Istanbul, arguably one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, comes alive in winter with Salep (creamy beverage made from the root of the wild orchid), mulled wine and steaming bowls of Corba. Visit the city minus the crowds: you wont have to queue and you may just get that perfect shot of the Blue Mosque.. Visit the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia, and maybe, just maybe, the fairy chimneys will be covered in a dust of white, the rock cut churches will be empty and the testi kebab can take the chill from your bones.. Visit Lake Cildir, the second-largest lake in eastern Anatolia. It’s frozen for 7 months of the year and is a winter wonderland like no other.. Jump on the Dogu Express, the overnight train from Ankara to Erzurum and squash your nose against the window as you pass through some of the most beautiful destinations in Turkey.
Generally perceived as a summer destination, Turkey has a lot to offer the traveller who is prepared to forgo summer temperatures and Mediterranean resorts for stunning landscapes of snow-capped mountains, iced lakes and fairy chimneys dusted in white. Istanbul begins winding down in October as temperatures start to drop, giving way to winter cuisine of Salep (a cream drink served hot made from the root of wild orchids), mulled wine and steaming bowls of mercimek corba (lentil soup). The famous sites are still there but the crowds are not, so if you’re prepared to rug up then this winter discovery is the perfect way to discover Turkey and its fascinating history.
Breakfast Included: 8 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included: 1
Welcome to Turkey. This adventures kicks off in Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. You welcome meeting commences at 6pm – make sure you have all your important documents and details for your leader. Double check with the hotel reception or the noticeboard for meeting confirmations. Until then, maybe get out and explore the frenetic streets of Turkey's crown-jewel metropolis. After the meeting, maybe gather together your new friends and seek out some Turkish cuisine.
Meet your leader early this morning for a walking tour of the city's Old Town, Sultanahmet, where some of the most powerful ancient empires based themselves. Soak up hundreds of years of history in the crowded markets and winding backstreets filled with hidden gems.Take in the beauty of the 17th-century Blue Mosque with its cascading domes and minarets then visit the hippodrome, where Byzantine emperors watched chariots and horses thunder around a track. Haggle with locals in the sprawling Grand Bazaar, but not before checking out Hagia Sophia, now a treasure trove of a museum but formerly a church and mosque. Finish the tour by visiting Suleymaniye Mosque, built by Sinan the Grand Architect, and tasting true Turkish delight at the Spice Markets. Enjoy free time in the afternoon to continue sightseeing or simply take it easy, then meet up with the group in the early evening for a chance to taste some Turkish wines.
Transfer to the airport after breakfast for a one-hour flight to Cappadocia, known for its incredible honeycomb landscape filled with churches and dwellings carved out of the soft volcanic rock. The unique geography is a stark contrast to the surrounding central plains. Explore this stunning, fascinating region in the afternoon with a walk through the valleys that'll take 1-2 hours, then join a local family for dinner in their cave home. The fire will be burning and the home-cooked meal delicious, so sit back, relax and enjoy some local Turkish hospiality. It's just like home, but you know, in a cave.
Spend a full day exploring this otherworldly region. If you're lucky, there'll be a dusting of snow on the surrounding mountains and maybe on the fairy chimneys too. The first stop is Derinkuyu's underground city, the deepest of all the underground cities in this region. In times of peace, these spaces were used by the local people for storage and in times of war, they offered shelter and protection. Well-preserved Derinkuyu is eight levels deep with stables and wine cellars (because underground living should still be classy), and gives you an insight into what life was like during the period of Christian persecution. From here, travel to the Ihlara Valley, which is believed to have once housed 80,000 people, and walk along the Melendiz River before visiting the Selime Monastery, the largest rock-cut monastery in Cappadocia featuring a large cave cathedral. Finish the afternoon with a Turkish carpet demonstration at a local village and learn about the role they played in nomadic life, then spend the evening relaxing in a local cafe, stretched out in front of the fire.
Cappadocia - Overnight Train
Enjoy your last morning in Cappadocia: we recommend visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring chapels, churches and monasteries cut into the rock, or alternatively take another walk through the valleys. After lunch, head to the train station and depart for Erzurum on the Dogu Express, an overnight train that runs from Ankara, Turkey's capital, to Kars, a city near the Armenian border.
Jump, or rather disembark, from the Dogu Express in Erzurum at 2.30 pm and transfer to your hotel. Not only is Erzurum the home of the mouth-watering cag kebab, it was also once a stronghold for the the Seljuk Empire, who would not doubt turn in their ancient graves if they knew they were missing out on. Take a walk around the city with your leader and visit the Cifte Minaeli Medrese, a 13th-century monument to the Seljuk period, then stroll through the historic bazaar. Erzurum is a particularly palatable destination thanks to a mismatch of Seljuk monuments and modern shops set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
This morning we depart for the city of Kars, often described as Turkeys last frontier, It holds a odd mix; with Russian architecture dating back to the 1900's, a classic Ottoman Citadel and stone bridge and the Armenian Church of the Apostles, coupled with a mixture of Kurdis, Azeri Turkmen and Turkish cultures.
Lake Cildir is a breathtaking site and we stop to enjoy lunch at this pristine lake mostly covered by ice for 7 months of the year. The second largest lake in eastern Anatolia there are even tours on the lake in troikas (horse and sleigh).
This region produces some of Turkeys best butter, honey and cheese and before arriving in Kars with stop at the village of Bogatepe to see what makes Kars cheese so good as we make a visit to the local cheese museum.
Arriving in Kars in the late afternoon settle in to your hotel, warm up and if you are up for venture out to try the other speciality of the region goose for dinner anyone?
This morning you'll take a guided tour of the city of Ani, the ruined capital of the medieval Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia. Though it was once a thriving metropolis, these days Ani is a collection of deserted, dilapidated structures made even more striking by their isolated location in a vast, haunting landscape. Explore the ruined remnants then return to Kars for a walking tour of the city including a visit to the Ottoman stone bridge and strategically located citadel. The afternoon is yours to enjoy, so why not keep out of the cold, drink tea with the locals and learn more about this city.
Transfer to the airport in the morning for a two-hour flight to Istanbul. There'll be time for a final exploration of the city's sights, or perhaps you'd rather hit the bazaar and grab some souvenirs to take home. Meet up with your companions in the evening for an optional farewell dinner and say goodbye to Turkey and its ancient history.
Your adventure comes to an ends this morning after breakfast.