Want to see the sun rise over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia? To play Alladin the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul? Or feel the cool rush of calcified-water as it tumbles down the terraces in Pamukkale? Turkey is on many adult’s must-see lists. And now a new Intrepid tour makes it incredibly easy to do with kids.
Intrepid’s 10-day Turkey Family Holiday takes families to Istanbul, Kas, Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Selcuk.
Family Tours take a slower pace, build in extra days in each town and include activities that kids will love – such as craft classes and cooking.
“We design our trips so health and safety are our number one priority,” Dyan Mckie, Intrepid’s Family Product Manager says. “Families are now on a tight schedule when you have a two week holiday period – you want the logistics taken care. But you also want an authentic experience.”
“We try to expose families to the local culture, local food, and language. Our leaders are amazing at teaching kids how to say hello, goodbye, thank you and to count to 10. They encourage the kids to use that throughout the trip too. Kids are like sponges, they pick it up a lot faster than what we do.”
The first stop on the tour is Istanbul, home to the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar.
“With the family trips we like to start in a major hub where there is an international airport which helps families plan,” Dyan says.
Families can add-on a couple of days here to get accustomed to the city before the start of the tour. Dyan says Istanbul is a walkable city, with sights on every corner. But the kids always love the grand bazaar.
“It’s an amazing marketplace where anything and everything is for sale.”
The tour also ends in Istanbul and families can take part in a water marbling class – a popular local art.
From Istanbul the first stop is Goreme.
“We fly to Goreme, which is in the heart of Cappadocia,” Dyan says.
“It has dome volcanic rock houses and landscapes – if people have seen a photo of turkey – this is most likely what they have seen.”
Families can arrange an optional balloon flight to view the fairyland of churches and houses carved into the hillside. But it’s honestly just as spectacular to watch other people do it, from the ground.
Intrepid’s travel philosophy is based on exploring cultures and encouraging sustainable tourism. You won’t just whizz past the sights on a bus. Expect to immerse yourself into the world of the locals. In Cappadocia, families will do a cooking class with a local family and eat dinner in their home.
“The kids and the family can explore the house and the garden all the food they cook with is local organic produce from the house,” Dyan says.
This also gives kids an opportunity to ask questions of their hosts about their life in Turkey.
“Kids ask questions that you wouldn’t think to ask – like ‘why is that temple gold?’, ‘what is in the soup?’ – as a parent, you sometimes learn more from the questions your kids are asking,” Dyan says.
From Goreme, families board an overnight train to Selcuk.
“I will say the kids love the overnight trains,” Dyan says. “Most children have never slept on an overnight train – it’s the novelty of bunk beds and sway of the train – they love it.”
At Selcuk, you can explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus, the former capital of the Byzantine Empire and the best-preserved ancient city in Turkey. On your own, it may be hard to understand the significance of this site. On an Intrepid Family Tour, local guides are used to explaining history to kids. And making it fun.
“With our family tours, we like to add in the element of history as well as the fun things like the bike rides, ” Dyan says
“Seeing our leaders in action explaining the diverse complex history to the kids in a way they understand is super special.”
Ephesus is home to the Temple of Artemis ruins, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Foundations found here date back until the 6th Century BC. It was once one of the largest, most brilliant buildings in the world, made entirely of marble and sculpted columns.
Christians believe this region was also the area where Saint John and the Virgin Mary spent their final years.
For kids, the ability to see what they are learning about, rather than read it in a book, makes it much easier to understand. They can see the scale, touch the remains and it will go into their long term memory.
Once you’ve soaked up the history – it’s time to soak up Turkey’s most famous thermal baths at Pamukkale. Turkey is home to more than 1500 thermal springs. The tradition of soaking in warm water for wellness dates back thousands of years.
Pamukkale water is high in calcium. Tree branches and stones left in the flowing water turn white in a short time. Locals believe the water has the power to cure high blood pressure, kidney stones, stroke, rheumatism, physical exhaustion and skin disease. No proof exists for these claims. These days you can not soak in the baths as they are protected. But you can wander around them.
Locals also believe the pools can make you beautiful. According to Turkish legend, an ugly unmarried young girl tried to take her own life at Pamukkale. She fell into a natural pool as she ran through the plateau. But she did not die. Instead, she turned into a beautiful woman. A passing Lord then happened to ride by, spotted her and fell in love.
Another legend has it that Marc Anthony carved the baths out of the stone as a gift for Cleopatra.
One of the best things about taking a family tour is that it won’t be rushed. The pace is slower to allow kids and parents some down time.
“Kids get tired fast, even though they are actively doing things,” Dyan says. “Most kids are up at 7, particularly in hotter destinations where you are at the sights early to beat the heat and the tourists, by the afternoon they are normally tired.”
Intrepid usually uses hotels with pools – so you can go back and chill out in the afternoon.
“Families travelling with us won’t find they need a holiday after a holiday. We pepper our itineraries with some free time, pool time and a little bit of relaxing – wander the town at your own pace.”
Dyan’s favourite town on the tour is Kas.
Here families can explore the whitewashed buildings the cobbled streets themselves at their own pace.
“That evening we take them to an ancient amphitheatre to watch the sunset, which is pretty special.”
Many of Intrepid’s family tours will end at a beach – because they know that’s what makes kids happy. At Kas, you can swim in the Mediterranean and do a day cruise.
Dyan says interest in Turkey is growing fast. It’s a destination that is incredibly beautiful but can be seen as difficult to “do it yourself”, particularly for families. Intrepid’s family tours slow down the pace and increase your safety.
“The family tours are just for families,” Dyan says. “You can’t have a single female who is 23 travelling on the tour.”
“We take into consideration travel time because kids and parents don’t like travelling for eight or hours overland in a bus. That’s not fun for anyone. We like to keep the travelling time down where we can. We also like to spend two nights per destination to slow down the pace of some of our trips.”
A family tour takes the stress of organising away and allows you to focus on enjoying the moments.
And there will be many happy moments on this tour.