SHORTLIST

A Taste of Turkey - Istanbul to Cappadocia

Immerse yourself in the foodie and historical delights of Turkey on this ten-day trip through the Marmara, Aegean, and Central regions, each with their own culinary identity. From bustling Istanbul to the ancient sites of Pergamon and Ephesus, the travertine terraces of Pamukkale and the fairytale landscape of Cappadocia, journey through the country's fascinating history. Along the way, take a tour for the senses, sampling local dishes, street foods and wines.

Tick off Turkey's icons - Visit vibrant Istanbul, ancient Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis and marvel at the rock formations in Cappadocia.

Sample street food - Try balik ekmek grilled mackerel, chewy ice cream and gozleme as you explore markets and street-side stalls.

Try local staples and wines - Enjoy delicious mezze, baklava, pide and pottery kebab, as well as local wines.

Highlights
Discover the classic highlights of Turkey alongside a variety of tasty regional specialties|From the grandeur of Istanbul through the Marmara and Aegean to stunning Cappadocia|A variety of cuisine, world-class Greco-Roman sites and Pamukkale's travertine terraces

Tour information
Transport: Bus, Boat
Tour staff: Explore Tour Leader, Explore Tour Leader, Explore Tour Leader
Meals :Breakfast 9, Lunch 3 & Dinner 2

Tour details
Tour Provider Explore!
Price From
$2,910
Number of Days
9
Start Location
Turkey
End Location
Goreme, Turkey
Age Range
Avg. 30+
Group Size
5 to 18
Tour Style
Standard
Tour Themes
No specific theme
Physical Rating
Moderate
Itinerary Open all
Day 1 - Join trip in Istanbul
Our tour of Turkey starts in Istanbul. Once known as Constantinople, the city has been the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires and today, its historic riches are evident at every turn. Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul was an important stop on the old Silk Road. This resulted in the city forming a patchwork of cultures that make up modern-day Istanbul - and the mouthwatering local cuisine. Turkish food is a hearty and healthy mix of Middle Eastern, Asian, and Balkan style dishes ranging from barbecued meat kebabs to vine leaf-wrapped vegetable rice parcels.

For those arriving in time, our tour leader will meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for a welcome meeting, followed by dinner for those who want to join. There are no activities planned today, so you\ re free to arrive in Istanbul at any time. If you miss the welcome meeting, our tour leader will catch you up as soon as possible. Please note that if some passengers are arriving after the planned welcome time, then the main introductory briefing will be conducted on the morning of day 2 when everybody is present.

If you\ d like an airport transfer, you'll need to arrive at Istanbul Airport (IST) (a 90-minute drive from the centre) or Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) (a two-hour drive from the centre).

Our comfortable hotel is conveniently located in the Sirkeci area of Istanbul, close to metro and tram stops and ten minutes walking distance from the highlights of Sultanahmet main sites such as the Hagia Sophia. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you might want to visit the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace or Grand Bazaar.
Day 2 - Discover Istanbul’s street food scene and walking tour of Sultanahmet District
This morning we'll get our first taste of a traditional Turkish breakfast, which usually consists of yogurts, cheese, and breads along with cucumbers, tomats, olives and fruits.

We'll head out on foot towards Sultanahmet Square. Also known as the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the square was used for chariot racing in the Roman era. Today it's much more sedate but houses iconic landmarks such as the Serpentine Column, the Obelisk of Theodosius, and the Walled Obelisk. We'll have a guided tour of the square, ending at its most famous building, the Sultanahmet Blue Mosque, one of the most widely recognised sites in Istanbul.

Colourful and varied, Istanbul is a street food lover's paradise. Local delicacies are diverse, delicious, and sold everywhere from small carts on street corners to shops and restaurants. For lunch, we'll try a popular on-the-go meal, balik ekmek (grilled mackerel sandwich) accompanied by a glass of pickle juice.

The afternoon is left free to continue exploring the city at your own pace. You might like to visit the Hagia Sophia or there's the chance to take a boat trip on the Bosphorus, where you can catch stunning views of the Istanbul skyline. To appreciate the wonderful skyline of domes and minarets further, you could alternatively climb the old Gense Galata Tower and explore the Galata neighbourhood.

Tonight, we can go for dinner at Galata Bridge, where there's a choice of great restaurants with specialties including fresh fish.
Day 3 - Take ferry to Istanbul’s Asian side and try Baklava and Turkish Delight in the Spice Bazaar
This morning we'll explore a local residential area, walking to the Suleymaniye Mosque, then through the back streets down to the famed Golden Horn waterway.

We'll take the public ferry across the straits of the Bosphorus - the waterway that separates the continents of Europe and Asia - to Istanbul's Asian side. The ferry takes around 30 minutes and offers great views of the city skyline. During the crossing, we can sip Turkish tea and munch on a popular Turkish snack, simit (a round, sesame-coated bread).

The Kadikoy district has a slightly more laid-back feel, and we'll take a wander through the market to taste-test local specialties such as pickles, olives, cheese and honey. We'll take a break in a local cafe to refuel with Turkish coffee. Coffee is an essential part of Turkey's culinary heritage - it's poured from a cezve (a small, long-handled copper pot) and is unfiltered making it thicker and richer. Alternatively, you may prefer a refreshing Turkish tea. Turkey is famous for coffee but is the biggest consumer of tea in the world.

On the way back to the hotel, we'll stop by the Spice Bazaar, an expansive covered market filled with delicious treats and exotic smells. You can choose to snack on a pick 'n mix of Baklava and lokum (Turkish delight), the local's favourite remains plain jelly combined with pistachios.

This evening, you might like to enjoy Istanbul's nightlife or there'll be the opportunity to book your own dining experience in the city. Istanbul offers so many great places to eat but for those interested in fine dining, Michelin Guide's first restaurant selection for Istanbul was unveiled for 2023. Be sure to book ahead if you have somewhere popular in mind or ask our tour leader for suggestions.
Day 4 - Meze tasting in Ayvalik and visit Pergamon
Today we'll make a very early start to beat the traffic and leave the city lights behind, driving five hours south to Ayvalik, a coastal town with a history rooted in Greek mythology. For lunch, we'll feast on meze, an assortment of small dishes eaten as appetizers or a light meal, designed to be shared by the table. They can be served hot or cold and may contain meat or fish accompanied by fresh and grilled vegetables, olives and a selection of dips - the selection of Ayvalik meze will vary depending on the time of year.

After lunch, we'll continue south for an hour, passing olive groves and pomegranate trees before stopping to visit the Greco-Roman remains of Pergamon. Pergamon gave its name to and was the source of 'parchment', for which it was famous throughout the Middle East. We'll visit the striking acropolis, impressively perched above the modern-day town of Bergama, which contains the remains of a library, a theatre, temples and altars. Finally, we'll drive for around three hours to the Aegean town of Selcuk, where we'll spend the next three nights.

Note, today is the longest day overall and we'll spend a total of nine hours driving, however, our journey will be broken up by comfort breaks and interesting visits.

For our comfortable hotel base in Selcuk we have chosen a small, characterful hotel located in the winding maze of narrow streets in the old quarter of Selcuk, located right next to Apostle St. John Cathedral, the Medieval Byzantine Fortress and Archaeological museum. The rooms are large and well-appointed and facilities include a small swimming pool and restaurant.
Day 5 - Visit Epheus and Temple of Artemis, street food in Selcuk
Today we'll visit the great Greco-Roman city of Ephesus. We'll aim to get there in time for the site opening before it becomes too crowded. Once visited by Mark Antony and Cleopatra, this famous seaport reached its zenith in the 2nd century AD, becoming one of the main cultural and economic centres of the ancient world. It boasted a gymnasium and a stadium with seating for 70,000 spectators. Other highlights include the Baths of Constantine, the Temple of Hadrian with its beautiful facade, the theatre (a giant with 24,000 seats), the Arcadian Way (where Cleopatra entered from the harbour) and the Marble Avenue featuring the Library of Celsus, which is one of the most photographed Greco-Roman buildings in the world.

Driving on a short distance, we'll visit the scattered remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, before continuing to Selcuk for the chance to taste some typical specialties for lunch (not included). Street food in Selcuk includes bulgar wheat balls (vegan) and stretchy ice cream that dsn't melt - traditionally, it's made with milk, sugar, salep flour (a thickening agent from the root of an orchid) and mastic gum.

This afternoon is free to explore at your own pace. You might want to visit St John's Basilica, the Isa Bey Mosque or Selcuk Museum. Alternatively, you might prefer to do a bit of shopping or relax and soak up the town's laid-back vibe with a Turkish tea in one of the many open-air cafés.
Day 6 - Gozleme and fruit wine tasting in Sirince and cooking class in Selcuk
This morning, we'll head a short distance into the mountains to the colourful little village of Sirince, which is surrounded by fig trees, Aegean olive trees, walnut and apple trees. Sirince has become locally known for its fruit wines, and we'll try various flavours at a 'winehouse' including raspberry, banana, chocolate, pomegranate and mulberry. We'll have the opportunity to wander the cobbled car-free streets, watching ladies cooking Gozleme (savoury spinach stuffed pancakes), and if in season, purchase some freshly collected mountain thyme.

Back in Selcuk the afternoon has been left free to relax and in the early evening we'll take a cookery class in a local restaurant, learning how to make four dishes - stuffed vine leaves, mucver (courgette fritters), lentil soup and refreshing cacik (yogurt & cucumber dip).
Day 7 - Visit Pamukkale and Hierapolis on way to Whirling Dervish show in Konya
Hitting the road again today we'll travel inland to Konya, leaving the Aegean region behind. Along the way (around three hours in), we'll make a stop to visit the ancient sites of Pamukkale and Hierapolis. Situated on a high escarpment, Pamukkale's 'frozen waterfall' has been an attraction since Roman times. Stalactites of bright white petrified waterfalls cascade from basin to basin. We'll visit the incredible travertine pools, where you can opt to get your feet wet and enjoy the views overlooking the Menderes Valley.

Above the terraced pools, you'll find the ancient spa town of Hierapolis where the ruins date back to the 2nd century BC and the time of Eumenes II. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, we'll visit the theatre, Temple of Apollo, Frontinus Gate and see several sarcophagi as well as having the chance to go into the Archaeology Museum housed in the former Roman baths.

This afternoon, we'll continue by bus for around five hours to Konya. For dinner, we'll have the option to try a succulent oven lamb kebab (cooked for around six hours in a wood fire) served with flatbread. Konya is one of Turkey's important religious sites and was the home of the Mevlana sect, better known as the founders of Sufism and the Whirling Dervishes. For those interested there may be the chance to see a Dervishes show tonight or timings may work better for tomorrow night in Cappadocia.

Today is another long but rewarding day of travel with a total of eight hours driving, broken up with a visit to the amazing Pamukkale and accompanied by ever-changing scenery as we transition into the Central region.
Day 8 - Try Turkish Pide and Pottery kebab and visit Kaymakli Underground City
Today is the last day of travel on our foodie adventure as we continue into the central region, and our first stop is the 13th-century Sultanhani Caravansarai. Once the largest roadside inn in Turkey, it supported the flow of commerce between the East and the West. We'll then drive for another two hours to the heart of Cappadocia.

On the menu for lunch is Turkish pide - Turkey's version of pizza - a savoury oval-shaped baked bread with various combinations of toppings or stuffings. The most common toppings are cheese and egg or ground meat and red pepper.

This afternoon, we'll visit the Kaymakli Underground City. Built by early Christians escaping oppression and once home to 3,500 people, this troglodyte cave-city is one of the largest of 34 similar excavations in Cappadocia. It contains nearly 100 tunnels on eight subterranean floors, and we'll explore the four that are open to the public, containing stables, a church and storage places.

Tonight's dinner gives us a real taste of Cappadocia. We'll try the local specialty dish 'pottery kebab' - meat and veg cooked slowly in clay pots sealed with dough. The high temperature and pressure inside the sealed pots increase the flavour and tenderness of the dish. When ready, the blazing hot pot is cracked in front of us, releasing the aromas and adding a bit of spectacle to the evening.

We'll spend our final two nights in a traditional-style, stone hotel on the outskirts of Goreme. Our hotel has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a sauna, terrace bar, restaurant and beautiful mountain views - if you're up early enough in the morning, you'll be able to see hot air balloons filling the sky.

It is a slightly shorter journey today as we drive for around four to five hours, making the usual comfort stops and visiting places of interest.
Day 9 - Full day exploring Cappadocia plus wine tasting
If you are considering a ballooning optional excursion, we advise you book this yourself for today in case of cancellation, so you have the chance to rebook for tomorrow. Please see optional excursions for more details.

Today we'll have a full day to explore Cappadocia. There'll be the option of taking a walk through one of the iconic valleys of Cappadocia such as the Love or Red Valleys, giving us an astounding view of the local landscapes. According to interests, the temperature and Tour Leader suggestions, the walk will vary - lasting approximately 2-3 hours to cover 4 to 5 kilometres or 3 to 4 miles. Formed by volcanic eruptions that covered the valleys with mud, ash, and blocks of hard rock, over the ages this volcanic 'tufa\ has been sculpted by erosion into strange shapes. Byzantine hermits settled in this area and carved churches, houses and fortresses into these cone formations known as fairy-tale chimneys as well as complete underground cities.

This afternoon, we'll head up to take in the panoramic views from Uchisar Castle and spend time in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Goreme Open Air Museum. We'll take our time to explore its many rock-carved churches and monastic buildings; some of which feature a stunning collection of wall paintings.

Cappadocia is considered to be one of the regions where the making of wine originated, nearly 7,000 years ago. The mineral-rich volcanic soil and temperate climate make the perfect growing conditions for grapes and fruits. The wines are smooth, dry, and delightful and we'll get to sample the different varieties - red, blush and white wines, as well as dessert wines that are produced here. We'll enjoy a final dinner together at a local restaurant (not included).
Day 10 - Trip ends in Goreme, Cappadocia
Our tour ends at our hotel in Goreme.

There are no activities planned today, so you\ re free to depart at any time. If your flight leaves later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you\ d like a hotel transfer, you'll need to depart from Kayseri Airport (ASR), around a one-hour drive from the hotel.
Departure dates
Start End Availability Price NZD
10 Aug 2024 19 Aug 2024 8 - Guaranteed $2,910
07 Sep 2024 16 Sep 2024 7 - Guaranteed $3,170
21 Sep 2024 30 Sep 2024 3 - Guaranteed $3,480
05 Oct 2024 14 Oct 2024 6 - Guaranteed $3,170