.7 miles; elevation gain: 0 miles; elevation loss: 900 ft.; (Uchisar to Cavusin village via Akvadi valley)
Overnight in Cappadocia at the Alfina Cave hotel or similar. Meals: B / L / D
June 20 / Day 9 : Cappadocia sightseeing;
Goreme open air museum, hike through Meskendir & red valley, visit Devrent & Uc Guzeller
We continue our fascinating tour through Cappadocia, we first visit Goreme open air museum, one of the most beautiful valleys in Cappadocia. The Christian people at the heart of Cappadocia realized that the soft rocks could be easily carved out to form houses, churches and monasteries. The frescoes inside the Goreme open air museum are a unique artistic achievements and the Christian sanctuaries contain many examples of Byzantine art from the post iconoclastic period. Afterwards we do some hiking through Meskendir & red valley area, another beautiful valley in Cappadocia with spectacular formations and colours,full of old cave houses, complexes and hidden churches from the old Christian civilization. Although it is not definite, the common believe is that most of the churches and complexes carved out of the cliff face date back to the 8th and 9th centuries and its decorative reliefs and frescoes added in the 10th and 11th centuries. In the late afternoon we also visit Devrent, a pretty small valley, famous for its lunar landscape. Also known as imagination valley, the formations, colours and resembling animals and different creatures of Devrent are unique. Here you can also find one of the landmarks of Cappadocia, the famous ‘camel’ rock formation.
We conclude the day with a visit to fascinating three fairy chimneys of Uc Guzeller, one of the most famous natural beauties and symbols of Cappadocia.
Optional activity: Turkish bath (Hamam)
In the late afternoon it is possible to visit a traditional Turkish bath, better known as Hamam, which combines the functionality and the structural elements of its predecessors in Anatolia, the Roman thermal and eastern Roman baths. In Turkish culture it stands for far more than getting a leisurely bath, it is a special place of relaxation designed to regenerate the body and mind.
Optional activity: Turkish night show
In the evening it is possible to visit a Turkish night show; the show begins with a short version of Dervish Sema (Mevlana) ceremony. Afterwards, folk dancers in traditional costumes will show you dances from different parts of Turkey, including the famous ‘bride and groom’ and the highlight of the night, the belly dance show, a perfect finish to a great holiday.
Walking time: 2 - 3 h; walking distance: 5-6 miles km; elevation gain: 278 ft.; elevation loss: 446 ft. (Meskendir & red valley)
Overnight in Cappadocia at the Alfina Cave hotel or similar. Meals: B / L / D
June 21 / Day 10 : Trip concludes at Kayseri airport
After breakfast; we’ll be transferred to Kayseri Airport where the tour concludes. (If you’re flying Turkish Airlines you can book your ticket all the way back to the USA from Kayseri. If not, you may need an extra evening back up in Istanbul (not included), where you’ll fly out the next day for your international flight back home.)
Everything you’ve learned and experienced in Turkey will slowly begin to sink in on the way home. It truly is one of the most fascinating and interesting places to visit and now you have done just that.
Transfer time: 1 h; transfer distance: 28 miles; (Cappadocia – Kayseri Airport )