Idea Lab – Turkey

At the heart of our office is an Idea Lab: a space in which we are constantly innovating, dreaming, and designing new ways to enhance your travels. It may be our network of contacts that allow us to bring all these ideas to life, but it is you – our clients – who keep us challenged and having fun. Whether your trip is straightforward, over-the-top, or anywhere in the middle, we are always in our lab and ready.

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Food and Wine

Everyone knows – and most of us love – Turkish cuisine. What you may not know about yet is Turkish wine. With a tradition of winemaking dating back 6,000 years, Turkey is one of the world’s leading producers of grapes. With each passing year, Turkish wines are more refined – and more available in North America. But they taste better in Turkey.

  • Gastro-meyhane (pub) crawl through Istanbul, led by the former director of Istanbul’s most prestigious culinary establishment. Sample Turkish meze (tapas) and kick-back a few glasses of raki (the potent, local, anise-based hooch which turns cloudy when ice is added).
  • Private baklava or Turkish delight workshop. Its sweet.
  • Lunch with the owners of a small organic farm in Cappadocia.
  • Olive oil tastings of Turkey’s finest. Taste it here, before it ends up bottled in Italy.
  • Private cooking lesson with a chef credited with the rebirth of traditional Ottoman cuisine.
  • Hands-on meze workshop in the demo kitchen at one of Istanbul’s most sophisticated restaurants.
  • Sommelier-curated sampling of Turkey’s up-and-coming (and surprisingly good) wines of Western Turkey.
  • Make-your-own picnic basket at a seasonal market and artisanal food shops in Istanbul, before heading up the Bosphorus for your feast at the Rumeli Lighthouse.
  • Intensive multi-day workshop in Turkish cuisine.
  • Insider’s neighborhood food tour of Istanbul’s best-kept culinary secret, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Bring The Kids

  • Soccer craziness – post-game meet-and-greet with the team captain of world-class Galatasaray.
  • Zip above the Aegean in a sea-plane. Yes, one of those.
  • Sailing expedition on the Golden Horn in a replica of the Sultan’s boat.
  • Sultanahmet scavenger hunt in Istanbul’s most famous monuments.
  • Snorkeling with an underwater archaeologist responsible for excavating a Byzantine shipwreck.
  • Oil Wrestling Festival in Edirne, held every year since the 14th century. Spectate, don’t enter.
  • Summertime visit (private boat or public ferry) to the picturesque Princes’ Island outside of Istanbul, where horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the sole form of transportation.
  • Private pottery workshop in Avanos.
  • Hike to remote Lycian ruins in the Xanthos Valley with a seasonal picnic of fresh, local ingredients.
  • Boating on the Euphrates to a submerged town where only an abandoned minaret peeks above the surface.
  • Family-friendly cooking lessons – Turkish Delight, anyone?

Many – in fact, most – suggestions in other categories are family-friendly. Plus, we have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Adventure + Adrenaline

  • Those hot air balloons over Cappadocia packed with 20 passengers you always see in the photos? Charter one just for you and your beloved. Champagne’s great with sunrise.
  • Jetboat on the Red River in Cappadocia at speeds of up to 60 mph.
  • Ascend Nemrut Dag to view face-to-face the giant, ancient, limestone heads at the summit.
  • ATV adventure through the volcanic landscapes, tufa hills, and “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia’s Rose Valley.
  • Bike your way over bridges, along the Bosphorus, and from one continent to another on a WWII vintage motorcycle.
  • Sea-kayak or canoe in Kekova Bay to the famous underwater ruins, submerged in an earthquake centuries ago and still visible through the crystal clear waters.
  • Windsurfing and kitesurfing at the happening Aegean beach town of Alacati.
  • Ride the famous horses of Cappadocia – Cappadocia means “Land of Beautiful Horses” – under the stars, through the Red Valley.
  • Whitewater rafting at Koprulu Canyon.
  • Tandem paragliding on Baba Mountain in Fethiye.
  • Cross another continent off your list with a day of skiing or snowboarding on Erciyes Mountain in Cappadocia.
  • Hiking, biking, horseback riding, watersports, or SUV adventures all over Turkey.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


The Arts

  • Behind-the-scenes access to the collection of a major Istanbul museum to view some of the world’s finest Ottoman calligraphy, ceramics, and kilims.
  • Private lesson with a professional belly dancer.
  • Access to “by-invitation only” openings and events at the world-class Istanbul Biennial.
  • Expert-led private visits to off-limits private gardens of the Princes’ Islands.
  • Private curator-led visits at the top museums and galleries of Istanbul.
  • Private expert-led contemporary art tour of Istanbul, including meeting gallery owners and artists.
  • Private tour of Sinan’s little-known masterpieces.
  • Curated private shopping of Istanbul’s finest stores and shops. Meet with some of Istanbul’s top designers at their ateliers to browse through some of their latest collection.
  • Exclusive Mevlana performance of Whirling Dervishes at a 13th-century caravanserai. After the show, meet some of the Sufis for additional insight.
  • Private calligraphy workshop.
  • Visit to the studio of one of Turkey’s top jewelry designers.

We have plenty more up our bejewelled sleeves. Ask us.


Jewish Heritage

Turkey’s Jewish history is rich and extensive, stretching from one border to another and spanning well over 2,000 years. Invited by the Ottoman Emperor after the Expulsion from Spain in 1492, many Sephardim found a welcoming home in Turkey and became an important part of Ottoman and Turkish society.

For more about our own connections to Jewish heritage, please visit Jewish Heritage: It’s All Personal

  • Meet with the leaders of the Jewish community in Turkey.
  • Shabbat dinner and services in Istanbul and Izmir.
  • Entrée to the magnificent Great Synagogue, at Edirne. It is the second largest in Europe and was completely restored in 2015.
  • Visit the historic synagogues, ancient Jewish quarters, and contemporary community institutions of Istanbul and Izmir.
  • Visit the ancient synagogue at Sardis.
  • Visit the Jewish Museum in Istanbul.

Oy. We have so much more up our sleeves.


Golf

  • Perhaps you haven’t thought about taking your game to Turkey? Well you should.
  • The sunny skies of the Turquoise Coast make it perfect for golfing. Belek, near Antalya, is ideal for golf enthusiasts, with fifteen world-class, seaside courses. Architects include Perry Dye and European Golf Design. Since 2013, the Montgomerie Maxx Royal has been home to the Turkish Airlines Open, one of European PGA Tour’s signature events.
  • In the north, the Istanbul Golf Club is the 4th oldest in Europe, first opening in 1895 as the Constantinople Golf Club. The exceptionally designed, and scenic, Kemer Golf & Country Club, sits northwest of Istanbul in the lush green hills of the Belgrade Forest.

We have plenty more in our golf bags. Ask us.


Celebrations

  • Celebrate the final evening of your multi-generational family celebration on a private Bosphorus cruise ending at a 19th-century wooden seaside yali (mansion) for a dinner of Turkish classics under the stars.
  • Invite your 40 closest friends for after-hours access to Ephesus for your big birthday bash in front of the signature monument of Ephesus – the Selcuk (Celsius) Library.
  • Ask her or him to marry you during your romantic dinner for two (plus the giant spot-lit Head of Medusa – okay, that’s three) at the Temple of Apollo at Didyma.
  • Party on a rooftop terrace with unequalled views of the greatest monuments of Istanbul and the Marmara Sea; entertained by a medley of whirling dervishes, Sufi musicians, opera singers, and belly dancers.
  • Celebrate that special anniversary with an exclusive entrée for a candle-lit dinner in the 6th-century Byzantine cisterns under Istanbul.
  • Honor your brilliant grandchild’s graduation with an after-hours private visit of the Hagia Sophia with a well-known travel writer.
  • Have your bachelorette party aboard a chartered gulet (handmade luxury wooden yacht) sleeping in remote coves. End in Istanbul with a fashion show just for you and a drink with Istanbul’s most sought-after jewelry designer.

Many – in fact, most – suggestions in other categories are great for celebrating a special occasion. Plus, we have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Bragging Rights: Signature Experiences

  • Exclusive, private after-hour entry to Topkapi Palace, Istanbul’s most popular (and, during the day, most crowded) monument.
  • Private helicopter to (and over) some of Turkey’s finest ancient sites, including: Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Sardis, Miletus, Priene, and Didyma. It’s an amateur photographer’s dream.
  • Dinner with one of Turkey’s leading cultural figures in his restored 19th-century home that was originally a hunting lodge.
  • A private meeting with one of Turkey’s top jewelry designers, featured in Departures.
  • Access to a centuries-old secret rooftop in the bustling backstreets of the Spice Bazaar.
  • Exclusive after-hours entrée for a candle-lit dinner for two (or 20) in the 6th-century Basilica Cistern under Istanbul.
  • Meet a world-renowned nautical archaeologist for a private look at the finds from one of the shipwrecks he excavated, named as one of the ten most important shipwreck excavations in the world.
  • Nighttime, floodlit, private explorations of the excavations at Gobekli Tepe (one of the most important contemporary digs in the world), with one of the archaeologists working on the site.
  • Exclusive private access to Ephesus. Dinner in front of its archetypal monument – the Selcuk (Celsus) Library.
  • After-hours private visit of the Hagia Sophia with an expert and travel writer.
  • Exclusive access to the Goreme Open Air Museum for a private visit.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


And, in case you were wondering, some of our favorites

We are always asked. We passed the question around to our staff in New York, our staff in Turkey, and some of our top guides and specialists. Here are the answers.

  • Private helicopter to (and over) some of Turkey’s finest ancient sites, including Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Sardis, Miletus, Priene, and Didyma. Fly-over for aerial photos or land nearby to explore the sites on foot.
  • Soccer craziness – post-game meet-and-greet with the team captain of world-class Galatasaray.
  • Hike to the remote Lycian ruins of Pinara (with champagne lunch) in the Xanthos Valley.
  • Curated private shopping of Istanbul’s finest stores and shops. Meet with some of the top designers at their ateliers to browse through some of their hottest fashions.
  • Snorkeling through the underwater excavation site of a Byzantine shipwreck with the archaeologist leading the excavation.
  • Chat with a local Imam in Istanbul about his impressions of how religion, culture, and politics intersect in 21st-century Turkey.
  • Homemade dinner (and private cooking lesson, if you wish to help out) at a home in Cappadocia.
  • Exclusive Mevlana performance of Whirling Dervishes at a 13th century caravanserai outside of Avanos. After the show, meet with members of the cast who will take you for a “spin.”
  • Exploration of the worlds around the traditional Turkish bath (hamam).
  • Exclusive access to the Goreme Open Air Museum for a private visit.
  • Those hot air balloons over Cappadocia with 20 passengers you always see in the photos? Charter one just for you, ending in a champagne toast.
  • Spend a week sailing the turquoise waters of the Turkish coast on your private gulet.