Day 1 - Istanbul
Welcome to Turkey. This adventures kicks off in Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. You have the whole day free to explore the capital until a Welcome Meeting at 6pm – make sure you have all your important documents and details for your leader. Double check with the hotel reception or the noticeboard for meeting confirmations. Until then, maybe get out and explore the frenetic streets of Turkey's crown-jewel metropolis. After the meeting, maybe gather together your new friends and seek out some Turkish cuisine in a street-side cafe.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early, so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception.
Day 2 - Istanbul
This morning you’ll set out on a walking tour of the city with your expert leader. This will take in some of Istanbul's notable cultural and historic sites in Sultanahmet (the Old City, formerly Constantinople), but also some lesser-known gems as you venture into the backstreets. The rest of your afternoon is yours to spend as you please. You might visit the jaw-dropping giant church/mosque/museum of the Hagia Sofia, whose stunning construction is said to have changed the history of architecture. Don’t miss the excellent mosaics found inside. Maybe gaze upon the beauty of the cascading domes of the Blue Mosque, so called for the blue tiles found on its interior walls, or stroll the area where chariots used to race in the hippodrome. Choose to dive into the historic Grand Bazaar (closed on Sundays), and do some good-natured haggling with local artisans who man the over 3,000 stalls of handcrafted jewellery, textiles and books. A boat cruise around the blue waters of the Bosphorus, taking in the sights of the European and the Asian sides, is also recommended. Tonight maybe treat yourself with a relax at a Turkish Hamamm, or take in a hypnotic performance of the Whirling Dervish.
Day 3 - Canakkale
Rise very early this morning as you depart by public bus for Eceabat (approximately 5 hours), your base for visiting Gallipoli. In the afternoon, you will head out with your guide to the Gallipoli Peninsula and pay your respects at a site of immense significance for Australians and New Zealanders. It’s a spot of pilgrimage and reverence, and the calm lapping waters belie the murderous campaign that took place here during the First World War. At this now-serene site you’ll get a sobering insight into the plight of the ANZAC, Allied and Turkish forces at the site of one of the most significant military battles in Australia’s history. It’s hard to think that this area was once Anzac Cove and the battlefields of Nek and Lone Pine, and saw such brutal scenes of war. It’s possible to look down upon the rough and barren hills and gullies that sadly became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. In the museum you can hear stories of heroism and camaraderie that unfolded among the tragedies, and also take the time to read moving inscriptions etched onto a sea of gravestones. Later, head to Canakkale, a charming traditional fishing town that has a great range of dinner and nightlife options, not to mention medieval ruins to explore.
Day 4 - Ayvalik
Drive down the coast by bus to Ayvalik (approximately 4 hours), a town where you can fill up on food and drink, and a place that even takes its name from food (ayva is Turkish for quince). The town is famous for olive oil, but we suggest finding the nearest seaside cafe and ordering Ayvalik toast (like a club sandwich but better), and mezes made with local olive oil and stuffed mussels. You can wander around and discover a town that’s a fascinating mix of Greek and Turkish cultures (in fact the island actually swapped all its Greek residents for Turks in 1923). Check out the cobblestone backstreets, beautiful houses and lively cafes. The village is set around a harbour and looks out to the Aegean Islands – a wonderful place to escape from it all and enjoy a harbourside drink at sunset.
Day 5 - Selcuk
Depart Ayvalık in the morning and journey to one of the world's best preserved ancient cities, Pergamon. Here there are splendid Roman ruins, from the Asclepion (the medical centre that was the home of one of the fathers of Western medicine), to the magnificent mountainside Acropolis that’s served by a cable car. After some time to explore this beautiful ancient city, join a carpet-making demonstration at a nearby village cooperative. Later try some famous fruit wine at the Şirince village. In the afternoon arrive at Selcuk, which will serve as a base for exploring Ephesus. The town is culturally rich but still relatively undisturbed, so this is an opportunity to experience the 'real' side of Turkey as it was lived for centuries. Perhaps explore the Isa Bey Mosque and Grand Fortress on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill.
Day 6 - Selcuk
Become familiar with the streets of Selcuk on an orientation walk. Later, enjoy an exploration of mighty Ephesus with the aid of a local guide. This is a highlight for many visitors to Turkey. This is one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman classical cities in the world; founded by Ionian Greeks in the 11th century BC, brought to full flower under Roman rule, and always an important religious centre. You will be amazed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had running water, public toilets, in-house heating, a renowned medical institute, and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved, but it’s the magnificent library that’s going to astound you. Nearby are the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and 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. You can also choose delve deeper into the area’s fascinating history with the artefacts of the Archaeological Museum, the ruins of the Basilica of St John and some impressive Roman Terrace houses. Get your local guide to point out secret messages that ancient Christians carved into the rocks to direct worshippers to their next meeting.
Day 7 - Pamukkale
A train ride inland through mountainous landscapes (approximately 3.5 hours) brings you to one of Turkey's most photographed sites, Pamukkale, which literally translates to “cotton castle”. Here spectacular natural hot springs with high calcium bicarbonate content cascade over the edge of the cliffs, leaving bright white deposit terraces (the ‘cotton’). It's been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Though you won't be able to bathe in these travertines, you can take a walk through them (after removing your shoes), and these pools are said to fix up any circulation and digestion problems. If you’ve got Cleopatra on the mind after yesterday’s stories, then maybe choose to head out to the ancient city of Hierapolis and take a dip in what used to be her old pool – the transparent water-filled pool, sculpted as a gift from Marc to Cleo, is beautiful (even if you’ll be sharing it with a few more people than she did). You can also check out the other ruins of the city – Hierapolis is known for its abundance of temples and religious structures, vast necropolis and strange tombs, and the amphitheatre shouldn’t be missed. During winter departures you’ll stop by Aphrodisias, a city dedicated to the Greek goddess of love and beauty, filled with more great classical ruins.
Day 8 - Antalya
Take a bus to Antalya, the largest city on the western Mediterranean coast (approximately 4 hours). It’s hard to get a bad photo of Antalya thanks to cobblestone streets, the old city, the marina, and the Taurus Mountains in the distance. After an orientation walk that takes in minarets, old streets, and religious centres, spend some time of your own exploring the town's mix of urban sophistication and old-world charm. You might want to check out Kaleici – the old city area that’s now a historical zone and protected from modern development – and see relics of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman occupation. You can visit ancient Hadrian's Gate and Hıdırlık Tower, or be lured by the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean – stroll down the marina and head for the white sands of the beach.
Day 9 - Antalya
Today you’ll visit the Antalya Museum, one of the largest and best museums in Turkey. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Mediterranean and Pamphylia regions of Anatolia, with some 5,000 works of art and artefacts on display – pottery, coins, mosaics, sculptures, costumes, sarcophagi, and artefacts found in the once-inhabited caves of coastal Turkey. You’ll then enjoy some free time in the afternoon. You can choose to visit some impressive sites further afield, including the ancient cities of Aspendos and Side. Aspendos is know for it’s beautiful intact Roman theatre, perhaps the best preserved in the world, while Side, away from the tourists, is awash with colonnaded streets and Hellenistic and Roman ruins. For those after a nature fix, Duden Waterfalls, about 12 kilometres north-east of town, is a lovely spot to relax. Tonight, maybe gather together your newfound travel buddies and enjoy a drink or dinner to celebrate the final night of this Turkey adventure.
Day 10 - Antalya
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money