Winter Istanbul and Cappadocia Tour

A WINTER WEEK IN ISTANBUL AND CAPPADOCIA

SUNDAY 4 FEBRUARY – SUNDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2024

 

‘That was one wonderful, wonderful week which seemed to last for at least two – in a very good way – time certainly expanded to fit in so much.  The mix of famous sights and those that seemed like hidden secrets was perfect – and similarly for the mix of eating places.  Your leadership was brilliant – lots of knowledge passed on to us along with a lot of fun.  We felt cosseted throughout the week rather than herded through hordes of other visitors.  And then snow in Cappadocia!   Just perfect.’ – Cecily Grant 

CLICK HERE ON MY BLOG REFLECTIONS ON THE 2023 TOUR.

Istanbul and Cappadocia are among my favourite places.   In this I’m not alone, of course, and in both Turkey’s great metropolis and the country’s unique hinterland region the crowds and the queues can prove vexing, to say the least.  How to find some welcome elbow room?

The answer: visit in the depths of winter.

 

 

We have now run this tour on a number of occasions – and always to great effect.  Not only did we side-step the queues we would otherwise have expected at the like of Istanbul’s beautifully renovated Archaeological Museum and Topkapı Palace, and at Cappadocia’s wonderful clusters of rock-carved churches, but were treated to Turkey at its romantic best.  Winter is when people hunker down around stoves,  sustain themselves with bowls of lentil soup or mugs of sahlep (a wondrous milky concoction magicked from orchid root).  We wrapped up warm to walk the back streets of Istanbul and the extraordinary valleys of Cappadocia.  We enjoyed log fires, the odd nargilye (hookah pipe) and hamams (Turkish baths) to banish the chill from the bones.  We got snow in Cappadocia, as per the above image, and like to think it might be this time that we get it in Istanbul:

 

We are Jeremy Seal, author of several books on Turkey including A Fez of the Heart and Meander; and  resident Cappadocian archaeologist Yunus Özdemir.  We believe that our combined knowledge of these destinations is second to none.  We’ll do lots of walking, visit sites both classic and rather less obvious (in both cases unmissable), eat outstandingly and stay in a couple of wonderful hotels.

We should warn that this week won’t suit everybody – at about 1,000 metres above sea level Cappadocia can be very cold, however bright the skies.  We can’t know precisely what the weather will be like; what we do know is how we’d deal with any set of circumstances.  All of which will make this a tour – of a type offered by none of our competitors – that’s guaranteed to lodge in the memory.

 

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Day 1/ Sun Feb 4 2024:  Guests are met at Istanbul Airport and transferred to the Regie Ottoman Hotel, a stylishly converted Ottoman-era tobacco building in the heart of the city close to the Spice Market.  Dinner is taken in the hotel.

Day 2/Mon Feb 5 2024: A short walk through the Sultanahmet district to the great Yerebatan Cistern, a vast colonnaded cavern of a water depot.  A walk across the ancient Hippodrome, thence to the Mosaic Museum, a vast in-situ mosaic palace pavement rich in glimpses of the city’s Byzantine past.   We visit the nearby Aya Sofya Basilica, Mother Church of eastern Christendom.  After lunch we visit the newly restored Archaeological Museum, one of the world’s great collections of antiquities.  We return to our hotel in time for a warming Turkish bath before dining nearby.

Day 3/ Tues Feb 6 2024: We visit the Grand Bazaar, taking in little-known artisanal corners like the Zincirli Han.  We continue on foot to the 16th-century Sülemaniye, among the most magnificent of the city’s imperial mosques.  We visit the Rüstem Paşa Mosque, famed for its exquisite tilework, and the Spice Market.  After lunch we head for Cukurcuma, Istanbul’s bric-a-brac district, which is home to The Museum of Innocence, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s hymn to his native city.  We walk along Istıklal Caddesi, the city’s historic thoroughfare, and stop for refreshments at the fabled Pera Palas Hotel.  We take the 19th-century Tunel train back to our hotel.

Day 4/Weds Feb 7 2024: After breakfast we visit the Topkapı Palace, historic residence of the Ottoman Sultans.  Then we take a ferry across the Bosphorus to Asia.  On Kadiköy’s Guneşlibahce Sokak, one of the city’s great foodie quarters, we lunch at the acclaimed canteen-style Çiya Restaurant.  We ferry back to the European side to take in the majestic imperial caiques on show at the Naval Museum.  After returning to the hotel, we dine in the nearby Karaköy district.

Day 5/Thurs Feb 8 2024: We check out of our hotel and take a private boat up the Bosphorus to the Sadberk Hanım Museum, a magnificent collection of antiquities housed in a waterfront mansion.  After lunch we head for the airport and our afternoon flight to Cappadocia’s Kayseri Airport.  We transfer to the Kale Konak Hotel in Üçhısar where dinner awaits.

Day 6/ Fri Feb 9:  A hike along one of either the Red Valley or Zelve Valley, depending on conditions, provides us with a stunning introduction to Cappadocia’s surreal landscapes.  After a stop for warming drinks we head for the Open Air Museum, one of the region’s most spectacular clusters of rock churches.  We lunch in the nearby town of Göreme, which guests have time to explore.  The energetic may walk back to the hotel along the lovely Pigeon Valley.  Before dinner we enjoy a short performance of the sema, the hypnotic dance of the Whirling Dervishes, at Saruhan, a 13th-century Silk Road caravansaray.

Day 7/Sat Feb 10: After breakfast we drive south to Mazı, one of the region’s remarkable underground cities.  Then we visit the monastery at Keşlik before lunching in an old mansion in the town of Mustafapaşa.  After lunch we visit the lovely church at Pancarlık before returning to our hotel in time to avail ourselves of its splendid hamam.  Our farewell dinner takes place in the hotel.

Day 8/Sun Feb 11: We transfer to Nevşehir for our homeward flights via Istanbul.

Click for google maps of the itineraries for the ISTANBUL and CAPPADOCIA sections of the tour.

Background on Cappadocia is available here.  And some Istanbul observations here.

Our tours are designed and run by us.  We make it our business to be there every time you negotiate difficulties or challenges, be it city steps, on an ancient site or along a footpath.  But we cannot always be  your eyes; it pays to be aware that the ground is often uneven, not to say steep, with no shortage of rocky protuberances, in Turkey.  Even city streets are thick with potential pavement hazards.  You will need a reasonable level of mobility, balance and fitness.  We grade the sites we visit to the best of our ability, but cannot be absolutely sure that all outings and activities will be within the capabilities of all guests.  We expect you to follow our advice if we feel that an outing, or an element of an outing, is beyond you.  If you are the least uncertain as to your suitability to join a tour, we’d urge you to consult us.

Cost: £2300 per person sharing rooms, £2750 per person in single rooms.  Price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, entry fees and talks, domestic flights, land transport, airport transfers, outings and tips.  Does not include international flights into Istanbul, visas where required or alcohol.  

Your holiday is fully bonded and administered by Heritage Group Travel (www.grouptravel.co.uk) in Bath. For a small charge Heritage can also assist with your flights. 

The trip will only run with sufficient numbers; early indications of interest are much appreciated.

All initial enquiries to Jeremy Seal (jeremy@somewherewonderful.com; 07757 703604)