Taste local fruit wines in one of the best-preserved Greek Ottoman villages in the country. The small village of Sirince is picture perfect.. Get up close and personal with the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia on a valley walk that’ll have you exploring rock-cut dwellings in Love Valley or the rose-coloured hues of Red Valley.. Discover the back streets and vibrant local markets of Istanbul, where East meets West.. Fall asleep on the Aegean Coast and wake up in Central Anatolia on the Mavi Konya, an overnight train from Izmir to Konya.
If you’re looking for world-famous ruins, postcard-perfect beaches, epic history and a healthy dose of mouth-watering cuisine, a Greek holiday is probably high on your list, but did you know all of these treasures can be found in Turkey too? You’d be missing out if you visited one and not the other, so we created the perfect two-week adventure for you. Glimpse Turkey and Greece’s glorious past on visits to Ephesus and the island of Delos. Compare Turkey’s version of beach life with that found on the Greek Islands. And debate which country serves up the tastiest cuisine. Balancing traditional towns with tourist hotspots, unique cultural experiences with bucket-list items, and free time with planned excursion, this trip to Turkey and Greece has all the makings of an unforgettable adventure.
Welcome to Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 1 pm, followed by a guided tour of the Old City with your expert leader. Visit the scene of many a chariot race in the ancient hippodrome, check out the Blue Mosque, take a walk past the wares of the Grand Bazaar and marvel at the architectural masterpiece that is Suleymaniye Cami. If you're not too exhausted after all the exploring, join your new friends for dinner and bask in the beauty of a real Turkish kebab. While you might be familiar with the shaved meats and pita bread sensation that you may have come across at 2 am, nothing beats the kind they wrap up in Istanbul.
How blue is the Aegean? Find out for yourself today. After breakfast, board a local train and head to the airport before taking a 1-hour flight to Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city. From here, transfer 1.5 hours to the coastal gem of Kusadasi. This resort town lies on Turkey's western Aegean coast and is the perfect base for visiting the classical ruins at Ephesus. It's also a great spot to soak up the vibes along the seafront promenade, check out the local beaches or have a bit of a fun enjoying the vibrant nightlife. Despite being a resort town, Kusadasi isn't all new hotels and marinas – it has a long history and some phenomenal cuisine featuring fresh seafood and local olive oil.
Kusadasi - Ephesus
Lace up your sensible shoes and charge your camera. Today starts with a visit to Ephesus, one of the best-preserved classical cities in the Eastern Mediterranean and arguably the greatest Greco-Roman site in the world. Once the capital city of Roman Asia Minor, the city has a fascinating history that really comes alive with a local guide to enhance the experience. The ruins are in incredible shape considering their age, and it’s not difficult to image them in their full glory 2000 years ago. This ancient city was extremely sophisticated with running water, public toilets, a renowned medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved and regularly hosts concerts, but it's the magnificent library that takes most people's breath away. From Ephesus, drive to Selcuk to feast on the popular gozleme (Turkish pancake) as it's made in front of you, then visit the Isa Bey Mosque, the Artemis Temple and the small village of Sirince to taste the local fruit wine.
Enjoy a full day at leisure to do as much (or as little) as you like! You might like to take a day tour to the famous Pamukkale World Heritage Site, Turkey's 'Cotton Castle' thermal pools that have been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Though you won't be able to bathe in these pools, you can take a walk through them, visit the nearby ancient city of Hierapolis and take a dip in what used to be Cleopatra’s old pool. Alternatively, you could take to the Aegean and explore the coastline on a gulet, a traditional wooden Turkish vessel, and swim in the crystal-clear waters of Soguksu Bay, Claros Island and Baradan Beach while enjoying lunch on deck. If you'd rather have a low-key day, there are plenty of beaches in town to relax on. Whatever you do, make sure you're ready to head back to Izmir by 6 pm as the Mavi Konya, an overnight train, will be waiting to transport you through the night to the central Anatolian city of Konya.
Konya / Cappadocia
Wake up in Konya, a traditional Turkish city that's closely linked with the whirling dervish sect of Islam developed in the 13th century by Celaleddin Rumi, considered one of Islam's greatest Sufi mystics. Take an opportunity to visit the Mevlana Museum and stretch your legs in town before hitting the road for a 3-hour journey to Cappadocia. Keep an eye out for the fairy chimneys, the hallmarks of Cappadocia's otherworldly landscape, as you drive across the Anatolian plains. Stop enroute at one of the underground cities that once provided a safe haven in times of war or persecution. Arrive in Goreme in the late afternoon and take a sunset valley walk before settling in for the evening.
This morning you have the option to take a hot air balloon flight, a once-in-a-lifetime experience during which the sun illuminates a skyline dotted with balloons. Even if you'd prefer not to take a flight, it's still worth waking up for this truly incredible sight. Later this morning, enjoy a guided walk through one of the nearby valleys, possibly the Valley of Love, which features fairy chimneys, deserted rock-cut homes and churches. Your leader will know a number of fantastic scenic routes, and a good walk is by far the best way to experience this unique environment. In your free time today, maybe visit the UNESCO-listed Goreme Open Air Museum, a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings cut into the soft cliff face. You could also hire a bicycle and ride to Avanos to check out the Red River or relax in a Turkish bath. This evening, your leader will give you the option of sharing a meal with a local family in their own home, or alternatively you could grab a local testi kebab, an evening hookah in one of the cafes or a glass of the local wine while overlooking the valley. A perfect last night in Cappadocia, whatever you choose.
Cappadocia to Istanbul
Wave goodbye to Cappadocia and transfer to the airport for a flight back to Istanbul (expect to arrive between 1 and 4 pm), then grab your bags and jump on the metro as the group heads to the Sultanahmet District for the final evening of the trip. Meet up with your travel buds in the evening and take a stroll across the Galata Bridge to one of the city's trendiest neighbourhoods, a place of contradictions where tool-selling tradesman share space with chic cafes and galleries – this is the place to be seen. Try a local favourite, balik ekmek (fish sandwich), for dinner, then cleanse the palate with a baklava. Maybe check out a few of the bars, or simply enjoy a farewell cay (Turkish tea) overlooking the Bosphorus.
Hos Cakal! Goodbye to Turkey and Kalimera! Welcome to Greece.
This morning, transfer to Istanbul airport, bid farewell to your tour leader, and board a flight bound for Athens. The flight will be unaccompanied, but your leader will provide flight details and contact information before you board, and you will be met at the airport on arrival. After transferring to the hotel, the day is free until a group meeting at 6 pm. Settle in, freshen up and maybe take a walk around Athens’s ancient streets to get a feel for the city. After your evening meeting, head out for dinner with the group at a restaurant in the vibrant Psiri neighbourhood.
Today travel by metro to the port of Piraeus, then catch a relaxing scenic ferry to Syros (approximately 4 hours). In the heart of the Cyclades, Syros offers a rare opportunity to see the islands as the Greeks do. One of the Aegean's most underrated islands, the island features typical whitewashed houses, farms, terraced fields and gorgeous sandy beaches. Your leader will take you on a wander through the main town of Ermoupolis, home to well preserved neoclassical mansions and 19th-century tenement blocks. Syros is also home to delicious sweets. Stop at a family run traditional loukoumi workshop where you will be shown the procedure of how these multi-coloured fruit-flavoured jellies (also called Greek Delight) and chalvadopita (hazelnut, almond or honey-filled wafers) are made - make sure you try some of them. You'll have plenty of time to explore tomorrow, so perhaps kick up your feet at a waterfront cafe and watch the setting sun turn the houses pink.
Take a walk through the fortress-like town of Ano Syros, which offers great views of the Aegean Sea. Wander the narrow alleyways, pass handmade-souvenir shops and keep an ear open for traditional Rembetiko music floating out of the family-run tavernas. Enjoy free time to further explore Syros at your own pace. Discover abandoned windmills, ancient ruins and charming villages on a network of stone-paved tracks that crisscross the island. Perhaps head to the various archaeological sites on the island, or you might prefer to simply hole up on a beach for the afternoon. Outside of Ermoupolis are many small tranquil coves, while the most popular beaches are on the southern side of the island. While some are sandy and others pebbly, all boast crystal clear waters for swimming in. In the evening, take taxis to a taverna to a remotely located village in the rugged northern part of the island to sample delicious local specialities during an included meal, all while watching the sun set over the Aegean Sea.
Today board a two-hour ferry to Mykonos, a beautiful island named in honour of Apollo's grandson. Mykonos is legendary both in ancient and modern times. Known in ancient Greek mythology as the battlefield where Zeus fought the Gigantes, today the island is best known for its decadence, style, and nightlife. Join your leader for a walk through the maze-like old town and be captivated by the quintessential Greek Isles vista of squat white houses brightly juxtaposed against the cerulean sea. Browse the chic galleries and boutiques, follow flower-lined paths past age-old churches and tiny restaurants to secluded, sandy beaches, and spend the afternoon soaking up the rays and splashing in the water. As the sun sets, join the group for a picnic dinner of local specialties. Your leader will know the ideal spot to sit back and enjoy an Aegean sunset.
Delos / Mykonos
This morning you will take a half-day trip out to the nearby island of Delos. One of the most important archaeological and mythological sites in the Greek Islands, a sacred area that was once the political and religious centre of the Aegean, Delos is considered to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. A living museum, the wealthy built mansions in the town that developed around Apollo’s sanctuary, decorating them with luxurious frescoes, mosaics and statues. The island is overflowing with archaeological finds like the Terrace of the Lions and the Sacred Precinct, with many more still being uncovered. Later on today you might like to head to one of Mykonos' many beaches, which are some of the nicest in Europe. Take a short bus ride to the pumping Paradise or Super Paradise beach bars, or perhaps find a quieter spot to relax along the beautiful coastline. You could also check out the 19th-century House of Lena or the Aegean Maritime Museum in town. This evening you could make your way to the village of Ano Mera and seek out a tavern for a seafood dinner or perhaps wander down to Little Venice, where colourful balconies hang precariously over the sea.