From Roman Ruins to Imperial Istanbul

Overview

This Private Journey brings you an insider’s view of the rich culture and ancient heritage of Turkey, with visits to dazzling Istanbul and to the surreal fairytale landscape of Cappadocia in the interior heartland. Heading along the Aegean Coast, explore glorious Ephesus, the best preserved Roman city in the Mediterranean, and lovely off-the-beaten-path sites such as exquisite Priene, with its Temple of Athena, and the remote sanctuary of Zeus at Labranda. Incorporated into your Private Journey are walks on ancient trails through beautiful countryside of olive orchards, delightful picnic lunches, visits to serene rural villages where you can sip tea in cafes under age-old plane trees, and opportunities to mingle with the locals in farmers markets and artisan workshops.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Exotic Istanbul

Explore the great monuments of this renowned city on a walking tour. Istanbul is home to the thousand-year-old Haghia Sophia, once the greatest church in Christendom, and the Blue Mosque, with its blue-themed interior, replete with panels of floral-motif tiles (20,000 of them) and graceful arabesque stenciling. Visit Topkapi Palace, where the sultans’ wives, concubines, and eunuchs lived inside the “forbidden” harem quarters. Enjoy a guided walk through the Covered Bazaar to the Spice Market, and board a sunset ferry to sail up the Bosphorus Strait, one of the most famous stretches of water in the world. Criss-cross between Europe and Asia as you savor views of the Dolmabahce Palace, Rumeli Hisar Castle, and traditional waterfront homes from the Ottoman period.

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Day 3
Magnificent Ephesus

Declared capital of Roman Asia by Emperor Augustus, the archeological complex of Ephesus is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the world. Here you'll walk down Marble Street, where the ruts of chariot wheels can still be seen etched in the pavement, and visit the striking Library of Celsus, with its elegant two-story facade.

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Days 4-5
Treasures of the Aegean Coast, Bodrum

In the lush valley of the Meander River Delta, visit Priene on the slopes of Mt. Mycale. Often compared to Delphi for its natural setting, Priene is also known for its extensive Temple of Athena, built at the order of Alexander the Great and still in a remarkable state of preservation. On the flanks of Mt. Latmos, explore the beautiful 2nd century Temple of Zeus, hidden in the endless grove of olives. Then head to Bodrum, where whitewashed, bougainvillea-clad houses surround natural harbors lined with yachts. Enjoy the flavor of the southern Aegean as you walk narrow streets lined with artisan shops and visit the Castle of St. Peter, with its Museum of Underwater Archaeology, and the remains of the Mausoleum of Mausulus.

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Days 6-7
Lake Bafa / Ancient Villages / Aphrodisias / Sacred Springs

At Lake Bafa, visit the unspoiled village of Kapikiri, hike to Neolithic caves with fascinating pictographs, and visit the Carian site of Labranda, with its fascinating sanctuary of Zeus perched in a lovely setting overlooking the plains.Taking a little traveled route inland, visit beautiful country villages with tree-shaded central squares and explore mountain-ringed Aphrodisias, a fantastic World Heritage Site in an isolated setting. The stadium at this ancient city can still seat 30,000 spectators. At Pamukkale, a remarkable natural wonder, walk along lime-white cliffs terraced with travertine pools, and visit the sacred spring at ancient Hieropolis, with its submerged marble pillars dating to the Roman era.

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Days 8-11
Cappadocia’s Moonscape

Spread across the heart of Turkey is the volcanic moonscape of Cappadocia, with its mushroom-shaped rock formations into which the local people have carved homes. Christianity arrived here in the 1st century AD, as evidenced by the ornate frescoed churches hewn deep into the soft tufa rock. Enjoy a hike from the pretty village of Ortahisar to the unspoiled hamlet of Cavusin through vineyards and apricot orchards, visit the ancient underground city of Kaymakli, 13 levels deep, where thousands of Byzantine-era villagers sought refuge from invaders, and enjoy panoramas of the towering stalagmites that give this landscape a surreal quality. Enjoy a whirling dervish performance at an original 12th century Seljuk caravanserai. Depart on Day 11 via Istanbul.

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Highlights

Highlights

An insider’s introduction with a top-notch private guide throughout the journey
Hilltop villages, majestic Roman ruins of Ephesus, Aphrodisias, and Bodrum
Cappadocia, with its other-wordly landscape and traditional villages

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $5795  
Arrive: Istanbul, Turkey
Depart: Istanbul, Turkey
Lodging: 3 nights in 4-star hotels, 2 nights boutique cave hotel in Cappadocia, 5 nights small country hotels
Meals: All meals included except 5 dinners
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Overland travel with easy to moderate city walks and cultural exploration in Istanbul and small villages, with hikes in Cappadocia and ancient sites