What to Expect
See the highlights of southwest Turkey on a glorious 15-day tour from Istanbul. Take in the remains of ancient empires at sites such as Ephesus and Hierapolis, marvel at the remarkable work of Mother Nature at the “Cotton Castles” of Pamukkale and the “Fairy Chimneys” of Cappadocia, catch your breath and top up your tan on the beaches of Fethiye, and much more. Accommodation is provided in 3-star hotels (or boutique equivalent) throughout, with some overnight transfers by air-conditioned coach.
Day 1: Istanbul Highlights City Tour
Following a pick-up from your hotel at 08:30, explore the historic monuments, mosques and bazaars of Istanbul, including the Hagia Sophia, the religious heart of ancient Byzantium, built by the Emperor Justinian I between 532 and 537. Continue to the Blue Mosque, where the blue iznik tiles and slender minarets have become the icon of Istanbul. Go to the ancient Hippodrome, the social center of Constantinople during the Byzantine Empire.
After lunch, visit Topkapı Palace in the Ottoman center, and marvel at the buildings and courtyards of the Sultan’s vast compound. Next, get lost in the labyrinthine alleys of the Grand Bazaar, the world’s largest indoor market. Return to your accommodation for an evening at leisure.
Day 2: Bosphorus Cruise and Dolmabahce Palace
Your guide will pick you up at about 08:30 to take you to the Spice Bazaar and Spice Market. Marvel at the mounds of fragrant spices in one of the city’s largest bazaars. Next, relax on a 1.5-hour cruise of the Bosphorus Straits by public boat. After lunch, go to Dolmabahce Palace on the shores of the Bosphorus, and explore the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. Overnight in Istanbul.
Day 3: Free Day in Istanbul
Today, you are free to explore Istanbul at leisure. Revist some of the sights from your previous days, or wander the boutique shops of Nişantaşı. Catch the historic Taksim-Tünel tram, or linger over a mint tea in one of the cafés of Beyoğlu. Meet for your overnight transfer to Cappadocia at around 18:30, with an 11-hour journey from the scheduled departure time of 20:00.
Day 4: Cappadocia
Upon arrival in Cappadocia, transfer to your hotel to freshen up. Your guide will collect you at about 09:30 to drive you to the Devrent Valley for the start of your tour of the extraordinary rock formations of Cappadocia. Stroll between the “fairy chimneys” of Pasabagi, before the drive to Avanos for lunch.
Next, discover some of the most beautiful examples of Byzantine art at the Goreme Open Air Museum. Continue to Uchisar Castle at the highest point of Cappadocia for fabulous panoramic views over the sensuous rocks. Return to your hotel at about 17:30 for an evening at leisure.
Day 5: Cappadocia
This morning you will take a short (4-kilometer) hike through the Rose Valley to see some of the rock-carved churches. Continue to the historic village of Cavusin, before lunch in Pigeons Valley, famous for the large number of dovecotes carved into the rock. Next, explore the remarkable underground city of Kaymakli, where the houses were constructed around a network of nearly 100 tunnels. Get more panoramic views over Cappadocia from the beautiful Ortahisar Castle. Return to your accommodation in Cappadocia
Day 6: Free Day in Cappadocia
Enjoy a free day in Cappadocia to explore the magical valley on your own. Catch the overnight bus to Antalya, departing at 20:00.
Day 7: Antalya
Upon arrival in Antalya at around 06:00, transfer to your hotel for refreshments and to freshen up before your pick-up at 08:30. Drive to the ancient city of Perge, former capital of Pamphylia Secunda in Asia Minor, and one of the richest towns in Pamphylia in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. Explore the Roman Gate and Baths, the Nymphaeum of the nymphs, and the Hellenistic city gate. Your guide will tell you about Perge’s most famous inhabitant, the mathematician Apollonius as you wander down the main street of colonnades to the Agora. Perge was first mentioned in 334 BC when Alexander the Great passed through. In the following years, it fell under the control of Pergamon when the Kingdom of Pergamon became a part of the Roman city. St. Paul started his campaign in Anatolia from Perge in 46 AD.
Next, transfer to Aspendos, stopping for lunch on the Kporupazari stream near Aspendos Theater. Continue to the remarkably intact amphitheater of Aspendes, one of the best-preserved theaters from antiquity. Go to the ancient aqueducts before transfering to your hotel in Kaleici in the old part of Antalya.
Day 8: Antalya - Fethiye
Transfer by bus to Fethiye, built on the site of the ancient city of Telmessos. The journey takes approximately 6 hours and takes in views of the Muğla Province of the Aegean Sea, location of some of Turkey’s most popular beach resorts. Overnight in Fethiye.
Day 9: Free Day in Fethiye
Today you are free to relax in the sun, and enjoy one of the most beautiful sites of the Blue Lagoon Coast of the Mediterranean. Overnight in Fethiye.
Day 10: Free Day in Fethiye
Enjoy a 2nd free day relaxing on the enchanting beaches of Fethiye. Overnight in Fethiye.
Day 11: Transfer to Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
Depart Fethiye and transfer by bus to Pamukkale for your overnight stay.
Day 12: Pamukkale - Transfer to Ephesus
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel. Then, start your tour of the thermal springs and limestone “cotton castles” of Pamukkale at about 09:00. Get up-close to the limestone deposits, and learn how chemical properties in the water created the white travertines and stepped water terraces on the mountain slopes of the Büyük Menderes River valley. The springs ripple over the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, site of the largest necropolis of Anatolia.
Return to your hotel at about 17.30, to catch the 3-hour transfer to Ephesus, site of your overnight accommodation.
Day 13: Ephesus
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before the 09:00 pick-up and transfer to the archaeological site of Ephesus. Wander among the ruins of one of the most impressive sites of antiquity. See the impressive amphitheater, the ruins of the Temple of Hadrian, and the extraordinary Library of Celsus, once home to more than 12,000 scrolls. To date, the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean, Ephesus reveals layers of history, from the archaic, through the classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras.
After lunch, drive to the Temple of Artemis (Diana) in the hills of Selcuk, and see the site of one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Next, go to the House of the Virgin Mary, thought to be where Mary spent the last years of her life. Experience the spiritual peace of the site, before going to the 14th-century Isa Bey Mosque on the outskirts of the Ayasluğ Hills. Overnight in Ephesus.
Day 14: Sirince - Overnight Transfer to Istanbul
Enjoy a leisurely day among the almond trees and olive groves of Sirince, a pretty Orthodox village approximately 12 kilometers from Ephesus. Its name “Cirkince" actually translates as “Ugly” because its habitants, protective of its beauty, didn’t want to be disturbed by outsiders! Today, it’s known for its fruits and wines, and offers a perfect synthesis of Turkish and Greek cultures. Wander the narrow streets to find all kinds of handicrafts and bottles of local olive oil. Sample some Sirince wine in one of the small cafés, or even in the former municipal school.
Transfer to the bus station for your overnight bus back to Istanbul at 21:00.
Day 15: Departure
Following your arrival in Istanbul in the morning, use the free shuttle to get to Sultanahmet Square, or take the public transportation links to Ataturk Airport.