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Cappadocia, Istanbul, Ephesus & Troy

12 days from only £1,249pp
Selected Departures up to November 2014

Turkey is an intriguing country with a unique identity straddling both Europe and Asia. In a place where familiarity merges with the exotic, we find a magical blend of the ancient, Christian and Ottoman worlds where the jewel in the crown is the incredible city of Istanbul.

A city of great diversity, Istanbul is a combination of tree-lined boulevards, cafés and cosmopolitan restaurants set against a backdrop where little else has changed for centuries. You still see the thriving street market-stalls, groaning with immense displays of produce and even live poultry for sale, with noise and atmosphere in abundance. High-class jewellery and fashion shops equalling the best Paris or London can muster jostle with hawkers selling freshly prepared food, shoeshine boys and the worlds largest covered bazaar. Consecutive capital to both Christian and Ottoman Empires, you can at once admire a fascinating Byzantine church whilst listening to the haunting chant from the mosque calling the faithful to prayer. 

During its 3,000 years of turbulent history it has been home to Greeks, Romans, the Crusaders, Ottomans and finally the Turks themselves – all leaving their mark. Originally Byzantium, it became Constantinople after the Roman Emperor Constantine made it his capital and finally, Istanbul. We are taught the Roman Empire fell in 410 AD when Attila the Hun sacked Rome, but rarely told is that the Eastern and wealthiest half lasted another 1,000 years. This has lead to amazing preservation with perhaps the greatest legacy being the 6thcentury Haghia Sophia built as the largest ever church - for over a thousand years the largest covered space on earth. During the Middle Ages the Ottoman Empire held sway and built another range of monuments to match: the Blue Mosque, taking its name from the intricate blue tiles lining its interior and the amazing Topkapi Palace which was the seat of government of arguably the greatest empire of the medieval age. 

We also visit three of the most famous ancient sites in the country: Troy, Pergamon and Ephesus. Each one is very different, with Troy being the oldest, dating from 3,000BC and during more than a century of excavations, nine separate cities have been unearthed, all built in layers over each other. Pergamon, once a Greek colony of 100,000 people built high on a huge rock, is an impregnable defensive site, with amazing views in all directions and flourished as one of the ancient world’s greatest centres of learning and healing. During Roman times the greatest city in the eastern Mediterranean was Ephesus, boasting an extraordinary number of superbly preserved monuments – including the stunning two-storey Library of Celsus. For many, this is the Pompeii of the East. Crossing from Asia back to Europe by a scenic ferry journey across the Dardenelles Straits – you’ll be surprised at how close Europe is to the Asian shore and it’s not hard to imagine the great armies of Xerxes and Alexander the Great crossing here at their narrowest point.

Our “pre-tour” of Cappadocia discovers even more of this fascinating country, plus its sumptuous natural and historical wonders. The unique 30 million year old volcanic scenery is utterly striking with a variety of rocks eroding at different rates creating valleys of contorted shapes probably unmatched anywhere in the world. Firstly,  explore Ankara, today’s capital where the wealth of history underpinning the emergence of Turkey as a nation is clearly encapsulated in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum and where the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, lies in his Mausoleum. The remainder of the extension presents the very best of Cappadocia and Anatolia, including the unique and extraordinary underground city of Kaymakli, built on eight subterranean levels and the amazingly shaped rocks of Monks Valley and Goreme where early Christian buildings are carved into the mesmerising rock formations themselves.  We then follow the ancient Silk Road, with its astonishing sense of history at the Sultanhani Caravanserai, a camel “truck stop” used for millennia en-route to the east, before visiting the historic home of the Whirling Dervishes in Konya and staying in the thermal wonderland that is the brilliant white “cotton castle” of Pamukkale with its extraordinary mineral rich pools and falls. The pre-tour ends with a revealing visit to Aphrodisias, the delightfully ancient city of Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love with its outstanding relics.

Turkish cuisine is an interesting blend of Mediterranean specialities: lots of fresh grilled lamb, fish and shellfish combine with aubergines, peppers and various fragrant olive oils, to create tasty, healthy menus all washed down with the excellent local and very reasonably priced red wine. One of the greatest pleasures of visiting this diverse country is to meet the Turks themselves, a wonderfully, welcoming people with a well-deserved reputation for friendliness.  Genuine hospitality has been refined to an art-form here with even the smallest transaction often being accompanied by a cup of refreshing apple tea.

Turkey is the perfect place if you are looking for something a little different - a genuinely unique blend of diverse cultures, centuries of history and an atmosphere which links the mysterious east and modern west.

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Features

Fully escorted tour includes:

  • Return scheduled flights from Manchester, Birmingham or London Heathrow
  • Eleven nights accommodation in carefully selected four-star hotels on a bed and breakfast basis, with eight dinners included
  • Tour of Ankara, its Anatolian Civilisations Museum and Ataturk’s mausoleum
  • See the amazing rock pinnacles of Cappadocia
  • Explore the ancient land of the Hittites, birthplace of the Iron Age
  • Optional hot-air balloon ride over this unique landscape
  • See Konya, the birthplace of the Whirling Dervishes
  • Stay and explore Pamukkale and Hierapolis, a spa town since ancient times
  • Walking tour of Istanbul including the Blue Mosque, the Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn and the Grand Bazaar
  • Guided tour of the extraordinary Topkapi Palace
  • Visit Haghia Sophia, for a thousand years Christendom’s greatest church
  • Follow in the footsteps of St Paul and St John in Ephesus, the Eastern Mediterranean’s greatest Roman city
  • Visit the mountainside site reputed to be the house of the Virgin Mary
  • Guided tour of the remarkable and little-visited Acropolis of Pergamon
  • See the remains of Homer’s Troy
  • Cross the Straits of the Dardanelles and visit the poignant sites of the Commonwealth cemeteries in Gallipoli and Anzac Cove
  • Escorted by our experienced tour manager
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Itinerary

 

Day 1

Fly to Ankara via Istanbul staying overnight at the five-star Barcelo Ankara Altinel hotel with dinner.

Day 2

Today we explore Turkey’s capital uncovering some remarkable ancient and modern history of this deeply fascinating country.  Ankara is the heart of Anatolia, where civilisation dates from when humans first migrated from Africa, brilliantly explained in the Anatolian Civilisations Museum. Stone Age habitation evolved into some of the world’s first actual societies, notably the Assyrians and then the remarkable Hittites - who discovered iron making, invented the wheel, signed the world’s first written peace treaty (with the Egyptians) and had laws and social systems we could recognise! We also visit the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, commander of Turkish forces at Gallipoli, national hero and in the 1920s, “founder” of Modern Turkey. The esteem in which he is held is self-evident.  

This afternoon we drive alongside Tuz Golu one of the world’s largest salt lakes, entering Cappadocia, one of the planet’s most unique landscapes, a remarkably fertile volcanic plateau eroded into bizarrely contorted shapes. We stay two nights with dinner at the four-star Hotel Dinler.

Day 3

This remarkable region is incredibly rich in amazing natural phenomena and extraordinary settlements built by its resourceful peoples throughout the ages. Its history is unparalleled; it was once the land of the Hittites, subsequently the Lydians - creators of the first practical ‘world’ currency enabling sophisticated trade to flourish, then conquered by the Persians who were followed by probably the finest general who ever lived, Alexander the Great. Then came the Romans and Byzantines, whilst the 11th century brought the Turks and then the Mongols. St Paul introduced Christianity here and for a thousand years Cappadocia was the world’s centre of Christendom. Their remarkable legacies are astonishing. To survive periodic marauding invasions, entire cities were built underground here, some boasted a staggering 3,000 inhabitants! One such example is Kaymakli which had eight levels and you will be amazed by the rooms, passages and recesses; ranging from stables, wine presses and kitchens, even a church and a copper smelter! Nearby is Pasabaglari (Monks’ Valley) where over the millennia, weathered rocks have formed almost unbelievable shapes capped with mushroom like pinnacles. Some of these resulting “Fairy Chimney” rock pillars have been hollowed out by monks where hermits distanced themselves from the outside world, hence the valley’s name. 

Highlight of the day is Goreme, the vast monastic complex boasting some of the finest rock cut churches and exquisite frescoes particularly noted for the surprising freshness of their original 10th century colours. This is Byzantine art at its most astonishing, cleverly utilising the rock’s rugged surface to highlight shadow!  We end the day with a visit to the pottery making village of Avanos and see a demonstration of the potter’s art.

Day 4

Leaving Cappadocia’s hills you can really appreciate the wide-open vistas of the Anatolian Plateau. Seemingly unremarkable today, this is the ancient Silk Road from the east. Then like a mirage, a stunning sight gradually emerges from the empty plain. This is the great Caravanserai of Sultanhani, essentially a camel “truck stop” used by travellers since earliest times. Rebuilt many times during its turbulent history, the current 13th century complex is probably the finest and best preserved of the classic Seljuk Caravanserai once common across Asia Minor, noted for its magnificent portal and the elegant simplicity of its massive walls. Exploring the great courtyard and surrounding rooms, it’s not hard to imagine the relief with which weary camel trains and their minders would rest here before continuing their epic journeys! 

Continuing to Konya, we visit the mausoleum of Mevlana Rumi’s, one of Islam’s greatest philosophers, staying overnight with dinner at the four-star Hotel Ozkaymak.  Renowned for its green dome, the Mausoleum, sacred to the Muslim order of Mevlevi, sometimes called the Whirling Dervishes, remains a site of pilgrimage and the dramatic Whirling Ceremony is still performed. 

Day 5

Passing great lakes and dramatic mountain scenery we visit one of the world’s most extraordinary natural phenomena, Pamukkale – literally Turkish for Cotton Castle – plus its ruined city-spa of Hierapolis where emperors bathed two millennia ago. By a freak of nature, calcium carbonate has been deposited by the evaporation of huge springs gushing from below, leaving thermal pools and the extraordinary wedding cake-like brilliant white mineral- rich cascade for which Pamukkale is renowned. 

Staying overnight you can enjoy this remarkable phenomenon with these natural wonders enhanced in the evening light. The four-star Richmond Hotel offers natural indoor and outside thermal spa pools, a splendid way to relax before dinner. 

Day 6

Another momentous site in civilisation’s history is the enticingly named Aphrodisias, city of the legendary Aphrodite, the Roman Venus, goddess of love. As significant as Ephesus, this is one of Turkey’s finest archaeological sites, yet much remains undiscovered. Evidence suggests Neolithic farmers worshipped the Mother Goddess of Fertility here 7,000 years ago. Your tour explores Greek and Roman remains and their legends, immersing us in those societies’ passion for passion! Pre-eminent amongst the ruins is of course the great Temple of Aphrodite, subsequently transformed into a Christian basilica, and one of the most intact stadiums in the ancient world. Aphrodisias became truly prosperous when Julius Caesar favoured it after the inhabitants ‘sensibly’ backed the ‘right’ side during a rebellion. As a result the city became an artistic hub renowned for its marble work exported throughout the empire, even featuring in the great buildings of Rome. Exploring this magnificent site it is not difficult to understand its importance and excited citizens, the gossip around Hadrian’s Baths and councillors arguing in their Odeon (council chamber) as the minutiae of the day are debated. 

We soon approach the azure-blue Mediterranean and Kusadasi, staying at the four-star Hotel Korumar.  for two nights with dinner. The hotel is fully air-conditioned with two restaurants, a spa/hammam, a large open-air pool and some excellent sun terraces overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean. See below for itinerary of Cappadocia pre-tour which arrives in Kusadasi today.

Day 7

 Today we have a guided tour of the nearby ancient city of Ephesus and its breathtaking range of buildings. Indeed so great was it, that the Romans made it their ‘capital’ of Asia, with its amazing two-storey Library of Celsus and the enormous amphitheatre. We also see the remains of the Temple of Artemis, in its day greater than the Parthenon in Athens and a pilgrimage destination for a thousand years. Intriguingly, only ten percent of the city has been excavated to date, but the discoveries indicate a highly sophisticated society living in luxurious houses with marble-lined halls, decorated with mosaics and beautiful frescoes. As you stroll along the remarkably preserved marble road though the centre of Ephesus, it’s an almost humbling experience to walk the same streets as St Paul and St John who both lived here for several years. We also visit the remains of St John’s Basilica, built by the Emperor Justinian over St John’s tomb.

In complete contrast, we next visit the small hillside site of the House of the Virgin Mary. St John was entrusted to care for her and it’s believed she travelled with him to Ephesus. We return to our hotel in Kusadasi during the afternoon after a fascinating tour of discovery, with the rest of the day free to enjoy at your leisure. 

Day 8

After breakfast we leave Kusadasi, following the coast towards the ancient Hellenistic city of Pergamon. Perched on a high rocky outcrop, with stunning views for miles around, the city was famed for its library, which rivalled Alexandria’s - the most extensive in the ancient world. Knowledge then, as now, was power and so concerned were the Egyptians about this competition, they cut off supplies of papyrus to Pergamon, thus prompting the invention of parchment. We’ll see the remains of the Temple of Trajan, the altar of Zeus and the steepest ancient amphitheatre in the world. Pergamon was also renowned as a healing centre so we visit the Asclepion sanctuary where the sick came to be cured by having their dreams analysed! 

We then continue our journey along the scenic coastline to Çanakkale and our hotel, the four-star Kolin overlooking the Dardanelles, where we also take dinner.

Day 9 

A fascinating day of contrasts today, but linked by a common thread between the millennia. Firstly there’s Troy and the famous ‘Wooden Horse’ story, when Queen Helen of Sparta eloped with Prince Paris to Troy and her enraged husband followed, seeking her return - classic stuff! But today Troy is a complex archaeological site covering nine separate cities. It nevertheless remains a romantic and alluring place to anyone who has read about the heroic struggles recounted in Homer’s Iliad. 

Today, we are truly in the depths of rural Turkey, travelling through small towns and villages, where you will still see donkey carts in use and roads lined by market stalls selling colourful wares. In complete contrast we then take the short cruise from Asia to Europe over the extremely scenic, steep-sided Dardenelles, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. We are now on the Gallipoli peninsula made famous during the First World War as the scene of one of the greatest and most tragic campaigns of the conflict. Over 35,000 Australian, British and New Zealanders perished during the nine months it lasted; their deaths commemorated in the many cemeteries dotted along this now peaceful and rural peninsula. 

We visit the Lone Pine memorial and Anzac Cove, where the Australians landed by mistake and had to scale steep cliffs and ravines under constant bombardment.

We continue our journey through this refreshingly scenic landscape and arrive in Istanbul, somewhat in awe, as although this is Europe, it is also fascinatingly different! We stay at the centrally located four-star Titanic City Hotel or Taksim Gonen, for three nights’ bed and breakfast.

Day 10 

Istanbul is a revelation: a city of huge contrasts and a centre of shifting civilisations for 2,500 years. Chosen by Emperor Constantine as the eastern capital of the Roman Empire it then became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Probably nowhere in the world can you find such an array of diverse monuments and fascinating places to visit, many of which you will experience on our tour this morning. We see the immense and beautifully preserved city walls, still dominant after 1,000 years and the site of the Hippodrome where the Emperors entertained a staggering 50,000 people. Next we visit the Blue Mosque, symbol of the city and one of the most famous religious buildings in the world. You cannot fail to be impressed by its grace and harmony, but its real attraction is the interior lined with 20,000 beautiful blue Iznik tiles and Arabesque inscriptions. Its overall beauty is hardly surprising if you consider many of the same craftsmen who built it also worked on the Taj Mahal!

We follow on with a guided tour of one of the city’s best landmarks, the breathtaking Haghia Sophia; conceived as a mirror of the heavens, arguably the greatest church ever built and quite simply one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements. Built in the 6th century it was the largest enclosed space in the world for 1,400 years! The artistic highlights are the amazing Byzantine mosaics seemingly covering every wall with their vibrant golds, reds and yellows and, after it was converted to a mosque some 1,000 years later, the stunning blue ceramics so typical of the East. The marble which lines the walls has to be seen to be believed, with each piece being specially quarried so the grain blends in a most harmonious manner. And, just as you leave, you see a huge bronze door, beautifully crafted in intricate detail and dating from the 2nd century BC – almost perfectly preserved: the sheer skill of these ancient artisans will never cease to astound you.

For thousands of years Istanbul was at the centre of the overland trade routes with its Grand Bazaar home to merchants from throughout the known world. Today, its 4,000 shops sell all sorts of goods, mainly gold, silver, leatherwear, ceramics and carpets, including fine collectors’ items. In the maze of tiny shops surrounding this unique institution you can still see the tiny, industrious workshops. This afternoon we will have a guided walk where you experience the sights and sounds of this thought-provoking relic of the past.

Day 11

 Today we start with a visit and guided tour of the Topkapi Palace, the glittering and labyrinthine imperial residence of the Sultans for over 400 years. Today, it is a spectacular museum set around four courtyards, but in its heyday it functioned as a city within a city, a home to over 4,000 guards, eunuchs, courtiers and, of course, the ladies of the Harem. There is also a superb display of arms from throughout history: crossbows, early firearms inlaid with ivory and beautifully crafted armour from as far afield as Japan. The Treasury is breathtaking too, with an amazing display of jewellery including the world’s fifth largest diamond, emeralds, jewel-encrusted thrones, gifts from all over the world and the famous Topkapi dagger – all displaying outstanding craftsmanship.

We then have a short walk around the Spice Bazaar where your senses are bombarded by the vibrant colours and smell of herbs and spices from around the world: high quality saffron from Iran; vanilla from Madagascar; turmeric and cochineal from India; fresh peppercorns from Indonesia plus much more. This whole area encapsulates the spirit of old Istanbul – a maze of tiny busy streets, where the locals chat over apple tea supplied by the numerous street vendors. The commanding horns of the passenger ferries resound under the famous Galata Bridge, before they depart for Asia on the opposite shore. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.

Day 12

Today at the appropriate time, the coach will transfer you to the airport to take your return flight, after a most fascinating tour.

 

 

Cappadocia Hot-air Balloon trip

This is possible at sunrise on days 3 or 4 of our pre-tour and costs £120 per person for a one-hour flight. Although this can also be booked via our tour manager in Ankara, we recommend you reserve this when booking. Should flights not be possible, a full refund will be offered.

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Price Includes

 

The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. The price includes six nights accommodation in four star hotels (or 11 nights with Cappadocia pre-tour), daily breakfast and three buffet dinners (or 8 dinners with pre-tour), scheduled flights, all tours and entrance fees as described: guided tours of Ephesus, Virgin Mary’s House, Temple of Artemis, St John’s basilica, city of Pergamon & Asclepion, Troy, Gallipoli battlefields, Aghia Sophia, Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace; Cappadocia pre-tour also includes visits to the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Ataturk’s Mausoleum, underground city of Kaymakli, Goreme open-air museum, Sultanhani caravanserai, the ancient cities of Hierapolis and Aphrodisias and Pamukkale; airport departure taxes, all transfers; the services on an experienced Riviera Tour Manager. Please note: where hotels feature a swimming pool, these are unheated and open in the summer months, weather permitting.

Turkey Visa (not included)

All U.K. passport holders require a visa for Turkey. Other passport holders should check with the relevant Embassy. Please ensure you have at least two completely empty pages in your passport and that it’s valid for at least six months on entry and three months from date of return. There are no current health requirements for this holiday.  Single entry tourist visas cost £10 per person and are available on arrival in Istanbul airport, payable in cash sterling.

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Tour:
Cappadocia, Istanbul, Ephesus & Troy