Spend an afternoon with female Syrian refugees and hear how they’re rebuilding their lives over lunch and an earring-making workshop.. Make the perfect cup of Turkish coffee at a family home in Istanbul and learn how to read your fortune in the coffee grounds.. Spend a day at sea with a female skipper where you’ll visit a sunken city, swim in crystal clear waters and spend the night in an idyllic seaside village.. Enjoy a traditional meal in a Cappadocian cave home, cooked by a local woman who is changing the face of women in tourism.
Turkey is often cited as the ultimate convergence of east and west – traditional spice bazaars and ornately adorned mosques thrown together with high speed, cross-country trains and bustling cosmopolitan cities.
On this women-only expedition, you’ll discover both the traditional and modern wonders of Turkey through the lives of the women who live here. From the ancient practices of an Ottoman-style hamam to the art of Turkish coffee fortune-telling and even a visit to a Syrian refugee social enterprise, you’ll meet many extraordinary local women and experience what life is like through their eyes.
Merhaba! Welcome to Turkey. This women’s only expedition kicks off in Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have previously all called home. Your welcome meeting commences at 6 pm at your hotel, so make sure you have all your important documents ready to give to your leader. Until then, you’re free to go out and explore some of Istanbul’s iconic sites like the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (commonly known as the Blue Mosque). After your welcome meeting, head out to enjoy an optional dinner together and get to know your group and local leader. Life in this part of Istanbul is very cosmopolitan with women of all demographics going out with friends for raki and mezze or coffee.
This morning head to the Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Market, to meet a local spice merchant and learn about Turkey’s best spice blends. You’ll also get to satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to a traditional Turkish Delight merchant. Next, you’ll visit the magnificent Ottoman-built Suleymaniye Cami (Suleymanie Mosque), which sits high above the natural harbour of the Golden Horn. From here you’ll explore the Grand Bazaar with some opportunities for shopping for local wares at this bustling hub. After a break and light lunch, you’ll jump on the tram and head to suburban Istanbul to meet a local mother and daughter in their home. Here you’ll sample some homemade borek before the women teach you how to make the best cup of Turkish coffee. They’ll also demonstrate the traditionally female art of fortune-telling from coffee grounds, which is passed down between generations in Anatolian culture. The evil eye is a very common talisman in this part of the world used to protect us from the envy of others, but what happens if we did not have our evil eye? find out how we break these curses using the ancient process of Kursan. For generations, Turkish women have used this method to remove this bad luck from their homes and their families.
This morning it’s time to prove your hips don’t lie, with a female only class in the art of ciftetelli, Turkish belly dancing. Ciftetelli goes by many names but is a traditional part of Turkish weddings for both men and women. After class, you’ll get a tram to an area of the city that has become home to many displaced Syrians. Zeytin Agci (The Olive Tree of Istanbul) is the community centre of Small Projects Istanbul. Here you’ll meet with local Syrian women who run a small social enterprise called Drop Earrings Not Bombs, where they handmake earrings. Join the women for lunch, learn about their stories and make your own pair of earrings, before enjoying a free evening.
This morning you’ll take a one-hour flight to Dalaman on the Turkish Mediterranean coast and then make a two and a half journey to Kas. With its postcard-perfect harbour, bougainvilleas and whitewashed walls, it’s one the most picturesque destinations on the Mediterranean coast. On arrival, take a walk around the town centre or maybe go swimming before a relaxing sunset yoga class. You may wish to join in on an optional dinner at Mamma’s Kitchen – a mother and daughter run restaurant that is famous in Kas for recipes like 'Mamma’s pastry'. If you feel like a walk after dinner, the local handicraft market is open till late and there are some spectacular pieces to choose from.
This morning you’ll transfer to Ucagiz, a short 45 minutes by van. Declared off-limits to developers, Ucagiz is a quaint fishing and farming coastal village amid islands and peninsulas. Here you’ll meet Sabahat a local fisherman’s wife, who is as comfortable steering a traditional gulet (boat) as she is cooking a Turkish feast or embroidering one of her famous village scarves – which you will learn how to make. After a homemade lunch, Sabahat will take you by boat to visit the ruins of an ancient sunken Lycian city on the northern side of the island. There’s also plenty of opportunities to swim in the crystal turquoise waters, before heading to your simple homestay accommodation.
After an early breakfast, we’ll board a local bus and head to Antalya, often considered a highlight of the Turkish Mediterranean. Your hotel is located in the Old City and there’ll be plenty of time to explore the streets and alleys that stretch out from Hadrian’s Gate. Built in honour of the Roman emperor Hadrian, it’s the only remaining entrance gate in the walls that surround the city and harbour. Weather permitting, you can head to the local women’s only beach, Sauisu. Here you’ll find a day spa, complete with a traditional Turkish hamam as well as beauticians, boutiques and cafes all exclusively for women. Alternatively, spend the afternoon exploring more of the winding streets and hidden cafes of the Old City.
Transfer to Antalya airport this morning for a mid-morning flight to Kayseri, located in the Cappadocia region. From here you’ll take a one-hour drive to Goreme, the most recognisable part of Cappadocia. Goreme lies in a valley 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, you can stretch your legs and take an orientation walk with your local leader. This afternoon you’ll meet a local New Zealand woman who has lived in Goreme for the last 30 years making Turkish carpets. You’ll finish the day with a guided walk around the valley at sunset with spectacular photo opportunities. This evening’s dinner is a special one – you’ll be meeting and dining with a well-known local woman named Nuray Abla, who cooks Turkish cuisine in her cave home.
If you don’t mind an early start, a hot air balloon ride over the majestic Cappadocian landscape is a highly recommended experience. Please advise your local leader in advance if you want to book it, as it needs to be arranged with one of the certified operators Intrepid Travel recommends. The cost will vary depending on the type of flight chosen, but your local leader will be able to advise you of the options. Once your feet are firmly back on the ground, you’ll head off to explore the region including, Pigeon valley and Pasabag (monks valley) and wander through the Soganli Valley on a soft hiking trip, taking in the arid surrounds and towering vistas. In the afternoon, you’ll visit one of Cappadocia’s most famous wine houses for a well-earned drink. Learn about the region's 4000-year-old wine industry and take a stroll through the stunning Red Valley to watch the sun set, with a glass of local wine in hand, of course.
For dinner, you may want to try the local regional specialty, testi kebab. Your leader will be able to recommend a restaurant dedicated to the perfection of this delicious claypot dish.
Jump on a public bus to Konya this morning and watch the Turkish countryside pass you by on a four-hour drive to the train station. From here, you’ll take a fast train for two and a half hours to the city of Eskisehir (pronounced s-k-shir).
Built on the Posuk River, Eskisehir is often called the Venice of Turkey. The vibrant city has two universities, giving it a lively, modern atmosphere – a real contrast from the villages of Cappadocia and the resort towns of the Mediterranean. Not only is it a beautiful looking town, there are plenty of cultural experiences to be had, with nearby ruins dating back to ancient Phrygia, as well as many museums, exhibitions and concerts. For dinner tonight, you might want to head to Adalar, a popular waterfront district with many cafes popular with the locals. Your leader will be able to give you some great recommendations.
Explore the Odunpazarı district this morning. Traditional Anatolian architecture is well preserved in this neighborhood, with narrow cobbled roads and windy, dead-end streets, and it's now under protection as a historic district. Swing past the Glass museum to check out the first of Turkey's glass art museums many of the exhibits here are used to encourage and display the work of young and upcoming artists. The museum is housed in three historic buildings so the venue is an architectural delight. Today we have a special and unique lunch in Eskisehir as we join in a local 'girl’s day out' or (altin gunu) known as Gold Day. What’s a gold day, exactly? It’s a day for Turkish women to come together, socialise and save some money for when it’s needed. Banking is a relatively new concept in Turkey, traditionally people borrowed and lent money within a family or social circle and gold was considered a much more valuable commodity then cash. How do you plan a Gold Day? Together with the other people in your gold day group, you decide which person you will visit next it could be on a rotating basis or maybe someone in your group is in need of cash. They can happen weekly or monthly, and often includes between 10–50 women. Even some of the most modern of Turkish women still enjoy a Gold Day, so get among some Turkish female traditions meeting local women over some good food and some girl only talk. Don’t worry about the gift of gold we have that covered. After a big day out in Eskisehir enjoy a free evening or perhaps hang out with your new Turkish friends.
This morning you’ll board the train and make the 2.5-hour journey back to Istanbul, taking a ferry to the hotel. You’ll finish your adventure with a women’s only hamam. Initially the concept of hamams was for men only, but eventually women who were unwell or recovering from childbirth were permitted, until finally all women were allowed. Traditionally, many women considered a visit to the hamam more than an opportunity to bathe – it was a release from the isolation of home and a place where older women could look for potential wives for their sons. Today this ritual is still a segregated retreat complete with baths, food, music and fun. Later this evening you may want to have a last farewell dinner to celebrate breaking down cultural barriers and building bridges between women around the world.
Today is departure day and check out time is 12 pm. If you have arranged a private transfer pick up it should arrive four hours prior to your flight departure time, otherwise you can enjoy the rest of your stay in Istanbul.