Discover the unique traditions and mysticism of Rumi’s Mevlevi Order at its birthplace of Konya, and watch the devout whirling dervishes act out a hypnotic sema performance in Bursa.. Explore thousands of years of history hidden within the remarkable ruins of Ephesus, and have an exclusive tasting of the local produce in the Turkish mountain village of Sirince.. Wade through the magical hot springs at Pamukkale and uncover the streets of Hierapolis that Cleopatra once walked with your small group.. In Kas, discover a whole new level of relaxation on board a traditional Turkish gulet with an included coastal cruise on the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean.
Get your Turkish delights on a 15-day Istanbul round-trip adventure. It’s 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 Oludeniz’s 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 Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to the to the bizarre landscapes of Cappadocia, take the plunge and discover a new way of experiencing Turkey.
Welcome to Turkey! Your adventure kicks off in Istanbul – the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have all called home. There’s a welcome meeting planned at 1 pm, where you’ll 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 what’s around. Later on, why not gather together your new pals and seek out some Turkish cuisine in a street-side cafe.
Depart Istanbul this morning by a fast ferry to the port of Mudanya (approximately 1 hour). Then it’s a local bus to Bursa (approximately 1.5 hours), where you’ll 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, you’ll 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.
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 – you’ll 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. You’ll arrive in Selcuk with enough time to check in to the guesthouse and then take a leader-led orientation walk around town.
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 it’s 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 you’ll 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.
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 Cleopatra’s 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.
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 it’s 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.
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. You’ll 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, you’ll be greeted with a breathtaking view of an arching peninsula of white sand beach separating the crystal waters from its lush banks and the town’s trademark panorama. The myriad hues of colour between the waters and pine-forested hills is a sight to behold, and you’ll 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.
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.
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, you’ll 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.
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. It’s 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, Hadrian’s gate and the old Roman Harbour. Kaleici – the old city area that’s now a historical zone and protected from modern development – is home to relics of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman eras. There’s 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.
This morning, take a bus away from the coast and towards Konya (approximately 5.5 hours). While it’s 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 Konya’s 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.
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.