Turkey

A delightful mix of opposites make up the best parts of Turkish culture – go from the exciting, crowded megacity of Istanbul to quiet villages in the mountains and along the stunning Turquoise Coast. Beyond all the east-meets-west epithets, when you travel to Turkey, what you'll come away with more than anything else is the genuine warmth and hospitality of the people. Read on to discover the delights of Turkey’s Anatolian plains and Mediterranean coasts.

 

Where to Go in Turkey

The metropolis of Istanbul has been a meeting point for continents, religions, empires and the bridge between eastern and western cultures over its long and storied history. Fill a few days with just the main sights (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, etc.) or spend a week discovering the various neighborhoods and hidden backstreets. Come for the the rich cuisine, Bosphorus views, Turkish bath houses, the museums and the bustling streets that never sleep.

Anatolia, or Asia Minor, makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region of Central Anatolia is rich with ancient and Ottoman history, along with romantic Cappodocia, one of the country’s most-visited areas. See typical Ottoman wooden architecture in the towns of Safranbolu and Amasya, then discover the ruins at the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa. Hike among the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia or ride a hot air balloon. On your way to the birthplace of Rumi and the mystical whirling dervishes in Konya, you can make a stop at Sultanhan, a preserved roadside inn, also called a caravanserai, used by traders on the Silk Road.

The rest of the region around the Sea of Marmara includes the expansive green city of Bursa, known for Ottoman historical sites and its own particular take on kebab, along with nearby Mount Uludağ. Those interested in Ottoman history will appreciate Edirne and Iznik, a center for special tile production and also important in Christianity as ancient Nicaea. In the Çanakkale area, you’ll find the Dardanelles strait and the WWI memorials at Gallipoli. This is also the region where the epic battle of Troy was waged, and the location of one of the most prominent wineries in Turkey. From Çanakkale you can also escape to the pleasant Aegean islands of Gökçeada and Bozcaada.

The Southern Aegean region is home to Ephesus, one of Turkey’s most marveled ancient sites, where you can visit stunning monuments from Imperial Rome that are also important for early Christian heritage. The nearby town of Şirince gives a wonderful peek into village life. Going inland, you can visit the scenic white travertine terraces and hot springs of Pamukkale. Further south are the resort towns of Marmaris and Bodrum, a renowned destination for seasonal nightlife and yacht charters. This area also provides easy access to the Greek islands – you can reach Patmos and Samos from the ferry port at Kusadasi or hop over to Kos from Bodrum.

In the North Aegean, the large port city of Izmir is special for its laidback and liberal atmosphere, with a heritage influenced by Greeks and Jews among others. Visit the impressive hilltop ruins of the ancient Greek cities of Pergamum and Assos. The architecture of the seaside town of Ayvalik is reminiscent of the Greek islands, while its olive oil is renowned as some of the country’s best. Go to nearby Urla, where the area’s ancient wine tradition is being revived. From the resort town of Çeşme, you can even take a ferry over to the Greek island of Chios. Most delicious of all, this is the perfect place to dive into Turkey’s ‘raki balik’ tradition, where anise-flavored liqueur (raki) is paired with a spread of olive-oil rich meze (appetizers) and fresh fish.

The southern coast of Turkey on the Mediterranean is known as the ‘Turquoise Coast’, for reasons that become immediately obvious to any observer of its stunning natural beauty. To enjoy more hidden bays and coves, a gulet yacht charter is highly recommended! Historical highlights include the ancient ruins and rock-cut tombs left behind by the Lycian people, best observed on a cruise down the Dalyan River or a visit to Fethiye and the Tlos ruins. There are plenty of opportunities for active pursuits: water sports on offer at the blue lagoon of Oludeniz, rock climbing around Antalya, hiking the ‘Lycian Way’ with spectacular views, and diving in Kaş and Kalkan. Outside of the Ottoman treasures in old town Antalya, history lovers shouldn’t miss a day trip to the ancient city of Perge and the Roman theatre at Aspendos.

Southeastern Anatolia is a region closer to Middle Eastern culture than any other in Turkey – this is the land of the historic Tigris and Euphrates basin, where Mesopotamian civilizations began. The ancient village of Harran, the spectacular funerary mound atop Mount Nemrut, and the Neolithic complex at Göbekli Tepe all provide a window into the beginnings of humanity. Christians can follow in the footsteps of Paul and Peter in Tarsus and Antakya (ancient Antioch). The city of Gaziantep is Turkey’s undeniable culinary capital, also famous for its coppersmiths. Heading closer to the Mediterranean, you come to Hatay, another of Turkey’s creative gastronomic centers. Other culinary traditions have become synonomous with local centers, including the apricots of Malatya, the kebab from Adana, and the elastic ice cream from Maraş.

Disregard all your preconceived notions of Turkey when you visit the Black Sea region, a lush green land boasting an unspoiled beauty and uncrowded, attractive villages strung along the quiet coast. The beaches are beautiful with deep blue waters and see more cloud than sun, while the forested mountains hide rich lakes, streams and alpine meadows. Come for hiking and an escape to nature, and enjoy specialties like anchovies from the sea and locally-grown hazelnuts, walnuts, cherries and tea. Don’t forget to visit the incredible cliffside monastery of Sumela before you leave.

Northeastern Anatolia, a geographically striking region of Turkey bordering Georgia and Armenia, harbors a scattering of abandoned churches and castles from these early kingdoms. Beautiful Artvin is a nature lovers’ paradise, as well as the stunning Kaçkar Mountains ideal for hiking and active adventures. Near Erzurum and Kars, you’ll find great opportunities for skiing.

 
Typical First-Time Itinerary for Turkey

Due to the favorable economics of Turkey for outsiders, we often have first-time visitors to the country spending around 11 days. This gives enough time to include Istanbul, Cappadocia, Konya, Pamukkale, Ephesus and Bodrum in a fairly comprehensive schedule accompanied by an experienced driver and personal guide. We can also provide you with a quote for a private yacht charter along the Turkish coasts - a very popular activity from a few days to a week - or a combination trip with Greece.

What is Included?

In general, our custom travel itineraries include everything needed to ensure a smooth trip. This can always be modified according to your needs and where you are in your stage of planning:

  • Hotel accommodation with breakfast daily
  • Airport transfers
  • Transfers between destinations (whether by car, van, boat, train, ferry, etc.)
  • Private or group sightseeing as requested (including entrance fees)
  • Personalized support, with contact before, during and after your trip

We are also happy to provide when requested:

  • Flights between North America and Europe
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa assistance

Our programs do not include:

  • Optional gratuities to guides, drivers, yacht crew etc.
  • Laundry and personal items
  • Bottled beverages or alcohol, and meals where not listed
  • Hotel city tax