Turkish Delights: Classic to Contemporary
Immerse yourself in the ancient lands of Turkey and observe the evolution of its art and culture, from the Graeco-Roman past to the outstanding treasures of Turkey today.
Discover the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul, until the 20th century known as Constantinople and capital of the Eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Unravel the complex history of this colourful city, strategically situated at the meeting point of Europe and Asia.
Explore the legendary besieged Bronze Age city of Troy, as well as the extraordinary archaeological site of Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Be enchanted by the cave towns of Göreme, Urgup and Uchisar in the province of Cappadocia as well as the calcium terraces of Pamukkale.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Emirates flights to Istanbul via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
Arrive in Istanbul in the afternoon on suggested flights and make your own way to the hotel.
This evening join Jane and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant.
After breakfast and a talk by Jane, explore the newly restored Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, located within the spectacular Ibrahim Pasha Palace, before a visit to the impressive 17th century Blue Mosque, decorated with 21,000 blue Iznik tiles. Before lunch, wander the central square built among the ruins of the old Hippodrome, which was inspired by the Circus Maximus in Rome, and marked the centre of the city in Byzantine times.
Then visit the Hagia Sophia, an architectural and engineering marvel which, in its heyday, was the largest building in the world. Originally constructed as a Christian cathedral during the Byzantine era, it became an important imperial mosque for almost five centuries following the Islamic conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Explore the Byzantine Basilica Cistern deep beneath the city, the largest of several hundred cisterns that once served Constantinople. Its elegant symmetry and the sheer grandeur of an underground forest made of over 300 decorated columns is breathtaking.
Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, tour the opulent Dolmabahçe Palace, perched on the shores of the Bosphorus. Built between 1843 and 1856, this unique Ottoman fusion of Baroque, Rococo and Neo-classical architecture was the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The interior is exquisitely decorated in gold and crystals – including the world’s largest Bohemian chandelier, once thought to be a gift to the sultan from Queen Victoria. The handmade parquet floors carved from rosewood, ebony and mahogany are a delicate masterpiece, almost hidden by the lavish furnishings and master artworks which deck the walls.
Pay a visit to the deliciously fragrant Spice Bazaar, the largest and most famous of Istanbul’s covered markets. Also located in the bazaar is the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, a 16th century mosque covered with the greatest collection of Iznik tiles in the world. Shining teal, emerald, ruby red, royal purple and cobalt, this small but beautiful mosque is by far the prettiest in Istanbul. After lunch, explore the Grand Bazaar and its fine selection of Oriental rugs, handcrafted jewellery and crockery.
Venture to Topkapi Palace. Opulent, decadent and steeped in history, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 the palace was converted into a museum, and today visitors can walk through the Imperial Harem’s chambers, the garden and the Hagia Irene. The palace also has a spectacular collection of bejewelled turban crests, silken caftans, devotional Islamic objects and Chinese porcelain.
Then continue to the Süleymaniye Mosque, whose cascading domes and slender minarets dominate the skyline on the Golden Horn’s west bank. Arguably the most beautiful of Istanbul’s imperial mosques, it was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and built by Mimar Sinan, the renowned architect of the Ottoman Golden Age, in 1557.
In the afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of the Chora Museum. Few of Istanbul’s Byzantine monuments are as gorgeous as this mosaic- and fresco-laden former church. Nestled in the shadow of Theodosius II’s monumental walls, the museum offers fascinating insights into Byzantine art.
This morning, travel to the sultan’s summer residence, Beylerbeyi Palace. The opulence of the white marble exterior is matched by the lavish interior, resplendent with French clocks, Bohemian crystal chandeliers and ornate porcelain vases. Then, witness the precision and craftsmanship of master artisans at a glass furnace atelier.
After lunch, explore Istanbul’s Asian side, starting with a tour of the Museum of Modern Art – Turkey’s most prominent contemporary gallery. Marvel at the display of Turkish modern art featured in the outstanding permanent exhibition on the shores of the Bosphorus, and later enjoy a guided tour of the Pera Museum focusing on Oriental paintings and Ottoman tiles.
This evening go on a spiritual journey with a performance by the Whirling Dervishes. Witness the mystical ceremony, laden with symbolic meaning, during which the dervishes ascend to spiritual perfection by abandoning their personal identities that they might become closer to Allah.
After breakfast, travel to Gallipoli, a region associated with one of the most significant military battles of our time. The Gallipoli Campaign began as an ambitious naval strategy to weaken the Ottoman Empire, however disastrous underestimation by British officers culminated in a 10-month ground war resulted in over a quarter of a million casualties. Be guided through ANZAC Cove, the Nek and Lone Pine, and as you tread the path of these historic battlefields.
In the late afternoon, travel by ferry across the Dardanelles Strait – the natural waterway Entente forces were attempting to capture during that fateful campaign in 1915 – to Çanakkale and check in to the hotel.
After breakfast, visit the fascinating ancient city of Troy, site of the Trojan War so brilliantly retold by Homer in his epic poem The Iliad. Originally founded around 3,000 BCE and inhabited continuously until its abandonment in 500 CE, Troy is where the richest archaeological findings of Anatolia (Asia Minor) are located; here see a life-size replica of the famous Trojan Horse statue and discover the myths and facts surrounding the legend whilst exploring the ruins of this ancient metropolis.
Later this morning travel to the stunning Bozcaada Island. Besides its attractive beaches with crystal-clear water, Bozcaada is synonymous with windmills, vineyards and grand historical monuments. After lunch, join a guided tour of the town centre; then return to Çanakkale and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure.
After breakfast travel to Bergama enjoying a talk by Jane en route. Visit the site of the Red Basilica of Pergamon for a guided tour of the monumental ruined temple. Originally built in the 2nd century CE during the reign of Hadrian, the temple was likely dedicated to worshipping the Egyptian gods Isis, Serapsis and Osiris, before it was converted to a Byzantine church. The Red Basilica is one of the seven churches of the apocalypse mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
In the afternoon visit a women’s cooperative. This enterprise empowers women by teaching them the ancient art of carpet-making and providing them with all tools required to create the artisanal pieces. In a world of fast-fashion and mass production, the sheer amount of effort involved in the creation of Turkish carpets is astounding.
This morning travel east to the vineyards of Yedi Bilgeler. The winery is located near the town of Selçuk, which under the Ottoman Empire was known as Ayasoluk. In 1914, it was renamed Selçuk after the Seljuk Turks who led incursions into the region in the 12th century. More recently the region’s characterful wines have enhanced Turkey’s reputation as a wine-growing nation. Though most wines in the region are made from international grape varieties, some vintners are resurrecting ancient history by bringing back the forgotten indigenous varieties to create unique wines with exotic flavours. Learn more about viticulture in the region, sample the wines, and enjoy a gourmet lunch, all within the beautiful setting of the winery.
Return by coach to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure to relax or explore the town at your own pace.
Following breakfast and a talk by Jane, travel to the internationally venerated House of the Virgin Mary. Discovered in the 19th century, it is believed to be the house given to Mary by John the Apostle where she lived for the remainder of her life. Continue to Şirince, a quaint village featuring a blend of traditional Greek and Turkish architectural styles. The story goes that the village was settled by freed Greek slaves, who originally named the picturesque village Çirkince – meaning ‘ugly’ in Turkish – to deter others from following them. Enjoy a guided tour of the town before time for lunch at leisure.
Next, visit the best-preserved classical city on the Mediterranean, Ephesus, and get a feel for what life was like in Roman times. As a strategic coastal gateway to the eastern world, this Ionian refuge became the second largest city in the Roman Empire and is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the stunning Temple of Artemis. Attend a guided tour of the sites and marvel at the archaeological ruins which represent 2,500 years of human civilisation. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, enjoy a talk by Jane en route to Buldan, the town at the heart of Turkey’s thriving textile industry since the 14th century. Weavers use locally grown cotton to expertly craft their wares, which include peshtemal towels, large scarves known as ustluk and traditional women’s robes called ucetek.
Following lunch in a local restaurant, see weavers in action during a guided tour of a traditional workshop. In the late afternoon continue by coach to Denizli and enjoy dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
After breakfast visit the Pamukkale Calcium Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This extraordinary landscape is a series of petrified waterfalls and natural basins, formed over millennia by the calcium-rich springs which have transformed the slopes of the surrounding mountains into a cascade of brilliant white terraces brimming with milky, mineral-rich water. The Turkish name, meaning ‘cotton castle’, was inspired by the brilliant, snow-coloured limestone which, according to legend, is made from vast formations of solidified cotton left out to dry by giants. The extraordinarily well-preserved remains of the Roman city Hierapolis crown this spectacular landscape. Enjoy a guided tour of the archaeological ruins of the city, including the series of baths and pools built over the site’s natural hot springs, which made the town a centre of healing and rejuvenation in ancient times.
Continue by coach to Eğirdir and stop for lunch at a local restaurant overlooking one of Turkey’s most beautiful lakes before travelling to Konya and checking-in to the hotel.
After breakfast enjoy a guided tour of Mevlâna Museum, the mausoleum of the famous Persian Sufi mystic Rumi, and the former home of the Mevlevi order, better known as the Whirling Dervishes. Originally constructed in the 13th century, this stunning building is one of the largest pilgrimage centres in Turkey, and the fluted dome of turquoise tiles makes for one of the region’s most distinctive skylines.
Following lunch, visit the largest and best-preserved caravanserai in Turkey. Sultan Han Caravanserai was an important stopover along the famous Silk Road, where travellers could rest, worship and trade. After partially burning down in the 13th century, it was superbly restored and remains one of the best examples of Anatolian Seljuk architecture in existence.
Depart for Ürgüp in the late-afternoon; the evening is at leisure.
Join Jane for a post-breakfast talk before stopping off at the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a vast monastic complex whose rock-cut churches contain magnificent, brightly coloured frescoes. Admire the massive stone pillars and striking “fairy chimneys” while touring the Paşabağ Valley. Located in a vineyard known as the Monks’ Valley, Paşabağ boasts some of the world’s most unique and surreal landscapes. After lunch, explore Avanos, home to a terracotta industry which traces its roots back to the Hittite people ca. 3000 BCE. Visit a traditional pottery workshop and see first-hand how the distinctive red-coloured ceramics are created by master artisans. In the evening, dine at a local villager’s home and experience traditional Turkish hospitality.
Explore the wonders of Kaymakli underground city, a series of subterranean chambers, chapels and caverns. Dating back to 3000 BCE, Kaymakli is connected by an elaborate labyrinth of tunnels, which have been used by villagers throughout history to escape marauding attackers or evade religious persecution. Next, join a guided tour of Cavusin Village, renowned for its beautiful churches and abandoned rock houses. The village is dominated by a cliff from which empty cave houses spill down precariously. Then, learn more about the art of Turkish kilim-making. These exquisite woven rugs are differentiated from their Persian relatives by the lack of knots used, and embody a diverse array of colours, textures and decorations.
Return to the hotel in the early afternoon and enjoy some time at leisure; you may wish to further uncover the ceramics, handicrafts and other locally produced goods for which Cappadocia is famous at one of the local bazaars.
End the evening with a special farewell dinner with Jane and fellow travellers.
After breakfast, transfer from the hotel to Nevşehir Airport, where tour arrangements conclude.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
09 July 2020
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness levels definitions
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian passport holders require a visa to visit Turkey, which must be applied for online prior to arrival (at a cost of approximately USD 60). Renaissance Tours will assist you with your visa application.
New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Turkey.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally-located four-star hotels (or best available) with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with welcome and farewell dinners
- Lectures and talks by your tour leader, Jane Hutcheon
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure if using group transfers
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers if not using group transfers
- Visa for Turkey
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, room service, etc.
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your agent for assistance)
Istanbul – Ersin Hotel****
Çanakkale – Hotel Kolin****
Kuşadaşi – Doubletree by Hilton****
Denizli – Doga Thermal Hotel****
Konya – Dedeman Hotel****
Cappadocia (Ürgüp) – Yunak Evleri Hotel***
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.