Rick Steves' Best of Turkey in 13 Days Tour, Day by Day
Turkey combines the convenience of European travel with the rich traditions of the Middle East. On this tour, you'll marvel at Istanbul's Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar; Cappadocia's "fairy-chimney" landscape; ancient Greek sites; and the azure water of the Mediterranean. If you're looking for different travel delights — and a broader world perspective — you'll find it here. Join us as we take a colorful look at the Best of Turkey in 13 Days tour!
Days 1 & 2: Welcome to Turkey and Istanbul
To kick off the tour, we'll meet at 1 p.m. at our hotel in Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet district. Shortly after, we'll take an orientation walk past the city's iconic Blue Mosque on our way to tour one of the world's great treasures: Hagia Sophia, for 1,000 years the grandest domed structure on Earth. We'll end our day getting acquainted with one another over dinner.
The next morning, we'll explore Istanbul's more recent past and present with a trip to the exotic and fragrant Egyptian Spice Market. Then we'll take to the water for a scenic cruise of the Bosphorous waterway and its panorama of grand palaces, colorful neighborhoods, and bustling waterfront activity. Next, we're off to the New District's pedestrian-friendly İstiklal Street — with its Art Nouveau facades, restaurants, and trendy boutiques. After free time for lunch, we'll cap off the day exploring Istanbul's legendary Grand Bazaar and Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent.
Days 3 & 4: Topkapı Palace, Ankara, and Cappadocia
This morning we'll focus on the era when the city was known as Constantinople with a tour of the opulent Ottoman Topkapı Palace. We'll see the sultans' riches at the Treasury and tour the inner world of the Harem. Afterward, we'll board our big, comfortable bus for the drive to Ankara, Turkey's bustling modern capital city, where we'll sleep.
We'll begin the next day touring 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.
Days 5 & 6: Cave Churches and Countryside Charms
Surrounded by Cappadocia's otherworldly "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.
The next morning, weather permitting, your guide will take interested hikers on a scenic walk through a Cappadocia valley. Nonhikers 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 a free evening.
Days 7 & 8: Mosque Visit, Mevlâna's Konya, and Ancient Aspendos
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 — before setting you free for dinner on your own.
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 stop to visit Aspendos, one of the best-preserved Roman theaters of the ancient world. In the late afternoon we'll arrive in the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya, where we'll take an orientation walk and set you free for dinner on your own.
Days 9 & 10: Seaside Antalya and the Wonderland of Pamukkale
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).
Refreshed, the next 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. After dinner together, we'll attend a religious performance by the followers of Mevlâna Rumi, better known as Whirling Dervishes.
Days 11 & 12: Ancient Ruins of Aphrodisias, Kuşadası, and Ephesus
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 and 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.
The following day, 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 facade 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!
Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. 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!
Learn more about Rick Steves' Best of Turkey in 13 Days tour.