Day 1 - Your flight arrives in Istanbul. Our representative greets you at the airport and escorts you to your Istanbul hotel.
Day 2 - After breakfast at your hotel, we start our tour of the top sights of Old Istanbul: the Byzantine Hippodrome and its Egyptian Obelisk, the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque renowned for its six minarets and brilliant blue Iznik tiles. After lunch in a local resaurant, we tour Hagia Sophia, built as a church, later a mosque, now a museum, and a landmark in the history of architecture. Then it’s on to Topkapı Palace, the residence of the Ottoman sultan and the imperial family for more than 400 years. We finish the day with a visit to the Grand Bazaar, said to hold 4000 shops selling handmade carpets, leather apparel, jewelry, antiques and much more.
Day 3 - A tour of the Bosphorus fills our morning, with visits to the sumptuous, gilded Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosphorus shore, the first European-style residence of the sultans. We cruise the Bosphorus strait, connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara through the heart of Istanbul, then drive up Çamlıca Hill on the Asian shore to enjoy the panoramic view of the historic city. Then we dive into Istanbul’s renowned Egyptian Market—the Spice Bazaar—to explore its culinary delights: herbs and spices from around the world, dozens of teas, coffees, cheeses, and of course Turkish Delight (lokum). In the afternoon we attend a cooking class at the famous Cooking Alaturca cuisine school and restaurant.
Day 4 - We drive into Anatolia, the Turkish heartland, to Safranbolu, a carefully-preserved Ottoman town, now a World Heritage Site. Along the way we stop for lunch to sample traditional Turkish kebaps (roast meats). Upon arrival in Safranbolu we take a quick tour of the town, then settle in for the night at our hotel.
Day 5 - Today we explore historic Safranbolu in depth: its Ottoman houses, caravansarays and museums. We visit a nearby tribal village to learn about Turkoman cooking, then visit the kitchen of a Safranbolu mansion to watch them prepare meals, and finally we visit a factory to see Turkish Delight and other traditional sweets being made.
Day 6 - We drive to Ankara for a visit to the fine Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, home of the world’s finest collection of art and artifacts of the ancient Hittites, as well as notable collections from many of the other civilisations that have thrived in Anatolia (Turkey). Then we continue through the Anatolian heartland to Biblical Cappadocia and its “moonscape” volcanic topography, checking into our hotel for the night.
Day 7 - The sights of Cappadocia are on our itinerary today: the Devrent Valley, Zelve Open-Air Museum, the Paşabağ Valley of fairy chimneys, and the red-clay village of Avanos on the Kızılırmak River, famous for its pottery. We visit a pottery workshop for a demonstration of pottery-making that uses techniques going back to the ancient Hittites. After lunch we climb Uçhisar Rock Castle, the highest point in Cappadocia, to enjoy the panoramic views from the top. Finally, we explore Göreme Open-Air Museum, with its dozens of frescoed medieval rock-hewn cave churches and monasteries.
Day 8 - We start our day by descending into the Kaymaklı Underground City, a rock-hewn labyrinth extending eight levels into the earth where ancient inhabitants took shelter from invading armies. After stops in handicraft-making villages nearby, we learn from local village women how to cook using a “tandır” (Tandoori): a clay pot filled with ingredients and buried in hot coals for long, slow, flavor-sealed cooking. We learn about other pottery kebaps, how to make flat pide bread, and the mysteries of the famous “pekmez” (grape molasses) of Cappadocia.
Day 9 - Anatolia is thought to be where wine was first produced millennia ago. Boasting hundreds of native grape varieties, and also using imported vinifera vines, Cappadocia is famous for its fine wines. We visit a winery for a look at the wine-making process, the cellars, and for a wine tasting. In the afternoon, our cooking class introduces us to local dishes to pair with the local wines.
Day 10 - Today we drive southeast to Kahramanmaraş, known and loved by Turks for its thick, creamy goats’-milk ice cream. After a demonstration and tasting, we continue to Gaziantep, Turkey’s famous southeastern cuisine city, also famous for the splendid new museum built to house the breathataking Roman mosaics recovered from ancient Zeugma. After a visit to the museum, we settle in at our Antep hotel.
Day 11 - Our morning itinerary takes us to Gaziantep’s famous handicrafts bazaar and copper works. In the afternoon, our cooking class teaches us about southeastern-style kebaps and Gaziantep’s famous baklava made with local pistachios.
Day 12 - We fly to Izmir and make the short drive from the airport to the Aegean hill town of Şirince near Ephesus. After settling in at our hotel, we’re at leisure to explore this beautiful old Ottoman town with its well-preserved historic houses, flourishing market, quaint inns, little family-run restaurants, and its history of making wines from local grapes and many other fruits.
Day 13 - Today we see all the major sights of Ephesus, the capital of Roman Asia Minor: its Odeon, the Library of Celsus, Temple of Hadrian, Fountain of Trajan and much more. Then we visit the nearby ruins of the Temple of Artemis (Artemision), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After lunch at a local restaurant we drive into the hills to a pine-shaded park and the House of the Virgin Mary, discovered miraculously in a dream and later visited by several popes.
Day 14 - Our cooking class today centers on Aegean cuisine: mezes (appetizers) with olive oil, and the plethora of wonderful herbs and spices available along Turkey’s Aegean shores.
Day 15 - Our tour ends as we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Istanbul.