Combine Archaeology, Birds and Breathtaking Scenery

Itinerary

(Breakfast - B, Lunch - L, Dinner – D)

Day 1  Depart North America
The overnight flights from North America are expected to leave for London in the early evening and connect with the Istanbul flight the next morning. 
harbor view

Day 2   Arrival in Istanbul
On arrival at Istanbul, and after clearing Customs and Immigration, we will be met by Yasemin Konuralp, our Turkish guide, and transferred to our hotel.  Our nicely appointed hotel is centrally located in the historic district of Sultanahmet, one street away from the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome.  After checking in, there will be a little time for us to relax after our long journey from North America.  An orientation meeting to discuss the details of our tour will take place in the late afternoon, followed by a Welcome Dinner at the hotel. (D) 

Day 3   Bosphorus Cruise / Spice Market / Blue Mosque / Hippodrome
In the morning, we will take a relaxing cruise in a private boat on the Bosphorus, the narrow strait dividing Europe from Asia.  The waterfront at the famous Golden Horn is crowded with bustling, rather elderly ships that still ferry tens of thousands of passengers between the continents each day.  During the trip, we will enjoy a grandstand view of Istanbul’s famous skyline with its many towers, domes and minarets including the spectacular Blue Mosque and the massive Byzantine Cathedral of Saint Sophia.  We hope to see some of the raptors and storks that migrate through this area, on their way from Africa to Eurasia, as well as Yelkouan Shearwaters that pass along the Bosphorous in large numbers.

After lunch, we will visit the elegant Blue Mosque, a classic Ottoman design, which was built between 1606 and 1616.  We’ll also enjoy the Hippodrome, in front of the Blue Mosque, where chariot races took place and which was the center of Byzantium’s life for 1000 years and of Ottoman life for another 400.  Then a visit to the Spice Market, a cavernous building established in the early 17th Century, where we will be able to purchase spices from all over Turkey and the Orient.

Dinner tonight will be at a local fish restaurant where the freshly caught catch-of-the-day will be cooked to order. (B, L, D) 

Day 4   Izmir / Ephesus / Kusadasi
We will leave Istanbul early this morning and take a short 45 minute flight to Izmir on the west coast of Anatolia.   

On arrival, we will visit the marvelous Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus, the best preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean, and one of the best places in the world to get a feel for what life was like in Roman times.  It was Ionian Asia Minor's most important city.  Its wealth was proverbial, and its Temple of Artemis was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Ephesus became an early center of Christianity, was visited by St. John and by St. Paul (who addressed an epistle to the Ephe­sians), and was the seat of the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.  This ancient port now lies several miles from the sea, its harbor filled in by alluvium.  Only one column of the Temple of Artemis has been re-erected, but there is much that is well preserved.  We walk the marble-paved Arcadian and Sacred Ways, admire the restored Library of Celsus and the Corinthian relief's of the Temple of Hadrian, and stand in the Great Theatre where St. Paul preached.

Our four star hotel, for the next two nights, is perched on a little peninsula overlooking the Aegean Sea.  It has its own private beach and has the feel of a private club. (B, L, D) 

Day 5 Priene / Temple of Apollo
This morning, we’ll drive on to the fabulous Hellenistic ruins of Priene.  Unlike many ruins in Turkey, that were originally built by the Greeks and then rebuilt by the Romans, Priene was a minor city that was left alone by the Romans.  It is an intimate place and, above all, a Hellenistic city that has changed little since the 4th Century B.C.   

Later in the morning, we’ll continue through the alluvial plain of the Meanders River on our way to visit Apollo of Didyma, the impressive temple of the region.  Before arriving at the temple, we will have lunch at a nearby restaurant. Then, after visiting the Temple of Apollo, with its 120 huge columns vaguely reminiscent of Luxor in Egypt, we’ll drive on to a very interesting wetland, with its diverse collection of water birds. (town viewB, L, D) 

Day 6 Aphrodisias / Salda Lake / Antalya
After breakfast, we will leave for the Mediterranean city of Antalya via a very scenic route through the Anatolian countryside and Taurus Mountains.  But first, we will drive along country lanes and through small villages to the ruins of Aphrodi­si­as.  Aphrodisias was an important cultural center sacred to Aphrodite in Greek and Roman times, but with a prehistory that dates back to the third millennium B.C.  The well-preserved remains include public baths, a stadium that accommodated more than 60,000 people, a portion of the Temple of Aphrodite, and more. 

We will stay for three nights in the city of Antalya at a beautiful five star hotel overlooking the sea. (B, L, D) 

Day 7 Gulluk Dag National Park / Termessos
After breakfast, we’ll drive to nearby Gulluk Dag National Park, in the Taurus Mountains, where wilderness surrounds the still partly forest-covered ruins of the 3rd Century B.C. Lycian fortress-city of Termessos.  We’ll drive into the hills and then walk up to the ruins of the city.  The main buildings visible today are a theatre, with seating for more than 4,000 people, cisterns in the agora, and the temple of Atremis.

The hills and valleys of the park also provide a rich habitat for wildlife.  We’ll keep our eyes open for Great Tits and Ruppell’s Warblers and listen for the shrieks of Golden Eagles while scanning the skies for soaring Honey Buzzards, Griffon Vultures and Lammergeiers.  This area is also well known for its extremely nimble and surefooted Chamois, browsing in alpine meadows, and Persian Ibex and Golden Jackals.  The park’s Mediterranean flora, which includes Junipers, Aleppo Pines, Holly Oaks, Sea Squill, and endemic Colchicum can be vibrant at this time of year.  Yasemin, our naturalist guide, is an outstanding botanist who will be able to interpret the flora for us – Recently we were fortunate to see a rare endemic orchid (Crying Bride), and large stands of Star of Bethlehems and Tiger Daisies.

After an al fresco lunch near Termessos, we’ll return to our hotel in mid-afternoon where we will be able to relax for the remainder of the day before walking out to have dinner in a local restaurant. (B, L, D)

Day 8 Adrasan / Olympos / Fires of Chimera
We have a very interesting day planned that will give us a variety of experiences including a visit to wildflower and birding areas, the ancient site of Olympus, and the eternal flames of Chimaera.We’ll first drive south along the coastal road towards Olympos and an area where we will be looking for some of the many species of wildflowers which are native to Turkey.  While there, we’ll be on the lookout for Ruppell’s Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Hoopoe, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and others.

Thesail boats in harborn a short walk to a beautiful sandy bay will get us to the ancient site of Olympos that dates back to Hellenistic times.  It was an important Lycian city that became famous as a place of worship honoring Hephaestos or Vulcan, the God of Fire. The ruins are spread out on either side of the Ulupinar River and include a Byzantine bathhouse with mosaic floors, a marble temple entrance, a theatre, and some excavated tombs.

The shoreline of this beach is also a major protected nesting site for sea turtles. After a very pleasant lunch under the sun umbrellas of a beach restaurant, we’ll walk on a trail to the rocky slopes above the ancient city where there are a series of eternal flames issuing from cracks in the rock, caused by the combustion of natural gas seeping out of the mountain.  (B, L, D)

Day 9 Taurus Mountains / Akseki / Konya
After a very pleasant three days in the Antalya area, we will continue our journey to Konya, and the Anatolian Steppes, through the coniferous forests and snow-capped peaks of the Taurus Mountains.  These mountains roughly parallel the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and will provide us with some excellent opportunities to look for alpine birds and flora.  Our route will take us off the main road and into some special areas that Yasemin has located in her quest for several species of orchids and mountain flora. We will stop at Gembos Yayla, near Aseki, and some of the more spectacular outlooks where we’ll watch the Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Spotted Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, White-throated Robin and Rock Nuthatch. After a picnic lunch besides a fast flowing mountain stream, we’ll continue on to the vast Anatolian steppe and the ancient city of Konya.  This barren-looking steppe is very good for growing grain and Konya is now the heart of Turkey’s rich breadbasket.  Dinner tonight will be in our hotel. (B, L, D) 

Day 10  Konya / Whirling Dervishes / Cappadocia
In the morning, before driving on to Cappadocia, we will visit the Mevlana Museum, which provides an excellent insight into the Mevlevi dervish sect – better known as the “Whirling Dervishes”.

We’ll then cross the steppes and drive towards Cappadocia, one of Turkey’s most extraordinary treasures.  As we progress south, the panorama of Cappadocia begins to unfold and the incredible, sandy landscape, and distant rock formations become visible.  This is the land of fairy chimneys where magnificent cave dwellings are hewn out of the tuff of ancient volcanic ash.  In the late afternoon, when we reach Uchisar, a village at the center of this magnificent lunar landscape, we’ll enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the valleys and countryside from a tall volcanic outcrop.(B, L, D)

Day 11 Rose Valley / Goreme Open Air Museum
Immediately after breakfast, we’ll drive over to nearby Rose Valley and participate in one of the most unique and spectacular walks in the world.  As we walk through the hills and valleys, filled with fairy tale cave dwellings and ancient churches carved out of the soft, textured rocks, we will be entranced with this remarkable landscape.  Overhead, there will likely be Long-legged Buzzard and Alpine Swifts soaring above us.  For many of our participants, this is the highlight of the whole tour.

We’ll have lunch in a pleasant restaurant in the center of the village after which we’ll have time to walk around the village or visit one of the local carpet shops.  Later in the afternoon, we will also visit Goreme Open-Air Museum, and have a walking tour of one of Turkey’s most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  As we explore the site, we’ll see that it is a cluster of rock-cut Byzantine churches, chapels and monasteries.  We’ll walk the paths here, climbing stairs to reach monastery churches with their wonderful primitive and haunting 11th and 12th Century frescoes.   (B, L, D) 

Day 12 Ala Dag Mountains / Demirkazik
This morning, at dawn, there will an opportunity for those who wish to experience a unique, hot air balloon flight across the Cappadocian landscape.  This is an optional activity – participants will be back at the hotel by 9:00am to take part in all of the group’s planned activities.

In the morning, we will visit one of the more than 36 underground cities that have been discovered in this region.  Derinkuyu is the largest and has huge underground living quarters, including stables, long “transit” tunnels, kitchens and a church.  A truly amazing experience. After lunch, we’ll visit some extraordinary formations called “fairy chimneys”.  The eroded columns are spectacular in appearance and were the home to cave dwellers for many centuries.

In the evening, we plan to drive to a very special event at an historical caravanserai – the ancient ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes. (B, L, D)

Day 13 Kulu Golu Bird Sanctuary
Today we will leave Uchisar in good time and drive along the shores of Lake Tuz to the Kulu Golu Bird Sanctuary.  We’ll spend a good part of the day exploring this area and expect to see a good selection of interesting birds including White-headed Duck, Bearded Reedling, Common Pratincole, and Greater Flamingo.  Later in the afternoon, after a picnic lunch, we’ll drive through vast, rolling and seemingly deserted plains to Ankara, the capital city of Turkey.  Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant. (B, L, D)

Day 14 Ankara Archaeological Museum / Soguksu National Park
After breakfast, we will visit Ankara’s superb Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, housed in a beautifully restored 15th Century covered market and warehouse. Then a drive north of Ankara to an area that lies between the dense forest areas of northern Anatolia and the Central Anatolian steppes, Soguksu National Park.  At this time of year, the spring wildflowers will be putting on a great display, breeding birds will be filling the air with their songs, and migratory birds will be feeding in the Black and Scotch Pines, Oaks and Poplars.

The park and its surroundings are especially important for raptors including Black Kite, Black Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Golden Eagle and Booted Eagle, all of which breed in the park. (B, L, D)This pa

Day 15 Fly to Istanbul
In the morning, we will make our way to the airport for our flight to Istanbul. On arrival, we will check into the same hotel as we had at the beginning of the tour and, after settling in, we will have an afternoon for touring, shopping or relaxing.  We will have lunch in our hotel restaurant in Istanbul overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia. 

The options for the afternoon will be a tour of the Topkapi Palace, a magnificent palace that was the residence of the sultans for almost four centuries, and the Haghia Sophia, the Church of Divine Wisdom, built and completed by Emperor Justinian in 537 in an effort to restore the greatness of the Roman Empire. The remainder of the afternoon will be free and we’ll meet back at our hotel for our farewell dinner at an exclusive restaurant in a centuries old cistern.  (B, L, D) 

Day 16 Departure Day
This is the end of our tour.  Depending on our flight times, we will be transferred to the Istanbul airport for our flights home.  (B)

Price up to 8 participants $4,400.

TOUR COST INCLUDES: · Accommodation in double occupancy from Istanbul · Hotel and group restaurant meals · Two internal flights · Ground transportation / Group airport transfers · Meals as described in this itinerary · Parks and cultural sites entrance fees · Services of our leader & Turkish Guide

TOUR COST DOES NOT INCLUDE: · International airfare · International airport departure taxes, if applicable · Arrival airport transfers, if not travelling with group · Any optional activities · Alcoholic beverages and bar expenses · Phone calls and items of a personal nature · Additional transportation required due to any emergency situation

Please contact us for details and availability

 

 

 
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