This epic 16-day cultural and historical journey through Turkey kicks off with a glass of local wine overlooking Cappadocia's wind-carved landscapes. Next, you'll visit nearby Ottoman-Greek villages to learn about their rich heritage before taking a thermal dip in the Travertines of Pamukkale. From here, discover the ancient coastal gems of Izmir and Bursa, and then finish with a tasty street food tour and optional hammam experience in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul.


  • Learn how to cook traditional Anatolian meals with a cooking class in Cappadocia
  • Visit the Melvana Museum in Konya to learn about Rumi, the poet and philosopher
  • Explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the nearby House of the Virgin Mary
  • Ascend Mount Uludag in a cable car while following your guide across Bursa
  • Finish the trip with a private boat tour along the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cappadocia, Watch the Sunset & Enjoy a Glass of Local Wine Cappadocia
Day 2 Sunrise Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum  Cappadocia
Day 3 Pottery Demonstration in Avanos, Visit Kaymaklı Underground City Cappadocia
Day 4 Guided Tour of Güzelyurt & Mustafapaşa, Turkish Cooking Class Cappadocia
Day 5 Transfer to Konya, Visit the Mevlana Museum Konya
Day 6 Transfer to Pamukkale via Eşrefoğlu Mosque & Eflatun Pınar Pamukkale
Day 7 Relax in the Travertines of Pamukkale, Visit Hierapolis Pamukkale
Day 8 Transfer to Şirince, Guided Tour of the Village Şirince
Day 9 Visit the Ancient City of Ephesus & the House of the Virgin Mary Şirince
Day 10 Transfer to İzmir, Guided Tour of the City İzmir
Day 11 Enjoy a Free Day in İzmir, Transfer to Bursa Bursa
Day 12 Guided Tour of Bursa, Transfer to İstanbul İstanbul
Day 13 Discover Sultanahmet, the City's Historic District İstanbul
Day 14 Guided Tour of Eminönü, Private Boat Tour on the Bosphorus Strait İstanbul
Day 15 Street Food Tour in Eminönü & Kadıköy İstanbul
Day 16 Depart İstanbul  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cappadocia, Watch the Sunset & Enjoy a Glass of Local Wine

Enjoy a glass of local wine while you watch the sunset over one of Cappadocia's lunar-like valleys

Welcome to Turkey and the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia in central Turkey. Meet your driver at the airport and transfer to your hotel. Check in and relax until the evening, when you set off to an enchanting valley to enjoy a glass of local wine and watch the sunset. Savor the wine while you look over the landscape, admiring the rock-cut structures, ancient caves, and "fairy chimneys," the distinctive erosion-shaped rock formations you can only find in this region. When the sun sets and darkness starts to fall, return to the hotel to rest and fight off your jet lag.

Day 2: Sunrise Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum 

Wake up before dawn for a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia's valleys and rock formations

Get ready for an early wake-up call this morning to set off on a hot-air balloon ride above Cappadocia's otherworldly landscape at sunrise. Enjoy a coffee or tea to wake you up, then transfer to the launch point to watch the crew inflate the massive balloons. When they're ready, hop into the basket and hold on tight as you rise into the air. Take in the breathtaking views below as the valleys transform in the soft morning light.

All that adrenaline may have worked up an appetite, so return to the hotel for breakfast to refuel for your next destination, the town of Göreme, to visit the Göreme Open Air Museum. Enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore the remarkable collection of rock-cut churches and monasteries, all adorned with Byzantine frescoes dating back to the fourth century CE, before continuing to the charming town of Uçhisar, the highest point in the region. Trek up to Uçhisar Castle, an ancient fortification built in the fourth century CE by Byzantine settlers, to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding valleys.

Enter the castle grounds and discover the intricate network of tunnels and rooms carved directly into the rock. Then, meander to the nearby valleys of Avcılar, Çavuşin, and Paşabağ to see more fascinating fairy chimneys. Stroll through the valleys, admiring these geological wonders and learning about the processes that have shaped the iconic landscape. Return to your hotel to rest after the early start this morning, then venture back out for dinner.

Day 3: Pottery Demonstration in Avanos, Visit Kaymaklı Underground City

Explore Kaymaklı, one of the region's 36 underground cities

Start your morning with a pottery demonstration in the town of Avanos, nestled along the Kızılırmak River, which produces an abundance of red clay. Learn about the traditional methods of creating pottery with this vibrant clay, dating back to the Hittite period around 2000 BCE, and watch a live demonstration to truly understand the craftsmanship that goes into each piece. In the afternoon, head to Aşıklar Vadisi (Love Valley) for a short, 2.4-mile (4 km) hike across the lush landscape.

Walk among the towering fairy chimneys and take in the serene atmosphere, then continue to Kaymaklı Underground City, one of 36 underground cities in the region. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has eight floors, once populated by over 3,500 people fleeing religious persecution in the seventh and eighth centuries BCE. Visitors can only explore the first four floors, descending 65 feet (20 m) below ground. Enter at the first level, then walk along narrow corridors, peek into old living quarters, and see where residents used to cook at night so enemies wouldn't see the smoke. 

When you're back above ground, transfer to the historic Saruhan Caravanserai, a grand roadside inn dating back to the 13th century. Here, you can enjoy a whirling dervish ritual dance called a sema. As the traditional Sufi music fills the air, the dervishes, dressed in iconic robes with wide skirts, start the hypnotic ritual. Watch them twirl in a trance-like state while their garments flow around them. After the one-hour performance, return to the hotel to rest after an action-packed day.

Day 4: Guided Tour of Güzelyurt & Mustafapaşa, Turkish Cooking Class

Explore the rock-cut structures of Güzelyurt, like the iconic Analipsis Church

After breakfast, venture one hour out of Cappadocia to Güzelyurt, an Ottoman-Greek town in the Central Anatolia region. Keep your eyes peeled as you pass through the Soğanlı Valley to see the towering rock formations and honeycombed cliffs. Make a quick stop at the volcanic Narlıgöl Lake for a stroll along the shores. Look out at the rolling hills and fairy chimneys before completing the transfer to Güzelyurt, formerly known as Gelveri. Start your tour of the town at Analipsis Church, carved directly into the soft, tuff rock that defines the landscape. 

Continue to another rock-cut church, the Gregory of Naziansus Church, to admire the well-preserved frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible. Stroll through town next, passing stone houses, ancient caves, and local markets to find somewhere to eat. After lunch, jump back in the car and drive another hour to the village of Mustafapaşa, formerly known as Sinasos. Follow your guide through stone archways and past cave dwellings dating back to the Byzantine era to get to the Old Greek House, an iconic representation of the village's history and distinctive stone architecture.
Meander down the cobblestone streets to discover the Topakoglu Mansion, another example of the intricate, Greek-inspired design that's common here. Head to Hagios Constantinos Eleni next to browse the centuries-old frescoes retelling popular Bible stories. End your tour at St. Nicholas Monastery, a secluded haven nestled in a volcanic valley for quiet contemplation. In the evening, return to Cappadocia to immerse yourself in a Turkish cooking class. Learn how to make traditional Anatolian recipes from a local chef, then sit down to enjoy a delicious meal together.
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Day 5: Transfer to Konya, Visit the Mevlana Museum

Pay your respects to the 13th-century poet and philosopher Rumi, at the Mevlana Museum

Leave the fairy chimneys and rock-cut structures of Cappadocia behind as you set off on a three-hour transfer to Konya this morning, renowned as the city of Rumi, the 13th-century poet and philosopher. On the way, stop at Sultanhanı Caravanserai to explore what was once a shelter for merchants traversing the Silk Road. Enter through the massive stone doorway and imagine the countless tradespeople, travelers, and their camels who sought refuge here before continuing your drive to Konya.

After checking into your hotel, venture out to the Mevlana Museum, which is dedicated to Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. Enter the museum, housed within a green-tiled mausoleum, to discover the tribute to Rumi's teachings and the Sufi order he founded. Read his original writings, admire the captivating display of artifacts, and visit his tomb, adorned with intricate tiles, to pay your respects. When you've worked up an appetite, head to Mevlana Street to browse the array of local and international restaurants for dinner. 

Day 6: Transfer to Pamukkale via Eşrefoğlu Mosque & Eflatun Pınar

Stop at the archaeological site of Eflatun Pınar to see the natural spring dating back to the Hittite period

Bid farewell to Konya this morning as you set off on a five-hour transfer to Pamukkale, a town in western Turkey known for its terraces of mineral-rich thermal waters. On the way, stop at Eşrefoğlu Mosque, constructed in the 13th century. Admire the impressive blend of geometric patterns, intricate tilework, and elegant calligraphy that adorn its interiors, then discover the courtyard surrounded by domed porticoes.

Jump back in the car and continue to another hidden gem from the 13th century, Eflatun Pınar, an archaeological site famous for its Hittite rock reliefs. Head to the cliffs to see the reliefs depicting deities, animals, and scenes from Hittite mythology before exploring the open-air sanctuary with a natural rock-hewn spring. After an hour, return to the car to complete your drive to Pamukkale, where you can relax in the hotel and enjoy the spa facilities.

Day 7: Relax in the Travertines of Pamukkale, Visit Hierapolis

Relax in the mineral-rich waters of the Travertines of Pamukkale

After breakfast, head to the baby-blue waters the town is known for at the Travertines of Pamukkale. When you enter the property, you'll be greeted by mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and a series of terraced basins with thermal waters flowing down them. Pack your swimsuit, as you can swim in some of the hot springs, which are rich in minerals beneficial for the skin, such as calcium.

Nearby is the ancient Hierapolis, a Roman spa city founded by Apollo around 190 BCE. Explore the incredibly well-preserved theater and a necropolis, a cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments, and admire the Antique Pool, full of submerged Roman columns due to an earthquake. After a relaxing day, return to your hotel to enjoy the amenities and continue to unwind. 

Day 8: Transfer to Şirince, Guided Tour of the Village

Walk along the charming cobblestone streets of Şirince, browsing the market stalls and artisanal shops

Trade the baby-blue waters of Pamukkale for the charming cobblestone streets of Şirince as you set off on a three-hour transfer this morning. After checking into your hotel, venture out on a guided tour of the village. Walk down the quaint cobblestone streets, admire the well-preserved Ottoman-Christian houses, and browse the artisanal shops selling wine, fruit-flavored brandies, and olive oil produced in the region. Stop at Şirince Mosque to see the blend of Ottoman and Greek architectural elements, then end your tour in the village center to enjoy a traditional Turkish dinner. 

Day 9: Visit the Ancient City of Ephesus & the House of the Virgin Mary

Admire Celsus Library's towering facade in the ancient city of Ephesus

Head 20 minutes out of the village this morning to the ancient city of Ephesus, which the Greeks established in the 11th century BCE before it fell under Roman rule in 129 BCE. You can tell this is one of the most well-preserved classical-era cities in the world because as soon as you enter, you're greeted by the towering facade of Celsus Library, which could hold up to 15,000 scrolls. Walk along the marble roads lined with intricate statues to see other preserved monuments, like the Temple of Artemis and the Great Theater.

Stop in the Ephesus Archaeological Museum on your way out to browse some of the items excavated from the site. In the afternoon, visit the House of the Virgin Mary, perched atop the lush Bülbül Mountain. It's believed that Mary came to the area and lived here with Saint John, who spent several years spreading Christianity in Ephesus. Today, many people visit the house to pay their respects and visit the sacred spring nearby, which is said to possess healing properties. In the evening, return to Şirince for an early dinner.

Day 10: Transfer to İzmir, Guided Tour of the City

Start your guided tour of İzmir at the iconic clock tower in Konak Square

After breakfast, set off on a one-hour transfer toward the Aegean coast to İzmir, Turkey's third-largest city. After checking into your hotel and leaving your bags behind, meet your guide for a tour of the port city, starting at the bustling Konak Square in the city center. Take in the view of the water and the iconic İzmir Clock Tower, built in 1901. Admire the intricate stone structure, which has become a symbol of the city, before continuing to Kemeraltı Çarşısı, a dynamic market district teeming with shops, boutiques, and traditional Turkish stalls.

Browse the vibrant textiles, smell the rich aromas of spices, and enjoy the lively atmosphere of the market, giving you a glimpse into the locals' daily lives. Then, end your tour at Asansör, a historic elevator built in 1907, to enjoy panoramic views of the city's vibrant landscape and the glittering sea from the top. You've probably worked up an appetite by now, so enjoy a leisurely walk along the Kordon waterfront to visit one of the numerous cafés, restaurants, or bars lining the promenade. Enjoy dinner and a drink while you watch the sunset over the water. 

Day 11: Enjoy a Free Day in İzmir, Transfer to Bursa

Kick back at one of İzmir's beaches and swim in the Aegean Sea

The day is yours to spend as you wish. If you just want to relax, head to Alaçatı Beach or Çeşme Beach to lay on the sandy shores and swim in the Aegean Sea. Those who want to explore more of the area can visit the Agora Open Air Museum, an archaeological site on İzmir's shores. Wander through the well-preserved ruins to see the remnants of grand colonnades, temples, and civic buildings. Don't miss the temple dedicated to Serapis, a deity combining elements of Greek and Egyptian gods.

Admire the grandeur of the Corinthian columns and the intricate details of the friezes, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of the ancient builders. Then, continue your educational tour at the Archaeology Museum of İzmir to discover the curated exhibits showcasing a collection of artifacts spanning various periods, from the ancient civilizations of Anatolia to the classical and Hellenistic eras. Browse the sculptures, pottery, jewelry, and even a sarcophagus depicting scenes from Alexander the Great's life before you set off on a 3.5-hour transfer to the UNESCO-listed city of Bursa.

Day 12: Guided Tour of Bursa, Transfer to İstanbul

Stop at Ulu Camii, better known as the Grand Mosque of Bursa, on your city tour

After breakfast, set off on a full-day tour of Bursa, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire. Start with a climb up Tophane Clock Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the picturesque landscape surrounding it, then continue to Ulu Camii, better known as the Grand Mosque of Bursa, as it's the largest mosque in the city. Discover the intricate calligraphy and geometric patterns lining the exterior and count the 20 domes before stepping inside the prayer hall to see the high ceilings, detailed columns, and serene courtyard, but try to stay quiet so you don't interrupt any prayers.

Visit another iconic mosque next, Yeşil Camii, also known as the Green Mosque. Admire the graceful minarets, explore the colonnade-lined courtyard, and look for the green tiles adorning the walls that gave the mosque its nickname. End the tour with a ride up Mount Uludağ in a cable car, taking in the view below as you glide over the dense forests and rugged terrain. At the top, enjoy panoramic views of the city and the surrounding Sea of Marmara before taking the cable car back down the mountain. Return to the hotel to grab your bags for your two-hour transfer to İstanbul, the bridge between Asia and Europe.

Day 13: Discover Sultanahmet, the City's Historic District

Admire the exterior of the iconic Blue Mosque on your guided tour of Sultanahmet

After a nourishing breakfast, meet your guide for a full day of exploring the streets of İstanbul's historic district, Sultanahmet. Start at Sultanahmet Square to see the Obelisk of Theodosius, erected in the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt and transported to Constantinople (modern-day İstanbul) in 390 CE. You can also admire the exterior of the city's most famous landmark, the Blue Mosque, taking in the towering spires and domed roofs. Head into this historic building, built in the 17th century, and look around at the intricate blue tiles the mosque is named after.

Visit another iconic mosque next, the Hagia Sophia, built in 537 CE. Learn about its rich history as an Eastern Orthodox church before it was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Continue to your last stop, Topkapı Palace, the royal residence of the Ottomans from the 15th to 19th century. Glimpse into the past by exploring the palace's throne room, courtyards, and even the old Sultan's quarters. After all that walking, return to your hotel to rest before venturing out for a delicious dinner.

Day 14: Guided Tour of Eminönü, Private Boat Tour on the Bosphorus Strait

Smell the tantalizing mix of spices in the Spice Bazaar

Set off on another full day of exploring the city, starting in the commercial waterfront area of Eminönü. Begin your guided tour at the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world, with an impressive 4,000 stalls sprawled across 61 streets. You can find an array of goods here, including jewelry, ceramics, lanterns, and clothing. Pick up some souvenirs or stop for a bite of Turkish delight and tea to keep you going as you walk through the lively market. Continue your shopping at the Spice Bazaar to browse the 85 shops selling local spices and snacks, like Turkish cheese, nuts, and figs. 

Visit the Rüstem Paşa Mosque next, often referred to as the "miniature Blue Mosque" for its intricate, blue-tiled interiors. Admire the tiles adorning the walls and domes, then step into the mosque's serene courtyard for a peaceful escape from the busy streets. After all that walking, head to the pier for a boat tour along the Bosphorus Strait. Rest your feet and appreciate the shores of both the Asian and European sides of the city. Get a different perspective on popular landmarks, like the Ortaköy Mosque and Golden Horn, and take in the city's skyline, dotted with ancient minarets and modern skyscrapers.

Day 15: Street Food Tour in Eminönü & Kadıköy 

Enjoy a mug of çay paired with a Turkish bagel overlooking the Sea of Marmara

Skip breakfast this morning as you head out on a street food tour across the city. Start in Eminönü to weave through the colorful back streets and learn about and try different traditional dishes and ingredients, like local cheeses, pickles, puddings, and Turkish delight. Then, return to the Spice Bazaar to refuel with a dürüm, a delectable wrap filled with tender meat. In the afternoon, jump on a ferry across the strait to the Asian side of the city, Kadıköy.

Walk along the narrow, pedestrian-only streets, discovering local shops and restaurants. Explore one of the many markets in the area to browse the array of fresh fruit, seafood, and spices. This is the best neighborhood to try the beloved local dish of midye dolma, stuffed mussels with rice and kokoreç, lamb intestines seasoned with traditional spices wrapped in bread. End the tour with a mug of Turkish tea called çay paired with simit, a Turkish bagel, in one of the traditional tea gardens overlooking the Sea of Marmara.

Day 16: Depart İstanbul

Revisit the Grand Bazaar for some last-minute souvenirs before your flight home

After a memorable 16 days in Turkey, your adventure comes to a close. Say goodbye to İstanbul with a final visit to the Grand Bazaar, where you can pick up some last-minute souvenirs or get one last taste of some Turkish street food. If you want a relaxing morning, visit a nearby hammam, a traditional Turkish spa, to unwind before your flight. Choose from an array of spa services, such as a body scrub, a traditional bathing ritual, or a therapeutic massage. Keep an eye on the clock, as a driver will be meeting you back at the hotel to take you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Discover Turkey's History, Culture & Natural Beauty - 16 Days
Map of Discover Turkey's History, Culture & Natural Beauty - 16 Days