From the gleaming ruins of Ephesus to the vibrant markets of Bodrum, Turkey is exceptionally
picturesque. Uncover the country’s rich cultural
legacy on visits to palaces, mosques, and bazaars in
İstanbul. Enjoy a rare opportunity to photograph
whirling dervishes during a private performance,
and capture the glowing moonscape of Cappadocia
at sunset. Shoot portraits of local farmers, artists,
and families as you soak up daily life.
Photograph Turkey’s legendary cities, ruins, and landscapes, from İstanbul’s minaret-studded skyline to the surreal "fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia.
Explore the lively markets of İstanbul, İzmir, and Bodrum, and capture their colorful bustle.
Go behind the scenes with researchers at Bodrum’s Institute of Nautical Archaeology.
Shoot stunning panoramas of the Aegean coast aboard a private gulet, a traditional wooden yacht.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./İstanbul, Turkey
Depart on an overnight flight to İstanbul, the capital of three empires: Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. Each one has left their mark on this cosmopolitan and culturally diverse city. After time to get settled this afternoon, gather for a welcome reception and presentation by our National Geographic photographer, followed by dinner. Divan Istanbul (D)
Day 3 — İstanbul
Set out to explore İstanbul’s iconic sights, taking advantage of incredible photo opportunities at every turn. Capture the morning bustle at the local spice market and the sun glistening across the Golden Horn. Explore the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, a treasure trove of exquisite Iznik tiles. This small mosque was built in 1561 and displays the most lavish use of exquisite Iznik tiles of any mosque in Istanbul. As time permits, continue to the nearby Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I, known as the "Blue Mosque," with its billowing domes and six minarets. After lunch, continue to the Hagia Sofia, built as a church by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century and converted to a mosque some 900 years later. Then venture into the ancient Underground Cistern, also known as the Sunken Palace, an important water source during the Byzantine era. Cap off the day with a photo shoot at the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered marketplaces in the world. Divan Istanbul (B,L)
Day 4 — İstanbul
Begin the day at the Topkapı Palace, the opulent residence of Ottoman sultans for four centuries. The palace’s many treasures include spectacular collections of porcelain, jewels, and lavish garments worn by the sultans. Photograph the cloistered confines of the Harem and examine a vast array of artifacts at the İstanbul Archaeological Museums. This afternoon, visit the Ottoman imperial Süleymaniye Mosque. From there, enjoy a leisurely walk along a seaside promenade, capturing the silhouette of minarets across the skyline. Later, board a sunset Bosphorus cruise, and photograph the city’s marble palaces and ornate waterfront architecture. Divan Istanbul (B,L,D)
Day 5 — İstanbul/Kayseri/Cappadocia
Fly to Kayseri, and continue overland to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cappadocia. A photographer’s dream, this surreal volcanic moonscape is characterized by clusters of natural stone pillars and cones known as fairy chimneys. During a specially arranged lunch in a private home, visit with a local family and document their traditions. Spend the afternoon exploring the Göreme Open Air Museum, a vast monastic complex of frescoed medieval cave churches cut into the tuff. The surrounding valleys and countryside offer stunning panoramas. This evening, enjoy a rare opportunity to photograph a performance of whirling dervishes—mystical Sufi dancers who spin themselves into a spiritual trance. Then sit down with one of the dervishes for a conversation about his faith and practice. Hotel CaveDeluxe (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Cappadocia
This morning, take advantage of more photography opportunities in Cappadocia’s fairytale landscape. After lunch, stop in at a local pottery studio and capture the artists at work. Later this afternoon, embark on a sunset photo hike through Cappadocia’s Red Valley, awash in shades of pink, orange, and red. Hotel CaveDeluxe (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Cappadocia/İzmir
Take advantage of a free morning to explore on your own, or visit a local rug weaving cooperative. Drive to Pasabağ, formerly known as Monks’ Valley, to shoot some of the most diverse fairy chimneys up close. Then transfer back to Kayseri for a flight to İzmir. Settle into our hotel overlooking the spectacular Kordon promenade on the Aegean Sea.
Swissôtel Grand Efes (B)
Day 8 — Ephesus/İzmir
Spend the day in Ephesus, once home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Photograph one of the best preserved Greco-Roman cities, from its Great Theater and Terrace Houses to its elaborate water systems and beautiful mosaics. Visit the house where the Virgin Mary is believed to have lived during her final years. After returning to Izmir, explore the Kemeraltı Bazaar and capture the vibrant swirl of life in this port city. Swissôtel Grand Efes (B,L)
Day 9 — İzmir/Şirince/Bodrum
Set out on a photo shoot in Şirince, a quaint hillside village where Ottoman houses are nestled against a backdrop of vineyards and olive groves. Wander the cobblestoned lanes, stopping in at wineries to sample local vintages. Continue to Bodrum, a charming port town and an important center for underwater archaeology. Meet researchers at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA), where numerous National Geographic grantees have based their studies—including current INA president Deborah Carlson and INA founder George Bass. On a tour of the conservation laboratory, get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the recent finds, and the conservation work being done to preserve ancient artifacts. The Marmara Bodrum (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Bodrum
The Castle of St. Peter, a 15th-century crusader fortress, now houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology—an impressive collection of relics excavated from ancient shipwrecks found along the Turkish coast. Visit new buildings dedicated to Bronze Age and “glass wreck” excavations supported by National Geographic. This afternoon, explore Bodrum’s beautiful bays and inlets aboard a privately chartered gulet, a traditional wooden sailing yacht. Capture stunning views of the Aegean coast, and swim and snorkel at your leisure. Tonight, gather for a festive farewell dinner. The Marmara Bodrum (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Bodrum/U.S.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flights home. (B)