Glorious Western Turkey

    Discover the beauty of the epic and historic Western Turkey in our 15 night, unforgettable tour.

    Sept 18 - Oct 2, 2023

    This tour offers stunning natural beauty, from tranquil beaches to dramatic mountains, and an array of well-preserved historic architecture. Western Turkey is one of the most extraordinary regions to discover. While traveling throughout this region you will experience ancient archaeology, centuries of viniculture, beautiful small towns and villages, and the taste of history when you get to experience great food passed down from generations of traditional cooks. We’ll spend two glorious days sailing the crystal waters of the Aegean while stopping to swim, snorkel, and sunbathe in four or five different islands.

    Day 1: Arrive Istanbul

    Arrival in Istanbul and transfer to your hotel. Day at leisure until we meet for a welcome drink this evening.

    Overnight Azade Hotel or similar Istanbul

    Day 2: Istanbul – Blue Mosque – Underground cistern

    Welcome to Istanbul, the gateway between East and West, Europe and Asia, between Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Turkish. At 2:00 we’ll meet our guide for an orientation at our hotel. Then we’ll set out on foot to explore the city. Starting from the famous Sultanahmet square we’ll begin to perceive how this marvelous city has been shaped by overlapping civilizations. In one direction we’ll face the square of the ancient roman hippodrome with its towering obelisk, in another the Hagia Sophia, originally the church of Holy Wisdom designed by Greek mathematicians in the sixth century A.D., in another direction the shimmering waters of the Bosporus, and in another the Blue Mosque whose hand painted tiles and powerful arches open to quiet contemplation for its colleges of math and jurisprudence. After visiting the Blue Mosque we’ll descend into one of the city’s ancient underground cisterns whose massive columned-rooms feel more like gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe than Byzantine era storage facilities for drinking water.

    Overnight Azade Hotel or similar Istanbul B

    Day 3: Hagia Sophia – Spice Market – Süleymaniye Mosque

    This morning we’ll begin our local guided tour with a visit to the former church Hagia Sophia. For nearly a thousand years it was the largest church in Christian Dom with its astonishing dome and gorgeous mosaics. It was the seat of the Eastern Patriarch until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans when it was converted into a mosque. After our visit to this holy marvel we’ll hop on a tram and head over to the spice market for an introduction to Turkish spices, teas, halva, and perhaps the worlds tastiest Turkish delight. For lunch our guide will introduce us to an assortment of street-food treats before bringing us to one of Istanbul’s greatest architectural marvels, the Suleymaniye Mosque. Designed in the middle of the sixteenth century by the architect Sinan, it is a mathematical wonder of beautiful proportions like the greatest buildings of the renaissance.

    This afternoon we take a scenic cruise of the Bosphorus strait, we will be straddling Europe and Asia! We will marvel at the grand palaces, colorful neighbourhoods and bustling Istanbul skyline.

    Overnight Azade Hotel or similar Istanbul B

    Day 4: Topkapi Palace – Grand Bazar

    This morning our local guide will lead us through the luxurious fifteenth century Topkapi Palace. The former residence of the Ottoman sultans, the story-book beauty of the gardens, gate-towers, kitchens, armory, and royal rooms feels almost enchanted. This place is a window for the imagination, the intrigue of palace romances, political aspirations, and the royal setting of the Ottoman court. We’ll also visit Hagia Irene, the church of Holy Peace. It is one of the oldest churches in city, originally constructed during the reign of Constantine. It was here that the second ecumenical council of Nicaea took place.

    After our visit to the Topkapi Palace and museums we’ll stroll over to the Grand Bazar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. With over sixty streets and 4,000 shops, a visit to the Grand Bazar is a multi-sensory experience like stepping into a covered city out of a story-book, filled with craftsmen, jewelers, ceramics, and the vaulted ceilings where the expertise of thousands of years of artisan culture is gathered into one place. After our visit to the Grand Bazar we’ll be free for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

    Overnight Azade Hotel or similar Istanbul B

    Day 5: Cappadocia – Turkish Bath – Traditional Turkish dinner

    After breakfast this morning we’ll head to the airport to fly to Cappadocia. Famous today as a site of natural wonders and hot-air balloons floating over fairy-chimneys at dawn, the underground forth century A.D. cities of churches, homes, stables, and warehouses are equally marvelous. After lunch and checking into our hotel we’ll have a quick orientation to Sinassos village, one of the oldest settlements of Cappadocia. The architecture here is unique for its stonebrick houses with spacious courtyards and castle-like feel.

    This afternoon we’ll make a trip to a Turkish bath where we’ll experience the next-of-kin to the ancient roman bathhouse. Men and women will remain separate for this invigorating steam and exfoliating olive-soap massage by our local Turkish masseuse. Tea, hot marble slabs, relaxation, and another massage.

    Tonight we’ll enjoy a Turkish family style meal with terracotta pots of eggplant, sauted beef, and the traditional comfort food whose recipes grandmothers have passed down from generation to generation.

    Overnight Old Greek House or similar B, L, D

    Day 6: Optional Balloon ride! Goreme open Air Museum

    We’ll set out around 5.30 am this morning for an optional hot-air ballooning experience. 

    At the end of our magical morning ride we’ll enjoy the morning’s second breakfast before heading off with our local guide to explore on foot some of the terrain seen from above. Together we’ll stroll through the Pasabag Valley, one of the most beautiful places in Cappadocia, before visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum. These forth century cave dwellings were once home to a thriving monastic community who embraced a vision of simplicity and sanctity in a life dedicated to prayer in the wilderness.

    We will enjoy a lunch of home cooking at Fahriye.

    After visiting these ancient churches and hermitages we’ll be free for the afternoon to explore Sinassos, to chat with locals, hike to nearby monasteries, and to regroup this evening for a casual wine-tasting and an optional meal of Turkish barbeque.

    Overnight Old Greek House or similar B L

    Day 7: Kaymakli – Uchisar Castle

    This morning our local guide will lead us through a tour of the underground cities of Kaymakli. Originally carved deep into the stone for protection from enemies and heavy winters as early as the seventh century B.C., at one time there were thirty-six-hundred of these subterranean cities with populations ranging into the thousands.

    Lunch at ocakbaşı (Turkish Grill Restaurant)

    Following our visit to the ancient cities our guide will bring us to a ceramic workshop in Avanos. Located along the Kizilirmak, ‘the red river’, and the source of the red clay, the pottery factories in this area date back to the bronze age and the time of the Hittites. We’ll witness this three-thousand year-old tradition in artisan demonstrations and explanations and a quick visit to the museum.

    Our afternoon will conclude with a visit Uchisar castle. This high rock promontory has served as a natural fortification and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and fairy chimneys. We’ll return to Sinnasos for a relaxed late afternoon and free evening.

    Overnight Old Greek House or similar B L

    Day 8: Fly to Izmir, Basilica of St John – Temple of Artemis

    XQ9039 Kayseri – İzmir 09:25-11:00

    This morning we’ll continue our journey with a flight to Izmir in the western part of Anatolia on the Aegean Sea. Around noon we’ll take a guided tour through the Ephesus Archeological Museum whose collection of artifacts dates back to the founding of cities in this region, about nine-thousand years. These fragments of continuous civilizations through almost ten millennia help us not only to imagine the daily lives of ancient cultures but also to understand how history is collective like a story that continues from one page to another.

    After lunch we’ll visit the Basilica of St. John, the beloved apostle of Jesus who wrote the Gospel and the book of Revelation. Constructed by the emperor Justinian in the sixth century it stands over the believed burial site of St. John. According to tradition, after his exile to Patmos, St. John lived the remainder of his days preaching the gospel in Ephesus which became an important pilgrimage site through the miracles that followed his death.

    Next we’ll visit the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, said to ‘mounted to the clouds.’ The work of rebuilding this sanctuary will be given to our guide and our imaginations as we explore the fragments that remain of this temple to the Greek virgin goddess of the hunt, of nature, the moon, and wild animals.

    In the late afternoon we’ll arrive at the seaside town of Kusadasi where we’ll sleep two nights. After checking into our hotel we’ll be free for the evening.

    Overnight İlayda Avantgarde or similar B  D

    Day 9: Ephesus

    After breakfast this morning we’ll drive to the nearby ancient city of Ephesus. Similar in many ways to the Greek sister-city of Athens, Ephesus tells the story of beauty, prosperity, self-governance, and then tragedy, and tyranny. As our guide recounts the stories of love, possibility, and betrayal we’ll walk the ancient streets and visit the theater that once housed 25,000 spectators. As we explore ancient Roman terrace houses and the remnants of temples, shops, bathhouses, we’ll glimpse the sophistication and simplicity of the port-city that endured more than a thousand years.

    Lunch in a local restaurant.

    This afternoon we’ll visit the quaint village of Sirince famous for its wine production, cobblestone streets, silver smiths, small textiles shops, olive oil soaps and creams, and friendly artisan shop-keepers. In the later part of the afternoon we’ll return to Kusadasi to visit our guide’s favourite seafood restaurant for an optional meal together of locally caught seabream seabass, calamari, and the catch of the day.

    Overnight İlayda Avantgarde or similar B L D

    Day 10: Aphrodisias

    After breakfast this morning we’ll drive inland towards the ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias. Named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodisias was one of the most beautiful and intriguing cities in antiquity. It was tax exempt when it became the holy city of the roman emperors and was famous for its beautiful sculptures and school of philosophy. Today it houses perhaps the best-preserved ancient stadium anywhere in the Mediterranean. It’s auditorium, the odeon, and the tetrapylon, the monumental gateway to the sanctuary of Aphrodite both inspire an idea of the former magnificence of the city. On occasion this wonderful setting is still used to perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

    Lunch at Anatolia Restaurant. 

    After lunch we’ll continue towards Pamukkale, a site that has been drawing visitors to its thermal waters since antiquity. The name, which means ‘cotton castle’, derives from the cascading plateaus of white limestone shaped over the course of millennia as the calcite-rich springs continuously overflow into pools below. Our hotel is built at the top of these hot springs with its own thermal pool free for our use.

    Overnight Lycus Hotel or similar/ Pamukkale B L D

    Day 11: Pamukkale – Pool of Cleopatra – Tomb of St Phillip

    First thing this morning, our guide will bring us to the outdoor thermal spring at the terraces of Pamukkale. Here we’ll visit the Pool of Cleopatra, the famed queen of Egypt and we’ll join the tradition of classical Greeks and Romans with a calming soak in these waters renowned for their healing properties. 

    After a barefoot walk over the travertine stone and a relaxed soak, we’ll follow our guide to the nearby tomb of St. Phillip, one of Christ’s twelve apostles. Recently discovered at the site of ancient Hierapolis, it was to the church of Colossians in this area that St. Paul wrote his famous letters. 

    After lunch today we’ll load our bus and drive west back to the Aegean coast to Bodrum. After checking into our hotel this evening we’ll be free for dinner, either at our hotel’s excellent restaurant and beautiful view of St. Peter’s Castle or in town by the sea. 

    Overnight Elvino Hotel or similar/ Bodrum  B

    Day 12: Etrim authentic local village experience

    After breakfast we’ll drive to Etrim for an immersive experience in the traditional culture of a small Turkish village. Etrim is not on your average traveler’s guidebook and may give us the most authentic local experience of the trip. We’ll start our day in the village coffee house where we’ll meet our host who will introduce us to the local traditions of wool production and carpet weaving, of wine making, farming, and beekeeping. Next our host will bring us into a couple of local houses where we’ll see first hand the artisan practice of processing and dying wool, boiling caldrons of pigments, and the looms where the millennial old art of weaving is practiced. This visit is both a step back in time to an older way of life and a stepping closer to humanity and the natural gifts of the world. 

    Next our host’s mother will bring us into her small kitchen and teach us how to make a dolma, often a communal event in rural Turkish communities. After lunch, coffee, wine, and conversation shared with locals we’ll take a tour of locally made carpets and have an opportunity to learn more about the cooperatives of women that produce them. 

    In the late afternoon we’ll return to Bodrum for another relaxed evening by the sea.

    Overnight Elvino Hotel or similar / Bodrum  B

    Day 13 & 14: St Peter’s Castle and start of our Sailboat adventure

    This morning we’ll visit Bodrum’s St. Peter’s Castle. Built by crusaders at the beginning of the fourteenth century this castle served as a fortification for five hundred years before becoming home to Bodrum’s underwater archeological museum. It now houses the treasures of thousands of amphora recovered from the sea floor and shipwrecks of boats from the twelfth century B.C., and sixth century A.D. After lunch we’ll board our gulet’ our traditional two-mastered Turkish sailing boat to explore the beautiful islands, beaches by boat. We’ll spend two glorious days sailing the crystal waters of the Aegean while stopping to swim, snorkel, and sunbathe in four or five different islands. All our meals will be included and we’ll have plenty of time to chat with our guide about Turkey, it’s long history, and the myriad of intersecting cultures that create the colorful tapestry of it’s modern-day identity. 

    Overnight on our Gulet for 2 nights B L D

    Day 15: Bodrum back to Istanbul

    After breakfast we’ll land back in Bodrum free time until we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Istanbul. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore Istanbul or get ready for your departure home the next day. 

    Overnight Azade Hotel or similar Istanbul B

    Day 16: Departure home

    After breakfast you are free until transfer to the airport for your departure flight home.



    Tour Includes:

    • 3 domestic flights
    • Our local expert guide Mert Tanner 
    • Anna MacKay Tour Leader with Min 15 people 
    • Entrance fees to the museums and sites
    • Mentioned lunches and dinner 
    • Group transfer from airport to hotel on day 1 and return on Day 16

    Tour Excludes:

    • International flights 
    • Turkish visa 
    • Optional tours, Tips for guides and bus driver, Beverages with meals, meals not listed above
    • All items not mentioned above

    Cancellation conditions:

    61 days or more deposit is non refundable 

    60 – 31 days prior to departure 50% is non refundable

    30 days or less prior to departure 100% non refundable