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Discover the contrasts of Turkey and experience its delicious cuisine and captivating culture on this one-week highlights trip that travels down the west coast. Explore the historic city of Istanbul, ancient Greco-Roman ruins and the Turquoise Coast.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Istanbul. As Constantinople, the city was the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, so today it is steeped in history and fascinating architecture. Modern day Istanbul has much to offer - not least its mouth-watering cuisine and budding cafe culture. The city straddles between Europe and Asia and because of this, it was an important stop on the old Silk Road. It is a melting pot of different cultures and this is demonstrated in its gastronomy. Turkish food is a hearty mix of Middle Eastern, Asian and Balkan style dishes that range from barbecued meat kebabs to vine leaf wrapped vegetable and rice parcels.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Istanbul at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Istanbul Airport (IST), which is about one hour and 30 minutes' drive or Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW), which is around two hours' drive from the city centre, depending on traffic, which can be heavy at times. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Our conveniently located hotel is within walking distance or a short tram ride of many of the cultural and historical sites in the Sultanahmet district. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to explore this area. If your flight is arriving earlier today or if you're extending your stay by a night then we'd recommend visiting Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, as it is closed on a Sunday, so there won't be the opportunity to go tomorrow. Located within the walls of Istanbul, there are around 60 streets and over 3,000 shops selling everything from jewellery to carpets and textiles and furniture to local arts and crafts. It's one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. The labyrinth of streets also house two mosques, two hamams (Turkish baths) and an array of restaurants and cafes, so there is plenty to experience in this historic landmark of Istanbul.
Monaco Hotel (or similar)
This morning we'll get our first chance to try a traditional Turkish breakfast which usually consists of a variety of yogurts, cheese and breads along with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and fruits in season.
Heading out on foot, we walk to the Sultan Ahmet district; taking around twenty five minutes through historic Istanbul's lively and colourful streets to reach the hub of Sultanahmet Square. Also known as the Hippodrome of Constantinople the square was used for chariot racing in the Roman era; now days it's more sedate with a number of landmarks including the Serpentine Column, Obelisk of Theodosius and the Walled Obelisk. We have a full guided tour of the square, ending up at its most famous building the impressive Sultanahmet Blue Mosque, one of the most widely recognized sites in Istanbul, which still dominates the skyline to this day.
Continuing on foot, we reach the famous Byzantine Hagia Sophia, which reigned as the greatest Greek Orthodox church for 900 years before later becoming an imperial mosque. The interior is truly magnificent with its vast richly decorated domes and mosaic panels.
There are several lunch options around the Sultan Ahmet district, alternatively it's a short walk or tram ride to the Spice bazaar where there are numerous traditional meyhene (taverns) where you can sit down and try a selection of home cooked dishes.
This afternoon we take the public ferry across the Bosphorus to Kadikoy. Taking around thirty minutes, the ferry offers great views of the city skyline from the busy waterway that separates the continent of Europe and Asia.
Our destination this afternoon is the Yeldegirmeni neighbourhood, which in recent years has a thriving expressive street art scene as well as a large selection of restaurants, bars and entertainment, it's a great spot to end the day. Your local Leader will be able to offer you advice on the best eating options, either remaining in Yeldegirmeni or returning to our hotel.
Leaving Istanbul after breakfast to drive to the Gallipoli Peninsula. The drive will take us around five hours, but a stop to buy lunch will be made along the way. It was at Gallipoli in 1916 that, after eight months of bloody hand-to-hand fighting and loss of life, the ill-fated Allied campaign was forced to concede victory to the Turks and withdraw. Whilst here visit Anzac Cove - the infamous site of the Anzac landing, as well as the Lone Pine Australian Memorial and Cemetery and the war belongings exhibit in the sobering Kabatepe War Museum.
Later this afternoon we board a ferry to travel across the Dardanelles to Canakkale, where we will spend the night. This port city is off of the main tourist trail and is a good place to sample locally caught seafood for dinner this evening and join the locals taking an evening stroll along the seafront where you can see the Trojan Horse replica, which stands as high as the surrounding buildings.
Canak Hotel (or similar)
Today we will make an early start and leave the hotel at around 7.30am as this is the longest travelling day of this trip. Driving the short distance to the ancient city of Troy where, according to legend, the artful Ulysses devised the wooden horse strategy, thereby ending the 10 year Trojan War. Here, nine ruined cities, one on top of the other, have been uncovered, going back some 5,000 years. Troy VI is the assumed walled city of King Priam (1800-1275 BC), celebrated by the blind Greek poet Homer in the Iliad and all but lost in legend until unearthed by amateur archaeologist Schliemann in 1871.
Boarding our bus again the drive to the Greco-Roman remains found at Pergamon takes around three hours. Pergamon gave its name to and was the source of 'parchment', for which it was famous throughout the Middle East. Visit the striking acropolis, impressively perched above the modern-day town of Bergama, which contains the remains of a library, a theatre, temples and altars.
The drive to Selcuk later this afternoon takes around three hours, but a stop will be made along the way to purchase lunch and stretch our legs. On arrival in Selcuk check-in to the hotel and have dinner this evening.
Cenka Hotel (or similar)
Spend the morning exploring Selcuk's historic neighbour, the great Greco-Roman city of Ephesus. Visited by Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, and also having inspired Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, this famous Asia Minor seaport reached its zenith in the 2nd century AD. Ephesus became one of the main cultural and economic centres of the ancient world until it went into decline after the 7th century. Saint John spent the last years of his life in Ephesus and wrote his Gospel here. It is believed that Mary, mother of Jesus, also came here with him. Today, its impressive ruins include a theatre, gymnasium, agora and baths, as well as the photogenic intricately carved stone facade of the Library of Celsus. The ruins here are extensive with lots of ornate columns and grand arches to discover.
Before leaving Selcuk there's the chance to visit a traditional carpet weaver and to explore the town. Later this afternoon, drive to Pamukkale (takes around two and a half hours) and check-in to the hotel for the night.
Lycus River Hotel (or similar)
This morning discover Pamukkale, which translates as the 'cotton castle', taking its name from the extensive white terraces that cover the hillside and were created by mineral springs. It's home to one of Turkey's most impressive natural wonders - the 'frozen waterfall'. A boardwalk offers spectacular views of the unusual white cliff face with its crystal blue pools and the huge valley below. Don't miss Cleopatra's Pool - an oasis of beauty with a mirror-like clarity that allows us to see deep down to the ruins below.
Above the white cliff is the ancient spa town of Hierapolis with its well-preserved Roman baths, tombs and an impressive theatre. People have been making the most of Hierapolis' thermal waters since the 2nd century BC to as recently as the mid 20th century when shockingly hotels were constructed on top of its priceless ruins. Luckily, UNESCO World Heritage status saved the site from further damage.
Later this afternoon, drive south to the Turquoise Coast, which takes around three and half hours, to spend the last two nights of the trip in Dalyan - famous for its loggerhead turtles, reed bed estuary and the ancient site of Caunos.
Hotel Palme (or similar)
Formally a fishing village, the small resort of Dalyan is steeped in history. A gentle riverboat trip through the reeds to the ancient site of Caunos gives the opportunity to look out for loggerhead turtles and birdlife along the way. Still under excavation, the ruins date back to 400 BC and include a Roman bath, an impressive theatre and an acropolis. The boat trip continues to the mud baths and hot springs by Lake Koycegiz. Here there is the option to relax and to coat ourselves in the mud which is reputed to have great therapeutic properties, before returning to Dalyan.
Later in the day, there's the chance to take a water taxi down through the reed beds to Iztuzu Beach, to make the most of its glorious golden sand and inviting azure coloured waters.
Chance to visit the Turtle Conservation Centre (DEKAMER) before returning to Dalyan. The conservation centre works to protect the turtle nesting areas on Iztuzu Beach, cares for and rehabilitates injured turtles and also attempts to educate the local fisherman on the importance of using propeller guards.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Dalyan.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Dalyan at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Dalaman Airport (DLM), which is 30 minutes' drive.
Summers are hot and dry with refreshing sea breezes and clear waters, great for boat trips. It is often cooler on higher ground and in the mountains and can be cold at night, even in the summer. During the shoulder seasons (loosely speaking, before mid-May and after early October), temperatures and rainfall can be erratic, with some temperatures dropping to 8-12 degrees, and other days being bright and sunny up to 25 degrees. Mountain locations will be cooler than on the coast, of course. In the winter, temperatures usually hover between 0 and 10 degrees, but are usually wet, particularly around the coast. The best time for walking in Turkey is mid-May, June and September, with pleasant temperatures and clear blue skies.
2 Pin Round
Istanbul : Entrance to the Basilica Cistern, operates on day two, Approx 15GBP per person. Dalyan: Mud bath, operates on day seven, Approx. 5GBP per person Public water taxi to Iztuzu Beach, operates on day seven, departs every 30 minutes and takes around one hour, Approx 5GBP per person or a shared road taxi (dolmus), takes around 30 minutes, Approx 3GBP per person Iztuzu Beach entrance, Approx 2GBP per person Turtle Conservation Centre (DEKAMER) entrance 6GBP per person. Payments by cash preferred. Please note that all optional excursions listed above are subject to change and availability and they may not all be possible to offer on every departure date.
The long Turkish summer can be hot, though much of the Mediterranean coastline is freshened by sea breezes. In the spring and autumn, a warmer sweater or fleece is recommended for the evenings, as is lightweight rainwear and long trousers. When visiting mosques, women should cover their head, shoulders and knees, so it's handy to pack a scarf or sarong. Men should also ensure their knees are covered.
Bring comfortable walking shoes for exploring the ancient sites and sandals or trainers for city sightseeing and relaxing.
One main piece of baggage and daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
Bring a water bottle, torch, strong sunscreen, sunhat, sunglasses, insect repellent, swimming costume and towel.
Bus, Boat, Ferry
Our hotel in Istanbul is in a central location where parking is restricted and therefore the bus is not permitted to stop directly outside the hotel. You will be dropped a short distance away from the hotel and walk with your luggage for about 10 minutes.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Turkey: Citizens from the UK, New Zealand and the EU travelling to Turkey for tourism purposes do not require a visa for visits of up to 90 days. Citizens of Australia, US and Canada require a visa that will last for up to 90 days Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against tetanus, typhoid, infectious hepatitis and polio. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at http://www.explore.co.uk/Travelhealth/ and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.