Fly to Istanbul.
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 spend the night in the Kizilcahamam forest valley, famous for its underground springs. We spend the night in Beypazari.
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.
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.
Heading southwest we first visit one of the oldest and largest settlements in Cappadocia, Derinkuyu, where there is a complete underground city, with seven levels of tunnels that are said to extend for many kilometres. Then we continue on towards Konya, following the ancient Silk Route we visit Sultanhani, a 'kervansaray', which is an excellent example for civil architecture of Seljuk Turks. In the afternoon we arrive in Konya, capital of the Seljuk Turks. Konya was the centre for the Islamic sect of Sufism. Very much a religious and conservative place, Konya's atmosphere presents a stark contrast to more westernised cities, like Istanbul and Antalya.
We leave Konya and 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.
Free day in Antalya. The Antalya museum is worth a visit, or just a walk around the old town is a pleasant way to spend the day. Here visitors will find some of the best examples of Ottoman domestic architecture. In the harbour there are daily boat excursions or the option of going diving.
Heading north out of Antalya we stop at the ancient site of Termessos which hangs 1000 metres above sea level. 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.
We depart Pamukkale and travel eastwards inland to visit the impressive ruins of Aphrodisias. In future years this site will probably be more important than Ephesus, and this is already apparent from the remains uncovered. Moreover Aphrodisias, dedicated to the goddess of love, was also the place where St John wrote the Book of Revelations, at the ruined basilica of St John. We continue on to Selcuk, our base for the next two nights.
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.
Includes 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. There is currently some development work going on in the area, and there will no longer be vehicle access to the site. Instead, once work has been completed it will be necessary to pay a small charge to ride the new cable car up to the site. At the time of writing this is not in force, however we anticipate a charge of approximately EUR5 per person, payable locally. We continue on to stunning Behramkale (Assos) where Aristo gave lessons for two years. We overnight in a hotel beautifully converted from an old warehouse, located in the waterfront area, with optional visit to the nearby castle.
A full and long day drive back to Istanbul to give you the advantage of having a last full day in city. 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.
In the morning we visit Hagia Sofia. Built in the 6th century by Justinian, this remained the largest church in Christendom for centuries and was converted to a Mosque by the Ottomans, and then to a museum by the secular Republic, Afterwards we have free time in Istanbul to see more sights or do any last minute shopping.
Fly to London.