The Best of Turkey
Day 1: Istanbul
Welcome to Istanbul. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until an important meeting in the evening. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for the exact time of this meeting. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these to provide to your leader. Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, with a history spanning thousands of years. It has been through several incarnations, firstly as Byzantium, then Constantinople and finally Istanbul. The colourful streets are always brimming with busy locals. You may like to arrive a few days earlier to wander through the city, but you'll be returning to Istanbul at the end of the trip and will have the option of staying on your own then. Notes: if you arrive at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport (IST) you will be met and tr
Day 2: Istanbul
This morning you will visit the UNESCO heritage site of Aya Sofia. Now a museum it was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, consecrated a church, and then converted into a mosque. After visit the Ottoman inspired Suleymaniye Mosque. This mosque is one of the largest in the city and one of the must see highlights on this trip. For the remainder of the day, you'll be walked through the famous covered Grand Bazaar or the Spice Market. Your leader will give you some advice on how to get the best bargains by the fine art of haggling. You'll find from clothing and jewellery to sweets and spices at the frenetic marketplaces.
Day 3: Istanbul - Safronbolu
Head to Amasra today. This is arguably one of the prettiest of the coastal towns on the Black Sea: a fortified promontory overlooking harbours and sandy beaches. You'll go on a sightseeing tour of the town, including the Kale (citadel), the old bazaar and the Byzantine church which later became a mosque. Continue to Safranbolu where you'll stay for the evening. The time spent driving today is approximately six hours.
Day 4: Safranbolu
Spend the day in Safranbolu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town has a strong Ottoman heritage, with beautifully preserved timber houses and cobblestone streets. Here you'll get a feel for Turkish life and see the works of traditional artisans practicing their age-old crafts. In the evening you will continue on to the town of Kastamonu and spend the night there.
Day 5: Amasya
Make the 4-hour journey to the charming town of Amasya today, which sits in a valley on the banks of the Yepilyrmak River. Once the capital of the Pontic Kingdom, Amasya still has tombs of Pontic kings in the cliffs. Today, the town is famous for its attractive Ottoman-period timber houses and its lush orchards. Venture out to explore the 13th-century Seljuk Burmali Mosque, the fountain, Seljuk tombs and the bedesten (covered bazaar). Stay in Amasya for the night.
Day 6: Sivas
Enjoy some free time in Amasya this morning, perhaps by taking a stroll along the banks of the river or by sitting down to some lunch beside the water. In the afternoon you will head to Sivas, which should take around 3 hours. This is the most mountainous city of the central Anatolian region and sits at an altitude of 1,275 metres. Once an important commercial centre due to its location at the crossroads of the Persia and Baghdad caravan routes, the city later became an important centre for learning and culture during the rule of the Seljuks. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. You might take this opportunity to try some regional dishes.
Day 7: Sivas
Witness some of the most famous monuments and sites of Sivas. The Çifte Minare Medressa with its twin minarets and grand gateway was built in 1271 and was formerly a law faculty. The Ulu Cami or Great Mosque, built in 1197 by the Seldjoukides Sultan Kýlýçaslan II, is the oldest building in the city. The Gok Medressa (theological school) and the Buruciye Medressa, both built in 1271, display the best examples of Seljuk art work. The city of Sivas is also famous for its nomadic Kangal dog, a unique breed of sheep dog which has become the national dog of Turkey and a designated 'national treasure'.
Day 8: Darende
Travel towards Darende. On the way, you'll go for a walk to the picturesque Gunpinar waterfalls. Perhaps stop at a riverside eatery and sample the local fish. After lunch, take another walk in the beautiful surrounds and get back in the bus to Darende. Today's drive will take a total of three and a half hours. Reach the Darende town centre and go on an orientation walk. During this tour you'll see the 300-year-old covered bazaar. If you're lucky, you'll come across the Turkish dried apricot which is famous in the area. Stay the night in Darende.
Day 9: Darende - Mt Nemrut
After breakfast you'll drive to Adiyaman, located in the Central Euphrates. The driving time today is approximately four and a half hours. Part of the Fertile Crescent, Adiyaman sits at the crossroads of major ancient routes and has been occupied by many civilisations. This town will be your base for visiting Mount Nemrut National Park. Mount Nemrut is thought to house the tomb of the ancient king, Antiochus. Here you will see archaeological relics from the Commagene civilisation, including enormous statues of human and animal heads. If it's clear today, you'll catch the spectacular sunset over the ruins before heading back to Adiyaman for the night.
Day 10: Kahta - Cappadocia
Today will be a long day of travel towards Cappadocia. You'll spend about seven and a half hours in the bus and reach the town of Goreme in the evening. Your first glimpse of a fairy chimney will make it all worth it. Enjoy an orientation walk of this enchanting town. Then settle into your feature stay hotel in Goreme; one of the first boutique hotels in the region You will be based here for the next three nights to explore the wonders of Turkey's most surreal region. Don't forget to pack sturdy, well worn-in walking shoes or boots and a comfortable day pack for exploring the valleys of Cappadocia.
Day 11-12: Cappadocia
This morning you have the option of taking a very early hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia to see this otherworldly scene at sunrise. Those who are interested in this optional extra will have a truly awe-inspiring experience. The day officially starts with a tour of the Goreme Open Air Museum. Here you can explore houses, churches and monasteries carved out of the cliff. See colourful early Christian frescoes dating as far back as the 10th century. In the afternoon, you'll visit a carpet workshop and learn about the nomadic origins of the Turkish people. Finally, take a short walk through the unusual Love Valley, which is full of bizarre phallic rock formations. In the evening, you have the option of taking a traditional Turkish bath to unwind from the day's activities.
Day 13: Cappadocia - Konya
Today you'll travel to Konya. It is approximately a three-hour drive in in total. Along the way, you'll make a stop to the underground city of Derinkuyu. This fascinating ancient labyrinth goes as deep as seven levels underground. After exploring the underground city, continue your drive to Konya where you will stay the night. Note that Konya is a very religious town, so please dress conservatively to show your respect.
Day 14: Konya - Antalya
Konya was known as Iconium in Roman times and later became the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries. It was also home of the famous Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi who founded the Whirling Dervishes. Today you'll visit Mevlana's mausoleum, and the museum devoted to his works. Take a five-hour drive to the coastal city of Antalya, one of the best-known classical sites in Turkey. You'll visit the old city, the old Roman harbour and the famous Hadrian's Gate. Perhaps enjoy an optional dinner of fresh local seafood. Our hotel tonight has fantastic views of the Toros Mountains and the Marina, and is located a short walk away from Mermeli beach and Antalya Museum.
Day 15: Antalya
Visit the Antalya Museum this morning. Ranked third in Turkey, it includes 13 exhibition halls and an open air gallery. Have a free afternoon to explore Antalya. Perhaps head down to the harbour for an afternoon boat tour or venture a bit further out to Konyaalti Beach to soak up some sun.
Day 16: Kas
Make your way to the region of Lycia and to the ancient Greco-Roman city of Phaselis, which flourished from the 7th century to the 12th century. The Phaselians were more concerned about preserving the affluence of their commerce than with staking any political independence, so they pragmatically accepted any conquerors that came their way. Today this place is a beautiful picture-postcard setting with bays surrounded by mountains and fragrant woods. The driving time is around two and a half hours today.Continue on to the seaside village of Kas. Here you'll see charming whitewashed houses covered in bougainvilleas as well as an ancient Greek theatre. Sample the local cuisine and enjoy the night in the town's quaint centre.
Day 17: Kas
Take a short drive to Kekova and get on a local boat for a cruise around the islands. Look out for rock formations and houses that have been submerged under the clear water. The cruise takes you to the settlement of Ucagiz and also the village of Simena, with its stone houses covered in bougainvilleas. The view from the castle is spectacular. You'll also sail from large bays to beautiful protected inlets where you can go for a swim. Return to Kas in the evening.
Day 18: Pamukkale
Drive to Pamukkale, also known as 'Cotton Castle'. This one-of-a-kind natural phenomenon is made of terraced hot springs and pools. As the water cascades down the mountain, dazzling cream-coloured stalactites form, giving the appearance of cotton or snow. These pools are said to have healing properties for a person's circulation and digestion. You'll then make your way to the nearby ruins of Hierapolis, an important Roman bath centre. Explore the extensive ruins of Hierapolis which include a theatre, temple, holy area, monumental fountain, bath, basilica and necropolis. Return to Pamukkale for the night. Today you'll be driving for around six hours in total.
Day 19: Pamukkale - Selcuk
After breakfast we make an early start for a drive of about four hours to Selçuk, which is our base for visiting Ephesus - one of the best-preserved classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean and a great example of Roman architecture. An orientation tour familiarises us with Selçuk, a sprawling town lying at the base of the ancient fortress on Ayasoluk Hill. Those who wish can optionally visit the last home of the Virgin Mary, who as legend has it came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot. We spend the night in a hotel in Selçuk and have a chance to reflect and fully comprehend the history and splendour of our days discoveries.
Day 20: Selcuk
This morning take a guided tour of Ephesus, one of the best-preserved classical cities and a great example of Roman architecture. The visit to Ephesus is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers. Tour around the amphitheatre, walk the marble streets once walked by Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and marvel at the gymnasium, baths and wonderfully restored Library of Celsus.
Day 21: Canakkale
Today you'll make your way to the city of Çanakkale, but along the way you'll stop at the site of ancient Troy. For many years people believed that this city was merely a fable. Archaeological digs have proved that the area was settled by major civilisations, but historians are still at odds as to whether Troy really existed. Here you'll see the remnants of ancient city walls and a replica of the famed wooden horse. Arrive at Çanakkale later in the day and spend some free time wandering around the waterfront town. The driving time today is approximately six and a half hours.
Day 22: Istanbul
Cross the Dardanelles, the strait which separates the Asian and European sides of Turkey. This area played an important role for Australians and New Zealanders during the First World War. You'll visit the beach and cemeteries of Anzac Cove, then head up the hill toward the poignant memorials of Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. Look down upon the rough and barren hills and gullies that became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. Tour the former battlefields and encounter remnants of trenches used by the Turkish soldiers. Head back to where your adventure began, Istanbul. You'll arrive in the late afternoon or early evening and have the remainder of the evening free. Perhaps spend a final night with the group and indulge in a Turkish feast in town. Notes: Total driving time is approximately 5 hours.
Day 23: Istanbul
Your trip comes to an end this morning after breakfast. Extra accommodation at our Istanbul hotel can be booked through us. We recommend you stay on for at least another day or two to take in the wonders of this heady metropolis. Alternatively a departure transfer can be booked to take you to the airport for your onward flight.