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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

2016 Turkey's Magical Hideaways

17 Days from only $3895 including international airfare

Istanbul • Cappadocia • Antalya • Turquoise Coast • Ephesus

Trip Experience

Witness ancient pottery-making techniques and cruise the Turquoise Coast aboard a traditional teak yacht.

Trip Itinerary

Get a sneak preview of where you'll venture to in Turkey—by land and sea.

Trip Leader

Tune in as Trip Leader Ulas Esiyok shares facts about his homeland and its archaeological gems, such as Cappadocia.

Trip Extension: Istanbul

Delve deeper into Istanbul’s iconic wonders on our optional trip extension.

A Day in the Life

Explore daily life in a Cappadocian village.

Foundation Site

Meet the students and staff at Ataturk Primary School.

Courtesy Kay Burn Lim
Flights over Turkey: Hot Air Balloons of Cappadocia

Take flight in a hot air balloon to float above Cappadocia and marvel at surreal tufa formations.

Courtesy BBC.com Travel
My City: Istanbul

Take a quick tour of lively Istanbul, ducking into coffee shops, bookstores, theaters, and more.

Courtesy Darley Newman
Equitrekking: Central Turkey

Journey by horseback to discover the hidden gems of Cappadocia.

Courtesy Kathy Monk
Istanbul – Ancient Crossroads

Watch as this pair of lifelong friends discover Istanbul's historic and cultural treasures.

Courtesy Darley Newman
Equitrekking: Turkey's Coast, Cappadocia & Istanbul

Saddle up for a scenic journey from Turkey's Kaya Valley to the landscapes of Cappadodia.

Courtesy Kristine Jurgensen and Ian Cross
Bazaar: Istanbul - Heritage Shops

See how the crafts on display in Istanbul's colorful bazaar reflect the city's rich multicultural past.

Courtesy CNN
CNNGo: Inside Istanbul

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

New Year, New Stories

Take a look at the films that inspire filmmaker David Conover—and preview the stories that await this year.

Climate Change & Travel

Travel with David Conover to see how people—from street protesters to Heads of State—respond to a changing climate and ocean.

Produced for CuriosityStream
Big Picture Earth Trailer

David Conover's newest television series takes us from Stonehenge to Petra, from Iceland to the Oracle at Delphi ... and beyond.

Sharing Travel Moments

Hear why visual storytelling helps to build a conversation about the world from filmmaker David Conover.

Solo Traveler Experience

Meet a solo traveler who shares her reasons for exploring the world with Overseas Adventure Travel.

The O.A.T. Experience

See what you can expect when you travel in your small group on the road less traveled with O.A.T.

Travel Protection Plan

Learn about the benefits of O.A.T.'s plan—and how you can protect your entire trip investment.

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17 DAYS
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Itinerary Overview

Travel to Turkey with O.A.T.—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.

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 O.A.T. for an intimate taste of this turquoise and alabaster land.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 3 nights from only $795

    Expand your understanding of Turkey in its largest, most vibrant city: exotic Istanbul. The only city in the world to straddle both Europe and Asia, it offers a wealth of influences and attractions. Included and optional tours, plus our centrally located accommodations, put the essence of the city easily within reach.

    View Extension Itinerary
Cappadocia Kusadasi Reverse Direction Expand All
  • Depart the U.S. today on an overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

  • Encounter delicious cuisine in Istanbul

    Today, you'll arrive in Istanbul, where an O.A.T. representative will meet you at the airport. You'll transfer to our hotel downtown, and meet your Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took our optional pre-trip extension to Istanbul, Turkey. We'll have a brief orientation late in the afternoon. This evening, you can discover any of the Turkish restaurants in the area as you enjoy dinner on our own.

  • 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.

  • 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 from 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.

  • 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.

    We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant upon arrival 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.

    Dinner is at our hotel this evening.

  • A Day in the Life

    Explore daily life in a Cappadocian village.

    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.

    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.

  • Explore Turkey's ancient cave dwellings

    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.

    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 on your own, we'll visit a remarkable underground city. During the Hittite era, as successive armies swept across Asia Minor, underground cities were built as uniquely defensible communities, 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. Then we'll venture to a local restaurant for dinner.

    Later 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.

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cappadocia

    After breakfast we'll get acquainted with pottery-making—a 9,000-year-old Anatolian tradition—as we stop by a pottery workshop and enjoy a discussion of this ancient craft. Then we'll set off for the city Konya, driving south through open farmland to the Konya Plain.

    Upon our arrival, we'll have lunch at a local restaurant before an enlightening afternoon of discoveries. First we'll visit the Mevlana Museum, where we'll 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'll 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.

    Then we'll stroll through Konya's historic city center and make our way to the bazaar quarter. Many stalls along these bustling streets are filled with Konya's specialty: sweet confections, such as lokum (Turkish delights).

    Afterward, we'll visit the nearby village of Sille, known for its Greco-Turkish heritage and welcoming quietude. During a walking tour of its landmarks, we'll drop by a local coffeehouse.

    Early this evening we'll return to Konya, where we'll enjoy dinner at our hotel.

  • After breakfast we'll head south toward the Mediterranean; we'll cross over the Taurus Mountains and enjoy lunch en route.

    Explore villages dotting the Turkish countryside

    This afternoon, we'll reach Antalya, which is 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. We'll get the chance to soak it in during a short orientation tour of the Old City, and the afternoon will be yours to make your own discoveries.

    Tonight, we'll dine together at our hotel.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. Then we 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.

  • Discover 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 during our Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:

    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 Sanliurfa via Istanbul.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Nemrut & the Bible Lands, Turkey

    5 nights from only $1295

    From the Neolithic period to the present, civilization has thrived in Gaziantep and Urfa. Travel here to explore the legacy of the Romans, walk in the footsteps of St. Peter and Abraham, view the colossal statues of Antiochus I atop Mount Nemrut, and more.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 3 nights from only $795

    Expand your understanding of Turkey in its largest, most vibrant city: exotic Istanbul. The only city in the world to straddle both Europe and Asia, it offers a wealth of influences and attractions. Included and optional tours, plus our centrally located accommodations, put the essence of the city easily within reach.

    View Extension Itinerary
Kusadasi Cappadocia Reverse Direction Expand All
  • Depart the U.S. today on an overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

  • Encounter delicious cuisine in Istanbul

    Today, you'll arrive in Istanbul, where an O.A.T. representative will meet you at the airport. You'll transfer to our hotel downtown, and meet your Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took our optional pre-trip extension to Istanbul, Turkey. We'll have a brief orientation late in the afternoon. This evening, you can discover any of the Turkish restaurants in the area as you enjoy dinner on our own.

  • 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.

    Explore the Bazaar while touring Istanbul

    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.

    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.

    Please note: If you are staying at the Doubletree by Hilton Istanbul-Moda, you will enjoy dinner at the hotel.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. Tonight, we'll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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    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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    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.

  • After breakfast we'll set off for the city of Konya, crossing through the Taurus Mountains and enjoying lunch en route. 

    Upon our arrival in Konya, we'll enjoy several enlightening discoveries. First we'll visit the Mevlana Museum, where we'll 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'll 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.

    Then we'll stroll through Konya's historic city center and make our way to the bazaar quarter. Many stalls along these bustling streets are filled with Konya's specialty: sweet confections, such as lokum (Turkish delights).

    Afterward, we'll visit the nearby village of Sille, known for its Greco-Turkish heritage and welcoming quietude. During a walking tour of its landmarks, we'll drop by a local coffeehouse.

    Early this evening we'll return to Konya, where we'll enjoy dinner at our hotel.

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cappadocia

    After breakfast, we'll head north to Cappadocia via the Konya Plain, crossing through open farmland and enjoying lunch en route. We'll also get acquainted with pottery-making—a 9,000-year-old Anatolian tradition—as we stop by a pottery workshop and enjoy a discussion of this ancient craft. 

    This afternoon we'll check into our hotel in Cappadocia, with free time to explore the surrounding area before we regroup for dinner. Afterward, perhaps you'll 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.

  • 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, we'll enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. 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'll enjoy our Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

  • 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.

    After a break for lunch on your own, we'll have opportunities for hiking through the fascinating landscapes of Cappadocia to local points of interest such as Cavusin and Urgup. This evening, we'll gather for dinner at a local restaurant.

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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.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Nemrut & the Bible Lands, Turkey

    5 nights from only $1295

    From the Neolithic period to the present, civilization has thrived in Gaziantep and Urfa. Travel here to explore the legacy of the Romans, walk in the footsteps of St. Peter and Abraham, view the colossal statues of Antiochus I atop Mount Nemrut, and more.

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