Turkey is perched at the crossroad between East and West and offers a fascinating concoction of rich history and diverse landscapes. Our exciting journey allows us to discover the rise and fall of civilisations, but we get to spend some time relaxing too! From Istanbul we travel to the Gallipoli Peninsula, to visit the battlefields and war memorials. We then head to Ephesus, a brilliant Greco-Roman site packed with ancient temples and sprawling ruins. Marvel at the vast amphitheatre where St Paul once preached and stroll the marble streets where Antony and Cleopatra once dallied! From the crumbling treasures of bygone eras, we head to the delights of the Turkish coastline and spend a number of days exploring the beaches, coves and cliffs. A fabulous cruise through blissful surroundings allows us to relax and unwind onboard, swim in the warm waters and get out on foot to discover coastal villages and archaeological sites. Gorgeous Antalya, a picturesque city perched on a steep cliff, is our final destination and the perfect place to find secret treasures amid narrow winding streets.
Day 1 - Istanbul
Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your starting hotel located in the heart of old Istanbul. After checking in, please look out for our noticeboard in the hotel lobby, which has a list of suggestions for things to see and do in your free time. As today is just an arrival day there is no sightseeing organised, but if you arrive early enough, you can take a walk around the streets near the hotel and see what an exciting place this is. Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, with a history spanning thousands of years. Over the centuries it has taken on several names - at first it was Byzantium, then Constantinople and finally, Istanbul. The city today is bustling and the old town is fascinating and contains many attractions. If you arrive early enough you can explore at your leisure with practically all of Istanbul's 'must see,' sights lying within a 5 to 15-minute walk of the hotel including such famous attractions as the Grand Bazaar, Roman Cistern and Blue Mosque. In the evening there will be a Welcome Meeting (please check noticeboard for exact time - usually 6pm) held in the hotel, where you will meet your tour leader and fellow travellers.
Day 2 - Istanbul
This morning our guide introduces us to the treasure-trove of the historic old town. We visit the iconic 17th century Blue Mosque, built for Sultan Ahmet I and a unique piece of architecture because it is a mosque with six minarets instead of the usual four. Another striking feature is its 20,000 beautiful Iznik tiles. The ancient Hippodrome with Obelisk of Theodosius, Snake Pillar and German Fountain of Wilhelm II are also visited. A free afternoon enables us to explore the famous covered Grand Bazaar or fabulous Spice Market. Shop for Turkish Delight, jewelry or clothing and remember to haggle.
Day 3 - Gallipoli - Çanakkale
This morning we drive to the Gallipoli Peninsula - an area of great historical significance for Australians and New Zealanders, in particular. Depending on the traffic getting out of Istanbul, it can be quite a long day of travelling and may take us about four - five hours to get there.
Located at Turkey's most westerly point this area is now serene, but the role it played in April 1915 during the First World War is now firmly etched on the psyche of the New Zealand and Australian nations. We visit the beach and cemeteries of Anzac Cove, then head up the hill to pay homage at the poignant memorials of Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. The latter the highest ground secured in the campaign on the 8th of August, 1915 (by New Zealand and British troops) before being beaten back due to lack of reinforcement. From the Ataturk Memorial at this spot we can view the Allied troops goal - the Dardenelles. We can look down upon the rough and barren hills and gulleys that became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. Around this area we can find remnants of trenches used by the Turkish soldiers. After touring the former battlefields we return to the small port of Eceabat and catch a ferry to Çanakkale.
Day 4 - Selçuk - Ephesus
After breakfast we make an early start for a drive of about four to Selçuk, which is our base for visiting Ephesus - one of the best-preserved classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean and a great example of Roman architecture. An orientation tour familiarises us with Selçuk, a sprawling town lying at the base of the ancient fortress on Ayasoluk Hill. We then drive to Ephesus, possibly the greatest Greco-Roman site in the world and definitely a highlight of your trip! Always an important religious centre, Ephesus was founded by Ionian Greeks in the 11th Century BC and flourished under Roman rule. The Greeks replaced the cult of the Anatolian fertility goddess Cybele with Artemis and built a fabulous temple in her honour. With the coming of the Romans, it became the Temple of Diana and was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. We visit the vast amphitheatre, walk the marble street once trodden by Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and marvel at the gymnasium, baths and wonderfully restored Library of Celsus. Nearby is the last home of the Virgin Mary, who as legend has it came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot. We spend the night in a hotel in Selçuk and have a chance to reflect and fully comprehend the history and splendour of our days discoveries.
Day 5 - Dalyan - Olüdeniz
Today is be an exceptional day for everyone - for parents as well as children! We travel by minibus to Dalyan, a small and lovely resort town located on the banks of a river that meanders through the reeds down to the sea. At the river mouth is Iztuzu Beach, one of Turkey's most spectacular and a place where loggerhead turtles (known locally as 'carettas') have been known to come ashore to lay their eggs. The best way to enjoy the whole site is to take a pleasant boat ride from Dalyan down to the sea, stopping off on the way to visit the ancient city of Caunus, which was an ancient Hellenic fortifications with beautiful Lycian tombs and a well preserved theatre hewn out of the surrounding rock. In the afternoon we drive to Olüdeniz - a place with beautiful and sheltered deep blue lagoon.
Day 6 - Olüdeniz - Free day
We enjoy a free day at the seaside in Olüdeniz (meaning 'Dead Sea') where we find all kinds of water sport activities available to partake in, such as canoeing, wind-surfing, water-skiing, parasailing or simply going on banana boats. The choice is yours! The beach is sandy and the water is blue. This is an ideal place to relax for the whole family before we continue our journey.
Day 7 - Saklikent Gorge - Kas
Located 50 kilometres from the coastal town of Fethiye, Saklikent Gorge is a unique natural wonder that is cut into the side of the Akdaglar Mountains. This magnificent canyon is 18 kilometres long and its walls reach a height of 600 metres in some places. We walk on sturdy boardwalks approaching the canyon and across a shallow river en route. Please wear good, strong footwear and also be warned that the clear flowing spring waters can be very chilly indeed even in the height of summer! Appropriate footwear can also be hired at the gorge should you wish for less than US$2. The Saklikent Gorge truely is spectacular. There is also an entertainment area for parents with young children. Afterwards we drive for two and a half hours to Kas, where we board our traditional boat, known as a gulet, and embark on our sailing adventure on the Mediterranean Sea. Each cabin in the boat contains a 'French bed,' (two twin beds side by side) and its own private bathroom. This is the first of three nights spent relaxing on our boat, which is sure to be a memorable experience.
Day 8 - 9 - Sailing Adventure
We spend two full days on our boats sailing around the group of peaceful and picturesque islands, all with very distinctive rock formations. Look out for some ancient houses that are submerged under the clear water! Our cruise also takes us to the settlement of Ucagiz and also the quaint village of Simena, with its stone houses covered in bougainvilleas. We can enjoy a spectacular view from the castle. We also sail from large bays to beautiful protected inlets, where we have the opportunity to enjoy some swimming off our boats. There is also a chance to stop at the island of Kekova proper, where we can indulge in a variety of water sports. These activities are all optional and you can chose to do whatever you wish. You may want to simply relax and take in the idyllic surroundings as the children splash and delight in the turqoise waters.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 10 - Antalya
After breakfast and a final chance to enjoy some swimming time we continue to the small harbour at Çayagzi, where we finish our sailing adventure. Getting back on dry land, we drive for a couple of hours to Antalya. A historic port city, this place was formerly known as Attaleia and was founded by Attalos II, King of Pergamum, in the 2nd Century BC. The old part of town, known as Kaleici, contains many remnants of past civilisations with its narrow winding streets and old wooden houses. Today much of Antalya is an attractive modern city, with shaded palm-lined boulevards and a lively marina area. We spend the last night of our adventure in this vibrant place and go out for a farewell dinner.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 11 - Antalya
After breakfast we say farewell to new found friends as our tour ends. Antalya airport is 10km from the centre of the city and is a major hub for Turkish airlines with several direct flights each day to Istanbul from where connections can be made to the rest of the Europe, North America, Middle East and Asia. There is also the option of continuing to many other Turkish destinations by bus. Antalya's 'Otogar,' (bus station) located 3km north of the city centre has a network of routes to cities such as Ankara (8 hours), Fethiye (7 hours) or even Istanbul (11 hours). All timings are only approximate.