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Step back in time in a land that spans two continents and links together several extraordinary civilizations over many centuries. Soak up the colorful history of Istanbul, gazing up at its delicate minarets, exploring its fortresses and palaces, and meeting local artisans and spice merchants. Discover the wild volcanic landscapes of Cappadocia—and the cities and sites carved within its niches, and imagine the Romans in their glittering marble city as you hike among the ruins of Ephesus. Learn to marble paper, sculpt volcanic rock, and prepare a Turkish feast; and enjoy the sea breeze from our hotel on the Aegean shores.
Explore Istanbul’s markets and historic sights, the volcanic wonderland of Cappadocia, and the Aegean harbor town of Kuşadası.
Get the inside story of ancient Ephesus while visiting the ruins with a seasoned archaeologist.
Venture into fortress dungeons, Roman temples, and a city built eight stories underground in Cappadocia.
Learn how to marble paper and carve volcanic rock with local artisans and prepare a meal with a Turkish chef.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Istanbul, Turkey
Hoşgeldiniz! Welcome to Turkey! Meet up at the airport to transfer to our hotel in the historic heart of old Istanbul. Then gather for a rooftop orientation and welcome dinner, and take in stunning views of the city.
Armada Hotel (D)
Day 3 — Old Istanbul
At the crossroads of East and West and straddling two continents, Istanbul is a cultural melting pot with a fascinating history. Our exploration of this enchanting city begins at the jaw-dropping Topkapı Palace, the gold-gilt, mosaicked, bejeweled home of the Ottoman sultans. Gaze up at the hand-painted tiles of the Blue Mosque and venture underground to the haunting Basilica Cistern, whose Byzantine arcades rise out of the water. Then delve into the spice market, sampling Turkish delights amid pungent pyramids of cardamom, saffron, and cumin.
Armada Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Istanbul/Cappadocia
Step way back in time amid the soaring domes of Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site originally built as a church in the sixth century and converted to a mosque by the Ottomans in 1453. Learn about Turkish paper-marbling at a workshop, and try your hand at the centuries-old art form. Climb the ramparts of the massive Fortress of the Seven Towers and peer deep into its dungeons. See the huge Golden Gate, once the ceremonial southern entrance into Istanbul. Take a late afternoon flight to Cappadocia, and catch an aerial glimpse of this geological wonderland on the way.
Lykia Lodge (B,L,D)
Days 5 & 6 — Cappadocia
Created by the eruptions of three area volcanoes, Cappadocia’s incredible geology has been sculpted by the winds and rain over time. Descend into the eight-story-deep ancient city of Kaymaklı, the largest of Cappadocia’s sophisticated underground “cities,” carved in ancient times and later used by early Christians seeking refuge from the Romans. Explore Göreme, a World Heritage site of pinnacles of eroded volcanic ash transformed into medieval churches and monasteries. This afternoon, visit local masons to find out how these ancient sites were cut out of the rock, and learn to carve a piece of volcanic tuff yourself. Or visit local wineries to learn about local wine production and sample award-winning vintages and grape juice for the kids! Later, kids meet with their Turkish pen pals during a fun afternoon of games, conversation, and other activities. The next morning, rise early for an optional hot air balloon ride if you wish. Then learn to cook local dishes with a renowned chef or set out on a hike in the Rose Valley, stopping to visit underground homes and cave churches. Gather for a traditional Turkish meal—prepared by your fellow adventurers. Lykia Lodge (B,L,D daily)
Day 7 — İzmir/Ephesus/Kuşadası
Fly to İzmir and travel overland to Ephesus, a fabled port city that blossomed as a cultural and economic center during the Roman Empire. Visit a pilgrimage site believed to be the final home of the Virgin Mary and then descend the Marble Way to incredible Ephesus, home to the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Settle into our hotel, set on a peninsula in the Aegean Sea, and enjoy time to stroll the beachfront town of Kuşadası before sharing memories at our farewell dinner tonight. Kismet Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Ephesus/Istanbul
In the first century B.C., the population of Ephesus topped a quarter million people, and the scope of this archaeological wonderland is simply mind-boggling. Delve into magical Ephesus with an archaeologist who has worked at the site for decades, exploring Celsus Library, the Grand Theater, and much more. Wander through the Ephesus Museum to see artifacts from the site before our flight to Istanbul. Enjoy the afternoon to relax or explore the city on your own.
Armada Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Istanbul/U.S.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
About this Expedition
We tap into National Geographic’s vast network to design unique travel experiences for the whole family, filled with hands-on activities and memorable moments. A special aspect of this expedition is the Kid-to-Kid Connection, which links every young traveler with a pen pal of similar age in Turkey. Join your pen pals at a family home amid the whimsical landscapes of Cappadocia. Learn traditional Turkish games and share American past-times like Frisbee. Then roll up your sleeves to make a delicious Turkish dessert using fresh local apricots.
Our dynamic Expedition Leaders enrich each experience with their insights, knowledge, and energy, and a Young Explorer Leader joins every group to facilitate fun activities that help kids get the most out of the places we go. As we travel, we’ll also meet up with fascinating people doing meaningful work in the field.