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Straddling eastern Europe and western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Turkey is a kaleidoscope that will arouse all your senses! Cosmopolitan Istanbul, on the Bosphorus Strait, is home to the iconic Hagia Sophia, with its soaring dome and Christian mosaics, the massive 17th-century Blue Mosque and the circa-1460 Topkapı Palace, former home of sultans.
13 Days / 12 Nights
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Istanbul | Cappadocia | Ankara | Antalya | Ephesus | Izmir
City tour of Istanbul visiting the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Topkaki Palace and the breathtaking Hagia Sophia
Soak in a leisurely cruise on the Bosphorus admiring Istanbul’s perfect blend of East and West
Visit the old Spice Market where you can find a vast variety of spices, sacks of henna, many varieties of oils and herbs, and of course the world’s very best Turkish delight.
Tour of Cistern Basilica, the hidden Byzantine beauty of Istanbul.
Pump up the adrenaline with a balloon ride over the stunning Valleys of Cappadocia known for its stunning topography and dream like landscape.
Soak up some sun in Antalya, a majestic coastline of beaches and rocky coves.
Visit Antalya Museum and the old quarter built in an amphitheatrical shape which is a maze of narrow cobbled streets home to mostly restored houses, the bazaar with its spices and souvenirs, plenty of bars and boutique hotels.
Explore the ancient city of Perge – visit the impressive colonnaded street, baths, nymphaeum, agora and the fountain of the River God, where waters once poured down the center of the city.
A trip to Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to discover the travertine terraces one of the most spectacular natural wonders.
Explore the ancient city of Ephesus, another UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its extensive ruins – visit the Gymnasium, Odeon, Prytaneion, Nymphaion, Domitian Temple, Thermal Baths, Octagon House, Celsus Library, Agora, Serapeum, Arcade, and Double Church.
DAY BY DAY JOURNEY
Day 1: Arrive Istanbul
Upon arrival at Istanbul International Airport you will be met by and privately transferred to your hotel in a deluxe air conditioned vehicle. Istanbul is a treasure trove of East and West that has served as the capital of empires, religions, cultures and cuisine. Bringing together elements from Byzantine, Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Turkish civilizations, a visit to Istanbul is like walking through a time tunnel where history and tradition live alongside in perfect harmony.
The Pera Palace: set 4 km from both Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace, this elegant, 5* storied 1892 hotel is 6 km from Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Featuring high ceilings and city views, the polished rooms have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars, and tea and coffeemakers, as well as marble bathrooms. There’s a patisserie and an upscale restaurant, along with a terrace bar, a tea lounge and a chic cocktail venue with plush seating. Amenities include a fitness room, an indoor pool, and a sleek spa. Check in for a three-night stay.
Day 2: Full Day Istanbul
First, visit the Hippodrome, which was once the social center of Constantinople (the Byzantine name of the city). Built by the Romans in the 3rd Century AD, only fragments are left of what was once a grand stadium that held 100,000 spectators for public meetings and important events, including chariot races, coronations, political discussions and executions! Continue with a visit to the Blue Mosque, one of the most important temples of worship in the world. It is named for the blue Iznik tile work that decorates its interior and its dome can be seen from all over the Sultanahmet district. Next, visit the extraordinary Imperial residence of 25 Ottoman Sultans – the Topkapi Palace. Here you will step back in time as you explore 500 years of Ottoman history. Complete the day visiting the enormous mass of Hagia Sophia, which was built by the Emperor Justinian and inaugurated in 537 AD. For over nine centuries it was the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it remains the world’s 4th largest church. It contains some of the finest mosaics to have survived from the Byzantine period, including a haunting Virgin and Child in the Eastern apse. (B)
Day 3: Full Day Istanbul
Enjoy another full day tour today starting with a cruise up the Bosphorus. Your leisurely exploration of this historic waterway between Europe and Asia is delightfully relaxing. Next visit the famous Old Spice Market where you can find a vast variety of spices, sacks of henna, many varieties of oils and herbs, and of course the world’s very best Turkish delight. Continue to Cistern Basilica, the hidden Byzantine beauty of Istanbul just across from the St Sophia. The 4th century Basilica and a small cistern were transformed into a huge cistern in 6th century. Meanwhile the level of the ground had changed dramatically because of the destruction in the area. It is a very atmospheric place with 360 columns. That’s why it is also called the Subterranean Palace. Water shortage problems in the town directed Romans to have many open air and covered cisterns. This one is the largest roofed cistern in the town. We complete our tour at the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar’s first phase of construction began in 1455 under Mehmet the Conqueror, but it was added to many times over the centuries. The end result is an enormous labyrinth of covered streets lined with thousands of shops selling, for example, hand-woven carpets and kilims, gold and silver jewelry, hand-painted ceramics, leather goods, fine antiques and illuminated manuscripts. (B)
Day 4: Istanbul-Flight to Cappadocia
In the morning drive to Istanbul Airport for your short flight to Kayseri. Upon arrival, drive 1.5 hours to Cappadocia. Cappadocia has an interesting and remarkable topography and a dream-like landscape, complete with beautiful villages and houses carved from soft volcanic ash, underground cities and frescoed churches. The so-called fairy chimneys and troglodyte dwellings will take you to another world and will guarantee an unforgettable impression. We start our touring with the picturesque village of Sinassos, which is a perfectly preserved Greek village in the heart of Anatolia. The former Greek inhabitants left the village in 1923 during the population exchange between Turkey and Greece. The houses exhibit a wealth of carved stonework, wall paintings and many reminders of their former inhabitants.Then visit the village of Uçhisar, dominated by a mammoth rock-cut fortress riddled with tunnels and caves. Just like the region’s underground cities, this rocky outcrop provided villagers with protection from invaders during the Roman and Byzantine eras. The fortress can be climbed to the top, where you are rewarded with sweeping panoramas over the undulating valleys that surround the village.
Elika Cave Suites: this posh boutique hotel in a collection of 1850’s stone houses and ancient caves is a minute’s walk from Ortahisar Kalesi, a Byzantine-era rock castle. Occupying hand-carved caves or featuring vaulted ceilings, the luxe, old-world rooms have free Wi-Fi, antique furnishings and flat-screen TVs. All include safes, minibars and coffee machines; some provide whirlpool tubs, hammams, fireplaces and/or balconies/terraces. Room service is offered 24/7. There’s a polished restaurant, a chic bar and 6 terraces. Check in for a two-night stay.
Day 5: Full Day Tour in Cappadocia
Early in the morning you will have the opportunity to go ballooning over the stunning Valleys of Cappadocia. Perhaps nothing more stunning than a bird’s eye view, we soar peacefully over the valley to absorb some of the most dramatic landscape in Turkey. After the tour you will be dropped off at your hotel for breakfast and then have a full day tour in the area.
Today’s touring will start with the rock formations beyond belief in Dervent Valley; then visit Zelve Valley, the oldest example of Cappadocian architecture, elaborate shelters carved into the rock by the earliest monastic settlers. Nearby Pasabag, also known as Monk’s Valley, has amazing examples of hermitages hollowed out of volcanic rock formations.
Later visit the village of Avanos which is situated on the banks of the river Kızıl Irmak, the largest river in Turkey. The city is known mainly for the millenarian handmade confections of tapestry and red clay pottery, extracted from the banks of Kızıl Irmak where you will visit a ceramic cooperative to see the entire production process of the famous Turkish ceramics.
Visit the Goreme Open-Air Museum where icons and other figurative representations were prohibited. The 11th century represents the “golden age” of religious art in Goreme. Then, you will visit the Goreme Valley, which has been occupied since the dawn of history. It is the valley of the churches. The wonderful and primitive 11th and 12th century frescoes cover the walls of these churches. The oldest churches in the area date back to the 6th century. Among the 356 churches, the most important ones are Yılanlı Kilise, The Elmalı Kilise and The Tokalı Kilise. Finally we will visit one of the famous wineries of Cappadocia which is a great chance for a glimpse at the traditional wine production of the region where you will have an opportunity to taste many different wines all made from local grapes. Before going back to the hotel, there may be an optional stop to see an art and handicraft center of Cappadocia and see craftspeople possibly including a traditional rug workshop.
Day 6: Drive from Cappadocia to Ankara
This morning drive to Ankara to visit the Turkish capital boasting the two extraordinary monuments central to the Turkish story – the beautifully conceived Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and the Anıt Kabir, a colossal tribute to Atatürk, modern Turkey’s founder. (B)
Check into the 5* Swissotel Ankara for an overnight stay. Located in a bustling commercial area, this luxury hotel is 1 34 km from Ankara Esenboğa Airport. Airy rooms feature flat-screen TVs, minibars, safes and free Wi-Fi, plus tea and coffeemaking equipment; some have city views. Upgraded rooms add lounge access. A breakfast buffet is served in an upscale restaurant that also serves Swiss cuisine. There’s a cafe and a delicatessen, as well as an indoor pool, a gym and a spa.
Day 7: Ankara-Flight to Antalya
This morning head to Antalya, the principal holiday resort on the Mediterranean, a majestic coastline of beaches and rocky coves. This afternoon will be spent visiting the award winning Antalya Museum and the old quarter built in an amphitheatrical shape around Antalya’s old harbor which is a maze of narrow cobbled streets home to mostly restored houses, the bazaar with its spices and souvenirs, plenty of bars, boutique hotels and of course some historical artifacts. Among them are Hadrian’s Gate, The Clock Tower and The Fluted Minaret Mosque. (B)
Check into the Dogan Hotel Antalya for a two-night stay. This down-to-earth, cozy hotel is made up of 4 restored stone houses and is a 1 minute walk from the Antalya Museum, 100 m from Mermerli Beach and 6 minutes on foot from Hadrian’s Gate. Warmly decorated rooms come with free Wi-Fi, minibars, and flat-screen TVs. Room service is available. Amenities include a relaxed regional restaurant with a seasonal terrace and a casual bar. There’s also an outdoor pool, a seasonal kids’ pool and a landscaped garden.
Day 8: Day trip to Perge and Aspendos
Today explore the ancient city of Perge: originally settled by the Hittites around 1500 BC. Visit the impressive colonnaded street, baths, nymphaeum, agora and the fountain of the River God, where waters once poured down the center of the city. The next stop is the Roman Aspendos Theater, considered to be the best preserved in the world, with majestic walls, stage, and arcades. (B)
Day 9: Antalya-White Travertines-Hierapolis-Pamukkale
This morning head to Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to discover the travertine terraces and then on to Hierapolis. The travertine terraces at Pamukkale are one of the most spectacular natural wonders you’ve ever seen from various mineral springs in a vast white cliff side, about 200m overlooking the plain. Calcite-laden waters have dripped down over a series of terraced levels and created a fairyland of bizarre solidified cascades and shell-shaped basins that look like creations from snow or balls of cotton. In the ancient city of Hierapolis see the Necropolis, Bath and Basilica, Frontinius Gate, Frontinius Street, Latrina, Northern Byzantine Gate, Fountain of the Tritons, the Temple of Apollon and finally the well-preserved Theater. (B)
Check into the 5* Doga Thermal Health and Spa for an overnight stay. The Hierapolis ancient theater is 6 km away. Sleek rooms offer free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and minifridges. There’s also 24-hour room service. Amenities include indoor and outdoor thermal pools, a spa and conference facilities. There’s also a casual cafe, a polished lobby bar, and a restaurant with a buffet.
Day 10: Pamukkale-Aphrodisias-Izmir
On route to Izmir visit Aphrodisias: which was primarily known as a center for the arts, specifically sculpture. The Aphrodisias School of Sculpture had a distinctive style and was very well circulated throughout the Greek and Roman world. Known in ancient times as Smyrna, Izmir is the third largest city bordering the Aegean Sea. This port city was, in Ottoman times, a melting pot that included Greeks, Armenians, Jews, French and Italians. (B)
Check into the 5* Hotel Swissôtel Büyük Efes Izmir for a three-night stay. This contemporary hotel is a km from Pasaport İskelesi (ferry terminal), 2 km from Kemeraltı (bazaar) and 3 km from İzmir Saat Kulesi (clock tower). Featuring free Wi-Fi and balconies with garden or city views, the modern rooms provide flat-screen TVs, minifridges, and tea and coffee-making facilities. Room service is offered 24/7. Amenities include a bar with sea views, a cafe and a restaurant with an aquarium, plus a rooftop terrace. There’s also a fitness center and spa, plus 2 pools.
Day 11: Izmir-Ephesus-Izmir
Today explore the ancient city of Ephesus, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Its renowned ruins are among the most extensive in the world. In its heyday, Ephesus rivaled Rome in its splendor. Visit the Gymnasium, Odeon, Prytaneion, Nymphaion, Domitian Temple, Thermal Baths, Octagon House, Celsus Library, Agora, Serapeum, Arcade, and Double Church. The Temple of Artemis is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Explore The Terrace houses situated on the slopes of Mt. Coressus. The houses, occupied from the 1st to 7th centuries AD, offer a fascinating look at family life during the Roman period. The houses were abandoned after Arab raids during the 7th century and slowly fell into decay. They were preserved over time by soil from landslides. (B)
Day 12: Izmir-Sardis-Izmir
In the morning visit the Agora, or central square and marketplace of the Smyrna during antiquity. Today it is an open-air museum, comprised of five parts. Then visit the The Old Bazaar, a labyrinthine bazaar dating back to the 17th century that is home to shops, eateries, artisans’ workshops, mosques, coffeehouses, tea gardens and synagogues. Spending a day exploring its crowded and colorful streets, historic places of worship, hidden courtyards and grand caravanseries reveals the real İzmir. Highlights include the cafes between the Hisar Mosque and the Kızlarağası Han, which serve the city’s famous Turkish coffee boiled in the cup. Nearby, in Konak Square is the Clock Tower, the symbol of the city located in the heart of town.
Later visit Sardis, the historic capital of the Lydian empire during the 7th and 6th century BC where we will discover the Marble Synagoue, Symirna Market and The Gymnasium. (B)
Day 13: Departure
After breakfast drive to Izmir International Airport and take a short flight to Istanbul to connect with outgoing flight back home. (B)
|LOCATION||NUMBER OF NIGHTS||ACCOMMODATION|
|Istanbul||3||The Pera Palace|
|Cappadocia||2||Elika Cave Suites|
|Pamukkale||1||Doga Thermal Health & Spa|
|Izmir||3||Hotel Swissôtel Büyük Efes|
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