This 9-day tour will explore the diverse regions of Turkey, starting with a guided tour and a boat cruise in the vibrant city of Istanbul, discovering the famous Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman sites. Next head to the lunar-like terrain of Cappadocia where you can take a hot air balloon ride over the stunning valleys, visit a historical caravanserai, and explore the underground city of Kaymakli. After discovering Izmir and the ancient city of Ephesus, end your trip at a spa hotel near the famous white travertine terraces of Pamukkale.

Highlights

  • Discover the sites of Istanbul of Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar
  • Take a hot air balloon ride over the stunning valleys in Cappadocia
  • Stay at a spa hotel near the mineral-rich, baby-blue waters of Pamukkale
  • Explore the ancient city of Ephesus with its Temple of Artemis
  • Visit the vibrant coastal city of Izmir

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Istanbul - Explore Istanbul
Day 2 Explore the Historic Sites of Istanbul's Famed Old Town Istanbul
Day 3 Discover the Vibrant City of Istanbul by Foot and Boat Istanbul
Day 4 Fly to Cappadocia and Visit the Open Air Museum Urgup
Day 5 Enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Ride - Visit a Historical Caravanserai Urgup
Day 6 Visit Kaymakli Underground City - Fly to Izmir Izmir
Day 7 Drive to Sirince - Explore the Ancient City of Ephesus Sirince
Day 8 Discover the Incredible Landscape of Pamukkale and Hierapolis Pamukkale
Day 9 Depart Turkey via Istanbul  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Istanbul - Explore

The Impressive Hagia Sophia at Sunset
The Impressive Hagia Sophia at Sunset

Welcome to Turkey and the vibrant city of Istanbul!

Upon arriving at Istanbul International Airport, you'll be privately transferred to your centrally-located hotel. Settle into your accommodation and meet your guide for a quick preview of the city. You have two options for your walking tour, depending on the location of your hotel.

Option A: Beyoglu District
Settled on the European side of Istanbul, the district of Beyoglu showcases posh, early-eighteenth-century buildings, embassies, and boutiques. You'll find many of these grandiose structures along Grande Rue de Péra, which is now known as İstiklal Caddesi. Some of the noteworthy places you’ll visit include the French and Greek Consulates, several Christian churches, the Flower Passage, and the bustling Produce and Fish Market.

Option B: Sultanahmet District
The Sultanahmet District sits in the heart of historic Old Istanbul, and is home to many of the city's most famous buildings. Your walking tour will take you to the sites of Topkapı Palace, Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), the ByzantineHippodrome, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray), and the Istanbul Archeological Museums.

After getting a better feel for the city, find a buzzy restaurant for dinner and enjoy some of the spectacular cuisines of Istanbul.

Day 2: Explore the Historic Sites of Istanbul's Famed Old Town

The Historic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
The Historic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, then meet your host for another adventurous day exploring the streets of Istanbul. Today's focus will be the old town district, which is home to nearly all of the most important buildings and sites. This includes the Byzantine-era Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern.

One of the city's most famous sites is the Blue Mosque, which was built in the 17th century and earns its name due to the stunning blue tiles that line its interior. You can easily combine your visit with the Hippodrome, which sits on the west side of the mosque. The other famous site is, of course, the Hagia Sophia, which was built prior to the Middle Ages in the year 537 CE, making it the largest building in the world during that time. It's difficult to fully understand the massiveness of the building until you go inside and marvel at its interior.

In the afternoon, your host will take you to the Grand Bazaar, which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. You'll have your pick of 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops. 

Head back to your hotel before enjoying dinner in one of the neighborhoods you explored earlier.

Day 3: Discover the Vibrant City of Istanbul by Foot and Boat

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

Awake on your first morning in Istanbul with breakfast at your hotel, then begin your full day of exploring this amazing city. You'll start at Topkapi Palace, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans in the 15th century. Today it houses a beautiful museum. Next you'll visit the Spice Market, which is one of the longest bazaars in the city. It's also a wonderful place to buy local gifts such as nuts, coffee, teas, and Turkish delight, a traditional confection.

After some free time for lunch, you'll enjoy a boat cruise through the Bosphorus Strait, admiring the shores of both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. Seeing the city by boat offers an entirely different perspective, allowing you to truly see the size of the city and why it's played such an important geographic role for centuries.

Later on, your journey will take you back into the beating heart of Istanbul, starting in the Pera/Beyoglu district. Important landmarks along the way include: several consulates, St. Antoine's Catholic Church, the Galata Whirling Dervish Hall, the Tunel district, and Neve Shalom Synagogue. You can't miss the Galata Tower, which was built by the Genovese as an observation tower, allowing you to enjoy the stunning views of Beyoglu, the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, and the historic peninsula.

After a long day of sightseeing, head back to your hotel for a little relaxation before venturing out again for another dinner in bustling Istanbul.

Day 4: Fly to Cappadocia and Visit the Open Air Museum

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia
The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia

Today you'll trade the bustling capital of Istanbul for one of Turkey's most beautiful destinations, Cappadocia. After breakfast, you'll head to Istanbul Airport to catch an early flight.

Your first stop will be the Göreme Open Air Museum, which contains some of the most beautiful rock-cut churches and frescoes in the world. You'll see unique examples of rock hewn architecture and learn about the historical fresco technique. Most of the churches in Göreme Open Air Museum were built in the 10th - 12th centuries.

After lunch, you'll settle into your hotel and discover the panoramic views from Avcilar Valley and Pasabag Valley (Valley of Monks), where you can see the famous fairy chimneys and cave dwellings. In the evening, enjoy dinner at a restaurant in Göreme, looking out over the valley at sunset.

Plan your trip to Turkey
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.

Day 5: Enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Ride - Visit a Historical Caravanserai

Hot Air Balloons over Cappadocia
Hot Air Balloons over Cappadocia

As you awake to the gorgeous views of the surrounding valleys, you can opt for an early hot air balloon ride over the fairy chimneys. This is one of the most famous tourist activities in the world, and it will certainly be an unforgettable experience.

Afterward, you'll visit the beautiful town of Uchisar, which is known for its natural fortress that was used for housing and defense. You'll then move on to Avanos, famous for its local pottery made with clay from the Kizilirmak River.

In the afternoon you'll explore a 13th-century caravanserai, a historical roadside inn that served an importance role for travelers marching along the silk road. At this particular caravanserai, you'll watch a popular performance called the "Whirling Dervishes". It's a mystic ritual performed by the followers of the Mevlevi Order.

In the early evening, you'll return to your accommodation for a little relaxation before heading out for dinner.

Day 6: Visit Kaymakli Underground City - Fly to Izmir

Kaymakli Underground City
Kaymakli Underground City

Today you'll enjoy an excursion through Cappadocia before catching your flight to the seaside city of Izmir. To start, you'll visit a traditional carpet workshop. Carpet weaving is an important element of the local culture, which is mostly performed by women and supported by the government. Afterward, head to the lovely town of Musatafapasa, previosuly known as Sinasos. Until the early 20th century, Sinasos was populated mainly by the Greek-Orthodox minority who grew their wealth in the caviar trade.

After lunch in Musatafapasa, you'll continue to one of Cappadocia's famous underground cities. Kaymakli Underground City was built by the early Christians to protect themselves from religious persecution. It's comprised of an elaborate maze of tunnels and caves, and is one of the widest of the underground cities.

When you've finished your tour of the underground city, you'll head to Kayseri (or Nevsehir) to take your flight to Izmir. Settle into your accommodation and head out towards the port for a late-night snack.

Day 7: Drive to Sirince - Explore the Ancient City of Ephesus

The Ruins of Ephesus
The Ruins of Ephesus

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel, then head out for a short panoramic tour of the beautiful city of Izmir, also known as Smyrna. Start in the city center at Konak Square and see the famous Izmir Clock Tower. Then walk the streets of Kemeraltı Çarşısı, a vibrant market district. Stop at the Asansör for beautiful views of the city and its marina.

Next you'll visit the ancient city of Ephesus, which attracts three million tourists each year. It's an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions of the Hellenistic, Roman Imperial, and early Christian periods. This ancient city undergoes annual excavations, uncovering new sections and amazing artifacts every year.

The scientific, artistic, and cultural city of Ephesus was home to many classical philosophers, including Heraclitus. It's also a religiously important site, as its believed that St. Paul spent more than two years in Ephesus and wrote some of his famous letters there. The city also hosts the Council Church and the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll visit the House of the Virgin Mary, which is located on the top of the beautiful greenery of Bulbul Mountain. It's believed that Mary came to the area with St. John, who spent several years spreading Christianity in Ephesus. 

In the evening, you'll settle into your accommodation in the lovely town of Sirince where you'll enjoy dinner.

Day 8: Discover the Incredible Landscape of Pamukkale and Hierapolis

Natural Thermal Pools in Pamukkale
Natural Thermal Pools in Pamukkale

After breakfast, you'll start the drive to the incredible town of Pamukkale, famous for its baby-blue, mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces. Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, as it is truly an unreal landscape made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and a series of terraced basins. 

Nearby is ancient Hierapolis, a Roman spa city founded around 190 BCE. Its name means "sacred city" and the ancients believed it was founded by Apollo and named for the god of the underworld, Pluto. You'll also explore the ruins in Pamukkale, which include an incredibly well-preserved theater and a necropolis. It also hosts a very unique site, the Antique Pool which is full of submerged Roman columns due to an earthquake.

In the afternoon, you'll settle into your spa hotel. Enjoy a relaxing stay and a delicious dinner for your final night in Turkey.

Day 9: Depart Turkey via Istanbul

Denizli Cardak Airport
Beautiful Athens at Night

Sadly, it's time to say farewell to beautiful Turkey. After your final breakfast, you'll transfer to Denizli-Cardak Airport for your flight to Istanbul. There you can catch a connecting flight home or spend a bit more time in the city.