The Treasures of Western Turkey

A journey through Istanbul, Cappadocia, Anatolia, and the Aegean

Soar in hot-air balloons, sail across the Aegean, experience awe-inspiring monuments, and meet with locals to uncover the recipes, traditions, and artisans for a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will never forget.

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Tour Summary

Our two-week Turkish journey will take us through the timeless treasures of the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman civilizations that have flourished here. While visiting early Christian, pagan, and Islamic icons of art and architecture we will uncover a synthesis of meaning through diverse moments of faith and religious communities. The overlapping influences of education and civilization that shape the rich tapestry of Turkish history will guide us through the Haggia Sophia, Ottoman palaces, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, the cave cities of Cappadocia, and the inspiring beauty of hot springs, ancient theaters, and sailing through the gorgeous islands of the Aegean. We will encounter the living traditions of weavers, wool producers, ceramic artisans, and wine makers. And we’ll sit with village grandmothers to learn their recipes and hear their stories. Together we’ll experience a vision of life that flourishes through the diversity of history and celebrates a continuity of understanding stretching from east to west and from the ancient to the modern.

Tour Price:



(single travelers)

*For groups of four or more, please contact us directly for a quote.

Tour Dates:

June 1 - June 14, 2022

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Day 1

Istanbul: Where East Meets West

Welcome to Istanbul, the gateway between East and West, Europe and Asia, between Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottman, and Turkish. At 2:00 we’ll meet our guide for an orientation and introduction to the Alithea style of travel at our hotel. Then we’ll set out on foot to explore the city. Starting from the famous Sultanmet square we’ll begin to perceive how this marvelous city has been shaped by overlapping civilizations. In one direction we’ll face the square of the ancient Roman hippodrome with its towering obelisk, in another the Haggia Sophia, originally the church of Holy Wisdom designed by Greek mathematicians in the sixth century A.D., in another direction the shimmering waters of the Bosporus, and in another the Blue Mosque whose hand painted tiles and powerful arches open to quiet contemplation for its colleges of math and jurisprudence. After visiting the Blue Mosque we’ll descend into one of the city’s ancient underground cisterns whose massive columned-rooms feel more like gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe than Byzantine era storage facilities for drinking water. We’ll conclude our first day with a beautiful meal and getting to know our new Alithea travel companions.

Walking: light, 2 miles

Day 2

The Hagia Sophia, Spice Market, and the Suleymaniye Mosque

This morning we’ll begin our local guided tour with a visit to the former church Hagia Sophia. For nearly a thousand years it was the largest church in Christiandom with its astonishing dome and gorgeous mosaics. It was the seat of the Eastern Patriarch until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans when it was converted into a mosque. After our visit to this holy marvel we’ll hop on a tram and head over to the spice market for an introduction to Turkish spices, teas, halva, and perhaps the world's tastiest Turkish delight. For lunch our guide will introduce us to an assortment of street-food treats before bringing us to one of Istanbul’s greatest architectural marvels, the Suleymaniye Mosque. Designed in the middle of the sixteenth century by the architect Sinan, it is a mathematical wonder of beautiful proportions like the greatest buildings of the Renaissance.

This afternoon we’ll hop on a boat together for a tour of the Bosporus where we’ll see Istanbul from the water with its beautiful cityscape and yili houses, or the waterside mansions. After our boat ride we’ll have an option to explore Istanbul’s Asia and try an assortment of delicious mezes or to return to Sultanmet, the beautiful neighborhood around our hotel.

Walking: strenuous, 5 miles

Day 3

Topkapi Palace, Hagia Irene, and the Grand Bazar

This morning our local guide will lead us through the luxurious fifteenth century Topkapi Palace. The former residence of the Ottoman sultans, the story-book beauty of the gardens, gate-towers, kitchens, armory, and royal rooms feels almost enchanted. This place is a window for the imagination, the intrigue of palace romances, political aspirations, and the royal setting of the Ottoman court. We’ll also visit Hagia Irene, the church of Holy Peace. It is one of the oldest churches in city, originally constructed during the reign of Constantine. It was here that the second ecumenical council of Constantinople took place.

After our visit to the Topkapi Palace and museums we’ll stroll over to the Grand Bazar, largest and oldest covered market in the world. With over sixty streets and 4,000 shops, a visit to the Grand Bazar is a multi-sensory experience like stepping into a covered city out of a story-book. This magical market is filled with craftsmen, jewelers, ceramics, and the vaulted ceilings where the expertise of thousands of years of artisan culture is gathered into one place. We’ll chat with local shop owners to learn the routine of daily life in Grand Bazar. After our visit to the Grand Bazar we’ll be free for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Walking: strenuous, 5 miles

Day 4

Village Life and the Turkish Bath Experience

After breakfast this morning we’ll head to the airport to fly to Cappadocia. Famous today as a site of natural wonders and hot-air balloons floating over fairy-chimneys at dawn, the underground forth century A.D. cities of churches, homes, stables, and warehouses are equally marvelous. After lunch and checking into our hotel we’ll have a quick orientation to Sinassos village, one of the oldest settlements of Cappadocia. The architecture here is unique for its stone brick houses with spacious courtyards and castle-like feel.

This afternoon we’ll make a trip to a Turkish bath where we’ll experience the next-of-kin to the ancient Roman bathhouse. Men and women will remain separate for this invigorating steam and exfoliating olive-soap massage by our local Turkish masseuse. Tea, hot marble slabs, relaxation, and another massage.

Tonight we’ll enjoy a Turkish family-style meal with terracotta pots of eggplant, sautéed beef, and the traditional comfort food whose recipes have been passed down from generation to generation.

Walking: easy, 2 miles
Travel time: approx. 4.5 hrs.

Day 5

Hot-Air Balloon rides and Ancient Cave Dwellings

We’ll set out early this morning for a hot-air ballooning experience. The soft morning light rising over the honey-combed landscape is an enchanting perspective of the Pasabag valley shaped over the course of millions of years.

At the end of our magical morning ride we’ll enjoy the morning’s second breakfast before heading off with our local guide to explore on foot some of the terrain seen from above. Together we’ll stroll through this magical stone valley to enjoy the spectacular view of one of the most beautiful places in Cappadocia, before visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum. These fourth century cave dwellings were once home to a thriving monastic community who embraced a vision of simplicity and sanctity in a life dedicated to prayer in the wilderness. After visiting these ancient churches and hermitages our guide will bring us to a local home for a traditional lunch and casual question and answer session hosted by local grandmothers. After lunch we’ll be free for the afternoon to explore Sinassos, to chat with locals, hike to nearby monasteries, and to regroup this evening for a casual wine-tasting and an optional meal of Turkish barbecue.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles

Day 6

Underground Cities, Ceramics, and the Uchisar Castle

Today we’ll visit the highest and deepest places of Cappadocia on the same day. This morning our local guide will lead us through a tour of the underground cities of Kaymakli. Originally carved deep into the stone for protection from enemies and heavy winters as early as the seventh century B.C., at one time there were possibly hundreds of these subterranean cities with populations ranging into the thousands.

Following our visit to the ancient cities our guide will bring us to a ceramic workshop in Avanos. Located along the Kizilirmak, ‘the red river’, and the source of the red clay, the pottery factories in this area date back to the bronze age and the time of the Hittites. We’ll witness this three-thousand year-old tradition in artisan demonstrations and explanations and a quick visit to the museum.

Our afternoon will conclude with a visit Uchisar castle. This high rock promontory has served as a natural fortification and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and fairy chimneys. We’ll return to Sinnasos for a relaxed late afternoon and free evening.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles

Day 7

The Basilica of St. John the Museum of Ephesus

This morning we’ll continue our journey with a flight to Izmir in the western part of Anatolia on the Aegean Sea. Around noon we’ll take a guided tour through the Ephesus Archeological Museum whose collection of artifacts dates back to the founding of cities in this region, about nine-thousand years. These fragments of continuous civilizations through almost ten millennia help us not only to imagine the daily lives of ancient cultures but also to understand how history is collective like a story that continues from one page to another.

After lunch we’ll visit the Basilica of St. John, the beloved apostle of Jesus who wrote the Gospel and the book of Revelation. Constructed by the emperor Justinian in the sixth century it stands over the believed burial site of St. John. According to tradition, after his exile to Patmos, St. John lived the remainder of his days preaching the gospel in Ephesus which became an important pilgrimage site through the miracles that followed his death.

Next we’ll visit the Museum of Ephesus where we’ll see spectacularly preserved statues of Artemis and relics of the sanctuary. Then we'll visit the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, said to have 'mounted to the clouds.' The work of rebuilding this sanctuary will be given to our guide and our imaginations as we explore the fragments that remain of this temple to the Greek virgin goddess of the hunt, of nature, the moon, and wild animals.

In the late afternoon we’ll arrive at the seaside town of Kusadasi where we’ll sleep two nights. After checking into our hotel we’ll be free for the evening.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles
Travel time: approx. 4.5 hrs.

Day 8

The Ancient City of Ephesus and Sirince Wine and Artisans

After breakfast this morning we’ll drive to the nearby ancient city of Ephesus. Similar in many ways to the Greek sister-city of Athens, Ephesus tells the story of beauty, prosperity, self-governance, and then tragedy, and tyranny. As our guide recounts the stories of love, possibility, and betrayal we’ll walk the ancient streets and visit the theater that once housed 25,000 spectators. As we explore ancient Roman terrace houses and the remnants of temples, shops, bathhouses, we’ll glimpse the sophistication and simplicity of the port-city that endured more than a thousand years.

This afternoon we’ll visit the quaint village of Sirince famous for its wine production, cobblestone streets, silver smiths, small textiles shops, olive oil soaps and creams, and friendly artisan shop-keepers. In the later part of the afternoon we’ll return to Kusadasi to visit our guide’s favorite seafood restaurant for an optional meal together of locally caught seabream seabass, calamari, and the catch of the day.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles

Day 9

Ancient Greek Aphrodisias and Pamukkale

After breakfast this morning we’ll drive inland towards the ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias. Named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodisias was one of the most beautiful and intriguing cities in antiquity. It was tax exempt when it became the holy city of the Roman emperors and was famous for its beautiful sculptures and school of philosophy. Today it houses perhaps the best-preserved ancient stadium anywhere in the Mediterranean. Its auditorium, the odeon, and the tetrapylon, the monumental gateway to the sanctuary of Aphrodite both inspire an idea of the former magnificence of the city.

After lunch we’ll continue towards Pamukkale, a site that has been drawing visitors to its thermal waters since antiquity. The name, which means ‘cotton castle’, derives from the cascading plateaus of white limestone shaped over the course of millennia as the calcite-rich springs continuously overflow into pools below. Our hotel is built at the top of these hot springs with it’s own thermal pool free for our use.

Walking: strenuous, 2 miles
Bus time: 4 hrs.

Day 10

Thermal Baths of Pamukkale, St. Phillip, and Bodrum

First thing this morning, our guide will bring us to the outdoor thermal spring at the terraces of Pamukkale. Here we’ll visit the Pool of Cleopatra, the famed queen of Egypt, and we’ll join the tradition of classical Greeks and Romans with a calming soak in these waters renowned for their healing properties. After a barefoot walk over the travertine stone and a relaxed soak, we’ll follow our guide to the nearby tomb of St. Phillip, one of Christ’s twelve apostles. Recently discovered at the site of ancient Hierapolis, it was to the church of Colossians in this area that St. Paul wrote his famous letters. Before departing for the day, we’ll visit a spectacularly preserved Roman theater from the second century A.D. where they still host concerts today.

After lunch today we’ll load our bus and drive west back to the Aegean coast to Bodrum. After checking into our hotel this evening we’ll be free for dinner, either at our hotel’s excellent restaurant and beautiful view of St. Peter’s Castle or in town by the sea.

Walking: moderate, 3 miles
Bus time: 3 hrs.

Day 11

The Turkish Village Experience, Carpets, Coffee, and Cooking

After breakfast we’ll drive to Etrim for an immersive experience in the traditional culture of a small Turkish village. Etrim is not on your average traveller’s guidebook and may give us the most authentic local experience of the trip. We’ll start our day in the village coffee house where we’ll meet our host who will introduce us to the local traditions of wool production and carpet weaving, of wine making, farming, and beekeeping. Next our host will bring us into a couple of local houses where we’ll see firsthand the artisan practice of processing and dying wool, boiling caldrons of pigments, and the looms where the millennial old art of weaving is practiced. This visit is both a step back in time to an older way of life and a stepping closer to humanity and the natural gifts of the world.

Next our host’s mother will bring us into her small kitchen and teach us how to make a dolma, often a communal event in rural Turkish communities. After lunch, coffee, wine, and conversation shared with locals we’ll take a tour of locally made carpets and have an opportunity to learn more about the cooperatives of women that produce them.
In the late afternoon we’ll return to Bodrum for another relaxed evening by the sea.

Walking: light, 2 miles
Bus time: 1.5 hrs.

Day 12

Discovering Bodrum and Sailing a Traditional Gulet

This morning we’ll visit Bodrum’s St. Peter’s Castle. Built by crusaders at the beginning of the fourteenth century this castle served as a fortification for five hundred years before becoming home to Bodrum’s underwater archeological museum. It now houses the treasures of thousands of amphora recovered from the sea floor and shipwrecks of boats from the twelfth century B.C., and sixth century A.D.. After lunch we’ll board our ‘gulet’ our traditional two-masted Turkish sailing boat to explore the beautiful islands' beaches by boat. We’ll spend two glorious days sailing the crystal waters of the Aegean while stopping to swim, snorkel, and sunbathe in different islands. All our meals will be included and prepared by our own chef.

Walking: light

Day 13

Sailing the Aegean, Swim, Relax, Repeat

Today will be a day of relaxion, swimming, sunbathing and exploring the islands and beaches along the coast near Bodrum. We’ll have plenty of time to chat with our guide about Turkey, it’s long history, and the myriad of intersecting cultures that create the colorful tapestry of it’s modern-day identity.

Day 14

Farewell, Until We Meet Again

After breakfast we’ll land back in Bodrum to say goodbye. Connect for a flight through Istanbul back home or to continue your journey elsewhere. There are no scheduled activities for the day but our guide will be available to help with travel plans throughout breakfast.

Day 14
Day 15

Sailing the Aegean, Swim, Relax, Repeat

Day 15

What's Included

All breakfasts, and 10 dinners or lunches.
All transportation to tour related activities, including our private bus, tour specific flights, and boats.
11 nights in family-run boutique style hotels and 2 nights sailing and private meals on a luxurious Turkish Gulet
The cost of all entrances, local guides, and tips to 14 different tour activities.
Your friendly Alithea tour manager for the duration of the tour
COVID travel safety measures
A pre-tour consultation with an Alithea expert
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Tour Tips

Pack Light

Alithea hotels are boutique, family-run and centrally located in the historic centers where the ancient roads are too small for buses. That often means needing to walk between our bus and hotels. Between destinations we will be required to carry our own luggage which may include significant stairs and no elevator. We encourage our travelers to take a simple carry-on size bag with a small backpack for outings.

Come Prepared

Alithea tours are outrageously fun. Come prepared to live in the moment. We will walk, talk, celebrate, dine, and make beautiful discoveries together. When we’re not exploring with our local guide we’ll be encouraged to venture out on our own, to celebrate our discoveries with a glass of wine, to go for a swim or a walk on the beach, or simply to relax and take in the beautiful view. Of course, we can’t visit ancient and beautiful sites without getting there first, and sometimes that means significant walking. Our first two days on this tour are the most physically strenuous. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns before booking.

Bus and Travel Time

Like every great story, there is no possibility of discovery and of arriving at beautiful places without a journey to get there. On our Turkey journey we will take the bus, boat, and plane in order to arrive at our spectacular destinations we’ll be visiting. We’ll not only use this time to relax and enjoy the view but also to prepare with our Alithea guide for the sites we’ll visit next. Of course, we can’t appreciate the gorgeous vistas of the mountains without occasional driving on winding roads.

Reserve Your Place

A journey through Istanbul, Cappadocia, Anatolia, and the Aegean

The Treasures of Western Turkey

To reserve a spot on this tour we ask that you pay a $500 deposit. All deposits are refundable within 30 days of payment.

*Read our refund policy here