- Avoid the gaze of Medusa's head in the Basilica Cistern
- Visit Aspendos, the best-preserved ancient theater in the world
- Spot the animal-shaped rocks of the Devrent Valley
- Wander the ancient city of Perge, once occupied by Alexander the Great
|Day 1||Arrive in Istanbul||Istanbul|
|Day 2||Walking Tour of Sultanahmet, the Old City of Istanbul||Istanbul|
|Day 3||Tour the Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar, and the Bosphorus River||Istanbul|
|Day 4||Fly to Cappadocia - Explore the Rock Formations of Uçhisar & Devrent Valley||Urgup|
|Day 5||Explore Cappadocia From Above and Below||Urgup|
|Day 6||Drive to Konya - Visit the Tomb of Rumi||Konya|
|Day 7||Drive to Antalya - Visit the Ancient Ruins of Perge & Aspendos||Antalya|
|Day 8||Sightseeing Tour of Antalya||Antalya|
|Day 9||Depart from Antalya|
Day 1: Arrive in Istanbul
Welcome to Turkey! A representative will meet you at the airport to transfer you to your hotel. Today is a day off, so explore the city on your own and discover why Napoleon Bonaparte once said: "If the earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital."
Suggested activities include:
- Visit the Kariye Museum or Chora Church, a mosaic and fresco-filled Byzantine church. The structure was reconstructed several times throughout the centuries and features frescos dating as far back as the 14th century.
- Detox, get a scrub, and have some tea at a hamam or Turkish bath. The 16th-century Çemberlitaş is one of the most famous hamams, known for its design by Sinan the Architect, the man responsible for some of Istanbul's most recognizable buildings.
- Expand your palate with local Turkish delicacies such as pide (flatbread), kofte (meatballs), and raki, an anise-flavored apéritif that is the national drink of Turkey.
Day 2: Walking tour of Sultanahmet, the Old City of Istanbul
Start the day off with a Turkish coffee before heading out on a private guided walking tour of the Old City, also known as Sultanahmet. Here, you will find many of Istanbul's most famous sights, and can learn about the world-changing history of this city that served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries.
Start with a visit to the Hippodrome, which was formerly a circus that was the sporting center when Istanbul was known as Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. Picture the horse and chariot races of the Romans as you stand in the Hippodrome, which is now the Sultan Ahmet Square. You can see the Serpentine Column, Obelisk of Theodosius, Walled Obelisk, and German Fountain, all of which tell different stories about Istanbul's long and varied history.
The afternoon will be filled with tours of some of Istanbul's most famous sites: the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia Church Museum, and Topkapi Palace. Return to your hotel in the evening to relax and enjoy a night out exploring the vibrant nightlife of Istanbul.
Day 3: Tour the Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar, and the Bosphorus River
Your tour of the Old City continues today as you take a tour of the Basilica Cistern, the largest of the several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath Istanbul. The Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century CE during the reign of Justinian I and is known for the stone Medusa heads that form the base of several of its columns.
Afterwards, visit the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, where your senses will be activated by the colorful sights, smells, and tastes of Istanbul's epic markets. End the day with a Bosphorus River tour, which will take you down this strait, which separates European and Asian Turkey. See Istanbul from all sides as you discover why this city, which occupies both worlds of the east and west, has held such a prominent place in history. Note that a private boat cruise is available for an extra fee.
Day 4: Fly to Cappadocia - Explore the rock formations of Uçhisar & Devrent Valley
You will be transferred to the airport in the morning to catch your flight to Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cappadocia is one of the most unique landscapes in Turkey as it seems to be a surreal, lunar terrain. This topography is comprised of "hoodoos," also known as "fairy chimneys." These conical, mushroom, and pinnacle-shaped formations pepper the lands of Cappadocia, standing tall and strange against the bright Turkish sky.
Once you settle in, you will visit Uçhisar Rock Castle, a castle-mountain that was transformed into a fortress, which overlooks the town of Uçhisar. Wander through the caves that were turned into rooms and take in panoramic views of Cappadocia.
The next stop is a tour of the Devrent Valley, also known as Imagination Valley. This area is populated by rare and wondrous rock formations, many of which look like sculptures or even animals.
If you're interested in experiencing local traditions and culture, you can choose to attend a Whirling Dervish ceremony at a well-preserved 13th-century caravanserai or ancient roadside inn.
Day 5: Explore Cappadocia from above and below
You have the option of taking a sunrise hot-air ballon ride this morning, which will offer you spectacular views of the landscape as the sun rises above Cappadocia.
After breakfast, take a hike through the Pigeon Valley, where you can see dovecotes carved into the soft volcanic rocks. The next stop is the Göreme Open-Air Museum, which contains the ruins of monasteries, churches, and houses carved into rock. Some of these structures date as far back as the 4th century and you can learn about the history of this area, which was centrally-located between rival empires.
Enjoy a home-cooked lunch in the village of Ayvali before continuing on to the underground city of Kaymaklı, whose caves have been throughout the centuries as a refuge for those persecuted in the area. You'll go on to visit Paşabağ, also called Monk's Valley, which contains some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, some of which served as shelters for Simeon monks.
Finally, explore the cobblestoned streets of the town of Avanos, which is known for its production of earthenware pottery. This trade goes back to the time of the Hittites, an Anatolian people that established their empire around 1600 BCE. You can learn about the history of pottery in this town when you visit a pottery workshop.
Day 6: Drive to Konya - Visit the Tomb of Rumi
Take in a hearty Turkish breakfast before your guide and driver take you to the city of Konya, the home of the whirling dervishes' sect founder, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet, scholar, and Sufi mystic.
Once you arrive in Konya, which is a three-hour drive from Cappadocia, you will begin your tour of the city, starting with a visit to the Mevlana Museum. There, you can see the Tomb of Rumi and learn about the history of one of the greatest and most famous poets of history. The next stop is the Karatay Madrasa, a school built in the 13th century, which houses a number of Seljuk tiles and ceramics.
Enjoy a guided walking tour of the heart of Konya, where you can see a number of historical landmarks, including the Aziziye Mosque. While this building is an example of traditional Ottoman architecture, you can also see its unique features, such as its double minarets and windows, which are wider than the doors. Konya has been inhabited since 3000 BCE and as you walk through the city, discover the history of this city, which was once the capital of the Sultanate of Rûm.
Day 7: Drive to Antalya - Visit the ancient ruins of Perge & Aspendos
After breakfast, you will embark on a scenic four-hour drive to Antalya, Turkey's principal holiday resort on the Mediterranean coast. This trip passes through the Taurus Mountains, named for the bull, which was once a common symbol for ancient storm gods. Learn about the ancient storm god temples that populate the area as you drive through these mountains.
Before reaching Antalya, stop at Perge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which contains ruins dating back to the Bronze Age. Walk through the ancient agora, necropolis, and stadium as you find out about Alexander the Great's occupation of this city and how its inhabitants became known for their worship of Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
The next stop is Aspendos, which is home to the best-preserved theater of antiquity. Picture yourself as an ancient theatergoer as you explore this amphitheater, built in 155 CE by the Greek architect, Zenon. If you visit in the summer, you'll have the chance to watch a performance as the Aspendos International Opera & Ballet Festival takes place here every year.
You'll arrive at your hotel in Antalya in the late afternoon and get the chance to rest and relax on the Mediterranean coast.
Day 8: Sightseeing tour of Antalya
Enjoy your breakfast and first Turkish coffee of the day before embarking on a guided tour of Antalya. You'll start at Hadrian's Gate, a triumphal arch built to honor the Roman emperor, Hadrian, who visited Antalya in 130 CE. Pass through this gate to enter the Kaleiçi, Antalya's historic old quarter.
Your guide will show you numerous structures that illustrate the neighborhood's rich Roman, Byzantine, Selcuk, and Ottoman heritage. Here, you will be able to wander this district's famous winding and narrow streets, stop at a charming cafe, and pick up gifts at one of its many souvenir shops.
Continue on to the Yivli Minaret Mosque, first built in 1230 CE and later rebuilt in 1373 CE. The mosque’s fluted minaret, which is decorated with dark blue tiles, is a landmark and symbol of the city, and the six domes of this structure make it one of the oldest examples of multi-dome construction in the Anatolia region.
You'll have the chance to visit the Antalya Museum of Archaeology, one of Turkey's largest museums, which was originally housed in the Yivli Minaret Mosque. End the day with a visit to the Duden Waterfalls, located outside the city. Decompress in nature as you enjoy a snack or picnic in this area beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Day 9: Depart from Antalya
Do any last-minute shopping, exploring, or eating before you're transferred to Izmir's airport to catch your next flight. We hope you enjoyed this trip through Turkey's ancient history!