DAY 1: Arrival in Istanbul, Turkey
At arrival in Istanbul, clear customs (you will need to present a visa – keep it with your passport) and proceed to arrival hall where a driver holding name board “Shore” will meet you and you will be transferred to your hotel.
Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city as well as its cultural and financial hub. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally.
Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe and the world. The city is built on 7 hills and divided into 8 districts. (Suntanahmend, Glata, New city, Bosphorus, Golden Hornm, Princess Island, Asian Side and Western Suburbs)
The Sultanahmet district is the heart of historic Old Istanbul, what 19th-century travelers used to call "Constantinople”.This is where you'll find Topcapi Palace, Haghia Sofya, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Basilica Cisterns, Archeological Museum and Great Palace Mosaic
Museum and the Grand Bazar.
DAY 2: Discover Istanbul on a city tour
In the morning hours meet the guide in the hotel lobby and embark on a sightseeing and culinary tour of Istanbul.
Stroll through Gezi Park and the Taksim Square. Then following the Istiklal Street, the most famous avenue in İstanbul, you will be taking detours to discover more about Beyoğlu and Cihangir -two old fancy districts of Istanbul.
During this walking tour, you will have some time to enjoy the local tea houses and learn how to play Backgammon and Okey, both extremely popular among locals.
You will also explore areas with some of the best antique shops, designer shops, and marketplaces.
Let's not forget fish markets and delicatessens where you can try some of the amazing tastes Istanbul offers.
Some of the highlights will be Pera Palace Hotel, Pera Museum, Galata Tower, and Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches which perfectly reflect the multicultural past of these beautiful neighborhoods.
You will visit an art gallery which is a converted synagogue and have a chance to sample Turkish coffee.
Kofte is a Turkish staple, a meatball or patties of ground beef or lamb, and can be served stewed, in sandwiches, over salads, or plain with yogurt.
Mantı might remind you of ravioli at first sight, but the traditional Turkish dish is completely unique in taste and texture. Small beef or lamb dumplings are boiled or fried and served with yogurt or butter, and often accompanied by a range of spices.
Borek Turkish savory pastry comes in many varieties, most popularly filled with minced meat or spinach and cheese. Börek can be rolled, served as puffs, or layered like lasagna, and served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. Any way you have it, börek is always flaky and delicious.
Nutty, syrupy, and pastry desserts are never better than when served in Turkey. Often topped with ground pistachios, baklava is sweet and unique and should be eaten fresh.
Istanbul to Cappadocia
DAY 3: Istanbul to Kayseri flight
In the morning hours meet with Your driver for a transfer to Istanbul airport, where You'll take a flight to Kayseri, from where You'll head to Cappadocia.
On arrival in Cappadocia, a driver holding a name board will meet you as you enter the arrival hall and you will be transferred to your hotel.
Following short rest and lunch embark on a tour of Soganali Valley.
Cappadocia, a semi-arid region in central Turkey, is full of otherworldly natural sites, most notably the “fairy chimneys,” tall, cone-shaped rock formations clustered in Monks Valley and elsewhere.
Popular for exploration are Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by troglodytes (cave dwellers) and later used as refuges by early Christians.
The 100m-deep Ihlara Canyon houses numerous rock-face churches.
Goreme national park is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
The Erosion shaped the incredible landscape of the Göreme valley, but thousands of years ago humans took a cue from Mother Nature and began carving an incredible chamber and tunnel complex into the soft rock. Beginning in the fourth century A.D., an urbanized—but underground—the cultural landscape was created here.
Ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed this region with thick ash, which solidified into a soft rock—called tuff—tens of meters thick.
Wind and water went to work on this plateau, leaving only its harder elements behind to form a fairy tale landscape of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys, which stretch as far as 130 feet (40 meters) into the sky.
The rocky wonderland is honeycombed with a network of human-created caves; living quarters, places of worship, stables, and storehouses were all dug into the soft stone. In fact, tunnel complexes Göreme was inhabited as early as the Hittite era, circa 1800 to 1200 B.C. and later sat uncomfortably on the boundary between rival empires; first the Greeks and Persians and later the Byzantine Greeks and a host of rivals. This precarious political position meant that residents needed hiding places—and found them by tunneling into the rock itself.
The site became a religious refuge during the early days of Christianity. By the fourth century Christians fleeing Rome’s persecution had arrived in some numbers and established monastic communities here. The monks excavated extensive dwellings and monasteries and created Byzantine frescoed paintings in cave chapels beginning in the seventh century, which endure in well-preserved isolation to this day.
Göreme is rich with history, but not all of Cappadocia’s troglodyte dwellings are museums. Some still serve as homes and others as hotels, which offer a truly unique hospitality experience.
Your home for the next 3 nights is a boutique cave hotel (TBA).
Some accommodations are in caves and some are traditional arched rooms of cut stone, as well as several pleasant stone terraces with sweeping views of the Cappadocian countryside and the town of Ürgüp.
Experience Cappadocia from the sky - Hot Air Balloon flight experience
DAY 4: Hot air balloon experience & Devrent valley
Early wake up (around 4:00 am) and transfer to the Hot Air Balloon flight launching field for an experience of a lifetime.
Of the 3 “must explore from the balloon” areas this is one. (others are Serengeti and Bagan).
Experience the birds-eye view of the amazing landscape and if you are lucky, a beautiful sunrise. After the balloon flight, you will be transferred to the hotel for breakfast and rest.
Later on, continue with a program and start with rock formations in the Devrent valley; walking in Zelve Open Air Museum: a journey in the past with its troglodyte houses; Visit Paşabağ –three coned fairy chimneys” where the voice of wind mixes with the “songs of fairies”
You will stop for lunch in one of the most well-regarded restaurants, the Mustafapasa old Greek House in an old Greek village.
Following lunch, you will have a tour of an authentic home in Mustafapasa before driving to Avanos, the center of terra cotta works of art since 3000 BC., and a demonstration in a traditional pottery workshop and learn how the pottery is made.
In the afternoon visit the famous Göreme Open Air Museum and see the best examples of Byzantine art in Cappadocia in rock-cut churches with frescoes and paintings (10th to 13th century) including the famous Dark Church See Doves valley and Uchisar castle from their edge.
Wonders of Cappadocia
DAY 5: Explore the wonders of Cappadocia on a full-day tour
At 9:30 am the guide will arrive at the hotel and you will embark on the “Wonders of Cappadocia” Tour and descend into the center of the earth in the Underground city of Kaymakli a UNESCO World Heritage Site or Derinkuyu; Walking in the mysterious Ihlara Canyon, a “mirage” in the Steps of Anatolia up to Belisırma village, the ancient Peristrema: “Valley of the Sky” along the Melendiz River.
Rock-cut churches, spread across a wild plantation, surprise you with their successfully painted representations from the Bible.
Lunch in Belisirma at a simple local restaurant by the river.
Julia will take a 4km trek, while Janina sips Turkish tea or coffee and enjoys the amazing scenery.
The day will conclude with a visit to Guzelyurt Village old Karbala, to witness the local village life which dates back to 8500BC, and Cami Church before returning to your oasis Esbelli Evi.
DAY 6: Anatolia - Konya
Situated at an altitude of 1016 meters in the south-central region of the vast Anatolian steppe, the city of Konya is famous far beyond the borders of Turkey.
The city's renown derives from the nearby ruins of Catal Huyuk and, more so, from the shrine of Rumi, the great Sufi poet (1207-1273).
Fifty kilometers southeast of Konya, the Neolithic settlement of Catal Huyuk has been dated to 7500 BC, making it one of the oldest known human communities.
Though only partially excavated and restored, the hilltop settlement covers 15 acres and reveals sophisticated town planning, religious art, and ceremonial buildings.
Remains of numerous other ancient settlements have been discovered on the Konya plain, giving evidence that humans have long favored this region.
The city of Konya has been known by different names through the ages. Nearly 4000 years ago the Hittites (The Hittites were an Ancient Anatolian people who established an empire centered on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around 1600 BC) called it Kuwana.
During Roman times, the city was visited by St. Paul and because of its location on ancient trade routes, it continued to thrive during the Byzantine era.
Konyas golden age was in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.
The Seljuk Turks had ruled a great state encompassing Iran, Iraq and Anatolia.
With the decline of the Seljuk state in the early 12th century, different parts of the empire became independent, including the Sultanate of Rum.
Between 1150 and 1300, the Sultans of Rum beautified Konya, erecting many lovely buildings and mosques. It was during this period that Rumi came to live in Konya.
Mevlana Rumi is generally known in the west simply by the epithet Rumi (which means Anatolian) or in the east as Maulana Rumi. In Turkey, he is universally referred to as Mevlana (the Turkish spelling of Maulana - which means 'Our Master').
Born in 1207 in the town of Balkh in Khurasan (near Mazar-I-Sharif in contemporary Afghanistan), Jalal al-Din Rumi was the son of a brilliant Islamic scholar. At the age of 12, fleeing the Mongol invasion, he and his family went first to Mecca and then settled in the town of Rum in 1228. Rumi was initiated into Sufism by Burhan al-Din, a former pupil of his father's, under whose tutelage he progressed through the various teachings of the Sufi tradition. After his father's death in 1231, Rumi studied in Aleppo and Damascus and, returning to Konya in 1240, became a Sufi teacher himself. Within a few years a group of disciples gathered around him, due to his great eloquence, theological knowledge and engaging personality.
Rumi teachings expressed that love is the path to spiritual growth and insight. Broadly tolerant of all people and other faiths, he says.
Konya is a home to Whirling Dervishes, the ritual dance of the Sufi sect, a mystical branch of Islam, was created in Konya 700 years ago by the Persian poet Rumi. Practitioners, dubbed "whirling dervishes" by early European travelers, believe the act of repeatedly spinning allows them to forget their earthly body and move closer to God. "Dervish" is an adaptation of derwish, the Arabic word for Sufi.
DAY 7: From Konya to Pamukkale to Istanbul
At 9:00am you will start the drive toward Pamukkale, a town in western Turkey known for the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. It neighbors Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 B.C. Ruins there include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis with sarcophagi that stretch for 2km. The Antique Pool is famous for its submerged Roman columns, the result of an earthquake. This is one of Turkey’s UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE sites. This is a full day, drive & tour with drop-off at the airport for onward flight to Istanbul.
Upon arrival in the Istanbul airport, a driver holding a name board will meet you and you will be transferred to your hotel in Istanbul….
Tonight’s dinner will be at one of the hotel’s restaurants.
Gems of Istanbul
DAY 8: Discover the treasures of Istanbul
Today’s tour will take you to visit the sixth-century Basilica Cistern. Spanning more than two acres, it features 336 columns over 25 feet high to support its ceiling.
You will take a stroll through Sulthanamed, and stop for a snack before driving to Spice market before visiting Ottoman architectural masterpiece, the Dolmabahce Palace, built in the 19th century.
This is one of the most glamorous palaces in the world.
It was the administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire and the last Ottoman Sultan resided here.
Following the day of touring, you will return to the hotel to rest and refresh.
A driver will meet you at 6:30 pm and you will be taken to the pier where a private boat awaits to take you on a tour of amazing villas along the Bosporus.
Enjoy picnic dinner and sip the sparkling wine (while Julia sips Turkish wine) and watch the sunset over the city on two continents.