Experience the full breadth of Turkey's deep history on a 10-day adventure through multiple regions. It begins in Istanbul, where you'll visit incredible Byzantine and Ottoman monuments. Then, after touring World War I battlefields, you're off on a road trip to see ancient Greek and Roman sites like the city of Troy and Ephesus. The trip finishes at the incredible lunar landscapes and "fairy chimneys" of Cappadocia.


  • Spend a few days discovering the highlights of Istanbul
  • Tour World War I battlefields in Gallipoli
  • Visit the ruins of ancient cities like Troy and Ephesus
  • See the "fairy chimneys" of Cappadocia and hike its valleys

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Istanbul, Beyoğlu Walking Tour Istanbul
Day 2 Tour Istanbul by Foot & Boat Istanbul
Day 3 Walking Tour of Istanbul's Old City Istanbul
Day 4 Transfer to Gallipoli, Tour WWI Sites, Drive to Çanakkale Çanakkale
Day 5 Visit the Ancient Ruins at Troy & Assos Adatepe
Day 6 Olive Oil Tasting, Drive from Adatepe to Şirince Şirince
Day 7 Walking Tour of Şirince & Ancient Ephesus Şirince
Day 8 Şirince to Cappadocia, Göreme Museum & Valley Hike Urgup
Day 9 Kaymakli Undeground City, Ihlara Valley Hike Urgup
Day 10 Cappadocia to Istanbul, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Istanbul, Beyoğlu Walking Tour

The cable car in Istanbul's Beyoğlu District
Welcome to Turkey! This culturally rich nation is a geographic and cultural bridge between the Middle East and the West. It's been a central plot point on the global map ever since the days of the old Silk Road. It has changed hands from the Greeks to the Romans to the Byzantines to the Ottomans in the thousands of years since. And few cities in the world represent such a melting pot of cultures through the ages quite like Turkey's largest, Istanbul. This city lies on the Bosphorus Strait, which divides it into European and Asian halves, thus bridging the two continents.
Istanbul is known for awe-inspiring architecture spanning the Byzantine and Ottoman empires and as a delicious culinary landscape. Upon arrival, a driver will transfer you to your hotel. After unpacking and settling in, you'll head out to stretch your legs on a short walking tour of the city. Your destination is the Beyoğlu District, located on the European side of Istanbul, just north of the Old City near the Golden Horn waterway. This popular area is a captivating mix of the old and the new—here 18th-century buildings sit alongside modern restaurants, boutiques, cinemas, and shopping malls.
The best place to experience Beyoğlu in all its kinetic glory is along the main thoroughfare of İstiklal Avenue, also known as the Grand Avenue of Pera. A 19th-century funicular cable car runs down this avenue, and it's lined with Ottoman-era buildings done in an assortment of architectural styles ranging from Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classical to Art Nouveau and Renaissance Revival. The walking tour will take you along İstiklal to see these structures. Some noteworthy landmarks include the French and Greek Consulates, several Christian churches, the Flower Passage, and the bustling street markets where locals buy fresh produce and seafood. 

Now that you've got a better feel for the city, you can venture out from your hotel to one of Istanbul's many kebapçıs (kebab restaurants) when dinnertime rolls around. Or try other staples like fresh fish and mezes (platters of small plates and finger foods designed to be shared).

Day 2: Tour Istanbul by Foot & Boat

View of Istanbul's Old Town
Istanbul's Old City

Wake up and enjoy a classic Turkish breakfast of olives, tomatoes, eggs, cheese, fresh bread, and other goodies. Now that you're fortified, it's time to head out on a 3-hour walking tour of the city. Your guide will take you right to the heart of Istanbul, around the lively Karaköy and Galata districts. Important landmarks include St. Antoine's Church (the largest Catholic Church in Istanbul), the 19th-century Tünel (the oldest underground train in Europe), and Neve Shalom Synagogue.

Then head up Galata Tower. This 14th-century watchtower was built by the Genovese and offers stunning views of the European side of Istanbul, the Golden Horn waterway, the Bosphorus, and south to the Historical Peninsula (Old City). Then head down to the waterfront enclave of Karaköy via the stunning Camondo Steps. This curved stairway was built in the 1870s in an Art Nouveau, Gaudi-esque style you have to see to believe. Afterward, cross the Golden Horn via the Galata Bridge before arriving at the Eminönü waterfront, known for its many bazaars.

Board a boat for a two-hour excursion along the Bosphorus at the waterfront. From the deck, you can admire the shores of both the European and Asian sides of the city. This vantage point reveals the full scope of Istanbul and how all its minarets, ancient buildings, and colorful homes dotting the hills comprise one of the most impressive skylines in the world. 

Day 3: Walking Tour of Istanbul's Old City

Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul's Old City

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, then meet your guide for another adventurous day exploring Istanbul. Today's focus will be the Old City, located on a peninsula that juts eastward into the Bosphorus. Because this landmass sits at the southernmost entrance to the strait, it was of great strategic importance to anyone who controlled the city. The Roman emperor Constantine, for example, built the Walls of Constantinople here in the 1st century CE. These stone fortifications ran around the spine of the peninsula and survived even through the Ottoman Empire. Many are still intact today.

You'll visit significant landmarks in the Old City, some of which are centered around the Byzantine-era Hippodrome. This large square was a circus and sports center in the days of Constantinople. Today it's famous as the location of Hagia Sophia, which was built in 537 CE and was the largest building in the world at the time. The Blue Mosque sits just across the Hippodrome, another of Istanbul's architectural marvels. Officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, it was built in the early 17th century and earned its nickname due to the 20,000 blue Iznik tiles speckling its interior. 

In the afternoon, your guide will take you to the Grand Bazaar. Sprawling more than 333,000 sq feet (30,700 sq m), this is one of the largest covered markets in the world. And because it was built in 1455, it is also one of the oldest. More than 4,000 shops and stalls across 61 covered streets sell everything from hand-woven Turkish rugs to knockoff designer clothing. To see all of it would take a few hours, so be sure to stop every so often and give your legs a break at one of the bazaar's many cafés. 

Afterward, head back to your hotel and relax for a bit. Then head out to dinner at one of the restaurants around Taksim Square, Galata, or trendy Karaköy.

Day 4: Transfer to Gallipoli, Tour World War I Sites, Drive to Çanakkale

Ari Burnu Cemetery in Gallipoli
Ari Burnu Cemetery, in Gallipoli
Early in the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel for the 3-hour drive to Gallipoli, a peninsula at the northwestern end of Turkey. This area is forever enshrined in the history books as a crucial strategic front and site of many epic battles during World War I. Arrive by mid or late morning to ensure you have a full day touring the area. 
Plan your trip to Turkey
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Things kick off on a happy note with a visit to a local winery for a welcome glass (or three) of the local tipple. This particular area is a fertile wine-producing region that utilizes both international and local grapes in its wine-making. Here you can taste several different varietals, including one of Turkey's flagship white grapes, Beyaz, which is denoted by floral characteristics with apple and citrus notes. During the visit, you'll also learn about the history of wine and the wine-making process in Turkey.
After lunch, you'll visit some of the famous battlefields in Gallipoli. Two somber (but scenic) locales are Anzac Cove and Sedd el Bahr Cape. These were both the sites of significant battles during the war, but they offer tranquil scenes of sandy beaches and turquoise waters today. Along this route, you'll stop at the Çanakkale War Simulation Center, which recounts the Gallipoli Campaign through 3D simulations. For more history, you can also visit the 57th Regiment Turkish Memorial, the Helles Memorial, and the Ari Burnu Cemetery, commemorating the 252 Commonwealth soldiers killed during the campaign.
After learning all about Gallipoli's wartime history, you'll take the ferry south across the Dardanelles Strait to the waterfront city of Çanakkale. Settle into your hotel and relax a bit before heading out for dinner. There are many delicious restaurants in the city's historic district and near the port.

Day 5: Visit the Ancient Ruins at Troy & Assos

Ruins of the amphitheater at Troy

After breakfast, you'll drive 19 miles (30 km) south of Çanakkale to the archeological ruins of Troy. Sitting on the Mound of Hisarlık and overlooking the Aegean Sea, this ancient city is famous as the setting for the Trojan War in Homer's two epic poems: "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey." Even those who haven't read the books are familiar with the famous "Trojan horse" gambit in which Greek soldiers hidden inside a giant wooden horse infiltrated Troy. The siege is based on an actual event back in the 13th century BCE. More incredible is that excavations date settlements back long before: about 8,000 years.

There's a lot to see on this 74-acre site, so plan on spending about 1.5 hours exploring it. Highlights include the remains of Troy's lower town, the citadel, amphitheater, defensive walls, bastions, and various gates. Then continue south down a coastal road to Babakale, a historic harbor town on the Biga Peninsula, for lunch. Your next stop is the Assos Archeological Site, the remains of a Greek city founded in the 7th century BCE. It's home to ruins like the gymnasium where Aristotle taught. The Temple of Athena was also built in 540 BCE on a hill that offers sea views out to the Greek island of Lesbos. 

After touring Assos, you'll continue driving a little way east to the coastal foothills and the village of Adatepe, known for its stone houses and cobbled streets. Settle into your accommodation and relax before exploring this charming little town. Adatepe is one of the most well-preserved ancient villages in Turkey, and there's no shortage of quaint cafés here to enjoy a lovely dinner. 

Day 6: Olive Oil Tasting, Drive from Adatepe to Şirince

The ruins at Pergamon
In the morning, head out to explore some of the most beautiful sites in this coastal region, starting at an olive oil museum. Here you'll learn all about the origins of the olive tree in Turkey, its cultivation, the production of olive oil, and this product's national significance—Turkey is the world's fifth-largest producer of olive oil. Of course, a major highlight is when you taste some high-quality olive oils. After snacking, get back in the car with your guide and drive about three hours south from Adatepe to the historic village of Şirince, located in the Aegean foothills.
On the way, you'll stop at the ancient city of Pergamon, located in the coastal hills. The city's golden age was during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, during which time it was a major center of science and education. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the exceptional monuments here are a testament to that legacy and include an amphitheater, gymnasium, and the Great Altar of Pergamon. During its heyday, it was also home to one of the most important libraries of the ancient world as well as a famous sculpture school. Moreover, Pergamon is the site of one of the seven churches of the Christian Revelation.

After visiting Pergamon, you'll drive to your accommodation in the charming hillside town of Şirince. Until the 1920s, this village was populated by a Greek-Orthodox community. Nowadays, it's a popular tourist destination famous for its well-preserved old houses, quaint cobblestone streets, and wine and olive oil production.

Day 7: Walking Tour of Şirince & Ancient Ephesus

The Library of Celsus, in Ephesus 
You'll have about two hours to stroll this picture-postcard Aegean village in the morning. Şirince is a town of just 600 people, one whose primary industry is agriculture. The area around it is a major producer of olive oil, peaches, and grapes. Still, tourism is a big draw, too—people flock from all over to experience this charming town and its impressive Ottoman-Christian architecture. This is a self-guided tour in which you can go wherever you like. You'll want to visit the colorful town center to find numerous artisanal shops and vendor stalls.

An easy hike just outside the village reveals even more history. There are landmarks here dating back to the Hellenistic period (323–31 BCE), and up the road are the remains of several Roman aqueducts. This is because Şirince was a vital water source for nearby Ephesus during its heyday. Next, head down the hills to the ancient archeological site of Ephesus. This 1,030-acre Unesco World Heritage Site is home to a wealth of history spanning various eras, dating to the 10th century BCE. Ephesus is a well-preserved testimony to Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian periods.
On a 4-hour tour you'll see many awe-inspiring monuments, the most famous being the Temple of Artemis, which dates to around 550 BCE and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Other incredible ruins include a 24,000-seat amphitheater and the Library of Celsus, a grand funerary monument that dates to the 2nd-century CE. You'll see all these and more on a walking tour of the site. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll walk in the footsteps of Ephesus' religious history when you visit the House of the Virgin Mary. Located atop the beautiful greenery of Bulbul Mountain, it's believed that this is where Mary came with St. John, who spent several years spreading Christianity in Ephesus. There's even reason to believe the gospel of St. John was written here. After the tour, you'll return to Şirince for a lovely dinner.

Day 8: Şirince to Cappadocia, Göreme Museum & Valley Hike

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia
The "fairy chimneys" of Cappadocia

In the morning, transfer to İzmir to catch a flight to Kayseri, located in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. This is the gateway to the Cappadocia area, which is known for its towering geological formations and lunar valleys. Upon arrival, you'll drive to the ancient town of Ürgüp. After unpacking, head out to do some sightseeing in the area. UNESCO-protected Cappadocia is famous for its towering rock formations, nicknamed "fairy chimneys" because of their otherworldly shape. 

You'll witness these geological marvels on a 3-hour tour of the Göreme Open Air Museum. This cluster of rock-hewn churches and Byzantine landmarks is home to ancient art and beautiful frescoes. As you stroll the site you'll learn about the techniques the residents used to create these structures and artworks. Note that most of the churches here date from the 10th-12th centuries.

Experience another type of local art form in the afternoon when you visit a pottery studio. Pottery craft has been a long-standing tradition in the region, probably since the Hittite civilization (2000-1500 BCE). That's because the Kızılırmak River has supplied all the red clay used to produce these earthenware items since antiquity. The visit includes a live demonstration from a master ceramist, plus you'll get to try making some pottery yourself.

The uniqueness of the structures also lends the valleys of Cappadocia a lunar quality. In the afternoon, you'll embark on a brisk, easy hike to one such locale: Love Valley. It is so named for the towering rock structure's shape. Alternatively, you can choose an optional, 2-hour horseback ride through another stunning valley.

Day 9: Kaymaklı Undeground City, Hiking in Ihlara Valley

Tunnel in the Kaymaklı Underground City

You'll head out on another excursion in the morning to Kaymaklı Underground City. This is one of the aforementioned underground cities built by the early Christians to protect themselves from religious persecution. It comprises an elaborate maze of nearly 100 tunnels and various caves, and it's one of the widest of the region's underground cities. Four city levels are open to the public, with the fourth level located 65 feet (20 m) underground.

Up next is a scenic and easy 2-hour hike in Ihlara Valley. This 4-mile (7 km) walk follows the canyons of the lovely Melendiz River. The terrain is flat, making it easy for most age groups and skill levels. Keep an eye out, as, along the valley, there are several rock-cut churches as well.

Day 10: Cappadocia to Istanbul, Depart

Sunset over Hagia Sophia
Enjoy one final breakfast in beautiful Cappadocia. Then, sadly, it's time to say goodbye to this fantastic country. A driver will transfer you to the airport in Kayseri, where you'll fly to Istanbul and catch your connecting flight home. See you soon!

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Map of Explore Historic Turkey - 10 Days
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