Welcome to Turkey! You can arrive at any time on Day 1 as there are no activities planned. There will be a brief meeting in the evening where you will meet your Tour Leader and fellow group members, carry out some admin and learn more about our trip to come. After the meeting, you may choose to join your leader and group for an optional dinner in a local restaurant nearby. Overnight in Istanbul.
We set off by private bus this morning for Gallipoli. We visit the site where thousands gave their lives during WWI in the battle of the same name, where the Turks fought off the numerically superior but badly commanded Allied Forces who were forced to withdraw nine months later. We will visit ANZAC Cove, the war cemeteries, Lone Pine and other important sites. Even for those who are not familiar with this battle, this is a moving and beautiful site, complementing any trip to Turkey. It is only a little further to Çanakkale, a busy harbour town with a thriving student population. Join the crowds as they stroll the waterfront nightly, seeing and being seen. Why not try "kumpir", the Turkish version of a stuffed potato? Yum! Approx travel time: Istanbul to Gallipoli, 5hrs in a private bus; Gallipoli to Çanakkale, 20mins (ferry) + 20mins in a private bus.
This morning we pay a visit to the world famous Troy. Troy was made famous first by the Iliad, Homer's epic poem, and more recently by Orlando Bloom and Brad Pitt in the film of the same name! For centuries this story in the Iliad was regarded as just a myth until the ruins of the city were found in in the mid-nineteenth century. While today not too much remains it is possible, with a bit of imagination, to get a feel for what a great city this must once have been. Of course you won’t want to miss your chance to have your photo taken with the Trojan horse! You’ll be charmed by Ayvalik’s blend of old Ottoman architecture, cobbled streets and attractive harbour. This afternoon we charter a small boat from the harbour for a cruise of this beautiful area. We visit secluded bays, explore a nearby island and of course there is plenty of time for just relaxing and swimming in the turquoise waters. Drinks are available on board. Afterwards, why not head down to one of the waterside restaurants for a sunset drink or meal. Enjoy the hospitality and beautiful views from our family-run pension. Located in a restored Ottoman house, it is always a highlight for our travellers. Please note that this accommodation has shared bathroom facilities and some rooms may be multi-share. Approx travel time: Çanakkale to Troy, 40mins; Troy to Ayvalik, 2hrs20mins in private bus.
Enjoy a free morning in the quaint seaside village of Ayvalik, exploring the town at leisure or perhaps just sitting back people watching in one of the cafes. In the afternoon, we travel to Selçuk, our base for exploring the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Ephesus. One of the foremost cities of the world in its time, with a strategic location on the trade route, this well preserved city is one of the best places in the world to get a real feeling of what life must have been like during Roman times. The massive, well preserved theatre dominates the view down Harbour Street, which leads to the long-silted-up harbour. The impressive two storey library, whose façade has been carefully reconstructed from all original pieces, was built in 125 AD and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. There is even a chance to see 2000 year old public toilets! Once part of Ephesus but now the outskirts of Selcuk, are the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. Today all you will see is the one column which remains of this ancient structure. Why not visit the small but exquisite Ephesus Museum, walk up to the remains of the St John basilica, visit the mosque of Isa Bey or just wander the streets and cafes of this vibrant Turkish town. We travel 8km to the picturesque village of Sirince where you can sample some of the local wine, shop for crafts and perhaps sample a tasty Turkish pancake for lunch. Approx travel time: Ayvalik to Selçuk, 2.5 hrs by public bus
This morning we'll journey to the famous white cliffs of Pamukkale. 2700m long and 160m high and visible from up to 20km away Pamukkale is made up of 17 hot water springs in which the temperature varies between 35 and 100 degrees. The white cliffs, or travertine are formed when the calcium carbonate that is deposited at first as a soft jelly hardens with time. We also explore the ancient site of Hierapolis, built on top of the white "castle". This UNESCO world heritage site is evidence that the hot springs of Pamukkale were used as a spa since the second century BC and there is evidence of large baths within the city. Approximate travel times: Selcuk to Pamakkale, 4 hours.
This morning we take a short flight to Istanbul. After settling in, we will depart for a walking tour of Istanbul, with your Tour Leader. During this tour we will point out attractions such as the Aya Sofya and the Topkapi Palace, which you will want to return to and explore during your free time, as well as visiting and hearing the stories behind many of Istanbul’s sights and discovering some of your leader's hidden city secrets. Our walk will include a wander through the atmospheric Spice Bazaar. Built in 1660, and also known as the Egyptian Bazaar as this is where many of the spices were originally imported. This market was, and is the centre of Istanbul's spice trade. We head downhill to the Bosphorus. The many local ferries departing from here are a great way to see the city from the water, on the cheap! The newly renovated Galata bridge now houses many bars and restaurants, and is a great place to grab the traditional Turkish fisherman's lunch of fresh, fried fish in a roll washed down with a cold beer. Walking back towards the Sultanahmet area, your leader will point out the Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman sultans and their harems, as well as the fascinating Archaeological and Ancient Oriental Museums located in a nearby park. Once in Sutanahmet Park, your leader will explain a little of the tumultuous history behind the Aya Sofya – we recommend a visit during your free time. We explore the fabulous Blue Mosque, admiring the beautiful symmetry and internal tile work of the building. As it is a working mosque, take the chance to learn more about the ceremony behind Islam, the religion of around 98% of today's Turks. In front of the Blue Mosque, the ancient Hippodrome was once the scene of chariot races and now houses monuments from various moments in Istanbul’s history. Although there is little sign of it now, Divan Lu was once famous amongst travellers on the 70’s Hippy Trail for its western food and relaxed atmosphere. En route, your leader will point out a couple of hamams, or Turkish baths- an unmissable Turkish experience for any visitor. Passing by various graveyards, mosques and tea houses, our path leads uphill to Istanbul’s grandest mosque complex and hilltop landmark, the Suleymaniye Camii. Learn more about the famous Sultan who is buried here, as well as the master architect who designed these beautiful buildings almost 500 years ago. There are many traditionally dressed sellers in this area touting refreshing glasses of sherbet for just a few cents- worth a try on a hot day! You are free to stay and explore the Grand Bazaar (please note that it is closed on Sundays), perhaps have lunch at one of this area’s many restaurants or you may choose to accompany your leader back to the hotel. In the afternoon, why not use your free time to visit the Topkapi Palace or the Aya Sofya, before a final dinner celebrating a wonderful journey. Approximate travel times : Pamukkale to Denzili airport, 1 hour, flight to Istanbul, approximately 1 hour, transfer to Istanbul hotel approximately 45 minutes.
You are free to depart at any time today. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally mid-morning, but luggage storage facilities are available. We are able to organise extra post-trip accommodation if you wish to extend your stay for a few more days. Please ask at the time of booking.