Greece & Turkey: Athens to Istanbul
This trip is all about a melding of Greece and Turkey and the beautiful islands that lie between them. Hit the cosmopolitan capitals of Athens and Istanbul, checking off the ancient ruins, marketplaces, and mosques along the way. Bask in the sun on Rhodes and Kos—some of Greece’s most extraordinary islands in the Aegean Sea. This is paradise served with extra pita, and it’s time to dig in.
What are the top highlights?
- Cruise the azure seas of the Aegean
- Hike to the top of Athens’ ancient and famous Acropolis
- Catch some rays at world-famous island beaches
- Melt into the international hodgepodge of one of the world’s largest cities: Istanbul
- Island hop from friendly Rhodes to gorgeous Kos
- Stuff your face with Turkish foods—from döner kebabs and meze, to baklava and börek.
- Discover the immaculately preserved ruins left behind by the ancient Greeks
- Sprawl out on the so-called ‘Turquoise Coast’ for a beach day in the Turkish Riviera
Your trip includes
- Round-trip flights & airport transfers
- Multilingual Tour Director & local guides
- Private motorcoach
- Internal ferries
- 15 nights in hand-picked accommodations
- Welcome Mixer with appetizers & drinks
- Daily breakfast & three-course Farewell Dinner
- Metro passes in each major city
- Entrance to the Acropolis, Hagia Sophia & other select attractions
You’ll stay at accommodations hand-picked by our team of local experts, in rooms only for EF Ultimate Break travelers. Each property is located in a safe, convenient area. You’ll receive your exact accommodations 30 days before your trip departs.
Click here for examples of where you'll stay.
Admit it, booking flights is the worst. Here's why you should let us do it for you:
- Flight costs are included in your monthly payment plan, so you can pay over time
- Airport transfers are included, so we’ll be waiting, sign in hand
- Flights are booked with major airlines
- 24/7 support no matter what time zone you’re in
- One checked bag included on most flights
- Option to make changes to your trip up to 99 days before departure
Booking with a friend? Let us know and we’ll do our best to make sure you’re on the same flight. Still want to book your own flights? That’s cool, simply select ‘No flights included’ instead of your departure city in the ‘Flights from’ dropdown.
- Land at the airport and meet a waiting EF representative.
- Transfer to your hotel, check out your room, and start to meet your fellow travelers as they arrive.
- Get familiar with the area around your hotel with an introductory walk around the Plaka District, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus with your Tour Director.
- Enjoy the incredible ancient ruins of the Acropolis with a local guide.
- Pay your respects to the patron goddess of the city (and her namesake sneakers) at the Temple of Athena Nike.
- Visit the Erechtheion, one of the most unique temples in the ancient world.
- Find yourself speechless in the presence of the Parthenon—at nearly 2,500 years old, it is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and storied structures in the world.
- Blow kisses to Kos as you cross the Aegean Sea for a quick little ferry ride to Turkey.
- Arrive in Bodrum: the relaxation capital of Turkey.
- Toast to all of your good times in Greece, and all of the good times ahead in Turkey over drinks upon arrival.
- Say “oh my gods” in the shadow of the very impressive and very tall ruins of the Temple of Zeus in Euromos.
- Try not to get turned into stone by the Medusa head statues guarding the spectacular—and spectacularly old—Temple of Apollo.
- Book it over to the 2,000-year-old Roman Library of Celsus and see if they have that scroll you’ve been meaning to read.
- Visit the house that legend has it the Virgin Mary lived at late in her life.
- Take a cable car ride into the hills above the city for some views of the Turkish countryside to write home about.
- Swagger like Socrates through the Acropolis of Pergamon.
- Satiate your sightseeing appetite with a traditional cooking class to learn how to make (and eat) a Turkish pizza while you enjoy a drink or two.
- Board your morning bus back to Istanbul and watch the beautiful countryside go by.
- Get to know the New Town—“new” meaning mostly from medieval times—on a tour of Taksim Square and the main shopping street: Istikal Avenue.
- Crane your neck at the famous Galata Tower—a nine-story stone observation tower built by the occupying Genoese in 1348.
- Gasp audibly at the magnificence of the Hagia Sophia, its iconic dome, and its 1,500-year life as a church, mosque, and museum.
- Play one mosque, two mosque, red mosque, Blue Mosque as you enter and appreciate the extraordinary architecture and history of the aforementioned Blue and Süleymaniye mosques.
- Get under the city’s skin with a visit to an ancient underground cavern, the Basilica Cistern, built to collect rainwater during Roman rule.
- Take a peek at one of the most picturesque and oft-painted waterways in the history of humanity—the Golden Horn of Istanbul.
- Haggle your way through the Grand Bazaar—consider buying the exquisite jewelry or a handmade carpet (gotta pay extra for the flying kind, though).
Day 1: Overnight Flight
Board your overnight flight to Athens, the cradle of Western Civilization and one of the oldest cities in the world. Pro tip: if you’re looking to earn some bonus points with the locals upon arrival, make sure you refer to Greece by its real name: Hellas.
Day 2: Arrive in Athens + Welcome Mixer
Welcome to Athens! 2,500 years ago, it was the most happening place, and still totally is today—but with fewer people walking around in togas. It’s a vibrant metropolis, and a perfect jumping-off point for your journey through Greece.
In the evening, it’s time for your Welcome Mixer. Enjoy an authentic meal and drinks with your group. Then it’s on to wherever your new friends and the party takes you.
Day 3: Sightseeing Tour of Athens
Athens is at least 5,000 years old, but hardly looks a day over 25 (when you look past the historic structures and ancient statues). What we’re trying to say is, Athens is a beautiful city filled with art, literature, history, and about a million Instagram-worthy spots. And today you’ll get to see all of its finest landmarks.
Day 4: Free Day in Athens + Overnight Ferry to Rhodes
You’ve got a free day to bask in the city that gave us democracy, epic poetry, tragedy, history writing, philosophy and much more. Two things are for sure: The Mediterranean Sea is bluer than most things (including, but not limited to, Eiffel 65’s hit song from the ‘90s), and gyros are better than any normal sandwich you eat back home. At the end of the day, head to the port with your Tour Director for your overnight ferry to Rhodes.
Free Time Suggestions
National Archaeology Museum: The National Archaeology Museum is considered one of the greatest museums in the world, with pieces ranging from Greek sculptures to Egyptian Antiquities. Mama Mia! That’s quite a collection.
Mount Lycabettus: Flood-lit like a beacon towering over the city, Mount Lycabettus offers a spectacular view of the city. If you’ve been holding out on posting a scenic Instagram post, this is your moment.
Days 5-7: Arrive in Rhodes + Beach Days
Good morning, and welcome to the island of Rhodes. Hope the Greek God of Sleep blessed you with a restful ferry ride last night. Rhodes is perhaps most famous for the Colossus of Rhodes, a gigantic statue and one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BC. But its secondary claim to fame is its bountiful beaches and beautiful weather. You’re not in Athens anymore—things are about to get beachy.
Free Time Suggestions
Old Town: Head up to the medieval walled-in Old Town of Rhodes to stroll the cobblestoned streets for some serious charm.
Acropolis of Rhodes: Make your way to Rhodes’ premiere ruins of a 2,000+ year-old temple and ancient Greek stadium for a self-guided history lesson that blows American history out of the water.
Days 8-9: Ferry to Kos + Beach Days
Next stop: Kos. This easy-going island is just off the coast of Turkey. Make a splash in what simply must be the bluest water known to mankind; check out ruins of amphitheaters left by the ancient Romans, and castles left by medieval Italians; and gorge yourself on fresh Greek food. You can never have too much time in paradise, so live it up and catch some rays in Kos.
Free Time Suggestions
Asclepeion: Feel reinvigorated by a restored ancient healing temple and make up your own mind if it was leeches and dream reading that cured the patients here, or just the whole “being in paradise” thing.
Tree of Hippocrates: See the spot where Hippocrates—the ancient Greek man who basically invented doctors—used to teach, and where a very old tree still stands.
Day 10: Ferry to Turkey + Arrive in Bodrum
Your time in Greece has come to an end, but things are just getting started for you in Turkey. Take a morning ferry from Kos and head to the resort town of Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera. The crazy part? You’re on a new continent. That’s right, you’re in Asia now. Turkey has so much to offer, and you get to experience it all for the next week in this amazing and unique country where Europe meets Asia, paradise meets your camera, and you never meet a meal you don’t love.
Day 11: Beach Day on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
Grab your floaties, order your daily döner kebab to-go, and head out to the beach. Take it especially easy today on the Turkish Riviera. They call this place the “Turquoise Coast” for a reason—once you take a dip in the Aegean Sea, we think you’ll understand.
Free Time Suggestions
Beach: The sand is white, the water is perfect, and the timing is right to veg out like a Turkish eggplant in the sun all day.
Bodrum Castle: Few castles are as castle-y as this fairytale fortification overlooking Bodrum’s port, built in the 1400s. If that weren’t enough, today it houses a very cool museum dedicated to ancient shipwrecks. Brains and beauty!
Turkish Coffee: Start things off with an always strong, sometimes spiced cup of Turkish bean juice, AKA coffee, served with the finely powdered coffee grounds still in the cup. Trust the process.
Day 12: Travel to Ephesus + Explore Ancient Ruins of Ephesus
Today you’re headed to Ephesus, Turkey—one of the best excavated and well-preserved sites of antiquity. Get ready to see some of the most incredible ancient Greek ruins, temples, and the remains of once poppin’ cities. Don your toga: today is not a myth, it’s the real deal.
Day 13: Explore Ancient Ruins of Pergamon
What’s the one thing your hometown lacks? Ancient Greco-Roman ruins, exactly! So here’s one more chance to experience an archaeological masterpiece, and it’s a doozy! Today you’ll explore the ruins of the city of Pergamon and learn how the ancient Greeks who lived here once thrived. All of the temples and gathering places and theaters are still mostly there—just a little bit more crumbly these days. A few more ruins never ruined anyone’s day!
Day 14: Travel to Istanbul + Explore New Town Istanbul
Welcome to Istanbul—a city that’s simultaneously in both Europe and Asia. That’s right: for nearly 2,500 years, Istanbul has straddled two continents, withstood multiple name changes, and blossomed into a beautiful melding of Turkish, Ottoman, Greek, Roman, Islamic, and Christian culture.
Day 15: Explore Old Town Istanbul
Out with the new, in with the old. Leave your history textbooks at home (not sure why you would travel with them anyways) and experience thousands of years of Istanbul’s history firsthand today as you navigate Old Town with a local expert.
Day 16: Free Day in Istanbul or Optional Bosphorous Cruise & Walking Tour
A free day in Istanbul is the original Turkish delight: 24 hours to explore, sightsee, eat, and get lost on your own (read: with your new travel pals) in one of the world’s most exciting cities. Take full advantage of the locals’ ample hospitality and make yourself at home amongst the many minarets of the skyline.
Free Time Suggestions
Topkapi Palace: Part-castle, part-palace, part-museum, Topkapi Palace was the royal residence for the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, beginning in the 1400s.
Döner kebabs: Like their Greek cousin, the gyro, döner kebabs—lamb, chicken, or beef with lettuce, tomato, onion, and sauces in a warm pita—are absolutely delicious and found absolutely everywhere. The perfect meal on the go!
Dolmabahçe Palace: In the 1800s, the sultans decided they required a more lavish palace, so they built Dolmabahçe. And, hoo boy, is it lavish. Go see it for yourself, count the chandeliers you find, and live your fanciest life.
Bosphorus Cruise & Walking Tour(extra cost)
Go big today starting with a spice market taste-testing. Next, cruise the Bosphorous Strait that divides Europe from Asia and take in Istanbul's iconic skyline by boat. Finally, feast on mouthwatering Turkish street food.
This excursion is pre-book only; if your trip is less than seven days away, please call 800-766-2645 to purchase.
Day 17: Fly Home
Translation: Goodbye, friends. Your next destination awaits—home. Before you head to the airport, make sure to take one more group photo and grab that final drink. But this isn’t goodbye because you can always get the gang back together for another trip soon. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, we have a couple ways to keep your vacation going.
EXTEND YOUR TRIP 2 WAYS
1. Double the fun
A lot of our trips line up back to back! Give us a call—we can help you add another and save big while you're at it.
2. Go ahead or stay behind
Extending your trip is easy! During checkout, you'll have the option to fly to (or from) the gateway of your choice for an additional fee. We'll adjust your flights accordingly, but you'll be responsible to take care of your transportation, hotels, and other logistics outside of tour.
Note: Depending on your desired gateways, additional fees may apply.