Experience Turkey through the eyes, lives and tastes of its people. Sample its diverse food and culture. Meet local people and share their stories, cuisine and passion for living - like you have never done before. Visit local markets and ethnic restaurants and delight in the sounds and sights at the meeting of two continents.
Arrive at Istanbul, Atatürk International Airport, where you will be met by our representative and taken to your hotel. Istanbul, the only city in the world built on two continents, provides a unique link between East and West. The guardian of the treasures of three great empires, Napoleon once said that if the world were a single state then its capital would be Constantinople. Even today, amid the traffic-choked streets of modern Istanbul, among the high-rises, the steep alleys and the glowing ancient churches and mosques, you can still feel exactly what he meant. Welcome dinner at one of Istanbul’s reknown restaurants. Overnight in Istanbul.
Today we will take you on a tour of of Istanbul’s Byzantine iconic monuments. Hagia Sophia, the church of the Divine Wisdom, which was a church (circa 548 AD), then a mosque and now a museum. The Underground Cistern built by Emperor Justinian to provide water for the city of Constantinople. It is difficult to describe the beauty and uniqueness of this experience. Lunch at Asitane restaurant – Ottoman Cuisine at its best. After lunch you will visit the St. Savior in Chora Museum, known for its magnificent mosaics and frescoes dating from the 11th to the 14th centuries. Dinner will be at one of Istanbul’s popular kebab restaurant. Overnight in Istanbul.
Today you will visit the Blue Mosque, a famous 17th century mosque that dominates the Istanbul skyline, Topkapı Palace the residence of the sultans for almost three centuries. It is located on the promontory jutting out between the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. This setting provides a magnificent view. The construction of the Topkapı Palace was completed between 1465 and 1478. Being the imperial residence of the sultan, his court and harem, the palace was also the seat of government for the Ottoman Empire. In the Treasury section, you will see the 7th biggest diamond in the world, the “Spoonmaker’s Diamond” and the Harem is a vast labyrinth of rooms and corridors once occupied by the black eunuchs, concubines, the Sultan’s mother and the Sultan himself. The Palace Kitchens comprised of buildings arranged along a 170 metre-long courtyard/street in the 2nd courtyard of the Palace facing the Sea of Marmara appear as a separate neighbourhood with their attachments. You will visit The Palace Kitchens, Helvahane and Quarters and learn about our culinary culture of 400 years. For lunch you will taste delicious kofte -meatballs- at a specialized restaurant operating since 1920. Then we will drive to the pier for our cruise on the Bosphorus. Upon disembarkation you will proceed to Selin’s home to enjoy a hands-on cooking class learning to cook home-style, family recipes and taste what you have cooked. A truly unique opportunity to experience Turkish hospitality and Istanbul home life. Overnight in Istanbul.
After a leisurly morning you will explore the famous Grand Bazaar. Lunch will be served at a popular Tradesmen Restaurant. After lunch you will walk through the Spice Bazaar, an extensive market which was built in the 17th century to finance the upkeep of the nearby mosque – Yeni Cami. The bazaar is often referred to as the “Egyptian Market” due to the fact that spices used to come to the market from India and Southeast Asia via Egypt. You will stop for a spice tasting session in a Spice shop that has been there since 5 generations. You will visit the Rustem Pasha Mosque, another skillful accomplishment of the architect Sinan, the Rustem Pasha Mosque was built in 1561 on the orders of Rustem Pasha, Grand Vizier and son-in-law of Suleyman the Magnificent. Exquisite Iznik tiles panel the small and superbly proportioned interior. A baklava shop stop will be your last stop for the day. Dinner will be on your own. Overnight in Istanbul.
Morning at leisure. Take a ferry ride to the other side of the river that separates the European and Asian parts of Istanbul to explore the famous open-air street market of Kadikoy. Notice the big difference in atmosphere between the Spice Market and the Kadıkoy which is more in tune with the way most people in Istanbul cook and eat. Indulge yourself in the huge variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, with plenty to discover for the “foodie.” Feel the real bazaar shopping experience with the fishmongers, bakers, butchers and grocers singing out to attract you to their stall. Take your time and explore the many pastry shops, Turkish delight and deli stores and the aromatic spice stands. There is plenty to see and buy, with information and recommendations available. Lunch will be at reknown Ciya Restaurant where you will taste best samples of Anatolian Cuisine. After lunch we will head to the airport for our flight to Cappadocia. You will be transferred to our cave hotel upon arrival. A light dinner will be served at our hotel. Overnight in Cappadocia.
In Cappadocia we will focus on the very particular culture and foods of Anatolia. After walking through a local farmers market you will proceed to a village where you will be cooking lunch in a village home with a local family. They will show you how to make manti, a traditional dish whose heritage stretches back in to the Central Asian origins of modern Turkey. You will taste what you have cooked for lunch. After lunch we will introduce you to the lunar landscape of Cappadocia at Dervent Valley, and then head to the Zelve Open Air Museum, which is one of the earliest inhabited and latest abandoned monastic settlements of Cappadocia. Seeing the best examples of the fairy chimneys at Pasabag Fairy Chimneys Valley, we drive further to Kaymaklı. You will explore the underground city of Kaymakli, one of the largest and deepest of Cappadocia’s many such settlements. Before dinner we will stop at a winery. This is the biggest and oldest winery (since 1943) in Cappadocia. We will tour the winery while tasting their local wines. The Okuzgozu- Bogazkere combinations (grapes native to Turkey) are quite promising. The family-operated winery is located underground, carved in natural rock. This natural cellar also provides excellent storage conditions for the wine. Dinner will be at a popular Cappadocia restaurant. Overnight in Cappadocia.
Early morning optional balloon ride– transfer to the balloon launching site to meet the balloon crew. The gentle and stable wind conditions are ideal during the first few hours of the day in Cappadocia. It is also the ideal time for photography, with splendid colours and contrasts. The deep canyons and gentle winds carry you over places that could never be reached except by balloon. After flying over Cappadocia for about one hour, you will land to a champagne celebration! Proceed to Avanos, a centre of terracotta art since 2,000 BC, you will see a demonstration of pottery making in a traditional workshop, where the family has been making pottery for many generations. Then we will try our hands at it under the supervision of a master potter. This is also a great spot to shop for pottery. You will learn how to make Baklava before Lunch at Avanos Woman Entrepreneurs Collective Restaurant. After lunch you will continue your day with a hike in the picturesque Red Valley. Then make your way back to the famous Goreme Open Air Museum to see the best examples of Byzantine art in Cappadocia. These are found in rock-cut churches with frescoes and paintings dating from as early as the 10th century. Then while sipping your wine you will enjoy a demonstration and explanation of Turkish carpet making techniques, symbols and different types of carpets, and get the chance to buy some of these works of art. After dinner we will take an evening flight to Izmir and drive to Selçuk. Overnight in Selcuk.
After breakfast we will proceed to visit the ancient archaeological ruins of Ephesus, featuring the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of ancient world. We will then proceed for lunch in an ecological farm that houses the best restaurant in the area and visit the Oleatrium, an Olive Oil Museum where we will be travelling 2500 years in time. After having a delectable feast, we will take you around the farm so you will see how they dry their vegetables under the sun, how they make tomato and pepper paste, pomegranate molasses and the making of many different organic jams. The farm tour will end at the museum where you will see how mankind first discovered that olives were edible and how olive oil was used from the beginning of time until today. Dinner will be served at a meze and fish restaurant in Kusadasi. Overnight in Selcuk.
Morning at leisure. Lunch on your own. Then proceed to the airport to take flight to Istanbul. Overnight in Istanbul.
Take the flight back home.