Starting in Istanbul, we explore the incredible architectural wonders of this vibrant city before journeying on to Cappadocia; one of the world’s truly awesome landscapes. A myriad of deep, volcanic valleys, bizarre rock formations and fretted ravines have been sculptured over eons by wind and water. This surreal, otherworldly terrain is best explored on foot. We walk through the valleys and discover the distinctive, banded colours, ‘fairy chimneys’ and rock cones unique to each. A land that has been inhabited by man for thousands of years, we explore intricate cave dwellings, rock-cut churches, monasteries and elaborate underground cities. From Cappadocia, we head to the religious town of Konya, the white terraces of Pamukkale and the fabled Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus, before continuing north and paying homage at the battlefields of Gallipoli.
Day 1 - Istanbul
- If arriving at Istanbul Atakurk airport (IST) you will be met and transferred to your starting hotel. If arriving at Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) airport please make your own way to the hotel (unless you have booked a transfer).
- As today is an arrival day, there is no formal sightseeing planned.
- Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, with a history spanning thousands of years. It has been through several incarnations, firstly as Byzantium, then Constantinople and finally Istanbul.
- The city today is bustling and its streets are crowded with locals busily going about their daily lives. If you arrive early enough, you can wander and absorb the vibrancy of this exciting city that links Europe and Asia.
- In the evening there will be a welcome meeting (please check noticeboard for exact time) held in the hotel, where you will meet your tour leader and fellow travel companions.
Day 2 - Istanbul - Cappadocia
- This morning your guide will introduce you to the treasure-trove of the historic old town.
- You will visit the iconic 17th century Blue Mosque, built for Sultan Ahmet I and a unique piece of architecture because of its six minarets, rather than the usual four found across the rest of the Muslim world. 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 will also be visited today.
- A free afternoon will enable you to further explore this fascinating city.
- In the late afternoon you will drive to the airport for your flight to Cappadocia. Upon arrival you will drive into the heart of Cappadocia where you will be based for the next three nights.
Ciner Hotel or similar
Day 3 - Cappadocia
- This morning you will visit the Göreme Open Air museum: The people of Göreme, at the heart of the Cappadocia Region, realised that the soft rocks of the area could be easily carved out to form houses, churches, monasteries.
- This Christian sanctuary contains many examples of Byzantine art from the post-iconoclastic period. These frescoes are a unique artistic achievement from the 10th - 12th centuries. There are several fascinating Byzantine cave chapels to explore, most of them decorated with exquisite and colourful biblical frescoes.
- In the afternoon you will discover the local handcraft of the region and visit a carpet workshop where you will be fascinated by the beauty of the carpets, a tradition that reveals the nomadic origins of the Turkish people.
- Later in the afternoon you will embark on a short walk through the fascinating 'Love Valley' before heading back to your hotel. There is the option of enjoying a traditional Turkish bath to unwind from the day's activities.
Ciner Hotel or similar
Day 4 - Cappadocia
- After a relaxing breakfast you will take a walk toward Kizilcukur (Red Valley), where its magnificently sculptured, red rock formations have created arguably the most beautiful valley in Cappadocia.
- Small valleys, cones, peaks and fairy chimneys blend harmoniously with fascinating cave chapels that date back to the early Christian period. In the afternoon you will drive to the unique Pasabaglari Valley, where multiple fairy chimneys hewn from the earth and shaped by centuries of erosion lend a moon-like landscape and atmosphere to the valley.
- A chapel dedicated to St. Simeon and a hermit's shelter are built into one of the fairy chimneys, which appears to have three heads!
- You will walk today for a total of about three hours. In the afternoon you will take the opportunity to discover the local handcraft of pottery.
- Returning to Goreme, you will have a night at leisure. You may have an opportunity to attend a folk dance show or witness an original Whirling Dervish 'Sema' performance.
Ciner Hotel or similar
Day 5 - Cappadocia - Konya
- For early birds, there is the possibility to rise before dawn to take an awe-inspiring optional hot-air balloon ride over the 'other-worldly' Cappadocia landscape and witness an amazing sunrise in the process.
- For those preferring a more leisurely start to the day, one can relax over breakfast before regrouping and leaving the fairytale landscapes of Cappadocia behind and driving to the incredible underground city of Derinkuyu (approx. 45 minutes drive). Some of the dwellings here contain rooms expanding seven levels beneath ground level.
- You will then continue to the village of Belisirma in the Ihlara Valley on the slopes of Mount Hasan (approx. 50 minutes drive), one of the volcano's responsible for the forming of Cappadocia. See the Melendiz River and visit Asikli Hoyuk, which is located in an area covered by the volcanic tuff from central Cappadocia.
- You will then leave the area of Cappadocia behind and drive to Konya (approx. 2.5 hours), your stop for the night.
- Please note that Konya is a very religious town, so it is best that you dress conservatively during your time here.
Bera Mevlana or similar
Day 6 - Konya - Pamukkale
- After breakfast this morning you will drive to Pamukkale (approx. 5.5 hours), also known as 'Cotton Castle' and a truly unique sight.
- This magical and spectacular natural phenomenon was created by deposits from thermal waters that cascaded down the mountainside over hundreds of years, forming a myriad of pools and terraces. As the water overflows from the pools, dazzling cream-coloured stalactites are formed that, from afar, resemble cotton or snow. The pools are filled with hot spring waters that supposedly have healing properties for a person's circulation and digestive systems.
- Close to Pamukkale are the ruins of Hierapolis, which was founded by the King of Pergamon in 190 BC. By the 2nd century AD it had become an important Roman bath centre. The extensive ruins of Hierapolis are well worth exploring and include a theatre, temple, holy area, monumental fountain, bath, basilica and necropolis.
- You will spend the night in a hotel in Pamukkale
Melrose Hotel or similar
Day 7 - Pamukkale - Ephesus - Selçuk
- After breakfast you will make an early start for Selçuk (approx. 2.5 hours drive), which will be your base for visiting Ephesus - one of the best-preserved classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean, and a great example of Roman architecture.
- You will 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 arrival of the Romans, it became the Temple of Diana and was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world.
- You will 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.
- An orientation tour familiarises you with Selçuk, a sprawling town lying at the base of the ancient fortress on Ayasoluk Hill. Those who wish can take an optional visit to the last home of the Virgin Mary, who as legend states came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot.
- You will spend the night in a hotel in Selçuk and have the chance to reflect and fully comprehend the history and splendour of the day's discoveries.
Hitit Hotel or similar
Day 8 - Selçuk - Çanakkale
- Early this morning after breakfast, you will begin the drive to Çanakkale (approx. 5 hours), located on the shores of the Dardanelles, which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea and touches both Europe (with the Gelibolu Peninsula) and Asia (with the Biga Peninsula).
- On the way, you will visit an important historical site near Çanakkale - Troy. Troy (Truva) was a city that existed over 4,000 years ago and was known as a major ancient civilization. For many years people believed that it was the city mentioned only in the tales and never truly existed, as the area had become known as Ilium, or New Ilium.
- Archaeological digs subsequently proved that there had been nine separate periods of settlement. (3000 BC-AD 400) on what became accepted as the site of ancient Troy. Each successive period of habitation lies on top of its former incarnation. Here you can see the remnants of the ancient city walls in addition to a replica of the famous wooden horse. Historians are still at odds as to whether or not this fable or indeed the battle itself is stuff of lore or reality.
- Arriving in Çanakkale, you will have the remainder of the day free to wander around this vibrant waterfront town, and perhaps view the Trojan horse used and subsequently gifted to the city by the producers of the movie Troy, filmed in 2004.
Grand Anzac Hotel or similar
Day 9 - Çanakkale - Gallipoli - Istanbul
- You will cross the Dardanelles and return to 'Europe' today, visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula - a place of enormous significance to Australians and New Zealanders.
- Located at Turkey's most westerly point, this area is now serene, but the role it played on April 1915 during the First World War is now firmly etched into the psyche of New Zealanders and Australians.
- You will 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 is the highest ground secured in the campaign on the 8th of August, 1915 (by New Zealand and British troops), before they were beaten back due to lack of reinforcement.
- From the Ataturk Memorial at this spot, you can view the Allied troops goal - the Dardenelles. You 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 you will find remnants of trenches used by the Turkish soldiers.
- After touring the former battlefields, you will head back to where your adventure began - Istanbul (approx. 4.5 hours drive). You will arrive back in Istanbul in the late afternoon or early evening and the remainder of the evening will be free.
Q Inn Hotel or similar
Day 10 - End Istanbul
- Your tour will come to an end this morning after breakfast.