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Turkey is a country of contrasting landscapes and immense cultural riches. This all-encompassing trip takes-in Istanbul, the impressive ancient sites of Aphrodisias and Ephesus, the unusual terraces of Pamukkale, and visits the World War I battlefields of Gallipoli.
Explore Tour Leader
12 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights premium hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Istanbul. As Constantinople, the city was the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, so today it is steeped in history and fascinating architecture. Modern day Istanbul has much to offer - not least its mouth-watering cuisine and budding cafe culture. The city straddles between Europe and Asia and because of this, it was an important stop on the old Silk Road. It is a melting pot of different cultures and this is demonstrated in its gastronomy. Turkish food is a hearty mix of Middle Eastern, Asian and Balkan style dishes that range from barbecued meat kebabs to vine leaf wrapped vegetable and rice parcels.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Istanbul at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive at Istanbul Airport (IST), which is about one hour and 30 minutes' drive or Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW), which is around two hours' drive from the city centre, depending on traffic, which can be heavy at times. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. Please note that if some passengers are arriving after the planned welcome time, then the main intro briefing will be conducted on the morning of day 2 when everybody is present.
Our conveniently located hotel is within walking distance or a short tram ride of many of the cultural and historical sites in the Sultanahmet district. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to explore this area. If your flight is arriving earlier today or if you're extending your stay by a night then we'd recommend visiting Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, as it is closed on a Sunday, so there won't be the opportunity to go tomorrow. Located within the walls of Istanbul, there are around 60 streets and over 3,000 shops selling everything from jewellery to carpets and textiles and furniture to local arts and crafts. It's one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. The labyrinth of streets also house two mosques, two hamams (Turkish baths) and an array of restaurants and cafes, so there is plenty to experience in this historic landmark of Istanbul.
Monaco Hotel (or similar)
This morning we'll get our first chance to try a traditional Turkish breakfast which usually consists of a variety of yogurts, cheese and breads along with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and fruits in season.
Heading out on foot, we walk to the Sultan Ahmet district; taking around twenty five minutes through historic Istanbul's lively and colourful streets to reach the hub of Sultanahmet Square. Also known as the Hippodrome of Constantinople the square was used for chariot racing in the Roman era; now days it's more sedate with a number of landmarks including the Serpentine Column, Obelisk of Theodosius and the Walled Obelisk. We have a full guided tour of the square, ending up at its most famous building the impressive Sultanahmet Blue Mosque, one of the most widely recognized sites in Istanbul, which still dominates the skyline to this day.
Continuing on foot, we reach the famous Byzantine Hagia Sophia, which reigned as the greatest Greek Orthodox church for 900 years before later becoming an imperial mosque. The interior is truly magnificent with its vast richly decorated domes and mosaic panels.
There are several lunch options around the Sultan Ahmet district, alternatively it's a short walk or tram ride to the Spice bazaar where there are numerous traditional meyhene (taverns) where you can sit down and try a selection of home cooked dishes.
This afternoon we take the public ferry across the Bosphorus to Kadikoy. Taking around thirty minutes, the ferry offers great views of the city skyline from the busy waterway that separates the continent of Europe and Asia.
Our destination this afternoon is the Yeldegirmeni neighbourhood, which in recent years has a thriving expressive street art scene as well as a large selection of restaurants, bars and entertainment, it's a great spot to end the day. Your local Leader will be able to offer you advice on the best eating options, either remaining in Yeldegirmeni or returning to our hotel.
Leaving Turkey's largest city behind us this morning at about 7am, we head for the capital of Ankara. Our journey will take approximately six hours, but we travel through interesting countryside and have plenty of breaks. During the summer months, we are likely to pass through huge expanses of sunflowers - an important oil crop in the country.
When we get to Ankara, we will visit the impressive Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This monumental building sits high above the city and honours the highly respected leader of Turkey's fight for independence, widely regarded as the founder of modern Turkey. We also visit the superb Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, which gives a fantastic overview of Turkey's complex history.
This evening, our centrally located hotel provides an excellent base from which to explore the capital's restaurants and bars.
Grand Hamit Hotel (or similar)
This morning, we set off on our journey to Cappadocia, stopping en route in Hacibektas, which is around three and a half hours' drive. The museum here once housed the famous Bektashi Dervish sect and is now recreated as it would have looked during the 13th century.
An hour's further drive takes us to Goreme - our base for the next two nights from which we will explore the lunar landscape of Cappadocia. This area is famed for its unique geological formations and a history that stretches back to before the Hittites (2000 BC).
This afternoon we visit Kaymakli Underground City. Built by Christians escaping Arab oppression and once home to 3,500 people, this troglodyte cave-city is one of the largest of 34 similar excavations in Cappadocia. Built under the Citadel of Kaymakli, it contains nearly 100 tunnels on eight subterranean floors. We will explore the four that are open to the public, containing stables, a church and storage places.
After a busy day exploring you might like to try a popular local yoghurt drink called, ayran, it has an unusual salty and soured milk flavour. Our next two nights are spent in a traditional style stone hotel on the outskirts of Goreme with, indoor & outdoor swimming pools, sauna, terrace bar and fantastic, mountain views - if you're up early will be able to see hot air balloons filling the sky.
Sobek Stone House (or similar)
If you are considering a ballooning optional excursion we advise you book this yourself for today as we make a very early start tomorrow morning. Please see optional excursions for more details.
Later this morning we have the option of taking a three-hour walk through the remarkable Red and Rose Valleys, helping us to gain a better appreciation of this landscape. Formed by volcanic eruptions which covered the valleys with mud, ash and blocks of hard rock, over the ages this volcanic 'tufa' was sculpted by erosion into strange and improbable shapes. Byzantine hermits settled in this area and carved churches, houses, fortresses and even complete underground cities into these cone formations known as fairy-tale chimneys.
This afternoon we visit Uchisar Castle, where rooms are carved into this massive rock on the top of the Uchisar citadel. From its peak, magnificent views can be gained of the whole region including the valleys that we walked through yesterday. We also spend time in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Goreme Open Air Museum, where we will explore its many rock-carved churches and monastic buildings; some of which feature a stunning collection of wall paintings.
Leaving Cappadocia at around 7am this morning today is one of our longest days. Our first stop is the 13th century Sultanhani Caravansarai - once the largest roadside inn in Turkey, supporting the flow of commerce between the East and the West. We then drive for a further two hours to Konya - Turkey's holiest city and the home of the Mevlana sect, better known as the Whirling Dervishes. Here, we will visit the Mevlana Museum to learn more about Sufism and the Whirling Dervish tradition.
After lunch we head back onto the open road driving to Antalya, the gateway to Turkey's southern Mediterranean. On arrival we will head into the delightful old town of Antalya much of which dates back to Roman and Byzantine times. Wander around the narrow cobblestones streets and head to the historic harbour which hosts a good selection of restaurants, cafes and bars.
In total today we drive for approximately seven hours, but our journey is broken up by the stops we make along the way.
Hotel Ant Royal (or similar)
This morning at around 9am we drive towards the illustrious ancient town of Olympos, which takes us around ninety minutes. Although its early history is shrouded in mystery, we do know that it was an important Lycian city by the 2nd century BC and that the Olympians worshipped Hephaestus (Vulcan), the god of fire. Today, only fragmentary ruins remain in a lush, overgrown site overlooking the tropical coastline.
We will enjoy a short, but steep uphill walk through forest to the 'Chimaera' eternal flame, before having the opportunity to enjoy a refreshing dip in the sea - don't forget to bring your swim wear and a towel. Those who would prefer not to join this walk can choose to relax in the cafe at the bottom of the hill.
Our journey continues along the Turquoise coast (so named because of the clear waters of the Aegean Sea) to the pleasant coastal resort town of Kas - our base for the next two nights.
Kekova Hotel (or similar)
With its old Greek houses and their picturesque balconies, it is clear why the sea port of Kas has developed into one of the more popular resort towns on the Turkish Riviera. Today has been left free for you to relax in Kas or take part in an optional activity. You could take a boat trip to see the sunken ruins at Kekova or try your hand at sea kayaking. Kas is also a great place to pick up souvenirs, but don't forget to haggle!
For a little more culture, it is possible to arrange a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the ancient city of Xanthos.
Today's early morning drive to Dalyan allows us to enjoy a gentle riverboat trip through the reeds of the Koycegiz River, looking out for loggerhead turtles in this serene setting. After viewing the rock-cut tombs of ancient Caunos from the water, we step onto dry land to explore the ruins further, which date back to 400 BC.
Once again, we recommend packing your swimming costume today, as we have the opportunity for a dip in the inviting turquoise sea at Iztuzu Beach. Whilst here there is also the chance to visit the Turtle Conservation Centre (DEKAMER) before returning to Dalyan. The conservation centre works to protect the turtle nesting areas on Iztuzu Beach, cares for and rehabilitates injured turtles and also attempts to educate the local fisherman on the importance of using propeller guards. Later this afternoon we head to Dalyan and check-in to our hotel for the night.
Today we spend around three hours driving and about the same duration travelling by boat.
Hotel Palme (or similar)
Today we drive for about four hours to Pamukkale to explore one of Turkey's most amazing natural wonders known as the 'cotton castle', taking its name from the white calcareous concretions deposited by mineral springs. Above the terraced pools you'll find the ancient spa town of Hierapolis where the ruins date back to 2nd century BC and the time of Eumenes II. Earthquakes have rocked the area throughout history and the site was finally abandoned in 1334 following a particularly strong quake, but as recently as the mid-20th century, hotels were being constructed on top of its priceless ruins. Luckily, UNESCO World Heritage status has saved it from further damage. You can visit the theatre, Temple of Apollo, Frontinus Gate and see a number of sarcophagi as well as having the chance to go into the Archaeology Museum housed in the former Roman baths.
We move on to the 'frozen waterfall'. Situated on a high escarpment, Pamukkale has been an attraction since Roman times. Stalactites of a bright white petrified waterfalls cascade from basin to basin. We visit the incredible travertine pools, where you can opt to swim and enjoy the views overlooking the Menderes Valley. Don't miss Cleopatra's Pool - an oasis of beauty with a mirror-like clarity that allows us to see deep down to the ruins below.
After our visit we check in to our hotel and the rest of the afternoon is at leisure. At certain times of the year we may visit the site later to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Lycus River Hotel (or similar)
Today we visit the very impressive Greco-Roman site of Aphrodisias, where the goddess of love once bestowed her sensual favours on her willing devotees. The drive here takes around an hour and a half. This site is in many ways as spectacular as Ephesus, but far quieter by comparison, and there's also an excellent museum on site that you may like to visit. The tetrapylon is a wonderfully ornate example of a huge gateway which would have once welcomed you into the main street leading to the Temple of Aphrodite. The well-preserved odeon and theatre are also well worth seeing, as is the Sebasteion, which is carved with reliefs depicted Aphrodite and her worshippers. The piece de resistance has to be the stadium which measures 270 metre long by 60 metres wide and would have held 30,000 spectators. On the seats you'll find carvings into the rock, which have been graffitied during the athletic events that took place here.
Later, a three hour drive takes us to Selcuk, our base for two nights.
Cenka Hotel (or similar)
Today we visit Selcuk's historic neighbour, the great Greco-Roman city of Ephesus. We aim to get there in time for the site opening and before it becomes overly crowded with visitors. Once visited by Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, and also by St. Paul, inspiring the Epistle to the Ephesians, this famous Asia Minor seaport reached its zenith in the 2nd century AD, becoming one of the main cultural and economic centres of the ancient world until it went into decline after the 7th century. It boasted an excellent gymnasia and a stadium with seating for 70,000 spectators. Other highlights include the Baths of Constantine, the brothel, the Temple of Hadrian with its beautiful facade, the theatre (a giant with 24,000 seats) and the odeon (a 2000 seat music and poetry centre), the Arcadian Way (where Cleopatra entered from the harbour) and the Marble Avenue featuring the 2-storey Library of Celsus, which is one of the most photographed Greco-Roman buildings in the world.
Driving on a short distance, we will visit the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, before returning to Selcuk for a free afternoon. In your own time, you may choose to explore St John's Basilica, the Isa Bey Mosque or Selcuk Museum. Alternatively, you may prefer to enjoy a bit of shopping or relaxation, soaking up the town's laid-back vibe. Selcuk is the ideal place to people-watch as you sip Turkish tea with the backgammon-playing locals in the many open air café's and parks.
This morning we leave our hotel at about 7am to continue our journey north, past the endless olive groves and pomegranate trees, to the Greco-Roman remains of Pergamum, now the typical Turkish town of Bergama. Pergamum gave its name to the word 'parchment', for which it was famous for throughout the Middle East. We visit the ancient Acropolis and later continue to the ancient site of Troy where, according to legend, the artful Ulysses devised the Wooden Horse Strategy, thereby ending the 10 year Trojan War. Here, nine ruined cities, one on top of the other, have been uncovered, going back some 5,000 years. Troy VI is the assumed walled city of King Priam (1800-1275 BC), celebrated by the blind Greek poet Homer in the Iliad and all but lost in legend until unearthed by amateur archaeologist Schliemann in 1871.
Later this afternoon we drive a short distance to our hotel for the night, in the lively town of Canakkale on the Dardanelles, arriving at about 5.30pm. Today is one of our longest drives and we travel for approximately seven hours.
Canak Hotel (or similar)
We leave early this morning at around 6.30am to board the ferry for the short crossing (around 30 minutes') across the Dardanelles Straits to the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was here in 1916 that, after much bloody hand-to-hand fighting and loss of life, the ill-fated Allied campaign was forced to concede victory to the Turks and withdraw. We will visit Anzac Cove - the infamous site of the Anzac landing, as well as the Lone Pine Australian Memorial and Cemetery before following the shoreline of the Sea of Marmara back to Istanbul for our final evening. The drive back to the city takes around four and a half hours.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Istanbul.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Istanbul at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Istanbul Airport (IST), which is about one hour and 30 minutes' drive or Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW), which is around two hours' drive from the city centre, depending on traffic, which can be heavy at times.
Summers are hot and dry with refreshing sea breezes and clear waters, great for boat trips. It is often cooler on higher ground and in the mountains and can be cold at night, even in the summer. During the shoulder seasons (loosely speaking, before mid-May and after early October), temperatures and rainfall can be erratic, with some temperatures dropping to 8-12 degrees, and other days being bright and sunny up to 25 degrees. Mountain locations will be cooler than on the coast, of course. In the winter, temperatures usually hover between 0 and 10 degrees, but are usually wet, particularly around the coast. The best time for walking in Turkey is mid-May, June and September, with pleasant temperatures and clear blue skies.
2 Pin Round
Istanbul: Ferryboat rides on the Bosphorus, Approx. £10.00 per person. Aya Sofia, free Cappadocia: Turkish Bath, Approx. £25.00 per person. Hot Air Balloon - approx 220-230 € (April - June), 250-270 € (September - November). Please note that the price is set by the balloon operators and can vary in accordance with supply and demand, and at times of high demand the price could reach 300 € or above. We advise you book this for the first morning in Cappadocia on day 5 as we plan for a very early departure on day 6 and it will not be possible. Trips normally return to hotel before 8am and in time for breakfast. This balloon excursion does not form part of your included Explore holiday package. We recommend you call the provider in advance to book your space Kaya Kapadokya Balloons -+90 384 341 46 48 or Istanbul Balloons - +90 384 271 30 62 - or alternatively ask your leader to request a representative of these companies come to the hotel so you can book and pay directly with them. September and October tend to be the busiest months, sometimes filling up a few weeks in advance, so it is advisable to pre-book before travel to avoid disappointment. Kas: Sea Kayaking over sunken ruins of Kekova, Approx. £35.00 to £80.00 per person - dependent on numbers Iztuzu Beach - Sea Turtle Hospital, Approx. £6.00 per person / Sea Turtle Conservation Centre (DEKAMER), Approx. £6.00 per person entrance fee Xanthos - Approx. £40.00 per person (prices vary depending on group size and may go up or down if above or below 3 people) Payments by cash preferred.
The long Turkish summer can be hot, although much of our route follows the coastline which is freshened by sea breezes. In the spring and autumn, a warmer sweater is recommended for the evenings, as is lightweight rainwear. In the winter, good quality rainwear is more suitable as there is a good chance of encountering rain. Temperatures may drop below freezing at night so wrap warmly - layers are best. When visiting mosques, women should cover their head, shoulders and knees, so it's handy to pack a scarf. Men should also ensure their knees are covered.
Walking boots or trainers with ankle supports are recommended for walks. Comfortable walking shoes will be useful for exploring some of the ancient sites and sandals for general wear. Plastic sandals are useful for protecting your feet against sea urchins on the rocks and you can also swim with them on.
One main piece of baggage and daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
Bring a water bottle, torch, sunblock, sunhat, sunglasses and insect repellent. We also recommend bringing your swimwear and a towel for those opportunities to swimming.
Bus, Boat, Ferry
Our hotel in Istanbul is in a central location where parking is restricted and therefore the bus is not permitted to stop directly outside the hotel. You will be dropped a short distance away fromthe hotel and walk with your luggage for about 10 minutes. Our hotel in Antalya is located just outside of the old town, we have chosen this location for two reasons, it is easier to get access to the hotel (vehicle access to the old town is very limited) and it is a good deal quieter in the new town. We will take a short walk into the old town from our hotel on arival.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Turkey: Citizens from the UK, New Zealand and the EU travelling to Turkey for tourism purposes do not require a visa for visits of up to 90 days. Citizens of Australia, US and Canada require a visa that will last for up to 90 days Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Turkey is a very large country and we cover many of the highlights of western Turkey on this comprehensive itinerary. This does mean that there is a fair amount of driving involved and a few early starts. Most of the roads in Turkey are very good and the traffic is minimal outside of the main towns and cities. Our longer journeys are broken up to see places of interest and with comfort stops. Watching the changing scenery as we travel is also an interesting experience in itself. Most days we leave our hotel between 8am and 9am and arrive in the evening between 4pm to 5pm.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against tetanus, typhoid, infectious hepatitis and polio. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at http://www.explore.co.uk/Travelhealth/ and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.
In 2024, Ramadan runs from the 10th March to the 9th April. Read more about travelling during Ramadan.
The 30th March 2024 and 6th April 2024 departure coincides with Ramadan.