Western Turkey Tour:

 

  • Day 1

Upon arrival meet with our representative and transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Istanbul. 4 Star Hotel or similar. Dinner is included, if arriving in time.

  • Day 2


Istanbul: Topkapi Palace

This morning we visit the Topkapi Palace, the great palace of the Ottoman sultans from the mid-15th to the early 19th century. It was from this vast complex of buildings that the mighty Ottoman empire was administered. Today it is a huge museum containing ceremonial robes in silk and gold thread, Japanese and Chinese porcelain, European clocks, miniature paintings depicting Ottoman courtly life and one of the largest jewelry collections in the world. Highlights of the jewelry collection include one of the world's largest diamonds, the Spoonmakers diamond, and the Topkapi dagger with three enormous emeralds in the handle.

The afternoon is free for you to explore Istanbul, a city crowded with beautiful mosques, churches and palaces. You may want to visit the Topkapi Harem before leaving the palace (optional entrance fee, approx 9 USD); the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar beckon for shopping. Alternatively, you may take an optional ferry ride up the Bosphorous to the Black Sea. Along the shores of the Bosphorous are many summer palaces and old wooden houses dating from Ottoman times.

Overnight in Istanbul. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 3


Istanbul: Hippodrome & Agia Sophia

Istanbul has been the capital of two of the world's greatest empires, the Byzantine and the Ottoman. We start today's walking tour at the legendary Blue Mosque, built between 1609 and 1616 by Mehmet Aga. The inside is covered by more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.

At the Hippodrome you will see the remains of the great sports stadium where chariot races were held in Roman and Byzantine times. We will also see an Egyptian obelisk, a giant needle of stone carved for the Pharaoh Tutmoses III around 1500 BC and brought to Constantinople by the Byzantine Emperor Theodidius in AD 390.

We continue to the church of St Sophia (Agia Sophia), built by the Emperor Justinian in 548 BC. It was the largest church in the Christian world for nearly 1000 years. When the Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1435 one of the first things they did was to convert St Sophia into a mosque. Today it is a museum featuring many beautiful Christian mosaics.

Outside St Sophia we descend underground to the gigantic cisterns that contained the vast water supply which allowed Constantinople to withstand so many long sieges. Here the many columns are reflected in the water while classical music plays quietly.

Balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Istanbul. Breakfast and dinner.

 

  • Day 4


Istanbul - Gallipoli - Troy - Canakkale

After breakfast we drive along the Sea of Marmara through the small European part of Turkey known as Thrace. Only 3% of Turkey is in Europe, the other 97%, known as Anatolia, is in Asia. One of the fascinations of Turkey is the huge number of peoples and empires that have occupied this land; Turkey is known as the "Crossroads of Civilizations" due to its position between Europe, Asia and Arabia.

Before leaving Europe we visit Gallipoli. Called Gelibolu in Turkish, this narrow, mountainous peninsula on the northwestern side of the Dardanelles has seen more than its share of history, with countless civilizations having battled for control over these straits for over 3000 years. This is the historic World War I battleground where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of the Turkish Republic, first rose to prominence. Under the direction of Winston Churchill, an unsuccessful naval and land campaign failed in its attempt to capture Gallipoli, open up the Dardanelles, and seize Constantinople. This battleground is now marked with over 30 memorials.

We then cross the Dardanelles waterway by ferry from Europe to Asia, and visit the ruins of Troy where Greek and Trojan heroes fought for the beautiful Helen. Troy had been accepted as a lengendary city for ages, but very few people believed in its true existence. Heinrich Schliemann excavated here at this own expense in the 1870s, and discovered the spot where a sophisticated settlement had existed for centuries. As you stand on the ancient hilltop, you can look out over the plain of Troy and feel the famous cool north wind blowing from the Dardanelles.

Overnight in Canakkale. Breakfast and dinner.

 

  • Day 5


Canakkale - Pergamon - Kusadasi

We have an early start today. After breakfast we travel down the rugged Aegean coast and turn inland to the typically Turkish rural town of Bergama. Here we visit the Akropolis and Asklepion of the Roman city of Pergamon, said to be one of the first hospitals in the world. We see a carving of two snakes wrapped around a drinking cup (a modern symbol of the medical profession), and a theatre where the mentally disturbed would allegedly act out their emotions (a forerunner of today's psychoanalysis?).

Later we travel through Izmir, Turkey's most important port. It was here that the blind poet Homer was born when the city was known as Smyrna. It was also here in 1922 that the Turks expelled the invading Greeks from Turkish soil during the Turkish War of Independence. We continue to Kusadasi, a beautiful port city with a small island fortress. The island, attached to the mainland, gives the city its name: Kusadasi, "The Island of Birds."

Overnight in Kusadasi. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 6


Kusadasi: Ephesus

Today we visit Ephesus, one of the highlights of any visit to Turkey. During its Golden Age, the city was adorned with splendid monuments, theatres, agoras and libraries. The protectress of the city was the goddess Artemis whose temple, dating back to 1300 BC, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. As a prosperous trade and banking centre, Ephesus had a cosmopolitan population. It has been recorded that St John brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus where she spent her last days after the death of Christ. On our tour of Ephesus, we see a 24,000 seat amphitheatre, the Library of Celsus, and the marble-paved Arcadian Way.

In addition to the main site of Ephesus we will visit the superb Ephesus Museum. We also visit the traditional town of Selcuk which has many beautiful buildings including the Isa Bey Mosque (which was built in 1307), remains of old Turkish Baths, and a hill crowned by the Ayasoluk Fortress.

Overnight in Kusadasi. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 7


Kuşadası-Free Day

  • Day 8


Kusadasi - Aphrodisias - Pamukkale - Lake Egirdir

After breakfast we leave the Aegean coast and drive along the winding Menderes River Valley which gives its name to the geographical term referring to a winding, or meandering river.

We visit the impressive Roman site of Aphrodisias, named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Much of the site's excavation has been funded by the National Geographic Society. Aphrodisias is the location of one of the greatest schools of sculpture in antiquity; the museum here contains some magnificent pieces.

We continue to Pamukkale where mineral-rich water breaks through the earth's surface and cascades down the hillsides creating terraces of white chalk-like stone. We visit the ruins of Hierapolis before continuing to the tranquil town of Egirdir, clinging to a hillside along the shore of placid Lake Egirdir in Turkey's lake country. Two islands, connected by a causeway to the mainland, extend the town far out into the lake's fish-filled waters.

Overnight in Egirdir. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 9


Lake Egirdir - Konya

We have a morning departure for the mystical city of Konya, birthplace of the Whirling Dervishes and capital of the Seljuk Empire. During the sightseeing tour of Konya, we visit the Mausoleum and Museum of Mevlana, home of the famous Whirling Dervishes; and the the ceramics museum of Karatay, once an Islamic School, built in 1251.

Overnight in Konya. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 10


Konya - Cappadocia

Today we drive across the flat Anatolian Plateau to Cappadocia. Along the way we visit the caravanserai of Sultanhani. Caravanserai were fortified, medieval inns located one day's journey apart, for the protection of travelling merchants. This encouraged merchants and their caravans of silks and spices travelling the "Silk Route" to trade in Turkish lands, thus promoting commerce.

Upon arrival in Cappadocia, we will travel to Avanos, a village known for its hand-made red clay pottery. We travel through the village of Uchisar, clustered around a rock pinacle with a splendid view of the entire region. Since Cappadocia is one of Turkey's major wine growing areas, we will have the opportunity to sample some of the region's fine wines.

Overnight near Cappadocia. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 11


Cappadocia
Today we will spend a full day exploring this unique and fascinating lunar landscape with its fairy chimneys and conical towers topped with huge, delicately balanced rocks. Here the elements have weathered layers of volcanic dust into giant cones and mushrooms 9 m (30 feet) high! Most of the chapels date from the Byzantine period of the 10th and 11th centuries. In the Goreme Valley we will see the many churches carved into this landscape with their wonderful paintings and frescoes. This monastic complex of rock chapels covered with frescoes is one of the best known sites in Central Anatolia. We will visit the underground city of Kaymakli one of the many cities dug into the soft rock of Cappadocia. At Kaymakli there are at least eight levels in the underground city, four of which are currently open to the public. The city is an elaborate network of tunnels, stairways and chambers hollowed out of the rock. It served as a safe haven during times of unrest and protected its citizens from maurading armies.

This evening, those who wish may attend a performance of Turkish traditional dances from Turkey's many regions (optional).

Overnight near Cappadocia. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 12


Cappadocia - Ankara

Our drive today takes us to a salt lake called Tuz Golu. We travel through the village of Uchisar, clustered around the Uchisar Fortress, and the village of Urgup which was, according to documents found in the Middle Ages, a bishop's residence.

We continue to Ankara, Turkey's modern capital. Ankara was an ancient trading town before the Romans arrived; its name is derived from the angora wool of the goats sold here. Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, made Ankara the capital rather than Istanbul to break with the discredited Ottoman Empire after World War I.

We visit the Mausoleum of Ataturk, before our visit to one of the best museums in the world -- the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. The museum contains a superb collection dating back to the settlement at Catal Huyuk in 7500 BC and includes pieces from the Phrygian, Urartian, Assyrian and mighty Hittite Empires.

  • Day 13


Ankara - Istanbul
Istanbul

We have an afternoon arrival in Istanbul. Balance of the day at leisure in this fascinating city.

Overnight in Istanbul. Breakfast and dinner.

  • Day 14


Departure from Istanbul.

 

 

 

 

 

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Discoer Travel Turkey - 2005