Travel to Istanbul and enjoy an express tour of Turkey's highlights

Savour the highlights of Turkey on this 10 day adventure. Travel to Istanbul and the sobering Gallipoli Peninsula, south to the Aegean Coast and then on to the ancient site of Ephesus and the therapeutic waters of Pamukkale. Discover a culture brimming with mysticism as we peel back the layers of Byzantine, Ottoman and Roman history. Packed with highlights, the Turkey Express offers a superb slice of Turkey.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1 January 2017 we have reduced the 2 night stay in Ayvalik to 1 night and increased the stay in Selcuk to 2 nights.
These changes come as a result of traveller feedback and will allow us to introduce visits to the site of the Ancient Greek city of Pergamon and the impressive Theatre of Pergamon. The additional time in Selcuk will also give passengers the chance to further explore Ephesus and town of Selcuk.
This trip will depart on Saturdays only instead of Saturday and Tuesdays

The new itinerary is outlined below:
1 Istanbul
2 Istanbul
3 Canakkale
4 Ayvalik
5 Selcuk
6 Selcuk
7 Pamukkale
8 Antalya
9 Antalya
10 Antalya (Departure day)

2017 departures are NOT guaranteed for this reason as yet

Start
Istanbul, Turkey
Finish
Antalya, Turkey
Countries
Turkey
Themes
Explorer
Code
ERSA
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
192kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Istanbul's bustling backstreets can be a maze, but with the insider knowledge of your leader you'll visit the hottest spots
  • An action-packed 10-day itinerary covers all the must-see destinations of Western Turkey. This is an ideal trip for travellers short on time
  • An included cruise across the blue waters of the Agean offers an idyllic glimpse of seaside Turkey
  • Your traditional Turkish pension (guesthouse) in Ayvalik is a great example of family accommodation, bursting with history and character
  • The chalky-white travertines Pamukkale are truly a sight to behold. There's nothing else in the world quite like these pure white calcium bathing pools that cascade down the cliffs overlooking the town
  • Visit Ephesus’s astounding Roman ruins, where the Greco-Roman world still feels very much alive
  • Pay your respects to the fallen at Gallipoli, a moving and educational experience regardless of your age or background

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to Turkey. This adventures kicks off in Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. You have the whole day free to explore the capital until a Welcome Meeting at 6pm – make sure you have all your important documents and details for your leader. Double check with the hotel reception or the noticeboard for meeting confirmations. Until then, maybe get out and explore the frenetic streets of Turkey's crown-jewel metropolis. After the meeting, maybe gather together your new friends and seek out some Turkish cuisine in a street-side cafe.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early, so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception.
This morning you’ll set out on a walking tour of the city with your expert leader. This will take in some of Istanbul's notable cultural and historic sites in Sultanahmet (the Old City, formerly Constantinople), but also some lesser-known gems as you venture into the backstreets. The rest of your afternoon is yours to spend as you please. You might visit the jaw-dropping giant church/mosque/museum of the Hagia Sofia, whose stunning construction is said to have changed the history of architecture. Don’t miss the excellent mosaics found inside. Maybe gaze upon the beauty of the cascading domes of the Blue Mosque, so called for the blue tiles found on its interior walls, or stroll the area where chariots used to race in the hippodrome. Choose to dive into the historic Grand Bazaar (closed on Sundays), and do some good-natured haggling with local artisans who man the over 3,000 stalls of handcrafted jewellery, textiles and books. A boat cruise around the blue waters of the Bosphorus, taking in the sights of the European and the Asian sides, is also recommended. Tonight maybe treat yourself with a relax at a Turkish Hamamm, or take in a hypnotic performance of the Whirling Dervish.
Rise very early this morning as you depart by public bus for Eceabat (approximately 5 hours), your base for visiting Gallipoli. In the afternoon, you will head out with your guide to the Gallipoli Peninsula and pay your respects at a site of immense significance for Australians and New Zealanders. It’s a spot of pilgrimage and reverence, and the calm lapping waters belie the murderous campaign that took place here during the First World War. At this now-serene site you’ll get a sobering insight into the plight of the ANZAC, Allied and Turkish forces at the site of one of the most significant military battles in Australia’s history. It’s hard to think that this area was once Anzac Cove and the battlefields of Nek and Lone Pine, and saw such brutal scenes of war. It’s possible to look down upon the rough and barren hills and gullies that sadly became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. In the museum you can hear stories of heroism and camaraderie that unfolded among the tragedies, and also take the time to read moving inscriptions etched onto a sea of gravestones. Later, consider taking the short ferry ride across the Dardanelles to Canakkale, a charming traditional fishing town that has a great range of dinner and nightlife options, not to mention medieval ruins to explore.
Drive down the coast by bus to Ayvalik (approximately 4 hours), a town where you can fill up on food and drink, and a place that even takes its name from food (ayva is Turkish for quince). The town is famous for olive oil, but we suggest finding the nearest seaside cafe and ordering Ayvalik toast (like a club sandwich but better), and mezes made with local olive oil and stuffed mussels. You can wander around and discover a town that’s a fascinating mix of Greek and Turkish cultures (in fact the island actually swapped all its Greek residents for Turks in 1923). Check out the cobblestone backstreets, beautiful houses and lively cafes. There's the option to take an excursion out to the ruins of Troy, where you can explore the ancient walls, climb around the 4,500 year-old ruins, check out the Trojan horse statue, and gaze across the Troad (the Plains of Troy) towards the waters of the Dardanelles and the hills of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Back in Ayvalik, the village is set around a harbour and looks out to the Aegean Islands – a wonderful place to escape from it all and enjoy a harbourside drink at sunset.
Enjoy a leisurely morning in Ayvalik, perhaps spoiling yourself with the food choices on offer, before spending the afternoon on a boat cruise on the Agean. Swim, relax and chat with the locals as everyone takes in the beautiful scenery.

Notes: The boat cruise can sometimes cancelled due to unsuitable weather. Additionally there is an alternative winter itinerary in the months from October to April inclusive. During winter the town of Ayvalik is closed as far as tourist infrastructure is concerned. On these departures you’ll skip Ayvalik and on Day 4 travel from Eceabat to the town of Bergama where you overnight. Early on the morning of Day 5, take a guided tour of the ancient site of Pergamon. Here there are splendid Roman ruins, from the Asclepion (the medical centre that was the home of one of the fathers of Western medicine), to the magnificent mountainside Acropolis that’s served by a cable car. In the afternoon, you’ll continue on to Selcuk for the nights of Day 5 and 6. On Day 7, overnight in Pamukkale and spend Days 8 and 9 in Antalyla. See the rest of this itinerary for day specific details.
Depart early this morning on a public bus to the traditional farming village of Selcuk, via Izmir (approximately 4 hours). Selcuk will be your base for exploring the nearby ruins of Ephesus, where you’ll walk in the footsteps of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. Selcuk is culturally rich but relatively undisturbed, so this is an opportunity to experience the ‘real’ Turkey. Perhaps explore the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill, where an array of historic buildings lie – the Isa Bey Mosque and Grand Fortress among them. In the afternoon, enjoy an exploration of mighty Ephesus with the aid of a local guide. This is one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman classical cities in the world; founded by Ionian Greeks in the 11th century BC, brought to full flower under Roman rule, and always an important religious centre. You will be amazed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had running water, public toilets, in-house heating, a renowned medical institute, and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved, but it’s the magnificent library that’s going to astound you. Nearby are the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the last home of the Virgin Mary who, as legend has it, came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot. You can also choose delve deeper into the area’s fascinating history with the artefacts of the Archaeological Museum, the ruins of the Basilica of St John and some impressive Roman Terrace houses. Get your local guide to point out secret messages that ancient Christians carved into the rocks to direct worshippers to their next meeting.
A train ride inland through mountainous landscapes (approximately 3.5 hours) brings you to one of Turkey's most photographed sites, Pamukkale, which literally translates to “cotton castle”. Here spectacular natural hot springs with high calcium bicarbonate content cascade over the edge of the cliffs, leaving bright white deposit terraces (the ‘cotton’). It's been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Though you won't be able to bathe in these travertines, you can take a walk through them (after removing your shoes), and these pools are said to fix up any circulation and digestion problems. If you’ve got Cleopatra on the mind after yesterday’s stories, then maybe choose to head out to the ancient city of Hierapolis and take a dip in what used to be her old pool – the transparent water-filled pool, sculpted as a gift from Marc to Cleo, is beautiful (even if you’ll be sharing it with a few more people than she did). You can also check out the other ruins of the city – Hierapolis is known for its abundance of temples and religious structures, vast necropolis and strange tombs, and the amphitheatre shouldn’t be missed. During winter departures you’ll stop by Aphrodisias, a city dedicated to the Greek goddess of love and beauty, filled with more great classical ruins.
Take a bus to Antalya, the largest city on the western Mediterranean coast (approximately 4 hours). It’s hard to get a bad photo of Antalya thanks to cobblestone streets, the old city, the marina, and the Taurus Mountains in the distance. After an orientation walk that takes in minarets, old streets, and religious centres, spend some time of your own exploring the town's mix of urban sophistication and old-world charm. You might want to check out Kaleici – the old city area that’s now a historical zone and protected from modern development – and see relics of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman occupation. You can visit ancient Hadrian's Gate and Hıdırlık Tower, or be lured by the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean – stroll down the marina and head for the white sands of the beach.
Today you’ll visit the Antalya Museum, one of the largest and best museums in Turkey. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Mediterranean and Pamphylia regions of Anatolia, with some 5,000 works of art and artefacts on display – pottery, coins, mosaics, sculptures, costumes, sarcophagi, and artefacts found in the once-inhabited caves of coastal Turkey. You’ll then enjoy some free time in the afternoon. You can choose to visit some impressive sites further afield, including the ancient cities of Aspendos and Side. Aspendos is know for it’s beautiful intact Roman theatre, perhaps the best preserved in the world, while Side away from the tourists is awash with colonnaded streets and Hellenistic and Roman ruins. For those after a nature fix, Duden Waterfalls, about 12 kilometres north-east of town, is a lovely spot to relax. Tonight, maybe gather together your newfound travel buddies and enjoy a drink or dinner to celebrate the final night of this Turkey adventure.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
9 breakfasts, 1 lunch
Transport
Bus, Dolmus, Gulet
Accommodation
Hotel (6 nights), Pension (3 nights)
Included activities
  • Istanbul - Leader-led walking tour
  • Boat trip
  • Ephesus Archaeological Site
  • Pamukkale - Hierapolis & Travertines National Park
  • Guided Walk

Dates

There are currently no departures for this trip.

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If you can’t find the dates you’re after here, click on the button below to find options for the next season. Please bear in mind that some of our itineraries can change from year to year, so this trip may differ slightly next season to the information shown on this page.

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Important notes

A single supplement is available on this trip. On the following nights the Single Supplement is not available:
Days 4-5 Ayvalik
This trip runs on an alternative winter itinerary in the months from October to April. Please important notes section of the trip notes for more information.

22 APRIL DEPARTURE 2017:
The 22 April departure ties in with ANZAC day at Gallipoli and the night of Day 3 will be spent camping in Anzac Cove instead of in Istanbul. Please bring a sleeping bag for this departure

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Turkey Express trips score an average of 4.71 out of 5 based on 63 reviews in the last year.

Turkey Express , June 2016

Turkey Express , June 2016