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Enjoy authentic, affordable food experiences as you enjoy a five-course ‘kebab crawl’ through Istanbul, visit a traditional teahouse in Bursa, take a tandir cooking class in Cappadocia, dine with a family in Goreme, and see olive oil being produced.


From £1,050 (maximum group size 12)

Duration: 10 days
Departures: Selected Sundays May to October
Start point: Istanbul
End point: Istanbul

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John Sannaee discovers unique and enchanting Turkey on a whirlwind adventure starting in the ancient metropolis of Istanbul, then a ferry hop to Yavola and it's off the beaten tourist track to mountainside Bursa for butter-soaked Iskender kebabs. He then traverses south to ancient city of Ephesus before journeying eastwards to the stunning landscapes of Cappadocia. The ultimate highlight of his journey was a dawn hot air balloon ride past rock villages and over high plateaux for endless breathtaking panoramic views. 

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Turkey Real Food Adventures

Days 1-2 Istanbul

Welcome to the spine-tingling city of Istanbul. Its heavenly architecture, ancient streets, formidable history and distinctive cuisine make it like no other place on earth. Jump straight in at a meyhane, a traditional Turkish restaurant serving meze (small dishes/tasters) and raki (aniseed liquor), and dine among the locals at these popular establishments. Take a walk along a lantern-lit Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s most famous avenue, before ending up at an animated local bar. The next morning, there's the chance to enjoy a breakfast of kaymak (clotted cream) and honey in a 19th-century café before discovering the acclaimed Egyptian Spice Bazaar, where a merchant will reveal distinctive blends and the best way to choose the most fragrant spices. Then, take a walk around Sultanahmet and Eminonu, seeing some of Istanbul’s most iconic sites, including the Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Choose between a delicious array of Turkish street food for lunch – cig kofte (raw meatball), kokorec (offal ‘kebab’) and gozleme (stuffed pastry) are some of the local favourites. Spend the afternoon wandering through one of the oldest covered markets in the world, the impressive Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar), and be mesmerised by the colour and abundance of goods like carpets, tiles, jewellery and leather goods. Spend the evening on a ‘kebab crawl’ with the award-winning local food experts, Istanbul Eats. Relish five courses of Turkish specialties while moving between a traditional kebab joint, aromatic bakery, tantalising food stand and sumptuous dessert cafe.

Days 3-4 Ayvalik

Fly from Istanbul to Dalaman (approximately 1 hour), then take a public shuttle to Akyaka via Gokava. The beautiful and tiny southern-Agean coastal town of Akyaka is part of the international citta-slow movement. Citta-slow towns follow the tenets of the slow food movement at a community and governmental level. They celebrate eco-gastronomy – reliance on locally-grown produce and a commitment to the preservation of regional culinary traditions. Akyaka is also the perfect place to unwind, as it's surrounded by lush forests and overlooked by Sakartepe Mountain, with the Azmak River running through the town. There are some great beaches nearby too. The best place to try the town's excellent seafood and vegetables is at one of the riverside restaurants, where you can sit at a wooden terrace overlooking the water.Take a tasting tour through Akyaka's Wednesday market. You'll meet the villagers who come into town each week to sell their wares. Sample local olive oil, spices and regionally grown fruit and vegetables. Sit down alongside local shoppers for a lunch of gozleme accompanied by ayran (a refreshing yoghurt drink). The afternoon is free for you to enjoy. Perhaps go kayaking along the river, hike up the nearby mountain, relax on a beach or check out the small township. There are a number of great cafes serving ev yemekleri (home-cooked cuisine).

Days 5-6 Selcuk

Take a public bus to Selcuk (approximately 3.5 hours). When you arrive, take the time to wander around this fascinating town. 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 Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the Temple of Artemis (though sadly only a single pylon remains). This evening you will visit the Sirince, a local village steeped in Greek Ottoman tradition. It's a photographer's dream. Postwar settlers revived the town's wine industry, which makes use of local fruit. Enjoy a tasting and consider buying a bottle to take on a walk up a gentle slope through cobbled streets and alleys to an atmospheric garden cafe. Up here you'll see how manti (Turkish stuffed dumplings) are made. After trying your hand preparing them, enjoy a taste. The next day you'll visit Ephesus, one of Turkey's most important ancient sites. Explore this beautifully preserved classical city with your local guide who will bring its colourful 1,500-year history to life. Watch in awe as the sophistication of this former metropolis reveals itself. It had running water, public toilets, a renowned medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved and regularly hosts concerts, but the marvellous library might just be the highlight. Continue then to Izmir (approximately 1.5 hours). There will be time for dinner at a nice local restaurant before you board your overnight train to Konya. This will see you enter the Central Anatolian region of Turkey. The train has first-class cabins with twin beds, a fridge and a wash basin. All bedding is provided. The dining car is the perfect place for an evening raki (Turkey's anise-flavoured alcoholic drink) before you retire for the night.

Days 7-9 Goreme

Arrive in Konya by early morning, then take a private transfer to Goreme (approximately 3 hours). This is your gateway to the fabled fairy-chimneys of Capadoccia. Perhaps stop for a mid-morning snack of Etliekmek, a larger local variation of the traditional Turkish lahmacun: flat bread baked with ground meat, tomato, peppers and onion. Stop in at Derinkuyu, the astounding old subterranean city that goes as deep as 60 metres underground. It used to have wine and oil presses, cellars, refectories, stables and chapels, not to mention some 20,000 residents. For lunch, hit a local pide saloon for Turkey's answer to the Italian pizza. Enjoy toppings like grilled lamb, black pepper, tender spinach, fresh egg and Turkey’s famed peynir cheese made from sheep’s milk. You may notice in Central Anatolian cuisine the tendency towards claypot cooking and the use of wheat. For the next two nights you'll stay in the village of Ortahisar. Here your host Nazim and his family will welcome you into their home, which is nestled in a beautiful valley and has been lovingly converted into a guesthouse. Then enjoy some free time this morning for final explorations. Perhaps visit the excellent Goreme Open Air Museum or indulge in a Turkish hammam (bath). In the afternoon you will be introduced to one of the region’s most interesting desserts in a cooking demonstration. 'Aside' is a deliciously odd dough-like dish comprising grape syrup, flour and butter, typically topped with walnuts. Enjoy this final taste of Central Anatolia with a cup of rich Turkish coffee. Afterwards you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight back to Istanbul for your final night.

Days 10 Istanbul

Fly back to Istanbul in the morning and make a stop at Galata Bridge for the city’s famous balik ekmek (fish sandwich) – the fish is fresh off the boat and out of this world. Take an optional trip along the Bosphorus River to see this mystical city from the water, or choose to spend the afternoon sightseeing, people-watching over coffee and revanis (semolina cake) or shopping for souvenirs. Head over to Istanbul’s Asian side for a final Turkish feast at the celebrated restaurant, Ciya. Their ever-changing menu, using seasonally available ingredients, is inspired by culinary traditions from all over the country. Drink a few glasses of raki over dinner and say ‘serefe’ to an incredible culinary tour through the inspiring country of Turkey.

What price includes

  • Accompanied by tour leader who knows the food hotspots
  • Includes 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners
  • Includes cooking class, visits to local producers
  • Guided tours, whirling dervish performance
  • Hotel (4 nights), Pension (3 nights), sleeper train and bus
  • Carbon emissions offset 759 kg pp



Plan your journey by train

Meeting point:
Santa Pera Hotel, Istanbul

Nearest train station to meeting point:
Istanbul Sirkeci

Transfer to meeting point:
Guests make their own way to meeting point

How to get there:
London to Paris change to the Munich train, then on to Budapest (via Vienna) Then take the train to Bucharest Change to the Istanbul train.

Plan your journey by train to Istanbul

Plan your journey by train

Finish point:
Santa Pera Hotel, Istanbul

Nearest train station to finish point:
Istanbul Sirkeci

Transfer to finish point:
Guests make their own way to station

How to get back:
Istanbul to Bucharest, change to the Budapest train (Via Vienna) then onto Munich. Change to the Paris train, Eurostar to London.

Plan your return train journey from Istanbul