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Take Me To 06.25.2024

Turkish Delight: Twelve Day Itinerary

Intro Stay Highlights itinerary

As the bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey has long held an allure for the curious traveler; in this twelve-day itinerary combining Istanbul, Bodrum, and a gulet voyage, we’ll bring you through our version of this beloved country.

With so much to uncover across the vast lands that encompass Turkey, it’s difficult to know where to begin with building an itinerary. Luckily, that’s where your SmartFlyer travel advisor comes in to simplify the planning process, helping to recommend hotels, pair you with guides matched with your travel style, and work with our local partners to ensure each moment of your trip is handled, including VIP arrivals with airport greeters, transfers, and restaurant reservations. In the case of Istanbul, you can rest assured that this itinerary will weave you through not only the cultural highlights but some hidden gems, too.

For those craving time at sea with your nearest and dearest, we’ll partner with our trusted Turkish ground operators to source a gulet tailored to your tastes, outfitted with just the right number of cabins for your travel crew. Wondering, “What’s a gulet?” well, we can help with that too! These two or three-masted wooden sailing vessels hail from the southwestern coast of Turkey and offer a unique vantage point from which to soak up the Aegean Sea. In this itinerary, we’re combining time spent at a property in Bodrum with a five-night gulet sailing. As always, our itineraries remain completely customizable; so, should you find yourself looking to venture to Cappadocia, we can add a two to three-night stay to this Istanbul and Bodrum trip.

Contributed By

SmartFlyer

Duration

11 nights, 12 days

Trip Style

Culturally enriching, culinary driven and full of sun-soaked days at sea.

We Love It For

Those looking for the “next thing” in Europe who appreciate a buzzy city met by time spent on the Mediterranean dipping into the vibest beach clubs. The gullet portion is best for groups from six to twelve; the nicest gulets typically start at six bedrooms.

Scouting Notes

Adding time in Cappadocia to see experience its hidden valleys and hot air ballooning is highly recommended; we recommend doing this before or after your time in Bodrum.

Stay

Turkey Hotel Picks

The Peninsula Istanbul

Set on the iconic shores of the Bosphorus strait, The property is home to 177 opulent guestrooms and suites, multiple dining venues serving local and international fare, plus lush gardens, indoor & outdoor swimming pools, and a full-service spa complete with hammam steam baths. Guests can also take advantage of the onsite shopping arcade, an 8,000-square-foot retail space. GALLADA & Topside Bar offers a celebratory menu inspired by the captivating flavors of ancient Silk Road cuisine from Türkiye through Central Asia to China with a vibrant atmosphere that takes you on a journey of the senses.

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Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum

Discover a Mediterranean idyll at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum. Located along Turkey’s sparkling Riviera on the aptly named Paradise Bay, this bespoke 132-room hotel stands encircled by olive groves, an exclusive beach, and a water sports center with myriad options. Wave to passing yachts from your private cabana, take a dip in one of many pools, play tennis, or join a Pilates class. A kids’ club is available and the spa provides a host of nurturing treatments, so there is something for everyone. Inspired dining options range from traditional Turkish fare to contemporary Japanese cuisine.

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Highlights

  • Soak up the wonder of both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque Day 2
  • Discover treasures at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market Day 3
  • Check out one of Bodrum's newest beach clubs Day 5
  • Lounge at Lucca Beach followed by a private boat to Maçakizi for sunset drinks and dinner Day 6
  • Board your luxury gulet and have your first dinner onboard Day 7
  • Disembark your gulet at Knidos Bay to tour Ancient Knidos Day 8
  • Have a digital-free day opting for watersports, swimming at sea, and floating while drinks are brought to you Day 9
  • Wander Datça and Try its Wines and Olive Oils Day 10

ItineraryItinerary

1 Istanbul, Turkey
Arrival Day

Welcome to Istanbul! Upon landing and deplaning, you’ll have VIP Meet & Greet Airport Service upon arrival at the Istanbul airport. You will be met at the gate of the aircraft by a VIP host(ess) with a name sign before your buggy takes you through the airport to passport control to assist with luggage and bring you to meet your local representative who will handle your transfer to your hotel. Depending on traffic, the drive to the airport could take over an hour, so consider asking your SmartFlyer travel advisor about a Bosphorus arrival via boat.

Check in to The Peninsula Istanbul and relish the sweeping waterfront views along one of the world’s most storied waterways. Depending upon how early your flight and hotel availability, your room may not be ready; fortunately, your location in the heart of the historic district of Karaköy ensures there is no shortage of shops to check out. We love starting our time here with a hearty restaurant lunch on the hotel’s terrace — be sure to check out the Turkish wine list! Perhaps after lunch, meander to the pool to beat jetlag. For a nearby dinner, consider Mürver for a buzzy vibe met by divine dishes and craft cocktails.

2 Istanbul, Turkey
Immersion into Turkish Culture: Past and Present

After a filling Turkish breakfast, you’ll meet up with your knowledgeable guide in The Peninsula Istanbul lobby. Your SmartFlyer travel advisor has worked closely with our local ground partners to ensure that your guide tailors their touring and storytelling to align with your interests, but be sure to ask lots of questions to ensure you’re maximizing their in-depth understanding of both the city’s past and present.

Your first stop this morning will be one of the two famous mosques in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia. As one of the most valuable and fascinating structures in the world of art and architecture, Hagia Sophia is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Soak up the history of this sacred place as you observe its gorgeous mosaics and domed architecture. If time allows, head opposite Hagia Sophia to visit the Blue Mosque. The six minarets of Blue Mosque create one of Istanbul’s most iconic exteriors, but walking inside reveals the true wonder — gaze up in awe of the 260 windows and still-active central space for prayer.

Stop for a local lunch on a recommendation from your guide; we love Aslan Restaurant. From here, if you’re interested in city planning and the backstory of how Istanbul was built, stop at your third site of the day: Basilica Cistern. The largest surviving Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, its symmetry and sheer grandeur of conception are quite breathtaking. Be sure to check out how one of the two Medusa sculpted columns from the Roman period was placed underneath one of them and the other in the opposite direction as you learn more about this underground network’s historical significance from your guide.

This evening, you’re set to see Istanbul from the water. Meet your guide at the hotel lobby and transfer to the pier to embark on a private motor yacht to enjoy a sunset cruise on the Bosphorus, the narrow strait of water separating the Asian and European continents and the lifeblood of Istanbul. Passing along the shores of the Bosphorus you will view magnificent palaces, restored Ottoman villas, impressive fortresses, and the waterside residences of Istanbul’s elite. Enjoy soft drinks on the motor yacht and see a different perspective of Istanbul, described by a Byzantine visitor in the 12th century as “the city of the world’s desire”. For dinner, we love Zennup1844 in Besiktas or for something more high-end, Turk by Fatik Turk which has two Michelin stars.

3 Istanbul, Turkey
Relish your final day in Istanbul

Wake up in Istanbul to soak up the treasures of this buzzing city for one final day. Today is about exploring the markets, so, after your Peninsula breakfast, sync up with your guide once more in the hotel lobby. Head over to the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world dating back to the 15th century. It is the perfect place to hunt for treasures including Turkish silver art, souvenirs, pashmina scarves, quality ceramics, bath products, leather goods, and copper items — there are 4,000 shops to choose from.

Fortunately, you’ll have your guide to help discern which vendors are of the highest quality, including some skilled pashmina weavers. If rugs are of interest, your guide can take you to learn about the art of carpet weaving upon exiting the Grand Bazaar. If you wind up falling in love with a rug, it can be shipped anywhere in the world to meet you upon your return home. With all your new treasures acquired, it’s time to head to the Spice Market.

The historical Egyptian Spice Bazaar is a colorful and mystical covered spice market lined with spice stalls on the Eminonu coast, near the Yeni Mosque, in the Historical Peninsula of Istanbul. Spices, dried fruits, cheeses, sausages, jams, nuts and seeds, Turkish delight, and other treats fill most of the shops. You are able to find about every kind of herbs and spices at the market, as well as ingredients for cooking, Turkish delight, and Turkish coffee. For lunch, Pandeli is not only right inside the walls of the market but an iconic institution that’s welcomed everyone from Queen Elizabeth the 2nd to Audrey Hepburn.

After lunch, consider returning to The Peninsula to treat yourself to a hammam experience on property. A haven of tranquility, the marble-clad lower-level spa in the hotel’s main building has two couples treatment rooms and lavish hammams where you can truly relax. Wellness offerings include massage and aromatherapy, but we recommend a traditional hammam experience. Freshen up for dinner; consider Il Cortile for an Italian walkable dinner near Galata Tower.

4 Bodrum, Turkey
Arrival to Bodrum

Check out of The Peninsula Istanbul and bid the city goodbye (for now!) as you head back to the airport for your morning departure to Bodrum. Enjoy the Turkish Airways business class lounge before your brief time in the air; you can anticipate arriving at Bodrum Airport before noon and hopping into the awaiting transfer that will bring you to your second hotel of this trip: Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum. With its idyllic position on Paradise Bay, this recently opened property offers a seductive blend of style, luxury, and comfort suited to either families traveling together, or couples.

We love starting a stay here with lunch at the Beach Club. Don’t miss the labne, and ice cream for dessert. You could opt to sit by the beach all day or do some shopping. There is a stunning collection of shops right on property, or you could head into Yalikavak Marina to peruse some of the high-end shops set along mega yachts, restaurants, and cafés. For dinner, you could check out a restaurant in the marina; Zuma is a go-to for a fun crowd and the chance to transition to post-dinner dancing.

5 Bodrum, Turkey
Sink into Bodrum Beach Club Life

You can officially breathe easy this morning knowing it’s all full relaxation mode from this point onwards. Today’s mission is to sink into beach club life; for something a bit more sceny at the brand new Scorpios in Bodrum. Your SmartFlyer travel advisor can arrange for a late seating and beach access. Alternatively, if you prefer something fully at sea, book a private boat for the day which will allow you to pop into various coves for swimming in between lunch onboard. For dinner, consider a chill night back at the Mandarin.

6 Bodrum, Istanbul
Soak up the Sun Followed by An Evening at Maçakizi

This morning, consider a private training session at the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum gym to kickstart your day. Refuel at breakfast at Mandarin and if you’re in need of further recover, opt for a day on property at Lucca Beach. For lunch, Lucca by the Sea combines a mesmerizing setting overlooking the Aegean view with Mediterranean plates. As evening approaches, get ready to head over to Maçakizi for sunset dinner and drinks. Your SmartFlyer travel advisor has arranged for a private boat transfer to the hotel; upon arrival, you can expect it to take about twenty minutes before you arrive in style to the buzzing deck beneath this beloved local haunt. Transition from the lively bar up one level to dinner overlooking the sea; don’t skip the lobster pasta.

7 Bodrum, Istanbul
Board Your Gulet

Today will be your last on land in Turkey; enjoy one final breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum before check out. If you’re keen to see Bodrum’s old town, have your driver hold onto your bags while you grab a Turkish coffee at a local cafe. Here, you can visit Bodrum Castle and the Museum of Underwater Archaeology to dig further into the region’s rich history. The gulet will welcome you and your crew from 3p. Once you’re aboard, you’ll meet your captain and the fellow crew members who will be looking after you for the next five days.

As a part of your pre-boarding, you would have already shared your provisions list preferences with your SmartFlyer travel advisor. So, from the moment you board, the food and beverage options are sure to align with what you love, right down to your favorite drinks. Celebrate embarkation with aperitifs, snacks, and a wave goodbye to mainland. From the moment you depart, you can opt to pop into coves to swim, with your playlist unfurling from the boat as dinner is prepared. Settle in for your first night at sea with the soft waves of Aquarius Bay rocking you to sleep.

8 Knidos, Turkey
Your First Full Day at Sea

Wake up on the glittering water to enjoy breakfast prepared to your liking including fresh pastries, fruits, and delectable Turkish fixings. Be sure to fuel up as today, you’re going to dock in the bay off Knidos. There are plenty of divey beach bars where you could peel off for a beer, or, head straight to meet your guide on land. Dig into your ninety-minute guided tour of Ancient Knidos to marvel at the impressive remains of the Temple of Apollo, including the ancient Amphitheater and panoramic view of the Aegean Sea. Return to the gulet for lunch aboard your home away from home. After lunch, cruise to Inceburun Cove where you can go for a swim or just enjoy a serene night on your gulet. Dinner will be served whenever you feel like it! You’ll spend the night anchored here.

9 Lost at Sea
Disconnect from Wifi, Reconnect to Yourself

Today is meant to get you feeling fully present. Some of our favorite days onboard are the ones with no disembarkation, and this is one of them. Amuse yourself with one of the ample games onboard or crack open that book you’ve been meaning to make a dent into. If you’re craving more of an adventure, take out the jetski, do SUP paddle boarding, go kayaking, or float about as the crew brings you drinks directly in the water. Queue up your playlist on the onboard sound system as you ease into dinner.

10 Datça, Turkey
Explore Datça

Following a delightful lunch, set sail to Datça Village Pier where your driver and guide will be ready to guide you through this picturesque village. Datça town offers shopping and ample cafés to wander into, so it’s an excellent place for a brief walk and window into the life of rural Turkey a hundred years ago. For lunch, we love Palaia Hotel where you can savor the offerings of a renowned chef.

For wine lovers, we recommend taking part in a wine tasting to experience the distinctive terroir of Datça’s renowned vineyards. Every glass invites you to savor the essence of the enchanting Turkish wine region. You’ll have the chance to check out olive oils sourced directly from the fertile groves of the region. Return to the gulet for dinner under the moonlight where you’ll keep the Turkish wine flowing.

11 Merdivenli Bay, Turkey
Final Day of Onboard Fun

Today marks your last day aboard the gulet, so make the most of it! After breakfast, relish in the captivating two-hour cruise to Merdivenli Bay where azure waters meet golden sands in perfect harmony. Lunch will be served on your gulet upon arrival to Merdivenli Bay. As you soak up the sun, take in the coastal vistas and immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. Over your final dinner of the trip, swap stories with your friends recounting favorite moments from this epic gulet voyage.

12 Bodrum, Turkey
Head Home

This morning, you’ll sail to Bodrum Harbor for disembarkation. Bid farewell to the crew, bringing along with you unforgettable memories of your Turkish adventure. A private car will bring you to the Bodrum Airport where you will head back home via Istanbul.

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