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10 – Gastronomy Tour

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12 Days
Istanbul
Tour Details

Explore Turkey through the perspectives, lives, and flavors of its people. Taste its varied cuisine and embrace its rich culture. Connect with the locals and exchange their narratives, dishes, and zest for life – in a way you’ve never experienced previously. Discover neighborhood markets and cultural eateries, and immerse yourself in the sounds and sights at the crossroads of two continents.

Departure & Return Location

İstanbul Airport/Sabiha Gökçen Airport (İstanbul)

Overview

The Gastronomy Tour consists of 2 parts due to the geographical structure of Türkiye;

1st Part: Marmara Region (İstanbul&Bursa)

2nd Part: Aegean Region (Çanakkale, Ayvalık, Bergama, İzmir, Ephesus, Virgin Mary House, Şirince, Pamukkale, Aphrodisias, Kuşadası)

As you will witness during your journey, these regions will also differ in terms of the taste, cooking styles and especially ingredients. The tour is completely flexible and the itinerary can be changed due to the demands.

Itinerary

Day 1Arrive in Istanbul

Arriving in Istanbul, the sole city globally constructed across two continents, it offers an unparalleled connection between the East and West, safeguarding the legacies of three empires for which it once served as the capital. Napoleon said that if the world were a single state, then Istanbul would be its capital. Even in the present day, amidst the congested thoroughfares of contemporary Istanbul, amid the towering skyscrapers, the winding lanes, and the radiant historic churches and mosques, you can still distinctly sense the essence of his words.

Day 2Istanbul

Today, you’ll have the chance to explore several notable sites in Istanbul. Begin with a visit to the Blue Mosque, an iconic 17th-century mosque that commands the city’s skyline. Next, explore the Hagia Sophia, originally a church dating back to around 548 AD, which later transformed into a mosque. You’ll also explore the Theodosius Cistern (known as Şerefiye Sarnıcı in Turkish), constructed by Roman Emperor Theodosius II between 428 and 443 to store water supplied by the Valens Aqueduct. This cistern spans approximately 148 by 82 feet and features a roof supported by 32 marble columns, each around 30 feet in height.

For lunch, you’ll have the opportunity to savor delicious kofte (meatballs) at a specialized restaurant that has been operating since 1920. Following your meal, you’ll head to the pier for a private cruise along the Bosphorus. Once you disembark, you’ll continue to a Turkish household for a hands-on cooking class. Here, you’ll learn to prepare home-style family recipes and then have the chance to sample the dishes you’ve prepared. This experience offers a truly exceptional opportunity to immerse yourself in Turkish hospitality and gain insights into local home life. Your day will conclude with an overnight stay in Istanbul.

Day 3Istanbul

Today, you will visit Topkapı Palace, the former residence of the sultans for nearly three centuries. This historic palace is situated on the promontory that extends between the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. As the imperial residence of the sultan, his court, and the harem, it also served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. In the Treasury section, you’ll encounter the world’s 7th largest diamond, the “Spoonmaker’s Diamond,” while the Harem comprises an extensive maze of rooms and corridors that once housed the black eunuchs, concubines, the Sultan’s mother, and the Sultan himself. You’ll have the chance to explore the Palace Kitchens, Helvahane, and Quarters, and gain insights into our culinary heritage spanning over 400 years. Lunch will be served at a restaurant where you can savor Ottoman Palace recipes.

Following lunch, you’ll visit the Süleyman the Magnificent Mosque, a masterpiece designed by the renowned architect Sinan. This mosque stands as one of his most remarkable achievements, representing the pinnacle of mosque architecture. Afterward, you’ll explore the renowned Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı), one of the oldest and largest bazaars, housing four thousand shops, as well as the Spice Bazaar. The Spice Bazaar, an extensive market built in the 17th century, was established to finance the upkeep of the nearby mosque – Yeni Cami. The Spice Bazaar is often called the “Egyptian Market” because spices used to arrive at the market from India and Southeast Asia through Egypt.

Dinner will be at a delightful “ocakbaşı restaurant” featuring mouthwatering Turkish kebabs, located in the Nevizade district of Istanbul. Here, you will not only enjoy a meal with local but also receive insights from the head chef of the restaurant on how to prepare the finest Turkish kebabs.

Day 4Bursa & Çanakkale

Only a 150 kilometers off İstanbul, Bursa also offers some of the most delicious tastes of traditional Turkish cuisine. But, before that, following your arrival, explore the downtown bazaar area. Bursa’s sprawling, labyrinth central bazaar area is an awesome spot for shopping, eating, tasting tea, watching people, taking photos, experiencing the culture, interacting with locals, and wandering around. Koza Inn and the Ulu Camii are two features in the central bazaar area.

Visit a couple of the UNESCO World Heritage locations. Bursa’s UNESCO World Heritage listing consists of eight locations scattered around Bursa dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. In addition to the Cumalıkızık Village, these sites include the tombs of Osman and Orhan Gazi and the first külliyes (religious and social complexes) of the Ottoman Empire.

At lunch, you will taste a local delicacy of the region. İskender Kebab features tasty meat accompanied by toasted bread, tomato sauce, a dollop of yoghurt, and sizzling butter. Candied chestnuts are also a type of popular snack to be enjoyed. (İskender Kebab is one of the most famous meat foods of Türkiye and takes its name from its inventor, İskender Efendi, who lived in Bursa in the late 19th century. It is a kind of döner kebab prepared from thinly cut grilled lamb basted with hot tomato sauce over pieces of pita bread and generously slathered with melted sheep butter and yogurt.)

After lunch, you will journey to Çanakkale, marking the beginning of the second part of the tour. From Çanakkale to İzmir, this region is renowned for its delectable seafood and herbal delicacies.
Çanakkale is located at the entrance of the Dardanelles, which connects the Aegean and Marmara Seas. It is a place where the leaders, commanders, warriors, artists, philosophers, explorers, and poets who are important for humanity throughout history have come across.

In the late afternoon you will visit Troy, which is an important city in understanding the early development of European civilization. The city has a cultural significance due to its contribution to Homer’s Iliad and the creative art. Troy, which has become the subject of many movies, has an important place in mythology besides its rich historical background.

After Troy, we will drive to Assos. It is an old settlement with plenty of oxygen and natural wonders dating back to the Bronze Age. Aristotle, in fact, chose Assos to establish his school of philosophy. Assos is an earthly paradise by virtue of its geography, history, and cuisine! Seafood is a must for dinner; maybe a grilled octopus for dinner. There is no doubt that you will find the freshest octopus in Assos. A walk after dinner can be accompanied by delicious local ice cream. Overnight stay in Assos.

Day 5Ayvalık

An Aegean breakfast with lots of herbs and fresh vegetables will be waiting for you at the start of the day.

Let’s leave Assos and stop by the village of Adatepe, located a few miles east. Adatepe is a small Aegean village, famous for its historical stone houses, at the foothills of Kazdağları (Mount Ida). At the Adatepe Olive Oil Museum, you can learn all about olive oil production that has been flourishing in the region for almost a century, and you can taste fresh olive oil. You should also try Aegean herbs cooked and/or served with locally produced extra virgin olive oil.

Our next destinations are Ayvalık and Cunda Island. Ayvalık is a quiet holiday destination on southwest of Edremit Bay. The town has all the characteristics of an Aegean town: a quiet and clean sea, Blue Flag beaches, dinners with lots of mezes… Cunda Island, is a small village a few minutes’ drive from Ayvalık. You will need a few hours to visit Ayazma Church and Aya Nikola Church in Ayvalık. Then, Cunda promises you an unforgettable dinner. There is a great variety of alcoholic drinks to choose from depending on the meal, but rakı is different! Rakı is the star of the table – that is to say, the meal is to be chosen to be paired with rakı. Rakı is generally served with fish and mezes. Cunda is the ideal, much preferred location for “rakı sofrası” (rakı table). Overnight stay in Cunda.

Day 6Pergamum & Izmir

After breakfast, we will drive to the South, to Pergamum and İzmir.

Bergama (Pergamum) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a very important cultural centre in antiquity and was the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamum. Numerous well-preserved structures and sites from the past survive which include the Pergamum Acropolis, the Sanctuary of Asklepius, and the Red Basilica. Not to be missed is Türkiye’s longest-running outdoor market area Bergama Arasta (Ottoman Bazaar).

In the afternoon, we will be in İzmir, the third biggest city of Türkiye. İzmir, ancient Smyrna, is located at a point where the Anatolian Peninsula extends into the Aegean Sea. İzmir is one of the oldest cities with continuous settlement for 8500 years. One of the founding legends of İzmir states that the city was founded by the legendary Amazon Queen Smyrna. The ancient historian Herodotus wrote: “They built their city under the loftiest dome of heaven and the best climate in the world.” Aristotle told his student Alexander the Great, “You are not complete unless you have seen it,” and Victor Hugo describes the city as “İzmir is a princess adorning a necklace.”

The city’s coastline is known for its seafood restaurants along the coast as well as its cafes, restaurants serving Aegean Cuisine and other leisure facilities, while the hinterland is rich in ruins and monuments that tell the stories of countless ancient civilizations.

Street Foods of İzmir

Street food of İzmir do not let down the ones who love street food. If you want to experience a typical İzmir breakfast, try “boyoz”, a delicious fried pastry, “gevrek”, the twice-baked simit, and “pisi”, a fried bread best eaten with İzmir’s famous “tulum cheese”. Another local flavor is “kumru”, a delicious sandwich made with salami, cheese and tomatoes. The bun is what makes this sandwich special. Kelle söğüş, kokoreç and mussels are also among the favorite street tastes of İzmir.

Overnight stay in İzmir.

Day 7Ephesus, Virgin Mary House, Sirince village

After a breakfast with street food of İzmir (boyoz&tulum cheese), we will drive toward Ephesus, one of the best preserved antique cities in the world. Ancient Ephesus has been inhabited continuously for about 9000 years from the prehistoric period to the Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman, Turkish Principalities and Ottoman periods, and has been a very important port city and cultural and commercial center in all stages of its history.

The House of Virgin Mary: It is located on the Bülbül Mountain, 9 km from Selçuk. It is known that John brought Virgin Mary to Ephesus 4 or 6 years after the death of Jesus. In 1891, based on the dream of the German nun A. Katherina Emerich, the Lazarist priests discovered that the house where the Virgin Mary spent her last days was at the end of this research. This event is a new invention in the world of Christianity and sheds light on the world of religion.

In the late afternoon, we will be in a popular winery village of the region. Şirince is a cute little village with a fun history, beautiful views, wonderful food, hospitality, and so much more. It’s perhaps the perfect synthesis of a traditional Turkish village and traditional Greek village. Its location on a hill and its fertile fields have made it a haven for vineyards, olive orchards, and amazing peaches, figs, apples, walnuts and more.

Dinner with fresh local food and wine, overnight stay in a boutique style hotel in Şirince.

Day 8Pamukkale

A fairy trip to the land of cotton white rock formation; Pamukkale.

Hierapolis, an ancient spa city in the Roman and Byzantine periods and included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, is known as Pamukkale, home to a world-famous marvel of calcite travertine filled with warm, mineral-rich waters. Pamukkale is a popular thermal center; its calcium and iron rich waters are believed to have healing properties. The ancient city above Pamukkale was founded by the King of Bergama Eumenies II in the 2nd century BCE.

The region where Pamukkale is located has a special structure with its thermal springs originating from Lykos Valley. In Hierapolis, you can see baths, temples and ruins of ancient theater. You can swim in the Cleopatra Pool, a spring rumored that the Egyptian Queen took a bath.

Hierapolis, the city where Saint Philippus, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, was killed, is one of the sacred settlements in terms of Christianity. It was declared a religious in the 4th century CE, and during the Byzantine period, became Episcopal Center. The Tomb of St. Phillipus and the Martyrium, unearthed as a result of excavations in the ancient city, are among the sacred structures of Christianity.
Dinner: Denizli Kebab, a local dish of Denizli, famous for its taste, is a kind of tandoori kebab cooked in a wood oven and requires quite a skill to make. Lamb meat is cooked slowly by roasting across the wood fire in a custom made oven and served without the use of cutlery.

Overnight stay in Pamukkale.

Day 9Aphrodisias & Kuşadası

Start your day with some adrenaline! Watching a bird’s eye view of magnificent natural beauty of the Pamukkale by a balloon tour and landing over the ancient city with paraglide is a great source of pleasure in Pamukkale. This tour is optional.

After breakfast, visit a pilgrimage center for Christians. Laodikeia, which is of great importance for the Christian world, has been a “holy pilgrimage center”since the 4th century AD. Laodikeia (Pilgrimage) Church, which is mentioned in the Bible and is one of the seven churches of Anatolia (Seven Churches of Revelation), is located here.

On the way to Kuşadası, visit the famous marble sculpture center of the Roman period. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017, Aphrodisias is named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Aphrodisias is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in Anatolia. Dating back seven thousand years, the city gained prominence and wealth thanks to its marble quarries. This material lead to the founding of a sculpture school and eventually Aphrodisias became a centre for this art. Sculptors from the city became famous throughout the Roman Empire. The impressive remains of the city include the Tetrapylon Gate, the ancient theatre, the stadium and temples. The Aphrodisias Museum displays an impressive collection of statues from the site.

Arrive Kuşadası, and enjoy the sea, sun and food for 2 days in popular holiday resort.

Day 10 & 11Kuşadası

After this tiring journey, you will have enough time to rest in Kuşadası. Whether you make your own route or ask for optional daily trips from your guide, there are plenty of things to do in and around Kuşadası. Or, simply rest on the beach.

The district, which takes its name from the pigeon island at the entrance of the port, is one of the important tourism centres of Türkiye. It offers a colourful and lively holiday experience with its marina, numerous beaches, camping areas, surrounded by nature, and entertainment venues.

Day 12Return

Departure flight from the İzmir Airport to home. You will be transferred to the airport by your tour guide. Have a good flight!

Price Includes & Options

Price Includes

  • All hotel accommodations in 5 star or boutique style hotels.
  • Breakfasts, lunches and dinners. 1 bottle of local alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink with each lunch&dinner (except free times&days).
  • Deluxe vehicle with a driver all along the tour (except for walking days), vehicle expenses (i.e. parking, tolls, highways).
  • Professional tourist guide during all the journey, starting from meeting at the airport until your departure from Türkiye.
  • All tickets&entrance fees during guided tours, except optional tours.
  • Bosphorus Cruise in a private boat.
  • Wine&food tastings, cooking classes.

Optional Tours & Activities

  • Hot air balloon tour / paragliding in Pamukkale (Day 9)
  • Any trips or activities on the 10th, 11th and 12th days.
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