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Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-14 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Turkey with OAT—from the glittering Turquoise Coast to Istanbul’s legendary Bosporus Strait, Turkey is awash in history: home to 10,000 years of culture and prodigious sultans who created glorious empires from volcanic soil. Experience the raw material of legend up close—from the dazzling Blue Mosque of Istanbul to the cave churches of Göreme and the vast Konya Plateau, where Sufi dervishes whirl—and immerse yourself in discovery as we descend into elaborate Cappadocian cave cities and stay overnight with a village family in the Taurus Mountains.

Your Turkish adventure sails on: For four days, a private gulet-style yacht will serve as home base for our small travel group as we visit Byzantine monasteries and Cleopatra’s Baths. Come aboard to visit Turkey with OAT for an intimate taste of this turquoise and alabaster land.

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    Depart the U.S. today on an overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

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    Encounter delicious cuisine in Istanbul

    Today, we arrive in Istanbul, where an OAT representative will meet us at the airport. We transfer to our hotel downtown, and meet our Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took our optional pre-trip extensions to Istanbul, Turkey or The Silk Route. We also have a brief orientation late in the afternoon. This evening, we can discover any of the Turkish restaurants in the area as we enjoy dinner on our own.

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we set off early on a comprehensive exploration of Istanbul; the historic city formerly called Byzantium and later Constantinople.

    Istanbul is a sprawling city of 13 million people, partly in Europe and partly in Asia, with its geography defined by three famous waterways: the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus Strait, and the Golden Horn. The Sea of Marmara lies to the south. The Bosporus Strait divides the European and Asian sections of the city and forms the route from the Marmara to the Black Sea. The Golden Horn divides European Istanbul into the modern Beyoglu section to the north and Old Stamboul (Eski Istanbul) to the south. The famous Galata Bridge spans the Golden Horn to link these two parts of the city.

    This morning, we'll discover some of Istanbul's most famous sites on foot, including Topkapi Palace. Mehmet the Conqueror started building this complex in about 1459 and it served as the royal palace of the Ottoman sultans until 1853. Today, it is one of the world's richest museums, with a staggering collection of jewels, arms, porcelain, sculpture, manuscripts, and more. Next, we stop at the classic Blue Mosque, so-called for the shimmering blue tiles that line its interior. Flanked by symmetrical soaring minarets, it is one of the defining elements of the Istanbul skyline. This classic of Ottoman architectural design was constructed under the patronage of Sultan Ahmet I, from 1609-1616.

    Explore the Bazaar while touring Istanbul

    We'll also stroll the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Here, you'll have plenty of time to browse in some of its 3,600 shops and wander along its 58 streets. Goods are grouped by category, so if you have a special gift in mind, be sure to ask your Trip Leader for directions so that you can find it easily. You'll also have time here to enjoy lunch at a place of your choosing. Afterward, we explore the Spice Market, the second-largest market in the city, which has 88 rooms. A stroll through this market is a thrill to the senses, with many colors and scents to experience.

    This afternoon, we take to the water for our Bosporus cruise. You can look north to the “European” district of Galata, or east to the Asiatic side of the Bosporus and the Maiden’s Tower. In ancient times, the Golden Horn could be closed off to warships with a giant chain stretching from here to Seraglio Point. Following our cruise, we enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.

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    Explore Istanbul on a guided walking tour

    After breakfast at our hotel, our day begins with an included tour of Istanbul's Old City, which is full of stunning palaces, mosques, and other buildings bearing the mark of its Ottoman history.

    We then visit Hagia Sophia, the "Church of Divine Wisdom." Completed under the Emperor Justinian in AD 537, the magnificent dome of the Hagia Sophia was once the pre-eminent architectural wonder of the Byzantine world. The massive building was a Christian church for almost a thousand years, until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror claimed it for Islam. The building served as a mosque until 1934, when the revolutionary leader and founder of the Republic, Kemal Atatürk, proclaimed it as a museum. This impressive structure has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    We have lunch on our own, and then board the Old Tram for a ride down Istiklal Street to the heart of Art Nouveau Istanbul. Istanbul has many Art Nouveau buildings; several were designed by the Italian architect Raimondo Tommasso d'Aronco, the chief palace architect for one of the last Ottoman sultans, Abudulhamid II, who ruled from 1876 to 1909. D'Aronco drew heavily Ottoman and Islamic architecture and art, reinterpreting them through the lens of the then-popular European Art Nouveau movement and its organic, floral forms. The results can be seen in the many beautiful palaces and grand private homes he designed for Istanbul's government and its elite citizens.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    We rise early this morning for breakfast, and then transfer from our hotel to the airport to fly 450 miles east and south to the city of Kayseri, in the region of Cappadocia—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The predominant earth surface of Cappadocia is a white volcanic rock called tufa. Centuries of rain and wind have shaped the soft tufa into rhythmic flow patterns and tall cones and columns.

    Although the dust from the tufa looks like sand, the area is not like a desert, but is actually highly fertile, and people have inhabited the region since ancient times. Over many generations local inhabitants used hand tools to hollow out thousands of the freestanding tufa formations. These cave-like rooms, carved from the living rock, once sheltered Turkey’s early Christians. A few are still in use today as comfortable houses, complete with doors and glass windows. They stay quite cool in the hot summer weather. Others are barns, stable, or dovecotes. It is said that the area has over 600 Christian churches carved into the rocks, some dating to the third century AD.

    Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cappadocia

    We enjoy lunch on our own upon landing in Cappadocia, then we’ll drive to the famous Goreme “open-air museum,” a group of ancient churches carved from the rock. Most of these chapels have colorful frescoes inside, which date from the tenth to the 13th centuries. Afterward, we'll have opportunities for hiking through the fascinating landscapes of Cappadocia to local points of interest such as Cavusin and Urgup.

    Later this afternoon, we have the unique opportunity to get acquainted with the 9,000 year-old pottery-making tradition of Anatolia, before continuing to our hotel, where we dine this evening.

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    After breakfast this morning, we travel to the small town of Hacibektas to experience A Day in the Life of a Cappadocian village. We’ll begin our cultural discoveries with a visit to a local school (when in session)—supported by Grand Circle Foundation, a part of the World Classroom initiative. We’ll meet the school principal for a tour of the grounds of the school, join the students in their classrooms, and have time for a discussion with the school’s dedicated teachers.

    Explore the Bazaar while touring Istanbul

    Then we’ll take a walking tour of Hacibektas—including the local market area—before departing for nearby Ilicek village, where we enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family, a special cultural experience that allows us to savor a taste of regional cuisine while we get a personal introduction to daily life in this unique part of Turkey. After lunch, we’ll meet with the head of Ilicek village for an illuminating discussion, then return to our hotel. We enjoy dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

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    This morning, you can choose to rise very early for an optional hot-air balloon flight over Cappadocia, a chance to view its striking landscapes from above by the rosy light of dawn. We regroup for breakfast at our hotel, then depart to visit the village of Üchisar and stroll through a few of the small village lanes. From here, we begin an elective hike of about two hours, heading downhill on a small trail, among terraces, and along a tiny streambed. In this small rock canyon, away from the roads and tour buses, we penetrate an ancient world, serene and startlingly beautiful.

    Explore Turkey's ancient cave dwellings

    A number of people here still dwell in cave-homes next to their vineyards and apricot orchards. We often see tomatoes, apricots, or peppers spread on the roofs of village homes to dry. Burbling irrigation channels and carefully cultivated fields are tucked between narrow canyon walls. Tufa rock cones up to 250 feet tall loom over us. It’s a fascinating rural tableau: A local man rides his donkey among the stone houses, or a woman makes yufka, the traditional large flat bread of the region.

    Later this morning, we’ll get another view of local life as we attend a craft demonstration by local artisans at a rug-weaving cooperative. Here you can learn about all aspects of this traditional Turkish art and craft, from silkworm cultivation to spinning, dyeing, and the traditional patterns and weaving techniques.

    After lunch, we visit a remarkable underground city. During the Hittite era, as successive armies swept across Asia Minor, underground cities were built as a uniquely defensible community, approximately eight stories underground. We can explore some of the hundreds of rooms, wandering the many narrow, sloping passageways between kitchens with enameled food storage areas, water cisterns, stables, and living spaces—all well-ventilated by air shafts. At one time, several thousand people lived here. Following our underground city discovery, we'll see more of this scenic area of Cappadocia before we return to our hotel for dinner.

    This evening, you can join our optional Whirling Dervishes tour to witness the "Ritual of Sema." The Semazens, also called “whirling dervishes,” believe that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. From the smallest cell to the planets and the farthest stars, everything takes part in this revolving. Thus, the ones who whirl participate consciously in the shared revolution of all existence. As they whirl, their motions represent a spiritual journey. We’ll observe this mystical ritual, then cap our experience with a glass of sweet Turkish sherbet.

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    Encounter local culture and traditions during a tour of Turkey

    This morning following breakfast, we depart our hotel for our overland journey to Lake Beysehir. The first leg takes us south to the Konya Plain, crossing open farmland to reach the city of Konya.

    Upon our arrival in Konya, we'll visit the Mevlana Museum to learn about the mystical Sufi order of the Mevlevi. This sect, known as the "Whirling Dervishes" for their ecstatic ritual dance, was founded by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, a 13th-century lyrical poet who preached of tolerance, forgiveness, and enlightenment.

    While here, we see the marble tombs of several Dervish abbots, covered with rich and colorful brocades. Another thing we may notice is that this is one cultural attraction where visiting Turks far outnumber visitors from abroad. The reverent manner and keen interest shown by visitors from all parts of Turkey illustrate that the Mevlevi Dervish mystics are held in high regard by many outside the sect itself.

    After lunch on our own in Konya, we travel south across rolling hills, flowering fields, and grasslands until we reach one of several small villages on the shores of Lake Beysehir—Akburun, Budak, or Kusluca. The robust local people of these villages make their living as farmers and herders, and their lands abound with fruit trees and fertile gardens. This evening, we'll get an up-close look at life here as we share a traditional, home-cooked meal with a local family when they welcome us as guests into their wood-and-stone home, enjoying both the hearty, flavorful food of the region and the warmth and good will of our hosts.

    Tonight, we sleep as our hosts do, in shared rooms on futon-like floor mats, snuggled under quilts. While these clean but rustic accommodations are much simpler than those we'll enjoy elsewhere on this trip, in return for this lack of amenities, we'll be repaid with a truly unique experience—the chance to observe a fascinating way of life that may soon disappear as Turkey becomes increasingly modern and aligned with the West.

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    Rise, shine, and see how Turkish villagers greet the day. We may witness the village women milking their cows before they go out in flocks into the hills for a day of grazing. Others may be doing traditional needlework and embroidery, preparing meals, or making molasses or bulgur. Men may be harvesting crops, plowing the fields, or sowing wheat, depending on the season.

    Explore villages dotting the Turkish countryside

    We'll have breakfast at our homestay this morning, and over a cup of Turkish tea, we may continue the spirited conversation begun over dinner the night before. Then we take a village stroll and visit a local mosque, where we enjoy a conversation with its imam (spiritual leader).

    Leaving the village, we head south toward the Mediterranean and across the Taurus Mountains, stopping along the way for an included lunch. This afternoon, we reach Antalya, set on a wide bay with mountain views all around. Once an old fishing village, it is now a popular resort that combines unspoiled beaches with a restored harbor, cobblestone streets, and an architecturally interesting Old City that features a mixture of styles from its more than 2,000-year history.

    Upon reaching Antalya, we'll take a short orientation tour of the Old City, then enjoy the afternoon to explore on our own. Tonight, we have dinner together at our hotel.

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    Explore ancient cities during a tour of Turkey

    In the morning, we drive to the Antalya Muzesi, an archaeological museum that houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the Stone Age to the present in several exhibition halls and an open-air gallery.

    After lunch on your own, you can opt to stroll around the Old Town, or join us to experience the Magic of the Mediterranean on an optional excursion to Perge and Aspendos. Perge is an ancient city where St. Paul is said to have preached his first sermon in AD 46. Nearby, we visit Aspendos, a Roman city with an impressive theater and aqueduct. The Roman theater in particular is considered to be one of the best preserved—and perhaps the finest—in the world. Built in the second century AD, this 15,000-seat theater is still in use for large concerts and events today.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    This morning we depart Antalya for a drive to see the ancient Roman ruins of Myra. There, we walk in the large theater, still very much intact with marble seats and mask friezes scattered around the elaborately decorated stage area. The site of Myra also features Lycian house-tombs carved into the cliffs, which are a source of amazement on their own. Built in the fourth century BC, they contain some of the earliest examples of Lycian script and funerary bas-reliefs.

    Our next stop is a visit to the Church of St. Nicholas in Demre. In the fourth century AD, St. Nicholas was the bishop of this area and was known as a protector of children, showering them with gifts at every opportunity. He was later declared a saint, and is now known as the model for Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Christians from as far away as Italy and Russia come here to attend a special annual festival Mass.

    We enjoy lunch in Demre before continuing to Fethiye through an area known as Kekova, a particularly beautiful region with few roads. In its small fishing villages, we may see fishermen mending their nets, women curing olives or drying figs, and village children playing as we pass through.

    Explore Turkey aboard a traditional gulet style yacht

    At the harbor of Fethiye, we board our traditional Turkish gulet-style yacht, our home for the next four nights. Our gulet is a teak and oak beauty with both sails and a motor, an outdoor eating area, and comfortable cushions for relaxing on the observation decks, fore and aft. After we meet our expert captain and his friendly crew, we'll take a short tour of the gulet, then enjoy our first dinner onboard. We'll set off this evening to a nearby cove, where we'll spend a tranquil, restful night.

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    This morning we begin our cruise along the craggy Mediterranean coast. We make a landing on a small beach in the Bay of Gemiler, and drive to a spot near Kayakoy, a Greek “ghost town.”

    From here, we begin our hike to Kayakoy, on a trail that follows the side of a hill full of carob trees, thyme, and bay, with incredible vistas of inlets and lacy coastline. Anatolian Greeks once inhabited this city of about 600 houses. During the 1920s, the entire population was relocated to Greece in the aftermath of the Turkish War of Independence. It is an eerie and moving place, a tragic reminder of how politics can affect human lives.

    Explore Turkey's coastline on a  hike to Kayakoy

    Leaving Kayakoy, we hike down a winding path to a cove at Soguk Su, where our gulet will be waiting for us. We enjoy lunch onboard, and in the afternoon we cruise to nearby Gemiler Island, where we visit a sixth-century Byzantine monastery and ancient churches and refectories. If you like, you can hike to the top of the island for a breathtaking view of the azure channel below. We return to our gulet in the afternoon, and you may have time for a brief swim before dinner.

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    Discover the  Greco Roman site called Lydea

    In the morning, we cruise to Aga Limani, or "Friendship Cove." There's time for a swim this morning before we begin today's hike through forests, meadows, and spectacular coastal scenery to a little-known Greco-Roman site called Lydea. We walk a pine-shaded trail amid the smells of wild herbs, and the music of goat bells, with spectacular vistas of the Gocek Lagoon and Bay of Fethiye.

    As we hike, our gulet sails around to meet us in a scenic cove which shelters the sunken baths of Cleopatra, built for her by Mark Antony. Legend says that Antony gave Cleopatra the entire Turquoise Coast as a wedding gift—a present fit for a queen. This is another excellent place to swim, if you feel so inclined.

    After lunch onboard, you'll have the afternoon free. Dinner is onboard the ship tonight.

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    We cruise to Ekincik Cove this morning, where a small river boat meets us and takes us on a side trip up the Dalyan River. A shimmering blue band, the Dalyan snakes amid bamboo and cattails, glimmering like the nearby Mediterranean Sea. Named for dalyans, the fishing weirs that have supported locals for centuries, the river reveals abundant birdlife. As we cruise this lovely waterway, we may well see some of the many species of birds that live here, from the shy ibis to the fearless gull.

    See Lycian ruins during a tour of Turkey

    When our small riverboat brings us to the Dalyan's estuary, we may also discover Loggerhead Sea Turtles, depending on the season, who have nested here since the age of the dinosaurs. Here, we may be transported by the tranquil sands, which are bordered by the Dalyan on one side and the Mediterranean on the other.

    Then, we set out to visit the ancient Lycian site of Caunus, a beautiful ancient site where we clamber around the temples, baths, nympheum, and an ancient theater. We have striking views along the way of Lycian temple tombs hugging a rock face.

    We return to our gulet for lunch, then enjoy the afternoon is at leisure, including another chance to swim in the beautiful waters of the Turquoise Coast. Tonight, we enjoy dinner onboard.

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    Explore Marmaris

    In the morning, we have our last breakfast onboard and make a short cruise to the harbor at Marmaris, where we bid a fond farewell to our captain and crew. We have some free time in Marmaris, and then drive north, parallel to the Aegean Coast but well inland, to Kusadasi.

    We stop on the way for lunch, and to view the ruins of the sixth-century Basilica of St. John, said to stand over the burial site of the Apostle of Jesus, who is thought to have authored the Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel of the Bible while in Ephesus.

    Then we continue on to our hotel in Kusadasi, a popular seaside town, where we enjoy dinner together tonight.

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    Disocver the Ruins at Ephesus while touring Turkey

    After breakfast, we drive for less than an hour to the world-famous ancient Greco-Roman site of Ephesus, one of the largest and best-preserved ancient cities in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    You can walk on the remarkably preserved wide marble streets, flanked by columns and temples. We see the Library of Celsus, a tiered façade decorated with exquisite statues. The amphitheater we’ll see is the same one where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. And there are also remarkably preserved baths. Ephesus was also the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. No longer standing, it was said to be one of the most colossal temples ever built.

    After lunch on your own, we'll visit the nearby Ephesus Museum. This evening, share all you’ve discovered with your traveling companions at our Farewell Dinner.

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    We'll transfer to the Izmir airport early this morning, where we catch our flight to the U.S.

    Travelers continuing on the Nemrut & the Bible Lands, Turkey trip extension will fly from Izmir to Mardin.

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    Depart the U.S. today on an overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

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    Encounter delicious cuisine in Istanbul

    Today, we arrive in Istanbul, where an OAT representative will meet us at the airport. We transfer to our hotel downtown, and meet our Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took our optional pre-trip extensions to Istanbul, Turkey or The Silk Route. We also have a brief orientation late in the afternoon. This evening, we can discover any of the Turkish restaurants in the area as we enjoy dinner on our own.

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we set off early on a comprehensive exploration of Istanbul; the historic city formerly called Byzantium and later Constantinople.

    Istanbul is a sprawling city of 13 million people, partly in Europe and partly in Asia, with its geography defined by three famous waterways: the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus Strait, and the Golden Horn. The Sea of Marmara lies to the south. The Bosporus Strait divides the European and Asian sections of the city and forms the route from the Marmara to the Black Sea. The Golden Horn divides European Istanbul into the modern Beyoglu section to the north and Old Stamboul (Eski Istanbul) to the south. The famous Galata Bridge spans the Golden Horn to link these two parts of the city.

    This morning, we'll discover some of Istanbul's most famous sites on foot, including Topkapi Palace. Mehmet the Conqueror started building this complex in about 1459 and it served as the royal palace of the Ottoman sultans until 1853. Today, it is one of the world's richest museums, with a staggering collection of jewels, arms, porcelain, sculpture, manuscripts, and more. Next, we stop at the classic Blue Mosque, so-called for the shimmering blue tiles that line its interior. Flanked by symmetrical soaring minarets, it is one of the defining elements of the Istanbul skyline. This classic of Ottoman architectural design was constructed under the patronage of Sultan Ahmet I, from 1609-1616.

    Explore the Bazaar while touring Istanbul

    We will also stroll the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Here, you'll have plenty of time to browse in some of its 3,600 shops and wander along its 58 streets. Goods are grouped by category, so if you have a special gift in mind, be sure to ask your Trip Leader for directions so that you can find it easily. You'll also have time here to enjoy lunch at a place of your choosing. Afterward, we explore the Spice Market, the second-largest market in the city, which has 88 rooms. A stroll through this market is a thrill to the senses, with many colors and scents to experience.

    This afternoon, we take to the water for our Bosporus cruise. You can look north to the “European” district of Galata, or east to the Asiatic side of the Bosporus and the Maiden’s Tower. In ancient times, the Golden Horn could be closed off to warships with a giant chain stretching from here to Seraglio Point. Following our cruise, we enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.

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    Explore Istanbul on a guided walking tour

    After breakfast at our hotel, our day begins with an included tour of Istanbul's Old City, which is full of stunning palaces, mosques, and other buildings bearing the mark of its Ottoman history.

    We then visit Hagia Sophia, the "Church of Divine Wisdom." Completed under the Emperor Justinian in AD 537, the magnificent dome of the Hagia Sophia was once the pre-eminent architectural wonder of the Byzantine world. The massive building was a Christian church for almost a thousand years, until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror claimed it for Islam. The building served as a mosque until 1934, when the revolutionary leader and founder of the Republic, Kemal Atatürk, proclaimed it as a museum. This impressive structure has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    We have lunch on our own, and then board the Old Tram for a ride down Istiklal Street to the heart of Art Nouveau Istanbul. Istanbul has many Art Nouveau buildings; several were designed by the Italian architect Raimondo Tommasso d'Aronco, the chief palace architect for one of the last Ottoman sultans, Abudulhamid II, who ruled from 1876 to 1909. D'Aronco drew heavily Ottoman and Islamic architecture and art, reinterpreting them through the lens of the then-popular European Art Nouveau movement and its organic, floral forms. The results can be seen in the many beautiful palaces and grand private homes he designed for Istanbul's government and its elite citizens.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    Encounter local traditions and culture at a home hosted meal

    After breakfast at our hotel today, we depart for our flight to Izmir, Turkey’s second-largest port city (after Istanbul), which sits on the shores of the Aegean Sea.

    From here, we travel overland to one of four nearby villages—Kiriklar, Dogancilar, Belenbasi, or Karacaagac—where we’ll enjoy A Day in the Life of a Turkish village. We'll begin with a visit to a local school (when in session)—supported by Grand Circle Foundation, a part of the World Classroom initiative. There, we’ll be greeted warmly by the Turkish schoolchildren, and have the chance to interact with them one on one. Afterward, we'll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch with a village family, savoring the taste of home-cooked food, and the chance to learn about the daily lives of our hosts. Then, we'll take a stroll through the village center. As we walk, our Trip Leader will tell us a little more about village life in Turkey.

    We then depart for our hotel in Kusadasi, a popular seaside town with a large gulet harbor, where we enjoy dinner together this evening.

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    Disocver the Ruins at Ephesus while touring Turkey

    After breakfast, we travel for less than an hour to the world-famous ancient Greco-Roman site of Ephesus, one of the largest and best-preserved ancient cities in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    You can walk on the remarkably preserved wide marble streets, flanked by columns and temples. We see the Library of Celsus, a tiered façade decorated with exquisite statues. The amphitheater we’ll see is the same one where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. And there are also remarkably preserved baths. Ephesus was also the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. No longer standing, it was said to be one of the most colossal temples ever built.

    We'll continue our exploration with a visit to the nearby Ephesus Museum.

    Then, after enjoying lunch on our own in the area, we view the ruins of the sixth-century Basilica of St. John, said to stand over the burial site of the Apostle of Jesus, who is thought to have authored the Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel of the Bible while in Ephesus.

    We then return to our hotel, where we’ll have dinner this evening.

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    Explore Turkey aboard a traditional gulet style yacht

    Today we drive south, parallel to the Aegean Coast but well inland, to Marmaris, a former fishing village turned bustling resort town on the “Turkish Riviera,” in Turkey’s southwestern Mugla Province.

    We stop en route to attend a craft demonstration by local artisans at a rug-weaving cooperative. Here you can learn about all aspects of this traditional Turkish art and craft, from silkworm cultivation, to spinning, dyeing, and the traditional patterns and weaving techniques. We enjoy lunch at the cooperative and then continue on to Marmaris.

    When we arrive in Marmaris, we’ll take a short walking tour of the city, admiring its beautiful beaches as we stroll. We then board our traditional Turkish gulet-style yacht, our home for the next four nights. Our gulet is a teak and oak beauty with both sails and a motor, an outdoor eating area, and comfortable cushions for relaxing on the observation decks, fore and aft. After we meet our expert captain and his friendly crew, we'll take a short tour of the gulet, then enjoy our first dinner on board.

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    We cruise to Ekincik Cove this morning, where a small river boat meets us and takes us on a side trip up the Dalyan River. A shimmering blue band, the Dalyan snakes amid bamboo and cattails, glimmering like the nearby Mediterranean Sea. Named for dalyans, the fishing weirs that have supported locals for centuries, the river reveals abundant birdlife. As we cruise this lovely waterway, we may well see some of the many species of birds that live here, from the shy ibis to the fearless gull.

    See many bird species during a Dalyan River boat ride

    When our small riverboat brings us to the Dalyan's estuary, we may also discover Loggerhead Sea Turtles, depending on the season, who have nested here since the age of the dinosaurs. Here, we may be transported by the tranquil sands, which are bordered by the Dalyan on one side and the Mediterranean on the other.

    Then, we set out to visit the ancient Lycian site of Caunus, a beautiful ancient site where we clamber around the temples, baths, nympheum, and an ancient theater. We have striking views along the way of Lycian temple tombs hugging a rock face.

    We return to our gulet for lunch, then enjoy the afternoon is at leisure, including another chance to swim in the beautiful waters of the Turquoise Coast. Tonight, we enjoy dinner onboard.

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    Discover the  Greco Roman site called Lydea

    In the morning, we cruise to Aga Limani, or "Friendship Cove." There's time for a swim this morning before we begin today's hike through forests, meadows, and spectacular coastal scenery to a little-known Greco-Roman site called Lydea. We walk a pine-shaded trail amid the smells of wild herbs, and the music of goat bells, with spectacular vistas of the Gocek Lagoon and Bay of Fethiye.

    As we hike, our gulet sails around to meet us in a scenic cove which shelters the sunken baths of Cleopatra, built for her by Mark Antony. Legend says that Antony gave Cleopatra the entire Turquoise Coast as a wedding gift—a present fit for a queen. This is another excellent place to swim, if you feel so inclined.

    After lunch onboard, you'll have the afternoon free. Dinner is onboard the ship tonight.

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    This morning we cruise along the craggy Mediterranean coast. We make a landing on a small beach in the Bay of Gemiler, and drive to a spot near Kayakoy, a Greek “ghost town.”

    From here, we begin our hike to Kayakoy, on a rarely used trail that follows the side of a hill full of carob trees, thyme, and bay, with incredible vistas of inlets and lacy coastline. Anatolian Greeks once inhabited this city of about 600 houses. During the 1920s, the entire population was relocated to Greece in the aftermath of the Turkish War of Independence. It is an eerie and moving place, a tragic reminder of how politics can affect human lives.

    Explore Turkey's coastline on a  hike to Kayakoy

    Leaving Kayakoy, we hike down a winding path to a cove at Soguk Su, where our gulet will be waiting for us. We enjoy lunch on board, and in the afternoon we cruise to nearby Gemiler Island, where we visit a sixth-century Byzantine monastery and ancient churches and refectories. If you like, you can hike to the top of the island for a breathtaking view of the azure channel below. We return to our gulet in the afternoon, and you may have time for a brief swim before dinner.

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    • Meals included:
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    Explore the ancient Roman ruins of Myra

    After a final breakfast onboard our gulet, we disembark at the port of Fethiye and travel overland to the resort town of Antalya, making a few fascinating stops en route.

    First, we explore the ancient Roman ruins of Myra. There, we walk in the large theater, still very much intact with marble seats and mask friezes scattered around the elaborately decorated stage area. The site of Myra also features Lycian house-tombs carved into the cliffs, which are a source of amazement on their own. Built in the fourth century BC, they contain some of the earliest examples of Lycian script and funerary bas-reliefs.

    Our next stop is a visit to the Church of St. Nicholas in Demre. In the fourth century AD, St. Nicholas was the bishop of this area and was known as a protector of children, showering them with gifts at every opportunity. He was later declared a saint, and today is known as the model for Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Christians from as far away as Italy and Russia come here to attend a special annual festival Mass.

    We enjoy lunch in Demre before we travel to Antalya, a city set on a wide bay with mountain views all around. Once an old fishing village, it is now a popular resort that combines unspoiled beaches with a restored harbor, cobblestone streets, and an architecturally interesting Old City that features a mixture of styles from its more than 2,000-year history.

    Upon reaching Antalya, we'll take a short orientation tour of the Old City, then enjoy the afternoon to explore on our own. Tonight, we have dinner together at our hotel.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore ancient cities during a tour of Turkey

    In the morning, we drive to the Antalya Muzesi, an archaeological museum that houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the Stone Age to the present in several exhibition halls and an open-air gallery.

    After lunch on your own, you can opt to stroll around the Old Town, or join us to experience the Magic of the Mediterranean on an optional excursion to Perge and Aspendos. Perge is an ancient city where St. Paul preached his first sermon in AD 46. Nearby, we visit Aspendos, a Roman city with an impressive theater and aqueduct. The Roman theater in particular is considered to be one of the best preserved—and perhaps the finest—in the world. Built in the second century AD, this 15,000-seat theater is still in use for large concerts and events today.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    This morning following breakfast, we depart our hotel and travel to Lake Beysehir, as well as journeying to the Taurus Mountains and pausing for an included lunch en route.

    After lunch, we continue north into a landscape of rolling hills, flowering fields, and grasslands until we reach a small village. The robust local people of this village make their living as farmers and herders, and their lands abound with fruit trees and fertile gardens. Then we enjoy a village stroll and visit a local mosque, where we enjoy a conversation with its imam (spiritual leader).

    Encounter local culture and traditions during a tour of Turkey

    This evening, we'll get an up-close look at life here as we share a traditional, home-cooked meal with a local family when they welcome us as guests into their wood-and-stone home, enjoying both the hearty, flavorful food of the region and the warmth and goodwill of our hosts.

    Tonight, we sleep as our hosts do, in shared rooms on futon-like floor mats, snuggled under quilts. While these clean but rustic accommodations are much simpler than those we'll enjoy elsewhere on this trip, in return for this lack of amenities, we'll be repaid with a truly unique experience—the chance to observe a fascinating way of life that may soon disappear as Turkey becomes increasingly modern and aligned with the West.

    Please note: Depending on departure dates, travelers will enjoy the same village homestay experience in either the Antalya or Konya region.

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    Rise, shine, and see how Turkish villagers greet the day. We may witness the village women milking their cows before the herds go out into the hills for a day of grazing. Others may be doing traditional needlework and embroidery, preparing meals, or making molasses or bulgur. Men may be harvesting crops, plowing the fields, or sowing wheat, depending on the season.

    We'll have breakfast at our homestay this morning; over Turkish tea, we may continue the spirited conversation begun over dinner the night before. Then we enjoy a village stroll.

    Leaving the village, we head north to Cappadocia via the Konya Plain, crossing open farmland to reach the city of Konya. Here, we enjoy an included lunch, followed by a visit to the Mevlana Museum to learn about the mystical Sufi order of the Mevlevi. This sect, known as the "Whirling Dervishes" for their ecstatic ritual dance, was founded by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, a 13th-century lyrical poet who preached of tolerance, forgiveness, and enlightenment.

    While here, we see the marble tombs of several Dervish abbots, covered with rich and colorful brocades. Another thing we may notice is that this is one cultural attraction where visiting Turks far outnumber visitors from abroad. The reverent manner and keen interest shown by visitors from all parts of Turkey illustrate that the Mevlevi Dervish mystics are held in high regard by many outside the sect itself.

    We’ll then continue our drive to Cappadocia, checking into our hotel in the afternoon.

    Following dinner in our hotel, you can join our optional Whirling Dervishes tour to witness the "Ritual of Sema." The Semazens, also called "Whirling Dervishes," believe that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. From the smallest cell to the planets and the farthest stars, everything takes part in this revolving. Thus, the ones who whirl participate consciously in the shared revolution of all existence. As they whirl, their motions represent a spiritual journey. We’ll observe this mystical ritual, then cap our experience with a glass of sweet Turkish sherbet.

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    Today, we explore some of the sights of Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its fantastical landscapes and “fairy chimneys” that to some feel reminiscent of those in the American Southwest.

    The predominant earth surface of Cappadocia is a white volcanic rock called tufa. Centuries of rain and wind have shaped the soft tufa into rhythmic flow patterns and tall cones and columns. Although the dust from tufa looks like sand, the area is not like a desert, but is actually highly fertile, and people have inhabited the region since ancient times. Over many generations, local inhabitants used hand tools to hollow out thousands of the free-standing tufa formations. These cave-like rooms, carved from the living rock, once sheltered Turkey’s early Christians. A few are still in use today as comfortable houses, complete with doors and glass windows. They stay quite cool in the hot summer weather. Others are barns, stables, or dovecotes. It is said that the area has over 600 Christian churches carved into the rock, some dating to the third century AD.

    This morning, we drive to the famous Goreme “open-air museum,” a group of ancient churches carved from the rock. Most of these chapels have colorful frescoes inside. Later, you’ll have time to enjoy lunch on your own. Then we set out to view more of the area’s fairy chimneys, most of them located in the Pasabag valley, with plenty of stops for photos.

    We return to our hotel in the evening. Tonight, we have dinner at a local restaurant.

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    This morning, you can choose to rise very early for an optional hot-air balloon flight over Cappadocia. We regroup for breakfast at our hotel, then depart to visit the village of Üchisar and stroll through a few of the small village lanes. From here, we begin an elective hike of about two hours, heading downhill on a small trail, among terraces and along a tiny streambed. In this small rock canyon, away from the roads and tour buses, we penetrate an ancient world, serene and startlingly beautiful.

    A number of people here still dwell in cave-homes next to their vineyards and apricot orchards. We often see tomatoes, apricots, or peppers spread on the roofs of village homes to dry. Burbling irrigation channels and carefully cultivated fields are tucked between narrow canyon walls. Tufa rock cones up to 250 feet tall loom over us. It’s a fascinating rural tableau: A local man rides his donkey among the stone houses, or a woman makes yufka, the traditional large flatbread of the region.

    Then, we visit a remarkable underground city. During the Hittite era, as successive armies swept across Asia Minor, underground cities were built as a uniquely defensible community, approximately eight stories underground. We can explore some of the hundreds of rooms, wandering the many narrow, sloping passageways between kitchens with enameled food storage areas, water cisterns, stables, and living spaces—all well ventilated by air shafts. At one time, several thousand people lived here.

    Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cappadocia

    After a break for lunch on your own, we’ll have the unique opportunity to get acquainted with the 9,000-year-old pottery-making tradition of Anatolia. This afternoon enjoy another chance for a scenic hike in this area of Cappadocia if you wish. We gather together for a Farewell Dinner at our hotel this evening.

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    We’ll transfer to the Kayseri airport early this morning, where we catch our flight to the U.S. via Istanbul.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

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Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Overall Trip Excellence
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94%
Ship Excellence
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 5 locations in 16 days with one 1-night stay and 4 nights aboard our private gulet
  • Some early mornings with 1 pre-dawn flight on certain departures

Physical Requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk approximately 3 miles unassisted and be comfortable participating in 6-8 hours of physical activities each day
  • Agility and balance are required for boarding, disembarking, and walking on deck during our gulet cruise

Climate

  • Temperatures range from 25–90°F
  • Prepare for temperatures from 80-90°F on the Turquoise Coast in the summer months, with the hottest months being June-September

Terrain

  • Several hikes in the Cappadocia region are at steep inclines, with some 1-hour uphill hikes on loose gravel 
  • You will have the opportunity to participate in daily hikes of 1-3 hours each during our gulet cruise

Transportation

  • Travel by minibus, gulet-style yacht, and small boat

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Private village home hosting for 1 night, sleeping in a shared room on futon-style floor mats with quilts and clean linens, with shared bathroom and no showers
  • 4 nights on a gulet-style yacht that has small cabins with private bath, limited public and luggage space, no air-conditioning, and no overnight electric power in cabins
  • All other accommodations are hotel-standard, with a variety of amenities and personal services, as well as private baths

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Turkey: Visa required.
  • Uzbekistan (optional extension): Visa required.

Beginning April 10, 2014, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will no longer provide visas on arrival to foreign travelers. All foreigners must obtain their Turkish visas from Turkish missions abroad or from the e-visa application system, depending on eligibility. 

Please note: The e-visa system is only usable for travelers entering Turkey for tourism or commerce. For any other purpose of travel, the applicant must obtain a Turkish visa in advance from a Turkish diplomatic or consular post. 

Information regarding Turkish e-visas and the application process can be found at: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ 

General information on Turkish visas can be found at: 
http://www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Gulet-style yacht

    We cruise aboard a privately chartered, traditional Turkish gulet-style yacht. It is about 82 feet long with a 21-foot beam, and is constructed mostly from fine teak and oak. Our yacht has both sails and a motor, and features indoor and outdoor dining verandas and cushions for relaxing on the observation decks, located both fore and aft. We’ll enjoy most meals outdoors on deck. Our gulet-style yacht has small cabins with private bath, limited public space, no air-conditioning, and no overnight electric power in cabins. We also carry a small boat with us equipped with an outboard motor for shore excursions along the coast.

Main Trip

  • Armada Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey

    The Armada Hotel is located in the historic heart of Old Istanbul, situated on the site of the quarters that Grand Admiral Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha built for his crew in the 16th century. Decorated in the Ottoman style, this 108-room structure blends features of the past and present. A bar and terrace offer views of the Old City and the Marmara Sea. Its rooms are small and simple.

  • Ahbap Konagi

    Cappadocia, Turkey

    In the Üchisar village of Cappadocia, we may stay at the Ahbap Konagi. There are only 17 small rooms here, all with simple amenities. Our lodgings are carved into a rocky hillside, so you’ll enjoy a truly authentic experience.

  • Kaya Hotel

    Cappadocia, Turkey

    Conveniently located in Uchisar, the Kaya Hotel features three restaurants and several bars, pool, sauna, and Turkish bath. There are 73 rooms, each with mini bar, satellite TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Village Homestay

    Konya or Antalya, Turkey

    We stay in a private village home, where we sleep in shared accommodations as your hosts do, on futon-like floor mats with quilts and clean linens. Bath facilities are shared here.

  • Tuvana Hotel

    Antalya, Turkey

    The 46-room Ottoman-style hotel is situated on a quiet street in Antalya's Kaleici district. This historic inn features two restaurants plus a garden café. Rooms include air-conditioning, satellite TV, direct-dial phone, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Marina Puding Suites

    Antalya, Turkey

    This 42-room hotel is situated in Antalya’s Kaleici district, overlooking the famous Roman harbor. The hotel is set back on a tiny street, inaccessible to large tour buses. Each small room features simple amenities. An outdoor garden restaurant is located on the grounds. It’s an easy walk from the hotel to the harbor and local shopping areas.
  • Alfina Hotel

    Cappadocia, Turkey

    Situated in the heart of Cappadocia, the Alfina Hotel features a large restaurant and bar. The 41 guestrooms are kept pleasantly cool by their rock construction in summer months, and also feature central heating, mini bar, complimentary wireless Internet, satellite TV, safe, and private bath with Jacuzzi and hair dryer.

  • Temenni Evi Hotel

    Urgup, Turkey

    The Temenni Evi is a boutique style cave hotel about a five-minute walk from the center of Urgup in Cappadocia. The hotel features a restaurant and terrace, along with 14 naturally air-conditioned rooms, each with antique furnishings, fireplace, down duvets, and private bath with Jacuzzi.

  • Charisma Hotel

    Kusadasi, Turkey

    The recently constructed Charisma Hotel is located in the heart of the Aegean resort city of Kusadasi, about five minutes from the yacht marina. Features include an indoor pool, fitness center, Turkish bath and sauna, lounge, and restaurant. There are 133 comfortably air-conditioned rooms, each with satellite television, telephone, safe, minibar, Internet access, and hair dryer.

  • Hotel Dogan

    Antalya, Turkey

    This 41-room, Ottoman-style hotel is located in an ideal spot for exploring old Antalya. It features a private beach, garden, and currency exchange. Enjoy authentic Turkish dishes or international fare in the hotel’s two restaurants. Guest rooms include satellite TV, wireless Internet access, and hair dryers.

Extensions

  • Armada Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey

    The Armada Hotel is located in the historic heart of Old Istanbul, situated on the site of the quarters that Grand Admiral Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha built for his crew in the 16th century. Decorated in the Ottoman style, this 108-room structure blends features of the past and present. A bar and terrace offer views of the Old City and the Marmara Sea. Its rooms are small and simple.

  • Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace

    Tashkent, Uzbekistan

    The Tashkent Palace Hotel is situated near the center of Tashkent, close to the Amir Temur Square and the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Along with a rooftop restaurant, piano bar, and gym facilities, there are 232 air-conditioned rooms at the hotel, each with telephone, satellite TV, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • Sultan Hotel

    Bukhara, Uzbekistan

    The Sultan Hotel is located in the heart of Bukhara, just a few minutes walk from the Lyab-I-Khauz complex of historic buildings. The hotel features a restaurant and bar, and each of the air-conditioned rooms includes a telephone, satellite TV, minibar, hair dryer, and private bath with shower.

  • El Ruha Hotel

    Urfa, Turkey

    Resembling a fortress, the El Ruha Hotel is constructed of local stone and is situated near Golbasi, a man-made lake filled with carp. The El Ruha features a variety of restaurants and bars located in natural caverns, and its 88 air-conditioned rooms include satellite TV, Internet access, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Anadolu Evleri

    Gaziantep, Turkey

    The Anadolu Evleri is a picturesque boutique hotel constructed around four traditional stone houses located in Gaziantep’s old city center. Typical of Anatolian houses more than 100 years old, the original homes were built from the soft stone quarried locally and are connected by a secluded, common courtyard. The hotel’s 10 rooms are all unique in character and include a private bath and comfortable amenities.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $2595
w/ standard air $3695

Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Turkey's Magical Hideaways

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Turkey's Magical Hideawaysand save up to $1210 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"Interacting with Turkish people and seeing how others live was my favorite experience. The Turkish bath really gave insight into local customs. Being able to hike and walk among the ruins gave a feeling for history and the present."

Anna Weston, 6-time traveler
Greensboro, North Carolina

Forging Friendships in Turkey’s Hammams

June Calender, 5-time traveler, Hyannis, Massachusetts

I used OAT's Roommate Matching Service for my trip to Turkey, as I have done for all of my trips. I like to use this special service because I enjoy meeting adventurous people. It doesn’t worry me at all because I enjoy traveling alone. I grew up on a farm and was not near friends to play with, so I learned to be comfortable on my own. When I went to college, I learned that most people I met were pretty likable.

As always, my group on my Turkey’s Magical Hideaways trip was a diverse bunch of people—and most of us were eager for the “adventure” part of the trip. After a couple of days of getting to know one another—which is so easy to do in a small group—I found myself often talking to one of my fellow group members, 8-time traveler, Marcy W., who was traveling with her male companion. Marcy and I first connected because we compared our travel backgrounds and realized we had been to several of the same places and had similar tastes: She was a high school art teacher, and I am a writer with an interest in art.

Although Marcy and I had many exciting adventures together during our Turkey trip, there is one experience in particular that I’ll never forget. One day, Marcy, her companion, and I decided to visit a hammam—or Turkish bath—in Anatolia during some free time.

It was just as Oriental—and just as steamy and cleanly tiled—as I’d read about. But now, it was also unisex (which was a big change from what I’d thought). The attendant who scrubbed our bodies and gave us massages was a man, and he was wearing the same kind of tiny linen towel we were all given! Marcy and I shared a private room—and her presence gave me such comfort during an incredibly new and foreign experience for me.

Although our visit to the hammam was one of my favorite memories from Turkey, there were many other aspects of the trip that were just as wonderful—from the delicious food to Cappadocia’s unique rock formations to our amazing days and evenings on our gulet with its spectacular crew. But more than that, and as with every OAT trip I’ve experienced, it’s the people I meet along the way, and the bonds I’m able to form with them that truly create the memories I’ll always carry with me.

Marcy and I kept in touch upon returning from Turkey—and we even attempted to plan various trips to visit one another. After many years of our schedules not meshing at all, I found myself scheduled to travel to Marcy’s hometown in the southwest. She invited me to stay with her and took me to several art museums, as well as an interesting revitalized neighborhood to help me do research for a special project I was working on.

Since my very first trip traveling solo, I have done many things “alone” and always found that I was adaptable and that most people are easy to get along with. I think that meeting people like Marcy, who share interests so similar to my own (like my curiosity and adventurism), allows deeper connections to form easily. Some of these friendships come and go, but sometimes you meet people that leave lasting impressions on your life. And because of this, I’ve met some truly wonderful women.

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Turkey

Here’s how OAT travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Turkey's Magical Hideaways adventure. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite OAT trip photos.

   

Mary Cotten got more ice cream than she bargained for from this Turkish vendor. Doyice J. Cotten, a 12-time traveler from Statesboro, Georgia, captured the moment.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: OATtravelerphotos@oattravel.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Partner since: 2004
Total donated: $365,595

Making a difference in Turkey

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel—which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Turkey, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Rural Turkey

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the village of Ilicek and the town of Hacibektas or the villages of Kiriklar, Dogancilar, Belenbasi, or Karacaagac. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and sharing a meal together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

Read More

A Day in the Life of Rural Turkey

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the village of Ilicek and the town of Hacibektas or the villages of Kiriklar, Dogancilar, Belenbasi, or Karacaagac. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and sharing a meal together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

Meet the People of Rural Turkey

Your Day in the Life experience through the historical region of Cappadocia or Izmir will be a journey through time, transporting you back thousands of years. As you visit first the town of Hacibektas and then the village of Ilicek, or alternately the villages of Kiriklar, Dogancilar, Belenbasi, or Karacaagac, you’ll tread over the same ground where once walked the likes of Persian kings, Roman politicians, and even Alexander the Great.

After breakfast, you’ll travel to your village or town, where you’ll visit one of nine schools supported by Grand Circle Foundation as a part of the World Classroom initiative. Here, you’ll have the chance to join students in the classroom and converse with their teachers. Perhaps you’ll even be invited into the principal’s office for an intimate discussion.

You’ll then wind your way through the streets of this village, including a pit stop at the local market. After, you’ll make your way to a Home-Hosted Lunch for a flavorful meal at with a local family. Perhaps you’ll sink your teeth into a juicy dolma or gulp down a warm köfte.

By the end of your Day in the Life experience, we hope you’ll come away with a real sense of what life is like in Turkey—and of the warm and welcoming spirit of the people who call Hacibektas, Ilicek, Kiriklar, Dogancilar, Belenbasi, or Karacaagac their homes.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Turkey

By funding improvements in local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Turkey, you’ll meet young students at a local school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Our projects have included building and equipping kitchens, installing lockers and bookshelves, and providing equipment such as projectors, computers, cameras, and televisions.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Turkey

By funding improvements in local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Turkey, you’ll meet young students at a local school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Our projects have included building and equipping kitchens, installing lockers and bookshelves, and providing equipment such as projectors, computers, cameras, and televisions.

"The visit to the primary school was a joyful experience. We interacted with the children by singing songs—it was great. To see the science lab that the Foundation supported was exciting."

Mary & Donald Raudenbus, 6-time travelers
Exton, Pennsylvania

The Schools of Rural Turkey

Partner since: 2007 • Total donated: $78,818

Grand Circle Foundation currently supports nine schools in Turkey, including Ataturk Primary School, Hacibektas High School, and Kiriklar Primary School. Over the years, our funds have helped the local schools in a variety of ways based on their individual needs. These projects include helping to build science and computer labs and a playground; repair a heating system; purchase projectors, computers, athletic equipment, and kitchen supplies; renovated rooms, and acquire a much-needed supplies such as musical instruments, laptops, books, and toys.

Several schools in one town have combined their efforts toward a particularly exciting project: the construction of a shared kitchen. The completed facility, which can produce 1,188 lunches daily, has more than doubled the town’s ability to provide partially or fully subsidized, healthy lunches for their students.

School in session:

Mid-September through early June, with periodic closures for Muslim holidays

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Schoolbooks
  • Novels
Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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The Caverns of Cappadocia

Unearthing the underground cities

by Lyette Mercier

Only about ten percent of Derinkuyu’s massive compound has been excavated so far.

Picture a sprawling city carved into the ground, with eight stories of living spaces 280 feet below the surface. Its hundreds of rooms contain enough space to hold between 35,000 and 50,000 people—roughly the population of Burlington, Vermont—plus their livestock and enough food to feed the population for roughly one to three months. It might sound like science fiction, but it’s ancient history.

Built beneath borders

The underground city in question is Derinkuyu, built below the plains of Cappadocia, in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey. Whatever the date of the area’s first excavations, the oldest written record of the underground cities comes from the fourth century BC. The Anatolian plain is littered with man-made cave and tunnel systems like Derinkuyu, carved into the soft volcanic stone known as tufa. Up to 200 subterranean complexes have been discovered, with 40 of those containing three or more levels. The cities grew extensive and sophisticated enough that there is believed to be a tunnel on Derinkuyu’s third level connecting to another underground city, Kaymakli, located five and a half miles away.

The underground hiding systems flourished because the fertile plains of Anatolia were attractive to many empires, but were hard to hold, with the Hittites, Phrygians, Cimmerians, Lydians, Persians, Romans, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires each taking their turns invading and ruling the area. Anatolia often found itself on the border between warring empires, beginning with Greeks and Persians and later the Byzantine Greeks and a host of rivals. Derinkuyu’s complexes were expanded and used the most by Byzantine Christians avoiding persecution from the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries AD.

Derinkuyu, designed for defense

Derinkuyu is a marvel of ancient engineering. Over 3,000 feet above sea level, the Anatolian plain’s deep water table allowed builders to dig eight levels below ground. The first level provided stables and rooms for livestock. The next level contained kitchens and storage, with the third level made up of domestic spaces. A cruciform, or cross-shaped, church is located on the lowest level, accessed via “vertical staircases:” ladders carved into walls. The second level contains a large room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and surrounded by a series of smaller rooms, which is believed to be a religious school or monastery. The city also contained many amenities, including wine and oil presses, storage, dining halls, ovens, toilets, morgues, Turkish baths, and cribs. Though red and blue arrows guide modern visitors into and out of the labyrinth, no one knows how residents navigated through the city.

An impressive aspect of Derinkuyu is its ventilation system. The city’s largest ventilation shafts go from the surface to the water table (Derinkuyu is Turkish for “deep well.”), allowing them to also be used as wells for residents above and below ground. Rooms cluster around the main shafts, where an astounding 15,000 smaller vents branch off the main one, circulating fresh air through the complex. However, if invaders capped the vents, the residents would quickly be driven out. More evidence that Derinkuyu was built for defense comes from the stone doors found in the city’s main tunnels. Resembling mill stones, these doors range in size from three to six feet tall and weigh between 400 and 1,000 pounds. They can only be closed or opened from the inside by inserting a log into a hole inside of the door, allowing a group the leverage to move it back and forth. Residents could retreat into Derinkuyu and essentially lock themselves in.

Many cities—forgotten, then found

Like the area’s rulers, the reason for retreating underground changed from century to century. Early Christians hid from Roman persecution in the second century AD and then found refuge again from Muslim raiders in the seventh century. Despite the effort put into these vast complexes, they ultimately failed to serve their main purpose: keeping Cappadocia’s residents safe from attack. The Byzantines finally evacuated Cappadocia in the eleventh century AD. The abandoned underground city of Derinkuyu was forgotten until 1963, when a local resident broke through a rock wall while renovating his home only to discover another room in the rock. While opened to the public in 1969, archaeologists continue to discover new rooms and passages in the underground city. Only about ten percent of Derinkuyu’s massive compound has been excavated so far.

Although Derinkuyu is the best known of Cappadocia’s underground cities, the cities of Kaymakli and Özkonak offer further clues to life below ground over a thousand years ago. Experts surmise that the eight floors of Kaymakli could accommodate some 5,000 people for extended periods of time due the city's well-built ventilation system, along with a winery, water cistern, kitchens, and extensive storage areas. The church at Kaymakli features a baptismal font, offering further evidence that early Christians practiced their religion in secret here. To this day, tunnels of Kaymakli remain in use as stables and storage by contemporary Turks living above ground. The underground city of Özkonak was rediscovered in 1972. This ten-story city (of which four have been excavated) also boasts a winery, along with a system of pipes allowing for verbal communication between levels and holes above the stone doors, allowing them to pour hot oil on invaders.

Fairy-spun spires

Above ground, thousands of years of erosion and seismic activity carved the volcanic tufa into the surreal “fairy chimneys” that dot Cappadocia’s landscape. In the fourth century AD, St. Basil—a proponent of Christian monasticism—instructed his disciples to carve cave rooms for solitary prayer. The intricately carved and decorated cave churches of Goreme grew out of this monastic tradition. Byzantine murals have been spectacularly preserved by the arid climate and feature iconic images of saints and biblical scenes. Anatolian settlers also built homes into the spires, which can reach as high as 130 feet and resemble gigantic ant hills, tall mushrooms, cone-shaped sandcastles, or columns topped with gnome hats. The rock provided insulation, keeping residents cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Hotels and inns carved into hillsides bring the traditions of Cappadocian living to today’s visitors. From the spires of Goreme’s cave homes carved high into majestic hillsides to the depths of Derinkuyu’s underground city to the modern refuge of a hillside hotel, the wonders of Cappadocia are truly all around.