Rick Steves' Best of Turkey tour combines the convenience of European travel with the rich traditions of the Middle East. You'll marvel at Istanbul's Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Grand Bazaar, Cappadocia's "fairy-chimney" landscape, the Ancient Greek sites of Ephesus and Aphrodisias, and the azure water of the Mediterranean. You'll also experience legendary Turkish hospitality first-hand, from artisans to Imams. If you're looking for different travel delights — and a broader world perspective — you'll find it here. Join us for the Best of Turkey in 13 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Turkey come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 20 group sightseeing events • Blue Mosque tour • Chora Church tour • Hagia Sophia Church/Museum tour • Topkapı Palace and Harem visit • Grand Bazaar • Egyptian Spice Market • Bosphorus cruise and tour • Anatolian Civilizations Museum tour • Atatürk Mausoleum • Göreme Open-Air Museum tour • Cappadocia valley hike (weather permitting) • Kaymaklı underground city tour • Visit with Imam • Carpet-weaving demonstration • Caravanserai visit • Mevlâna Rumi Museum • Konya city tour • Aphrodisias tour • Pamukkale orientation • Ephesus tour...and more
- All group transportation from Istanbul to Kuşadası
- 12 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels and B&Bs
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Istanbul guidebook, Best of Turkey Sightseeing Guide, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Turkey
We'll meet at 2 p.m. at our hotel in Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet district, and then take an orientation walk through Istanbul's historic Golden Horn, including the Galata Bridge and the exotic and fragrant Egyptian Spice Market. Then we will take to the water for a scenic cruise of the Bosphorus waterway and its panorama of grand palaces, colorful neighborhoods and bustling waterfront activity. We'll return to land to get acquainted with one another over dinner at a nearby restaurant. Sleep in Istanbul (2 nights). Boat: 2 hrs. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 2: Old Christian and Islamic Istanbul
Today we'll focus on the era when the city was known as Constantinople, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. We'll start at the exquisite 400-year-old Blue Mosque and then move to the Hippodrome — the ancient racing course that was the social heart of Constantinople. We'll also visit the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia church — for 1,000 years the grandest domed structure in the Western world. This afternoon we'll be wowed by some of the world's finest Byzantine mosaics at the Chora Church and cap off the day exploring Istanbul's legendary Grand Bazaar. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Istanbul and Ankara
We'll explore Istanbul's more recent past and present today, beginning with the opulently-Ottoman Topkapı Palace and Harem. Then we'll visit the New District, with its Art Nouveau façades, restaurants, and trendy boutiques, all along pedestrian-packed İstiklal Street, where you'll have free time for lunch on your own. Afterward, we'll board our bus for the drive to Ankara, Turkey's bustling modern capital city, where we'll sleep (1 night). Bus: 7 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 4: Ankara and Cappadocia
After breakfast we'll tour the world-class Anatolian Civilizations Museum, and marvel at its collection of treasures from Turkey's pre-Roman civilizations. We'll pay our respects at the monumental Anıt Kabir, Atatürk's Mausoleum, where we'll learn about the revered founding father of modern Turkey. After lunch, we'll travel to what feels like another planet — the scenic and historic Cappadocia region — where we'll have dinner together and sleep in the village of Mustafapaşa (3 nights, group may be split between two B&Bs). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 5: Ancient Churches of Göreme
Surrounded by Cappadocia's other-worldly "fairy chimney" rock formations, we'll begin our day with a walking tour of our village of Mustafapaşa, followed by a drive to the nearby Göreme Open-Air Museum where, in Byzantine times, cave-like churches and monasteries were carved in the cliffs. Some astonishing 1,000-year-old frescoes still remain. This afternoon we'll be treated to a home-prepared, Cappadocian-style lunch, and learn about the centuries-old tradition and artistry of Turkish carpet-weaving. We'll have dinner together back in Mustafapaşa tonight. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Countryside Charms
Weather permitting, your guide will take interested hikers on a scenic walk through a Cappadocia valley. Non-hikers can spend the morning in Mustafapaşa, or ride with our bus driver to the colorful weekly market in the nearby village of Ürgüp. After lunch, we'll tour the ancient underground city of Kaymaklı — which once included churches, kitchens, metal shops and stables — before returning to our village for an evening on your own. Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Mosque Visit and Mevlâna's Konya
This morning we'll travel to the village of Güzelyurt and meet with the local mosque's Imam (counterpart to a minister or rabbi), with an opportunity to ask questions about the Muslim faith and the separation of mosque and state in Turkey. After lunch we'll hit the road and, like Silk Road travelers hundreds of years ago, stop to admire the intricate carvings of a medieval caravanserai (unlimited camel parking). Today's destination is conservative Konya, famous as the 13th-century home of Mevlâna Rumi. We'll tour the poetry-filled Mevlâna Museum, also the site of the mystical philosopher's tomb, a Muslim holy place. Sleep in Konya (1 night). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: Konya and Antalya
We'll begin our day with a tour through Konya, including the busy maze of its sprawling bazaar — a time-tripping treasure trove of hardware, household items, clothing, jewelry, religious paraphernalia and cell phone accessories. Then we'll head over the Taurus Mountains and down to the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya, where we'll take an orientation walk and set you free for dinner on your own. Sleep in Antalya (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 9: Seaside Antalya
Antalya is an ideal place to enjoy a "vacation from your vacation." The day is all yours to enjoy the impressive Ancient Greek sculptures in the Antalya Museum, one of Turkey's finest archaeological museums; explore the narrow cobbled streets of Antalya's old town and Roman harbor; or experience a traditional Turkish bath (your guide will help arrange it). No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 10: Wonderland of Pamukkale
This morning we'll take off for the amazing weekly farmers' market in the town of Korkuteli, where you can assemble your own delicious picnic lunch. We'll then drive to the hilltop overlooking Pamukkale, where we'll get oriented to its spectacularly-calcified cliffs and the impressive ruins of Hierapolis, where Ancient Greeks and Romans considered the thermal springs sacred. During your free time you'll even have a chance to take a quick dip in a natural spring pool amid the remains of Roman columns. We'll have dinner together and sleep tonight in the Pamukkale area (1 night). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Ancient Aphrodisias and Kuşadası
We'll work our way west toward Turkey's Aegean Coast, where Ancient Greek colonists settled 2,500 years ago. Freed from the "establishment" norms of Athens, these communities thrived as centers of learning, creativity — and wealth. This morning we'll tour the ancient site of Aphrodisias which, under Greek and Roman rule alike, prospered as a center for the arts. After lunch together we'll continue on to the lively harbor city of Kuşadası, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: Roman City of Ephesus
Today we'll tour the ancient city of Ephesus. Famous for its spectacular Temple of Artemis — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — it was one of the wealthiest cities in Ancient Greece. It also played a role in the formation of the early Christian Church, drawing the attention of the Apostle Paul, and possibly even the Virgin Mary. We'll take an extensive walking tour along the still-paved streets and remarkable ruins of Ephesus, including the dramatically-restored façade of its Library of Celsus. This afternoon you'll have free time to visit Mary's House (where the Virgin Mary may have lived), view more ancient artifacts at the excellent Ephesus Museum in nearby Selçuk, or relax back in Kuşadası. Tonight we'll meet for a final dinner together to share travel memories and toast new friends. Serefe! Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast
You can hop a ferry to the Greek island of Samos (where you'll find easy plane/boat connections to other islands and Athens), or take the tour bus to nearby Izmir for quick flights to Athens or Istanbul and home. Güle güle!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Turkey in 13 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
- Travel on a bus without a toilet (rest stops every two hours).
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Istanbul before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Istanbul guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Turkish, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing that we will not do as a group: Istanbul Archaeological Museum (includes Tiled Kiosk and Museum of the Ancient Orient), Yerebatan Underground Cistern, Çemberlitaş Hamam, Süleyman the Magnificent Mosque, Galata Tower, and Dolmabahçe Palace. For details, please see Rick Steves' Istanbul guidebook.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). It's easiest to fly into Istanbul and home from Izmir (or Athens if you're exploring the Greek Islands — see below). Departures from Izmir may require a connection and an overnight stay in Istanbul. However there are some international departures that avoid this extra stop, so have your travel agent check for the best options.
Tour members who would like a ride to Izmir's airport can accompany our tour bus the last morning of the tour, Day 13. The bus will leave the tour hotel in Kuşadası immediately after breakfast around 8 a.m., arriving at the Izmir airport by 10 a.m. If you are flying out of Izmir on the last day of the tour, you'll want to book a flight that departs around 10:30 a.m. or later.
You may save money by purchasing this airline ticket prior to leaving home if your flight dates and plans are finalized. You can check schedules and purchase tickets at Turkish Airlines (www.thy.com/en-INT), Atlas Jet (www.atlasjet.com), and Onur Air (www.onurair.com.tr/onurair) or have your travel agent check for the best options. If your plans are not finalized, you will also have opportunities to purchase this airline ticket at a travel agency in Turkey. See your hotel directions and Best of Turkey Sightseeing Guide for more details.
For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
If you are going on to the Greek Islands after the tour, you may want to fly home from Athens and here are a few things to consider: ferry schedules can vary and weather delays and strikes are not uncommon, especially in the shoulder season. Prepare to be flexible. Please wait until you get to Kuşadası during the tour to purchase your ferry ticket to Samos. Your guide will explain how to obtain these ferry tickets. If you have time constraints, a flight may be preferable to the ferry for your journey to Athens from the Greek Islands.
For more post-tour transportation information, please visit our Turkey guides' special website at www.srmtravel.com.
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there are three items we'd like you to consider including when packing for this tour. In Turkish mosques, women are expected to cover their heads with scarves. You may want to bring one or purchase one in Istanbul. In addition, many of the ancient sites do not have much shade and you may want to consider packing a hat and sunscreen. Also, this tour has several opportunities for swimming. You may wish to pack a swimsuit and perhaps a lightweight microfiber towel.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Alp was fantastic! I can't recommend or praise him enough. He is a very kind and caring person, who really wanted us to learn about his country, its culture and history, and its current political and economic status. He was a wealth of information and was always ready to assist us in whatever way he could. His information made all the difference in helping me appreciate this wonderful country and its incredible history."
— Mary Jo in Calgary, AB
"Taylan is a true ambassador of his country — and he goes out of his way to share the genuine Turkish life as much as possible. Museums and historic structures are de rigeur of course but the engagement with townspeople in the street and getting the 'back story' is what made it really come alive for me. He has a great sense of humor too!"
— James in Milwaukie, OR
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"I think that Turkey is full of a lot of 'wow' moments, from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and hearing the call to prayer echo around the city to experiencing the incredible ancient ruins at Aphrodisias and Ephesus, tasting pomegranate juice from a roadside vendor to swimming in the aqua blue Mediterranean and having breakfast with the house cats in Antalya, it's hard to pick just one."
— Mary Ann in Bellingham, WA
"The entire trip was awesome. I kept thinking that the next attraction was better than the last. Loved the Turkish Baths, the people and just when I thought it couldn't get any better — we visited Ephesus! — Unbelievable and truly awesome in the truest sense of the word!"
— Susan in Clarksburg, NJ
"Ephesus takes your breath away!"
— Yale in San Diego, CA
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Topkapı (1964)
- From Russia with Love (1963)
- Yol (1982)
- Hamam (1997)
- Distant (2004)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Classical: Elif Savas
- Pop/rock: Moğollar, Soner Arica
- Traditional/folk: Latif Bolat, Omar Faruk Tekbilek
Rick Steves' Articles
- Rick Steves' Istanbul
- Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey — Andrew Mango
- The Turks Today — Andrew Mango
- Istanbul: Memories and the City — Orhan Pamuk
- Turkish Reflections: A Biography of a Place — Mary Lee Settle
- Portrait of a Turkish Family — Irfan Orga
- Birds Without Wings — Louis de Bernières
- Memed, My Hawk — Yashar Kemal
- The Bastard of Istanbul — Elif Shafak
- The White Castle; Snow; My Name is Red — Orhan Pamuk