Istanbul, Ephesus, and the Coast of Turkey

Destination: Istanbul, Ephesus the Turquoise Coast

| Activities: Hiking and Culture

Turkey is known for its history, culture, hospitality, and natural beauty and there is no better way to explore its beaches and bays than aboard a gulet, a traditional wooden sailing yacht. After spending time in the vibrant city of Istanbul and the fascinating city of Ephesus, we'll be glad to get off the traditional tourist path as we head to the Turquoise Coast. We'll hike on trails accessible only from the sea, explore ancient ruins, visit small villages, feast on fresh food prepared by our on-board chef, and relax at night to the sound of the sea gently lapping against the boat. Traveling on a small boat allows us to moor in quiet bays, hike from one point to another, choose to stay on board and relax on any day, swim and snorkel in azure seas, and unpack only once. Along the way we'll see ruins that reflect Turkey's long history, from Lycia to Roman domination to the Turkish empire. Maximum group size: 12

This trip also features an optional Cappadocia trip extension! Details can be found in the Trip Documents section.


  • Exploring Istanbul, truly one of the world's most important and interesting cities
  • Hiking ancient paths and seeing ruins that date back to the 10th century BC
  • Swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling as you cruise along beautiful coastline
  • Learning Turkish history and experiencing Turkish culture and hospitality
  • Feasting on food that is always fresh and sometimes even caught that day
  • Visiting the historic city of Ephesus

Departures and Prices

October 08 to October 19, 2024
$5195.00 - Limited Availability
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  • Experienced guides including one local guide and one Adventures in Good Company guide
  • Eleven nights double occupancy accommodation
  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast the last day
  • All activities on the itinerary including tours, excursions, and entrance fees
  • All internal transfers, including flight from Dalaman to Istanbul on the final day
  • Gratuities for the ship's crew, daily tour guides, hotels, restaurants, drivers etc.

What's not included: International travel to and from Istanbul, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and trip insurance.

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip is designed for active women in good physical condition who want to combine hiking with immersion in the sights, smells, culture, and cuisine of Turkey. The pace on this trip is relaxed, giving you ample downtime. It also allows you to decide how active you want to be: if you hike every day, the rating of 3 is appropriate. If you spend some days relaxing and swimming off the boat, it is more of a 2. Some paths are rocky with loose rocks; all paths have ups and downs that are sometimes steep. Once on the boat there is down time and if you prefer to be constantly on the go, this trip might not be a good choice for you. Rating: 1 2[3] 4 5

During our adventure in Turkey we'll sight-see traditional tourist sites in Istanbul and Ephesus; hike on remote paths; visit ancient Roman and Lycian sites; swim and kayak in the azure waters; and savor fresh and delicious foods - truly an adventure vacation in every sense of the word.

We'll spend the first two nights in a tourist class Istanbul hotel and two nights in Selcuk (Kirinca Hotel or similar). We'll then spend seven nights on board the gulet. There are 8 cabins with twin or double beds and each with its own private bathroom, with a bedside reading light, porthole window, wardrobe, under-bed storage, and hairdryer. As is typical on a gulet, the rooms are small; however, most of our time is spent above deck where comfortable chairs and cushions are plentiful. While there are always lights on board, power sockets and hot water are not always available. For example, there is hot water in the evening but not in the morning. Women who use a CPAP machine will need to bring a portable battery.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Arrive Istanbul (IST) any time today. Our first official meeting will be at 5 p.m. when we meet in the lobby of our hotel. We'll introduce ourselves and start getting to know each other before going out for a welcome dinner. (D)
A walking tour is the best way to see Istanbul and today we'll combine traditional sites and an insider's view. We'll tour the must-see sites of Istanbul: the Topkapi Palace, the ancient residence of mighty Ottoman Sultans; the Hagia Sophia Church, one of the most extraordinary buildings in the history of architecture from the Golden Age of Byzantium; and the Blue Mosque, Istanbul's most prominent symbol of Islam. But we will get beyond the tourist sites; our guide will lead us to old vintage Istanbul with dark turnoffs, passageways full of character, and buildings marinated in history, showing us the local way of life. After some free time, we'll gather again for dinner and have time to pack for our adventure. (B, L, D)
This morning we'll visit the Spice Market (aka the Egyptian Market), once the largest spice trading venue of the medieval world, with its abundant stalls still featuring piles of edible exotics with its heady mix of spices and herbs. Once the largest spice trading market in the medieval world, it has not been unaffected by modern tourism. Nonetheless there are stalls run by families that have been there for decades and our guide will make sure we come away with an appreciation of its historic roots as well as its current delights. After that we're off to the domestic airport for a short flight to Izmir. We'll spend the next two nights in Sirince, close to Ephesus, and a delight in itself. It's one of the very few genuinely beautiful historic villages left in the western seaboard of Turkey, and almost all houses date from 19th Century or earlier. (B, L, D)
We'll spend the entire morning visiting the ancient city of Ephesus. First a Greek and later a Roman city, it is considered to be the commercial, religious and social center of antiquity. It is a vast site and not yet completely excavated; what is visible, such as the Temple of Artemis, gives some idea of its original splendor. It is also an important early Christian site: this is where St Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians and the Virgin Mary is believed to have spent her last days here. After lunch we'll return to the Inn where we'll have a chance to relax before an optional and informal tour of Sirince, followed by dinner. We'll be back to the Inn in time to pack up for the next leg of our adventure. (B, L, D)
Today we'll get our first taste of the Turkish countryside during our transport to Mamaris, about a 5-hour drive. There we'll greeted by our English guide and the co-owner of the boat, Anne, and our captain, cook, and crew of East Meets West, a traditional wooden sailing yacht called a gulet (Note: the crew are two men who have ample experience with all-women's groups and are always welcoming). After settling into our cabins, we share a welcome tea (and biscuits) before enjoying our first dinner on board. A typical dinner might include fried sea bass, hot potato salad with dill, a salad with mint and herbs, fresh bread and strawberries for dessert - yum! (B, L, D)
This morning and every morning we start with a breakfast feast of fruit, tomatoes, cheese, bread, different jams and strong hot coffee. The mountains surrounding the bay, that we have so far only seen from the boat, beckon to us for our first short warm up hike. Following a broad track that climbs gradually with a steeper ascent at the end, we'll have plenty of opportunity to chat as we make our way to the caves of Nimara, where there's evidence of a Goddess worshipping site from around 20,000 BC. We'll take in stunning views of the Aegean as we reach a height of 470 feet.

Although the boat has sails, we use the engine for cruising, so we don't take all of our time getting between places. On this afternoon's cruise we'll pass islands and wooded inlets as we head out of Marmaris Bay before turning south and cruising the coastline for about two hours to our next mooring spot. There will be time for swimming before enjoying dinner, which might be barbecued fish, fresh salads, potatoes, and other vegetables with other options for vegetarians.

Hiking: 2 hours, 3.1 miles. Elevation: 470 feet gain and loss (B, L, D)
After another hearty breakfast we start the day with a boat taxi up the Dalyan River. We pass the colorful town of Dalyan and the ancient Lycian tombs built directly into the rock, the oldest remnant of Caunos. Our destination? Mud baths! Start by plastering yourself and each other (this may be the most fun getting plastered you've ever had), wash it off in a cold shower, and then proceed to a further dip in the hot pool. You might not look any younger at the end, but your skin will thank you.

We then return by boat partway down river for our 30-minute uphill walk to the ruins at Caunos. Caunos dates back to at least the 4th century BC and the ruins mark its long and varied history before becoming part of the Roman Empire. While still being actively excavated, it is particularly known for the Roman amphitheater that seated 5,000; the Byzantine Basilica, an ancient Doric temple; and well-preserved Roman baths. We'll enjoy our picnic lunch overlooking the sprawling ruins and have time to explore them before starting our hike back. Our path starts through the ruins, continues through a village, and then goes steeply up to a saddle where a Muslim cemetery is located. From here we descend on road and trail back to sea level.

We return to our gulet, moored at Ekincik, where another delicious dinner, possibly chicken or aubergine gratin, bulgur, more delicious salads, and locally grown fresh fruit, awaits us.

Hiking: 4.5 hours, 7 miles. Elevation: 650 gain and loss (B, L, D)
The wonderful thing about cruising on a boat is that you can skip the built-up places and head for the less crowded, which is what we'll do this morning as we pass Dalaman and head towards the Fethiye Gulf. Dropping anchor in a small bay, this morning's walk climbs above the water on a coastal path before turning inland on an old Roman mule track that we'll follow to the ruins of a Roman church and settlement at Lydae. Our path now skirts through woodlands along a gorge, ending in another stunning view of the sea below. From here we descend to Manastir Bay and the ruins of Cleopatra's Baths. According to legend, Mark Anthony built these baths as a wedding gift to Cleopatra where they found a hot water spring in this part of the bay.

Our boat will be waiting for us in the bay and we can swim among the ruins before lunch. After lunch we'll enjoy ice cream from the ice cream boat (!) and relax on our gulet as it motors around to the next bay. Tonight, we'll moor in a small beautiful cove that is just a short distance away.

Hiking: 2.5 - 3 hours, 3 miles. Elevation: 520 feet gain and loss (B, L, D)
This is the perfect morning for a lazy start. Following ancient goat trails, our path takes us above the water and through woods, gaining a summit with clear views of the many islands that dot Fethiye Bay. We descend to another cove where our boat awaits us, with lunch and a relaxed afternoon. Our boat continues to the small yachting resort of Gocek where it takes on supplies while we wander the town or sit in one of the many outdoor cafes and drink coffee before enjoying a dinner of chicken or freshly caught fish and calamari.

Hiking: 2.5 hours, 3 miles. Elevation: 400 feet gain and loss (B, L, D)
DAY 10
Today is our last hiking day and our longest hike of the week. Walking amongst lavender, rock rose bushes, and juniper, our path once again climbs to a ridge, with magnificent views this time overlooking the whole of Fethiye Bay and the famous Gocek islands. It's a fitting last walk as we can see many of the places we've walked previously. Returning to our boat we'll motor a short way before dropping anchor for the night.

Hiking: 5 hours, 7 miles. Elevation: 1,100 feet gain and loss (B, L, D)
DAY 11
Today we journey inland. We'll stop first at the Tlos ruins, which date from the Lycian period. Originally one of the six largest Lycian cities, it was first mentioned in 14th century BC records. Excavation of the site is limited but its location and size make it worth a stop because there's so much to explore.

We'll go on to visit the ghost village of Kayakoy. It was once inhabited by a Greek and Turkish community until it - and all Greek communities - were expelled by the Turks in the 1920s (and in turn Greeks expelled Turkish communities from Greece). When a massive earthquake later decimated Fethiye, residents removed windows, doors, and roofing materials to help rebuild their town. We'll have lunch here in a very authentic local restaurant located among the ruins. An optional pleasant downhill walk to the edge of Fethiye will help us work off lunch before we return to the gulet. Tonight is our final night on the boat and we'll share a final farewell feast, toasting Anne and the crew and all we've learned.

Hiking: 1 hour, 1.3 miles. Elevation: 400 feet loss (B, L, D)
DAY 12
Our exact day will depend on the timing of our return flight to Istanbul. We may do some last-minute shopping or wandering the town, possibly even some last-minute chatting on the boat. Whatever we do, at some point we will transfer to Dalaman for our return flight to Istanbul and home. We'll let you know what time you can plan to depart from Istanbul 6 months before the trip.


(12 reviews)
4.5 Food
4.6 Lodging
4.3 Safety

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

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Maria M.
7 months ago

Deb was a terrific guide. I loved my fellow travelers but it is the gulet that really made this trip special for me. Sleeping under the stars every night on that boat will be one of my favorite memories of Turkey.

Karen N.
8 months ago

Patricia H.
8 months ago

What an amazing trip! The places we saw were fascinating, the other women were so much fun, and the guides and hikes were terrific. The time we spent on the gullet was magical, beautiful and delicious!

Jane R.
8 months ago

Great to be with Deb Huntington again as a guide. She is kind, compassionate and a good guide. She is sensitive to the needs of each participant. Istanbul was fascinating. The highlight of the trip was being on the boat for 7 days. The coast of Turkey is beautiful, the people are nice, and the staff of the boat were amazing.

Karen A.
8 months ago

Debra wasa wonderful and enthusiatic leader! I would like to know what her secret is!

Brenda L.
8 months ago

Every day brought a new adventure, whether it was sightseeing in Istanbul or Ephesus, hiking along the Turkish Aegean Sea coast or exploring Cappadocia from the air or on the land, it was a fantastic trip! The local guides were knowledgeable and very willing to share their enthusiasm for their country. Debra kept things moving along with expert guidance and humour. All in all a fantastic trip!

Mary H.
9 months ago

I have been looking forward to this trip for quite a few years and it was wonderfully satisfying. I did quite a bit of reading about Türkiye prior to coming and the layers of history and civilizations really came to life for me. Seeing ruins everywhere gives one a sense of the importance of this area of the world over the millennia. Western civilization is just an upstart! I would recommend adding to the reading list "Ataturk: The rebirth of a nation" by Patrick Kinross; without Ataturk there would be no Türkiye. For more scholarly types who want to get an idea of the former dominance of Islamic culture and how the West became ascendant - "What Went Wrong" by Bernard Lewis. Also, you could point out to people that the novel "Birds Without Wings" (which is on your reading list) takes place in a ghost village which we actually visited. It would have been great to have read it in advance. On a different note, I so enjoyed the openness of the Turkish people, it was really a pleasure.

Gayla P.
9 months ago

Living on the boat. Being surrounded by history wherever you went.

Laurie L.
7 years ago

The Gulet was a terrific experience.The variety of activities including historical sites, natural sites, and regional artisans made the trip interesting and thought provoking.

Maria P.
7 years ago

Being on the Gullet and the daily hikes along the way

Stacy C.
7 years ago

Highlights included the time on the gulet, meeting my fellow travelers and Marian and the spectacular views on the hikes!

Susan P.
7 years ago

The week on the gullet exceeded all of my expectations - from the graciousness and good humor of Anne, to the food, to swimming in the ocean, an amazingly relaxing week getting to know the other women on the trip.

  1. Is Turkey safe?

    That is always a difficult question because terrorist acts can and do happen anywhere in the world and the stability of countries can change unpredictably. We monitor conditions in all of the places we travel and if we believe a country has become unsafe since we planned the trip, we would offer a full refund to anyone who was signed up.
  2. Where do we eat?

    In Istanbul and Ephesus we'll eat in locally owned restaurants where you can order off the menu. Breakfasts will be served at our hotels. All the breakfasts and dinners will be served at the lodges where you're staying. Once on the gulet our shipboard chef will prepare tasty and fresh meals
  3. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    We can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  4. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room or if that is what is the only accommodation available on the boat by the time you register. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.