This is a 10-Day sample Itinerary that is “perfect” for those who would like to see Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus and Bodrum, the most popular venues for visitors to Turkey; it can be modified to suit the preferences, the budget, and the number of days. We can add a “Blue Voyage” sailing on a gulet from Bodrum, or a side-trip from Izmir to Pergamum, during the course of which we can incorporate a visit to an authentic Turkish Family home (having the guests welcomed to a special dinner in a 150-year old village house, sampling great home-made food and excellent wines). And, if travelers have already been in Istanbul, we can show yet different parts of this magnificent City, include a Cooking Class, or a performance of the Janissary Band (world’s first military band that also influenced Mozart and Beethoven as they composed their Turkish Marches)!
Turkey At Its Best
Is the innovator of unique, premium, bespoke travel experiences for visitors to Turkey. We are here to guide you through the most memorable ways to see the best of Turkey.
Engin Kadaster, Vice President and General Manager, has over 40 years of experience in Turkish history and tourism, including the ancient and new cities and sites of Turkey – first as a Professional Tour Guide, then as an Archaeologist, and later as General Manager of a major ‘on-site’ travel organization.
Over the course of nearly half a century of personal experience, she has developed an international reputation for utilizing her deep knowledge of the history, customs, and regions of Turkey to personally design and arrange imaginative itineraries, customized to meet the specific needs and interests of each traveler or group.
What makes Engin truly distinctive? From travel agents to tour guides to the traveling clients themselves, everyone who works with her cites her boundless energy, authentic enthusiasm for Turkey, and her leadership in Turkey At Its Best. That is why Engin is the best-kept secret in Turkish tourism. She has personally guided heads of state, served as the Official Guide to The Royal Family during the visit of H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to Ephesus in 1971, and has been the trusted provider of choice to Hollywood elites and Fortune 500 CEOs.
Alongside Engin, the boutique Turkey At Its Best team is comprised of travel experts with decades of experience.
3 Hours before flight time
Upon arrival at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, you will be able to obtain your Turkish Visas (at this writing $20 in cash for U.S. citizens) at the Visa Counter after disembarking from the plane but before proceeding through Passport Control. Next, having claimed your luggage at the Baggage Claim carousel, you will exit the Customs area; once outside, you will find your local host waiting for you to take you to your selected hotel. [START OF TOUR ARRANGEMENTS]. Enjoy the rest of the day on your own. (We can also arrange VIP arrival transfers)
Your guide will meet you at 9:00 a.m. at the lobby of your hotel. Today, you will see some of the highlights of Istanbul on a walking tour: First, visit the “Blue Mosque”, with its six graceful minarets and superb interior which is highlighted with more than 20,000 blue Turkish tiles. Then, see the Hippodrome, a large square which was once the site of the ancient Stadium, now adorned with ancient monuments such as the Serpent Column (taken from Delphi in Greece) and the Egyptian Obelisk (taken from the Temple of Karnak in Egypt). Afterwards visit St. Sophia Museum, which was the largest church when it was built in the 6th Century; it was later converted to a mosque and then a museum. Its interior is elaborately decorated with beautiful mosaics and precious marbles, including some marble columns that were brought from the Temple of Artemis (which was once one of the Seven Wonders of the World) near Ephesus. In the afternoon, visit Topkapi Palace, home of Ottoman Sultans for centuries. Then visit the Covered (Grand) Bazaar, the largest ancient covered mall with over 4,000 shops under hundreds of domes and arches. Return to your hotel in late afternoon.
Your guide will pick you at 9:00 a.m. and take you first for a visit to the Spice Market [or Egyptian Market] that was built in the 17th Century, where you can take in the aromas and colors of exotic spices and food items. Afterwards, enjoy a cruise on the Bosphorus on a local ferry boat. You will have a chance to see Istanbul from the best vantage point, enjoying the beautiful skylines while sailing on this waterway that separates Asia and Europe. On shore you will see wonderful Ottoman Palaces such as Dolmabahce Palace, as well as old wooden mansions and modern villas, viewing the coasts that feature the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world. Your boat will be sailing under the Bosphorus Bridge (one of the longest suspension bridges), by Ortakoy (the once quaint village which is now a center of night life), and by Rumelihisar Fortress which was built in just three months in the 1400’s by Sultan Mehmet (who subsequently conquered Constantinople from the Byzantines and made the city, thereafter called Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire). When you land on the shore, your private vehicle will be waiting for you. In the afternoon you can visit Dolmabahce Palace (the last residence of the Ottoman Sultans from the 19th Century on) located on the Bosphorus, rivaling French palaces in its grandeur. In addition to amazing carpets and furniture, the palace is also famous for having the largest chandelier in the world (weighing 4.5 tons)! You will be returning to your hotel in the afternoon.
This morning, you will be transferred from your hotel to Istanbul Ataturk Airport for your Turkish Airlines flight, departing for Nevsehir or Kayseri, one of the two gateway airports to Cappadocia. This is an ancient region, and Cappadocia means “Land of Beautiful Horses” in an old language. It is full of natural attractions reminiscent of a lunar landscape with unusual rock formations, as well as other wonders that were carved and created by people: underground cities, cave churches and cave living! When you arrive, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your cave hotel. En route, your guide will start introducing you to this amazing region by showing one of the underground cities, Kaymakli. Archaeologists estimate that there are at least 30 underground dwellings, some connected with tunnels, that were built over the millennia since they were first started by the Hittites around 2,000 B.C. The underground city you will be visiting has 8 stories carved into the ground beneath the surface. The spaces and passages are well lit, and there is good ventilation; the old living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, storage areas, chapels, etc. are interesting sights, but you will need to stoop down as the ceilings are very low at certain places.
Tonight there is an optional performance of the Whirling Dervishes at Sarihan, a Seljuk caravanserai from the 13th Century. (It may be quite crowded with tourists; this would be recommended for those who really have an interest in Mevlana and Sufism.)
(You may wish to take an optional hot-air balloon ride, very early this morning, over this unusual landscape). After (you return to your hotel and have) breakfast, your guide will take you for a full day tour of Cappadocia. Visit Goreme Valley, the open-air museum with many rock churches that are decorated inside with frescoes; visit Peri Bacalari (“Fairy Chimneys”), the towering rock formations that are the symbol of Cappadocia, and quaint hamlets such as Avanos, famous for its potteries, and Zelve, another Open-Air Museum where you can see rock caves that had been used by early Christian monks living in the three valleys of Zelve. Stop at ancient Sinassos (current Mustafapasa) and Avanos (where you can try your hand on the old-fashioned potter’s wheel to make your masterpiece)! If time permits, walk along Gulludere Canyon to see colorful rock formations, watch the sunset in the Red Valley (depending on the season) as you enjoy some local wine, or mingle with the locals. Return to your hotel in late afternoon.
Early this morning, you will be transferred to Kayseri Airport for your flight to Izmir, gateway airport to Ephesus. Upon arrival, your guide will meet you at Izmir Airport and take you to Ephesus, one of the best preserved cities of antiquity which also is a phenomenal open-air Museum. One of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis (Diana) was in Ephesus. Ephesus is also famous as the ancient city that had been visited by St. Paul (twice) and St. John, and for its mention in the Book of Revelation (as one of the Seven Churches) as well as in the Acts of the Apostles. The comprehensive Ephesus tour will have you walking over marble streets, adorned on both sides with temples, theaters, fountains, and baths, among other ancient structures. You will have the opportunity to visit the Grand Theater (mentioned in Acts of the Apostles) that accommodated over 24,000 people, the ancient marble public toilets, and the first advertisement carved on the marble street – giving directions to the “house of ill-repute”! The highlight will be a tour inside the “Terrace Houses”, homes to wealthy Romans, that should afford a rare look into everyday life of a family during the Roman period. Drive by the site of the Temple of Artemis and the Basilica of St. John (relatively well preserved and partially restored), believed to have been built over the grave of St. John; you can still see baptismal pools. If interested, you can also visit the House of the Virgin Mary, believed to be the last home of Mary, now a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. Afterwards, your guide will take you to the charming hillside village of Sirince, just outside Ephesus, for overnight stay. Sirince is famous for its fruit wines – you can go wine tasting tonight in a nice restaurant in the village or at your hotel.
Today your guide will take you to Bodrum. And, you will be visiting some interesting cities en route : First, stop at Priene; one of the first planned cities in the world, it requires some uphill walking, but it is worth the climb! Streets cut each other at right angles, based on the Hippodamian Plan , and the buildings are on perfect city blocks, dating from the 4th Century. (Famous architect Hippodamus was from nearby Miletos). Afterwards, stop at Miletos, a very important city of antiquity, where you can see a well-preserved theater and Roman baths, and a very charming old mosque, among others. (Philosophers and scientists from Miletos had been among those who had founded colonies in different parts of the Mediterranean Region, including Southern France). Then, continue on to Didyma, where you can see the Temple of Apollo, “Seat of the Oracle”, one of the largest temples ever built (construction took over 250 years, but was never totally completed). Your guide will bring you to your hotel in Bodrum.
Enjoy Bodrum on your own today.
This morning you will be transferred to Bodrum Airport for your mid-morning flight to Istanbul. Upon arrival, you will be met at Istanbul Ataturk Airport and transferred to your selected hotel. Enjoy the afternoon on your own.
Today, you will be transferred to Istanbul Ataturk International Airport for your flight to your next destination.