Springtime in Western Turkey

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 15585A, International


  • Explore Istanbul's magnificent setting and history
  • Walk ancient paths in Ephesus, Aphrodisas, and Troy
  • See Cappadocia's lunar landscape and cave dwellings of early Christians


  • Expert bilingual guides throughout
  • Airport transfers, two internal flights, comfortable bus, Bosporus cruise
  • All meals, entrance fees, and lodging


DatesApr 25–May 8, 2015
Price$4,995 (12–15)
$5,595 (or fewer)
StaffRochelle Gerratt

Trip Overview

Please note that the leader has changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.

The Trip

Our trip begins in fabled Istanbul and continues into Anatolia (classical Asia Minor). We will admire artifacts and architecture from the many civilizations that have flourished here, including extensive Greek and Roman archaeological sites, impressive mosques, and underground cities, where early Christians eluded persecution. A history of 5,000 years comes alive as we wonder at the remains of the Greek, Roman Byzantine, and Ottoman empires and appreciate the emergence of a modern republic under their great hero, Ataturk. We will see breathtaking scenery (mountains, valleys, plains and seas), take pleasant walks among the wildflowers, and enjoy delicious Turkish food. We'll enjoy long days and pleasant temperatures. We'll travel chiefly by private bus, but also by foot and even by plane (on two internal flights). Along the way we'll meet and be welcomed by the friendly Turkish people and stay in unique, charming hotels.


Day 1: Magnificent Istanbul! You will be met upon arrival and transferred to our hotel in the old part of the city and within easy walking distance of most of the must-see places. The hotel's style reflects both Ottoman and Byzantine elegance with modern touches throughout. The welcome dinner will be the first meal of the trip.

Day 2: We'll enjoy a morning visit to one of Istanbul's smaller mosques, the Rustem Pasa Mosque, famous for its exceptionally fine tiles. Later, we'll cruise up the Bosphorus on a private boat, gliding past opulent palaces, exquisite mosques, imposing fortresses, and traditional wooden Ottoman mansions. After our luncheon overlooking the harbor, we'll explore the Spice Market with the enticing displays of Turkish delight, barrels of spices and herbs, pistachios soaked in honey (one of many Turkish aphrodisiacs), fine linens, and hundreds of other exotic items. Then we'll continue on to the Turkish & Islamic Arts Museum and the cool, serene Underground Cistern, built in A.D. 375 to provide water storage for the ancient city. We will then visit the monumental Hagia Sophia Basilica, jewel of the Byzantine Empire, which was opened by Emperor Justinian in A.D. 537. It was used as a Christian church for 916 years, as a mosque for 481 years, and by order of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, was made into a museum in 1934. Dinner will be in a small, typical restaurant in the old city.

Day 3: Another full day of sightseeing will include the Roman Hippodrome and the Topkapi Palace. Built in 1453, the Palace was the lavish home to the sultans for many centuries. In the treasury section we can see the jewel-encrusted thrones, the world's largest emerald and the famous Topkapi dagger. After a luncheon in the garden of a restored Ottoman mansion, we'll explore the Grand Bazaar. There are 18 entrances and over 4,000 shops in this, the world's largest covered market. We'll make an evening visit to the Blue Mosque to appreciate its intricate, delightful interior. Later we will dine at a seafood restaurant favored by the locals.

Day 4: Today we will take a ferry crossing the Sea of Marmara to Bandirma. We will then drive to the legendary city of Troy, where Greek and Trojan warriors fought the Trojan War, for the honor of the beautiful, “Helen of Troy."

Day 5: Today we will visit Pergamum on our way to Kusadasi. We'll take a step back into ancient times with a visit to the hilltop ruins of Pergamum, which once boasted the greatest library of the ancient world with 200,000 scrolls. The Asclepion and Acropolis of Pergamum are world famous. Pergamum is where parchment was first invented. It boasted the contents of a fabulous library, given by Anthony to Cleopatra and later lost in a fire at Alexandria. The Temple of Zeus was another ancient marvel, although much of it is now in a specially constructed museum in Berlin. The Asclepion was the center of healing and one of its great doctors was Gelen (120-190 AD). Late in the afternoon we will drive to Kusadasi and transfer to our hotel.

Day 6: If you’ve heard the words "a reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians," now is your chance to sit in the same theater where St. Paul preached. Become a Roman conqueror -- Ephesus is part of your mighty empire. See it through the eyes of a Roman (who would probably be regarded as a barbarian in sophisticated and cultural Ephesus!). 

We'll break for lunch at a local meat restaurant in the pastoral village of Sirince, which is located on a hillside surrounded by apple and grape orchards. Originally settled by Greeks, the village was inhabited by the Ephesian Christians, who, displaced during the Selcuk conquests, moved up into the surrounding hills. In the Greek exchanges of 1924, Muslims from Salonica resettled here, creating a farming community highly adept at winemaking. Apple wine is a local specialty. In the afternoon we'll visit the Basilica of St. John and the house where the Virgin Mary spent the last years of her life.

Day 7: Today we will explore the remains of Aphrodisias, the city dedicated to the goddess of love and home to a school of sculpture that made its way across the Roman world. We will visit the Temple of Aphrodite and one of the finest ancient stadiums ever built. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. We'll return to Kusadasi in the afternoon.

Day 8: Today we'll visit three smaller, but exquisite, archaeological treasures. Priene is one of the most intact Hellenistic settlements to be seen, with the superb Temple of Athena a highlight. It is the earliest example of urban planning. Militius is impressive for its gigantic theater and Didyma for its Temple of Apollo, which was built to honor the god of prophecy and oracles.

Days 9-12: From the Izmir airport we'll fly to Kayseri in the land of bewitching geological wonders that is Cappadocia. Early traders called these formations "Fairy Chimneys." Here Byzantine Christians formed communities and carved churches in the rock. Some are beautifully painted and are now ours to appreciate. We'll visit Zelve Valley, with its elaborate cave shelters carved into the rocks centuries ago, the amazing underground city of Kaymakli, and the dwellings and early churches in the Goreme open-air museum. Cappadocia is perfect for getting out and walking. On our three- to four-mile hikes, we can better appreciate this magical countryside. This is the center of carpet- and pottery-making, so we'll learn how these traditional arts are still alive. We'll visit a Caravansary and imagine the camel caravans of old stopping for rest here during their trek across the "Silk Road." For those interested, there is an optional balloon ride. (Not included in the trip cost.) Our hotel for these nights is one of the "cave hotels" as most rooms have been carved out of the surrounding rock.

Day 13: From the airport in Kayseri, we will fly to Istanbul. There will be time for some last-minute shopping before our farewell dinner.

Day 14: After breakfast you will be transferred to the Istanbul airport for your onward flight.



Accommodations and Food

Our accommodations are very comfortable and modern. Every room has private bath facilities. The trip price is based on double occupancy. Singles are very welcome and will be assigned a roommate of the same gender. For anyone preferring a single room, the leader will make that request -- if it is possible to provide a single room, there will be an additional cost.

Turkish food is very tasty and healthy, with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables. Vegetarians are easily accommodated. For any special dietary requirements, inquire to the leader. All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are included. Lunches will be our formal meals.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is designed for anyone in average condition. No special athletic ability is required, but you must be able to walk a mile or two without difficulty. The hikes are optional, do not entail climbing, and are not more than four miles in length. Elevations are below 5,000 feet.

You'll need stamina for museum and historic-sight touring. The ground at the archaeological sites is uneven and rocky. Temperatures in mid-spring should be very pleasant. The daytime highs range around 70 F on the Aegean and inland, but in Cappadocia the nighttime lows could be around 50 degrees.



  • Armstrong, Karen, Islam: A Short History.
  • Atl, Esin, Turkish Art.
  • Bilgen-Reinart, Porcelain Moon and Pomegranates: A Woman's Trek Through Turkey.
  • Kinzer, Stephen, Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds.
  • Lewis, Bernard, The Emergence of Modern Turkey.
  • Pope, N & H, Turkey Unveiled.


  • Eyewitness Travel Guides, Turkey.
  • Lonely Planet: Turkey.


Ancient archaeological sites are a natural attraction to tourists whose spending supports the economy of nearby residents. However, the settlements become vulnerable to population growth as everyone wants a share of this growing economy. It is difficult to achieve a balance between protection of the sites and the development of the economy.

Air pollution is a real blight, especially in winter because of burning of lignite for heating. A special problem for Turkey, again related to energy, is the use of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits as a tanker route to transport Caspian oil from Russian ports to Western Europe. There have been several major accidents over the past few years in these narrow channels.

Turkey is far ahead of the United States in the use of solar power. We'll learn how almost every home in Turkey heats its water, and the other uses of solar power.



Rochelle Gerratt loves Turkey for its rich archaeological history, fantastic scenery, friendly people, and amazing food. She enjoys designing and leading natural history trips in the United States, Central and South America, Europe, and the Mideast. Rochelle has been leading international trips for Sierra Club Outings since 2000. This will be her sixth trip to Turkey. Her trips feature scenic hiking, good food, and authentic cultural experiences. An avid traveler, Rochelle works as a career coach when she is home. She looks forward to sharing Turkey's treasures with you.

Contact the Staff

Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture.
Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.

Try Another Trip

By Date