‘What made the trip so special was your attention to detail. Every anchorage a joy to wake up to, every day full of new surprises, marvellous food and the camaraderie with like-minded fellow travellers. The knowledge and history of the area that you and Yunus bring to bear is impressive and did so much to bring a marvellous past to life.’ – Karina Bateman
‘No exaggeration here – our best gulet trip ever. The food was remarkably good (fresh cakes at tea time were scrumptious), The brief wide-ranging talks from you and Yunus over a drink before dinner were fascinating.’ – John Birkhead’
From 2013, as opportunities in travel journalism began to wither, I began to think about other outlets for expressing my enthusiasm for Turkey. So I began guiding for companies like Westminster Classic Tours, and soon discovered how much this rather more hands-on and sociable relationship with an audience appealed. Unlike travel journalism, with its insistence on the new and the newsy over the tried and the tested, guiding allowed me to take guests to places, people, restaurants, swimming spots and much else besides that I, and often they, had encountered before – secure in the knowledge that we would enjoy ourselves. Guiding has given me a platform for what I love doing, which is to bang on about a country which has come to mean a great deal to me, while making like-minded friends.
What with coups, crises and the subsequent collapse in tourist numbers to Turkey, however, Westminster Classic Tours and my other employees were all but gone by 2016. I might have given up too but for a hard core of splendid Turkophiles who soon made it clear that they would not be put off, whatever the papers might be saying. So I teamed up with my Turkish friend and guide Yunus Özdemir and launched a tour programme; in 2017, the nadir for Turkish tourism, we managed to run two tours, both on gulet schooners, which proved a great success. 2018 has seen us ‘leap’ to four such tours, including our very successful midwinter trip to Istanbul and Cappadocia.
The heart of what we do remains our classic gulet tours, archaeology holidays, though that po-faced description fails to evoke the diverse and joyous experiences on offer: visits to southwest Turkey’s superb and picturesque classical sites, certainly, but also pristine swimming spots and idyllic overnight anchorages, wonderful food and drink and exceptional service, informed talks on the region’s culture, history and politics, and like-minded company.
We are also very enthusiastic about developing interest in a more energetic gulet-based variant, Walking and Ruins, where the days revolve around daily walks to remote ruins, but of no more than three hours in length, allowing plenty of time back on the gulet for swimming, sunning and relaxation. We encourage walkers to be in touch as we are interested in running such itineraries and may be able to combine numbers to fill a gulet. Click here for a typical itinerary
We are also launching a programme of land tours which, in keeping with your feedback, we’ve kept short (four days) and have also ensured they dovetail with a gulet tour so you can relax afterwards. We’ve minimised the travelling and the hotel changes by focussing on exceptional areas like Ephesus and the Meander Valley, which immediately precedes the Shores of Lycia gulet trip.
In many regards these holidays resemble those offered by Westminster Classic Tours, but with some significant enhancements: there is always a second guide, the hugely experienced and delightful Yunus Özdemir, to provide expert Turkish insights as well as a further degree of support. To ensure maximum comfort, there are never more than 11 guests onboard, though the land tours may go slightly bigger. The cost now includes the crew tips which you were formerly ‘invited’ to find yourselves. And as most homeward flights leave in the evening, we no longer cast you adrift on the final day. We provide outings and even a final meal to fit, as far as possible, with airport departure times.
These holidays are full-board; all meals and onboard drinks, including alcohol, are included as are land visits, entry fees, crew tips and airport transfers. Alcoholic drinks are not included on the land tours and where meals are taken on land during gulet tours. International flights and visas are not included. These holidays are fully bonded by Heritage Group Travel, your contact point for the paperwork.
Our programme of tours for 2019 are:
Sunday 13 – Sunday 20 January: A Winter Week in Istanbul and Cappadocia. We ran this tour for the first time this year – to rave reviews: three days in Istanbul, where we had the sites all to ourselves, and three more in a snow-cloaked Cappadocia under bright blue skies. The blog piece I wrote may prove informative: delightful hotels, outstanding food and out-of-season marvels galore. CANCELLED
Saturday 8 – Saturday 22 June: Lycia, Kastellorizo and Caria. A fortnight on our favourite gulet, the Doruk Reis, travelling west as we take in the best sites and bays, including a foray to far-flung and fascinating Greek Kastellorizo, between Kekova and Bodrum. CABINS AVAILABLE
Saturday 7 – Saturday 21 September. Istanbul and the Turkish Aegean. A rare opportunity to experience the world-class Aegean sites – Troy, Pergamon, Ephesus, Priene, Didyma and many others – from the comfort of a gulet. We begin with a couple of days in Istanbul before joining the Doruk Reis at Canakkale and making our leisurely way south to Bodrum. THIS TOUR IS NOW FULL
Saturday 21- Saturday 28 September. The Gulf of Gökova, the Datça Peninsula and Symi. A leisurely autumn week taking in outstanding sites like Stratonikeia, Lagina and Knidos, as well as the lovely Greek island of Symi. CABINS AVAILABLE
I am also lecturing on a tour for Martin Randall Travel which runs from 30 September to 6 October called Istanbul Revealed.
As there appears to be considerable interest in these tours, please feel free to email me with expressions of interest, however provisional, at your convenience. Or call me to chat things through on 07757 703604/01225 329269.