Welcome to Turkey. This adventures kicks off in Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and now you (for one night at least) have called home. You’ve got the whole day free to explore the capital city (depending on when you get here of course) before you join up with your Geckos crew and leader at a Welcome Meeting at 6pm – make sure you’ve got all your important documents and details for your leader. Double check with the hotel reception or the check out the hotel’s noticeboard for meeting confirmations. Until then, maybe get out into the city streets for the must-sees: the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome and stunning Aya Sofya. The must-eats: kebab, balık ekmek (fish sandwich) and steamed corn from a street vendor. Your hotel is right in the thick of the action so you won’t have to walk far for your first kebab. If you can, maybe arrive early and lose yourself and splash some cash in the Grand Bazaar, indulge in a traditional hamam (Turkish bath) or cruise the waters of the Bosphorus. After the meeting, head out on an optional group dinner, a good introduction to some fabulous Turkish cuisine in a street-side cafe. Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early, so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception.
Today you’ll take a bus to the shores of Gallipoli (approximately 5.5 hours) to pay your respects at a site of immense significance for Australians and New Zealanders. It is a spot of pilgrimage and reverence and the calm lapping waters belies the murderous campaign that took place here during the First World War. This now-serene site is located at Turkey’s most westerly point and you’ll get a sobering insight into the plight of the ANZAC, Allied and Turkish forces at the site of one of the most significant military battles in Australia’s history. It’s hard to think that this area was once Anzac Cove and the battlefields of Nek and Lone Pine, and saw such brutal scenes of war. It’s possible to look down upon the rough and barren hills and gullies that sadly became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. Here you can hear stories of heroism and camaraderie that unfolded among the tragedies, and take the time to read moving inscriptions etched onto a sea of gravestones. Spend the evening of day two in Canakkale. The city has young local vibe due to it being a popular spot to go to Uni. Chill on the edge of the Dardanelles with an Efes or check out a local band. Don't leave town without trying the cheesy desert thing.
There's the option this morning to take an excursion out to the ruins of Troy (sans golden-haired and armoured Brad Pitt), where you can explore the ancient walls, climb around the 4,500 year-old ruins, check out the Trojan horse statue and gaze across the Troad (the Plains of Troy) towards the waters of the Dardanelles and the hills of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Later drive down the coast to Ayvalik (approximately 3.5 hours), a town where you can fill up on food and drink, and a place that even takes its name from food (ayva is Turkish for quince). The town is famous for olive oil, but we suggest finding the nearest seaside cafe and ordering Ayvalik toast – a toasted sanga stuffed with sausage, pickle, tomatoes, salad and chips, slathered with tomato sauce and mayonnaise. Try not to drool on the screen. Take an orientation tour of Ayvalik and discover a town that’s a fascinating mix of Greek and Turkish cultures (in fact the island actually swapped all its Greek residents for Turks in 1923). Check out the cobblestone backstreets, beautiful houses and lively cafes. You could also hop on a boat from Ayvalık to Cunda Island, filled with Greek Orthodox churches and famous for its dairy farming – a cheese-fest awaits. Back in Ayvalık, the village is set around a harbour and looks out to the Aegean Islands, so a drink at a harbourside bar is a great way to enjoy the sunset.
Get your entertainment ready this morning as you’re going to be driving approximately 4 hours by local bus to the traditional farming village of Selçuk, where many Turkish traditions live on. Take an orientation tour around Selçuk, a town full of history and packed with artefacts and relics that reflect its past as an ancient fortress on Ayasoluk Hill. You’ll discover how the town itself is usually undisturbed, which gives the opportunity to experience the ‘real’ Turkey. Later you can head out to the nearby ruins of Ephesus and explore the streets once walked by Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. This is one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman classical cities in the world; founded by Ionian Greeks in the 11th century BC, brought to full flower under Roman rule, and always an important religious centre. You will be amazed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had running water, public toilets, in house heating, a renowned medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved (be brave and stand in the middle of the stage, and give us your best Idol audition), but it’s the magnificent library that’s going to take your breath away. Nearby are the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Chill out tonight in Selçuk, and maybe try Turkish Meze and Raki for dinner.
Travel east inland to Pamukkale (approximately 4 hours), which literally translates to “cotton castle”. Here spectacular natural hot springs with high calcium bicarbonate content cascade over the edge of the cliffs, leaving bright white deposit terraces (the ‘cotton’). It's been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. These pools are said to fix up any circulation and digestion problems you might have. If you’ve got Cleopatra on the mind after yesterday’s stories, then maybe choose to head out to the ancient city of Hierapolis and take a dip in what used to be her old pool – the transparent water-filled pool, sculpted as a gift from Marc to Cleo, are jaw dropping (even if you’ll be sharing it with a few more people than she did). You can also check out the other ruins of the city – Hierapolis is known for its abundance of temples and religious structures, and the amphitheatre shouldn’t be missed.
Travel to the seriously blue... Blue Lagoon by public bus and enjoy some beach time before jumping on a local bus to Faralya (travel time 5 hours), not really big enough to be called a village, this picturesque hamlet is located on the edge of a canyon overlooking the crystal clear Mediterranean, and is considered to be one of the most stunning and amazing places in Turkey/ This is where the locals come to get away from it all, and you can too. Watch a sunset like no other from the best vantage point your bean bag with your beer in hand, hang by the pool and enjoy an al fresco dinner with your new friends. Some times travel can be such hard work ! Tents or Bungalows tonight which will it be?
Enjoy as leisurely start to the day as you take this morning to perfect your relaxation technique in this untouched heaven Later we head to Fethiye. Maybe check out the Ghost Village, (where they filmed the Water Diviner) jump on "dolmus" to Saklikent Gorge or explore the back streets of the old town of Fethiye and hunt for a bargain... you decide. Tonight we enjoy a walk by the harbour, try local seafood and check out the thriving night life.
This morning you’ll take a local bus to Kas (approximately 3 hours), which is right on one of the southernmost bit of Turkey. With its whitewashed buildings covered in bougainvillea and cobbled streets, Kas is one of the most attractive towns on the Turkish Mediterranean Coast. Spend an hour or two lunching and wandering the pretty streets, before you transfer an hour down the road to Kekova. Here you’ll board your sturdy vessel and make waves on a memorable voyage along the Turquoise Coast. Check out some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the world – it’s just ridiculously good-looking. You’ve got a tough couple of days ahead: swimming, exploring sunken cities, sunbaking and eating fresh seafood. Grin and bear it. This afternoon, cruise to Tersane bay for a swim and then enjoy a home cooked dinner on board, before docking for the night and sleeping under a blanket of Mediterranean stars.
It’s a hard knock life on the Turkish seas – wake up to a spectacular Mediterranean sunrise this morning and enjoy a hearty breakfast on board. Perfect your best boat-life pose as you cruise to a sunken city, from where remains of a mysterious civilisation can be viewed. Earthquakes almost 2,500 years ago sunk this half of the Lycian city of Simena. Here you can walk up to nearby Simena Castle, swim in crystal clear waters, or explore Lycian rock tombs. More swimming, exploring, sunbaking and eating... can you handle that much action. Lucky you will spend another memorable night on the boat, under the stars if you feel like it.
Soak up the last of life as a glamorous boat-dweller with breakfast on board. Then transfer by public bus approximately 3.5 hours to Antalya, the capital of the Turkish Mediterranean. It’s hard to get a bad photo of Antalya (unless your finger is over the lens) thanks to cobblestone streets, the old city, the marina and the Taurus Mountains in the distance. You can spend the afternoon exploring the charming back streets of the Kaleiçi (old city), get historical in one of the best museums in the country, get theatrical at Aspendos (a beautiful intact theatre from Roman times), hit the beach once more at Mermerli Beach, or just try not to cry into your börek as your totally terrific Turkey trip terminates tonight.
Your Turkey adventures come to an end after breakfast today, so wave goodbye to all your new mates.