The countdown is finally over, global roamers! We're here in Istanbul and all geared up to uncover fabulous Turkey. Get comfortable in our central hotel before we meet up for our first group dinner.
20,000 hand painted tiles fill the stunning Blue Mosque; millions of trinkets line the kilometres of the Grand Bazaar; and over 1,500 years of history sit within the walls of the Hagia Sophia. This is just some of the exotic magnificence that will keep us glued to Istanbul today. Seal the day of sightseeing with an optional Turkish bath and a belly dancing Turkish evening. Day two and we're already up to our eyeballs in experiences.
Out of exotic Istanbul we make our way to Canakkale, taking a sobering stop at the World War I site of Gallipoli.Visiting ANZAC Cove, Chunuk Bair & Lone Pine Cemetery today we are gifted with a special opportunity to pay tribute to the heroes of World War I right here where part of the battle took place. Afterwards, we'll brighten the mood with a drive along the Sea of Marmara en route to Canakkale.Shortly after ferrying across the Dardanelles (casually crossing continents) we'll arrive in the sparkling town of Canakkale. Tonight is yours to unwind and relax with your squad.
A big day sits ahead of us. Down as much breakfast as you can before we jump on the road in search of adventure.Today we discover that "Troy" means more than just a Hollywood blockbuster; so much more. Unravel the historical layers of a ten year war & what is now a mythical excavation site, and sign up for an in-depth look at the ancient ruins of the region, including a replica of the famous wooden Horse of Troy, where climbing in for a pic is essential.Further along the Turkish coastline we arrive at Pergamon. Once a political hotspot, this town is now brimming with history. We'll take a scenic mountain drive and give you the chance to get acquainted with Pergamon's hillside ruins, tapping into the archaeologist that you surely are.After our day's adventures are done, we arrive in Izmir, the birthplace of Homer (no kids, that isn't Homer from Springfield). After we tuck into some Turkish dinner, head out and explore the palm-lined promenades of this, the town known as the 'Pearl of the Aegean’.
Cruising out of Izmir after breakfast, we're heading out to marvel at what will probably be one of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural landscapes you have ever seen, but not before a trip to see one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.Did you know Mark Antony and Cleopatra used to hang out here at Ephesus back in the day? And now here we are, walking in their footsteps some 2,000 years later in what is now the best preserved classical city on the Mediterranean. We'll have a chance to see the well-preserved ruins of this ancient port city including the Temple of Artemis and the Library of Celsus before heading back on the road to our next wonder, Pamukkale.Ah yes, there she is. Even more spectacular than Instagram & Pinterest had ever suggested and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Pamukkale's flowing waters of arid ridges and white calcium terraces formed by mineral waters are almost too much. We'll enjoy at included dinner at our hotel tonight, with more time to explore tomorrow.
Ready for more magic today? On the agenda is a visit to Hierapolis, one of the antique cities of the Aegean, where you'll have the chance to take a guided tour. Treating yourself to the optional thermal pool experience with all its healing properties is not something you'll want to miss. After lunch we'll drive to our next destination, Konya.The Sufi pilgrimage city of Konya dates back to 3000BC and is home to an elaborate 12th century mosque, narrow market streets, a contemporary university, whirling dervish ceremonies and the burial place of the Islamic poet, Rumi. We'll enjoy an included dinner at our hotel amidst the ancient and modern energy of this 5,000 year old city.
Waving goodbye to Konya this morning, we have our sights set on another UNESCO World Heritage site, Cappadocia.Here in Cappadocia we'll visit the Goreme Open Air Museum and encounter the vast monastic rock complex this area is famous for, with elaborate cave formations and even entire churches carved into the rockface, complete with colourful wall frescoes. Thoroughly blown away by the countless wonders we're experiencing in Turkey, we'll return to our unique Special Stay luxury cave hotel, for a delicious traditional dinner tonight.
Yesterday might have been a hard act to follow, but with a visit to an underground city and a trip to a local village on the agenda today we have a full day of adventures ahead. First we'll visit Kaymaklı Underground city in Soganlı Valley with its incredible ancient complex of homes, churches, stables and storage rooms. We'll stop for a hearty lunch at a local restaurant, then take a walk to a local village famous for its Soğanlı Dolls, a symbol of the area. These dolls are handmade by the women of the village who will invite us in to join them in doll-making, followed by a specially prepared afternoon tea of a traditional sweet treat served with tea or Turkish coffee - a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® experience with all profits from the visit directly directly shared by the women hosting us. Waving goodbye to our hosts, we'll drive on to Sinasos Greek village, a charming town renowned for its Greek architecture. Then, full of culture, we'll head back to our luxury cave hotel for a second night where you're free to find yourself some dinner.
We have Ankara in our sights today, but we're not quite done with Cappadocia yet. Departing after breakfast we'll first stop at the Zelve Open Air Museum, a cave town honeycombed with dwellings and a Byzantine-era monastery, followed by a peek at Pasa Baglari, the 'fairy chimneys' this region is known for, before heading on to Turkey's cosmopolitan capital.Ankara awaits us with the historic fortified Kalesi (castle) overlooking the city and a chance to load up on pears, honey, muscat grapes, and angora wool. Here we'll enjoy an included dinner at the hotel with Istanbul ahead of us tomorrow.
Ankara, it's been short but sweet. Today we're returning to Istanbul, with a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and a stop for lunch on the way.Arriving in the afternoon, we'll be amazed at how much we've covered since we last set foot in Istanbul at the start of our adventure. We'll make the most of our time in the 'Paris of the East' with a free night tonight and our final evening together.
Here in Istanbul, our Turkish Delight ends where it began. It's time to say fond farewells, but we'll always have our photos and memories of this incredible adventure.