Istanbul to Sofia
Day 1: Istanbul
Saturday. Welcome to Turkey! Arrive Istanbul and included transfer to our hotel. Spend the afternoon at leisure or head out to explore the city. This evening our tip filled welcome meeting takes place. Overnight - Istanbul
Day 2: Istanbul
Istanbul. This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Istanbul's old city. Our tour includes visits to the stunning Blue Mosque famed for it’s blue Iznik tiles and unique 6 minarets, the ruinous Hippodrome – now a small park of sorts and once scene of chariot races and political activities in Byzantine times, Hagia Sofia Museum - constructed as a Basilica in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian, Topkapi Palace and the Underground Cistern – an ancient underground water tank - replete with carved and fluted Corinthian columns and a puzzling head of Medusa. Visitors walk on walkways suspended above the shallow water. It’s very cool and peaceful. Overnight - Istanbul (B)
Day 3: Gallipoli
Istanbul – Gallipoli. Early this morning, we travel to the WW1 battlefields of Gallipoli. Here, we’ll embark upon a guided tour of the region, once the site of fierce fighting and today almost hauntingly beautiful, with its wooded landscape dotted with understated memorials to the war dead. Our guided tour of the region will take in sights such as ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine Australian War Memorial and cemetery, Chunuk Blair New Zealand War Memorial and cemetery, the Nek, Johnston’s Jolly and the many fortified trenches still clearly visible amongst the scrub after all these years.
Crossing the Dardenelles by ferry (offering panoramic views of the entire Gallipoli Peninsular) we proceed to our hotel for a little rest and relaxation. Overnight - Gallipoli region (B, D)
Day 4: Troy & Kusadasi
Gallipoli – Kusadasi. Heading south, we enjoy a guided tour of Homer’s Troy, famed for the Trojan wooden horse and fabled Helen. Continuing to ancient Pergamum - the cultural and political capital of its time, before continuing onto coastal Kusadasi. Make the most of the hotel facilities this evening. Overnight - Kusadasi (B, D)
Day 5: Ancient Ephesus
Today, we enjoy a guided tour at the legendary Roman ruins of Ephesus. Positively the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean, and among the best places in the world to get a feel for what Roman life must have been like. Ephesus, under the Romans was a vast city with a population nearing 250,000. It became the Roman capital of Asia Minor. We’ll have plenty of time to tour the marble ruins of Ephesus. Be sure to see the famous Library of Celcus, the gymnasium of Vedius and Stadium, the great theatre and stroll the streets in the ruins of this large Roman ruined city. It’s completely fascinating. We’ll see public toilets, a brothel, fountains and various temples. Carpet weaving has long traditions in Turkey and afterward we stop to watch a demonstration of how they are made. Overnight - Kusadasi (B, D)
Day 6: Pamukkale
Kusadasi - Pamukkale - Istanbul. Today, after breakfast, we drive to Pamukkale visiting the region’s famed calcium rich terraced pools. Known locally as the Cotton Castles, they are a natural phenomena and gift of Mother Nature.
Pamukkale was formed when warm, calcium rich mineral water cascaded over the cliff edge, cooling and depositing in the process. The calcium built natural shelves and pools on the cliffs, known as travertines. Today, some of the pools are closed. However, areas of the travertines can be walked upon, albeit in bare feet. We can however opt to enjoy a unique and very pleasant dip in the warm waters at the Pamukkale Thermal, with its submerged fragments of fluted marble columns in the centre of the ruined spa town of Hierapolis, which was a was a cure centre founded around 190 BC by the Romans.
At approx 10:30pm this evening we bid farewell to our guide and travel by overnight bus to Istanbul. Overnight - Public bus/coach (B, D)
Day 7: Onward to Sofia
Friday. Istanbul - Sofia. Arriving into Istanbul early this morning, we will be met upon arrival. The day is free to explore the city. Consider heading out to one of the local cafes for breakfast followed by a visit to the legendary Grand Bazaar or the exotic Egyptian Spice Market. At approximately 10pm this evening transfer to the bus station for an unescorted overnight bus journey to Sophia, Bulgaria’s charming capital. Overnight - Overnight bus
Day 8: Welcome to Bulgaria
Upon arrival in Bulgaria this morning, transfer to our hotel. The rest of day 8 is free to explore the city. Alternatively, consider an optional half day tour of the UNESCO-listed Boyana Church, at the foot of Mt Vitosha, and the National History Museum, or a full day excursion to the 10th century Rila monastery, the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria (book/ pay locally). Overnight - Sofia
Day 9: Sofia City Tour
Today enjoy a half day walking tour of the city. Highlights include the awe-inspiring Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with a crypt containing a staggering collection of religious icons, and the St Sofia Church, one of the oldest churches in Europe that is still operating today. Also visit the red brick Church of St George and the National Theatre. Overnight - Sofia (B)
Day 10: Goodbye Bulgaria
Monday. Our tour ends this morning followed by a departure transfer to Sofia airport. (B)
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