Turkey: Hike and Sail

Walk, Cruise and Explore: Turkey
(We would love to return to Turkey when the situation is calmer….Check back for future dates.)


Behind the Scenes’ expert guide Zeynep (Zee) Parlak (below), and Cynthia LeCount Samake, will lead this exciting trip that combines traditional Turkish culture and textile viewing/shopping with hiking and sailing. Zee is a Turkish native, speaks excellent English and is a licensed, experienced, professional guide who consistently receives rave reviews. Combining knowledge of her country’s traditions and history with her personal anecdotes, she is a delight to travel with! Zee will be joined by a specialist nature/adventure guide who has been walking the Mediterranean coastal trails for decades; he will explain the historical Roman archeological sites we encounter. He also knows first-aid for hikers.

Happy Zeynep, guide in Cappadocia, Turkey. Photo: Steve Chun

Happy Zeynep, guide in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Photo: Steve Chun

Istanbul cafe with chicken doner, or vertical grill--yum!

Istanbul cafe with chicken doner, on vertical grill–yum!

We start and end in Istanbul, visiting the most renowned monuments and the wonderful bazaar with its array of new and old textiles, ceramics and other crafts. (If you’ve been here before, you may want to find other things to visit or re-visit.)

Eroded formations in Cappadocia; note tiny cyclists passing by.

Eroded formations in Cappadocia; note tiny cyclists below.

Then we fly to Cappadocia with its amazing eroded landscape, a World Heritage designated area. It also features unusual Byzantine-era cave churches with beautiful frescoes, a cooking class/demo of delicious country cuisine with local village friends, our wonderful, atmospheric cave hotel, a visit to a carpet weaving workshop, and an optional hot-air balloon ride—a fabulous experience for the adventurous. We’ll have a free day here, so you can begin your hiking trip in Turkey by exploring the village paths near our beautiful hotel—or you can relax, read, or soak in the pool.

Looking down on our Cappadocia hotel at night, and the pool, below.

Looking down on our Cappadocia hotel at night, and the pool, below.

Cappadocia Hotel.pool LOW

One of the unique rooms at Cappadocia Cave Hotel

One of the unique rooms at Cappadocia Cave Hotel

A short flight takes us to Antalya, where we’ll have lunch in the historical part of the city with its cobblestone streets. Next, we drive to Cirali and begin walking the Lycian Way, a waymarked foot-path linking ancient pathways, mule and caravan trails, and back country roads.  You’ll carry only a day pack with water, sunscreen and camera; the van will meet us each afternoon at the hotel, with our luggage.

DT.Lycian path.trees7856332

The Lycian Way takes its name from the civilization that once ruled the area from the 15th to 6th centuries BC. The section we will traverse passes through typical villages, mountain hamlets, and ancient Lycian and Roman sites, as we wend through pine, juniper and cedar forests. In many places, the trail offers panoramic views of the bright blue sea and the picturesque harbors and islands.

The trail is well-maintained and the walk is listed as one of the Ten Best Walks in the World. The route is graded “medium;” it is not level walking, but has many ascents and descents as it approaches and veers away from the sea. We’ll hike a section that is not too strenuous, and we will take the time to explore some of the numerous archaeological sites along the way—many of which can be accessed only by the footpaths.

Harbor of Oludeniz, Turkish Mediterranean.

Harbor of Oludeniz, Turkish Mediterranean.

Then we’ll leave land behind and board the TAYAZA, our pretty wooden yacht or gulet, to cruise the Mediterranean. We’ll travel by sail when time and weather permit, stopping in little bays to give you time to swim in the crystal clear water.We will also dock in many places and go onto shore to experience more of Turkish village life. An expert Turkish chef will prepare our meals on board with fresh and healthy ingredients; he might even let you help to layer a bourek or roll a grape-leaf sarma—staples of the delicious Turkish cuisine!

Wooden yacht called Tayaza.

Wooden yacht called Tayaza.

In Byzantine times, the gulet was developed for transport and fishing in Mediterranean waters; it has a sharp bow, a broad beam and a rounded aft. Modern gulets are 2-masted yachts, and still traditionally handcrafted of mahoghany, pine and teak. They are fitted with sails and motor, and modern conveniences, designed for leisurely travel along Turkey’s stunning southern coastline.

Lounge on the Gulet Tayaza.

Lounge – on the Gulet Tayaza.

After our sailing, we’ll drive to the Dalaman Airport for the flight back to Istanbul. The rest of that day, and the next are free days in Istanbul. Cynthia will be happy to help you find the sights that you’d like to see: For instance, the Topkapi Palace, the Chora Church, the Museum of Archeology, the Museum of Islamic Arts (just totally renovated), the Spice Bazaar, etc. There are so many things to do that are easy to find, in proximity of our hotel, that you will find that you quickly feel comfortable in Istanbul!

Flights home on October 16; note the arrival and departure dates carefully when buying tickets. If you would like to spend a few more days in Istanbul after the trip, when you know how things work–or even before the tour–let us know and we will give you the hotel contact info and arrange for the hotel’s taxi to pick you up at the airport.

TOUR PRICE: $6250 USD in double room or cabin

Includes the following:

  • 18 nights “Boutique” Hotel* or Pension and Gulet (yacht) accommodations–in double rooms/cabins with private bathroom*
  • 4 nights Istanbul; 3 nights Cappadocia; 5 nights along Lycian Route; 6 nights floating peacefully on gulet
  • Optional day-trips on land, from boat. Swimming while we are anchored is a treat in clear blue sea…
  • All meals, all soft drinks and water with meals, except 2 lunches and 1 dinner during free days.
  • (* This will change if the group is fewer than 8.)
  • International Arrival airport transfers to IST hotel (on group arrival dates)
  • Local transportation with modern, A/C high-top vehicle and professional driver.
  • Three Domestic flights (Istanbul to Nevsehir; Nevsehir to Antalya; Dalaman back to Istanbul)
  • English-speaking, professional, Turkish native Guide
  • Trip Photo Book – Your fabulous experience in living color; a paper book and link to e-book!
  • Entrance fees for all natural and historical sites, as on itinerary
  • Group Transfers for domestic flights from airports of Istanbul, Nevsehir and Antalya
  • On the Lycian trail, lunches are mostly picnic-style bag lunches.

Tlos-tombs, Turkey


  • International Flights
  • Travel insurance –*Required*  (Suggested companies info later.)
  • Airport Departure transfer from Istanbul. Hotel Kybele desk will arrange transportation for you with the hotel van driver.
  • Between-meal snacks and drinks, ie. trail snacks and gulet snacks (I will bring some.)
  • Alcoholic drinks, and 2 lunches and 1 dinner on free days.
  • Personal expenses such as internet and laundry– and optional activities such as the balloon ride.
  • Tips for guide and driver. Budget about $100-150 total per person for guide and about $75 total per person for the driver. Naturally tip amounts are up to your discretion – and your appreciation of the services.

NOTE: Behind the Scenes Adventures and Cappadocia Tours reserve the right to change the itinerary or accommodations when necessary or desirable, to ensure the group’s comfort or safety.  In case of poor weather and/or sea conditions, the cruise program is subject to change without notice.

 Necessary Equipment for hiking: (More info to come when you sign up.)

  • Comfortable trekking Shoes– (Vibram soles) and water-repellent (Gore-Tex)
  • Walking clothes (WindBreaker, water-repellent)
  • Day Pack with water bottle to re-fill
  • Walking Sticks/poles if you like to use them.
  • Sunscreen, Sun Hat
  • Sun Glasses, flashlight
  • Swimsuit and water shoes optional

TURKEY: Highlights

turkey_tnMay 24 – June 7, 2015. Fly home June 8.

This exciting 15-night trip begins in Istanbul, continues east to Tokat, south into Cappadocia, then circles west to the carpet-making area of Konya, the ancient sites of Çatalhuyuk and Pergamon, and north to Bursa, before returning to Istanbul. Along the way, we’ll see ancient UNESCO Heritage archeological and architectural sites, eat wonderful Turkish typical foods, traditional textiles — in museums and private collections. We’ll also meet the Turkish people in their homes, markets and workshops. We’ll watch carpet knotters, needlework flower makers, and block printers, and we will learn about the complex and fascinating ancient history of Turkey.

TRIP DETAILS: Our pretty Istanbul hotel is in the heart of Sultanahmet, the old historical part of Istanbul – and within two blocks of world-famous treasures: the exquisite Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace of the Sultans, and the enormous Santa Sophia–once a church, then a mosque, now an amazing museum.

Blue mosque.Turkey We’ll stroll the Grand Bazaar, and see the best of Istanbul’s sights before heading into the Turkish countryside.

We fly east to the traditional town of Tokat where we’ll visit the brand new museum, and the artisan market–and have our private block printing workshop. The master printer will show us how to stamp cotton scarves (provided, and shown below), called yazma–using your choice of the hand-carved wood-blocks traditional to the area. Later we’ll go through the new Tokat Archaeology and Ethnology Museum, in a wonderful old brick bedestan or bazaar-workshop building. We’ll savor the local foods, including a famous and delicious regional pasta dish called manti.

Continuing south, we head to the stunning and fascinating Cappadocia area. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup village, in cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

Hand-block printed scarves crated by 2011 group.

Scarves that we block-printed in Tokat.

Another wonderful experience in Cappadocia is the optional hot air balloon ride* over sensational, eroded tufa stone landscapes. The balloons float safely and silently over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the “fairy chimney” volcanic formations. Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.)

From Cappadocia, we’ll drive west and visit remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhuyuk, believed to be the oldest city in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site:  “The taller eastern mound contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.”

Happy Cappadocia travelers!

Cool Cappadocia travelers!

And we’ll visit Konya, famous for beautiful flat-weave (discontinuous weft, or tapestry technique) rugs, and as being the home of famous Sufi poet Rumi.

From Konya, we will fly north to the ancient Greek and Roman historical site of Pergamon (282-129 BC) (present-day Bergama) and visit the Temple of Trajan and other spectacular monuments and theatres, as well as the excellent Pergamon Museum.

Next day we’ll drive to Bursa to see the old silk market called Koza Han. You’ll meet the best antique textile dealers who will show us the incredible embroidery and needle lace in their collections. We will also marvel at the traditional costumes of the Ullumay Museum of Ottoman Folk Costumes.


Eroded structures called “Fairy Chimneys!”

Then we’ll drive back to Istanbul to see more of that charming city. For our final and free day in Istanbul you can see something new in the city, or return to a favorite place.

Visit the excellent Archeology Museum (near our hotel) or try the hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or see the Blue Mosque again, shop for final souvenirs, go back to the Grand Bazaar – your choice! Lunch on your own this day. Pack up and organize for flights home. (Last included night of hotel.)
Farewell Dinner with group.

Fly HOME: June 8.    Be sure you check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

Tour Price:  $ 4295  6 people minimum; 12 people maximum.

Includes the following:

  • 15 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming boutique class hotels, or good modern ones when necessary)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except lunch and dinner on 2 free days when group is scattered.
  • TWO interior flights: to Tokat and to Bergama
  • All ground transportation by private, high-top Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport on set arrival and departure dates
  • English-speaking, licensed Turkish native guide
  • Cooking class and lunch in private home
  • Entrance to all historical sights on the itinerary
  • Private Tokat scarf printing workshop with your creations to take home.
  • Photo book of your adventure!

Not included: Personal items such as phone calls, internet fees [most of our hotels have free wi-fi or a computer you can use]; laundry; overweight luggage; Turkish visa fee [$20 for U.S.]; airport transportation for airport departure; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.
Artfully arranged salad in Tokat.For more information, E-mail Cynthia: [email protected]
or call 707-939-8874.
Single Supplement: $775

*OPTIONAL hot air ballon ride: Around $200 (to be paid directly to balloon tour company in Urgup).

Adventure in Turkey

Installment #1: Adventure in Turkey with the Muchachas–‘The Girls’ from Philly
I landed in Istanbul, one of my favorite places in the world, on a sunny morning in May. The “Muchachas,” a group of friends from Pennsylvania, had asked me to lead a private textile tour of Turkey and I had arrived a few days early. Although I hadn’t yet met the ladies, they’d been delightful in all correspondence thus far, and I was looking forward to the adventure with them.


At the Kybele Hotel, the friendly owners welcomed me back. Vefa stood smiling at the desk, under colorful hanging lamps, just a few of the thousand glowing lamps that give the Kybele its cozy ambiance. The brilliant turquoise paint job outside only hints at the Bohemian atmosphere of the establishment!
The hotel is named after the Phrygian Mother Goddess or Earth Goddess, Kybele (Cybele to the Greeks). Pretty cool name for a hotel owned by three brothers!
The Kybele Hotel is full of rich colors and beautiful Ottoman-period antiques. A strong kid sprinted up the winding marble staircase with my bulging suitcase, up two floors to my room. The suitcase must weigh about a ton–with all those chocolate bars I bought in Geneva on my way to Turkey–dark chocolate with creme brulé, dark with quinoa, milk with caramel crispies, dark with nougat crunch–all easy decisions in the block-long chocolate aisle. The Swiss have as many chocolate choices as we have cereal.
I headed up Yerebatan Cadessi [Street]. Along the pedestrian street, past numerous ATMs, cafes, fancy jewelry stores, and a Starbucks…in 6 minutes I was at old stone arch leading to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, next to the Grand Bazaar. The mosque was undergoing repairs and restorations, and a serious heavy-gauge iron-roofed structure covered the walkway, protecting the faithful and the bazaar shoppers from any ancient chunks that might fall from above. Each tall, thin minaret was in a scaffolding cage and workmen tiptoed around the uppermost levels, scraping and patching.
I walked on through the huge arch, into shopper’s paradise. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with over 4,000 shops.  Construction on the bazaar began in 1455! The whole complex now also contains two mosques, two hamams [Turkish baths], four fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes. It’s also a textile collectors’ heaven. And the carpet sellers, who used to drag shoppers in by the sleeve, seem to have been re-trained to realize that tourists are more likely to buy a rug when not harangued into entering the shop and being force-fed little glasses of tea!
I was starving, after 15 hours of tiny airplane meals. I walked past long rows of shops, not pausing once to check out the sequined belly-dance outfits, hand-painted ceramic tiles, sleek leather jackets, pirated Prada bags, or the Evil Eye protector key chains. There it was! my favorite restaurant called Pedeliza, in a little courtyard, with tables all set up for lunch. Like many restaurants in Turkey, here the food is already prepared, which works perfectly for this kind of cuisine, often served at room temperature.
I looked over the selection of savory mixtures, and pointed to my lunch–a stuffed eggplant dish called “The Imam Fainted,” from pleasure I presume, since it is absolutely delicious. Another theory is that the thrifty Imam fainted when he found out how much expensive olive oil is used in the preparation… In the US, we don’t eat much eggplant and I think it’s because we don’t cook it enough; here eggplant dishes are baked in olive oil, into perfect tenderness, with tomatoes, cumin, chile and green peppers. Other eggplant dishes include cubes of lamb or ground beef, and are equally popular. The Pedeliza Restaurant is only open from noon to 3, and by that time the delicious food is GONE!

As I ate, I watched the chef at the outside corner of the restaurant, slicing thin pieces off a tower of meat, called döner kebab, literally ‘rotating roast.’ Traditionally made of lamb, döner kebab is cooked on a vertical spit and sliced off to order. A chicken version has become popular recently, and chefs sometimes layer carrots with the meat, so that the tower of succulent white meat is decorated with orange circles. I devoured my lunch more quickly than is polite, drank water from the little clear plastic container at my place, and paid the bill. Then I hurried off to find the textile stalls.