Explore the best of Turkey by land and by sea through the eyes of MTS’ local history specialists!
As the symbolic crossroads between Europe and Asia—the center of the Eastern Roman Empire and the heart of the Ottoman Empire—Turkey is steeped in history and culture, with vestiges to explore from nearly every era! Beautiful coastline, dramatic scenery, classical ruins galore, delicious locally-sourced food, and incredibly friendly people make Turkey an exciting and accessible adventure. You’ll kick off your journey in Istanbul for an in-depth, action-packed, two-day historical tour, followed by a relaxing, six-day luxury cruise of the Turquoise Coast on a gulet—a traditional, double-masted sailing yacht. Every day is a comprehensive, hands-on history lesson, as you visit the ancient cities of Ephesus, Xanthos, with its ancient theatre, and Myra. You’ll explore Cappadocia, one of the most beautiful and unusual landscapes in the world, boasting a history of early Christian civilization. Whether you swim, kayak, take an optional hot-air balloon ride, or watch the dance of the mystical, Whirling Dervishes, our expert guides (several of whom have degrees in Archeology) may just entice to you to channel your inner Ancient.
6 days sailing, easy touring, optional hiking and kayaking
- Get a hands-on history lesson from MTS’ local guides while visiting the ancient cities of Ephesus, Myra, and Xanthos, and Istanbul—the gateway to the Orient
- Relax in luxury aboard a Turkish gulet with air-conditioned staterooms on a 6-day cruise along the celebrated Turquoise Coast
- Dine on sumptuous, Turkish cuisine, shop at spice markets, and barter with local merchants at village bazaars
- Explore Cappadocia's volcanic, fairy chimneys, and underground cities
- Enjoy a private performance of the mystical Whirling Dervishes
Duration: 14 days Start Location: Istanbul End Location: IstanbulDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Istanbul
Upon arrival at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport you will be met by an MTS representative who will escort you to your hotel in the Old City. After getting settled in the hotel, we’ll meet for an orientation at 6:30 p.m., then head out for a welcome dinner in a traditional restaurant.
Day 2 : Istanbul – Bosphorus
We’ll begin our day with a ferry ride on the Bosphorus, the narrow strait that separates Europe from Asia. During the cruise of an hour and fifteen minutes, we’ll pass by half a dozen ornate Ottoman palaces. We will get off the boat in European side and drive back to the Old Town. After lunch we will stop at the world famous Spice Market, where the air is redolent with tea, exotic spices, dried fruits, and of course, Turkish Delight. We will also visit one of the best examples of 16th century Ottoman Mosque of Rustem Pasha Complex dedicated to his Grand Vezir who was also married to Suleiman the Magnificent’s daughter. Dinner tonight is on your own.
Day 3 : Istanbul – Old Town
After breakfast we’ll immerse ourselves more deeply in Istanbul, visiting many ancient monuments including Topkapi Palace, residence of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years and still home to a dazzling collection of jewels and other artifacts. We’ll also visit the Harem section of Topkapi, which is found in a palace within a palace. After lunch we will make a visit to the Hagia Sophia, an astounding 6th-century church that is considered by many to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Originally built by Justinian the Great, the Hagia Sophia with its domes and pillars eventually became a mosque, and today is used as a museum focusing on both Christianity and Islam. We’ll also visit the Blue Mosque, regarded as one of the greatest pieces of Islamic architecture. With intricate carpets, 20,000 blue handmade tiles, 200 stained glass windows, and a centerpiece of sculptured marble, the Blue Mosque is truly a sight to behold. Finally we’ll tour the Basilica Cistern, a massive tank constructed with 336 marble columns and capable of holding over 20 million gallons of water. Dinner is on your own.
Day 4 : Cappadocia
We’ll take a 1-hour morning flight to Kayseri or Nevsehir. Then we will transfer to the Cappadocia area, a 45-minute drive through beautiful and interesting valleys. Cappadocia is surely one of the most beautiful and unusual spots in the world, with a moon-like landscape boasting a variety of weird but interesting natural formations, including pyramid-shaped rocks and sensuously carved fertile valleys that are volcanic in origin. Our tour includes explorations of its beautiful landscape and all the cultural highlights. We’ll have lunch in one of the charming local restaurants. After checking into our hotel, we’ll get a perspective of the area by walking up to Uchisar Castle for a panoramic view of the Cappadocia region. We will then drive to a couple of valleys for panoramic views, and explore an area of pointed rock formations known as the Fairy Chimneys with their basalt caps and unique colors, followed by a possible walk in the valley for approximately an hour.
Day 5 : Cappadocia
The day starts with a visit to the Göreme Valley and its Open Air Museum, including the reconstructed Dark Church with its preserved frescos. This valley is the place where early Christianity flourished. After lunch in a local restaurant, we will visit a multi-level underground city formerly used as a hide-out against foreign invaders. We’ll stroll among more of the Fairy Chimneys in an area known as the “Love Valley.” We’ll also visit one of the underground clay pottery workshops to see how the pottery is produced just as was done in ancient times.
Day 6 : Konya
Morning drive to Konya (three hours), set in the heart of the Anatolian high plains, and one of Anatolia’s most fertile regions. A city of import to both Muslims and Christians (St. Paul and St. Barnabas paid missionary visits to the city in the first century and were driven out by the Jews; the Seljuks were victorious at Malazgirt in 1071, marking the adoption of Islam), it is also home to the founding of the Whirling Dervishes, the Sufi order that engages in the practice of whirling or meditative turning. We’ll visit the 13th century shrine of the Whirling Dervishes—Mevlana's Mausoleum—which continues to draw Muslim and non-Muslim pilgrims alike. Tonight we’ll enjoy a special performance of whirling dervishes—a unique and inspirational experience.
Day 7 : Gulet Cruise
After breakfast we will drive three and one-half hours to the coastal city of Antalya, where the rocky coastline and steep cliffs, set against the turquoise blue coastline—all with a backdrop of mountains rising almost 4,000-feet behind—will surely take your breath away. Visit the well-preserved 2nd century AD Aspendos Theatre en route, one of the best examples of Roman theatre construction in the world. We continue through forested coastline to Demre (Myra), where we will greet our friendly Turkish crew as we board a traditional Turkish gulet—a traditional two-masted yacht that has been used in this area for centuries (updated in modern times to include a motor!). The gulet is as sturdy as it is impressive to look at, with its wide deck, reverse S-shaped hull, and immense imported cross timbers of teak and mahogany. We’ll sail to a small, secluded cove and stay there for the night.
Day 8 : Demre – Simena – Kash
We’ll go ashore and take a short drive to the ruins of the ancient Lycian City of Myra, now known as Demre, located in a fertile alluvial plain next to the river Myros. Though once covered by silt, much of this ancient Greek city has now been excavated. We will tour the Lycian necropolis that was carved into the cliff face. Myra eventually fell under the Roman Empire, and many structures from that era are evident, including tombs, an acropolis, and a massive semi-circular theatre that is still largely intact. A short ride will take us to the earliest known church dedicated to St. Nicholas (later known as Santa Claus) who was a Christian bishop here in 400AD.
From Demre we will sail to Simena (now known as Kale) an ancient city with both a Byzantine castle and a tiny Roman theatre. The view from the theatre across the bay to the Island of Kekova and down to the village of Simena is magnificent. Finally, we will cruise to the town of Kash, perhaps taking a short walk in town, if time allows. We’ll anchor in a nearby bay and eat a delicious Turkish meal prepared by our accomplished shipboard chef.
Day 9 : Xanthos
A short cruise brings us to Kalkan, a pretty seaside village with picturesque pastel-colored houses. We then drive to Xanthos, the ancient Lycian capital. Until the Persian invasion, Lycia was an independent state, minting its own money and writing in a language that was not shared by other nearby peoples. Known in antiquity as the “city of disasters,” Xanthos had a tragic history. Rather than let themselves be overrun by the Persians, the inhabitants committed mass suicide in 540 BC. A century later the city was destroyed by fire, rebuilt, then destroyed again when the inhabitants refused to pay taxes levied by the Athenians. We’ll walk through the ruins, noting the different styles of stonework shown in the Lycian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods. We’ll visit the theatre—with its wall built to separate onlookers from the wild animals—and also The Harpy’s tomb, a family sarcophagus situated high on a rock. We’ll return to our boat where there will be time for some spectacular swimming along the rocky shore. In the late afternoon we’ll hike up a trail to visit a remarkably well-preserved Roman aqueduct.
Day 10 : Levissi Ghost Town
We’ll anchor beneath the cliffs and hike through a pine forest along a trail that is partially hand carved. Eventually we will reach the empty remains of Levissi, a town that was shamefully depopulated in 1923 when Turkey and Greece agreed to forcibly exchange their religious minorities. The empty cobbled paths and roofless houses are as evocative and forlorn as any of the ancient ruins we visit elsewhere. In summer, wildflowers colonize the streets and grow inside the exposed rooms of vacant homes. In the afternoon we’ll return to our boat and have a refreshing swim before lunch. In the late afternoon we’ll cruise to Ship Island. Here we can hike to the summit of this small island and explore the extensive Byzantine ruins with their unusual covered pathways and small outbuildings. It’s also a great place to observe a beautiful sunset!
Day 11 : Goçek Bay
We’ll drop anchor in Friendly Bay and take a long walk to the Peninsula of Lydia where we will reach the Lydae ruins, nestled in a valley 1,000 feet above sea level. Our walk continues along an ancient stone path through red pine forests with spectacular views of the coves below. Our hike will end at the Bay of Goçek, one of the most picturesque sailing spots anywhere in the Mediterranean. Allegedly, Anthony and Cleopatra once swam here, and Cleopatra’s Bath remains, though partially destroyed by earthquakes. We’ll descend to the water on a steep trail covered with pine needles, and cool off with a swim before lunch. The rest of the afternoon we will swim, kayak, and relax at our leisure.
Day 12 : Goçek – Kusadasi
After a morning swim in Goçek Bay, we’ll say goodbye to our attentive crew and disembark in the town of Goçek. A short drive will bring us to a local restaurant nestled in the hills, with a large terrace overlooking the deep blue Aegean Sea. After lunch, we’ll drive three hours to Kusadasi, with a stop to visit the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple took over 100 years to complete and is made almost entirely of marble, with 127 Ionic columns, each 60 feet high. After checking into our hotel on a peninsula over the Aegean Sea, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner together at a local restaurant.
Day 13 : Ephesus – Istanbul
We’ll take a short drive to Ephesus, known as the “First and Greatest Metropolis of Asia” during the Roman Empire. Today, the city is one of the best archaeological sites found anywhere. We’ll spend the morning exploring, visiting the gymnasiums, stadiums, brothels, and the Celsus library, once home to 12,000 scrolls. In the afternoon we’ll visit the archaeological museum where the magnificent marble Artemis statues (known as Cybele and Diana) can be seen. Later in the afternoon we will drive to the airport in Izmir and connect to our 1-hour Istanbul flight departing around 5:00pm.
Day 14 : "Gule Gule" (Go happily)
After breakfast, we'll depart for the international airport for flights back home.
DATES: Best time to go: May, September - October Departures: May 13 - 26, 2014 Sep 9 - 22, 2014 Oct 1 - 14, 2014
$450 internal airfare
Hagia Sophia Hotel Istanbul – Old CityIstanbul
This luxurious hotel is centrally in Sultanahmet district, surrounded by major cultural landmarks of the old city. The hotel offers stylish rooms with free Wi-Fi, next to Basilica Cistern and 85 yards from Hagia Sophia.
The elegant rooms of Hagia Sophia Hotel Istanbul – Old City are air-conditioned and equipped with modern amenities. The rooms offer views of the surrounding area and some rooms have stunning views of Hagia Sophia.
There is a restaurant at Hagia Sophia Hotel Istanbul – Old City, serving Turkish and international cuisine. Guests can choose to have their meals indoors at the chic restaurant or outdoors at the terrace with Hagia Sophia views.
The hotel provides free private parking on site. Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are only a quarter mile from the hotel. Sultanahmet Bus Stop and Tram Stop are both 265 yards away, offering easy access to other sites of the city.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Ozlem "Ozzy" Ozgoren
Ozzy studied for two years in the United States (the first time in Missouri as a high school foreign exchange student and more recently at the University of Miami’s department of Art History). She enjoys contact with Americans and likes to share her knowledge and interest in the history and culture of her native Turkey. She has guided tour groups in all areas of her country. In her spare time, Ozlem pursues her interest in wildlife and sings in a chorus.
Serra is a native of Turkey, and is a graduate of Ege (Aegean) University, Department of Classical Archaeology, and a Certified Graduate of the Turkish government Ministry of Tourism guide program, licensed for all regions of Turkey. Her post-graduate studies have included six months of study in her profession at the Lecce University in Italy, and courses at the Middle Eastern Technical University to becoming a qualified diver. During her studies, she worked at the excavation site of the ancient city of Antandros, located in the ancient Troas region in each summer of these years.
Mesut, who has lived his whole life in his native Turkey, is a graduate of Balikesir University's Department of Tourism for Tourist Guides, and speaks fluent English. He has worked for Mountain Travel Sobek for many years, and are among our favorites in Europe. Mesut also guides MTS' Coruh River trips, and is a licensed guide for all regions in Turkey.
Filiz was born and raised in Turkey, attended the Aegean University of Classic Archeology, and is a Certified Graduate of the Turkish Government Ministry of Tourism Guide Certification, licensed for all regions of Turkey. In her personal time, she participates in excavations of archeological sites, studies the history of the Middle East and Asia Minor, as well as foreign languages and ethic cultures, and is especially fond of film and music. Filiz has been a professional guide since 2007.
Zehra graduated from the prestigious Kocaeli University's Department of Tourism for Tourist Guides, and speaks fluent English. She studies were focused on history, art and architecture, archaeology, and mythology. Zehra is very enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge, and has been guiding for us since 2008.