Whether it’s the towering Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the fantastical fairy chimneys of Cappadocia or the rock-cut churches in the lush Ihlara Valley, the lyrical landscapes and extraordinary monuments of Turkey are bound to capture your imagination. And with the local knowledge of our expert named leader on our brand-new Walking the Ancient Trails of Cappadocia trip, you’ll be able to delve deeper into the rich Turkish traditions, fascinating culture and scrumptious local cuisine on our Premium Adventure. So, we’ve chosen our top 5 included experiences that’ll inspire you to visit Turkey with us in 2022.
1. Enjoy a memorable hot air balloon ride and champagne toast experience
On day 3 of our premium adventure, you’ll have the option to enjoy Cappadocia’s incredible scenery from the best vantage point: by hot-air balloon! The early start and short transfer are more than worth it for the unforgettable experience of gliding over Cappadocia’s unique landscape of fairy chimneys, frescoed-adorned rock churches and red-rose valleys at sunrise.
Taking you across Cappadocia in style for over an hour, professional pilots will land effortlessly just in time for you to mark this memorable birds-eye sunrise view with a chilled glass of champagne with your group.
2. Master Ottoman calligraphy with the help of our highly skilled craftsman
After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, one of their first cultural influences to enter the territory was the Arabic-Islamic alphabet. Over centuries, the artistic Ottoman Turks perfected several varieties of the Arabic-Islamic script, which was greatly revered and flourished in Istanbul, the administrative epicentre of the Ottoman State and is still practiced today.
On day 2, you’ll get the opportunity to master these ancient calligraphy techniques using traditional methods on handmade marble paper in the company of our highly skilled craftsman. Participating with this local company helps to preserve this ancient skill in the community while giving you a perfect memento of your time spent in Istanbul.
3. Witness the ancient Sema Ritual dance performed by the Whirling Dervishes
Described as one of the world’s most exquisite spiritual ceremonies, the ancient Sema Ritual was declared by UNESCO a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008. For the Whirling Dervishes, this symbolic dance is a structured act of love and faith, where everything including their stage, clothing and movements hold significant meaning as followers of the 13th-century Islamic scholar, poet and Sufi mystic, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi.
You can see this spectacular ceremony for yourself on day 6 of our Walking the Ancient Trails of Cappadocia adventure. Held in the ornate, historical Saruhan Caravanserai on the border of Avanos, you’ll watch the performance unfold accompanied by traditional Mevlevi music.
You’ll find that the dance hall, (Semahane), is a circular room designed to represent the universe, while the post on which the leader of the ritual sits is red, which symbolises the sun. The dervishes begin whirling in accompaniment to the local music, taking their waistcoats off to symbolise purification in their meditative state. A beginner of the Mevlevi Order sits on a black post and once they’ve completed their journey to enlightenment, they sit on a white post. This beautiful dedication to Mevlevi practice is a moving cultural experience you won’t want to miss.
4. Unwind in a Turkish Bath at the spectacular 16th century Hurrem Sultan Hamam
After exploring the incredible trekking trails of Cappadocia, the lush Ihlara Valley and the famous town of Avanos on foot, you’ll get the opportunity to truly unwind on day 8 of our Turkish adventure at the Hurrem Sultan Hamam in Istanbul. Built at the request of Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Sultan Suleiman, in the 16th Century, the magnificent Hammam is said to have been constructed on the site where the Temple of Zeus once stood.
With us, you’ll have the option to indulge in a relaxing Turkish Bath experience. An important part of Turkish culture since the 14th century dating back to the Ottoman Empire, hammams are one of the most ancient wellness rituals in the world. The very word “hammam” means “the spreader of warmth”.
Aside from unwinding in the local Turkish baths, you can also pay separately for packages including traditional body scrubbing and aromatherapy massages. You’ll also receive a personal care kit including non-slip slippers and a hammam pouch which includes natural olive oil soap, shampoo, shower gel and hair conditioner that all contain Judas tree extract. It’s the perfect way to relax at the end of your adventure!
5. Dine on traditional Turkish cuisine overlooking the Golden Horn in Istanbul
Going out in style, our farewell dinner on day 8 takes place at the popular Hamdi Restaurant, situated in the historic Eminönü district (West of Sultanahmet). Not only has it served guests some of the best traditional south-eastern kebabs in Istanbul since the 1970s, but it also offers stunning views overlooking the Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque and the Golden Horn.
Aside from their famously fresh kebabs, we’d recommend trying their içli köfte (Turkish stuffed meatball) or lahmacun (spicy, crispy, cheeseless pizza), and for dessert, why not try katmer (crunchy pancakes with pistachio) or baklava (filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey)?
So, if we’ve tempted you to discover Turkey’s enchanting landscapes, astounding architectural gems and delicious cuisine, take a look at our Walking the Ancient Trails of Cappadocia Premium Adventure here. Or browse through our collection of Premium Adventures.