Turkey is a country always at the crossroads throughout history of the influences of its time
With a history of civilization going back 10,000 years, Turkey surprises and excites.
It is both a nation of rich historical significance, and a modern country moving into the
forefront of the present in many ways. It abounds in monuments of the peoples who have occupied it.

This tour will highlight Istanbul, the Aegean coast, the Mediterranean coast, and Cappadocia.

 September 24 to October 12, 2014
(Click photos to enlarge)

  • Day 1 - Wednesday, September 24, 2014-Istanbul

    We will meet at our hotel just a few minutes away from the Grand Bazaar. Our attractive hotel is within walking distance of almost all of the most famous historical sites in the city.

    Istanbul (the former Byzantium, the former Constantinople) is the only city in the world straddling two continents. It was the capital of three empires: The Roman Empire in its later days, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. We will see many reminders of the history of this incredible city. We also don’t want to forget that Istanbul is a thriving, huge (13 to 15 million people), dynamic, modern city as well and our visit will reinforce this fact.

    We meet in the lobby of our hotel and we have a short walk to a roof-top restaurant that gives us a wonderful view over the minarets and rooftops of old Sultanahmet. At dinner we will review details of our journey.


  • Day 2 - Thursday, September 25- The Aghia Sofia, the Byzantine Cisterns, The Blue Mosque , and a cruise of the Bosphorus.

    Click to Enlarge
    After breakfast we will walk to the Aghia Sophia (the Church of Divine Wisdom). We will have a very unhurried visit to this extraordinary monument. It was the principal basilica of the Byzantine Empire, but a church on this site was actually founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine in AD 360. Construction on the current building began in 532, as ordered by the Emperor Justinian. There have been many alterations to the exterior over the centuries. Larger and larger external buttresses were added because of earthquake damage and the necessity to shore it up. Minarets were attached after Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 and it became a mosque. All of that said, there is little that prepares one for the interior grandeur of this church, which was the largest building in the world for a thousand years.
    The mosaic depictions, on a field of gold-coloured stones, were inadvertently well-preserved by the moslem conquerors who covered all of these images with whitewash. Over the last century the whitewash has been painstakingly removed to reveal masterpieces of Byzantine religious art. Take time to wander through this place. Take the ramp to the upper balconies of the church and imagine the processions of horses, the Imperial family and their entourage making the climb.

    From here we go to the Byzantine Cistern (the Yerebatan ), a very short walk away.
    It had been lost for many centuries and rediscovered by an archaeologist who found that people were drawing water from holes in the floors of their homes and even catching fish at times. This cistern supplied water to the Byzantine palace, its gardens, and all of the buildings of the area. It is immense, and has 336 columns. It is as wide as the Aghia Sophia.

    Our last stop this morning is the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii), easily recognizable among all of the huge mosques of Istanbul by its 6 minarets. It was used by the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire for about 250 years. You will want to take note of the beautiful Iznik tile-work and the stained glass windows of the interior.

    We then have lunch. After lunch we will transfer to the nearby harbour where we will board a boat for a cruise of the Bosphorus. This will give a great view over the city, reinforce its Asian and European situation and show us beautiful wooden and stone palaces and homes along the way almost up to the Black Sea. We can make stops and even get out to stroll along the way. This cruise will last several hours.


  • Day 3 - Friday, September 26-Topkapi Palace, The Hippodrome, The Museum of Islamic Arts, the Mosaics of the Byzantine Palace, the Cemberlitas Baths.

    We start the day with a visit to the Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the sultans and their families, concubines, and staff from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It was also the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire. We will have a fairly leisurely visit. The one organized part, because it is required, will be a guided tour of the harem. Only 20 of about 300 rooms are visited and this must be done in groups. Then we can have time to wander and visit the jewellery/gem collection, the kitchens, the Divan (the audience hall) where representations were made to the Sultan and palace officials. There are extensive gardens.Click to Enlarge

    We will have lunch at the palace restaurant/snack bar (NOT INCLUDED) which overlooks the city and the sea.

    After lunch we will visit 3 sites. The first is the ruin of the Hippodrome, the Roman circus where horse racing and most public events took place (Think Circus Maximus in Rome). All that remains is the oval shape. There is an Egyptian obelisk is at the centre and there is the base of the column that once supported the intertwined bronze snakes taken from the Temple of Delphi in Greece (now disappeared) There is not really much to see here, but this was the centre of public life in Roman and Byzantine times, and it was the place of the start of innumerable riots between opposing factions in the 2 first empires.

    We then visit 2 very different places. The first is the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts,housed in the 16th century palace of Ibrahim Pasha.This was the largest private residence in the Ottoman Empire. There is an impressive collection of carpets, ceramics, and glassware.
    For those who want time to go slowly through the collection, one can do so.
    Others can use this as an opportunity to take a tea (or even hookah-pipe) break in one of the many cafes and tea houses in the area.

    We will then meet for a short visit to see the mosaics of the corridors of the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperors from the 6th century. This, and a couple of old palace walls, are all that remain of the splendour of the Byzantine court.

    From here we head for the Cemberlitas baths for the full treatment experience of the traditional Turkish bath. The turkish bath is really a direct descendant of the Roman bath.
    Cemberlitas is a 16th-century, all marble bath designed by the famous court architect,
    Sinan. It has been used continuously for over 400 years. Each member of our group will have the experience of the bath and a massage (INCLUDED). Afterwards you will be ready for a rest.

    DINNER TOGETHER AT A SEAFOOD RESTAURANT (INCLUDED). The Kumkapi quarter is home to hundreds of fresh seafood restaurants and is an over-the-top experience of bustling Istanbul evening life (slightly tacky even, but not to be missed).


  • Day 4 - Saturday,September 27-The Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian Spice Market, Saint Saviour in Chora, the Golden Horn, and The Aqueduct of Valens.

    We start our day with the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsisi), the world’s largest bazaar (estimated to contain 4000 shops). I will get you there and give a general orientation and then there will be a full two hours to shop and explore. We will meet and continue on to the Egyptian Spice Market nearby. We will lunch at the famous Pandeli’s Restaurant above the Spice Market. It is decorated from floor to ceiling with Turkish tiles. It is only open for lunch so we will eat then (INCLUDED) and that will leave the evening free when we return from our excursions later.
    Click to Enlarge
    After lunch, we take taxis to the Church of St. Saviour in Chora, seldom visited and fairly far from our hotel. One problem with this site is that they are constantly changing the hours. This church is said to have the finest of late Byzantine art (later Byzantine art was felt to be the most beautiful) and the stunning mosaics have been restored by the American Byzantine Institute.

    From here we will walk to the Golden Horn, the famous inlet that separates European Istanbul. It is reputed that when the Turks arrived and it became obvious that Constantinople would fall, rich Greeks threw their valuables into the bay, hence the name. We will walk along the Golden Horn for a couple of hours, ending up at the Aqueduct of Valens, completed in AD 378. On the way up from the Golden Horn to the Aqueduct of Valens, we pass through an area of traditional Ottoman wooden houses. From here we will return to the hotel by taxi.


  • Day 5 - Sunday, September 28-Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, Yildiz Gardens, Izmir

    This morning we will set out early and take taxis to the Galata Tower, which has stood on the other side of the Golden Horn for almost 700 years. The Galata area was the centre of the European quarter in the Ottoman period. Work has been done to revitalize the main street of this quarter and we will visit it this morning. At the end of Istiklal Street is famous Taksim Square, actually quite ugly and disappointing, but it is the central square of the new Istanbul.

    Then we head on to the Dolmabahce Palace (completed 1853), built in an effort to develop a modern Sultan’s Palace, as the Topkapi seemed too dated and dark. One sees here a very big European influence as the Sultanate tried to reinvent itself. The harem is immense. The setting, alongside the Bosphorus, is beautiful.

    We will have a bite to eat and then head on to the nearby Yildiz Park, probably Istanbul’s most beautiful park space.

    We return to the hotel, pick up our bags and head to the airport. We fly to Izmir on the Aegean coast.

    Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey, and the major Turkish port of the Aegean coast. Our van will take us to the central area of Izmir. We will stroll through the old quarter and then have dinner in one of the seafood restaurants on the waterfront. (INCLUDED)

    Unfortunately, there is not much left of the grandeur of pre-independance. Izmir was formerly the very cosmopolitan city of Smyrna. It boasted a multiethnic population, with world-class cultural activities. In the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s it boasted a Greek quarter, a Turkish quarter, an Armenian quarter, a Jewish quarter, and a European quarter. At the time of the War of Independance, the “foreign” populations ( the Greeks as only one example had been living here for almost 3000 years), were forced to leave the country and Izmir became a predominantly Turkish city, without its amazing architectural heritage, as a significant portion of the old quarters were destroyed by fire.

    After dinner we will drive to a special place where we will stay for 2 nights.
    I have made arrangements to stay at a small boutique hotel, in Sirince.
    This hotel is beautifully furnished and lies in a small hill village with traditional Ottoman architecture. It is near the tourist sites, yet away from the mass tourism of Kusadasi and Ephesus. I think the stay here will be a more enjoyable one than staying overnight in the city of Izmir. We have three houses here, each with 2 bedrooms.


  • Day 6 - Monday, September 29- Sirince, EphesusClick to Enlarge

    We have the full morning free, as we have had 4 very busy days prior to this.
    Sleep in, walk in the village, take a leisurely breakfast.

    At about 1:00 P.M. we will head by van to Ephesus, which is not a long drive away.
    Ephesus is one of the most impressive Greco-Roman ruins in the world. It is extremely heavily touristed. We have all afternoon here. We will have a guided walk to orient everyone, and then you can wander. There are many structures in an excellent state of preservation: the Hellenistic theatre, the Arcadian Way (leading straight down to the harbour-they always talk of the spectacle of Cleopatra’s entry into Ephesus along this route, having come to visit Mark Anthony). (The Arcadian way actually had street lighting as early as 400 B.C.), the Harbour baths, Marble Street, the Library of Celsus (the best preserved ancient library structure in the world) ,the Temple of Serapis, Baths of Scholastica, the brothel, and one can climb up to 1st to 6th century villas, with well-preserved murals and mosaic floors. There will be lots of time to explore at your own pace.

    The van will then take us to see the precinct of the famous Temple of Artemis. It lies in almost complete ruins, but it is worth a few minutes’ stop because it was one of the famous Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple covered an area 4 times the size of the Parthenon in Athens.

    Then we go a couple of kilometers more to the small village of Selcuk. The Ephesus Museum is here. Group members can either explore the small museum which has many artifacts from Ephesus, or have a coffee or snack break.

    We will return at sunset to our special small hotel in Sirince village for supper. (INCLUDED)


  • Day 7 - Tuesday, September 30-Aphrodisias, on to Pammukale

    We set out early this morning by road ( a little over 2 hours) to see a much less-visited Greco-Roman city, Aphrodisias. I remember seeing many years ago (as a teenager) when National Geographic was reporting on the excavations to that date. Since then a wonderful treasure-trove has been uncovered. Not much was known about this city, but it was a very important centre for sculpture in the Roman world, and its masterpieces were shipped all over the Mediterranean.This seems extraordinary now considering the distance from the sea.

    I personally think this city ranks equally with Ephesus for state of preservation. (Although it was not nearly as important in history). There is a wonderful , mostly Greek theatre, and extensive water basins where mock sea battles were staged in Roman times. The stadium is in amazing condition, the only major damage being undulations in the seating areas caused by many earthquakes. It is one of the very best preserved stadiums from its time. The starting blocks are even still in place. There is an odeon ( concert hall ), with 9 rows of perfectly preserved seats.

    There is a very good small museum. Interestingly, so much sculpture has been excavated that it cannot all be housed, so only the best pieces are in the museum. We will have a leisurely visit here so that you can just wander. This site contrasts in its peacefulness so much with Ephesus which is so over-run. We will have lunch in the town by the Aphrodisias site.

    From Aphrodisias we will travel approximately an hour to Pammukale (Cotton Castle). Pammukale is famous for its calcium hot springs, and they have formed the most unusual tiered, white basins over the millenia. Great damage had been done to these by tourists bathing in the basins, and the white of the calcium deposits had turned to yellow and gray from suntan lotion and body grease. It is now strictly forbidden to bathe in these basins and they are returning with time to their original startling whiteness. There were hotels around these basins and they have all been demolished.

    AClick to Enlargefter quickly checking in to our hotel we will go to the calcium formations close by. These formations are truly unusual and very photogenic. There is the ruin of a Roman spa city (Hierapolis) built on the rise just behind the springs. People came to the spa from all over the Roman Empire . There are the obligatory Roman theatre, a monumental fountain (the Nymphaeum), a massive city gate and a well-preserved main street. Probably most interesting is a very extensive ancient cemetery.

    You can swim in the ancient sacred pool, with the warm waters coming directly from the underwater spring. The pool is atmospherically strewn with fallen columns. There is a separate charge for using the sacred pool, but it is well worth it for those who would like this experience. ( THE FEE WILL BE COVERED FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTAKE)

    Our hotel is right across from the travertine terraces.


  • Day 8 - Wednesday, October 1-On to Bodrum, passing by Priene, Miletus, and Didyma

    We will set off early again today. We retrace the route west towards the coast. Then we turn south and parallel the Aegean. We will make a couple of stops on the way to Bodrum, as well as have lunch en route (NOT INCLUDED). (The total actual driving time is about 4 hours)

    Our first sightseeing stop will be Priene, a ruined ancient Greek city. It is rare to see an essentially Greek city as they were almost all eventually built over by Roman cities. This is the reason for our stop: to explore the site by foot, as well as its setting which is the most spectacular of all of the Ionian cities. Interestingly, it was an important port in ancient times, and it is now 10 miles away from the sea as a result of silting in of the Meander River, (from which our word “meandering” comes). We are going to skip the great city of Miletus, an important ancient intellectual centre.

    We will stop for a short visit to Didyma, site of an oracular temple of Apollo, second largest in the ancient world. People travelled from far and wide to hear theClick to Enlarge prophecies of the oracle, second only in importance to the oracle at Delphi.

    With just two sightseeing stops, this will bring us to Bodrum in the early afternoon, leaving us several free hours before dinner. Bodrum is a dynamic, elegant, vacation port city and there are excellent bars, restaurants, and attractive neighbourhoods. Our hotel is very colourful and friendly and lies within walking distance of the marina. Its rooms all surround a garden with pool.


  • Day 9 - Thursday, October 2- Bodrum and on to Fethiye. Boarding of our yacht

    This morning we will set out early for some Bodrum sightseeing.
    Bodrum was the Halikarnassus of antiquity and home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Halikarnassus. There is nothing remaining of it and I was surprised to learn recently that it was almost intact until the Castle of St. Peter was built by the Knights Templar, using its stones and other construction materials.

    This morning we will visit the Castle of St. Peter, which sits overlooking the harbour, with magnificent views all around. The building itself is of interest, as is its extensive collection of artifacts. Attached to the Castle itself is the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum, with artifacts found at the bottom of the Mediterranean. In the castle collection is the oldest shipwreck ever excavated (from the 14th century B.C).

    We will leave Bodrum by van before noon and head to Fethiye, a beautiful small port about 3 hours from Bodrum where we will board our gulet, the M/S Duramaz. We embark at 3:00 P.M. If you google “Duramaz yacht” (not Duramax) there is a You-tube video of the boat. It is almost 100 feet long, and has 2 Master cabins, 2 Double cabins, and 2 twin-bedded cabins.

    There is ample deck space, and salon space interiorly as well. The interior is all in mahogany. We will have all 3 meals provided plus afternoon tea daily. We will set sail this afternoon.

  • Days 10 to 13 - Friday, October 3 to Monday, October 6 - Cruising

    We are setting out from Fethiye because this is one of the most beautiful and interesting stretches of the coastline. We will visit small bays and coves as well as Kaunos, Olu Deniz, Kaya Koyu, Kas and Kalkan. You can stay on the boat or explore these places.

    Kaunos-To get to Kaunos one lands at Dalyan, opposite which are amazing rock tombs carved into the cliffs opposite. Dalyan is a pleasant little town. From here we can take small boats through the strait to the old ruined city of Kaunos. I think the scenery is the most impressive thing here really. There are mud baths not far away if people want a mud bath experience.
    Click to Enlarge
    Olu Denis is a spectacular bay, with the most beautiful beach on a spit of land embraced by a magnificent coast. It is, however, swarming with tourists at the height of tourist season. We will want to anchor here and swim.

    Kaya Koyu is an abandonned formerly Greek city, emptied of its residents in 1923 when the massive exchange of peoples took place between Turkey and Greece. There is an incredible feeling here of what this must have meant to the people whose families had lived here for uncounted generations. The valley below the town is an extremely verdant paradise. The town lies, stripped of anything of use or value. Initially Turks did try to live here, but Kaya Koyu was vacated by them as they felt strongly that the Greeks had placed a curse on this place. There is an ossuary containing the bones of the Greek ancestors who had died here. When the Greeks left some took the skulls of their ancestors. The barebones churches are a sight in themselves. I think the experience is very moving, and an example of living history. We can hike one way and get transport the other way. This is a voluntary 2 hour or longer hike to Kaya Koyu for anyone who wants to go. (de Berniere’s book “Birds without Wings” is set here.)

    Kas-This is a small port town in a magnificent setting. There are tea gardens on the western edge of the harbour with bathing platforms. Kas has interesting handicrafts for sale. I bought the most beautiful leather jacket here and people used to stop me on the street in Montreal to ask where I had bought it.

    Kalkan-Kalkan was a Greek port village until the 1920’s. It sits on another picture-perfect bay. It is upscale and more expensive than most places along the coast.

    What will be most fun will be being able to get to places that are not accessible normally by road. There are some of the most awesomely beautiful hidden spots. Or just spend your time on the deck, or swim off the yacht.

  • Day 14 - Tuesday, October 7 - Finish Cruise, Fethiye to Olympos

    We finish our cruise this morning, returning to the port of Fethiye. We disembark at 11:00 A.M.

    Our route today takes us along the coast passing near the places we visited on our cruise, and then we follow the Mediterranean on our way east. We can make a couple of stops along the way. There are great ruins at Myra, but I think we may have seen enough of these, and there are some spectacular ones to come. However, stopping in the town of Demre (Kale) is a good idea, as there is the partially ruined Byzantine church of Saint Nicholas. ( the original Santa Claus). He was buried in this church in 343, but it is said that his bones were carried off by Italian pilgrims to Bari. The church is in varying states of ruin and preservation, and has lived a long life.

    We then drive along the south shore of the Turkish mainland, an interesting route from which we will have views of the Mediterranean. We continue on to the very unusual Olympos. Olympos was founded in the 2ND century B.C. Its Lycian inhabitants worshipped Hephaestus, the god of fire. We will talk about the nearby Chimaera, which may have inspired their devotion at the end of this section. This is a very singular small town, replete with tree houses and ruins that line a river, its banks overgrown with trees and vines. It is really an interesting walk down along the stream that remains with ruins hidden here and there, not so much for the ruins but for the atmosphere.Click to Enlarge

    We will spend a little time at Olympos and then continue on to nearby Cirali, a vacation village where we will spend the night.

    In the evening, after dinner, we can head up (this is an excursion for those who want to go) to the Chimaera. It is a series of fires burning out of rock crevices .These fires are an example of spontaneous combustion. They can be extinguished, but always reignite. It is the specific mixture of the gases that emanate from the deep that results in this spontaneous flame. The ancients saw these fires as the evidence of a fire-breathing monster that was part lion, part goat and part snake. In mythology, the hero Bellerophon killed the Chimaera by riding Pegasus and pouring melted lead into its mouth. Hiking here is a very unusual experience. We do need flashlights for this walk. It is steep in points although there are steps to go up the path. It does not take as long as an hour each way. In ancient times the flames were much taller and were used as a beacon for navigation by ships.

    OVERNIGHT CIRALI (Olympos) We stay in a small bungalow complex with simple but quite elegant bungalows.
    DINNER ON OWN (There are lots of small restaurants)

  • Day 15 - Wednesday, October 8- Mount Olympos (Tahtali Dag), on to Antalya

    This morning we will return to the main highway, and then take the side-road that leads up to the base of Tahtali Dag (Wooded Mountain in Turkish), Mount Olympos. There is a cable car (the Olympos Teleferik) which will take us up to almost the summit of the mountain. “Wooded Mountain” is the centrepiece of Olympos National Park, and from here we should have extraordinary views. (weather permitting).

    We continue on to the city of Antalya ,which has a population of over one million inhabitants.
    We will arrive here in the early afternoon and the rest of the day will be free to explore. Antalya has a beautiful, well-preserved old district, Kaleici. Our atmospheric hotel built in several restored Ottoman mansions is in the old quarter and you will be able to explore the old city from its doors. This quarter surrounds the old Roman port which has been restored as its functioning marina. There are beautiful Ottoman houses many of which are being reincarnated as small boutique hotels, restaurants and clubs. There is a large covered bazaar from the 15th century, and one of the best museums in Turkey.

    Highly to be recommended, the Antalya Museum is 2 kilometres from the traditional core of the city and accessible by an old-fashioned tramway. Perhaps I can take those interested to the museum. Of most interest is a spectacular “Hall of the Gods” where statues of the Olympian gods and godesses found at the nearby archaeological sites of Aspendos and Perge are in almost perfect condition. Also of great interest is the Hall of Regional Excavations, and the Marble Portraits Hall. There are also the Gallery of the Perge Theatre, a Mosaic Hall, and The Sarcophagi Hall.

    There is also a beautiful park, Karaalioglu Park, just south of the old town.


  • Day 16 - Thursday, October 9- Either OPTION 1: Antalya, Aspendos, and Side, and on to Cappadocia
    OR OPTION II: Antalya, Termessos, and on to Cappadocia.


    OPTION I - ASPENDOS AND SIDE- We set out early this morning to see the Roman theatre at Aspendos. This is a necessary visit as this is felt to be the best-preserved Roman theatre in the world. This is the only ancient theatre where so many details are still intact, and as well they have reconstructed a portion so one can see exactly what the marble finish of the interior would have looked like.The Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival, which will have finished when we are visiting, is staged here.

    Click to EnlargeFrom here we will go on to the city of Side. It is a rather strange place but not without its charms. It was a very busy Roman port in ancient times. At one point in history it boasted a huge slave market and was home to many pirates. Ancient monuments are to be found all over the functioning part of what is a very touristed city. It is worth getting off the main streets to experience a more authentic Side, away from the masses of tourists. Interestingly on some streets one can find odd mixtures of shops, guest houses, and ruins. As we wander we will see a monumental gate, part of a temple of Athena on the waterfront, city walls, and an ancient theatre. LUNCH IN SIDE (FOR OPTION 1-INCLUDED) Lunch will be the large meal of the day because we will be travelling over the dinner period. We then return to Antalya.

    OPTION 2 - TERMESSOS-Termessos lies northwest of Antalya .It is an ancient and extensive ruined city lying high in the mountains. Also known as the Eagle’s Nest, its setting is extraordinary. One really has to ask oneself how all of the building materials were brought to this site. The theatre has the most impressive situation of any in Turkey, with spectacular views across the mountains. There is lots of scrambling over rock here so it is a more difficult excursion than option 1, not to mention the climb up to the site. It boasts a necropolis littered with hundreds of sarcophagi in situ. The ruins lie within the Termessos National Park, which is also a wildlife reserve. There is a small Museum of Flora and Fauna of the region near the gates. For option 2, lunch will be on return to Antalya in the old city. (INCLUDED)

    We leave for the airport to fly to Cappadoicia in the later afternoon.
    We actually have 2 possibilities here: either a very long road trip through extremely winding mountain terrain or we can fly to Kayseri (old Caesarea) via Istanbul. (There is no direct flight).
    If I book the flight far enough ahead, it is affordable on our current budget as well as the 2 flights already planned. We arrive in Kayseri after dark and we will transfer from there to our cave hotel in Urgup, an hour or so away.

    DINNER WILL JUST BE WHATEVER YOU CAN GRAB AT THE AIRPORT (but I will pick us up some snacks)

  • Day 17 - Friday, October 10, 2014-Cappadocia

    We wake up this morning in the other-worldly Cappadocia, a semi-lunar landscape full of tufa mountains and fairy chimneys. It is truly one of the most awe-inspiring topographies in the world. A cataclysmic volcanic eruption 30 million years ago covered the area (1500 square miles) in volcanic ash. Over the millennia the soft tufa rock has been slowly eroded into the amazing shapes we see here.

    There is an an important history to this area as well. In Roman and Byzantine times (the 4th to the 11th centuries) Christians hid out in this area, carving their churches and monasteries into the interior of the tufa mountains and cliffs, to not be visible to the outside world. We will visit cave churches and an underground city, to which the whole local population could flee in times of danger. This day will be our very full sightseeing day.

    We will start with the Goreme Open Air Museum, which is one of Turkey’s World Heritage sites. We will try to get there before the hordes of tourists, although it should be a bit less visited in October than in the months preceding. This is a Byzantine monastic site with rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries. We will spend a couple of hours here exploring. The early church art is in many cases very primitive, but there are also some of these carved-in-tufa chapels that have beautiful frescos. We will stop in the village of Goreme for a short time.

    We then drive to see Uchisar Castle in the neighbouring village of the same name.This volcanic outcrop is carved with passageways and windows and we will stop just to view it. We follow the road south passing by small villages, cave homes, and fairy chimneys.Click to Enlarge

    We will visit the underground city of Kaymakli. There are about 37 known former underground cities in Cappadocia, into which the surrounding inhabitants could flee for refuge. The largest could house 60,000 people. I am choosing Kaymakli rather than Derinkuyu which is not far away for 2 reasons. (Derinkuyu is deeper and larger and one can visit down eight stories of the eighteen to twenty stories) However, Kaymakli is better organized and therefore gives a better idea of the life in an underground city and Derinkuyu is flooded with tourists and can be almost impossible to visit with just one narrow stairway to go up and down. These cities had stables, storage areas, sleeping quarters, kitchens,refectories, chapels, dungeons, and meeting halls. Ventilation of the underground quarters was achieved with thousands of ventilation shafts and air quality is surprisingly good. This makes for a very unique experience.

    We will then drive to Soganli, which is about 20 miles from Urgup. It is a troglodyte village on a huge table-top mountain. We will stop here to visit. Our drive then takes us through lovely wooded valleys and picturesque villages back to Urgup, our base. (passing by the village of Mustaphapasa).

    Urgup itself is probably the most attractive of the towns and villages to stay in. It has winding streets with beautiful old Greek houses. Those who like to shop will find silver jewellery inlaid with semi-precious stones, excellent carpets, and metalwork. We stay in a beautifully appointed cave hotel. It is featured in “Historic Hotels of Turkey”


  • Day 18 - Saturday, October 11, 2014- Hike of the Ihlara Gorge ( Also 2 other possible optional activities)

    Today we have a very special expedition. We will visit the beautiful Ihlara Gorge, an hour and a half away from Urgup. We start walking at Selime Village, passing by Belisirma, all the time following the river through the gorge. We will stop for lunch (not included) at one of the small unpretentious restaurants along the river’s edge. There are many churches along the route where people can stop if interested. They have names like: Fragrant Church, Hyacinth Church, Serpent Church, Columned Church. The setting is beautiful, pastoral and very peaceful. Total actual hiking time is 3 ½ to 4 hours. We will be longer than that because we will stop for lunch. Lonely Planet calls this one of the most beautiful strolls in the world. It is not a difficult hike .We end up coming out of the Valley at Ihlara village. This will make a wonderful day’s excursion for our last full day in Turkey.

    Click to EnlargeThere are 2 optional activities:

    1. For those who think this walk is too long, it is not far to go from Urgup to Zelve, where three valleys intersect and where you can wander for an hour or so amongst the abandoned troglodyte dwellings. Again there are Byzantine churches to be seen. I can arrange for a car to take you there and pick you up again. (Included) Then there is shopping, the hammam, relaxation at the hotel, etc.

    2. For an over-the-top and unique experience, a couple who were on the Morocco trip went hot-air ballooning over Cappadocia and felt it was a great experience. I can only imagine that this unique landscape would be very impressive and other-worldly from above. ( I CAN ARRANGE THIS EXPERIENCE FOR YOU IF YOU WANT . IT IS AT YOUR OWN EXPENSE.
    I have been offered a price of 100 euros per person for this expedition)


  • Day 19 - Home

    We get our last glimpses of Cappadocia as we drive from Urgup to Kayseri airport, to fly to Istanbul, where we catch our flights home.Turkish Airlines flies to Toronto from Istanbul at 14:00 hours that day


- 18 nights accomodation
- 18 breakfasts
- 4 lunches on the yacht, 2 other lunches ( Istanbul, Antalya)
- 13 dinners-5 on the yacht, and 8 others
- 3 meals a day while on the yacht, with an afternoon tea as well daily
- 2 dinners together in Istanbul, one in Izmir, one in Sirince, one in Bodrum, one in Antalya, two in Cappadocia
- Walking tours
- Guides where needed
- Entry to all sites, museums, etc.
- Airfare from Istanbul to Izmir, Antalya to Kayseri (Cappadocia), and Kayseri to Istanbul
- All transportation overland, specifically Izmir to Sirince, Sirince to Ephesus and Selcuk and back to Sirince, Sirince to Aphrodisias and on to
  Pammukale, Pammukale to Bodrum, Bodrum to Fethiye, Fethiye to Olympos, Olympos to Antalya, excursions from Antalya, excursions from


- Airfare to Istanbul
- Non-alcoholic beverages (except at breakfast)
- Alcoholic beverages
- All lunches except the 6 mentioned above
- Transportation to and from Istanbul airport (except that we will be flying from Kayseri to Istanbul airport and you will be there already if catching a flight home
   that day)


Maximum 10 in the group

Activity level -
moderately active. Some relatively strenuous activities which can be sat out if one wishes. Participants must be able to stroll 3 or 4 hours at a time.

Weather -
Relatively warm to hot. It may cool down considerably in the evenings when we are sailing. Can get cold in Cappadocia. Can actually rain some years and be windy.

Money -
Turkish lira. Some places will use Euros.


For itinerary details contact Donald Smith at   travel-alchemy@tnt21.com or at donalex.smith@gmail.com

For bookings contact: susan@hanovertravelplus.ca   Tel: 1-800-265-5515   (Attention Susan Hickling)

In several settings upgrades are available to luxury standard (additional cost is just the difference in room rates).


-$4950.00 CDN based on double occupancy
-Single supplement $950.00 CDN
-Deposit $750.00 CDN at booking
-Balance due July 15, 2014
-Cancellation-refund of all monies up to 30 days before departure (minus $200.00 cancellation fee)
-refund of 50% of monies paid from 29 days to 10 days before departure
-no refund less than 10 days before departure


  1.  "This is my second trip with Don Smith and once again  it was memorable in a very good way. A small group of 8 people, we saw a lot of Morocco and its' history from Casablanca to the Sahara. It is exotic from the medinas which are very old and I think represent Morocco very well, to the High Atlas Mountains, to small oasis towns where, as we drove through we saw a wedding procession right outside our van window. We had many types of transportation, from our van which was extremely comfortable for the long ride across the mountains. We had walking tours and 4-wheel drives in the desert. Guides were excellent, all arranged by Don in advance. We had wonderful dinners on terraces overlooking the cities and small intimate dinners in tented camps. The southern part of our journey exposed us to a very different way of life.  The Sahara is magnificent as were the small towns we stayed in. I never felt unsafe. And then there were the camels, who were gentle and took very good care of us riding in the desert.

    Don knows Morocco well and his organizational skills and sense of humour are superb. ...... Can't wait until he does another tour." 

    Marcia Ordway, Vancouver, B.C.

  2. "My 2012 trip to Morocco arranged by Donald Smith, was one of my most exciting and adventurous vacations taken during the past 5 years. (which have consisted of visits to India, Peru,  many areas in Europe, Asia, South America, etc.) I have never experienced the privilege of travelling with such a small group of people who felt so comfortable and special after meeting on the first day in Casablanca. That feeling remained thoughout the whole remarkable journey. Each day offered a new experience of tastes, visions, and sounds that will be remembered fondly forever."

    Carol Thomas, Burlington, ON

    See more testimonials HERE

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