Set out on a five-day Lonely Planet Experience through Turkey, packed full of ancient monuments and local moments, and centred around a visit to the summit of sacred Mt Nemrut. Wander around a 300-year-old bazaar in Darende, stay with a local family in a small rural village, watch the sun set over the giant stone heads scattered around the mountaintop tomb of King Antiochus I, then stroll the lively streets of Istanbul with your local leader and let them show you where to get the best islak burger in town. This trip is designed so that even if you’re short on time, you can explore the backroads of Turkey and uncover all the good stuff.
Day 1 - Cappadocia/Darende
Gunaydin! Your Lonely Planet Experience begins bright and early at 8.30 am with a welcome meeting in Cappadocia. With the formalities out of the way, hop on a private bus to Darende. On the way, stop for a short walk to Gunpinar Waterfall. Arrive in Darende in the afternoon. Best known as the resting place of the contemplative Sufi Seyyid Hamid-i Veli (1331–1412), Darende was once a thriving Silk Road centre and it still a cultural hub. Explore the town centre on an orientation walk and visit the 300-year-old bazaar, where local women sit working on embroidery and other needlework. There’s also the chance to sample the area’s famous dried apricot in a local shop. Afterwards, settle in for a relaxing night in Darende.
Day 2 - Kahta Homestay
Head to the Kahta region for a unique homestay experience in a small village. Spend the afternoon playing a game of football, walking in the fields and experiencing the simple pleasures of village life. It’s possible that you may even get to pick the vegetables for your dinner! Learn about the local culture and enjoy a feast prepared by your host family. You can choose to curl up on a mattress or bunk under the stars.
Day 3 - Mt Nemrut
This morning, visit the Karakus Tumulus – a monumental tomb that King Mithradates II of the Commagene civilisation built for his mother. A handful of colossal columns remain to mark the burial place; the Romans dismantled most, with the limestone blocks used to construct the nearby Cendere Bridge. This is one of the world’s oldest bridges still in use, spanning an impressive 122 metres. Arrive in the village of Khata in the afternoon, then make the journey up to the top of Mt Nemrut. See the ruins of Arsameia – a holy burial area built by King Antiochus I in memory of his father almost 2500 years ago. At the top of the mountain, Antiochus I also constructed a tomb-sanctuary for himself and surrounded it with statues of various gods and ancestors. The size and magnitude of the colossal stone heads is stunning, and the views from the summit are sublime, especially as the sun begins to set.
Day 4 - Istanbul
Depart early this morning for the south-eastern city of Adiyaman, where you’ll board a 2-hour flight to Istanbul. Land and take the local metro and tram to tonight’s hotel in Sultanahmet. This afternoon, your tour leader will introduce you to the lively Taksim district, the beating heart of modern Istanbul. Walk across the Golden Horn in view of the medieval Galata Tower. Board one of the world’s oldest funicular railways, operating since 1875, for the short journey 500 metres to Taksim. Alight at Istiklal Caddesi, arguably the city’s most popular strolling, shopping and snacking street, and take a walk among the local people who call this city home. Try an islak burger (a burger drenched in sauce) and visit a hidden local coffee house. Maybe stay with your travel companions for an optional celebratory dinner and take advantage of the late-night entertainment.
Day 5 - Istanbul
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation any time after breakfast. If you plan to stay on to see all Istanbul has to offer – which is highly recommended – we are happy to book additional accommodation (subject to availability). Please enquire at the time of booking to see if this is an option.