Antarctica & Arctic
Discover the highlights of Turkey, exploring classic sites and discovering captivating culture.
a Destinations d > Turkey > Highlights of Turkey
7 nights accommodation, meals as indicated, transport & activities mentioned, Explore tour leader throughout.
Selected dates, May - Jun & Aug - Oct
Discover the contrasts of Turkey and experience its delicious cuisine and captivating culture on this one-week highlights trip that travels down the west coast. Explore the former capital city of Istanbul, which straddles the border between Europe and Asia, the world-renowned ancient Greco-Roman sites of Ephesus and Troy, and relax in the riverside town of Dalyan on the Turquoise Coast. Also walk among the unique white travertine terraces of Pamukkale and in the haunting World War I battlefields of Gallipoli.
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Discover the city highlights of Istanbul on foot, including the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace
Walk the marble streets where Saint Paul preached and see the famed Celsus Library
Visit the poignant World War I memorials of Gallipoli, including the Lone Pine Cemetery
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On arrival in Istanbul, check-in to our conveniently located hotel, within walking distance or a short tram ride from the many cultural and historical sights found in the famous Sultanahmet District.
As Constantinople, the city was the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, so today it is steeped in history and fascinating architecture. Modern day Istanbul also has much to offer - not least its mouth-watering cuisine and budding cafe culture. Istanbul bridges the gap between Europe and Asia and was an important stopping point of the old Silk Road, and as such it is a melting point of different cultures and this is demonstrated in its gastronomy. Turkish food is a hearty mix of Middle Eastern, Asian and Balkan style dishes that range from barbecued meat kebabs to vine leaf wrapped vegetable and rice parcels.
Depending on your flight arrival time or if you're extending your stay by a night then we'd recommend visiting Istanbul's Grand Bazaar today, as it is closed on a Sunday, so there won't be the opportunity to go tomorrow. Located within the walls of Istanbul, there are around 60 streets and over 3,000 shops selling everything from jewellery to carpets and textiles and furniture to local arts and crafts. It's one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. The labyrinth of streets also house two mosques, two hamams (Turkish baths) and an array of restaurants and cafes, so there is plenty to experience in this historic landmark of Istanbul.
Please note that the included arrival transfer today is from Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST) to the hotel. If flying into Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) then an arrival transfer can be arranged on request for an additional charge - please contact us for further details.
Spend a full day discovering historic Istanbul on foot. Visit the famous Blue Mosque, which gets its name from the vivid blue ornate tile designs and stained glass found in its interior, and the Byzantine Hagia Sophia, which reigned as the greatest Greek Orthodox church for 900 years before later becoming an imperial mosque, and it's now a fascinating and unique museum. Also see the Hippodrome, where chariot races took place in the centre of the city, before heading to the opulent Topkapi Palace, which was once home to the sultans. In the Yeldegirmeni neighbourhood of Kadikoy admire the colourful and expressive street art that has appeared in recent years. Along the way the Explore Leader will show the range of street food on offer in the city and you'll have the chance to buy lunch.
There's the opportunity to go underground into the Basilica Cistern, to see the ancient columns partially submerged in water that catch the light and reflect in the pools, giving the illusion of being endless rows.
This evening, is free to experience the city's huge selection of restaurants, bars and entertainment. Our Explore Leader will be able to offer advice based on your preferences. (B)
Leaving Istanbul after breakfast to drive to the Gallipoli Peninsula. The drive will take us around five hours, but a stop to buy lunch will be made along the way. It was at Gallipoli in 1916 that, after eight months of bloody hand-to-hand fighting and loss of life, the ill-fated Allied campaign was forced to concede victory to the Turks and withdraw. Whilst here visit Anzac Cove - the infamous site of the Anzac landing, as well as the Lone Pine Australian Memorial and Cemetery and the war belongings exhibit in the sobering Kabatepe War Museum.
Later this afternoon we board a ferry to travel across the Dardanelles to Canakkale, where we will spend the night. This port city is off of the main tourist trail and is a good place to sample locally caught seafood for dinner this evening and join the locals taking an evening stroll along the seafront where you can see the Trojan Horse replica, which stands as high as the surrounding buildings. (B)
Today we will make an early start and leave the hotel at around 7.30am as this is the longest travelling day of this trip. Driving the short distance to the ancient city of Troy where, according to legend, the artful Ulysses devised the wooden horse strategy, thereby ending the 10 year Trojan War. Here, nine ruined cities, one on top of the other, have been uncovered, going back some 5,000 years. Troy VI is the assumed walled city of King Priam (1800-1275 BC), celebrated by the blind Greek poet Homer in the Iliad and all but lost in legend until unearthed by amateur archaeologist Schliemann in 1871.
Boarding our bus again the drive to the Greco-Roman remains found at Pergamon takes around three hours. Pergamon gave its name to and was the source of 'parchment', for which it was famous throughout the Middle East. Visit the striking acropolis, impressively perched above the modern-day town of Bergama, which contains the remains of a library, a theatre, temples and altars.
The drive to Selcuk later this afternoon takes around three hours, but a stop will be made along the way to purchase lunch and stretch our legs. On arrival in Selcuk check-in to the hotel and have dinner this evening. (B)(D)
Spend the morning exploring Selcuk's historic neighbour, the great Greco-Roman city of Ephesus accompanied by a local guide. Visited by Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, and also having inspired Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, this famous Asia Minor seaport reached its zenith in the 2nd century AD. Ephesus became one of the main cultural and economic centres of the ancient world until it went into decline after the 7th century. Saint John spent the last years of his life in Ephesus and wrote his Gospel here. It is believed that Mary, mother of Jesus, also came here with him. Today, its impressive ruins include a theatre, gymnasium, agora and baths, as well as the photogenic intricately carved stone facade of the Library of Celsus. The ruins here are extensive with lots of ornate columns and grand arches to discover.
Before leaving Selcuk there's the chance to visit a traditional carpet weaver and to explore the town. Later this afternoon, drive to Pamukkale (takes around two and a half hours) and check-in to the hotel for the night. (B)
This morning discover Pamukkale, which translates as the 'cotton castle', taking its name from the extensive white terraces that cover the hillside and were created by mineral springs. It's home to one of Turkey's most impressive natural wonders - the 'frozen waterfall'. A boardwalk offers spectacular views of the unusual white cliff face with its crystal blue pools and the huge valley below. Don't miss Cleopatra's Pool - an oasis of beauty with a mirror-like clarity that allows us to see deep down to the ruins below.
Above the white cliff is the ancient spa town of Hierapolis with its well-preserved Roman baths, tombs and an impressive theatre. People have been making the most of Hierapolis' thermal waters since the 2nd century BC to as recently as the mid 20th century when shockingly hotels were constructed on top of its priceless ruins. Luckily, UNESCO World Heritage status saved the site from further damage.
Later this afternoon, drive south to the Turquoise Coast, which takes around three and half hours, to spend the last two nights of the trip in Dalyan - famous for its loggerhead turtles, reed bed estuary and the ancient site of Caunos. (B)
Formally a fishing village, the small resort of Dalyan is steeped in history. A gentle riverboat trip through the reeds to the ancient site of Caunos gives the opportunity to look out for loggerhead turtles and birdlife along the way. Still under excavation, the ruins date back to 400 BC and include a Roman bath, an impressive theatre and an acropolis. The boat trip continues to the mud baths and hot springs by Lake Koycegiz. Here there is the option to relax and to coat ourselves in the mud which is reputed to have great therapeutic properties, before returning to Dalyan.
Later in the day, there's the chance to take a water taxi down through the reed beds to Iztuzu Beach, to make the most of its glorious golden sand and inviting azure coloured waters. (B)
Our trip ends after breakfast this morning at the hotel in Dalyan. (B)
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