Arrival into Istanbul, the only city in the world spanning two continents. After clearing Passport and Customs Controls, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Rest of the day is free to relax
Visit the aromatic Spice Bazaar, where the smells of cloves, cinnamon and thyme rise from colorful mounds of spices at every store-front. The assortment of Turkish delight and dried fruit is a delight to the eyes. The best Turkish delights are served by scoops at the rear of each shop – absolutely delicious!
Cruise by public ferry through the waterway separating the two continents, Asia and Europe, viewing marble palaces, ancient wooden villas of Ottoman architecture besides modern residentials and luxurious apartments. Leave the ferry in Tarabya and travel by coach to the Rumeli Fortress (Closed on Wednesdays), an historical armament built by the Conqueror to control and protect Bosphorus. After the visit to this unique example of military architecture drive back to the hotel. You can also be dropped-off at Grand Bazaar (Closed on Sundays), from which you can turn back to the hotel on your own (B).
Full day tour of Istanbul visiting the Blue Mosque (Closed on Friday mornings and the last minute occasions beyond our control and therefore no responsibility is assumed), famous for its mosaics of blue Iznik tiles and its six minarets. Facing the Blue Mosque is St. Sophia (Closed on Mondays during winter months), one of the great architectural marvels of the ancient world. This church – turned mosque – and now a museum, takes the breath away with the sheer size of its interior and its magnificent dome.
Cross through the Hippodrome, the scene of Byzantine chariot races, athletic events, victory celebrations, and political activities of the old city where one can also see the Obelisk from Egypt, Serpent Column from Delphi, the Fountain of Wilhelm II and the Colossus. You will then visit the marvelous Yerebatan Underground Cistern with its atmospherically lit rows of columns – 336 in total. It was built in 532, with a capacity to store 80,000 cubic meters of water. It has excellent acoustics, and, with its fabulous atmosphere, has been used by famous singers, and for film sets. Please note: as the Underground Cistern is very old and damp, appropriate footwear is advisable as the floor can be slippery.
Explore the spectacular Topkapi Palace (Closed on Tuesdays), seat of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years. Built on one of the seven hills of Istanbul, this huge complex commands superb views of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. The palace is filled with treasures of the Sultans including the extravagant Treasury with its magnificent jewels, and the priceless Chinese porcelain, one of the best collections in the world. (Harem section is exclusive) (B).
Morning transfer from the hotel to the Istanbul airport for a morning flight to Kayseri. Upon arrival you will then visit the unique region of Cappadocia, approximately 45 minutes drive from Kayseri.
Enroute visit to Devrent Valley where various types of fairy chimneys are abundant. We will walk through this amazing valley. Thereafter visit Pasabagi (Monk’s Valley) with multiple stems and caps, peculiar to this area. After visiting Pasabagi, drive to Avanos which is known for the pottery, a craft dating back to the Hittite period. The red clay which is worked by local craftsmen comes from the residue in the Kizilirmak River, the longest river of Turkey. Further to the time for lunch proceed to Goreme Open Air Museum (Dark Church is excluded; entrance requires additional admission fee) to visit the churches, chapels and monasteries carved into the fairy chimneys from the 10th to the 13th centuries with frescos painted on the walls. Thereafter time to take photos in the neighboring valleys before going to the hotel. Overnight in Cappadocia (B).
Begin the day with a spectacular balloon flight – over the deep canyons and lush fertile valleys, which provide the balloons with an ideal playground for the unique and memorable flight. Gentle winds carry you over places that could never be reached, except by balloon.
The natural wonder of Cappadocia is a result of volcanic deposits being eroded away by wind and water over millions of years. These soft rocks were hollowed out by early Christians and used as secret dwellings as they were being sought first by Roman and later by Byzantine persecutors. The sight of the Fairy Chimneys is phenomenal.
Later visit the Rose Valley, one of the most beautiful trekking valleys in Cappadocia, and explore the famous rock- cut churches by hiking through the valley. Rest in Cavusin, an old Greek village, known for its Christian houses and churches. After having time for lunch visit Ortahisar Castle, similar to Uchisar Castle in style, where storage caves can also be observed. In the afternoon visit Kaymakli (or Ozkonak) Underground City where early Christians lived in fear and faith. On the way back visit to panoramic Pigeon Valley where pigeons contributed to the lives of locals with their manure to fertilize the vineyards. You may also like to taste Cappadocia wine in a local winery. (B).
Free day to relax and explore. (B)
Today drive to the ancient capital of Konya. You will visit the very interesting Mausoleum and Museum of Mevlana, the world-famous mystic, and instigator of the “whirling dervishes”, and the Karatay Museum with its beautiful tiles. Overnight Konya (B, D).
Travel to Antalya through the picturesque Taurus Mountains, stopping on the way to enjoy a fresh trout lunch beside the river before visiting Aspendos, the best preserved amphitheatre in the world. With seating for 15,000 and marvelous acoustics, it is still being used today for performances. Overnight in Antalya (B)
A free day to wander and enjoy the picturesque city of Antalya with its ancient Roman walled port, and the lovely ‘old town’, Kaleici, with its beautifully restored Ottoman mansions and Hadrian’s Gate. Kaleici and the port abound with little cafes, restaurants and boutiques. A visit to the Museum of Antalya is recommended (B).
Visit the impressive ruins of Termessos, perched at an altitude of over 1000 meters up a mountainside. Continue to Perge – originally settled by the Hittites around 1500BC, with its impressive colonnaded street. Return to Antalya (B).
Please note: To visit the Termessos site it is advised that you need to be reasonably fit and have the ability to walk up a steep walking trail.
Today will be a relaxing day cruising. Commence the day with a relatively short but very scenic 40km drive along the coast to Kemer to join a boat for a cruise through crystal clear waters to some small islands, and along the spectacular Mediterranean Coast, with its pine forests and the Taurus Mountains in the hinterland. Visit the very pretty site of Phaselis with its 3 harbors and ancient city ruins set amidst pine trees. There will be plenty of time devoted to swimming. Lunch will be served on board. Note that drinks are extra. Return to Antalya to overnight (B, L).
Today the journey from Antalya is absolutely spectacular, taking you along the coast through pine forests, and the majestic mountains of the Bey Mountains Coastal National Park, with the most exquisite hues. Visit Demre/Myra with its church and statue of St. Nicholas – Santa Claus, and site of many splendidly carved Lycian Rock Tombs overlooking an amphitheatre, circa 600 B.C.
Continue to Kekova, where you will cruise through a peaceful group of picturesque islands well scattered with very distinct rock sarcophagi, and ancient houses submerged under the clear water. Visit the ‘picture-postcard’ village of Kale with its stone houses covered in bougainvillea, and Kaleucagiz Castle. There also will be time for a swim in the Mediterranean if you desire. Conclude the day in Kas (B).
Free day to relish the tranquility of your seaside village. You may like to dine in one of the restaurants in the village this evening, or at your hotel (B).
Today’s drive along the coast will be very scenic. Visit the national heritage village of Gocek, a picturesque little fishing village where no modern building is allowed.
The highway now winds through mountains and forest of frankincense and liquidambar trees before the turnoff to Dalyan, where a real highlight is to take a small local craft through a maze of reeds in the Dalyan Delta. The delta, with a long, golden sandy beach at its mouth, is a nature-conservation area, and a refuge for large sea turtles (caretta caretta) and blue crabs. A stop will be made at Caunos which was an important city and port on the Mediterranean from 400 B.C. until the harbor silted up and the sea retreated 5km to the south. At a bend in the river, high on the cliff face, you can view magnificent tombs which were carved into the rock in the 6th century B.C.
Continue onto Bodrum, along the coast, through mountains with beautiful panoramas and fertile valleys in between, with fields of cotton and tobacco, orchards of fruit and nuts, and cool pine forests. Overnight in Bodrum (B)
Bodrum has managed to retain its special atmosphere with its pretty whitewashed houses and abundant flowers, its wonderful harbor and marina, full of expensive international yachts and elegant wooden Turkish gulets, and its impressive Crusader castle which houses an excellent underwater museum. Built by the Knights of St John in 1402 to dominate the harbor, this castle is one of the last and finest examples of Crusader architecture in the east.
A visit will be made to the Castle (Closed on Mondays) and the Underwater Museum before driving north to Kusadasi, with stops on the way to visit the well preserved Apollo Temple with its awesome gigantic pillars & head of Medusa at Didyma, and Priene – the first planned city in the ancient world. Overnight Kusadasi (B).
Most of the day today will be dedicated to visiting Ephesus, which was undoubtedly one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. Impressive structures you will see include the Library of Celsus, Temple of Hadrian, the Theatre and the Odeon.
Nearby is the House of the Virgin Mary where she is believed to have spent her last years. In 1961, Pope John XXII proclaimed the House of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus to be sacred. Also included in today’s tour is a visit of the Basilica of St. John, who came here with the Virgin Mary and wrote his Gospel and the Selçuk Ephesus Museum, a beautiful Museum of Ephesus with its attractively displayed statuary, mosaics and artifacts, and the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world (B).
Free day to relax or explore Kusadasi.
Early departure for Bergama to visit the hauntingly beautiful Pergamum, once one of the richest and most powerful small kingdoms in the Middle East. Among the impressive structures of this city, dating from 399 B.C., you will see the Altar of Zeus, Temple of Dionysus and the 200,000-volume library which was surpassed only by that found in Alexandria at the time. The most spectacular site is the theatre, a remarkable feat of engineering built into an exceptionally steep hillside. The Asclepium of Pergamum was a famous health centre where methods of treatment included blood transfusions, music therapy and meditation. Continue to Canakkale and overnight (B, D).
The tour concludes this morning with a transfer to the Istanbul airport or extend your stay (B).