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On this 12-day tour of Turkey, you will tantalize your senses as you travel on a gourmet dream holiday. Snack on gozleme in Selcuk, enjoy street food in Istanbul, taste tea in Bursa and sample local olive oils and wines in Ayvalik and Cappadocia. There are plenty of ancient historical sites to explore in Selcuk and Ephesus, and the stunning countryside makes the perfect backdrop for discovering the very best of Turkish food and culture.
During the holiday, you will stay at five three and four-star hotels, as well as an overnight train.
Heybe Hotel is situated in the centre of Goreme.
Hitit Hotel is located in Selcuk, the former ancient city of Ephesus, which had its most magnificent days during the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
The Kervansaray Bursa is a three-star hotel and restaurant in the city of Bursa, Turkey.
Otel Deniz is a lovely hotel situated in Ayvalik, on the Turkish Aegean coast.
Golden Horn is located in Istanbul. It offers Ottoman-inspired accommodation and it is centrally located in Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet district.
The Marmara Bodrum stands high above the town of Bodrum. From its restaurant, Tuti, you can enjoy the panorama whilst savoring Mediterranean cuisine. The hotel's glamour blends with its natural surroundings whilst providing all the modern comforts and amenities of a world-class hotel, with an adult only concept.
There is no formal sightseeing planned on your arrival day. Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, with a history spanning thousands of years. It has been through several incarnations, firstly as Byzantium, then Constantinople, and finally Istanbul. If you arrive early enough, you can wander and absorb the vibrancy of this exciting city that links Europe and Asia. In the evening, there will be a welcome meeting held in the hotel, where you will meet your tour leader and travel companions. In the evening, dinner will be held in a popular local meyhane (Turkish tavern), in the vibrant Beyoglu area. Savor meze (small savory dishes), accompanied by a glass of raki, while you get to know your fellow travelers. Accommodation at the Golden Horn Sirkeci, in Istanbul.
After breakfast, you will take a tasting tour through Istanbul's celebrated Egyptian spice bazaar. Discover the secret of selecting the freshest spices and enjoy a strong Turkish coffee accompanied by a tulumba (a Turkish dessert consisting of fried batter covered in syrup). Continue your walking tour around Sultanahmet and Eminonu, including some of the most celebrated sites of the city: Suleymaniye Mosque and the Hippodrome. Your tour leader may also point out some street food specialties along the way. Local favorites include barbecued corn and roasted kestane (chestnuts), and, of course, Turkish delight. Your walking tour concludes at the Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar), where you can explore the narrow alleyways at your leisure. In the late afternoon, you will have the option to take a food tour on the Asian side of the city, or meet up with a local family for a home-cooked dinner. Alternatively, you may wish to reserve a table at one of the city's excellent restaurants. Accommodation at the Golden Horn Sirkeci, in Istanbul.
After breakfast, you will drive to Kabatas, take a ferry, and arrive in Bursa in time for lunch. Lunch will be on Bursa's most iconic local dish: the Iskender kebab. In the afternoon, your leader will take you on a walk around the town. Bursa is an old and important city with a rich and varied history. There are a number of elegant mosques, such as the supremely beautiful Yesil Camii, as well as intriguing covered bazaars and tea houses filled with locals. Your walk will include a stop at a traditional tea house for a taste of this important Turkish drink and cultural pastime. After dinner, you will be invited to attend a Dervish (Sema) Lodge. Witness a Sema performance and learn more about this mesmerizing culture. Accommodation at the Kervansaray City Hotel, in Bursa.
After breakfast, you will drive to Ayvalik (around 5 hours). Located on the Aegean coast, the charming village of Ayvalik is set around a harbor looking out to the Aegean islands. The region surrounding Ayvalik is a major producer of olives and olive oil, and olive groves line the hills. In the afternoon, you will visit a purveyor of local olive oils and enjoy a tasting session. Next, you will sample some locally produced liqueurs. In the evening, your leader may suggest you to try a corbasi (soup restaurant) or the local favorite: Ayvalik toast. Accommodation at the Deniz Hotel, in Ayvalik.
Enjoy a morning stroll around Ayvalik's weekly market, savoring treats including locally produced honey, foraged wild greens, handmade yufka (a kind of filo pastry used in baklava), nuts and spices. Your leader will purchase a selection of the best produce for a picnic lunch, which you will enjoy on nearby Cunda Island, overlooking the sea. On Cunda Island, you will also visit a purveyor of cheeses and yogurts. Cunda is famous for its dairy farming and you will find a variety of delicious dairy products that you won't be able to taste anywhere else. Try the Kefalotori kelle peynir (a cheese made of sheep and cows milk special to the Balkesir region), or Izmir tulum peyniri (a very sharp and salty cheese), among other specialties. If you are still hungry, stay on the island and enjoy a fresh Aegean seafood feast at one the restaurants that line the waterfront. Accommodation at the Deniz Hotel, in Ayvalik.
Journey three hours to Selcuk, which remains steeped in culture and retains many Turkish traditions. On the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill lie several historical buildings, including the Isa Bey Mosque and the Grand Fortress. Selcuk is also home to one of the ancient world's Seven Wonders: the Temple of Artemis (although, sadly, only a single pylon remains). In the evening you will visit the local village of Sirince, an authentic Greek Ottoman village that seems to have been overlooked by modern development. Settlers of this region - post World War I and the Turkish War of Independence - were responsible for reviving the local wine industry, made from fruit grown in the area. Enjoy a tasting session and consider buying a bottle to take with you, before walking up a gentle slope through cobbled streets and alleys to an atmospheric garden caf, where your host will introduce you to the making of an important Turkish dish, manti, (Turkish stuffed dumplings). Try your hand at making manti and enjoy the traditional accompaniments of tomato sauce and yogurt. Accommodation at the Hitit Hotel, in Selcuk.
Have an early start with a visit to the Ancient Site of Ephesus, the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. Take a guided tour of the site with a local expert, who will bring this ancient site to life. The theater is well preserved (and regularly hosts concerts), but it is perhaps the magnificent library that takes most people's breath away. Lunch is served in a nearby family-run restaurant where gozleme, the famous and very popular Turkish stuffed pastry, is their specialty. You will be treated to a demonstration of how this renowned dish is created, before enjoying a gozleme feast. After lunch, you will make a three-hour journey to Bodrum. In the evening, take an orientation walk around the city, finishing at the Cevat Sakir Cadddesi. The surrounding alleys and streets off this main thoroughfare host the local fish markets, and there are a number of meyhane (taverns) where you can select your own catch of the day, for you to prepare and cook it for dinner. Accommodation at a Bodrum Hotel.
After breakfast, join a cooking class to learn how to make one of Turkeys most famous desserts: baklava. In the afternoon, take some time to explore: visit the Crusader-built Bodrum Castle (Castle of St Peter); see the ancient shipwrecks and treasures at the Castles Museum of Underwater Archaeology; view the stunning Bodrum Amphitheater, cut into a hill above the city, or stop into a traditional Hamam (Turkish Bath) to relax before your overnight train journey. Towards the evening you will have the option to drive to Izmir for a light dinner, before boarding an overnight train at 20:30 bound for Konya, in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey. Accommodation on the overnight train.
Arrive in Konya at 7:30. Enjoy a brief stop for breakfast, stretch your legs, and continue your drive to Goreme (around 3 hours), gateway to the fabled Cappadocia, shaped by wind and water. Its otherworldly rock formations have to be seen to be believed. On the way to Goreme, you will enjoy a visit to the underground city of Derinkuyu. Large enough to shelter around 20,000 people, the 60-meter deep underground city of Derinkuyu is awe-inspiring. Built between the 7th and 8th centuries, the city includes wine and oil presses, cellars, refectories, stables and chapels. Arrive in Goreme by early afternoon. Central Anatolian cuisine is characterized by a focus on wheat (pastas are one of the regions signature products), as well as cooking in clay. One of the region's classic dishes, testi kebabi, consists of pieces of lamb or chicken cooked in a tall elegant clay pot, which is smashed off just prior to eating. After an orientation walk around the village and some time to refresh, you may chose to dine on a meal of testi kebab at a restaurant. Accommodation at Heybe Hotel, in Goreme.
After breakfast, continue your discovery of Central Anatolian cuisine in a half-day cooking class. You will even have the opportunity to use a tandir (a traditional Turkish oven). Enjoy the fruits of your labor for lunch. In the evening, you will drive to one of Cappadocia's most famous local wineries. Learn about the local wine industry (which is over 4,000 years old), as you sample regional varietals. Then take a scenic walk (around 1 hour) through the Rose and Red Valleys, passing byzantine rock tombs, cave churches, and many unique rock formations. Conclude your evening with a glass of wine, accompanied by a snack, while watching the sunset over the dramatic landscape. Accommodation at the Heybe Hotel, in Goreme.
For early birds, there is the possibility of rising before dawn to take an awe-inspiring optional hot-air balloon ride over the 'other-worldly' Cappadocia landscape and witness an amazing sunrise. Those preferring a more leisurely start can relax over breakfast before leaving the fairytale landscapes of Cappadocia. After breakfast, you will visit the World Heritage-listed Goreme, open-air museum, a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings. Your final dinner will take place in one of Cappadocias best restaurants. Set in a converted 250-year-old caravanserai (traditional roadside inn), you will savor a sophisticated, modern take on traditional dishes. Accommodation at the Heybe Hotel, in Goreme.
Take a flight back to Istanbul, where your tour will conclude upon arrival at the airport.
This tour of Turkey will take place in and around the cities of Istanbul, Bursa, Ayvalik, Selcuk, Bodrum, and Goreme, Turkey.
During your holiday, you will sample some of the best dishes Turkey has to offer, including (but not limited to):
Please arrive at Istanbul's Atakurk International Airport (IST). You will be met and transferred to your starting hotel. Pick up is included in the price. You may also arrive at Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW). Transfers are available on request.