Real Food Adventure - 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 : IERZZ
  • Trip length : 13 Days
  • Trip starts in : Istanbul, Turkey
  • Trip ends in : Istanbul, Turkey
  • Maximum group size : 12
  • Ages : Min 15
  • Meals : 12 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 7 dinners
  • Accommodation : Hotel (8 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt), Pension (3 nts)
  • Transport : Bus, Dolmus, Ferry, Plane, Private minibus, Train

daily-itinerary1

Day
1-2

Istanbul

Hosgeldinz! Welcome to Turkey.

Cosmopolitan cities brimming with modern delights, archaeological sites filled with ancient splendour, curious landscapes straight out of a storybook and picture-perfect coastlines frequented by the jet set… this is tantalising Turkey! Visitors won't be able to forget travelling through this exotic land which sits at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, yet displays a fair bit of Middle Eastern flair.

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.

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.

To kick off this Real Food Adventure, you take a ferry to the Asian side of this intercontinental city and enjoy your first you enjoy first cup of Turkish tea while enjoying a view of the Maiden's Tower fortress, situated on an island in the Bosphorus. In the evening, dinner will be in a traditional Turkish 'lokanta'. We highly recommend that you don't miss the 'kabak tatlısı' (a traditional dessert made with pumpkin) - a true specialty of the house. After your meal, you return to Europe and, for those who are keen, indulge in the mysterious pastime of smoking a 'nargile', the traditional Turkish water pipe - accompanied by tea, of course!

After breakfast we head to the celebrated Egyptian Spice Bazaar to meet one of the spice merchants. Learn the secrets to selecting the most fragrant spices and creating some of Turkey’s renowned spice blends. Along the way, also learn how to make the perfect cup of Turkish coffee. Enjoy your freshly-made brew with a 'tulumba', a quintessential Turkish dessert consisting of fried batter covered in syrup. We then continue our walking tour around Sultanahmet and Eminonu, taking in some of the most celebrated sites of the city - Suleymaniye Mosque and the Hippodrome. The area around Eminonu is bustling with a myriad of street food options. If you’re hungry along the way, your tour guide will point out some options that may tickle your tastebuds. Local favourites include kokorec, a snack of stuffed sheep or lamb’s intestines grilled over coals, barbecued corn and roasted kestane (chestnuts), and, of course, Turkish delight!We finish our walking tour at the Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar), where you will have some time to explore the narrow alleyways and plethora of shops for some retail therapy.

This evening we enjoy a street food feast, checking out the food haunts in the back street frequented by the locals. This is the chance to try 'tavuk pilav' (chicken pilaf rice), kuru fasulye' (meat and white bean stew) or 'kunefe' (cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup) and wash them down with 'vefa boza' (a unique local tonic drink) at the famous Vefa Bozazcisi bar.

Accommodation: Golden Horn Hotel or similar (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.

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.

Explore the warren of streets and old Ottoman hans (warehouses). Along the way, visit a traditional teahouse for a tasting.

No trip to Bursa is complete without trying the famed Iskender Kebap. Named after its creator, İskender Efendi, this famous north-western Turkish dish was first seen on the menu in the late 19th century. Since then the family have trademarked the dish and still own the founding restaurant in Bursa. We stop past to see what all the fuss is about!

After dinner, witness what is a 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.

Accommodation: Artic Hotel or similar (1 nt)

Day
4-5

Ayvalik

Not only the birthplace of one of Turkey’s most famous kebabs, Bursa is also surrounded by small farming villages that keep the region well-stocked with berries, fresh fruit and cheeses. Before we leave Bursa, we journey to a nearby village to enjoy a genuine farm-to-table brunch.

Travel to Ayvalik (approx. 5hrs).

Located on the Aegean coast and taking its name from the Turkish word for quince (ayva), the charming village of Ayvalik is set around a harbour and looks out to small Aegean islands - a wonderful place to escape from it all. The cobbled backstreets with their old houses and cafes are perfect for exploring.

In the evening we have the option to enjoy an entrée of stuffed mussels, then try Ayvalik toast (BLT Turkish-style), washed down with an Efes beer.

Enjoy a stroll around Ayvalik’s weekly market, savouring treats including locally produced honey, handmade yufka (a kind of filo pasty used in borek), nuts and spices. This is also a chance to pick up ingredients for your cooking class, which focuses on regional specialties.

Ayvalik is also Turkey’s centre of olive and olive oil production, and has sweeping olive groves surrounding the town as far as the eye can see. Visit a local olive oil producer to learn firsthand the art of creating the perfect olive oil.

If time, why not jump on a boat across the Aegean Sea to visit enchanting Cunda Island. Cunda Island was once inhabited by Greek populations and some Greek orthodox churches still remain. Here you can dine on fresh fish on the quayside caught from the waters surrounding the island. Your dinner may even be accompanied by local musicians playing Greek and Turkish love songs.

Accommodation: Bonjour Pension or similar (2 nts)

Day
6-7

Selcuk

Before departing for Selcuk, visit a traditional Turkish ‘soup kitchen’. Soup (or 'ҫorba') is one of the cornerstone dishes of Turkish cuisine. There are endless varieties and while most commonly served at the start of a meal, they can be used in breakfasts, lunches or dinners!

Travel from Ayvalik to Izmir by bus.

Then take a dolmus (public taxi bus) from from Izmir to Selcuk.

Selcuk is the perfect base for experiencing this fascinating region of Turkey. There are many historical sites nearby, including the dazzling Roman ruins at Ephesus. 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.

On arrival in Selcuk, take an orientation walk around the town.

Later, head out to the nearby village of Sirince to 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. While in Sirince, check out a local restaurant where you will have the chance to try your hand at rolling 'manti', Turkey's answer to ravioli, served with yoghurt!

Take a private mini van to the site of Ephesus to admire 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.

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.

Take an overnight sleeper-class train from Izmir to Konya.

Accommodation: Amazon Pansiyon or similar (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)

Day
8-9

Goreme

Arrive in Konya and make a brief stop here by going to the local market - a chance for the stretching of legs and to get some breakfast. Then it's on a bus to Goreme - our gateway to the fabled Cappadocia.

Cappadocia fascinates all travellers. Shaped by wind and water, its otherworldly rock formations have to be seen to be believed. 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.

Cappadocia, thanks to its rich volcanic soil, also lays claim to fertile orchards and vineyards. Central Anatolian cuisine is characterised by a focus on wheat (pastas are one of the region’s signature products) as well as cooking in clay. One of the regions classic dishes, testi kebabi, consists of pieces of lamb or chicken cooked in a tall elegant clay pot, the top of which is smashed off just prior to eating.

On arrival, head out to Avanos and visit a women’s cooperative for a wholesome village breakfast. After breakfast, try your hand on the potter’s wheel and learn how the clay of the red river has been used in cooking vessels for centuries past. Catch a bus and jump off at Cavusin before walk through the valley back to Goreme for a well-deserved rest.

Tonight we enjoy the renowned Cappadocian hospitality and home-cooking. Our host, Nuray, is famous in the district for her cooking and has one many awards for her regional dishes, including baklava. Under the expertise guidance of Nuray, we will learn how to make some her dishes, but we can’t tell you which ones as yet because it will depend on the season. Nuray will also explain the art of making the perfect brew (tea).

Visit World Heritage-listed Goreme Open Air Museum, 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.

Take a scenic walk through one of the nearby valleys, which is home to the Valley of Love where the rock formations will astound.

Watch a demonstration of the famous testi kebab - a specialty of Goreme whereby meat and vegetables are cooked over coals. When ready the clay pot is cracked open with a hammer and served. You'll need to place your order early if you want to get involved as this is a seriously slow-cooked dish!

You will also have the option to enjoy the local drop as part of a sunset wine tour.

Accommodation: Gultekin Hotel or similar (2 nts)

Day
10-11

Gaziantep

Take a bus to Gaziantep. Although a relatively long drive, we pass through beautiful mountain scenery along the way. Arrive into Gaziantep in the late afternoon.

Gaziantep, in the south eastern reaches of Anatolia, is among the oldest continually settled cities in the world and its cuisine is one of the richest and varied in the country – combining Arabic, Kurdish, Anatolian and Armenian influences. Many consider Gaziantep to be the gastronomic capital of Turkey. It is famous for its desserts (the city is said to produce the world’s best baklava) and produce, including the locally grown pistachios, which are globally coveted.

After the long drive, enjoy dinner at a fourth generation-owned restaurant founded in 1887, famous for both its kebabs and – of course – its baklava!

For early risers, we will make our way to the markets this morning to try a local breakfast delicacy – liver kebabs – prepared by a street vendor who has been making this dish for over 40 years! This is such a popular breakfast treat among locals that if you aren’t there before 7am you’re likely to miss out!

After breakfast, walk back past Elmacı Pazarı, or Apple Bazaar, and watch the stalls come alive, selling all manner of local products. Embark on a guided tour of the markets, learning about the unique ingredients and dishes of south-eastern Turkish cuisine. Along the way discover a shop established in 1963 that reputedly sells Gaziantep’s best cumin, dried pepper, black pepper corns and sumac. See bright green local pistachios (both raw and roasted) and smell the intoxicating aroma of the Gaziantep’s smoked pepper paste. Finish with a visit to (arguably) the city’s best baklava producers for a taste of this heavenly sweet treat.If time, we will also stop into the adjacent Bakırcılar Çarşısı (copper bazaar), to see the copper craftsmen at work.

This afternoon is free for you to explore this intriguing city. Why not visit the highly regarded mosaic museum. You might also like to check out Emine Göğüş Cuisine Museum, dedicated solely to promoting a greater understanding of Turkish cuisine and, in particular, the culinary roots of the country’s south east.

Accommodation: Yesemek Hotel or similar (2 nts)

Day
12-13

Istanbul

Take a short flight from Gaziantep to Istanbul.

On arrival, we’ll stop off for an essential Istanbul experience, ordering a balik ekmek (fish sandwich) for lunch from the boats as they bob on the water.

You then have the option to board one of the nearby ferries and journey up the Bosphorus for a two and a half hour journey to admire the city from the water. Alternatively, take a two-hour ride on a ferry on the Bosphorus from the busy port of Eminonu to Ortakoy. Disembark at Ortakoy. Literally meaning 'the village in the middle', Ortakoy is considered one of Istanbul's coolest, chic-est and most arty neighborhoods, full of galleries, bars, as well as many restaurants. It's a great place to wander around and enjoy kumpir (baked potato) and waffle at one of the many stalls that line the cobble paths, then take a seat on a bench and enjoy your feast overlooking the waters before returning to the city by bus.

Alternatively, the afternoon is free for last minute shopping and sightseeing.

Farewell this Real Food Adventure surrounded by Istanbul locals at a meyhane, a traditional Turkish restaurant serving rake and a selection of traditional Turkish meze. After dinner, enjoy a stroll up Istiklal Caddesi, the city’s thriving main thoroughfare, which is full of shops, cafés and restaurants. If you’re still keen for more, we can check out some of the area’s popular bars.

Day 13 is departure day. There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart at any time.

Accommodation: Golden Horn Hotel or similar (1 nt)

  • included1Ayvalik - Cooking Class
  • Ayvalik - Olive Oil Museum
  • Goreme - Derinkuyu Underground City tour
  • Goreme - Valley walk
  • Goreme - Wine tasting
  • Istanbul - City Tour
  • Istanbul - Spice Market Tour
  • Selcuk - Ephesus Archaeological site

optional-extras

  • Underground Cappadocia - USD134
  • Handicrafts Renaissance in Avanos - USD48
  • Wine & Sunset Tour - EUR65

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

Taste

Tantalise the taste buds on these culinary tours through some of the world’s most delicious cuisine. Learn the secrets of traditional dishes in cookery classes, indulge in the local liquors & sample numerous different produce whilst touring the classic sights of a country.

Our Taste tours have been carefully designed to allow you to discover the most colourful markets, meet talented local chefs, visit famous restaurants and distilleries or vineyards and perhaps expand the waistline a little! Quintessential sites and activities of a destination form an integral part of the itineraries too.

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.

RAMADAN & THE EID UL-FITR FESTIVAL (BAYRAM) 2014:
In 2014 the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from the 27th June through till the 27th 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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