This 14-day small-group tour (maximum 10 people) begins in Istanbul and visits the highlights of Istanbul, the ancient cities of Ephesus, Pamukkale, Antalya, Konya and the biblical Cappadocia. Really, you see almost all the highlights of Turkey in only two weeks.
Upon arrival at The Istanbul International Airport, you will be met and transferred to Sari Konak Hotel in Sultanahmet. You will meet your guide and other tour participants for a cocktail and a briefing on your trip before dinner. Dinner and overnight in Istanbul.
Your guide will meet you after breakfast for a tour of the Ottoman Istanbul. A short walk takes you to the Blue Mosque which was completed in 1616. Our next stop will be the Topkapi Palace, more than just a palace, it is an assemblage of museums containing collections amassed by the Sultans for almost five centuries. Our visit also takes you to the famous Harem where the Imperial Family resided. We then walk out to Divan Yolu, the old "Road to the Imperial Council’ now a busy thoroughfare, for lunch at a local restaurant. Next we walk through the old cobbled streets down to Rustem Pasha Mosque, designed by Mimar Sinan in 1561, and then the Spice Market, where Genoese and Venetian goods were sold at a time when there was no Suez Canal, and all the spices from the East were also brought here after being loaded on vessels in Egypt. We end the tour with a visit to the greatest Bazaar of them all, the Grand Bazaar, one of the most extraordinary shopping experiences in the world. Dinner and overnight in Istanbul.
Our second day in Istanbul takes us to a number of Byzantine Relics. We first stroll to the great square which was once the Byzantine Hippodrome. Now it is a great park like area surrounded by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Underground Cistern. The Hippodrome exhibits the Walled Column, The Serpent Column and the Egyptian Obelisque from the Byzantine times and the German Fountain is located in the North end of the Hippodrome. Next we visit the Hagia Sophia, the most important Byzantine building in the world. After lunch at a local restaurant we take a short drive to The Chora Church to see the climax of Byzantine Mosaic Art. We end the tour with a visit to the Underground Cistern, commonly called the Basilica Cistern. Dinner and overnight in Istanbul.
On our last day in Istanbul, we check out after a leisurely breakfast and take a short drive to the shores of the Bosphorus to visit the Dolmabahce Palace. Overlooking the Bosphorus, its beauty is incomparable with 14 tons of pure gold used for its interior decoration, its priceless paintings, furniture, and a rich collection of Bohemian crystal in addition to its famous Harem section. Then we get on board at Kabatas Pier for a 2 hour private cruise of the Bosphorus. After lunch at a local restaurant, we are transferred to Istanbul Airport for the 17:00 flight to Izmir, then we take an hour’s transfer to our hotel in Kusadasi. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
We start early in the morning to beat the crowds and first drive to the Virgin Mary"s House; afterwards, we visit Ephesus which was founded in the eleventh century BC by the Ionians. Strolling through the streets of Ephesus, we see the Fountain of Traian, the temple of Hadrian and the Library of Celsus to name a few. We also visit the Terrace Houses: A number of living units where the rich and the dignitary of Ephesus with the most beautiful ground mosaics, frescoes, terra cotta pipe lines and private baths. Later in the afternoon we will visit St John"s Basilica, believed to be the tomb of the Apostle John, Christ"s beloved disciple. From the basilica, we will be able to look down on the remains of the temple of Artemis. We end the day with our visit to the Isa Bey Mosque, then we head on to Kusadasi for a well-earned rest. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
After breakfast, we drive first to Prienne, formerly a leading member of the Panionic League. As we drive further South, we visit Miletus and then arrive at Didyma, where we have lunch at a local restaurant, circumstances permitting, across the road from the temple. As the historian Pausanias wrote; "The sanctuary of Apollo at Didymoi, and the oracle there are more ancient than the Ionian settlement." Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
As we check out, we drive to Pamukkale giving an en route visit to Aphrodisias, which was the city dedicated to the cult of Aphrodite. As we visit the Sculptor"s Museum in Aphrodisias, we have lunch at a local restaurant. We visit Hierapolis on arrival, then have time to stroll over the calcareous terraces of Pamukkale, or to enjoy the thermal facilities. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale.
In the morning, a scenic route through Burdur takes us to the beautiful ancient site of Sagalassos. This is one of the very few ancient cities where we can witness how sacred fountains function. After this, we continue to Antalya. On arrival to Antalya, we have lunch at a local restaurant and then visit the Archaeology Museum which was awarded the Museum of the Year in Europe. Dinner and overnight in Antalya.
In the morning, we first visit Perge, one of the most impressive sites of Pamphylia, and then Aspendos, the world"s best preserved ancient theatre. After lunch at a local restaurant near the Aspendos Theatre, we will allow you time in the afternoon to rest & relax at the Lara Beach. Dinner and overnight in Antalya.
An early departure after breakfast and a scenic route over Taurus Mountains takes us to Beysehir, where we visit the Esrefoglu Mosque. After having lunch at a local restaurant, we arrive at Konya in the late afternoon to visit the world famous Mevlana Museum, formerly the place where the mystic philosophy of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi was taught. Dinner and overnight in Konya.
Today, we drive to Cappadocia, with an enroute visit to Sultanhan Caravanserai, where the medieval merchants used to stay overnight. After this, we arrive in Ihlara Valley and have our lunch at a local restaurant by the river. After the lunch, we walk through the canyon via the Steps of Anatolia to Belisirma village, the ancient Peristrema. Set by the Melendiz River this is known as the “Valley of the Sky”. Churches carved from the rocks form a gallery of early paintings that are remarkable for their accuracy. Dinner and overnight in Cappadocia.
60-minute comfort hot air balloon ride at dawn. Our first real encounter with Cappadocia’s almost Martian landscape is in the Devrent valley, where the rock formations are amazing. A walk through the Zelve Open Air Museum is a journey into the past, with its troglodyte houses. This is one of the earliest inhabited and latest abandoned monastic settlements in Cappadocia. After Zelve we visit Pasabag’s “fairy chimneys”, where the voice of the wind harmonizes with the songs of the fairies. From here we pause at Avanos, a centre of terracotta art since 2,000 BC, for a demonstration in a traditional pottery workshop. After lunch in Avanos, we visit 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. We complete the tour with a visit to the Uchisar Rock-Castle, giving you a panoramic view of the valleys of Cappadocia. Dinner and overnight in Cappadocia.
Our first stop is the Soganli Valley, an open air museum in a wild natural setting near a typical Cappadocian village with its different style rock-cut churches and frescoes. After this, we drive to Mustafapasa through the unspoiled villages of Cappadocia, surrounded by the “table-top” mountains. On the way, we visit the Keslik Monastery near Cemil village, which hides its frescoes behind a very thin smoke layer which can only be seen by torch light. After lunch in Mustafapasa at an old Greek house hosted by a local family, we descend towards the centre of the earth, with a trip to the Underground City of Kaymakli, one of the largest and deepest of Cappadocia’s many such settlements. Dinner and overnight in Cappadocia.
Transfer to Cappadocia Airport to board the flight to Istanbul that gives best connection to your international flight out of Istanbul.