Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia, Konya, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, Ephesus, Canakkale, Avanos, Hierapolis, Aphrodisias, Pergamum, Troy
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Turkey's beauty spans the ages, taking you on a journey through Greek myths, Roman legends, mythical landscapes, and the juxtaposition of East and West. Ancient relics mix with longstanding tradition, vibrant colors burst with intricate detail, and ingenious architecture reveals 4,000 years of influence. This handcrafted itinerary is an idyllic introduction to the region's riches, every one of the 11 days offering a fresh angle onto a cultural and historic melting pot.
Ottoman Ankara and the Soothing Landscapes of Cappadocia
The Cappadocia landscape provides the perfect antidote to any travel fatigue; green valleys overflow with surreal eroded rock chimneys, troglodyte caves hide around corners, and there's a wonderful sense of serenity. Cappadocia is your base for the first three days, but before this strange moonscape comes a glimpse at history. Land in Istanbul and connect onto a flight to Ankara, the country's capital. Visit the mausoleum of Attaturk, Turkey's founder, and explore millenniums of empires at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum. From here it's a short drive to Cappadocia, via the pristine Salt Lake and some astounding vistas.
Exploring a Surreal World of Chimneys, Caves, and Churches
This strange lunar landscape is ripe for gentle exploration. The weather sculpted volcanic chimneys tower over the road, dominating the Dervent and Pasabag Valleys with their lunar-like strangeness. Just a few steps off the road you can be standing amongst these bizarre formations. There are also some wonderful panoramas to photograph from the cliffs above the valleys. These landscapes have an evocative history, explored in the Zelve and Goreme open-air museums. Churches and monasteries are hand cut into the rock, odes to ingenious engineering and religious dedication. Frescos line the walls and they've been remarkably well preserved, their vivid colors contrasting the stark rock. Traditions live on in this part of Turkey and a visit to Avanos town reveals tile and pottery workshops that have been passed down through the generations. After some further panoramas from Uchisar Rock Castle, enjoy a leisurely evening in Cappadocia.
Underground Cities and Ongoing Tradition in Cappadocia
While the Cappadocia landscape seems to come from another planet, there's a poignant history to discover beneath the ground. Narrow stairways and corridors take you to underground cities, Kaymakli stretching many stories below with its simple cave dwelling rooms. Eerie and evocative, this vast city was the hidden home for persecuted Christians. Elsewhere in the valley, the exuberant markings of religion showcase more peaceful times in Cappadocia's history. Admire the 14th century rock cut churches of Soganli and then stop at the 13th century Taskinpasa mosque and Keslik monastery.
Fast forward to the 21st century and a local family opens their village home, inviting you for a traditional lunch and a chance to share stories. Meet the villagers, enjoy the fragrances of home-cooking, and then spend the afternoon in the town of Mustafapasa. Old Greek houses line the streets, each in indelible states of decay and incandescent beneath the sun. A famous carpet workshop completes the afternoon before another quiet evening in Cappadocia.
Following the Famous Silk Road Caravan Trail to Pamukkale
Turkey has always been a crossroads. Greek and Roman empires ruled before the Ottoman period, and the country has always served as the meeting place for East and West. Today you follow the ancient Silk Road, taking the route of the old trading caravans that plied between the continents. Sultanhani Caravanserai offers a narrative on the world's greatest ever trade route and the Mevlana Museum in Konya presents another exotic theme. This was the original home of the whirling dervishes, dancers in white who could spin and spin without ever losing balance. Admire some very early copies of the Koran in the museum before continuing to Pamukkale, where the soothing mineral waters of your spa hotel make for a therapeutic afternoon.
The Beautiful Mineral Pools of Pamukkale and Two Stunning Ancient Cities
Heat bubbles beneath the surface all over Pamukkale, warming mineral water pools and terraces that extend across the green hills. For some 2200 years the Greeks bathed here, the ancient cities of Aphrodisias and Hierapolis evidence of their presence. First explore the pools. Stepped terraces of calcified white cling to the hillside, the gleaming colors more reminiscent of the Arctic than of Turkey. Dip into the waters and gaze across a fairytale setting, the terraces of Pamukkale offering one of the country's most unforgettable sights.
Now for the cities; Hierapolis and Aphrodisias revel in their portrayal of ancient Greece. Temples of columns and sculptures stand proud, amphitheaters stretch down the hillside, and isolated pillars dominate the skyline. You may recognize the names. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and Hierapolis was supposedly founded by Apollo. While it's only mythology on paper, there's mystical radiance to these ancient cities, one that suggests that all myths have their basis. After lunch you drive to the coast and the resort town of Kusadasi, where beaches and blue waters await. You will spend the night here in Kusadasi.
A Day in Ephesus and an Afternoon On the Beaches of Kusadasi
Ephesus delights in restored glory, the Ionian city bursting with temples and Greek columns, each reflecting the summer rays. There's a history that comes from before Christ, found in the Temple of Artemis, and the Library of Celsus that rises far above the ancient splendor. Yet Ephesus’ eclectic remains contain further intrigue. The House of the Virgin Mary was where Mary spent her final days and the Basilica of St John adds further doses of integral religious history. This is a private tour and your expert guide will continue the narrative left by the Ephesus Museum. Like every day, the pace of the trip is dictated by you and there's never any need to rush or wait. With so much to explore, it's easy to spend the entire day at Ephesus. It's also easy to return to the coast for an afternoon soaking up the sun on Kusadasi's beaches.
Exploring the Remarkable Remains of Mythical Troy
Troy was always thought of as a legend, a fictional town dreamt up by Homer. The name ignites the imagination and the excavated ruins take you back 4000 years. It feels like a lived in city; grass engulfed passageways heading between crumbling rock walls, steps leading to towering temples, and of course, the famous carved horse. Troy almost appears like a dream, the carved lion heads and vast scattered remains conjuring scenes from the time of Greek gods and mystical times. Before Troy your journey adds further suggestive impressions. Visit the throne of Satan at Pergamum, the Greco Roman city that tumbles down a hillside. With the Acropolis and Asclepion towering above the surrounding landscapes, there's a real sense of both ancient power and ingenious engineering. Tonight you will stay in Canakkale.
Cruising the Dardanelles and First Impressions of Istanbul
Turkey's landscape has formed an integral part of this itinerary; sapphire waters twinkle along the coastline, green mountaintops are controlled by ancient ruins, and weaving roads pass by dozens of lookout points. Descend to the coast today and cross the Dardanelles by ferry, your journey towards Istanbul almost at an end. On this side of the water lies further historical narratives, these ones barely reaching back 100 years. The Gallipoli Campaign saw thousands of soldiers die during the First World War, many of them from Australia and New Zealand. The sites are a poignant pilgrimage spot for many visitors from down under, and the battlefields leave a lasting impression. After lunch it's off to Istanbul, the route curving around the Marnara Sea and the city immediately impressing. Fifteen centuries of architecture line the waterways yet the atmosphere remains understated and low-key. Tonight is free and it's recommended to simply wander through the streets and start taking in the treasures.
Exploring Istanbul's Most Famous Sights
Sultanahmet bristles with old-world charm and it's the starting point for a day touring Istanbul's famous sights. The remains of The Hippodrome are the centerpiece, flanked by the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque and rolling to the ambiance of tea sellers and flag wavers. Your guide provides the narrative, pointing out the few remains from Roman rule before you head beneath the giant domes of the Hagia Sophia. Christian frescos adorn the walls, reminders of how this building was the world's largest cathedral for many centuries. But downstairs, beneath the ornate ceilings, are odes to Allah and evidence of when the Hagia Sophia was a mosque. Over 1400 years after it was built, it's now a museum and a poignant display of religious harmony.
Cross the Hippodrome towards the minarets of the Blue Mosque, the vast courtyards offering a humble and serene space in the city. Remove your shoes and walk inside, red carpet and blue tiled walls immediately grabbing your attention. Inside there is grandeur and panache, intricate detail filling the mosque with irrefutable beauty. Continue the tour at Topkapi Palace, where rooms reveal the excesses of empires and their rulers. Now wander beneath the hundreds of domes of the Grand Bazaar, thousands of stalls lining the curved corridors and taking you deep into a maze of sensual utopia. Trader's shout, women barter, spices spill around corners, and the twinkling of Anatolian handicrafts demand attention. The rest of the day is free; seeing as you're already in Sultanahmet, a relaxed afternoon can be spent in the cafes that line the cobblestone streets around the Hagia Sophia.
A Sensual Journey Across Continents in Istanbul
With the sun rising on your final day in Turkey, memories linger on the 4000 years of history and culture that have been explored. Your guide offers a new narrative today, one that explores how tradition has evolved in modern day Istanbul. Start in the Spice Market, a historic trading place that continues to burst with vibrant colors and beguiling smells. While most countries have shopping malls and supermarkets, the locals in Istanbul still do their shopping in bazaars. Then head to the Bosphorus where a boat takes you along the continental divide, juxtaposed old and new architecture standing on the edge of Europe and Asia. It's a journey for slowly soaking up the sights and watching ten centuries of architecture float past.
Lunch is iconically Istanbul, fresh barbecued fish served on a bridge over the Bosphorus with views of the fishermen providing the catch. Now some Ottoman treats. Four centuries of Sultans have collected trinkets and souvenirs to adorn the Dolmabahce Palace, the 365 rooms stuffed full of antiquity. Enjoy thick Turkish coffee at a local cafe and spend the final afternoon of your vacation exploring. You'll discover that, while Istanbul has a modern façade: new shop fronts, cars, electronic screens detailing tram times, the people continue to live as if little has changed since Byzantine times.
After 11 days of archaeological brilliance and fascinating culture it's time to depart. Enjoy one last breakfast and a final look at Istanbul as you're transferred to the airport for your international departure.
- Tour the phantasmal landscapes of Cappadocia, where chimeric chimneys cover valleys of intrigue, and rock sculpted churches stand beside weird underground cities
- Gaze across the white wonderland of Pamukkale, the terraced thermal springs epitomizing the geological wonder of Turkey
- Relax on the Aegean Coastline and allow the gentle charm of Kusadasi to offer a more classically Mediterranean side to the country
- Turkey's ancient cities ignite the imagination and you'll experience many of them, including the vast famous remains of Ephesus and Troy
- Soak up the unique atmosphere of Istanbul, the city combining architectural splendor, buzzing markets, opulent palaces, and humble moments exploring some of the world's most impressive religious buildings
- A private driver and guide take you to the famous sites, allowing the tour to run at your own pace
Turkey cascades with classic sights, the landscape imbued with 4,000 years of eclectic history. Troy, Ephesus, Istanbul, the Silk Road, the chimneys of Cappadocia; a collection of eclectic destinations takes you on a journey through the ages, your expert guide joining up the narratives from Greek and Roman, to Byzantine and Ottoman. Over these 11 days you will soak up the beauty of the country's most iconic sights, and it's not just archaeology and history. Traditions live on in cute villages, bazaars bristle with vibrancy, thermal baths imbue new tones, and beaches offer a change of pace. Starting in Ankara and Cappadocia, you cross the Greco Roman allure of Turkey before finishing the trip in the irresistible city of Istanbul.
Start in Ankara, where the mausoleum of Ataturk and a quaint Ottoman house begin the historical musing. This first day takes you to the ethereal valleys of Cappadocia, the weird chimneys and troglodyte dwellings an idyllic backdrop for the first three nights. Hidden amongst the panoramic beauty are underground cities, fresco suffused churches cut into the rock, and villages of longstanding tradition. After your international flight, these are three relaxed days in spellbinding surroundings. From here you pick up the old Silk Road, following the caravansary trail before meandering to the white thermal pools of Pamukkale. Ancient cities cover the landscape, standing proud on mountain tops and screaming of a kingdom's power. Hierapolis, Aphrodisias, Pergamum; throughout this itinerary there are many stops that unveil the revered images from Greek mythology. Wonderfully preserved, the temples and columns showcase an architectural splendor that has survived 3,000 years.
From the beach resort town of Kusadasi you explore the vast remains of Ephesos, the history mixing with sand and sea in the afternoons. Nearby Troy was always considered a myth, until the city was “discovered” and excavated 150 years ago. It's deserving of its fame, a vast quarry of ruins in various states of decay and recovery. And yes, that includes a famous sculpted horse. Cruise across the Dardanelles and complete this handcrafted adventure in Istanbul. Its famous sights need little introduction; the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, the Grand Bazaar, palaces stuffed with sultans' opulent treasures. They epitomize the appeal of Istanbul, combining visual splendor with an endearing atmosphere that transcends cultural differences. With two guided days you see the famous and well-known, but also the local side to a city that unifies two continents.
All facets of this itinerary are fully customizable and can be themed to a particular mood; for example, desires for outdoor adventure or romance can easily be accommodated. For other tour options, visit the trips to Turkey section on Zicasso and read the reviews for Turkey tour companies.
$2,855 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
- Expert trip planning
- 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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