As the Mediterranean twinkles and Roman splendor cascades down mountainsides, this family tailored vacation effortlessly combines two paradigms. Explore the riches of Istanbul and Turkey before crossing the Mediterranean and settling into the beach escapism of Rhodes, a quiet Greek island wallowing in the sunshine. Expertly crafted to entertain all ages, this itinerary is both historical captivation and indulgent getaway.
Istanbul – A Whirling Dervish Welcome to Turkey
Istanbul has always reveled in its exoticism, a proverbial magic carpet floating across streets of architectural splendor. The city excites and compels; domes reflect Mediterranean rays, old women gather to drink tea besides palaces, and a special performance offers a unique welcome to the city. Your family will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel in Sultanahmet, the historic suburb that was once the centerpiece of Byzantium and Constantinople. There's limited road traffic here and many streets are pedestrianized, making it both quiet and safe. Sultanahmet also offers a prime base for easy wanderings and exploration of the city.
Resplendent in white and seemingly lost in the trance, the Whirling Dervishes spin for minutes without pause. Around and around they go, never losing balance as their movements match a soft drum beat and the resonant recital of poems. It's a performance that immediately imbues the inimitability of Turkey. Witnessing it is a rare experience. The Whirling Dervish performance is part of the evening entertainment as you sit down for dinner in Sultanahmet; glance skyward and the domes of the Blue Mosque cast another exotic spell.
Istanbul – Walking Tour of Istanbul's Ancient Treasures
The call to prayer wafts across rooftops, harmonic voices reaching out from across the city. Fruit juice vendors spray smells into the air. Boutique shops hide beside 16th-century relics and sweet pastries enticingly fill windows. All this and you're still on the same street as the hotel. Your guide will meet you after breakfast and take you on a walking tour of Istanbul's most famous sights. This is usually a half-day tour but will be tailored to the family's mood; it's easily extended or reduced. From the hotel you travel back in time to Byzantine; the Hippodrome remains, ancient Roman and Greek columns rising alongside boardwalks, and the vast Cistern is the source of the city's first freshwater supply.
The narratives span centuries and continents. Explore the Hagia Sophia and its 15 centuries of religious fame. Christian frescoes vividly juxtapose with Islamic odes and it's easy to get lost in what was once the second-largest building on the planet. Cross the Hippodrome (a stop for fresh tea on the benches is optional) and marvel at the serenity of the Blue Mosque, thousands of Iznik tiles intricately covering the walls. A visit to the Topkapi Palace is included but also optional. After a few hours of sightseeing, you may wish to head directly to the Grand Bazaar, a maze of curved alleys that twinkle with trinkets and wares from around the world. No matter your age, it's impossible not to be overawed by the labyrinthine vibrancy and sheer abundance of things to look at. Whenever you're ready, the guide expertly picks a path out of the world's largest covered market and you return to the hotel by streetcar. The rest of the day is at your leisure.
Istanbul – Two Wheels on Two Continents Cycle Tour
It's not always easy to excite children about architecture and archaeology. For all the renowned wonder of Istanbul, the children may require something a little more up to date. Today's cycle tour offers a new angle from which to explore the city. In half a day you cycle from Europe to Asia and get up close with many intriguing sides of the city. The tour only ventures into cycle-friendly parts of the city and you peddle on cycle lanes and limited-access streets.
Start in the Spice Market, where vivid splashes of color line the corridors and pungent whiffs mingle in the atmosphere. Ride alongside the Bosphorus, wheels firmly in Europe as you gaze across at Asia. Gardens and quaint relics provide chances to pause and take photos before you pass the expectant fisherman and peddle to another continent. Street food is a focus on the Asian side of the city and there's an opportunity to sample weird and wonderful snacks that merge exotic influence with classically Mediterranean styles. The pace is relaxed and, after exploring the opulence of Dolmabahce Palace, there's a chance to rest the legs with coffee and lunch at a cafe overlooking the Bosphorus. Cruise back to Sultanahmet and the rest of the afternoon is free. You may wish to visit a traditional Turkish hammam for some salubrious scrubbing.
Kusadasi – Enjoying the Beaches of Kusadasi
The Mediterranean glistens and the Kusadasi sand beckons as you depart Istanbul on a domestic flight to Izmir. Sprawling along the coast, Kusadasi has a selection of beaches that provide your first impressions of this famous coastline. After the transfer from the airport, the whole afternoon is free to enjoy the intoxicating mix of sand and sea. Beachside restaurants serve up delectable seafood platters and the waters are ideal for young swimmers. Part of the Mediterranean's great appeal is the calmness of the sea. Rather than dangerous rips and crashing waves, the beaches here are fringed by wide shallow bays and gentle conditions.
Kusadasi – The Mesmerizing Ruins of Ephesus
Evocative history bursts out of Ephesus. Ionian columns rise uninhibited, temples stand restored and resplendent, and you're surrounded by remnants of a 3000-year-old city. Greek and Roman narratives are provided by your local guide; just take one look at the panorama and it's easy to imagine battles between Cimmerians and Lydians, and even the city's mythological founder, Ephos, Queen of the Amazons. This was the site of one of the world's original Seven Wonders, and while little remains of the Temple of Artemis, there's a huge expanse of excavated ruins and wonders to explore.
Stand beneath the Temple of Celsus, picture the gladiatorial scenes as you wander across the Grand Theatre, and admire the statues that grace Roman streets of marble and history. There's an option to continue the tour by visiting the early Christian memoirs found in Ephesus, including the resting place of the Virgin Mary and the Basilica of St. John. The Ephesus Museum provides a detailed account of the city's history although the guide's child-friendly style will probably be more captivating. Reading about emperors and warriors is interesting. But for youngsters, it's more real to stand beneath a marble temple and picture the empire that extended below. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and return to Kusadasi where the rest of the afternoon is free and the hotel provides easy access to the beach.
Pamukkale – Ancient Cities, Calcite Pools and a Spa
Pamukkale is one of Turkey's most iconic sites, a white wonderland that spills down rolling green hills. It looks like you're in the Arctic, not the Mediterranean. Iridescent calcite pools cascade across the landscape, glimmering beneath the sun and making for a surreal family photo opportunity. Pamukkale is a two to three-hour drive from Kusadasi and you're transferred in a large family vehicle. Take your time and soak up the landscape before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant.
You're not the first to be enticed by these therapeutic waters. Nearby Hierapolis was supposedly built by the Greek god Apollo, and he was certainly someone with good taste. The city flourished under both Greek and Roman rule. Hot springs send streams of warm water into soothing pools. Lie back, relax, and just as you're dozing off something captures your eye. Beneath the water are the remains of ancient marble columns and antiquities dating back 2000 years. You're not merely savoring one of the world's oldest spas, you're floating above two millennia of history. Tonight's spa hotel continues the theme of water and relaxation. One hour treatments are included for everyone and there's unlimited use of the pools and spa.
Rhodes – Soaking Up an Undeveloped Part of the Mediterranean
Weave a path through the remote mountains of Turkey and return to the Mediterranean Sea at Marmaris. Gaze out across the blue as you enjoy lunch at a local cafe. Whitewashed walls and alfresco terraces are now the norms as you begin the transition from the exoticism of Turkey to the elegance of Greece. It's a three-hour drive from Pamukkale and then a leisurely early lunch beside the water. Climb aboard a scheduled ferry and cruise across the Mediterranean, the boat crossing into Greek waters before docking on the island of Rhodes.
While Rhodes is a popular Greek island, its small size and stretches of undeveloped beaches make it ideal for families. You're based at Gennadi, a quaint stretch of golden sand that has only recently opened to tourism. The waters are calm and relaxing; the beaches are quiet and compelling, and the charms of the island are within easy driving distance. Settle into the boutique hotel and you would be forgiven for doing nothing for the next four days. With uninterrupted blue skies and the secluded beach, it's easy to lull into a quasi-hibernation. However, throughout your stay, a private guide is available to conduct tours and keep the whole family entertained.
Day 8 - 10
Rhodes – Relaxing Beach Escape with a Tailored Program of Tours
Languid mornings, easy afternoons by the pool or on the sand, swimming and snorkeling in shallow waters; Gennadi Beach offers a quintessential beach escape. But there's more to Rhodes than this coastal indulgence. Ancient Greek history covers the island, most spectacularly in the nearby towns of Lindos and Dinoris. Wander down the charming Street of Knights, enter through the Gate of Eleftherias, and admire the Aphrodite of Rhodes. Visit castles, museums, relics, and the marble-lined memoirs to Greek mythology. Or just lie back and relax.
Over the four days in Gennadi, a private guide is available and will handcraft an itinerary based on your family's wishes. This could include historical tours, boat trips to outlying islands, or exciting excursions along the coast. Furthermore, the services of this guide offer opportunities to explore as a whole family or allow the children to go off and leave the adults to the hotel's spa and beachside location. The guide is also available to provide transfers to different destinations across Rhodes, ensuring the island's finest restaurants can be enjoyed. While Gennadi offers an idyllic base, the whole island awaits your intrepid desires. It's Greece in a nutshell; serene, intriguing, and mesmerizingly white and blue.
Rhodes – Departure
A short transfer takes you to the island's airport and an international departure. The Mediterranean glistens beneath the wingtips and you're homeward bound, already wondering when to return.
- Combine the history and culture of Turkey with five days of elegant beach escapism on the Greek island of Rhodes
- Enjoy fascinating tours tailored to the whole family, including cycling on two continents in Istanbul and a child friendly narrative in Ephesus
- Start in Istanbul, where the mix of East and West captivates the heart and soul of all ages
- Marvel at the dazzling ruins of Ephesus and then admire the resplendent calcite pools of Pamukkale
- A private guide and driver are provided in Rhodes; adults can soak up the spa and sandy indulgence as the children are catered to by a tailored program of activities, or the whole family can set off an explore
- This itinerary is liberally sprinkled with surprises and intriguing parts of local culture, ensuring everyone is thoroughly entertained; think Whirling Dervishes, street food, and recreating Roman and Greek history
The Southern Mediterranean provides an indelible blend for the whole family; secluded beaches, famous ruins, intriguing culture, unique attractions that excite children. From the moment the Whirling Dervishes welcome you to Istanbul, this vacation provides enchantment at every turn. The first six days are spent discovering the world-renowned sites and treasures of Turkey. Then the mood switches from exploration to escapism as you settle onto the Gennadi sand on the Greek island of Rhodes. Carefully tailored activities offer a family focused slant on tradition; cycle in two continents in just two hours, recreate Roman history in Ephesus, and create a customized itinerary with your personal guide in Rhodes.
The first three nights are spent in Istanbul, a captivating city that blurs any distinction between East and West. Despite its size, the city is calm and easily discovered on two feet or two wheels. Immerse yourself in the famous sights; the Blue Mosque, the winding corridors of the Grand Bazaar, street food along the Bosphorus, and spices that cascade smells through the city. On day two you take a private walking tour. Day three includes a unique cycle tour which allows you to peddle over the bridge that connects two continents. Fly to Izmir on the morning of day four and spend a day on the beach, the golden sand a glimpse of what's to come in Rhodes.
Days five and six provide an opportunity to revel in the beauty and history of Roman and Greek empires. Visit Ephesus, a wonderfully preserved Ionian city radiating fascinating chronicles. Then soak up the therapeutic splendor of Pamukkale. A white wonderland of pools and terraces spill down the mountainside and the healing waters have been soothing legs for some 3,000 years. Continue to Marmaris where a scheduled ferry service takes you across the Mediterranean to the pristine Greek island of Rhodes. Nestled on the east of the island, and within easy reach of historic Lindos, Gennadi Beach is one of the last untouched expanses in the Mediterranean. For these final four days you have a private guide who can tailor a program of activities. The whole family can explore together or the children can be entertained while you indulge in the impressions of getaway.
$2,800 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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