Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

Founder’s Tour Turkey 2022

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

Wednesday 5 October - Saturday 15 October

On arrival in Istanbul, you will be whisked through all formalities and transfer to the Four Seasons Bosphorus, our home for the next three nights. The following two days will be full of bucket list activities including a private Bosphorus evening cruise, a visit to the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia. A unique private dinner to end our time in Istanbul.

The following day we will fly to Cappadocia for two nights at the Argos Cave Hotel to explore the incredible landscape, and see a mystical whirling dervish performance. We will take a dawn fairy-tale hot-air balloon ride over the lunar landscape and be entertained at a truly local dinner experience.

From Cappadocia we will continue to Izmir for two nights at the Swissotel, our base for exploring the ancient site of Ephesus. While here we will also have a farm-to-table dinner and carpet weaving class.

Our final destination is Bodrum. En route we will stop at a winery for a wine tasting and lunch before arriving at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel where we will have the chance to relax and unwind for three nights. On our final day we will enjoy time on a privately chartered Gulet for a farewell lunch. 

Full PDF here: Exeter Founders Turkey 2022

Optional Istanbul Pre-Tour: Please ask us for the details of this for dates and activities included.

Please note that this trip is more physically demanding than many tours. There is a considerable amount of walking and standing involved throughout the program. You must be able to climb and descend stairs easily without assistance and walk over uneven and cobble stoned areas. Often, we will visit multiple museums a day, with one to two hours or more in each museum where we will be standing and walking through the collections. Unfortunately, if you use a wheelchair, we will not be able to accommodate you on this tour due to the limited access of ramps and elevators in museums, hotels and other sights. If you use a cane or other assistance for walking or are not able to walk long distances, our Founder's Tours may not be the best fit for you. We kindly ask that you consider your physical abilities with regards to the itinerary for this program, as the itinerary cannot be amended to accommodate any physical limitations.

Day 1
Arrival into Istanbul |

Wednesday, October 5

Upon arrival into Istanbul, you will be greeted by the VIP staff at the gate and accompanied to a separate immigration desk.  Your driver will greet you here for your transfer to the Four Seasons.

Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, played for centuries a major part in world politics, first as the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, then as the capital of the Ottoman Empire, the most powerful Islamic empire in the world. Nowadays, Istanbul’s Asian side is filled with Western-style sprawling suburbs, while its European side is a wonderland of mosques, magnificent palaces, and crowded bazaars. 

Evening

Tonight, our group will meet for a welcome dinner for an introduction to the culinary delights of Turkey.

Exeter Services

VIP Arrival Services; Group Arrival Transfers; Dinner Transfer

 

Day 2
Istanbul City Tour |

Thursday, October 6

This morning, our guide will meet us at 9:30am, for our first visit of the day, and one of the most important temples of worship in the world, the Blue Mosque. It is named for the blue Iznik tile work that decorates its interior and its dome can be seen from all over the Sultanahmet district. It was built by Mehmet Aga, the imperial architect and was very controversial due to its six minarets, which many at that time believed was sacrilegious as it rivaled the architecture of Mecca itself!

Enjoy a visit the Hippodrome, which was once the central focus of Constantinople. Built by the Romans, only fragments are left of what was once a grand stadium that held 100,000 spectators for public meeting and important events, including chariot races.  Here in the Hippodrome, you will also see the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine.

Next, step into the famous Hagia Sophia Church. Built in the 6th century, this church influenced architecture for centuries. Its original design was created as a mirror of the heavens. Take your time exploring the vast galleries and beautiful mosaics. Given its age, the church is in remarkable condition and the interiors are full of important frescoes and mosaics depicting holy subjects. Today, the building has been converted into a mosque.

We’ll end the afternoon at the famous Covered Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, offering an almost endless selection of Turkish carpets, gold, jewelry, and artworks offered in some 4,000 shops!  You will have some free time to explore and have an independent lunch.

But why stick to the usual route in the bazaar? We will have a chance to walk on the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar. You might recognize the view from the rooftops from James Bond’s iconic chase scene in “Skyfall”.

Return to the hotel around 5pm for some time to freshen up and relax.

Around 6:30pm, we will head down to the hotel’s private dock to board our yacht for a Cruise Along the Bosphorus. As we sail along the Bosphorus you can see all the interesting structures along this historic waterway. This is one of the most unforgettable excursions between two continents, Europe & Asia.

We will be dining at one of our favorite restaurants lining the Bosphorus. After dinner, we will drive back to the hotel.

Exeter Services

Vehicle, Driver & Guide; Evening Private Yacht

Hotel

Four Seasons Bosphorus

Meals Included

Breakfast & Dinner

Day 3
Istanbul City Tour | Topkapi, Istanbul, Turkey

Friday, October 7

This morning, our guide will meet us at 9:00am. Today we are visiting the extraordinary Imperial residence of 25 Ottoman Sultans, Topkapi Palace. We will see the Harem, the library, the treasure, with its royal jewelry and gem collection, and the imperial living quarters, all surrounded by serene gardens and fountains.  Also in the Treasury is the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s diamond and a Case-containing bones said to be from the hand of St. John the Baptist.

This afternoon we visit the 17th century Spice Market also called the Egyptian Bazaar, because in the 17th Century it was built with money paid as duty on Egyptian import goods. From medieval times, spices were an important and expensive part of Oriental cooking, and they gradually became the bazaar’s main focus, taking advantage of Istanbul’s strategic position on the main trade route between the East and Europe. Here you can still sense the atmosphere of a bygone era.

After taking in all the colors and aromas of the Spice Market, we will have lunch under the Galata Bridge.

After lunch we will explore the Galata district where the Genoese, Venetians and the Jewish Society of Old Constantinople used to live.  Head out to the Fener and Balat districts.  Fener was historically the most important Greek quarter in the city, becoming one of the most prosperous after Orthodox practitioners were re-settled by the Sultan of the Ottomans. The Ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople is also here.

Taking the Historical Funicular, we will make our way to the Pera District (officially called Beyoglu now); this is one of the city’s most vibrant areas. The district is centered around the one-mile long Istiklal Street, framed by cages, theatres, shops, and restaurants.

Our walking tour will end at the Museum of Innocence. Created by Nobel Prize Winner, Orhan Pamuk, the museum acts as a companion to his novel of the same name.

Head back to the hotel around 5:00pm for some time at leisure to relax and freshen up.

This evening at 7:00pm, we will depart for a visit to a Private Cistern and a rooftop barbecue dinner with stunning views over the Bosphorus.

Exeter Services

Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel

Four Seasons Bosphorus

Meals Included

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

 

Day 4
Istanbul – Cappadocia | Cappadocia Cave Resort Hotel & Spa, Turkey

Saturday, October 8

This morning we will depart the hotel around 6:00am to the airport for our 8:40am flight to Cappadocia.

Arrival into Kayseri at 9:50am, where we will be met by our driver.

We will start with a tour of the Kaymakli Underground City. Cut directly into the soft volcanic rock between the 6th and 10th centuries, the labyrinth of tunnels is seven levels in some places and as deep as 300 feet.

We will break for lunch at a village home, where we can try local specialties, including wine from regional grapes.

We will stop to see Pigeon Valley, so named after the hundreds of little windows carved into the rocks to attract nesting pigeons.

We will make one more stop before arriving at the hotel – Uchisar Castle. The highest peak in the region and the most prominent land formation, the Uchisar Castle is a larger-than-life sculpture. A climb up the 120 steps to the summit of the fortress is a logical introduction to the rocky scapes of Cappadocia. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Byzantine army took advantage of the natural elevation of three of the area’s rock formations and used them as natural fortresses.

Enjoy some time at leisure to take in the splendid vistas from the hotel’s terraces before dinner tonight in one of the hotel’s private rooms. During dinner we will enjoy a Whirling Dervishes performance.

Exeter Services

Group Airport Transfer (Istanbul); Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel

Argos Cave Hotel

Meals Included

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Day 5
Cappadocia Tour |

Sunday, October 9

Early this morning, before sunrise, we will be able to take a Hot Air Balloon Ride – one of the most popular activities in the Goreme valley. Pick-up time will be advised the day prior by the balloon company.

Typically, these rides last around an hour and a half and literally go wherever the wind may blow in the valley. (Please note this is a group balloon and there may be other guests participating.) After the balloon ride, return to the hotel for breakfast before we start our morning tour.

After breakfast, we will explore the Goreme Valley further today, with a visit to the Goreme Open Air Museum where we will visit the churches and monasteries carved into the “fairy chimneys” the landscape is famous for.

We will continue to Zelve and the Red Valley. The architecture of Zelve is in deep red stone, versus the white stone of Goreme. The central ridge that runs through the valley, used to be the natural divide between the Christian and Muslim communities. Here we can visit two of the most interesting churches in the area: The Church of Grapes and the Fish Church.

In the village of Avanos, famous for its beautiful old houses, pottery, and onyx, we will have lunch at a local restaurant. Following lunch we will explore the area some more, including viewing some of the Christian churches that are not open to the public.

This evening, we will be entertained like locals during dinner. Local musicians will play, and we will have the chance to try local wine and Raki for the daring.

Exeter Services

Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel

Argos Cave Hotel

Meals Included

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

 

 

Day 6
Cappadocia – Izmir |

Monday, October 10

This morning is the perfect chance to see the hot air balloons floating across the landscape, if you are willing to wake up a little early.

Later this morning, we will meet our driver for a transfer to the airport for the 12:45pm flight to Izmir.

Arrival into Izmir at 2:00pm, where we will be met and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of your afternoon is at leisure.

This evening, around 7pm, we will have dinner in a local restaurant.

Exeter Services

Airport Transfers (Cappadocia & Izmir); Dinner Transfers (Izmir)

Hotel

Swissotel Buyuk Efes Izmir

Meals Included

Breakfast & Dinner

 

Day 7
Izmir |

Tuesday, October 11

This morning, we head to the ancient Roman city of Ephesus-one of the most renowned classical sites in Turkey.

On the way, drive to Mt. Pagus along a small tree-lined path leading to a tiny stone cottage believed to be the last home of the Virgin Mary. Clinging to the side of the Bulbul Mountain, there is a chapel in honor of the place St. John is said to have brought Mary at the end of her life.

Next, we will visit the Ephesus Archaeological Museum, before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant.

After lunch, we continue to Ephesus, founded by the Ionians, it was situated on a natural harbor, which was the source of its vast wealth. With its Marble Street, Temple of Hadrian, and Library of Celsus, Ephesus was included by Alexander the Great in his Seven Wonders of the World. Ephesus is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world today and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Terrace Houses on the slopes of Mt. Coressus provide a fascinating look at family life during the Roman period. Abandoned during the Arab raids of the 7th century, the houses were preserved by landslides.

This evening, we will have a dinner prepared by the ladies of the village at the local Women’s Cooperative. Here you can enjoy a carpet weaving class and see how the ladies extract the silk they weave into rugs. Dinner will include dishes made from produce the villagers grow. We will enjoy a folk show during the visit.

Exeter Services

Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel

Swissotel Buyuk Efes Izmir

Meals Included

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Day 8
Izmir – Bodrum |

Wednesday, October 12

Today, we will depart later in the morning for Bodrum. On the way, we will stop for lunch at a boutique winery. A major wine producer for at least four-thousand years, this area currently produces more than fifty percent of Turkish wines.

After a wine tasting and lunch, we will finish the drive to Bodrum. Check-in and enjoy your evening at leisure.

Bodrum, an ancient harbor town now popular as an upscale summer getaway and Turkey’s St. Tropez, though still a place lesser frequented by Americans. It is one of the best-known resort towns and is at the point where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean, however it is very charming and relaxing with plenty of excellent restaurants, and lots of life.

Our hotel is one of the premier properties, located on Paradise Bay, across the peninsula from the main town of Bodrum. This is the perfect place to unwind and relax.

Exeter Services

Half-Day Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel

Mandarin Oriental Bodrum

Meals Included

Breakfast & Lunch

Day 9
Bodrum Tour |

Thursday, October 13

This morning, we head to Bodrum’s town center to visit the Castle of St. Peter, built in the 15th century by the Knights of St. John (Crusaders). It is believed that the castle was built using stones from the Halicarnassus Mausoleum.

Later captured by Suleiman the Magnificent, turned into a prison by the Ottomans, and badly damaged in WWI. Now reconstructed, it houses the fabulous Museum of Underwater Archaeology, where you will have a visit.

The museum displays an impressive collection of treasures pulled from the seas, many items excavated from shipwrecks of the Bronze Age and subsequent eras, including artifacts from all over the Mediterranean.

This afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the Mandarin Oriental’s amenities.

Exeter Services

Half-Day Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel

Mandarin Oriental Bodrum

Meals Included

Breakfast

 

Day 10
Bodrum Gulet Tour |

Friday, October 14

This afternoon, we transfer to the pier to board our privately chartered Gulet. Gulets are a typical wooden sailing yacht for the region.

We will cruise along the crystal waters of the Aegean, anchoring in secluded bays where you can enjoy a swim. You can also stop at coves, islands, and picturesque towns scattered along the pristine coast. Your guide will regale you with stories of history Turkey’s southern waters.

We will enjoy a farewell meal onboard, a perfect sendoff for a wonderful trip!

Return to the pier where we will transfer back to your hotel for an evening at leisure.

Exeter Services

Pier Transfers; Skippered Gulet & Guide

Hotel

Mandarin Oriental Bodrum

Meals Included

Breakfast & Farewell Lunch

 

 

Day 11
Departure |

Saturday, October 15

You will meet you driver this morning to transfer to the airport to meet your departing flight.

Exeter Services

Group Departure Transfers

Meals Included

Breakfast

 

 

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