Sample the diverse foods and culture of three of Turkey’s locations: Istanbul, the Aegean coastal hill region, and Cappadocia. Wherever we go, local people will share their stories, authentic cuisine and passion for this extraordinary country.
Highlights of Turkish Delights:
- Marvel at Istanbul’s finest historic sites, including the Blue Mosque, Roman Hippodrome and the Grand Bazaar
- Feast like a sultan at Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace and enjoy fresh seafood beside the Bosphorus Strait
- Revel in the bounty of farmers markets and fish auctions
- Sample wines at an organic vineyard and witness the Slow City movement at Seferihisar
- Wander the ancient ruins of Ephesus
- Hike through canyons and rock formations in Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Learn Turkish cooking during classes in Turkey’s coastal and interior regions
Historically located along the Silk and Spice Road trade routes, Istanbul has fused the flavors of 1,001 cultures, including the Persians, Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Indians and Slavs. We’ll sample this diverse Turkish cuisine in authentic restaurants; from street vendors in colorful bazaars; and at fish markets, farmers markets and spice markets. Our through-the-back-door walking tour includes Istanbul’s must-see cultural spots, including mosques, palaces and the beautiful Bosphorus Strait.
Moving from Turkey’s bustling capital to its slower-paced villages, we’ll explore the hilly region overlooking the Aegean Coast—including the ancient ruins of Ephesus—before delving into Cappadocia’s breathtaking lunar landscapes and volcanic chimneys. Everywhere we walk, we’ll discover up-and-coming wines and local specialties created from the natural ingredients of each region—with flavors and tastes to delight all palates.
DAYS 1–3: Walking through Istanbul
We’ll stroll through Istanbul’s European and Asian historic districts, stopping to take in the city’s architectural and cultural wonders: the minarets and domes of the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Roman Hippodrome (the place of chariot races), the 400-year-old Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, (a maze of covered streets lined by more than 3,000 shops), and the Topkapi Palace (the royal residence of Ottoman sultans). We’ll even visit a water-pipe café to share a hookah filled with flavored tobacco.
Istanbul’s culinary specialties are ours for the tasting—including kebabs, baklava (künefe), fresh seafood eaten along the Bosphorus Strait, Ottoman-style lamb, raki (anise-flavored alcoholic drink) and sweets such as Turkish Delight. We’ll also taste the artistry of an organic chef and feast like sultans at a Topkapi restaurant devoted to historically accurate royal cuisine.
DAYS 4–8: Turkey’s Aegean Flavors & Wonders of the Ancient World
We’ll fly to Izmir, a province on the Aegean Sea, where picturesque coastal villages continue food traditions reaching back to ancient Greece. The coastal town of Urla offers a lively fish auction, an ancient olive press, and an incredible farmers market with in-season produce (such as figs, artichokes, okra, olives, grapes, pomegranates and melons—along with wild greens harvested fresh from the countryside).
Our adventures include cooking Aegean home-style cuisine, visiting an organic winery, hiking to an ancient amphitheater and acropolis with sea vistas, and exploring Turkey’s first “Slow City”—where the town’s indigenous foods, lifestyle, cultural traditions and natural landscapes are preserved.
We’ll spend a day in Tire, home to a bustling market—a multicultural experience that showcases hundreds of crafts from surrounding villages and the region’s seasonal produce. For a rest, we’ll stop at a coffee house for a cup of rich, sweet Turkish coffee.
Our guide will escort us through the beautiful ruins of ancient Ephesus; its Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The tour is followed by an authentic meal prepared using recipes from Ephesus’ ancient records.
DAYS 9–11: Colorful Cappadocia
Next we fly from Izmir to Cappadocia in Turkey’s interior where the unusual geological landscape features canyons and underground cities carved into the volcanic stone. This desert climate produces fewer greens and more red meat and dairy, grains, chickpeas, and pastries than we encountered in the Aegean. Cappadocia is known for its manti (a dumpling with spiced lamb), pastirma (seasoned, air-dried beef), tandoori lamb, and borek (phyllo-like pastry filled with feta cheese, minced meat or vegetables). During a cooking class, we’ll try our hand at making one or two local delicacies, such as gnocchi-like pasta or stuffed grape leaves.
Each of these three days includes a magical hike through Cappadoccia’s breathtaking landscape. We’ll walk through the Göreme National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site), summit Uchisar Castle (an imposing rock formation with carved-cave rooms), and roam the Red Valley’s narrow, high-walled canyons. Our hike through the Ihlara Valley takes us through one of the region’s most impressive subterranean towns complete with ancient churches, private living quarters, wine-making chambers and deep wells. We’ll also pass rock-cut Byzantine chapels and 11th-century frescoes.
DAY 12: Departure
Flights to Istanbul or other regions of Turkey.