You can arrive at any time on Day 1 as there are no activities planned. Today is a good day to explore the Aya Sofya as it's closed on Mondays. There will be a brief meeting in the evening where you will meet your Tour Leader and fellow group members, as well as completing some admin and learning 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. Please note that this is a Basics level tour. It is designed for 18-39 year olds who want to choose the activities they would like to participate in, rather than have them included as part of the tour price. As a result, entrance fees are not included. Please note "guided walk" means the services of a guide are provided, and transport to the site, but entrance fees, where applicable, are extra. Please refer to the optional activity section of these notes for approximate prices. To help you plan your budget, the activities most travellers choose to do are marked with an astrix *. Overnight in Istanbul.
We begin our day with an orientation tour of Istanbul on foot, 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 pause for lunch at one of this area’s many restaurants, or you may choose to accompany your leader back to the hotel. The remainder of your time is free until we depart for the train station this evening. In the evening we set off for the bus station ready to board our overnight bus, departing at 6pm this evening. Approximate travel time Istanbul to Cappadocia, via Ankara: 12 hours
After alighting our night bus from Istanbul/Ankara, we travel to the town of Goreme, our base for exploring Cappadocia, where there will be plenty of free time for exploration. Why not visit the Goreme Open Air Museum, a complex of medieval painted cave churches carved out by Orthodox monks. There are more than 10 caves to visit, with many of the churches up to 1000 years old and still retaining amazing colour and vibrancy. Hire a bike or catch a local bus and explore some of the other villages in the area. The village of Mustafapasa, is a popular choice. Many of the houses date back to the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries and display fine examples of stonework. One of the best ways to explore Cappadocia is on foot. We head into the Rose valley where we enjoy dinner with a local family before bunking down on an open air platform for the evening. Blankets and mattresses are provided but you may wish to bring your own sleep sheet. There are simple toilets on site. There is nothing like waking up to a sunset over the surreal landscape of this incredible setting. In the morning we will hike around 1 hour back to our hotel, including a visit to a hidden rock cathedral. Please note, this activity is only possible during dry, warm months (approx May-Sept) If sleeping outdoors is not possible, we will do our hike before hand and return to our hotel after dinner. While here, there will be the chance to visit a local pottery centre where you can take the opportunity to create your own masterpiece, as well as a carpet demonstration, to learn more about the process involved in making these Turkish works of art. Please note if you have pre-booked the Cappadocia Balloon Ride, you will be flying on Day 4. Overnight bus on Day 5 to Antalya.
This morning we set off for our journey to the Mediterranean coast. Passing through the stark Anatolian landscape, we enter the richly forested mountain region which leads to the coast and the small village of Çirali. There is time to relax before our evening walk to view the spectacle of the chimera, a phenomenon where flames mysteriously rise from cracks within the local rocks.
We continuing on to the beautiful coastal village of Kekova where we board our boat for an unforgettable night on the sea. On board, the facilities are very basic. We sleep on deck under the stars, with mattresses and full bedding, all of which is provided. There is a toilet and an open air shower on board. Dinner is included and cold drinks are available for purchase. This really is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the crystal waters Turkey is famous for! Sleeping on the boat is seasonal from May to October and even during these months, will still be dependent on weather conditions. In other months, you will stay in a guesthouse at Ucagiz, but will still spend a full day out on the boat on Day 8. Approx travel times: Cirali to Kekova, 2.5 hours.
Back on land at Ucagiz, travel up to the charming Dalyan—hit the mud baths, swim or chill out at the beach.
Time to leave sea level behind as passing through almond orchards, we make our way to Pamukkale. In the afternoon, we'll visit the famous white cliffs of Pamukkale. 2700m long and 160m high, visible from up to 20kms 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, which 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 are large, ancient baths within the city.
Travel to the town of Selçuk. You can choose to visit 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. You may also choose to 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. Catch a local “dolmus” bus 8kms to the picturesque village of Sirince where you can sample some of the local wine or shop for crafts. The beach at Kusadasi is also within reach for the dedicated sunseekers. Approx travel time: Pamukkale to Selçuk, 3hrs
Opt to visit to the world famous Troy en route to Çanakkale. Troy was first made famous 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! There is also the option to make an afternoon visit to Gallipoli, where thousands gave their lives during WWI in the battle of the same name. Here 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, completing any trip to Turkey. We continue a further 32km to the harbour town of Çanakkale, a busy port 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! Overnight in Çanakkale.
We'll continue our journey to Istanbul where there will be the opportunity to continue your sightseeing or get in some last minute shopping. Why not top off a wonderful adventure with dinner at one of Istanbul's atmospheric restaurants. Overnight in Istanbul. Approx travel time: Çanakkale to Istanbul, 5hrs