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 1pm – 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.
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. It had a central role in the creation of the Ottoman Empire and from 1326-1402 AD actually served as the Sultan's capital. With elegant mosques, such as the supremely beautiful Yesil Camii, an intriguing covered bazaar, and teahouses filled with locals, Bursa offers a glimpse of traditional Turkish life. Your accommodation tonight is one of the oldest in Bursa and is perfectly centrally located, opposite the Ulu Mosque and next to the historical covered market. This afternoon is spent 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. Why not treat yourself to a soak, steam, and scrub Turkish style. The Turkish traditional shadow puppet shows, which were originally created here in Bursa, are a cultural highlight, as is the local kebab – the hearty iskender. Tonight is a real highlight – you’ll be a guest at a Dervish Lodge, see a hypnotic performance of the Sema (the ceremony of the Whirling Dervish) and learn a bit more about their mesmerising culture.
Travel by public bus to the traditional farming village of Selcuk (approximately 7 hours). Selcuk will be your base for exploring the nearby ruins of Ephesus, former capital of the East Roman Empire and the best-preserved ancient city in Turkey. Selcuk 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, 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 6th century. According to Christian tradition, St John came to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary from Jerusalem, and lived here until his death sometime around AD 100 – and the basilica stands over his believed burial site. 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, 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 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. 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. Also not to be missed are the tomb of the Seven Sleepers, Marble Street, and the Church of the Virgin Mary. 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. This evening in Selcuk is free for your leisure.
A train ride inland through mountainous landscapes (approximately 3.5 hours + short bus ride) brings you to one of Turkey's most photographed sites, Pamukkale, which literally translates to “cotton castle”. Here spectacular natural hot springs with high calcium bicarbonate content 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.
A bus ride south (approximately 4.5 hours) takes you away from the tourists to the small village of Kayakoy. This small village acts as your base for exploring the many attractions of this scenic section of the Mediterranean coast, including the resort town of Fethiye and the famous Blue Lagoon. Kayakoy was once a thriving village and now its considered 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.
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 famous Blue Lagoon. You’ll walk up a steep rocky path up the hillside, make your way through some forest, and then top a hill with fantastic views out across the Mediterranean. At the final descent into Oludeniz, you’ll be greeted with a breath-taking view of an arching peninsula of white sand beach cutting through crystal waters and verdant vegetation, the town’s trademark panorama. The colours of the incredibly picturesque Blue Lagoon, with perfectly still waters and a scenic backdrop of pine-forested hills, are amazing, and you’ll soon realise why this is one of the most photographed beaches in Turkey. Please Note: The trek to Oludeniz is rated ‘moderate to difficult’, and a good level of fitness is required. The terrain under foot is sometimes slippery and uneven and there are periods of ascent and descent. Good walking shoes are certainly required. If you do have a good level of fitness, this will be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding walk. If you are unsure as to your capability to complete this walk, please discuss with your group leader before undertaking, so that other arrangements can be made for this day.
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 greeting you on the drive. 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 fantastic boat trip. 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. Please Note: Due to varying weather conditions over the season we have a varying itinerary as follows: During the cooler months of March, April, October and November we don't spend a night on the boat and instead stay in a local guest house for two nights in Kas. During the months of May and September our normal itinerary will run with one night on the boat and one night in a local guesthouse in Kas. During the months of June July and August we spend two nights on the boat, and don't spend a night in the guest house.
Today we transfer to the village of Kekova some 50km from Kas here we will board our boat for a real Mediterranean experience. Swim and snorkel in crystal blue waters, feast on fabulous local cuisine, cruise over an ancient sunken city, and explore Lycian tombs. Sleep beneath the stars if you choose or be rocked to sleep in your on board cabin. There are western style toilets and showers on board.
There’s 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, the old city, the marina, and the Taurus Mountains in the distance. 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 occupation. There’s a last 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 Antalyian cuisine
This morning take a local bus away from the coast and move inland to Konya on the plains of the Anatolian steppe (approximately 5.5 hours). While it’s a long day of travel, the diversity of the scenery will keep you entertained as you cross the Toros Mountain range. Konya is the perfect opportunity to sample a traditional Turkish city where mainstream tourism is yet to arrive. The city is closely linked with the whirling dervish sect of Islam developed in the 13th century by Celaleddin Rumi (or Mevlana), considered one of Islam's greatest Sufi mystics. Celaleddin developed a philosophy of spiritual union, captured in his poetic writings, the greatest of which, ‘Mathnawi’, is still revered today. Mevlana (‘our master’) as he came to be known, believed that music and dance represented a means to induce an ecstatic state of universal love and divine union, and devised the whirling sema ritual. In the town, you can visit the original Tekke of Mevlana, which holds many dervish religious relics and is also the final resting place for the master himself. Get your bearings on an orientation walk with your leader to Aladdin Hill in the centre of Konya. On the side of the hill are the sheltered minimal 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 in one of the many tea gardens and try some central Anatolian cuisine.
Leave Konya this morning by bus (approximately 4 hours) and head to the heart of Cappadocia. 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, you can stretch your legs and take an orientation walk with your trip leader this evening. Then grab a beer, a tea, or perhaps a strong Turkish coffee if you need a pick-me-up (Turkey is the land of beverages, especially the hot variety). Don't forget to pack sturdy, well worn-in walking shoes or boots and a comfortable daypack for exploring the valleys of Cappadocia. Please Note: Without a doubt, one of the most amazing memories of this journey is a hot air balloon ride over the majestic landscape to see this otherworldly scene at sunrise. Those who are interested in this optional extra will have a truly awe-inspiring experience. The cost of this activity varies depending on what type of flight you choose. This activity can only be booked locally. Please speak to your trip leader on Day 1 to organise this.
In your free time today, maybe visit the World Heritage-listed Goreme Open Air Museum. It’s a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings, and 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, each one named after a prominent attribute by the local villagers, who were exploring these caves long before there was an entrance fee.
Take a walk through one of the nearby valleys this morning. It could be the Valley of Love where the fairy chimneys, deserted rock cut homes, and churches with frescoes will astound you, or any of the other fantastic scenic routes that our leaders know. You can also explore the underground cities. Beneath Cappadocia’s rock formations is a network of fascinating subterranean cities, which housed up to 10,000 people each. The largest are almost ten levels deep, with narrow passages connecting the floors like hamster tunnels. Your leader is available to make suggestion and help organise. This evening your leader will offer you the option of enjoying a meal with a local family in their own home. This is a unique experience, enjoying the famous hospitality of a Turkish family and admiring the spectacular views of surrounding landscapes at the same time. Otherwise, why not try the local Testi Kebab, an evening nargile (hookah) in one of the cafes, or a glass of the local wine, overlooking a valley of fairy chimneys. A perfect last night.
This morning, we have an early start and wave the fairy chimneys a fond good-bye as we transfer to one of the regions airports for a flight back to Istanbul. Depending on flight times and scheduled changes, expect to arrive back into Istanbul New Airport between 11. 30am and 2. 30pm. Your incredible Turkey trip will finish on arrival at the airport and your Intrepid Leader is available to assist you with your travel plans. For your convenience if you are planning on spending a few more days in the city then a complimentary transfer will be available back to our starting point hotel. Please Note: There is no accommodation included for tonight.