Turkey: İstanbul to the Turquoise Coast

  • 10-day exploration of Turkey's historic wonders and vibrant contemporary culture
  • Discover İstanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Bodrum, and more

Expedition Details


Poised at the crossroads between East and West, Turkey is graced with a stunning coastline; picturesque villages; and a unique cultural legacy shaped by the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Our journey begins in enchanting İstanbul. Experience the otherworldly moonscape of Cappadocia, stroll through ancient Ephesus, and then soak up the rhythms of everyday life as you make your way to Bodrum along the Aegean coast.

Trip Highlights

  • Explore Cappadocia's surreal "fairy chimneys" and the mazelike underground city of Kaymaklı.
  • Go behind the scenes with researchers at Bodrum’s Institute of Nautical Archaeology.
  • Enjoy an insider's perspective on the historic sites and lively markets of İstanbul.
  • Sail the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea 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. After time to get settled this afternoon, gather for a welcome dinner.
Divan Istanbul (D)

Day 3 — İstanbul

Delve into this fabulous city today. Visit the iconic Hagia Sofia, built as a church by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century and converted to a mosque some 900 years later. Here, beneath the minarets and buttresses added by the Ottomans, discover the hidden mosaics of the original Byzantine structure. Continue to the Hippodrome, the site of coronations and chariot races. Then visit the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I, known as the Blue Mosque for the blue Iznik tiles that line its interior. After lunch at a local restaurant, venture into the ancient Underground Cistern, also known as the Sunken Palace, an important water source during the Byzantine era. Later, examine a vast array of artifacts at the İstanbul Archaeological Museums, and meander through the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered marketplaces in the world.
Divan Istanbul (B,L)

Day 4 — İstanbul

Spend the morning at the Topkapı Palace, the opulent residence of Ottoman sultans for four centuries. After lunch, visit the Ottoman imperial Süleymaniye Mosque. From there, explore Rüstem Pasha Mosque, a treasure trove of exquisite Iznik tiles, and visit the nearby spice market. Later, enjoy a sunset Bosporus cruise, followed by dinner on the waterfront.
Divan Istanbul (B,L,D)

Day 5 — İstanbul/Kayseri/Cappadocia

Fly to Kayseri, and continue overland to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cappadocia. This surreal volcanic moonscape, whittled into unique formations by wind and rain over millions of years, is characterized by clusters of natural stone pillars and cones known as fairy chimneys. In the third century, Christians fleeing Roman persecution carved churches and entire villages into niches in the tuff stone. Enjoy a specially arranged lunch in a private home. Then tour the Göreme Open Air Museum, a vast monastic complex of frescoed medieval cave churches cut into the tuff. Later, take in a performance of whirling dervishes— mystical Sufi dancers who spin themselves into a spiritual trance. Following the performance, enjoy a rare opportunity to sit down with one of the dervishes for a conversation about his faith and practice.
Hotel CaveDeluxe (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Cappadocia

Set out on an easy hike through Cappadocia’s Red Valley this morning. Visit the eight-storydeep underground city of Kaymaklı, dating back to the era of the Hittites. This afternoon, drive to Pasabağ, formerly known as Monks’ Valley, to see some of the most distinctive fairy chimneys up close. Visit a local pottery cooperative before returning to the hotel for dinner and a talk by our expert.
Hotel CaveDeluxe (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Cappadocia/İzmir

Take advantage of a leisurely morning to explore on your own. Then transfer back to Kayseri for a flight to İzmir. Settle into our hotel overlooking the Kordon promenade on the Aegean Sea.
Swissôtel Grand Efes (B)

Day 8 — Ephesus/Şirince/İzmir

Spend the day in Ephesus, once home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Explore 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. Later, continue to Şirince, a lovely 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.
Swissôtel Grand Efes (B,L)

Day 9 — İzmir/Bodrum

Travel 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, glide along the spectacular Aegean coast in a privately chartered gulet. Swim and snorkel or simply relax on deck, taking in the stunning views. Tonight, gather for a festive farewell dinner in Bodrum.
The Marmara Bodrum (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Bodrum/U.S.

Transfer to the airport for your flights home.


This expedition is not currently being offered.

Featured Expedition Moment

Activity Level

Click here for a description of all activity levels.