Best of Turkey Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

  • Trip code : IERSI
  • Trip length : 15 Days
  • Trip starts in : Istanbul, Turkey
  • Trip ends in : Istanbul, Turkey
  • Maximum group size : 16
  • Ages : Min 15
  • Meals :  12 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Accommodation : Guesthouse (2 nts), Hotel (11 nts), Overnight boat (1 nt)
  • Transport : Bus, Dolmus, Ferry, Gulet, Private Bus, Taxi

daily-itinerary1

Day
1-2

Istanbul

Hosgeldinz! Welcome to Istanbul.

Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.

Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.

If you arrive early, and we recommend you do, go and explore this vibrant city. Visit the cobbled Hippodrome which was once the site of ancient chariot races and visit the exquisite Blue Mosque, Istanbul's most recognisable landmark. Whilst entry is free, it is good custom to make a donation of a lira or two after your visit. This is a working mosque and part of its role is to look after the less fortunate in the community. Please note we will be departing Istanbul on day 2 so you have limited time to see all the sights. We do have a range of short trips and sightseeing excursions available to make the best use of your time.

On Day 2 our time is spent discovering some of the hidden charms of Istanbul, the city that bridges Europe and Asia, including the areas around Sultanahmet and Port Eminonu. We take a leisurely walk to explore the city's dazzling array of cultural and historical sites. We get off the beaten track possibly discovering the backstreets and visiting lesser-known sites. We also visit the local spice markets and Bazaar quarter ending our walk at the busy port of Eminonu. Each of our leaders has their own unique view of Istanbul to show you, an insight that only someone very familiar to a city can give.

The rest of our afternoon is free to check out the Grand Bazaar (note the Bazaar is closed on Sundays), make a visit to Aya Sofya, the home of beautiful mosaics and an incredible reminder of the city that was once Constantinople. Consider taking in some famous sites such as the Ancient Hippodrome, formerly the cultural focus of the Byzantine Empire. See Istanbul's most famous landmark, the Blue Mosque. Whilst entry is free, it is good custom to make a donation of a lira or two after your visit. This is a working mosque and part of its role is to look after the less fortunate in the community. Visit the Archaeology Museum which contains an incredible array of ancient exhibits of particular interest the artefacts from infamous Troy. Visit the atmospheric underground Cistern, a vast underwater storage tank built in 532 AD. If all of this makes you a little tired then an hour or two spent in a hamam (Turkish bath) will leave you rejuvenated for the start of your journey. Maybe head down to the Bosphorus and take a ferry cruise on one of the world's most celebrated waterways or grab a fresh fish roll for lunch. For Monday departures we recommend you visit the magnificent opulence of Topkapi Palace on day 1 as it is closed on Tuesday.

Accommodation: Hotel (2 nts)

Day
3

Bursa

Depart Istanbul this morning by a fast ferry to the port of Yalova (approx. 1 hour). Then it's onto a local bus to Bursa, where we will stay the night (approx. 1.5 hours). Please note that sometimes we take an alternative route, catching the ferry from Kabatas to the port of Guzelyali (approx. 1hr 50mins ), followed by a local bus and then a train to Bursa (approx. 1hr 20mins ). This depends on the ferry schedule on the day, which can often change with little notice.

Bursa is an old and important city with a rich and varied history. It had a central role in the creation of the Ottoman Empire and from 1326-1402 AD actually served as the Sultan's capital. With elegant mosques such as the supremely beautiful Yesil Camii, an intriguing covered bazaar and teahouses filled with locals, Bursa offers us a glimpse of traditional Turkish life.

The afternoon is spent exploring the warren of streets and old Ottoman hans (warehouses). Bursa is also home to thermal springs nearby at Cekirge, famously used by Byzantine imperial families. Why not treat yourself to a soak, steam, and scrub Turkish style. The Turkish traditional shadow puppet shows, which were originally created here in Bursa, are a cultural highlight, as is the local kebab - the hearty iskender.

Tonight we have the highlight for many of our passengers, to be guests at a Dervish Lodge, see the performance of the Sema and learn a bit more about their mesmerising culture.

Our hotel tonight is one of the oldest in Bursa and is centrally located opposite the Ulu Mosque and next to the historical covered market.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)

Day
4-5

Selcuk

Travel by public bus to Selcuk (approx. 7hrs), our base for discovering Ephesus, former capital of the East Roman Empire and the best preserved ancient city in Turkey.

Selcuk is steeped in culture and retains many Turkish traditions. The town itself is usually undisturbed, which gives the opportunity to experience the 'real' Turkey. On the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill lie several historical buildings, including the Isa Bey Mosque and the Grand Fortress. Selcuk is also home to one of the ancient world's Seven Wonders – the Temple of Artemis – although, sadly, only a single pylon remains.

We will arrive in Selcuk with enough time to check in to our Guest house and then take a leader led orientation walk of the town.

On the morning of Day 5 we take a private mini van to the site of Ephesus admiring the amphitheatre and famous library.

Ephesus is the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey's premier tourist site. Once the capital city of Roman Asia Minor, the city has a fascinating history spanning over 1,500 years, which comes alive with a local guide to enhance the experience. You will be awed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had running water, public toilets, a renowned medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved and regularly hosts concerts, but it's perhaps the magnificent library that takes most people's breath away.

St John is said to have travelled to Ephesus at the end of his life in AD 100 and written the Book of Revelations on top of Ayasuluk Hill. Emperor Justinian built a massive basilica upon a 4th-century tomb and church which were believed to house St John's remains. Although destroyed by earthquakes and invasions, the site is still impressive.

Visit a family-run restaurant where gozleme – the famous and very popular Turkish pancake with thin, flaky pastry filled with local ingredients such as spinach and feta cheese – is their specialty. Here we will watch a demonstration of how this renowned dish is made before enjoying a gozleme feast for lunch.

This afternoon head out to the nearby village of Sirince and taste some locally produced fruit wines. This authentic Greek Ottoman village seems to have been overlooked by modern development and is a photographer's dream.

Consider a visit to the excellent Ephesus museum located in the heart of Selcuk for a deeper understanding of the ruins. St John is said to have written his gospel in this town and the historic Basilica of St John was erected upon his grave site in the 6th century. There is also a hilltop citadel, first constructed by the Byzantines in the 6th century.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (2 nts)

Day
6

Pamukkale

A bus ride (3.5 hrs) inland through mountainous landscapes brings us to one of Turkey's most photographed sites - the gleaming white travertine terraces of Pamukkale, which are made from limestone deposits formed when water from the hot springs lose carbon dioxide. The layers of the white calcium carbonate have given Pamukkale its name 'cotton castles'. The pools, now off limits, have been famed for their medicinal qualities since Roman times.

Though we are not able to bathe in the world-famous Travertines, take a walk through them (no shoes please!) and bathe in healing thermal springs at the nearby Roman site of Hierapolis. Home to an oracle at one time, a well-preserved Roman theatre still remains here. Wander the colonnaded streets and discover the necropolis with its many unique tombs, looking every bit like a scene from judgement day.

Located at the top of the gleaming white travertines of Pamukkale is the ancient Roman site of Hierapolis. Home to an oracle at one time, a well-preserved Roman theatre still remains here. Wander the colonnaded streets and discover the necropolis with its many unique tombs, looking every bit like a scene from judgement day.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)

Day
7-8

Kayakoy

A bus ride south (approx. 4.5 hours) takes us away from the tourists to the small village of Kayakoy. This small village acts as our base to explore the many attractions of this scenic section of the Mediterranean coast including the resort town of Fethiye.

Kayakoy was once a ghost village, its ancient stone houses abandoned after their Greek inhabitants left Turkey during the great population exchange of the 1920s. Now protected by the Turkish government, it provides the opportunity to enjoy a quiet, traditional Turkish lifestyle. This small village is a good base to explore the many attractions of this scenic section of the Mediterranean coast, including the resort town of Fethiye and the famous Blue Lagoon.

Open 24 hours, the ghost village has an entrance fee which helps towards the upkeep of the paths and rubbish clearance. One church in the lower area of the village, Kataponagia, is of particular interest due to an interesting room out the back - it was used to collect the bones of the dead. Wander the ruins and enjoy the solitude.

On day 8 we set out on a half day trek along a section of rugged coastline, following part of the Lycian way to nearby Oludeniz (approx. 6kms) where you can swim in the famous Blue Lagoon

Please note that the trek to Oludeniz is rated moderate to difficult and a good level of fitness is required. The terrain under foot is sometimes slippery and uneven and there are periods of ascent and descent. Good walking shoes are certainly required. If you do have a good level of fitness this will be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding walk. If you are unsure as to your capability to complete this walk please discuss with your group leader prior, so that other arrangements can be made for this day.

Accommodation: Hotel (2 nts)

Day
9-10

Kas / Turquoise coast overnight boat cruise

Some spectacular coastal scenery greets us on our drive from Kayakoy to Kas. We make our way to Kayakoy this morning by Dolmus to Fethiye. From there we take a public bus to Kas ( approx. 2.5hrs ). The picturesque village of Kas is the starting point for our fantastic boat trip and is the southern most of all the Turkish resorts.

With its cobbled streets and whitewashed walls, Kas has a distinctively Mediterranean feel. The best places in town to swim are from the waterfront restaurants that have their own private water access. For the price of an occasional drink, you get your own deck chair, umbrella and unbeatable views. When the sun goes down there is the chance to explore the handicraft markets where you can find beautiful handmade wares with a distinctly Turkish flavour.

Once we have checked in take a leader led walking tour of the town.

Swim and snorkel in crystal blue waters, feast on fabulous local cuisine (sometimes fish caught from our boat), cruise over an ancient sunken city and explore Lycian tombs. Sleep beneath the stars on mattresses, blankets and pillows. There's plenty of room both on the deck and inside and there's even a western-style toilet and fresh water to shower.

The itinerary we take is not fixed and much depends on the tides and local conditions. But days are usually spent cruising between the little islands and coves that dot this beautiful part of south west Turkey. There are plenty of opportunities to take a dip in the inviting waters of the Aegean. Parents can sit back, relax and watch the world go by, while kids can emulate their favourite sea-faring heroes. Activities will include a mixture of swimming, snorkelling and shore excursions to explore medieval castles.We spend two nights aboard the gulet. For logistical reasons, it is possible that this part of the itinerary may take place later in the trip.

Due to varying weather conditions over the season we have a varying itinerary as follows:
- During the cooler months of March, April, October and November we don't spend a night on the boat and instead stay in a local guesthouse for two nights in Kas.
- During the months of May, June and September our normal itinerary will run with one night on the boat and one night in a local guesthouse in Kas.
- During the months of July and August we spend two nights on the boat, and don't spend a night in the guesthouse.

Our boat trip finishes back at Kas, where we spend the night in a small guest house with our local friends. The guesthouse has a great terrace with beautiful panoramic views over the Mediterranean Sea and is conveniently located 300 meters from the town center.

Accommodation: Overnight boat (1 nt), Hotel (1 nt)

Day
11

Konya

An epic journey by van and bus sees us head away from the coast and move inland to Konya on the plains of the Anatolian steppe. We travel from Kas to Antalya in a small van ( approx 3.5hrs ). After a quick lunch stop at Antalya bus station we board a large coach for the journey to Konya ( approx 5.5hrs ). While it is a long day of travel the diversity of the scenery will keep you entertained as we cross the Toros Mountain range.

Konya is the perfect opportunity to sample a traditional Turkish city where mainstream tourism is yet to arrive. The city is closely linked with the whirling dervish sect of Islam developed by Celaleddin Rumi (or Mevlana) in the 13th century. Rumi is considered one of Islam's greatest Sufi mystics.

Celaleddin developed a philosophy of spiritual union, captured in his poetic writings, the greatest of which - 'Mathnawi' - is still revered today. Mevlana (our master) as he came to be known, believed that music and dance represented a means to induce an ecstatic state of universal love and divine union, and devised the whirling sema ritual. You can visit the original Tekke of Mevlana which holds many dervish religious relics and is also the final resting place for the master himself. There's also an exhibit which explains the lifestyle of the Mevlevis.

Get your bearings on an orientation walk with your leader, on the way to dinner this evening.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)

Day
12-13

Goreme

We leave Konya this morning by bus (approx. 4hrs) heading to Goreme in the Cappadocia Region.

Cappadocia fascinates all travellers. Shaped by wind and water, its otherworldly rock formations have to be seen to be believed. Rock hewn churches, cave homes and incredible underground cities wait to be explored. In times of peace the people in this region lived on the land but in times of war or persecution they took to living underground.

This evening take an orientation walk with your leader through this enchanting little town.

On the morning of day 13 we take a half day walk through one of the nearby valleys; it could be the Valley of Love where the rock formations will astound you or any of the other fantastic scenic routes that our leaders know.

During our stay, we will enjoy a meal with a local family in their own home. This is a unique experience - enjoy the famous hospitality of a Turkish family and admire the spectacular views of surrounding landscapes at the same time.

Cappadocia's main attraction and the customary starting point for an overview of what the region has to offer, the World Heritage-listed Goreme Open Air Museum is a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings, and one of the earliest centres for religious education. The practice of monasticism was developed by St Basil the Great in the 4th century as a reaction to his increased disillusionment with the materialism of the church. St Basil's definition of monastic life, based on the idea that men should live in small, self-sufficient units with an emphasis on poverty, obedience, labour and religious devotion, took root in Cappadocia, later becoming the basis for the Orthodox monastic system. There are at least 10 churches and chapels in the museum area, dating between AD900 and 1200, each one named after a prominent attribute by the local villagers who were exploring these caves long before there was an entrance fee. The best of the churches are the Chapel of St Basil, Apple Church, Sandal Church, Chapel of St Barbara, the nun's convent and the Buckle Church.

This is a world of homes hewn in rock, cave churches and underground cities - it needs to be seen to be believed. Take a hike through local valleys to get up close and personal with the amazing landscape or ask your leader for more information on how to visit one of the underground cities.

Explore these fascinating underground cities, fairytale landscapes and fresco-filled rock-carved churches. Head deep underground into one of the cities that was used during times of invasion and hike through surreal landscapes.

Without a doubt, one of the most amazing memories of this journey could be of a hot air balloon ride over the majestic landscape. This aerial tour of the region is guided by our experienced operators and is an incredibly memorable experience. Note: this is an optional activity and the cost varies depending on what type of flight you choose.

Accommodation: Hotel (2 nts)

Day
14

Ankara

Travel from Goreme to Ankara by public bus ( 6.5 hours ). Stop in Ankara on the way to Istanbul for the night.

Spend time exploring Ankara's many historic sites in this modern city.While you are here why not check out the restaurant and bar scene around Kavakhdere or sidewalk cafes and market stalls in Kizilay.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)

Day
15

Istanbul

This morning we are aiming to take the brand new high speed train from Ankara to Istanbul, however if it is not running yet we will be catching the bus instead. The journey will take about 7.5 hours.

The wonderful city of Istanbul has an incredibly rich history, amazing array of architectural styles, a delectable cuisine, vibrant nightlife, fascinating culture and oodles of style.

We recommend not booking flights any earlier than 7pm to allow for any train arrival delays, time to transfer to the airport and check-in time required at the airport.There is no accommodation included for tonight.

included1

  • Bursa - Dervish Lodge Visit
  • Goreme - Home-cooked dinner
  • Goreme - Valley walk
  • Kayakoy - Ghost Village
  • Kayakoy - Lycian Hike
  • Pamukkale - Hierapolis & Travertines National Park
  • Selcuk - Ephesus Archaeological site
  • Selcuk - Gozleme making demonstration and lunch
  • Selcuk - Sirince visit & fruit wine tasting

optional-extras

  • Istanbul - Aya Sofya - TRY30
  • Istanbul - Basilica Cistern - TRY20
  • Istanbul - Whirling Dervish show - TRY50
  • Istanbul - Topkapi Palace (incl. harem) - TRY45
  • Istanbul - Chora Church - TRY15
  • Istanbul - Archaeology Museum - TRY15
  • Istanbul - Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts - TRY10
  • Istanbul - Turkish Hamam (incl. massage) - TRY100
  • Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Free
  • Istanbul - Bosphorus boat cruise - TRY10
  • Istanbul - Galata Tower - TRY15
  • Istanbul - Great Palace Mosaic Museum - TRY8
  • Bursa - Hamam - TRY50
  • Bursa - City Museum - TRY5
  • Bursa - Muradiye Complex - Free
  • Selcuk - Basilica of St John - TRY15
  • Selcuk - Archaeological Museum - TRY15
  • Selcuk - Ephesus Terrace houses - TRY15
  • Selcuk - Meryemana (Mary's House) - TRY15
  • Pamukkale - Hierapolis Museum - TRY3
  • Pamukkale - Hierapolis Cleopatra pool - TRY35
  • Kayakoy - Oludeniz Blue Lagoon - TRY5
  • Kas - Handicraft market - Free
  • Konya - Karatay Museum - TRY3
  • Konya - Mevlana Museum - TRY5
  • Goreme - Balloon flight (deluxe) - EUR230
  • Goreme - Balloon flight (standard) - EUR165
  • Goreme - Underground city - TRY20
  • Goreme - Open Air Museum - TRY20
  • Goreme - Anatolian folklore night - TRY50

not-included1

International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.

tripgrade1

Standard

For those of you who dream of experiencing a location in depth and comfort but are mindful of budget. Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for an fun, informative experience.

Style Facts

  • Comfortable tourist class hotels
  • Family Homestays
  • Private and local transport
  • More inclusions than Basic tours
  • Fully trained and experienced leaders

Discovery

Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.

This tour is operated by our partners Intrepid.

visa1

A necessary bugbear of adventure travel, visas can appear complicated, costly and confusing to apply for. Imaginative Traveller recommend applying for visas with a professional visa service who can guide you though the process and take care of lodging and collecting your passport with multiple embassies, so we have teamed up with The Visa Machine.

The Visa Machine ‘live and breathe’ visas and have the expertise to provide current and accurate information and arrange the correct visas for your trip, quickly and at a good price.

Please click here for more information

health-and-fitness

All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.

Money1

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping.

travel-insurance

You must have extensive travel insurance as a condition of booking with us, and without evidence of a valid policy you won’t be allowed to start your trip. Please click here for more information

responsible-travel1

Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.

As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment. It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit. We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.

We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.

For further information about responsible travel please click here.

other-important-information

ISTANBUL AIRPORTS:
If booking an airport arrival transfer please inform us at the time of booking which of Istanbul's two airports you will be arriving at. Sabiha Gokcen is on the Asian shore while Ataturk Airport is on the European side and much closer to our hotels.

CHANGES TO ITINERARY:
~ During the months of March, April, October and November we will spend one night in a local hotel (in Kas) instead of spending that night on the boat. This is due to the inclement weather at this time.
~ During the months of May, June and September we will spend one night on the boat, one night hotel
~ During the months of July and August we will spend 2 nights on the boat.
Our boat has shared bathroom facilities and multishare sleeping arrangements. There is limited fresh water for rinsing off salt water.

RAMADAN & THE EID UL-FITR FESTIVAL (BAYRAM) 2015:
In 2015 the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from the 18th June through till the 17th July, and the Eid ul-Fitr festival will be held directly at its conclusion for 3-4 days. Ramadan is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan business hours are shortened, including opening hours at some tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you should expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month is a fantastic opportunity to travel in a Muslim country and witness this unique period, particularly the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Please note that although the Eid ul-Fitr festival can also be a fascinating time to travel it is a period of National holiday. Most government offices and businesses will be closed and some tourist site opening hours may be impacted.

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