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Real Food Adventure - Turkey
Transport - Overnight bus, local bus, dolmus (minibus), ferry, kayak, bicycle, on foot.
Accommodation - Hotel (7 nts), Pension (2 nts), Overnight bus (1 nt)
Meals - 11 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 6 Dinners
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Fly to Istabul. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel
Hosgeldinz! Welcome to Turkey.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
Cosmopolitan cities brimming with modern delights, archaeological sites filled with ancient splendour, curious landscapes straight out of a storybook and picture-perfect coastlines frequented by the jet set… this is tantalising Turkey! Visitors won't be able to forget travelling through this exotic land which sits at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, yet displays a fair bit of Middle Eastern flair.
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.
We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
To kick off this Real Food Adventure, join your fellow travellers for a welcome dinner at a meyhane, a traditional Turkish restaurant serving rake and a selection of traditional Turkish meze. After dinner, enjoy a stroll up IstiklalCaddesi, the city’s thriving main thoroughfare, which is full of shops, cafés and restaurants. If you’re still keen for more, you can check out some of the area’s popular bars.
After breakfast you head to the celebrated Egyptian Spice Bazaar to meet one of the spice merchants. Learn the secrets to selecting the most fragrant spices and creating some of Turkey’s renowned spice blends.
You then continue our walking tour around Sultanahmet and Eminonu, taking in some of Istanbul’s most celebrated sites including the Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
The area around Eminonu is bustling with a myriad of street food options. If you’re hungry along the way, your tour guide will point out some options that may tickle your tastebuds. Local favourites include kokorec, a snack of stuffed sheep or lamb’s intestines grilled over coals, barbecued corn and roasted kestane (chestnuts), and, of course, turkish delight!
You finish our walking tour at the Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar), where you will have some time to explore the narrow alleyways and plethora of shops for some retail therapy.
Enjoy a kebab crawl through Istanbul.
Led by the team from Istanbul Eats, Saveur Magazine’s 2012 food and travel blog of the year, meander from kebab joint to bakery to street stand to dessert palace to slowly reveal the complexity of south eastern Turkish cuisine over five different courses.
- Istanbul - Meyhane dinner
- Istanbul - City Tour
- Istanbul - Kebap crawl
Hotel (2 nts)
Depart Istanbul this morning by a fast ferry to the port of Yalova (approx. 1 hour). Then it's onto a local bus to Bursa, where you will stay the night (approx. 1.5 hours).
Please note that sometimes you take an alternative route, catching the ferry from Kabatas to the port of Guzelyali (approx. 1hr 50mins ), followed by a local bus and then a train to Bursa (approx. 1hr 20mins ). This depends on the ferry schedule on the day, which can often change with little notice.
Bursa is an old and important city with a rich and varied history. It had a central role in the creation of the Ottoman Empire and from 1326-1402 AD actually served as the Sultan's capital. With elegant mosques such as the supremely beautiful Yesil Camii, an intriguing covered bazaar and teahouses filled with locals, Bursa offers us a glimpse of traditional Turkish life.
Your hotel tonight is one of the oldest in Bursa and is centrally located opposite the Ulu Mosque and next to the historical covered market.
Explore the warren of streets and old Ottoman hans (warehouses). Along the way, visit a traditional teahouse for a tasting and lesson in the preparation of Turkish tea.
Bursa is also home to thermal springs nearby at Cekirge, famously used by Byzantine imperial families. Why not treat yourself to a soak, steam and scrub Turkish style.
No trip to Bursa is complete without trying the famed Iskender Kebap. Named after its creator, İskender Efendi, this famous north-western Turkish dish was first seen on the menu in the late 19th century. Since then the family have trademarked the dish and still own the founding restaurant in Bursa. You stop past to see what all the fuss is about!
After dinner, witness what is a highlight for many of our passengers: to be guests at a Dervish Lodge. See the performance of the Sema and learn a bit more about their mesmerising culture.
- Tea tasting
- Bursa - Steam bath - Free
Hotel (1 nt)
Not only the birthplace of one of Turkey’s most famous kebabs, Bursa is also surrounded by small farming villages that keep the region well-stocked with berries, fresh fruit and cheeses. Before you leave Bursa, you journey to a nearby village to enjoy a genuine farm-to-table brunch.
Travel to Ayvalik (approx. 5hrs).
Located on the Aegean coast and taking its name from the Turkish word for quince (ayva), the charming village of Ayvalik is set around a harbour and looks out to small Aegean islands - a wonderful place to escape from it all. The cobbled backstreets with their old houses and cafes are perfect for exploring.
Jump on a boat across the Aegean Sea to visit enchanting Cunda Island. Cunda Island was once inhabited by Greek populations and some Greek orthodox churches still remain.
Enjoy a dinner of fresh fish on the quayside, which was caught from the waters surrounding the island. Your dinner may even be accompanied by local musicians playing Greek and Turkish love songs.
Enjoy a stroll around Ayvalik’s weekly market, savouring treats including locally produced honey, handmade yufka (a kind of filo pasty used in borek), nuts, spices and much, much more. Purchase some of your favourites to be part of a picnic lunch.
Ayvalik is also Turkey’s centre of olive and olive oil production, and has sweeping olive groves surrounding the town as far as the eye can see. Travel to the nearby village of Mutlukoy to learn firsthand the tradition of olive oil pressing. There will also be time to forage for wild greens in the nearby countryside followed by lunch in the picturesque olive groves.
Cheese and yoghurt are a staple of the Turkish diet and, like most things, vary according to region. Visit a mandira (cheese workshop) close to Ayvalik to see how the production of cheese and yoghurt takes place in Western Turkey.
Tonight is free for your own Ayvalik food adventure. Your tour guide will have plenty of suggestions for all budgets and appetites. Why not try ҫorba at a traditional Turkish ‘soup kitchen’. Soup, or ҫorba, is one of the cornerstone dishes of Turkish cuisine. There is an endless array of variations and, while most commonly served at the start of a meal, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
If you’re just after a simple snack, simply sip an Efes beer and tuck into Ayvalik toast, a speciality of the area consisting of a toasted sandwich with cheese, Turkish sausage, pickles, tomatoes, ketchup and mayonnaise.
- Bursa - Brunch at farming village
- Ayvalik - Cunda Island Visit
- Ayvalik - Market tour
- Cheese workshop visit
- Ayvalik - Olive oil pressing demonstration
Pension (2 nts)
You travel from Ayvalik to Izmir by bus.
Then take a dolmus (public taxi bus) from from Izmir to Selcuk.
Selcuk is the perfect base for experiencing this fascinating region of Turkey. There are many historical sites nearby, including the dazzling Roman ruins at Ephesus. On the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill lie several historical buildings, including the Isa Bey Mosque and the Grand Fortress. Selcuk is also home to one of the ancient world's Seven Wonders – the Temple of Artemis – although, sadly, only a single pylon remains.
When you arrive in Selcuk, check into your guesthouse and then take a leader-led orientation walk around the town.
Later there is the option to head out to the nearby village of Sirince and taste some locally produced fruit wines. This authentic Greek Ottoman village seems to have been overlooked by modern development and is a photographer's dream.
Take a private mini van to the site of Ephesus to admire the amphitheatre and famous library.
Ephesus is the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey's premier tourist site. Once the capital city of Roman Asia Minor, the city has a fascinating history spanning over 1,500 years, which comes alive with a local guide to enhance the experience. You will be awed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had running water, public toilets, a renowned medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved and regularly hosts concerts, but it's perhaps the magnificent library that takes most people's breath away.
Visit a family-run restaurant where gozleme – the famous and very popular Turkish pancake with thin, flaky pastry filled with local ingredients such as spinach and feta cheese – is their specialty. Here you will watch a demonstration of how this renowned dish is made before enjoying a gozleme feast for lunch.
For those in need of some additional relaxation, there is a chance to unwind with a traditional bath at the local hamam, concluding with an olive oil massage.
Take the overnight bus to Goreme.
Buses in Turkey are of a high standard and on longer journeys are all modern coaches. They are air-conditioned, they stop often for toilet breaks and there is an onboard attendant who serves complimentary tea/coffee and snacks similar to a flight. Although not fully reclining, seats do recline a little.
- Selcuk - Ephesus Archaeological site
- Selcuk - Gozleme making demonstration and lunch
- Selcuk - Sirince visit & fruit wine tasting - TRY10
- Selcuk - Hamam - TRY50
Guest House (1 nt)
Overnight bus (1 nt)
Cappadocia fascinates all travellers. Shaped by wind and water, its otherworldly rock formations have to be seen to be believed. In times of peace the people in this region lived on the land but in times of war or persecution they took to living underground.
Cappadocia, thanks to its rich volcanic soil, also lays claim to fertile orchards and vineyards. Central Anatolian cuisine is characterised by a focus on wheat (pastas are one of the region’s signature products) as well as cooking in clay. One of the regions classic dishes, testi kebabi, consists of pieces of lamb or chicken cooked in a tall elegant clay pot, the top of which is smashed off just prior to eating.
On arrival, enjoy some time to relax. After lunch, why not visit an underground city and stop at a panoramic point to appreciate the fascinating surroundings of this amazing part of Turkey.
Tonight you enjoy the famous hospitality of a Cappadocian family in their own home with a delicious home-cooked meal, a truly unique experience. Our host will prepare typical dishes such as lentil soup for starters, salad and beans. You might even be lucky enough to see our host demonstrate the making of ‘kemal pasa tatlisi’ – small balls of fried, doughy goodness covered in syrup.
Continue your discovery of Central Anatolian cuisine in a half-day cooking class. Travel to one of the regional markets to purchase produce and learn how to prepare local specialties of the area. You will even have the opportunity to use a tandir, or traditional Turkish oven. Enjoy the fruits of your labour for lunch.
Take a scenic walk through one of the nearby valleys, which is home to the Valley of Love where the rock formations will astound.
Visit World Heritage-listed Goreme Open Air Museum, a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings, and one of the earliest centres for religious education. The practice of monasticism was developed by St Basil the Great in the 4th century as a reaction to his increased disillusionment with the materialism of the church. St Basil's definition of monastic life, based on the idea that men should live in small, self-sufficient units with an emphasis on poverty, obedience, labour and religious devotion, took root in Cappadocia, later becoming the basis for the Orthodox monastic system. There are at least 10 churches and chapels in the museum area, dating between AD900 and 1200, each one named after a prominent attribute by the local villagers who were exploring these caves long before there was an entrance fee. The best of the churches are the Chapel of St Basil, Apple Church, Sandal Church, Chapel of St Barbara, the nun's convent and the Buckle Church.
- Goreme - Open Air Museum
- Goreme - Home-cooked dinner
- Goreme - Central Anatolian hands-on cooking class
- Goreme - Valley walk
- Goreme - Underground City - TRY15
Hotel (2 nts)
Take a bus to Gaziantep. Although a relatively long drive, you pass through beautiful mountain scenery along the way. Arrive into Gaziantep in the late afternoon.
Gaziantep, in the south eastern reaches of Anatolia, is among the oldest continually settled cities in the world and its cuisine is one of the richest and varied in the country – combining Arabic, Kurdish, Anatolian and Armenian influences. Many consider Gaziantep to be the gastronomic capital of Turkey. It is famous for its desserts (the city is said to produce the world’s best baklava) and produce, including the locally grown pistachios, which are globally coveted.
After the long drive, enjoy dinner at a fourth generation-owned restaurant founded in 1887, famous for both its kebabs and – of course – its baklava!
For early risers, you will make our way to the markets this morning to try a local breakfast delicacy – liver kebabs – prepared by a street vendor who has been making this dish for over 40 years! This is such a popular breakfast treat among locals that if you aren’t there before 7am you’re likely to miss out!
After breakfast, walk back past Elmacı Pazarı, or Apple Bazaar, and watch the stalls come alive, selling all manner of local products. Embark on a guided tour of the markets, learning about the unique ingredients and dishes of south-eastern Turkish cuisine. Along the way discover a shop established in 1963 that reputedly sells Gaziantep’s best cumin, dried pepper, black pepper corns and sumac. See bright green local pistachios (both raw and roasted) and smell the intoxicating aroma of the Gaziantep’s smoked pepper paste. Finish with a visit to (arguably) the city’s best baklava producers for a taste of this heavenly sweet treat.
If time, you will also stop into the adjacent Bakırcılar Çarşısı (copper bazaar), to see the copper craftsmen at work.
This afternoon is free for you to explore this intriguing city. Why not visit the highly regarded mosaic museum. You might also like to check out Emine Göğüş Cuisine Museum, dedicated solely to promoting a greater understanding of Turkish cuisine and, in particular, the culinary roots of the country’s south east.
- Gaziantep - Guided food tour
- Gaziantep - Dinner at Imam Cagdas
- Gaziantep - Baklava tasting
Hotel (2 nts)
Take a short flight from Gaziantep to Istanbul.
On arrival, we’ll stop off for an essential Istanbul experience, ordering a balik ekmek (fish sandwich) for lunch from the boats as they bob on the water.
You then have the option to board one of the nearby ferries and journey up the Bosphorus for a two and a half hour journey to admire the city from the water.
Otherwise, the afternoon is free for last minute shopping and sightseeing.
You enjoy our final dinner at Ciya, on the Asian side of the Bosphorous, arguably one of Istanbul’s most highly regarded and best-loved restaurants. Over many years, chef Musa Dagdaviren has undertaken extensive research into discovering and preserving regional flavours and dishes from around Turkey, many of which are reflected in the restaurant’s menu. This meal is a fitting finale to a remarkable Turkey Real Food Adventure.
- Istanbul - Dinner at Ciya
- Istanbul - Balik ekmek lunch (fish sandwich)
- Istanbul - Bosphorus boat cruise - TRY10
Hotel (1 nts)
Your adventure ends today and you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home to London.