Small group tours Turkey | Ancient Turkey
Odyssey Traveller's Ancient Turkey escorted small group history tour visits some of the most spectacular, varied, and historically important sites in the ancient world. This Turkey tour begins and ends in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city and seaport, and the place where east meets the west on the Bosporus. Visit Turkey with Odyssey on this amazing history tour. Our tour packages are especially designed to be suitable for mature-aged and senior travellers, whether joining as a couple or as a solo traveller.
Over 21 days we will travel from Istanbul to Cappadocia. On our Cappadocia tour we visit its ‘fairy chimneys’, large rock spires that rise from the earth like mushrooms, formed over millions of years by the erosion of volcanic rock. We go on a Pamukkale tour, see the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the mosques in Turkey, and view the Aegean Sea, with our terrific local guides sharing with you both the ancient and contemporary history and scenery of this incredibly diverse nation. The tour stops in nine key places that have played pivotal roles in the development of Turkey. Typically our Turkey travel group stop for more than one night in our destinations--1 to 4 nights of hotel stay or other type of accommodation before travelling to our next point of interest. A combination of day trip, city tour, shore excursions, and overnight trips, this Turkey tour promises to be a memorable trip and an amazing travel experience.
Small group tours Turkey Itinerary
The program takes in many of the most famous sites and sights of the ancient world. Istanbul is one of the world's oldest cities and has been at the centre of civilisation for centuries. We visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Blue Mosque, a beautiful structure built between 1609 and 1616 by Sultan Ahmed during the age of the Ottoman Empire to house his tomb. The Mosque features six spectacular minarets, the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. You will see the Greek theatres in Pergamon, the legendary Greco-Roman cities of Troy and Ephesus, and discover the cultural centres of Ankara and Izmir.
We enjoy a Bosphorus cruise, viewing both the European and Asian shores of Istanbul. The Bosphorus is a beautiful and important waterway that has a long history, beginning at least as early as the 5th century BC, when the city-state of Athens depended on it for grain imports from Scythia.
In Antalya we take time to relax and visit its ruins and archaeological museum, which is bound to be filled with treasures from ancient times as Antalya is the major city of the Anatolian Mediterranean. In Saralti, we visit its underground city. In Konya, we learn about the mystic Whirling Dervishes. Our Turkey small group tour also includes a visit to the extraordinary limestone formations of Pamukkale, as well as the underground cities and cave churches in Cappadocia. We also have the opportunity to interact with the locals, and experience first-hand their culture, cuisine, and traditions.
A large part of our Turkey small group tour program is spent in Anatolia, in eastern Turkey. This tour also spends time on the Gallipoli Peninsula and in Istanbul, the European part of the country known as Thrace. During the entire program, a local English speaking guide will accompany the group alongside your Odyssey Traveller Program Leader. Accommodation during the program is be in quality 4 star hotels with private facilities.
Frequently Asked Questions About Turkey
Is Turkey safe to visit?
Whenever you’re travelling it’s always worth checking Australia’s smarttraveller.gov.au website for any relevant travel advice. Current travel advice for Turkey (as of September 2019) is to "exercise a high degree of caution". Our links to local guides and suppliers give us regular updates on what’s happening on the ground. Rest assured that the safety of our travellers, local guides, and Odyssey Program Leader is our paramount concern. We receive advice from our local supplier, and prudent conservative action is taken at all times to ensure the safety of any of our groups.
When should I visit Turkey?
Odyssey's Turkey tours depart in spring (May) and autumn (September), ensuring we have pleasant weather but encounter relatively fewer crowds. The peak season for travel in Turkey is summer, June to August, which is also when the temperature is at its hottest.
What should I wear in Turkey?
As our departures are in spring and autumn, it can still get chilly at times, so remember to pack outerwear to keep you warm. Turkey is a Muslim country, but there is no dress code as such. You can wear whatever feels comfortable, but remember to dress modestly when visiting mosques or more conservative rural areas in order to show respect and not draw too much attention.
- Itineraries may change if flight schedules, site availability, and other inclusions have to be amended prior to departure.
- Group size limited to 16.
Overview: We will come to the hotel individually and have a welcome briefing and dinner.
Accommodation: 4 nights at Dosso Dossi Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we will take a field trip to discover the ancient treasures of Istanbul, the sprawling metropolis where Europe and Asia collide. The city has a rich and textured history that dates back over 3000 years. Originally named Lygos, it was colonised by the Greeks in the 7th century BC, and was known as Byzantium until AD 330, when it was made the new capital of the Roman Empire and renamed Constantinople. The city grew to be the largest in the western world during late antiquity. After the Muslim conquest in 1453, Constantinople became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. It was finally renamed Istanbul when the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923.
Today we visit the Hippodrome Square, built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD as the site of horse racing and chariot racing. It was the centre of the city’s social life during the Byzantine period. We then visit the Hagia St Sophia Church, constructed by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 1532 and considered the pinnacle of Byzantine architecture. It was the world’s largest cathedral for over a thousand years. Over the centuries it has served as a Greek Orthodox Church, a Roman Catholic cathedral and an imperial mosque. Finally we visit the Blue Mosque, a beautiful structure built between 1609 and 1616 by Sultan Ahmed during the Ottoman reign to house his tomb. The Mosque features six spectacular minarets, the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. We return to our hotel in time for dinner.
Accommodation: Dosso Dossi hotel or similar.
Overview: After breakfast, we will visit Topkapi Palace, a 15th century structure built not long after the Muslim conquest to house the Ottoman sultans. Next we head to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest markets in the world. Another relic of the Ottoman conquest, the Bazaar was originally constructed as part of an initiative to stimulate economic activity in Constantinople. Its earliest trade was in textiles and jewels. Finally, before returning to our hotel, we visit the Underground Cistern Basilica, the largest of the several hundred cisterns that lie beneath the city. Originally built in the 6th century AD, the cistern was repeatedly renovated and eventually provided water to many of the city’s grand buildings, including the Great Palace of Constantinople and the Topkapi Palace.
Accommodation: Dosso Dossi hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we will take a cruise along the Bosporus, the narrow stretch of water that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Along the coast there are many beautiful waterfront houses, most of which were built during the Ottoman period. The Bosporus and the Dardanelles form the Turkish Straits, separating Asian Turkey from European Turkey. As part of the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Straits have been commercially and militarily important for millennia. Their significance was one of the main reasons the Romans chose to build their new capital there in 330 AD. On this cruise we will view both the European and Asian shores of modern day Istanbul.
Accommodation: Dosso Dossi hotel or similar
Overview: This morning we leave Istanbul and we head to the capital of Turkey and visit the Anatolian Civilization Museum. On arrival in Ankara you will have some free time to explore the city on our own or join the local guide for a short walk. Our local guide will give you information regarding restaurant options in the area for dinner tonight.
Ankara was the headquarters of Kemal Ataturk’s Turkish nationalist movement, who sought to wrest control of Anatolia from the victorious Allies after the First World War. After the Turkish War of Independence, Ankara replaced Constantinople as the capital of the new Republic of Turkey. The city is divided between old and new sections. The old section features many Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman buildings.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Holiday Inn Ankara or similar.
Overview: Today we have a full day excursion to Boğazkale, ancient civilization capital of Hittite Empire and named Hattusas. The settlement dates back over 6000 years. The Hittites established their empire in Anatolia around 1600 BC. They constructed huge fortifications around Hattusa, and our first stop is at the Lion’s Gate, one of only six passages into the ancient city. The gate gets its name from the two lions on either side of it, carved out of huge blocks of stone, and intended to scare away evil spirits from the city. Our next stop is at the Tunnel King’s Gate, or ‘gate in the ground’, a 70 metre long passageway underneath the city walls. We then visit the Citadel, which served as the seat of the Hittite kings. Situated at the highest point of the ancient city, it offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Finally, we visit the Grand Temple. Built in the 14th century BC, the temple stood as a dedication to the Hittite gods, and only rulers and priests were granted entry. We drive back late afternoon, arriving back at the hotel in time for dinner.
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Ankara or similar
Overview: This morning we depart for Cappadocia, a beautiful, otherworldly region of central Turkey. Before leaving Ankara we visit the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk.
Cappadocia was once the homeland of the Bronze Age Hittites, who knew it as Hatti. Later it was ruled by Persian kings, Romans and Ottomans. The area contains several underground cities, once used as refuges by persecuted Christians and ancient cave dwellers. However, Cappadocia’s most arresting attractions are its ‘fairy chimneys’, large rock spires that rise from the earth like mushrooms, formed over millions of years by the erosion of volcanic rock. We arrive at our hotel in time for dinner.
Accommodation: 3 nights at Alfina Cave Hotel or similar
Overview: For those who wish, there is an optional hot air balloon excursion early this morning (Additional cost. This activity is weather dependant and may not be possible at the time). Today we visit Goreme Open Air Museum, a vast complex of ancient monasteries carved into the rocky landscape. Once a Byzantine monastic settlement, by the 17th century it had become an important pilgrimage site. We then head to Love Valley, euphemistically named for its distinctive rock structures. Finally we visit Uchisar, a natural citadel full of stairs, tunnels and passages, located at the highest point in Cappadocia. The top of Uchisar Castle provides a fantastic view of the surrounding region.
Accommodation: Alfina Cave Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we visit more breathtaking Cappadocian landscapes. After breakfast we head to the Kiliclar Valley, which features some of the most beautiful rock structures in all of Cappadocia. We then move on the Pasabag, where giant pillar-like fairy chimneys rise from the earth. Sometimes known as Monks Valley, its chimneys once housed hermits who sought to distance themselves from the world. On our way back to the hotel we visit Pigeon Valley, named for the many pigeon houses carved into the rocks. Pigeons were once used in the region as message carriers, though few remain today.
Accommodation: Alfina Cave Hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we depart for the Ilara Gorge, a 100m deep canyon formed over thousands of years by the Melendiz River. It is estimated that around 80 000 people once lived in the Ilhara Valley. These days it is one of the best hiking spots in Turkey. We enjoy a pleasant morning walk along the valley floor next to a fast-flowing stream. We’ll have a mid-morning stop for morning tea of gozleme and fresh orange juice. We get back on bus and make way to Saralti to visit the underground city, with 3 levels that can be visited (there are 7 in total). We continue on to Konya where we visit the Sultanhani Carevanserai. We also visit Mevlana Museum which is better visited in the late afternoon as there are fewer people and less hostility from the locals who view it as a shrine, not a museum. The museum is the mausoleum of Rumi, a 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, poet and Islamic scholar. His ‘Masnavi’, written in the city of Konya, is thought to be one the greatest poems in the Persian language.
Accommodation: 1 night at Hilton Garden Inn Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we have an early morning departure to Çatalhöyük, was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 B.C. to 5700 B.C. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. In July 2012, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If time permits, we’ll also stop to visit Eflatun Pinar (Plato’s Spring), an idylkic stone pool monument build by the Bronze Age Hittites.
Accommodation: 3 nights at Dogan Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we have a full-day field trip to two ancient Anatolian cities. The first, Perge, was one of the most important cities in the premodern civilisation of Pamphylia. The earliest traces of continuous settlement in the city date back three millennia. After initially coming under Persian influence, the city fell to the armies of Alexander the Great in 334 BC. Its most famous resident was the Greek mathematician and astronomer Apollonius. In 188 BC Perge came under Roman rule, and rose to become one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor. The city’s ruins include a theatre, a temple and a palaestra. Perge’s acropolis dates back to the Bronze Age.
The second city we visit is Aspendos, another Greco-Roman stronghold in ancient Pamphylia. Aspendos is famous for having one of the best preserved theatres of antiquity. Built in 155 AD by the Greek architect Zenon, it provided seating for up to 12,000 spectators. The city boasts a basilica, and 15km of a Roman aqueduct. It was one also one of the first cities to issue coins, a practice that began around 500 BC. After Aspendos we return to our hotel for dinner.
Accommodation: Dogan Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we take a morning visit to the award-winning open air Antalya Archaeological Museum. The museum is one of the largest in Turkey, displaying over 5000 pieces of art and archaeological objects. Antalya is one of the most fertile archaeological regions in the world, will many sites boasting evidence of uninterrupted occupation from earliest man to modern times. After we finish at the museum we will take a leisurely half-day cruise around the local bays. There will be an opportunity to go for a swim in the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean. We then return to our hotel for dinner.
Accommodation: Dogan Hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we depart Antalya for the world heritage site of Hierapolis-Pamukkale. Pamukkale, meaning ‘cotton castle’ in English, is a remarkable natural site famous for its dazzling thermal pools. Thick white layers of travertine and limestone cascade down the hillside, the result of the mineral-laden underground hot water springs in the area. Calcium deposits from the springs’ water created these white waterfalls over thousands of years. We visit the thermal spa of Hierapolis, established by the kings of Pergamon in the 2nd century BC.
Accommodation: 1 night at Colossae Thermal Hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we drive to Aphrodisias, named after Aphrodite (or Venus), the Greek goddess of love. In Roman times, Aphrodisias was famous for its sculptures and the sculptors who made them. White and blue grey marble was quarried in large quantities from the slopes around the city. The city was destroyed by a large earthquake in the 7th century.
A highlight of the visit is the stadium, which once seated over 35,000 people and is the best-preserved of its period in the world. We will also see the Hadrian Baths, erected in honour of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who visited the city while travelling through Anatolia. Other attractions include the theatre, the Agora (Greek for ‘gathering place’ or ‘assembly’) and the Archaeological Museum – where many Aphrodite statues are on display. We arrive back at our hotel with plenty of time for dinner.
Accommodation: 3 nights at Carina Hotel or similar.
Overview: We head this morning to visit the ruins of ancient Ephesus, the cradle of early Christianity. There we visit ancient Ephesus with its terrace houses, the Archaeological Museum and the Temple of Diana/Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We also visit the Virgin Mary’s house.
Accommodation: Carina Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we visit the picturesque rural Turkish village of Sirince, nested at the top of a mountain and surrounded by peach trees and vineyards. We will visit some local houses to gain an understanding of life in a typical Turkish village. We will watch the local women cooking their traditional cheese pastry and stroll through the small open-air bazaar. We then return to to our hotel in Kusadasi, a beach town on Turkey’s Aegean coast. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure.
Accommodation: Carina Hotel or similar
Overview: After breakfast we will depart to visit St John’s Basilica. Next we will proceed to Izmir (Smyrna) city; here we will visit the ruins of ancient Agora. Next we will head to our hotel which is located in the heart of Izmir, a lovely seaside area with many attractions along the coast all within walking distance. Izmir also known as Smyrna in ancient times, it boasts 4000 years of recorded human history, and has since been occupied by the Greeks, the Romans and the Ottomans. Today it is the third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul and Ankara.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Double Tree Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we will drive to Sardis, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and one of the most important cities of the Persian and Roman empires. We start the day with a visit to the Artemis Temple and the oldest synagogue of the ancient world, which became a gymnasium during the Roman era. In the afternoon we visit the local museum and the Agora. Dinner tonight is at individual arrangements, with many delightful restaurants within easy walking distance of our hotel.
Accommodation: Double Tree Hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we drive to Pergamon, a city built by one of the generals of Alexander the Great. We will view the Acropolis, the steepest theatre of the ancient world. We carry on to visit Asclepion, the ancient healing centre. Today, it is possible to see the ruins of the ancient healing centre and view the sites used for techniques such as Sacred Water, Herbs and Ointments, the Sun Bath, the Theatre for Music, and those used for social events. We carry on to ancient Troy where we will take in its legendary sights and view the replica of the wooden horse. Troy was the setting for the Trojan War, described in Homer’s Iliad. We arrive at our Çanakkale hotel in time for dinner.
Accommodation: 1 night at Assos Dove Hotel or similar.
Overview: From our hotel in Canakkale we board a ferryboat to cross the Dardanelles Straits. From here we head to the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula and ANZAC Cove, the site of the epic eight-month military confrontation during the First World War. Following the shoreline of the Sea of Marmara, we arrive back in cosmopolitan Istanbul. Tonight we come together for our farewell dinner.
Accommodation: 1 night at Dosso Dossi Hotel or similar
Overview: The tour ends after breakfast.
What’s included in our Tour
- 21 of nights hotel accommodation.
- 21 breakfasts, 8 lunches, and 16 dinners.
- All sightseeing and field trips as indicated.
- Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
- Touring by comfortable and modern coach.
- Service charges and gratuities.
- Services of a Tour Leader for the duration of the tour.
- Detailed tour information booklet.
What’s not included in our Tour
- International airfares and departure taxes.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- Optional excursions such (i.e. Hot air balloon ride)
- Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
- Visa fees and visa assistance service.