Venture through Byzantine splendour and the land of crusaders and whirling dervishes in pure luxury staying in some of the country’s most fascinating and beautiful properties. Head away from the tourist traps as you explore foods flavoured with exotic spices, discover underground cities and the turquoise Aegean coastline.
Let us take you to where the locals live as you taste your way through the Grand Bazaar and uncover Istanbul’s hidden haunts. Be awed by houses built inside caves, breathtaking valleys sprinkled with traditional villages, cave dwellings and fairy chimneys, pinnacles and rock cones of Cappadocia. Hike on foot to get truly off beat and away from the crowds for a more exclusive experience.
Sip on mint tea, Turkish kebabs, couscous, lamb and sweet pastries galore. Why not learn to make your own? Gaze in wonder at the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. Embrace scenery dotted with orange and lemon groves, shimmering limestone terraces and pine forests. Enjoy relaxing with local speciality wines in hand and discover Turkey’s lesser known fishing villages.
Sail on a wooden gullet as you navigate the clear waters of the Mediterranean, discovering lost cities and castles before finishing back in Istanbul, the gateway to Europe.
Welcome to Turkey! On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure to explore the magical city of Istanbul where east meets west and minarets piece the skyline. The cultural diversity in Istanbul dates back to Silk Road trading days and the layers of armies, empires and treasures will unfold before you.
If you have time, why not try venturing to çay bahçesis (tea gardens), kahvehans (coffee houses), meyhanes (Turkish taverns) or a kebapçs (kebap restaurants).
Your accommodation this evening is at the Four Seasons where you will stay in a century-old neoclassical home in a tranquil sanctuary in the middle of Istanbul’s Old City, bound by the mystic waters of the the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus.
3 nights Four Seasons Sultanahmet or similar
Set off this morning for a full day walking tour starting with a visit to Topkapi Palace including the Harem section (closed on Tuesdays). Built in 1468 on one of the seven hills of Istanbul by Mehmet the Conqueror, it was the seat of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years and today is a huge complex serving as a museum facing superb views of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. The palace houses the treasures of former Sultans including the extravagant Treasury Section with its magnificent jewels which includes the emerald dagger that inspired the movie “Topkapi” in 1964, as well as the priceless Chinese porcelain, one of the best collections in the world, weapons, calligraphy section, and more. Continue to Yerebatan Underground Cistern, (it may be partly closed due to the ongoing restorations) with its atmospherically lit rows of columns – 336 in total. It was built in 532, with a capacity to store 80,000 cubic metres of water. It has excellent acoustics, and, with its fabulous atmosphere, has been used by famous singers, and for film sets.
Lunch today will be enjoyed in a Sultanahmet restaurant serving Turkish cuisine (not included in the tour price).
This afternoon, visit St. Sophia (closed on Mondays during winter months), one of the great architectural marvels of the ancient world, constructed as a basilica in 536 AD by Emperor Justinian, turned into a mosque in 1453 and now into a museum. This beautiful monument will take your breath away with the sheer size of its interior and its magnificent dome. Continue on to the Blue Mosque (closed on Friday mornings), famous for its mosaics with some 20,000 blue Iznik tiles and its six minarets. Built in the name of Sultan Ahmet in the 17th century, it is one of the best examples of classical Turkish art. Cross through the Hippodrome, the scene of Byzantine chariot races, athletic events, victory celebrations and political activities of the old city where you can also see the Obelisk of Egypt, the Serpent Column from Delphi, the German Fountain of Wilhelm II and the Colossus. End your tour in the Grand Covered Bazaar (closed on Sundays), which is the biggest “souk” in the world with nearly 4000 shops of antiques, jewellery, gold, carpets, ceramics and leather-wear. Stop for tasting of local delicacies as you wander before continuing down the crowded back streets of Mahmutpasa where the local people shop.
This evening, enjoy a sunset cruise with dinner on the shores of the Bosphorus. During this cruise, Dolmabahce Palace, Ciragan Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges as well as Rumelian Fortress, a historical armament built by the Conqueror in 1452 to control and protect Bosphorus, may be spotted on the banks. (B,D).
An early start this morning as you depart for Gallipoli, the site of battles involving the Allied Forces including Australians and New Zealanders during World War I. In the hilly land which forms the Gallipoli or Gelibolu area, there are memorials to all the Turkish, Australian, New Zealand, French and British troops who died here in what was one of the most tragic WW1 offensives. You will stop for breakfast enroute (not included). Visit Brighton Beach, Beach Cemetery, Anzac Cove, Ariburnu Cemetery, Lone Pine-Australian Memorial, Johnston’s Jolly (Turkish & Allied trenches and tunnels), 57th Regiment Turkish Memorial, the Nek and Chunuk Bair New Zealand Memorial. After having time to reflect on the history of the area, drive back to Istanbul at around 18:30. You will stop for dinner enroute (not included). Arrive in Istanbul around midnight (L).
This morning is yours at leisure to have a lie in or explore at leisure.
This afternoon, it is time to venture deeper into the local culture and understand the Greek and Jewish heritage in Istanbul. Located along the shores of the Golden Horn, the Fener district was once the Greek centre in Istanbul and is now becoming one of the city’s trendy design districts. With its steep cobble stoned streets dominated by the Rum Lisesi (Greek Orthodox College) and the Ecumenical Patriarchate Church of St. George is considered to be for Orthodox Christians, the equivalent of St. Peters in Rome.
Balat was once the Jewish quarter during the Byzantine Empire as well as the Ottoman period, with three synagogues still operating. With its colourful Ottoman houses in various states of repair, this area is a photographers dream. Sunday is market day with locals selling fresh vegetables and fruit. Transfer by vehicle to the Chora Museum, a Byzantine Church from the 4th century, converted to a mosque during Ottoman times. It is famous for its early Christian Mosaics. Return to your hotel by car.
This evening, enjoy dinner at the classy restaurant, Maiden’s Tower, located on an islet in the Marmara Sea offering 360 degree views of the Bosphorus and the old city. Some scenes from the James Bond movie, “The World is not Enough,” were shot in this historical tower (B, D).
Overnight Four Seasons Sultanahmet or similar
Following breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Cappadocia. Cappadocia is one of the most beautiful and fascinating regions of Turkey with an amazing landscape full of weird and wonderful rock formations created by volcanic activity and erosion. On arrival, you will be met at the airport before visiting the Devrent Valley where the rock formations will play with your imagination. Walk through this amazing valley before visiting Pasabagi (Monk’s Valley) with multiple stems and caps, peculiar to this area.
After visiting Pasabagi, drive to Avanos which is known for its pottery, a craft dating back to the Hittite period. The red clay which is worked by local craftsmen, comes from the residue in the Kizilirmak River, the longest river of Turkey. Avanos village is quaint with many Greek style homes inhabited by colourful villagers. Pause for lunch before you continue to Goreme Open Air Museum (entry to the Dark Church is additional). Here you will visit the beautiful churches, chapels and monasteries carved into the fairy chimneys from the 10th to the 13th centuries with frescos painted on the walls – some still vivid in colour. Continuing on, you will have the opportunity to taste Cappadocian wine in a local winery before transferring to your cave hotel.
Your accommodation this evening is located on the site of an ancient monastery in Old Uçhisar Village, Argos in Cappadocia has carefully restored the remains of historical dwellings, underground tunnels and caves to offer our guests not only an unsurpassed place to stay but a unique perspective from which to view this magical land.
This evening, dinner is at one of the rock-carved venues with accompanying music and Turkish dances (B,D).
2 nights Argos Hotel or similar
This morning is an early start as you are picked up from your hotel before sunrise at around 4am. It is time for a memorable balloon flight. Warm up with a hot tea or coffee and cookies before you have your safety briefing delivered by your pilot. Climb in to the baskets and take off gently over the eerie but beautiful landscape. Drift through the valleys and canyons taking in the silence and colours of the lunar landscape below as the sun slowly rises. After an hour of floating, you will land and enjoy champagne and cakes. You will then return to your hotel for breakfast.
Now that your belly is full, it is time to visit the panoramic Pigeon Valley where pigeons contributed to the lives of locals with their manure to fertilise the vineyards. Continue to Kaymakli Underground City where early Christians lived in fear and faith. Due to its soft volcanic rock, Kaymakli people built this splendid underground city around their homes for security reasons. Secret tunnels connected to the underground city have also been discovered. Early Christians living in the region from 4th century also used these underground dwellings to protect themselves from religious tortures by building caves and an elaborate labyrinth of narrow tunnels and traps for enemies. Approximately 3,500 people once lived here.
Continue to the remote village of Ayvali to feel like a true insider, as you’re welcomed into a villager’s home to prepare a typical Anatolian meal. Learn about Turkish culinary traditions whilst feasting on regional specialities including the delicate ‘borek’ pastries (made with cheese that’s been ripened in an earthenware jug), traditional bulgur soup, yaprak sarmasi (seasoned rice wrapped in grape leaves), manti (Turkish ravioli), dolaz (a delicious fried dessert served with local honey) can be made. Meet local men relaxing in a ‘kiraathane/traditional coffee-house’ where you can learn about the male villagers’ lifestyle and sample wine from the Cappadocia region. After a strong Turkish coffee, bid goodbye to your friendly hosts and stroll through Ayvali’s tiny streets where the locals may invite you into their home for tea or homemade desserts in their kitchens. Your visit to the village may also feature a walk to the local market on the days it operates to check out the most interesting stalls and chat to the vendors, or, if it’s not market day, walk through the village to pick your own organic fruit, or visit one of the cool storage caves. Drive to Rose Valley, one of the most beautiful trekking valleys in Cappadocia, and explore the famous rock-cut churches by hiking through the valley as the sunsets.
Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant which will be followed by a Whirling Dervishes show. (B,D)
Early this morning, you will be transferred to the airport in Kayseri or Nevsehir for your flight to Izmir (which may be via Istanbul depending on flight schedules). On arrival, drive to Selcuk to visit Ephesus, one of the best preserved Greek Roman cities in the world, and the cradle of early Christianity as recorded in the Bible. You will also visit the Hillside Houses (if not closed due to the ongoing restorations), one of the most popular ancient sites of Turkey with many acres of carefully excavated ruins. Stop by the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Explore the Ephesus Archaeological Museum before you visit the House of Virgin Mary where she is supposed to have spent her last years together with St. John. Continue onto Sirince and visit a wine house en-route where you will taste the well-known Sirince wines before checking into your hotel.
Your accommodation this evening, Gullu Konaklar, hiding more than one hundred years of history within its walls is located hidden amongst olive groves atop a hill. Once a Greek village, Sirince displays a unique architecture in all of its enchanting dwellings and Gullu Konaklar is one of them. The first owner of this mansion, who was granted the land after World War I, had it built from its ceiling, to its doors and window frames with the best materials and with utmost pride. Later on, it has been refurbished with attention to all detail, protecting its historical texture, which you may see in the detailed workmanship that adorns the mansion in all of its nooks and crannies. In 2001, the building was registered as an historical property and is now protected by the government. (B)
Overnight Gullu Konaklar or similar
Leaving Sirince, you will travel to Aphrodisias, the city of Aphrodite which is famous for its sculptors. Continue to Pamukkale known all over the world as the ‘Cotton Castle’ because of its formations from the warm calcium-rich mineral water. The calcium built natural shelves, pools and stalactites compound into a very singular and beautiful view.
The nearby ancient Hierapolis, is famous for its healing thermal/mineral baths and beautiful petrified waterfalls. Hierapolis in the past was a cure centre founded around 190 BC. Tour the spectacular Roman theatre with more than 12,000 seats, the 2nd century agora, one of the largest in the world, the Roman baths, the foundations of the Temple of Apollo and an extraordinary necropolis. (B,D)
Overnight Doga Hotel or similar
Today you will drive to Gocek where you will visit Dalyan. Here you have an opportunity to take a rowboat to the other side of the river and then hike to Caunos, the Carian border city to Lycia founded in the 9th century BC. From here, you will then continue to Gocek.
Your accommodation for the next 3 nights is at D-Resort a serene, upmarket resort on a stretch of unspoiled Turkish-Mediterranean coastline. Offering extensive wellness facilities, three restaurants serving a range of cuisine and its own marina where sleek yachts bob in turquoise water. (B)
3 nights D-Resort or similar
Today you will spend the day on the water in a traditional wooden gullet. No words can describe the beauty of this region. Sail around islands dotted with pine forests, fascinating rock carvings and in turquoise waters. The scenery is magical. Enjoy swimming and snorkelling in secluded bays with pristine nature. You may even have dolphins swim alongside your gullet. (B,L)
Today is yours at leisure to explore this beautiful fishing village. (B)
Drive to visit Xanthos, the capital of the Lycian region and a UNESCO World Heritage site, before continuing to Patara, the birth place of Santa Claus. You will stop for lunch and some free time in Kas, a quaint fishing village with laid back vibes and great shopping. Continue to Demre/Myra, to visit its splendidly carved Lycian Rock Tombs overlooking an amphitheatre, all dating back to 600 B.C. and the Church of St. Nicholas, the saint referred to as Santa Claus. Overnight at Olympos near Kemer.
Your accommodation tonight is the Olympos Lodge, ranked as one of the top 10 best boutique hotels in the Mediterranean. Protected from development because it is a noted turtle nesting site, the beach here is an unspoilt gem. Backed by pine clad peaks, book-ended by limestone ridges plunging into deep blue waters and fronted by the graceful arc of a three-mile long beach, this location has everything going for it. Nestled amongst a mass of citrus orchards and other vegetation, the Olympos Lodge occupies a prime spot towards the southern end of the beach, flanked by a crystal clear river. The atmospheric Graeco-Roman site of Olympos, is a fifteen minute stroll along the shore. (B)
2 nights Olympos Lodge or similar
Today is yours at leisure to explore Olympos and Kemer. (B)
This morning you will transfer to the airport in Antalya for your flight to Istanbul.
On arrival in Istanbul, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
The afternoon is yours at leisure. We suggest visiting Beyoglu, with its antique shops, funky furniture stores and iconic Galata Tower, legacy of the Genovese. Visit the Museum of Innocence, (based on the novel by Orhan Pamuk). Then stroll down the famous Istiklal Street, the throbbing heart of Taksim area. (B).
2 nights Four Seasons Sultanahmet or similar
Today is yours at leisure to explore Istanbul or to do any last minute shopping.
Why not venture to the Spice Bazaar where your senses will be overwhelmed with the smells of the orient – here you can learn about spices and their different uses. Meander through the streets surrounding the Spice Bazaar, and why not stop at one of the local cafes to enjoy the delicious Turkish Kunefe accompanied with a refreshing traditional Turkish tea, called Cay.
Another suggestion is to cross over to Eminonu and take a short ferry ride across to the modernised city of Kadikoy, located on the Asian Side. Here, people of all kinds mingle together. Immerse yourself in the colourful local food markets dotted along cobbled streets, sample some of fresh produce on offer, before returning to the old city by ferry – a chance to see the beautiful skyline of Istanbul and capture some fabulous photo opportunities on your journey home. (B).
Today you will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.