Day 1: Welcome to Istanbul! Transfer to the Istanbul Hotel Shangri-La and check in, then spend the rest of the day at leisure. Your hotel is ideally situated in the Besiktas entertainment district, just a short walk away from the Dolmabahce Palace and Nisantasi’s upscale boutiques. Then again, you may want to treat yourself to a hammam in the hotel’s spa or simply soak in the views over the Bosphorus Straits.
Hotel: Istanbul Hotel Shangri-La
Day 2: The Sultanahmet or Old City is the heart and soul of Istanbul, and your guided tour takes you to many of its most important treasures. Everything here centers around the Byzantine Hippodrome or Sultanahmet Square and its 3,500-year-old Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius. Gaze at the famous minarets and domes atop Blue Mosque before stepping inside; the Ottoman-era mosque features more than 21,000 hand-painted tiles in myriad patterns. Then cross the street to the massive Hagia Sophia — once the largest church in Christendom — to view its exquisite Byzantine mosaics. Next door stands Topkapi Palace, residence of the Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years. Visit the Imperial Treasury collection and infamous Harem Quarters, and peek at the palace’s collection of more than 10,000 Chinese porcelain pieces.
Enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading to the mammoth Grand Bazaar, the largest covered market in the world and the ultimate shopping experience. Every item imaginable is for sale in its 4,000 shops and stalls, spread across 75 acres. After practicing your bartering skills, fly to Kayseri in central Turkey and check in at the Cappadocia Cave Resort Hotel, your home for the next two nights. The unique hotel offers uninterrupted views over the stunning Red Valley — perfect for watching Cappadocia’s mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets. It also features the region’s only cave spa-therapy rooms and guestrooms carved into the millennia-old rocks.
Hotel: Cappadocia Cave Resort Hotel
Day 3: Cappadocia’s surreal landscape of soft tufa spires, pinnacles, and fairy chimneys stretches for some 50 square miles of Turkey’s Anatolia region. Shaped by ancient volcanic eruptions and millions of years of wind and rain erosion, Cappadocia’s cliffs and underground caves have been inhabited since the Paleolithic Era and offered refuge to early Christians escaping persecution from Rome. Beginning in the 4th century, monks excavated extensive troglodyte communities including rock-hewn monasteries, living quarters, and churches adorned with beautiful Byzantine murals. More than 30 underground cave-cities were created, and today you explore the largest, Kaymakli. Navigate its low, narrow passages over multiple floors, marveling at its stables, wineries, kitchen, nave, and altars. Above ground, the Zelve Archaeological Site reveals one of the most important troglodytic Christian communities, built into the area’s famous fairy chimneys that reach over 130 feet in height. The site features a seten or mill for making bulgur, a winery and a monastery complex, along with churches and a mosque.
Enjoy lunch before visiting the Göreme Valley Open Air Museum, which comprises several troglodyte monastic centers complete with refectories and rock-cut churches covered with stunning frescoes. Return to the hotel and relax before an early evening Whirling Dervish performance and dinner at a Saruhan caravanserai, an inn for ancient traders and travelers. As a branch of Sufism, the Order of the Whirling Dervishes believes in the universality of all things, and their highly symbolic spinning unites them in a rapturous love with all humanity.
Hotel: Cappadocia Cave Resort Hotel
Day 4: After breakfast, fly back to Istanbul for a tour of the Mısır Çarşısı or Spice Bazaar. Built in 1664, the atmospheric market displays mounds of exotic spices; consider taking home some Turkish mainstays like pul biber (a dried red pepper), burgundy-colored sumac, and Çörek otu or Nigella seeds, often sprinkled atop baked goods. Enjoy lunch before transferring to the port and your Seabourn ship for embarkation.