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Cue the exotic music. It's the perfect pairing to your first day in Istanbul, a sprawling metropolis which has connected Europe and Asia for centuries. The former centre of the Old World appears cloaked in mystery, but you won't need to dig deep to discover its dramatic history and vibrant melting pot of cultures, remnants of which can be seen throughout the city's well-preserved façades. On arrival, you'll be transferred to your hotel and later meet your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a glimpse of what lies ahead. Tonight, seek out the best terrace in town for illuminated views of the city's rooftops right down to the Bosphorus.
The 'Pearl of the Orient' reveals her hidden treasures this morning as you join your Travel Director for a visit to the Byzantine Hippodrome. Just as it was centuries ago, today the expansive promenade is a vibrant centre of the city's social life. Standing amidst its obelisks and statues, you can almost imagine the thundering roar of chariots cheered on by Emperor Constantine the Great, who is credited with making Istanbul a glorious replacement for Rome. Visit the 17th-century Blue Mosque with its beautiful interior of Iznik tiles and Topkapi Palace, the lavish former home of the Ottoman sultans. Your afternoon and evening are free to explore Istanbul your way, but you won't want to miss an Optional Experience visit to Hagia Sophia, the Underground Cistern and Grand Bazaar, with its dazzling displays.
Follow in the footsteps of medieval traders, taking the same journey they once took on the east-west trade route between the Black Sea and Mediterranean. You'll arrive in UNESCO-listed Safranbolu, an important caravan station whose Ottoman-style wooden houses and narrow streets once witnessed bustling trade. Join your Travel Director this afternoon for a sightseeing tour and insights into its history, starting on Hidirlik Hill for panoramic views. You'll have time to get lost in its cobbled streets and soak up the colourful sights and sounds at the Eski Carsi and Arasta Bazaar. Try your hand at haggling as a tribute to the town's trading past.
Ease into the laid-back vibes of your first stop today, the pretty port town of Amasra on the Black Sea. There's no better way to get to grips with its intriguing history than a sightseeing tour which includes a visit to its Castle, whose walls and gateways reflect the styles of various occupiers over the centuries - Byzantine, Genovese and Ottoman. See Fatih Camii (Conquerer's Mosque) originally built in the 9th century as a church by the Byzantines, before enjoying lunch at a favourite local hangout. You'll leave the coast behind later and travel south to the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations this morning, exploring this historic caravanserai featuring a valuable collection of artefacts. Your final stop in Ankara is the Mausoleum of Atatürk, the founder and father of the Turkish Republic. Then continue to the whimsical landscapes of Cappadocia where you'll visit Saratli Underground City. This evening you could choose to witness a real Costsaver highlight by joining an Optional Experience with the Whirling Dervishes. Watch them whirl around and around in their trance-like remembrance of God - a dizzying religious custom that represents man's spiritual journey. After this astounding performance dinner is served at a local restaurant.
It's impossible to take a bad picture in Cappadocia. Fairy-tale rock chimneys rise up from the ochre and rust-coloured depths of Paşabağı and the Red Valley - a landscape forged by wind, rain and a volcanic touch. Visit a regional rug production centre where you'll learn how every shape and colour embedded in an intricately woven Turkish carpet tells its own story. Then enjoy an afternoon on your own amidst the fantasy landscapes left by Mother Nature in the ochre rock. An Optional Experience in Göreme reveals how Christians once worshipped in the many rock churches that remain to this day.
See master craftsmen at work turning their pottery wheels to craft the beautiful terracotta pottery characteristic of this region this morning. Later, on your journey to Konya, you'll see a 13th-century caravanserai. You can almost imagine the jostling of camel trains as they stopped to rest and replenish their stocks before continuing east or west along the popular trade route that winds through Cappadocia. Arriving in Konya, the home of the mystic Whirling Dervishes, you'll visit the final resting place of the Sufi philosopher Mevlana to gain insights into the traditions and rituals of the Sufi religion.
Learn how the village of Sille was inhabited by Greeks who lived peacefully alongside the nearby Turks of Konya for over eight centuries. You'll see remnants of their heritage in the landmarks that remain, before heading to Antalya on the Turquoise Coast. Retreat behind the ancient walls of the Old Town and stroll past the beautifully restored Ottoman-era houses in its historic centre. Visit the Roman harbour connected to the city by 44 Venetian stone steps, then spend the rest of the day getting lost in Antalya's labyrinthine cobbled lanes. This evening, you could choose to sample the local Antalyan dishes at a favourite restaurant.
Ease into the laid-back seaside vibes of Antalya on this full free day dedicated to soaking up sun-kissed Mediterranean shores. If you can drag yourself away from your sun lounger, we recommend joining an Optional Experience cruise along the glittering coast. This afternoon, an optional journey into antiquity could see you visit the Aspendos Theatre, built in the second century and dedicated to 'the gods of this country and to the Imperial house'. Also included on this optional afternoon excursion is a visit to the Roman Aqueduct, the Kursunlu Waterfall and the Aspendos Bridge, spanning the Eurymedon River.
The powdery white sands and crystal-clear water of Lake Salda provide a beautiful backdrop for a quick photo stop today. Besides being noteworthy as a popular tourist resort and archaeological site, the lake is one of only two places in the world said to have similar rock structures to the planet Mars. Contemplate life in outer space before continuing to Kaklik Cave with its sparkling white travertines, before heading for the cotton fortress of Pamukkale.
The ethereal white pools and terraces that cascade down surrounding cliffs are a sight to behold this morning as you see the ruins of the ancient Roman health spa of Hierapolis. Head west to the Aegean coastline, arriving in Izmir in time to spend some time exploring this pretty port town, with its lengthy promenade. Learn about its multicultural past, and its history as a Greek city. Consider joining an optional seafood dinner at a favourite local restaurant renowned for its stunning views.
Today an Optional Experience could see you visit Ephesus, a 2,000-year-old site and home to the iconic Library of Celsus and Hadrian's Temple. Included in this experience is a visit to the stone cottage, where the Virgin Mary is said to have spent her final years, and the enchanting hillside village of Sirince, where guests can soak up the historic atmosphere and quaint market-town culture of a traditional Turkish village. Sample some of the delicious local olive oil, take a bite out of a juicy peach and wander through cobbled marketplaces into a world before cars and supermarkets.
Ancient legends and symbols take centre stage today. Your first stop this morning is in Pergamon, famed for its Asclepion Medical Centre, which still bears the image of the snake-entwined staff that remains a symbol of medicine in modern times. Next on today's agenda is a visit to Troy, the ancient city that inspired Homer's tales about the wrath of Achilles and the famous siege, which was broken through the clever construction of a wooden Trojan horse. A replica of the horse can still be seen today. Continue to Çanakkale later.
Pay tribute to the brave soldiers who lost their lives in the World War I battles at Gallipoli. You'll visit Anzac Cove, Lone Pine Cemetery and Chunuk Bair, before returning to Istanbul. As your journey through Turkey draws to a close, you'll want to consider joining your new friends for an optional cruise along the Bosphorus, celebrating the mighty waterway which serves as the boundary between Europe and Asia. See grand fortresses, palaces and 19th-century mansions of the Ottoman elite that line this busy strait.
Your in-depth exploration of Turkey with its cultural and historic treasures has come to an end. You've stood amidst man-made wonders and ethereal landscapes, walked in the footsteps of traders and Whirling Dervishes and forged special memories with new friends. For now it's time to end this chapter with a heartfelt farewell to your newfound friends. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.
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Optional Experiences are subject to change. Your Travel Director will supply you with a final list of Optional Experiences available on your trip. Optional Experiences cannot be booked online; they can be purchased during your trip through your Travel Director.
This morning you'll visit Hagia Sophia, the 6th-century marvel that was formerly a basilica, now a mosque. Then, with a 3-minute walk, you will continue onto the Underground Cistern, also known as the Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred cisterns that lie under the city of Constantinople, also built in the 6th century as a water reservoir. Lastly, before returning to your hotel, ramble past the colorful displays of lanterns, pottery and fabric as you wander through one of the world's oldest and largest covered markets, the Grand Bazaar.
Adult Price: $35
No stay would be complete without this unforgettable cruise along the Bosphorus, the winding strait separating Europe and Asia. Along the shores, you’ll see a beautiful mixture of modern hotels, ancient wooden villas, marble palaces, fortresses and small fishing villages, as you relax on board.
Adult Price: $45
The 'dance' of the Whirling Dervishes is called Sema. It is part of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture and represents a man's spiritual journey, and will be a highlight of your trip to Turkey. Once the ceremony is over, we will head to a nearby local restaurant where you will have the chance of savoring varieties of real Turkish food, special for the Cappadocia region. (*) Performance of Whirling Dervishes is NOT a show, but instead it is a mystic ceremony.
Adult Price: $45
First settled in the Roman period, Goreme is located among Cappadocia's famous rock formations. Many rock churches can still be seen today, as Christianity was then the prevailing religion in this region. Then, you'll continue to the town of Avanos, renowned for its high-quality earthenware.
Adult Price: $36
It is possible to see many traditional home foods, which are made by experienced cooks, in the various restaurants lined up from the smallest settlement areas up to the big cities. However, today is the day to try a legendary food both for Turkey and for the Middle East, and that is 'kebab.' You will have the chance of sampling various kinds of ‘meze” with traditional tastes. Vegetarians should not worry at all as your Travel Director knows the ways that will satisfy your palate. (Drinks not included.)
Adult Price: $42
Antalya Old Town, 'Kaleici,' is the picturesque old quarter in the center of present-day Antalya. Your Local Specialist will show you the imposing Hadrian's Gate, dating from 130 AD when the Roman Emperor visited the city. Then you'll enjoy a yacht cruise to the stunning Düdenwaterfall.
Adult Price: $40
Witness the world's best-preserved theatre of antiquity during your first stop in Aspendos this morning. Learn more as you explore the Roman Aqueduct and the Ottoman bridge together with your fellow travelers. Before leaving the area and driving back to your hotel see Kursunlu Waterfall.
Adult Price: $27
Head to the Kordon where we take you to one of Izmir's favorite seafood restaurants. Known for stunning views and for serving the best fish dishes in coastal Turkey, dine on a variety of seafood and meze delights. Don't worry there are great options for those who don't like seafood too! (Excludes drinks.)
Adult Price: $42
Stroll through the ruins of one of the most important cities in the ancient Mediterranean world, Ephesus. You'll explore this 2,000-year-old ancient settlement by walking through the colonnaded Arcadian Way and see the amazingly intact façade of the Library of Celsus and the huge Amphitheatre. Then head to the House of the Virgin Mary at Mt. Koressos, spectacularly situated above the Ephesus ruins. Lunch today will be served at a very typical local restaurant, right outside the colorful town Selcuk on the way to Sirince, once a Greek village.
Adult Price: $75
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