Gems of Turkey – The People, The Beauty, The History, May 29 - June 16 2023
Tour Date
29 May - 16 June 2023
18 Nights / 19 Days
Tour Leader
John O’Neill and Julie Roller
About the Leader
John O’Neill and Julie Roller
John O’Neill and Julie Roller are from Santa Cruz, California. John was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Sultanate of Oman from 1977-79, where he taught English and became proficient in the Arabic language and has also traveled in East Africa. He has a master’s degree in International Studies. He taught English to students from around the world for the past 39 years in California colleges and he's now retired. He has been to Turkey 17 times since summer 2005 and in those trips has spent over a year in the country. One of John’s passions is the study of comparative mythology, and he adds this dimension to our explorations of the ancient and modern cultures of this region.
Julie has a Master’s degree in geology and has worked in many fields over the years. She was the onboard geologist for Special Expedition EcoTours in Baja California and Alaska, and the director of Elderhostel, now called Road Scholar, in northern Arizona, where she created and led educational tours to the Grand Canyon, and Navajo & Hopi reservations for Elderhostelers from around the world. She has been to Turkey 14 times since 2008 and, along with John, has traveled from one end of Turkey to the other and seen much of the country. She currently owns a small import business with Turkish towels, textiles and jewelry.
“We are excited to share our experience of the land, people, culture, and food gleaned from multiple lengthy trips to Turkey as independent travelers in the last 14 years. Our intention is to create a fun, educational, active and relaxing journey to our favorite places for independent travelers like ourselves.”
Tour Description

Gems of Turkey for the Independent Traveler – the people, the beauty, the history

This itinerary is specially created by John O’Neill and Julie Roller, 2 experienced independent travelers from Santa Cruz, focusing on the sites and experiences they love. This tour is not designed to drag you from site to site with a mechanical tour guide, but to make sure you enjoy the country at its best. We visit most areas for two to three days and check out the best local sites, enjoy beautiful beaches and mountains, eat in small local restaurants, sip at nice bars and chill out zones, shop the back streets, and get in touch with local people as we travel through the magical landscape that is modern-day Turkey.
This is a small group tour with maximum 16 passengers on board.

Tour Details

May 29, Monday, Istanbul (D)

Welcome to Istanbul. This is our first day in this magical city. Upon arrival you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in the heart of the Old City, Sultanhamet.
Tonight, we will enjoy a welcome dinner together at a favorite restaurant where you’ll meet your guide and the rest of the group as well as enjoying a lovely dinner.

May 30, Tuesday, Istanbul (B)

We’ll walk down to Eminonu at the Galata Bridge and take a private boat north up the Bosphorus between Asia and Europe while enjoying the sights of beautiful mosques, palaces and old houses along the shore.
Upon return, we walk to the nearby Rustem Pasha Mosque, enveloped by beautiful blue Iznik tiled walls, a small quiet gem of a mosque tucked in the backstreets.
After lunch, we will explore the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. I buy spices here every year for home use and gifts.
Optional - Take the tram up to the Grand Bazaar, the largest and oldest covered market in Istanbul with more than 3000 shops selling carpets, leather, jewelry, spices, antiques, and more. Test your bargaining skills or just enjoy the scene, while wandering in the many streets of this market. Free time in evening.

May 31, Wednesday, Istanbul (B,D)

We start our day with a visit to the Underground Cistern, the ancient water supply for Istanbul. It is beautifully restored and enveloped in a magical mystical atmosphere.
Then across Sultanhamet Square to visit Topkapi Palace with its spacious grounds, four courtyards and treasury. Walk to Hagia Sophia, (550 BC), the 6th century Byzantine basilica, the largest church of its era and the architectural glory of the Byzantines. It’s being used as a mosque again.

We continue with a visit to the Blue Mosque, the 17th century imperial mosque famous for its six minarets and its interior blue tiles. We then step out in the Hippodrome Square, which was considered the heart of Constantinople. We meet late afternoon at the hotel lobby to drive to our cooking class. Our teachers/chefs will introduce you to Turkish cooking and offer a glimpse of daily life while guiding you through preparing a meal. We’ll enjoy the fruits of our labor with local wine for dinner.

June 1, Thursday, Istanbul (B)

Another beautiful day soaked in history and culture. Walk to the Archaeological Museum complex with its collection of sculptures, sarcophagi, Iznik tiles and other objects from ancient sites around Turkey.
We move to the Pera Beyoglu Area for lunch and a walking tour of its vibrant cosmopolitan Istiklal Street, with many points of historical, architectural and cultural interest – Christian, Greek and Armenian churches, picturesque shopping arcades and passages, old Ottoman Hans, bazaars and coffeehouses, bustling with shoppers, students and young professionals. Along the road we will pay a visit to St. Antonio Church, the biggest and the most beautiful on Istiklal Street.
Finally, we end up at the Galata Tower, watchtower of the Genoese fortifications dating from 1349.
Free evening.

June 2, Friday, Seljuk (B,D)

Fly to Izmir in the morning, meet our bus and drive to Camlik Village near Seljuk to visit Can Carpets and enjoy a homemade lunch with local traditional dishes. This is a small atelier, where they still use the traditional dye extracting method from plants. Here we will learn about the dying process with a demonstration and observe women making traditional one-of-a-kind wool carpets, some of which now grace the Presidential palace in the capital.
Overnight in Selcuk. Enjoy the chillout zone and fresh spring water pool of our hotel.

June 3, Saturday Selcuk (B, D)

In the morning, we’ll visit the Roman aqueduct with Stork nests, the small Ephesus Museum, then enjoy the large street market of Selcuk, shopping along with locals buying snacks of figs, dates, olives and fruit. Also some fun clothes to be had.
Return to Atillas Getaway to relax and swim, then we’ll visit Ephesus Ancient City in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds and heat. Ephesus, once the second largest city in the Roman empire, is the best preserved Greco-Roman site in Turkey and includes the famed Grand Library of Celsius and the Great Theater, capacity of 24,000 spectators, and an amazingly preserved marble royal road.

June 4, Sunday, Dalyan (B)

Drive to explore the important beautiful ancient city of Aphrodisius. After lunch at a nearby charming garden restaurant, we drive to Dalyan, a small town famous for Iztuzu Beach where the Caretta Caretta Sea Turtles breed and lay their eggs.

June 5, Monday, Dalyan (B,L)

From Dalyan, we enjoy a private river boat cruise past magnificent Lycian tombs carved into the rock face 3000 years ago. We’ll see the ruins of Caunos then motor to the wonderful sandy expanse of Turtle Beach (Caretta Caretta) where turtles lay their eggs. Take a swim in the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Lunch included. Free evening.

June 6, Tuesday, Kas (B)

Leave Dalyan and stop at Patarra Ruins & Beach, have lunch, then drive along the deep blue sea to Kas, a lovely Mediterranean harbor town, one of our favorites.
Drinks at Deja Vu bar with J&J optional.

June 7, Wednesday, Kas (B ,L)

Today we explore gorgeous bays and inlets of the warm turquoise Mediterranean on a gulet cruise. Our private boat will take us to Ucagiz, Simena, and Kekova bays where you’ll swim in the crystal blue waters, see Lycian sarcophagus (kaya mezarları) and float over a sunken city. Relax on board sailing through nature.
Fish Lunch served on the boat. Free evening.

June 8, Thursday, Kas (B).

This is a free day for you to relax and explore charming Kas, swim in the refreshing spring-fed sea, shop and explore the back streets. Kas is lively and fun to walk around and shop in the evening.

June 9, Friday, Antalya “Kalichi” (B)

In the morning, we’ll first stop at the local market to pick up more snacks, herbs/spices and other fascinating items. Then we depart and drive south along the blue Mediterranean Coast. Lunch at a river restaurant and continue on to the Antalya Archeological Museum with over 5000 pieces of stunning ancient art on exhibition. Many of the sculptures and statues recovered in Perge are in this stellar museum. Free evening in the attractive old part of Antalya.

June 10, Saturday, Antalya (B)

Another day soaked in the rich archaeological heritage of Anatolia visiting one of the important relics of ancient times at Perge (Pamphylia). It was settled during Hittite times and became an important Hellenic and Roman city. Perge is the source of most of the stunning Greco-Roman statuary in the Antalya museum.
Afternoon free time with suggestions - take in the small Ethnographic museum, or historic hammam, shopping or beach w/chairs & umbrellas at dramatic spot off the cliffs near our hotel.

June 11, Sunday, Konya (B)

Our morning takes us to stupendous Aspendos, the best-preserved Roman theater of antiquity. Built in the 2nd c. AD, with a capacity of 15,000 people, it’s still used today for grand performances and festivals.
We leave the coast and head inland for a scenic drive, crossing over the rugged Taurus Mountains onto the Anatolian Plateau. Arriving in the religious capital of Konya, we’ll visit the Mevlana Museum. Mevlana is known as Rumi to most Westerners. We’ll visit the small living history display and learn about Mevlana and his renowned Sufi philosophy. We hope to visit a renown Sufi healer friend and learn more about their beliefs, if he is feeling well.

June 12 Monday, Urgup, Cappadocia (B)

Morning stop to Catalhoyuk, one of the most important Neolithic cities from 7500-5800 BCE to visit their illustrative visitor center and take a tour of the active dig site.
Then drive from Konya across the Anatolian Plateau to one of the most magical sites of the world, Cappadocia. On our way across the “Long Road”, we stop by Sultanhani Caravansarai, which was a waystation for travelers, merchants, and their animals moving along the Silk Road and is a beautiful well-preserved example of Selcuk architecture from the 13th century.
Upon arrival in Urgup, we check into our hotel and enjoy a free evening to explore the small friendly town.

June 13, Tuesday, Cappadocia/Urgup (B)

Optional tour.
1. Famous Balloon ride, pick up at hotel around 4am, Extra cost to be announced (around E150)
The surrealistic geological formation of Cappadocia is one of the wonders of the world. We start our morning after breakfast with a walk up Love Valley with its infamous geologic spires then onto the incredible “moonscape” of Pasa Bagi Valley to stroll through the fairytale landscape.
Then down the road for lunch in the traditional pottery making village of Avanos.
Free evening.

June 14, Wednesday, Cappadocia (B)

Visit the Underground City of Derinkuyu, which dates back to Hittite times (1200 BCE). Then on to climb Uchisar Castle for the spectacular view of Pigeon Valley and distant volcanic mountains. Plus shopping time at nice market shops near the castle.
Drive to Goreme for lunch & time to walk around the small town. Bus to Goreme Open Air Museum with its dozens of painted cave-churches.
In early evening, we’ll head north to watch a Whirling Dervish ritual dance, called a Sema, in the historic Sarihan Caravansarai near Avanos. We’ll meet with the lead Dervish and talk about the Sema and its significance.

June 15, Thursday, Fly to Istanbul (B)

We’ll take a morning flight back to Istanbul. The hustle and bustle of the city may be a nice change after the quiet plains of Anatolia. Enjoy a free afternoon in bustling European side Istanbul. You can catch up with last minute shopping, enjoy a Turkish bath or simply relax in one of the many nice cafes of the Pera district near Galata Tower. Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner in the beautiful rooftop terrace restaurant at our hotel in Istanbul.

June 16, Friday, (B)

This morning after breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight
back home.

Price Details

Tour Price (Per person in DBL room)
Single Room Supplement

Prices are per person and quoted in USD.

We require a $400 downpayment for booking and the balance 6 weeks prior to departure.

Please note that the pre-payment is non-refundable.

Price Includes:

  • John O’Neill & Julie Roller as tour leaders
  • 4 nights accommodation in Istanbul
  • 2 nights accommodation in Selcuk
  • 2 nights accommodation in Dalyan
  • 3 nights accommodation in Kas
  • 2 nights accommodation in Antalya
  • 1 night accommodation in Konya
  • 3 nights accommodation in Urgup, Cappadocia
  • 1 night accommodation in Istanbul
  • All transport in an air-conditioned van
  • Services of an English-speaking Turkish tour guide
  • Entrance fees to museums and archeological sites
  • All breakfasts, Welcome and Farewell dinner, and a few lunches
  • Cooking Class and Dinner
  • Private Boat trip up Bosphorus
  • Private Dalyan Boat Trip
  • Private Kas Boat Trip
  • Whirling Dervish Sema ceremony
  • One way flight from Istanbul to Izmir and Kayseri back to Istanbul

Price Does Not Include:

  • International flights
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Drinks with meals
  • Tips for guide and driver
  • Optional Excursions - Balloon Ride in Cappadocia