Welcome to Turkey. This adventures kicks off in Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. If arriving at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport (IST) you will be met and transferred to your hotel. If arriving at Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) airport please make your own way to the hotel (unless you have booked a transfer). You have the whole day free to explore the capital until a Welcome Meeting 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 in a street-side cafe. Please Note: If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early, so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception. For Monday departures we recommend you visit the magnificent opulence of Topkapi Palace on Day 1 as it is closed on Tuesday.
Kick off your adventure with a leisurely walk this morning to discover some of the hidden charms of Istanbul. You'll visit the 17th-century Blue Mosque and learn more about its one-of-a-kind architecture, with its six minarets and 20,000 dazzling handmade Iznik tiles. A visit to the ancient Hippodrome, with its intriguing monuments the Obelisk of Theodosius, Snake Pillar and German Fountain of Wilhelm II, is also included. At around 11am you'll take a private minivan to the beautiful rural town of Beypazari. Around 100 kilometres from Ankara, Beypazari is a small city with a village feel that reflects the beauty of the Turkish Culture with its historical houses out of Seljuks and Ottoman times. You'll spend the night here in Beypazari. Please Note: Total driving time today is approximately 5.5 hours.
Spend your morning visiting the Living Museum of Beypazari. The initiative of Sema Demir, a language teacher and academic on folk culture, this unique Museum has re-enactments that offer an interactive experience through the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Turkey. A pioneer in the country, the museum shows traditional life in the setting of authentic Turkish houses, built in the style of a century ago. Mid-morning, you'll depart for Cappadocia on a minibus (approximately 4 hours). You'll pass through Tuz Gölü, one of the richest salt lakes in the world and the source of over half of Turkey's total salt production. Stop to visit the 13th-century Agzikarahan Caravanserai, one of many centuries-old stone shelters built along the ancient trade routes to protect nomadic merchants. 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. End the day at your hotel in Goreme. Please Note: Remember to pack sturdy walking shoes or boots and a comfortable day pack today.
If you're ready for an early start this morning, there is the option of a hot-air balloon ride over the strange and stunning landscapes of Cappadocia. Those preferring a more leisurely start to the day can relax into breakfast and then depart for the underground city of Derinkuyu, just a short trip away. Explore these ancient subterranean labyrinths and dwellings, some of them extending as deep as seven levels underground, with narrow passages connecting the floors like hamster tunnels. In the afternoon, discover the handicrafts of the area and visit a carpet workshop for an insight into one of Turkey's most revered traditions. In the evening you have the option of pampering yourself in a traditional Turkish bath. Please Note: The balloon trip can only be booked locally. Please speak to your trip leader on Day 1 to organise this.
Today you'll explore the Göreme Open Air Museum, a monastic complex and Christian sancturary of carved houses, churches and monasteries. One of the earliest centres for religious education, there are at least 10 churches and chapels in the museum area, dating between AD900 and 1200, with each one named after a prominent attribute by the local villagers. Explore the many examples of Byzantine art from the post-iconoclastic period. Enter the cave chapels and witness the exquisite colour of the biblical frescoes found within. Then, say goodbye to Cappadocia and travel by bus across the Toros Mountain range to Konya, your stop for the night (approximately 4 hours). On arrival you'll take an orientation walk of the town, plus a guided tour of the Mevlana Museum for a fascinating insight into the history of Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes. Please Note: As Konya is quite a religious area, it is best to dress to dress conservatively here to show your respect.
This morning after breakfast you'll drive to one of Turkey's true coastal gems, Antalya (approximately 5 hours), the jewel in the Turkish Mediterranean. It’s hard to get a bad photo of Antalya thanks to cobblestone streets, the old city, the marina, and the Taurus Mountains in the distance. 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 occupation. Swim, relax and enjoy stellar views overlooking the crystal blue Mediterranean.
Enjoy a guided tour of the Antalya Museum today. Its excellent collection is spread across 13 exhibition halls and an open-air gallery. The beautifully preserved statues in the Hall of Gods, Heracles now among them, are not to be missed. After lunch, continue to the lovely seaside village of Kas, which is pronounced 'karsh' (approximately 4 hours). Its whitewashed houses adorned with bougainvilleas, as well as an ancient Greek theatre, makes this place great for walking around and exploring. 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. Make sure you sample the delicious local cuisine in the fishing village.
Drive to Kekova this morning and board a local boat for a relaxing cruise through a series of peaceful and picturesque islands, all with distinctive rock formations. Keep your eyes peeled for a strange sight: ancient houses submerged in the clear water. You will enjoy a homemade Turkish meal onboard, cooked by our host family. Arrive at the settlement of Ucagiz and the quaint village of Simena, a township of stone houses drenched in colourful flowers. Also sail from large bays to beautiful protected inlets, where there is the chance to take a refreshing dip just off the boat. Return to Kas for the evening.
Head to Kayakoy in the morning (approximately 2.5 hours). Walk around and take in its strange atmosphere, which owes to an interesting history. Kayakoy was once a ghost village, its ancient stone houses 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 enjoy a quiet, traditional Turkish lifestyle. Open 24 hours, the ghost village has an entrance fee which helps towards the upkeep of the paths and rubbish clearance. 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. Wander the ruins, enjoy the solitude, or play backgammon and sip tea with the locals. Then continue to Fethiye, where you'll have plenty of time to soak up the picture-perfect views by the harbour and perhaps enjoy dinner by the waterfront.
Head to Pamukkale after breakfast (approximately 4.5 hours) and visit one of Turkey's most photographed sights. Pamukkale, which literally translates to “cotton castle”, is home to spectacular natural hot springs of high calcium bicarbonate content, which cascade over the edge of the cliffs, leaving bright white deposit terraces (the ‘cotton’). It's been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Though you won't be able to bathe in these travertines, you can take a walk through them (after removing your shoes), and these pools are said to fix up any circulation and digestion problems. Take some time to visit the nearby ancient city of Hierapolis and take a dip in what used to be Celopatras’s old pool – the transparent water-filled pool, sculpted as a gift from Marc to Cleo, is stunning. You can also check out the other ruins of the city – Hierapolis is known for its abundance of temples and religious structures, vast necropolis and strange tombs, and the amphitheatre shouldn’t be missed. After exploring these extensive ruins, you'll return to Pamukkale for the night.
Make an early start for your drive to Selçuk (approximately 4 hours), your base for visiting Ephesus. Selcuk itself is culturally rich and retains many Turkish traditions, and its relatively undisturbed nature means this is an opportunity to experience the ‘real’ Turkey. On the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill lie several historical buildings – you’ll see the Isa Bey Mosque and the imposing Byzantine citadel of the Grand Fortress. Just below the fortress are the ruins of the Basilica of St John, built over the supposed burial site of the saint. Also just 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. The Temple of Artemis was unfortunately destroyed in AD 401, 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 of the town.
This morning, visit the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus; one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman classical cities in the world and Turkey's premier tourist site. Once the capital city of Roman Asia Minor, the city has a fascinating history, which really comes alive with a local guide to enhance the experience. Considering their age, the ruins are in incredible shape, and it’s not difficult to image them in their full glory 2,000 years ago. You will be awed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had 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 perhaps the magnificent library that takes most people's breath away. Also not to be missed are the tomb of the Seven Sleepers, Marble Street, and the Church of the Virgin Mary. Later you will stop for lunch at a family-run restaurant, where you’ll feast on gozleme – the famous and very popular Turkish pancake – made fresh before your eyes.
Travel by public bus up to the waterside town of Çanakkale (approximately 5 hours). Arrive in the afternoon and take an orientation of this exciting university city perched on the Dardanelles. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. You might like to see the Trojan horse used in the film Troy in 2004, which was later gifted to the city. The city has a great range of dining and nightlife option, or perhaps you'd like to simply take a stroll along the waterfront and sample some dondurma – Turkish ice-cream.
14 Gallipoli – Istanbul
Cross the Dardanelles and return to 'Europe' today to visit the Gallipoli Peninsula, a place of enormous significance to Australians and New Zealanders. Turkey's most westerly point may feel serene despite its dark history as a major backdrop of the Great War. You'll visit the beach and cemeteries of Anzac Cove, then head up the hill to pay homage at the Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair memorials. From the Ataturk Memorial you can look down on the blue waters of the Dardenelles and see them in a more sombre light. You'll find the remnants of trenches used by the Turkish soldiers around this area. After touring the former battlefields, head back to Istanbul where your journey began, arriving late afternoon or early evening. The night is yours to spend as you please.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast in Istanbul.