Fly to Istanbul, transfer to our hotel.
We start off our grand tour of Turkey with a full day highlights tour of Istanbul including the Hippodrome square in old Stamboul. Although often known as the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, a hippodrome was in fact first built on this site even earlier. Today little remains of the original structure, however the area today is now carefully maintained and offers a number of different monuments and glimpses of its glorious past. Other places to visit are the famous Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace which was the residence of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years.
Heading out of Istanbul towards Ankara, we stop at Abant Lake. Surrounded by dense pine forests, this fresh water lake is 1325 metres above sea level and covers an area of 125 hectares, fed by underwater sources. The countryside is pleasantly different in every season - autumn brings a host of reds, yellows and greens off set by the rich hues of the soil. In winter the much of the landscape is tucked beneath a glistening white blanket. Flora and fauna go wild in Abant in the springtime offering a wealth of opportunities for photographers. The lake in summer has rich plant life with wild fruit trees, flowers, mushrooms all around, and water lilies covering the surface. We then head on to spend the night in Beypazari. Approx driving times - Istanbul to Abant 4hrs, Abant to Beypazari 2hrs.
A short drive into Ankara to visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, giving a superb oversight of the peoples inhabiting this diverse land over the centuries. Following this we drive to Anitkabir, an impressive memorial erected in honour of Ataturk the founder of the modern secular republic. From here our route continues to the south through undulating hills and farmland, passing the second biggest salt lake in the world and eventually reaching Cappadocia, our base for two nights. Approx driving time to Goreme 4.5 hrs including stop at a salt lake.
It is possible to start the day by taking an optional balloon ride over this eerie landscape. We explore the main sights of Cappadocia on foot and by road. The lunar landscape of Cappadocia is formed from tufa - compacted volcanic ash that erodes easily and is very suitable for making caves. Since the earliest times men have burrowed into this rock, making underground houses, churches and even large cities. Some of the caves are decorated with religious frescoes and form an almost complete record of Christian art, over a period of about 1,000 years. There is also a castle at Uchisar, hosting a fantastic view of the surrounding area, with many rock churches - some of which were used as monasteries at Goreme. Renowned local produce includes earthenware pottery at Avanos and wine making in Cappadocia.
The town of Egirdir is situated on the shores of the lake of the same name, one of the largest of Turkey's Lake District, covering a massive 482 square kilometres. The history of the town stretches back centuries, covering the major Empires that ruled here, including the Romans and Ottomans. Indeed, the town was once an important stop on the King's Way, a trading route connecting Ephesus to Babylon. The lake's two islands are connected to the town by a causeway, and it's possible to visit the Byzantine fortress and the restored Byzantine Church. Approx driving time Goreme to Egirdir 5.5 hours.
We continue on the long drive southwest, through the Taurus mountain range to the Mediterranean Coast. En route we visit Aspendos, an important city of antiquity that boasts one of the most well preserved Roman theatres, built to seat 7000 spectators. We then continue onwards to Antalya. Approx driving time Konya to Antalya 2.5hrs.
Today we stop at the ancient site of Termessos which hangs 1000 metres above sea level on a natural rocky plateau, and is one of the best preserved ancient sites in Turkey, with a theatre, temples and numerous buildings and points of interest. Our destination is the town of Fethiye on the beautiful mediterranean coast, where we overnight. Approx driving time Antalya to Fethiye 3.5 hours.
Fethiye enjoys a wonderful locationon the Turquoise Coast, so known for the beautifully-coloured waters. It has become a popular spot for tourists who enjoy not only the weather and natural beauty, but the comparatively relaxed feel and friendly welcome of a town not overrun by mainstream tourism. This is a great place to spend a relaxing day, with plenty on offer. Oludeniz is a fabulous beach for relaxation and a swim however there is also plenty for those keen to explore the cultural side. Rhodes is just a short ferry ride away, whilst inland lies the village of Kayakoy. Kayakoy is sometimes called the 'ghost village' as it was abandoned as a result of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. Fethiye itself has a rich history, sitting on the site of ancient Termessos, the remains of which can still be seen today in certain parts of the town.
Our destination today is to visit the famous limestone cascades of Pamukkale - literally 'cotton castle'. The thermal spring waters, laden with magnesium and calcium salts, run over the edge of a plateau to form a sparkling white cascade of basins ringed by stalactites, a series of petrified waterfalls and paddling pools. A great deal of preservation work has gone into the pools in recent years and it's possible to cross them barefoot. The water has been used therapeutically since Roman times and behind the cascades are the scattered ruins of the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis. Overnight Pamukkale.
Today's visit is one of the trip's true highlights - the famous Roman city of Ephesus, where we take a tour of one of the greatest cities of antiquity. At its zenith in the 2nd century AD it had a population of 300,000 and was dedicated to the goddess Artemis. Her temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, until an arsonist destroyed it; excavations at the temple have been prevented by the high local water table. The New Testament gives a stirring account of silversmiths' protest in the theatre against St. Paul preaching Christianity on the streets of Ephesus. Overnight Pamukkale. Approx driving time Pamukkale to Selcuk 3 hours.
Heading out of Assos, we visit Bergama. Our tour takes in a visit to the acropolis of Pergamum, which played an important role in the history of Asia Minor. Its architects and sculptors were among the finest in the Hellenistic world. We continue on to stunning Assos where Aristotle gave lessons for two years. Ovenight Assos. Approx driving time Selcuk to Assos 4.5hrs
Assos is officially known as Behramkale, though it is still often referred to by its ancient name. Today many ruins remain in and around this quiet seaside town, including those of the Temple of Athena and the necropolis, on a nearby hill. There is also a hamlet near the quayside of old stone houses, and across the water the island of Lesbos is not far, and it was from here that the founders of the town came. Overnight Assos.
We start off with the ancient city of Troy, long thought to be a legendary place until it was re-discovered in the 19th century by the amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. The Trojans repeatedly repulsed the Achaeans until after 10 years Odysseus conceived the stratagem of the Wooden Horse to trick the Trojans and allow them to rescue Helen. It is a short crossing from Asia into Europe at Canakkale by vehicle ferry and a short drive from there to important sites from the Great War Gallipoli Campaign. After visiting Anzac Cove and the memorial of the 57th Regiment, we proceed to Chunuk Bair, where the New Zealand Memorial is located. This is the highest point of the peninsula and the best site for an impression of conditions endured. Overnight Istanbul. Approx driving time Assos to Istanbul 6hrs