Hellespont: Gateway of Legends (Turkey)

Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus and Istanbul

Trip Scholar: Professor Peter Sarris

Professor of Late Antique, Medieval and Byzantine Studies, University of Cambridge
Available to Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, family and friends

8 day tour
Price from £1,695

Tour date 24 Sept – 1 October 2023

The Sea of Marmara divides Europe from Asia in a straight known as the Hellespont or Dardanelles,  and is part of the only passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, making it the focus of military ambition since the Bronze Age.  Immersing ourselves in this geographically pivotal region, explore the fascinating history of the cities surrounding the Sea of Marmara, from the classical legends of Troy to the straight’s Byzantine importance as a source of revenue and defence for Constantinople, and in modern history, the disasterous Allied invasion of Gallipoli.   The Trojan War, known in the ancient world for the epic struggle between the Achaeans and the people of the Hellespont, is the stuff of legend and literature and recent excavations at Troy help bring the site to life.  At Gallipoli, discover the significance of the Dardanelles in WWI, sparking the Gallipoli landings and a battle masterminded by Churchill against Attaturk.  The tour is bookended with a stay in Istanbul at the start – a reminder of the might of the Byzantines and Ottomans at Constantine’s glittering capital, Constantinople, and with visits to the magnificent ancient cities of Pergamon and Ephesus at the end.

Note:   Please also note that in consultation with our trip scholar, Dr Sarris, we have substituted the originally planned visit to Iznik/Nicea for visits to Pergamon and Ephesus,  which we believe will greatly enhance the itinerary.

The price of this tour has changed since it was originally advertised in the University of Cambridge’s ‘Unbound’ Magazine and alumni website in July 2022. This is due to significant exchange rate fluctuations since publication. We have factored in future forecasted rate changes at this stage in order to try avoid the possibilty of needing to surcharge next year,  but can’t absolutely guarantee there will be no future surcharges.  As per our legal obligations would absorb the first 2% of any future exchange rate changes and clients have the right to cancel with a full refund if surcharges surpass 10% of the trip cost. 

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Tour highlights

  • Marvel at the jewels and palaces of the Ottoman sultans at Istanbul, and the Byzantine legacy still so evident today
  • Visit the remains of Troy, scene of the infamous Trojan War for control of the Dardanelles in antiquity
  • Visit the ANZAC battlefields at Gallipoli and learn how the Allied defeat helped shape modern Turkey
  • Delight in Assos, en evocative Hellenistic city and the lofty site of Pergamon, a city which once rivalled Alexandria.
  •  Follow in the footsteps of St Paul and St John in Ephesus, the most important classical trading city in the Mediterranian.


Ephesus theatre Davd Mark from Pixabay

Itinerary at a glance (click on the itinerary tab for full details)

Day 1:    Tour starts in Istanbul  |  Check into hotel from 14:00 |  Welcome dinner
Day 2:    Walking tour of Sultanahmet  |  Visit Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome  |  See the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace
Day 3:    Drive along the Sea of Marmara to the Hellespont  |  Cross to Asiatic side by ferry
Day 4:    Visit ANZAC Battlefields of Gallipoli  |  Poignant visits to Kabatepe War Museum, Anzac Cove and Lone Pine Memorial
Day 5:    Explore the remains at Troy  |  Afternoon at leisure
Day 6:    Visit the site of Alexander Troas  |  Continue to Assos to see the acropolis with spectactular views  |  Drive to Ayvalik
Day 7:    Morning visit to Ancient Pergamon   |  Afternoon visit to Ephesus  | Continue to charming Greek town of Sirince
Day 8:    Tour ends after breakfast  |  Those on TW’s recommended flights will transfer to Izmir airport for direct flight to London

Dates and Prices
Prices are in UK£, per person, based on double occupancy

24 September - 1 October 2023
Room TypePriceSingle SupplementTurkish Airlines directAvailability
Standard£1,695£320Approx £350 returnWaitlist - please call

Twin or double bedded hotel room with ensuite bathroom (3-4* boutique), daily breakfast, lunches on Days 2-7, dinners every evening except Day 2 and Day 8, all excursions with local guides including entrance fees, vehicles, expert leader.    Also included are return group airport transfers if arriving/departing on Temple World’s recommended flights.

Single occupancy supplement for solo travellers in twin/double room £320

Transport to and from Turkey (see optional flights below), Turkish visa or evisa if required, dinner on day 2, meals on the arrival day except dinner, or on the departure day except breakfast, drinks,  private airport transfers if required, travel insurance,  tips to local guides/porters, items of a personal nature (ie souvenirs, snacks)

Optional flights
Temple World can arrange flights to co-ordinate with this tour.  As a guide the cost for return flights with Turkish Airlines is from £350 return from London, but airfares are subject to availability and pricing at the time of booking.  Our preferred flights are TK1980 from Heathrow to Istanbul on 24 Sep 2020 (dep 11:25) and TK2319 and TK1971  from Izmir to Heathrow on 01 October (dep 11:55, connecting in Istanbul).  We will arrange a group transfer for all travellers arriving/departing on these flights.

Turkish Airlines flies from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Stansted and Edinburgh to Istanbul IST airport direct.  Flights are also available into Istanbul SAW airport (this is now the closest to the city) from London.   Turkish Airlines flights from Izmir back to the UK will be via Istabul.  Pegasus also flies direct from Manchester to Istanbul and from Izmir to Manchester or London Stansted direct.    Direct flights from Izmir to London are also available via some other low-cost airlines but unfortunately we can’t book those for you.  We can quote and book just the one-way outbound flight with Turkish Airlines or BA to Istanbul if you wish to book your own inbound flight with a low-cost carrier.

If combining this tour with a private extension to Cappadocia we would arrange flights from Izmir to Cappadocia on 01 October and flights from Cappadocia back to the UK via Istanbul if you would like to include flights.    For beach extensions ending in Bodrum there are often direct flights from Bodrum to London so we would investigate those for you.

As a price guide the return cost for the main group flights shown from London Heathrow is about £350 return per person, but early booking may allow us to find cheaper fares.

Please contact us for assistance or advice regarding flights.

Booking your own travel
Clients who would like to travel using airmiles as payment for the ticket/upgrades, or who wish to fly on a low-cost carrier are advised to book their own flights as we are not able to book these types of tickets on behalf of clients.   If arriving/departing at a different time to the main group you will not be able to take part in the group transfer to/from the airports however we will be happy to arrange and quote for private transfers to meet any flight time if required.

VERY IMPORTANT! Those making their own arrangements should check with us before making any binding or non-refundable flight arrangements, firstly because the tour departure is not guaranteed until we reach minimum numbers, and secondly to obtain advice that the proposed flights will work with start/finish times of the tour. 

Accommodation on this tour will be at mix of very good 3 star and boutique 4* hotels. In Istanbul we’ll be staying in a boutique hotel in the heart of Istanbul’s UNESCO World Heritage Listed old quarter, Sultanhamet.  Sights such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Roman Hippodrome and Topkapi Palace will all be within walking distance. In Canakkale the hotel is nominally a three star but rooms and common areas are modern and well-decorated along the lines of a good comfortable four star – the hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant so can’t claim to be a four star purely because of this (there is a restaurant right next door).  Accommodation in Bergama is of a poor standard so we’ve opted to stay in the seaside town of Ayvalik instead before visiting Pergamon, which is on the way. We’ve opted for a four star hotel with a bit of character.  Lastly, our last night will be spent in the charming Greek village of Sirince at the Kirkinca Houses, a special class of hotel housed in historic buildings with traditional furnishings and bags of charm. Each room is a bit different and the hotel, being a collection of houses originally, is quite unusual (and there are a fair amount of steps) but the hospitality here is wonderful.



No vaccinations are usually recommended for most straightforward touristic visits to Turkey,  as long as travellers are up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. See your GP or travel health professional at least 4-6 weeks before travel for advice tailored to your personal requirements, as some people may be recommended to have certain precautionary vaccinations depending on their personal health.


Entry Regulations
Most nationalities including USA and Australian passport holders require a visa to enter Turkey.  UK passport holders are currently exempt and do not need a visa.  The previous system of visa on arrival has now closed, so if you need a visa it is essential to get an e-Visa online before travel through the official Republic of Turkey e-Visa website.   The cost of an e-Visa varies depending on the passport you hold. You can pay by credit or debit card. If you use this option, you should apply at least 48 hours before travel and can do so up to 3 months in advance.
Foreign Office Advice

Fitness Guideline
We have graded the fitness level required for participation in this tour as Moderate.

This is a a busy itinerary with a lot to see, most of which is on foot.  There are no hikes but whilst sightseeing we might be ‘on the go’ for several hours at a time, without long breaks to sit down and rest.  There will be some longer coach journeys at points during the tour.  It is important that everyone is able to keep up with the group during walking tours, as Istanbul’s streets and sights are busy with locals and tourists,  so we do need to stick together and keep to a certain pace to see everything as planned.   Archaeological sites visited often don’t have well-made paths and it can be uneven underfoot with loose gravel and various trip hazards from fallen blockwork.  Most are not accessible for weelchair users, and some are on hillsides.  As a general rule we would say that if you rely on a stick, frame or walker to get around your home or neighbourhood, this tour probably is not suitable unless you request a separate private guide for excursions.  We can arrange this on request, at extra cost.  Please contact us for advice if you are at all unsure if this tour is for you.

Trip Scholar
Professor Peter Sarris, F.R.Hist.S., Professor of Late Antique, Medieval, and Byzantine Studies, University of Cambridge
Peter Sarris read Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford (1990-93), after which he was elected to a Prize Fellowship (by examination) at All Souls College, Oxford (where he was a Fellow from 1993 to 2006). He moved to Cambridge as a University Lecturer and Fellow of Trinity College in 2000, and has held Visiting Fellowships at Rice University, Texas, and the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, Washington D.C. (Harvard University). Professor Sarris is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies and Director of the Virtual Centre for Late Antiquity.  He has published extensively on the social, economic and legal history of Late Antiquity, the Early Middle Ages and Byzantium, with a particular focus on the political economy of the East Roman Empire from the fourth to sixth centuries, the transmission of Roman economic and legal culture, and the background to the rise of Islam. His current research focuses on the development of Eurasian trading networks between Constantinople, Persia, Central Asia and China, and also on the emergent contours of the ‘confessional state’ in the age of Justinian.  Professor Sarris is an engaging lecturer who has proved a popular trip scholar on previous Alumni tours.

Lectures during our tours
All our tours are accompanied by an academic ‘trip scholar’ as well as local guides. The local guide or guides provide the day-to-day guiding on our tours, whilst the trip lecturer will give regular lectures on his/her specialist subject throughout to provide an academic overview. Lectures/talks usually last 30-40 minutes including questions and answers (if applicable). These are generally held in the evenings before dinner and attendance is optional. We don’t usually specify before travel which days the lectures will be given (for operational reasons) but guests can expect them roughly every other day as a minimum, with some lecturers giving some kind of talk or presentation more frequently, especially on shorter tours.

Hot air balloon flying over Cappadocia Turkey

Private extensions in Turkey

We have been arranging group tours and private journeys in Turkey for over two decades and there are no corners we don’t know! Our tailor-made team would be delighted to quote a bespoke pre or post-tour extension of any length, whether it’s for a privately guided side-trip to Cappadoccia or simply a lovely beach hotel before or after the tour. The sea temperatures in late September/Early October are usually wonderfully warm for swimming, and with air temperatures in the high 20s and early 30s with blue skies,  this means whether you’d like to explore or just relax by the sea this is the ideal time to go.

We highly recommend adding a 3 night private extension to Cappadocia after the tour if you have time to extend your trip.  October is an ideal time to visit the region weather-wise (it is too hot in the summer months, and too cold in the winter months).  There is a daily direct flight from Izmir to Kayseri, one of the two airports serving the Cappadocia area, so it’s very easy to add this on after the tour.  

A whimsical landscape of pink and white “fairy chimneys”, Cappadocia is the heart of Anatolia. It was the centre of a late Byzantine community and preserves some of the finest frescoes in Turkey – no fewer than 350 churches and monasteries hewn out of the tuff, painted in vibrant colours.

Suggested itinerary (we can arrange guiding for as much or as little time as you’d like durig the stay- this is just an idea)

1 October   
Tour ends after breakfast.  Transfer to Izmir Airport for direct flight to Kayseri, Cappadocia. Check into your hotel for a 3 night stay. Argos Hotel, Museum Hotel and Yunak Evleri Hotel are our recommended properties in this region.

2 October
Visit the Göreme valley, with pink and white “fairy chimneys”, vast pinnacles of eroded volcanic ash. This whole area was the centre of a late Byzantine community and today preserves some of the finest Byzantine frescoes in Turkey, some virtually unaffected by the passage of time.  A highlight is Uchisar Castle, with its maze of tunnels, passages and stairways connecting rooms which have been hollowed out of the rock.

3 October 
Visit the underground “cities” of Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu. These subterranean dwellings were built as a refuge against marauding hordes.  Afternoon visit to the Church of John the Baptist and other churches at Çavusin and Zelve.

4 October 
Optional Hot Air Balloon excursion this morning – start your day with a pick-up at 5 am to be at the launch site for inflation of the balloons and take-off at 6:30am. Ascend 300 metres into the air for a simply staggering birds-eye, panoramic view over the valleys and rock formations.  Balloons move by the wind and you will float wherever the wind takes you. After approximately 60 minutes in the air, a champagne reception greets you on landing.  Return to your hotel for breakfast and check out. Transfer to the airport for your onward travel (flights to London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh are available).

Price: This is a tailor-made extension so the price will depend on the accommodation you choose, how much guiding you would like to include, and whether you add the hot air balloon or not.  We will be pleased to quote the cost based on a luxury or reasonably priced hotel to suit your budget.

Beach/relaxing extensions 

The closest area for good beaches to Izmir is the Ayvalik area, with stunning bays and sandy beaches.  The best resort on this coastline is the D-Resort Murat Reis, set on a private sandy beach, and with high-end rooms, service and food. A 3-5 night stay in this area would be a wonderful way to relax in style at the end of the tour.

For something completely different, why not extend your stay near Ephesus at a hotel set among vineyards? The Yedi Bilgeler (Seven Sages) Winery hotel offers state-of-the-art winemaking facilities and airy, country-style rooms with views of the lavender gardens, vineyards and the lush valley.   You can taste wines produced at the property’s winery,  learn about wine making on site, and sample home-made jam, olive oil and herbs from the estate.  There’s an excellent ‘farm-to-table’ restaurant on site, a pool for relaxing and the site of Ephesus is only 5 miles away if you would like to visit it for a second time at your leisure.

Bodrum is just a two hour road transfer from Izmir, and is home to the most deluxe retreats on the whole southern coast, such as Amanruya, Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, Six Senses Kaplankaya and The Bodrum EDITION, all located in seclusion in the surrounding coastline away from the town.  We also have hotel picks in central Bodrum too for those who would like to explore.

Please contact alice@templeworld.com in our tailormade team for advice or a quote on any private pre or post tour extensions.

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    [The tour] was perfect in both design and implementation--Tour Manager, Archaeologist, food, comfort and weather. Timothy

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