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TURKEY

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Click 'Select to Compare' to see a side-by-side comparison of up to adventures below—including
activity level, pricing, traveler excellence rating, trip highlights, and more

Trip Itinerary

Embark on an epic journey along the coasts of Turkey and Greece, stopping to discover ancient Greek sanctuaries and historic Ottoman mosques.

07:02 | 39 views

15 DAYS FROM $7,495 • $ 500 / DAY
O.A.T. Adventure by Small Ship

17 DAYS FROM $3,695 • $ 218 / DAY
O.A.T. Adventure by Small Ship

Trip Itinerary

Immerse yourself in the myths, beauty, history, and welcoming cultures of the Aegean Sea.

08:43 | 198 views

16 DAYS FROM $7,595 • $ 475 / DAY
O.A.T. Adventure by Small Ship

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Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5

Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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Recommended Viewing

Watch this video showcasing what makes this country so unforgettable

My City: Istanbul

Learn how to best witness Istanbul's cultural traditions, from theater stages to neighborhood meeting spots and more.

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Turkey: Month-by-Month

There are pros and cons to visiting a destination during any time of the year. Find out what you can expect during your ideal travel time, from weather and climate, to holidays, festivals, and more.

Turkey in December-February

The winter months are fairly cold in Turkey, with temperatures in Istanbul averaging in the 40s (°F) and in the 30s in places like Cappadocia—and even colder as you travel to Turkey’s eastern fringes. Snow is not uncommon during these months, but those who dress warm will enjoy visiting sites like Ephesus when they are far less crowded than in the summer months. If you don’t mind the chill, this is a great time to explore Istanbul, as the lines are much shorter at popular sites such as the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque—and you can find better bargains from the merchants in the Grand Bazaar. And with fewer tourists around, this is also an excellent time to quietly view the stunning landscapes of Turkey’s inland regions and experience authentic local life. 

Holidays & Events

  • December 31: New Year’s Eve is one of the most popular holidays in Turkey, and usually includes a large family dinner, a national lottery, traditional fireworks, and more. 

Watch this film to discover more about Turkey

Istanbul – Ancient Crossroads

Watch as a pair of lifelong friends discovers Istanbul's historic and cultural treasures.

26:43 | 1758 views

Turkey in March-May

The winter chill is gone and the weather begins to moderate in Turkey in the springtime, with temperatures getting into the 60s (°F) in Istanbul and even warmer in the country’s interior. The summer crowds haven’t started to arrive yet, making these perfect months to visit Turkey’s many ancient ruins. April is also peak tulip season, and the parks and gardens of Istanbul are starting to bloom with color. While it’s too early for the sun worshippers who regularly flock to the Turquoise Coast (where most hotels are still closed), the combination of warm weather and fewer people make this an ideal time to explore almost all of Turkey.

Holidays & Events

  • April: The International Istanbul Film Festival takes place each year and is a ten-day event celebrating cinematic excellence.
  • April 23: National Sovereignty and Children’s Day is a special day with festivities throughout the country, including the opportunity for children—who are the future of the Turkish republic—to take seats in the Turkish Parliament and symbolically govern the country for a day.
  • Beginning May 15: Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, is celebrated in this predominantly Muslim country with 30 days of fasting during the daylight hours and festive evenings of eating and drinking in Istanbul.

Watch this film to discover more about Turkey

Istanbul – Ancient Crossroads

Watch as a pair of lifelong friends discovers Istanbul's historic and cultural treasures.

26:43 | 1758 views

Turkey in June-August

The summer months are the peak travel season in Turkey. The weather is usually hot and dry, with temperatures reaching the high 90s (°F) in the eastern stretches of the country. Ancient sites can get very crowded during these months, along with the cities along the Mediterranean coast, which are filled with visitors seeking relief from the heat with dips in the sea. Cappadocia is not as crowded as other locales, however, and is especially beautiful during these months, when it is carpeted in wildflowers

Holidays & Events

  • July: Istanbul Jazz Festival features world-renowned jazz musicians performing at various venues in the city.
  • August: Antalya International Folk Music and Dance Festival Competition is a festival that runs for several months and features performances of folk music and dance from Turkey and around the world. 

Must See

The International Sand Sculpture Festival takes place each year (usually in June) at a beach in Antalya and is one of the largest sand events in the world. The works of talented sand sculptors from across the globe are featured in this dazzling competition. 

Watch this film to discover more about Turkey

Istanbul – Ancient Crossroads

Watch as a pair of lifelong friends discovers Istanbul's historic and cultural treasures.

26:43 | 1758 views

Turkey in September-November

September can still be hot in Turkey, but from the middle of the month onward temperatures begin to cool, making these months ideal for exploring Istanbul or any of the country’s ancient sites. Although the days are shorter than in spring, the combination of clear skies, fewer crowds, and pleasant weather make the autumn months just about the perfect time for any Turkish adventure. 

Holidays & Events

  • October 23: Republic Day is a festive public holiday with parades, fireworks, and traditional processions held to celebrate the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. 

Must See

Cappadocia in the fall is a magical time to visit with the leaves in all their glory and the light lending a special glow to the entire region and its mystical fairy chimneys.

Watch this film to discover more about Turkey

Istanbul – Ancient Crossroads

Watch as a pair of lifelong friends discovers Istanbul's historic and cultural treasures.

26:43 | 1758 views

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Turkey Interactive Map

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*Destinations shown on this map are approximations of exact locations

Istanbul

Istanbul is a city that literally straddles two continents—Europe and Asia—with the Golden Horn (an estuary of the Bosporus Strait) dividing the European and Asian sides. Unfortunately, the city’s strategic setting also made it the envy of scores of conquerors down through the ages—Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans all had a hand in ruling this one-time terminus of the legendary Silk Road that linked Asia with Europe. And with each conqueror, it seemed, the city’s name changed—going from Byzantium to Constantinople to present-day Istanbul. The countless architectural and cultural treasures that recall the glory of this one-time capital of the civilized world include the opulent Topkapi Palace, former home of the sultans; the elegant Blue Mosque; Hagia Sophia, a masterpiece of Byzantine art; and the centuries-old Grand Bazaar, a bustling labyrinth of more than 4,000 exotic shops and stalls. One of the great cities of the world, today’s Istanbul is a vibrant, modern metropolis teeming with reminders of its epic past.

CNNGo: Inside Istanbul

Let Turkish chefs and musicians be your guide to some of the lively markets and popular hotspots of Istanbul.

06:20 | 812 views

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Troy

Today, legendary Troy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, serves not only as a historical touchpoint but as a land rooted in myth. Paris' abduction of the beautiful Helen of Troy and subsequent siege of the city during the 13th century BC were immortalized by Homer in The Iliad. Until 1870, it was thought that Troy was a fictional place—but that year, the German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, began excavations in a location he deduced from his readings of The Iliad. Remarkably, he uncovered the historical city of Troy, and continuing excavations have revealed the remains of a total of nine subsequent cities of Troy rising above the “windswept plain of Ilium.” The site's west gate is thought to be where Odysseus' clever ruse of the Trojan Horse was brought through to finally defeat King Priam's city.

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Kusadasi

A seaside resort town located on Turkey’s Aegean coast, Kusadasi is best known as the jumping off point for exploring the nearby ancient city of Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kusadasi holds many charms of its own, however, including a harbor area that is home to a bustling bazaar area, many 19th-century half-timbered homes, and a restored 300-year-old caravanserai. For a pleasant seaside walk, visitors often head to a causeway just south of the harbor to Pigeon Island, a great locale to watch a sunset and check out the remains of a 13th-century Byzantine fortress that became the lair of a trio of infamous Turkish pirates in the 16th century.

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Ephesus

Any listing of the world’s top ancient sites must include Ephesus, the best-preserved Greco-Roman city in the entire Mediterranean region. The second-largest city in the Roman Empire, Ephesus was once home to about a quarter million inhabitants—and the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The litany of visitors to Ephesus reads like a Who’s Who of ancient history—Androcles, Xerxes, Alexander, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, St. Paul, the Virgin Mary, and on and on. Even with about 80% of the city yet to be unearthed, Ephesus is a place to witness the Greco-Roman world come alive as you stroll the marble stones of the Sacred Way to the Library of Celsus, view the Roman baths, marvel at the advanced street lighting, and imagine St. Paul preaching the Gospel at a three-tiered Roman theater that once seated 25,000, built into the slope of a nearby hill. And as a reminder that Ephesus was once a pretty wild sailor’s town, there is also a prominent sign for a local brothel.

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The Turquoise Coast

Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is the ruggedly beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coastline between Antalya and Fethiye that is also referred to as the Turkish Riviera. In a country already blessed with scenic beauty, this region is the most scenic of them all—which may be why Marc Antony is said to have given the entire Turquoise Coast to his lover, Cleopatra, as a wedding gift. With forested mountains plunging into a sea of jade waters, the Turquoise Coast is dotted with picturesque bays, pretty coves, and tranquil inlets. Adding to the allure are ancient cities perched on hilltops and Lycian tombs carved into the cliffs. And while historians aren’t really buying the wedding gift story, few dispute that the Egyptian queen did indeed cruise along this scenic stretch of coastline with Marc Antony. At Manastir Bay, a remote inlet about an hour away from the Greco-Roman ruins of Lydea, there is a place known as “Cleopatra’s Baths.” Surrounded by half-sunken ruins, the clear pools of these ancient baths are fed by thermal springs and draw visitors far and wide to enjoy the reputed healing powers of the mineral-rich waters. The fine sand along the beach is said to have been brought over by Mark Antony from Egypt—a gesture to further prove his love. Whether the famous Egyptian pharaoh actually bathed here or not, a languid float in the warm waters of Cleopatra’s Baths is an experience fit for a queen.

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Bodrum

A 3,000-year-old Turkish city, Bodrum, known as Halicarnassus in ancient times, is now a bustling international yachting center. In ancient times, Halicarnassus was the hub of a kingdom that encompassed most of Asia Minor. When its ruler, Mausolus, died in 353 BC, his brokenhearted widow, Artimisia, decided to erect a magnificent tomb in the style of the Greek culture that he admired. We get the word “mausoleum” from this splendid structure, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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Göreme Open-Air Museum

The whimsical landscapes of Cappadocia might have sprung from a fantasy novel. Volcanic eruptions millions of years ago created layers of soft tufa rock that the wind sculpted into thousands of towering “fairy chimneys,” a panorama of giant dripping cones, gravity-defying spires, and undulating cliffs, all changing colors with the passing clouds and shifting angle of the sun. Early Christians sought refuge in this sprawling expanse of ancient rock formations, carving out homes, frescoed chapels, and entire underground cities to escape persecution. One of the highlights of Cappadocia is Göreme Open-Air Museum, a Byzantine monastic complex located just outside the village of Göreme (described by Lonely Planet as “one of Turkey’s unspoiled treasures.”). Göreme Open-Air Museum, which is comprised of a cluster of rock-cut churches, chapels, and monasteries mostly dating from the 10th to 12th centuries, is also one of Turkey’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Elaborate Byzantine frescoes adorn many of the church walls in this vast monastic complex—especially at Karanlik Kilise, or Dark Church, whose breathtakingly detailed frescoes have retained much of their vivid colors over the centuries due to the absence of light.

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Kaymakli Underground City

Ornate rock churches and family dwellings carved directly into the soaring fairy chimneys are one thing—but what went on underneath the land of the living in Cappadocia is even more extraordinary. Entire underground cities once dotted the landscapes of Cappadocia, built to protect the local population against invaders. One of them, Kaymakli, is estimated to have housed more than 3,000 people. Carved eight levels deep into the earth, Kaymakli featured a vast series of tunnels and rooms—including stables, a church, living quarters, wine-making facilities, kitchens, and much more—and was primarily used during Byzantine times for protection from invading Arabs. Long after peace came to the region, though, many locals still lived in Kaymakli and other underground cities. Archaeologists have uncovered about 35 subterranean complexes like Kaymakli across the vast landscapes of Cappadocia—and new ones are being discovered all the time.

Explore Kaymakli Underground City with O.A.T. on:

Featured Reading

Immerse yourself in Turkey with this selection of articles, recipes, and more

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