Istanbul | Bursa | Sirince | Ephesus | Aegean Cruise Kusadasi | Pamukkale | Konya | Hacibektas | Cappadocia | Ozkonak Underground City | Istanbul
One of the world’s best-known poets, Jalal al-Din Rumi was a Sufi mystic, philosopher and Islamic theologian whose humanist message of universal love, devotion and tolerance have left a spiritual legacy that has transcended faith, language and geography. His teachings have inspired millions of readers and became the base for the Mevlevi Order, whose disciples are known today as the Whirling Dervishes.
This expedition takes in the stunning highlights of Turkey with an in-depth exploration of the life of Rumi. Led by an expert on Sufism and comparative religion, we journey into the mysterious realm of mysticism and examine the exceptional spiritual path taken by Rumi, a path that caused tension within his own community and the wider Islamic religion. Exclusive meetings with Turkish Sufi scholars, visits to ancient Dervish lodges and witnessing mesmerising Whirling Dervish ceremonies helps us peel back the layers of this master storyteller and the traditions he represents, allowing us to gain a unique insight into Rumi’s iconic poetry.
Our broader look at the history, religions, landscapes and culinary treasures of Turkey takes us on a wealth of adventures, including visits to extraordinary Roman ruins and some of the most magnificent mosques and cathedrals ever built.
Every Arcadia expedition provides you insider access to the most unforgettable and thought-provoking local experiences, curated exclusively by us for our travellers. Here are some of the Arcadia Exclusives on this trip:
Day 01 – Arrive Istanbul
Upon arrival into Istanbul, you are met at the airport by an Arcadia representative, who will transfer you by private vehicle to your hotel.
After our 6pm group meeting, we begin our Turkish culinary journey in style with a sumptuous welcome dinner at the Ciragan Palace for the ultimate Ottoman dining experience. With breathtaking views of the Bosphorus, this former Sultan’s palace has a unique menu that draws inspiration from recipes found in the archives of historic sites such as Topkapi Palace.
Pera Palace Hotel | Meals: D
Day 02 – Istanbul
Istanbul is one of the world’s most beautiful and historically important cities. Throughout its many incarnations as Byzantium, Constantinople and up to the present-day metropolis of modern Istanbul, its strategically important position at the junction of Europe and Asia has for centuries placed it at the heart of politics, religion and culture in the region. The defeat here of the Emperor Constantine by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 transformed the holiest city in eastern Christendom to an Islamic stronghold. For Sufi’s, places of worship began to flourish in Istanbul shortly after, peaking at around 700 dervish lodges at the height of the Ottoman era.
For the next two days we trace the evolution of this fabled city, exploring sites from both of the great Empires and examining in depth the role of religion in each. We begin by visiting one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in Istanbul, the awe-inspiring Sulemaniye Camii mosque. Its immense scale was designed to glorify the sultan who commissioned it, Sulyeman the Magnificent. After visiting the colourful spice markets, we then wander the labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world.
Lunch in the old quarter of Sultanahmet is followed by an exploration of the mesmerising Topkapi Palace. Built to serve as the Sultans residence and the political headquarters of the Ottoman Empire, the palace is situated on a spectacular site that was once the old acropolis of Byzantium. We wander its airy courtyards and secluded gardens, visiting the Imperial Harem and the Treasury, home to some important religious relics and manuscripts.
This afternoon we visit Haghia Sophia, the great 6th-century patriarchal basilica of eastern Christianity. Upon completion in 537 CE, it was the world’s largest building and an engineering marvel of it’s time that changed the history of architecture. It is said that Mehmet II went straight to Haghia Sophia after his defeat of Constantine and soon after it was converted to an Ottoman imperial mosque.
Pera Palace Hotel | Meals: B,L
Day 03 – Istanbul
This morning we stroll around the Roman built Hippodrome, and visit the striking Blue Mosque, the last of the great mosques built during the Classical period.
The curator of the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum will take us on a private tour of this former palace, which once belonged to Ibrahim Pasha, the Grand Vizier of Sulyeman the Magnificent. The museum has an outstanding collection of Islamic calligraphy, tiles, rugs and artefacts.
Crossing the Golden Horn, we visit the Galata Mevlevi House, an ideal venue to begin our examination of Sufism – the mystical form of Islam that for centuries has shaped and preserved some of the finest examples of traditional Islamic art, music and literature. Banned in Turkey nearly 100 years ago by the secular leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Sufism is still an intellectual, spiritual, and cultural force in the country.
This former dervish lodge of Rumi’s Mevlevi order was built in 1491 and ceased to function following Atatürk’s 1925 ban. It is now a museum housing displays of Sufi clothing, turbans, instruments and ceremonial accessories. With the help of our Expedition Leader, we will learn more about the meaning and function of these artefacts and the spiritual traditions of Sufism.
Tonight, we go on a unique culinary adventure as we discover the hidden gems of Istanbul’s thriving street food scene. Sampling a variety of tasty treats from food carts, traditional taverns and street café’s, our walking tour takes us to small alleyways and secret spots known only to locals.
Pera Palace Hotel | Meals: B,D
Day 04 – Istanbul
Choose your own adventure
This morning our travellers can choose from the following included options in Istanbul:
This tour visits Small Projects of Istanbul, a local NGO supporting the integration of displaced Syrian families into their new home in Turkey. We meet with some of the brave individuals who have had to flee their war-torn homeland and the volunteers who give up their time to help them find their feet. Our visit concludes with a delicious Syrian lunch proudly prepared by the ladies of the centre.
Walking Tour of Balat & Fener
Explore a different side of Istanbul on this walking tour of Balat and Fener, two trendy suburbs on the shores of the Golden Horn rarely visited by travellers. Arriving by ferry, we stroll vibrant cobblestone streets and gain a glimpse into the life of its bohemian residents. Crumbling mansions, hip cafes and a bourgeoning design and art scene make this colourful area a fascinating place to discover.
Few cities in the world are blessed with such stunningly beautiful waterways as Istanbul. Cruising up the Bosphorus between two continents, gazing upon the panorama of the Istanbul skyline, is the perfect way to see this amazing city in all its glory. The shores are lined with palaces and mosques, whilst further afield, sleepy fishing villages sit amongst the green hills.
This afternoon you have free time to explore more of the wonders of Istanbul.
Pera Palace Hotel | Meals: B
Day 05 – Bursa
We leave Istanbul this morning and drive to Bursa, an historically important centre for silk trading in both Byzantine and Ottoman times. Our walking tour of the well-preserved city centre takes in the Grand Mosque, a 20-domed structure built in the Seljuk architectural style, the Grand Bazaar and the Koza Han, an Ottoman silk market from the 15th Century. You will then have some free time to wander these atmospheric streets on your own.
This afternoon we are in for a real treat as we join some local musicians for a jam session in a small underground tea house. Locals from the neighbourhood bring their instruments here each day, playing an upbeat form of Turkish folk music. We then enjoy a dinner of the delicious Bursa specialty, Iskender Kebab.
This evening we go behind-the-scenes at a community Dervish lodge in the suburbs of Bursa. Before the public whirling ceremony begins, we have curated a private audience with some of the lodges Sufi devotees. Dedicated followers of Rumi, we talk with them about their cultural traditions, their interpretation of Sufism and the importance of Rumi in their religion and daily lives.
Moving to the main lodge, we witness an authentic sema ceremony, the Sufi whirling dervish ritual performed here each night for the local community. Unlike the majority of dervish ceremonies in Turkey, where the performers are paid to perform for tourists, the performers in this lodge are undertaking the ritual for themselves. As such, the atmosphere builds to an emotional crescendo, with some performers overcome with a trance-like state of ecstasy as they seek a closer connection to God.
Blue Bay Celik Palace Hotel | Meals: B,D
Day 06 – Selçuk & Sirince
We travel south today to the town of Selcuk, where we visit the ruins of the 6th Century Basilica of St John, believed to have been built on the sight of John the Apostle’s tomb.
We have organised the special experience of meeting the imam from Selcuk’s Isa Bey Mosque. We hear about his life, the role he plays in the local religious community and learn from him about the history and architecture of this beautiful building, whose layout is based on the Great Mosque of Damascus.
We take a short drive to the gorgeous village of Sirince, our home for the next three nights and the ideal base for our explorations of Ephesus and the Aegean.
Nisanyan Hotel | Meals: B
Day 07 – Ephesus
This morning we venture to the ancient city of Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site whose magnificent restorations and free-standing remains make it one of the most rewarding remnants of the ancient world to visit.
Ephesus was a major seat of the regional Roman governor. At its height it was second only to Rome as a centre of culture and commerce. It played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity, with major Biblical figures such as Mary, St John and St Paul spending time here, admonishing the cult of Artemis to win over many Christian converts. The port city became a popular pilgrimage destination and, to this day, sites such as the Library of Celsus, the monumental amphitheatre and the stunning mosaics of the terrace houses bring wonder to all who visit.
After a lunch of Turkish Gozleme and a visit to the Ephesus Archaeological Museum, this afternoon is free for you to explore further or laze by the marble pool in the tranquil setting of your hilltop hotel.
Nisanyan Hotel | Meals: B,L
Day 08 – Aegean Cruise - Kusadasi
Today we take a relaxing break from the road and spend a full day cruising the serene waters of the Aegean Sea on a private gulet, a traditional Turkish boat.
Leaving from the coastal resort town of Kusadasi, we sail to secluded bays, take rejuvenating swims in the crystal-clear waters and feast on and Turkish mezes and seafood.
Nisanyan Hotel | Meals: B,L
Day 09 – Pamukkale
Driving east this morning, today we visit one of Turkey’s great natural wonders, the white terraces of Pamukkale. Made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited from hot springs, this mineral-rich water has been used for its restorative properties since antiquity.
The Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was built on top of the petrified waterfalls in 190 BCE. We will visit the Roman baths and temples of this ancient healing centre and marvel at its 12,000-seat theatre.
Our hotel this afternoon is the perfect place to follow in the ancient traditions of the area, with 2 of its 5 swimming pools naturally heated by thermal waters.
Doga Thermal Hotel | Meals: B,D
Day 10 – Pamukkale > Konya
We continue our eastern path today, a long drive through central Anatolia punctuated by a lunch stop beside the picturesque shores of Lake Beysehir. In the early afternoon, we arrive to one of the highlights of our expedition, Konya, the former capital of the Seljuk Sultanate and the spiritual home of Rumi and his followers.
Rumi arrived into Konya as a boy in the early years of the 13th Century, fleeing the Mongol invasion of the Persian Empire with his family. He spent most of his life here. Konya was a cosmopolitan city during Rumi’s time, home to many religions, languages and a highly educated elite.
Our time in Konya will be spent delving into Rumi’s story and placing the celebrated poet in the context of his time and place. Rumi was alive during one of the great creative periods of the medieval Islamic world. We explore the impact of his exploratory journey on the history of Islam, a journey that for some pushed heretical boundaries. And, of course, we examine Rumi’s extraordinary literary works, looking at the sources of inspiration for his timeless poetry, whose influence has remained undiminished through the centuries.
Tonight, we witness a different style of whirling dervish ceremony, watching a spellbinding Sema performance at Konya’s grand Mevlana Cultural Centre. We dine in style this evening in the shadow of the Mevlana Museum at one of Konya’s best traditional restaurants.
Dedeman Konya Hotel | Meals: B,L,D
Day 11 – Konya
Our first stop this morning is the Mevlana Museum, a former dervish lodge and the site of Rumi’s mausoleum. Topped by its distinctive turquoise-tiled cylindrical dome, the museum has become a place of pilgrimage for people of all creeds. We pay our respects at the tomb of Rumi and explore the displays of the Ritual Hall which include some of Rumi’s personal possesions and two fine specimens of his final work dated from 1278, the Masnavi, often referred to as ‘the Quran in Persian’.
Next we visit a local workshop to gain an insight into how the distinctive dervish hats are made by master felt craftsmen. Known as sikke, these tall brown hats symbolise the tombstone of the ego.
We then explore the relationship between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, the mysterious travelling mystic who became Rumi’s spiritual mentor. The intense bond between the two was the catalyst for Rumi to go through different stages of self-discovery and it was at this time he began to write his poetry. Rumi’s work was distinguished from his contemporaries through a unique fusion of the instinctive love for God he found in Sufism with the mystical beliefs he learned from Shams. Thoughts from our Expedition Leader and a visit to the tomb of Shams will guide our discussions.
Tonight, we dine at a special local restaurant, where the cuisine is based on traditional Seljuk and Sufi recipes.
Dedeman Konya Hotel | Meals: B,D
Day 12 – Konya
The architectural legacy of the Seljuk’s endures in Konya and this morning we take in some of the glorious Seljuk monuments that Rumi would have known and visited.
With its grand portal and sky-blue tile work, the Ince Minare Medrese was a theological college dating from 1267 and is one of Konya’s most impressive Seljuk architectural masterpieces. We also visit Karatay Medrese, which is today the Museum of Tiles and Ceramics, and the Alaaddin Mosque, where Rumi often prayed, and whose cemetery holds tombs of Seljuck Sultans who sought his spiritual guidance.
This afternoon is free to allow you time to reflect on our learnings.
Dedeman Konya Hotel | Meals: B
Day 13 – Hacibektas > Cappadocia
Leaving Konya this morning, we make our first stop at Sultan Han, a large 13th Century Seljuk caravanserai that housed travellers on the Silk Road.
We then head to the religious complex of Haji Bektash Veli, the renowned Turkish philosopher and Sufi saint who was a contemporary of Rumi. Like Rumi, Bektashi was known for his great tolerance and humanitarian character. He was the founder of Bektashism, a religious order of Alevism, and was influential in the establishment of the Ottoman Empire.
Our visit here gives us the opportunity to learn about a different sect of Sufism. Accompanied by a Bektashi devotee, we see the contrast to Rumi’s Mevlevi order and witness the Bektashi version of the sema ritual, one of the very few ceremonies in the Muslim world where men and women dance together.
After checking in to our luxury hotel in Cappadocia, we are hosted for a special home-cooked dinner in the cave house of a local woman, who will share with us her experiences of growing up in this remarkable abode and living in this unique troglodyte community.
Exedra Cappadocia | Meals: B, D
Day 14 – Cappadocia
The breathtaking lunar landscapes, magical fairy chimneys and incredible underground cities of Cappadocia have made it a firm favourite amongst travellers for centuries. Out of the extraordinarily beautiful valleys of soft volcanic tufa, humans have made their mark since ancient times, carving out a myriad of dwellings, chapels, monasteries and cellars.
Today we explore the very best of Cappadocia’s many sights. You may choose to take an unforgettable optional balloon ride (weather dependant, not included in tour price) for sunrise. We then discover the remarkable open-air museum at Goreme. Thousands of people once lived in this picturesque valley, including Christian hermits in search of seclusion. The ancient frescoes of their tiny churches, hand cut into the soft rock, are of some of the finest examples of Byzantine wall art anywhere in the world.
We scramble through the tunnels of Uchisar Castle, a rocky volcanic outcrop used by villagers to flee from invading armies and walk amongst the outstanding scenery of the Monks and Love Valleys. We witness a pottery demonstration in a workshop that was once part of an underground city and have a go at making our own piece of art from the local clay.
Exedra Cappadocia | Meals: B, L
Day 15 – Cappadocia > Ozkonak Underground City
Deep below the ground of the Cappadocian region, there are dozens of underground cities that were hollowed out of the tufa by local communities looking to escape enemy attacks.
This morning we venture to Ozkonak, one of the most impressive of these phenomenal cities. Discovered in 1972 by a local farmer, Ozkonak was most likely built by the Byzantines. The immense underground network of tunnels, water wells, ventilation systems and traps is spread over 10 floors and could house up to 60,000 people for a 3-month period.
Following our visit to Ozkonak, we stop in at a family-run carpet workshop to learn more about this important local craft. The rest of the day is at leisure for you to enjoy the serene surrounds of your cave hotel or to take on some more adventures in Cappadocia.
Exedra Cappadocia | Meals: B
Day 16 – Cappadocia > Istanbul
We return to where our journey began this morning, heading back to Istanbul on a domestic flight.
This afternoon is free to savour one last taste of this mesmerising city, an ideal time to stroll through a new neighbourhood or do some last-minute shopping.
At our farewell dinner this evening, we may allow ourselves a little introspection as we reflect on our time as part of this unique expedition.
Pera Palace Hotel | Meals: B,D
Day 17 – Depart Istanbul
With the expedition coming to an end, take a private transfer to the airport or embark on further adventures.
Istanbul Princes Islands stay
Escape the bustle of the city for a relaxing two-night self-guided getaway to these charming islands, just an hour’s ferry ride from Istanbul. With no motorised vehicles on the islands, travel is by foot, bicycle and horse-drawn carriage. Take in the stunning views, feast on fresh seafood and unwind by the beautiful Sea of Marmara.
Mount Nemrut Adventure
Fly from Istanbul to Adiyaman in Eastern Turkey on a 4-day trip to visit one of the country’s most spectacular and ancient sites – Mount Nemrut. We make our way to the top of this extraordinary 1st Century BCE mountaintop mausoleum, strewn with colossal stone head sculptures, for a memorable sunrise.
Gallipoli & Troy
Embark on this fascinating two-day private tour to the battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula and the legendary site of Troy. At Gallipoli, visit the trenches and memorial sites of this historic World War I battleground with an expert guide and then tour the excavated ruins of ancient Troy.
This 5-day adventure takes in the best of beautiful Northern Cyprus, visiting the key towns of Nicosia, Famagusta and Kyrenia. Dine at local mezze restaurants, tour ancient Byzantine monasteries and take a relaxing sunset cruise on the glittering Mediterranean Sea.
Seemi is a Sufi scholar with specialisations in the history of religion, comparative mysticism, gender studies and Islamic literature, culture and spirituality. She has a special interest in the life, teachings and poetry of Rumi. For over 25 years, Seemi has lectured internationally at Rumi themed festivals and workshops and has given performances reciting his poetry both in English and the original Farsi. As a Founding Board Member of the Vancouver Rumi Society, Seemi has hosted and introduced the annual Sema ceremony of the whirling dervishes.
Deeply involved in interfaith work, including at The Centre for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, Seemi teaches Classical Arabic at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Born in London to North Indian Muslim parents, Seemi was raised and educated throughout America and the Middle East, including at Duke University, King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia and The American University in Cairo. As a teacher with Indian and Turkish Sufi lineages, Seemi has a unique ability to illuminate the symbolism and spiritual meaning of Sufi traditions.
Seemi is also a poet and memoirist and has trained in Western classical voice as well as Qur’anic recitation. She has performed scripture and devotional poetry in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Turkish from Cape Town to Istanbul to the United Nations. She has lectured widely and her interviews and performances have been featured on NPR, CBC and the BBC documentary Islam: Empire of Faith.
Pera Palace Hotel
This heritage-listed hotel is one of the most sumptuous properties in Istanbul. A blend of neo-classical, art nouveau and oriental styles, the hotel was established in 1892 for the purpose of hosting passengers of the Orient Express. Room 101 was frequented by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and is now a museum showcasing many of his personal items.
Situated in the picturesque historic village of Sirence, in the olive-covered hills above Ephesus, this refined rustic hotel has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Each of the stylishly decorated rooms have verandas and garden terraces with views of the surrounding area.
This luxury hotel has a wonderful atmosphere and offers exceptional views of Ortahisar Rock Castle, the Balkan Valley and the fairy chimneys. Incorporating both ancient cave dwellings and restored houses, each room is different and retains original touches such as fireplaces and storage alcoves.
- Domestic flight as per itinerary
- Meals as per itinerary (17 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 8 dinners) including welcome and farewell dinners
- Private airport transfers (arrival and departure)
- Accommodation as stated on a twin-share basis
- Porterage at airports and hotels
- All land transport by private air-conditioned vehicle
- Services of an Arcadia Expedition Leader and English-speaking local guide throughout
- Sightseeing as specified including entrance fees to sites mentioned in itinerary
- Reusable responsible travel water bottle with daily drinking water provided
- Gratuities/tipping for local guides, drivers, hotel staff and restaurants for included meals
- All taxes
- Return international flights
- Passport and visa charges
- Items of a purely personal nature (i.e. telephone calls, laundry etc)
- Excess luggage
- Lunch and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in itinerary
- Travel insurance
- Optional balloon ride in Cappadocia