Garden and History Tour of Turkey - 8-18 May 2025
Tour Date
8 - 18 May 2025
10 Nights // 11 Days
Tour Leader
Beverly Hurley, Gursan Ergil
About the Leaders
Beverly Hurley

Beverly Hurley is the publisher and editor of the gardening publication in North Carolina, USA - Triangle Gardener and the website The publication helps readers learn about plants, garden design, the challenges, and the joys of gardening in North Carolina.

Beverly is also the editor and publisher of the garden travel website Through this website, Beverly and her team of writers tell the story of a destination through its flora and fauna, focusing on the gardens and nature attractions of the location.

She is also a freelance writer with her work appearing in the book “Gardens of the World” by DK/Random House and in

Gursan Ergil

Gursan Ergil spent six years living in the United States and studying landscape design, history, and preservation at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, where he later lectured on Islamic Gardens for two years. After moving United Kingdom from US, he continued studying at Cambridge Universtiy’s advanced garden history program. Today, based in Istanbul, Turkey, he splits his time between lecturing, leading tours and writing books on gardens. Ergil’s eco-friendly furniture and sustainable landscape designs are published on international media and his mobile gardens series was exhibited at Marta Herford Museum in Germany. Ergil currently works as landscape curator at Prince’s Island Museum in Istanbul and he is the author of the book ‘Gardens of Princes Islands’.

Tour Description

Triangle Gardener and Garden Destinations are partnering with Unison Travel & Events for a garden tour of Turkey. This 10-day horticultural tour will explore the history and culture of Turkey through its gardens, botany, and horticulture! Get ready for an immersive journey full of historical sites and parks, educational lectures, private landscapes, nature walks, organic farms, vineyards, artists' studios, botanical gardens, nurseries, and authentic local experiences. With almost 10,000 species of vascular plants and ferns, Turkey has the richest flora of all temperate zone countries, with almost 34% found only in Turkey. New plant species are still being discovered in Turkey more than once a week.

Let's embark on this fascinating adventure!

Tour Details

Day 1 - Istanbul – Thursday, May 8, 2025
Welcome to Istanbul. Today, upon your arrival, our representative will meet you at the airport and we will transfer you to your hotel in Istanbul. 

This evening, Gursan Ergil and Beverly Hurley, editor of Triangle Gardener, will give the group an introduction and talk about the tour over a welcome dinner.

Overnight stay in Istanbul.

Day 2 - Istanbul – Friday, May 9, 2025
Breakfast included at the hotel.

To make the most of Istanbul, we will start with a walking tour. Your guide and Gursan will take you through the colorful and fragrant Spice Market, which was built in 1664. In addition to spices, you will find rosebud, jasmine and fruit teas, Turkish delicacies in all colors and flavors, herbal remedies, dried fruits such as apricots, figs, dates, strawberries and kiwis, baklava soaked with honey and nuts, olive oil soaps, Turkish coffee and much more.

Then it's on to the Grand Bazaar, a place where you can lose yourself in history and mystery with 500 years of history, 64 streets, 22 gates and more than 4,000 stores. The bazaar is not only a shopping center, but also a production center for arts and crafts.

Lunch included.

We will also visit the Hippodrome of Constantinople; a public arena mainly used for chariot races. The small, first hippodrome was built in the third century. In 330 AD, when Constantine I enlarged the hippodrome and connected it to his palace. The hippodrome had a capacity of around 40,000 seats and was free and open to male members of the community. The surviving monuments are two obelisks and the Serpent Column, which can still be seen today.

Our last stop for today is the Blue Mosque. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, was completed in 1617 shortly before the untimely death of its then 27-year-old namesake, Sultan Ahmet I. The mosque consists of two main parts: a large, unified prayer hall, which is crowned by the main dome, and an equally large inner courtyard. It is the careful choreography of more than 20,000 Iznik tiles that rise from the central sections of the mosque, dazzling visitors with their bright blue, green and turquoise hues and giving the mosque its popular nickname.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Day 3 - Istanbul – Saturday, May 10, 2025
Breakfast included at the hotel.

Today is a mixture of city tour and historical gardens. 

- Topkapi Palace: The Topkapi Palace served as the main residence of the Ottoman sultans for centuries. Visitors can explore the opulent rooms, impressive courtyards and the famous harem, which offers a captivating insight into the splendor and intrigue of the Ottoman Empire. The gardens of Topkapı Palace represent the fusion of pleasure, utility and profit that combined elements of the Greco-Roman villa tradition with Islamic practices already present.

Lunch included.

- Hagia Sophia: Built between 532 and 537, Hagia Sophia represents a great moment in Byzantine architecture and art. It was the main church of the Byzantine Empire in its capital Constantinople (later Istanbul) and became a mosque after the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Amidst its grand domes and architectural splendor, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia are a testament to centuries of artistic and religious transformation. These intricate masterpieces, decorated with vibrant colors and intricate details, not only showcase the artistic skill of Byzantine craftsmen, but also tell the various cultural stories embedded in the history of the building. 

- Yerebatan Underground Cistern: The Basilica Cistern was the largest underground cistern in Byzantine Constantinople. It was built under the basilica to the west of Hagia Sophia. It is also known by its Turkish name Yerebatan Sarayı (Sunken Palace) and is one of the most important tourist attractions in modern Istanbul. 

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Day 4 -Istanbul – Sunday, May 11, 2025
Breakfast is included at the hotel.

Start today with a private cruise on the Bosphorus. During the two-hour cruise, you'll experience a breathtaking panorama of Istanbul's skyline, including landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque, all from the unique perspective of the water. In addition, you'll sail past picturesque waterside villages, historic fortresses and two continents – Europe and Asia – separated by the majestic Bosphorus Strait, offering a fascinating blend of natural beauty and rich history. After disembarking in Bebek, Gursan Ergil will guide the group to various Istanbul gardens along the Bosphorus.

-Private Garden in Bebek: Bebek, a chic village on the European side of the Bosphorus, where our historical garden is located. This private garden has the largest and most protected green space in the neighborhood. Before the magnificent three-story mansion was built, Mr. Edwards of the British Embassy lived in the wooden mansion on the same property, and his widow Mrs. Edwards lived in an apartment in the newly built mansion until her death in the 1960s. The gardens are laid out on a total of seven terraces. The additions to the Byzantine walls from the Ottoman and Republican periods can be seen on the stone walls of the high terraces. The lowest terrace of the garden can be reached via a bridge from the second floor of the main building. The second terrace on the left was formerly used as a vegetable garden and later as a basketball court. During the restoration work carried out in 2010, it was transformed into a rose garden. The large third terrace, which can be reached via a steel staircase from the lower terrace, is designed as a large open space where various activities can take place. The old conservatory has been given a new shape and function. A WC, storage room and open bar were added to the new conservatory. From the upper terrace, which is accessible via a zigzag ramp, there is a perfect view of the Bosphorus. Strawberry cultivation, which has been practiced on the hills of Bebek and Arnavutkoy hills since ancient times, continued in this garden until the 1960s. The strawberry fields were revived as part of the renovation works carried out in 2010. The natural structure of the grove on the upper terrace was preserved, cleared and some shrub species were added. An environmentally friendly urban forest was created by installing bird nests and water sources.

Lunch included.

-Emirgan Grove: Emirgan Grove is a tranquil oasis known for its lush greenery and magnificent tulips, especially during the annual Tulip Festival. Emirgan Grove covers 47 hectares of land and is known for its beautiful gardens, manicured lawns and towering trees. The park is divided into three main areas: The Lower Grove, the Upper Grove and the Rose Garden. Visitors can stroll through beautifully landscaped gardens, enjoy the view of the lake and immerse themselves in this ideal destination for nature lovers and anyone looking for a picturesque escape.

-Sakip Sabanci Museum and Gardens: The Sabancı Museum in Istanbul is a cultural gem that houses an impressive collection of Turkish and international art. In addition to its art treasures, the museum also has a delightful garden. In collaboration with Istanbul University's Faculty of Forestry, the garden records all the tree and plant species in its 18-hectare garden and presents them to garden lovers. In addition to plants - coast redwood, cork oak, Aleppo pine, Alexandria laurel and Florida cranberry - 150-year-old monumental trees can also be admired in the garden, which comprises 115 plant species from the Far East, America, Australia, North Africa and the Caucasus, including plants that are rare in Turkey.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Day 5 - Istanbul – Monday, May 12, 2025
Breakfast is included at the hotel.

Today we travel by ferry to the Princes’ Islands. The nine islands are only about an hour's ferry ride from mainland Istanbul. We visit Buyukada, literally translated as "big island", the largest of the islands and the most popular. This car-free island is known for its lush landscape, historic mansions and gardens. We will visit several famous gardens and architecturally remarkable landmarks. These 19th and early 20th century gardens are normally closed to the public and will only be made accessible to our group.

-Summer Palace of the Vatican Consulate Gardens: The Italian-style garden consists of four terraces-. We reach the palace by walking through carefully laid out flower beds. The lower terrace, where the orchard, fountain and outbuildings are located, ends with old cypress trees. The arrangement of the fruit trees in the lower front garden rather than in the backyard enhances the panorama. The original wrought iron pergola,  covers the path leading from the centre of the orchard to the old cypress trees. An exquisite fountain has been installed on the wall of the landing from the terrace of the palace. Two higher terraces at the back of the palace, which can be reached via a few steps, are intended for different needs. Some terraces are equipped with water features.The upper terrace of the garden of the Vatican Summer Palace was naturally left as a grove. Behind the old pines and this small grove, you can see something like a glass cabinet built into the back wall of the garden. Behind the frosted glass-covered iron doors, you are greeted by a saint with a bunch of daffodils to protect the estate.

Lunch included.

-The gardens of the Mizzi house: The garden was designed in 1894 by Italian architect Raimondo D'Aranco for the Mizzi family. The outstanding feature of the three-storey masonry is the high tower. It is still said on the islands that this tower served as an observatory and that Mizzi observed the sky with a telescope. The cast-iron gate and railings at the entrance to the garden and the magnificent wrought-iron work on the tower's balcony railings are eye-catching. A few steps lead from the entrance area to the intermediate terrace where the grotto is located. The grotto, in which bubbling water once flowed. The pond is surrounded by roses and hydrangeas. Various palm trees, magnificent bougainvillea and old ligustrum are a real eye-catcher. Access to the mansion at the upper terrace is via a staircase made of colored concrete, which leads up in a curve from both sides of the grotto. The flat roofs of these service buildings have become a destination as a viewing platform. 

-The gardens of the Con Paşa Mansion. The mansion was designed in 1880 by architect Achileas Politis for Con Pasha. The most recent owner, had the property restored to its former glory. The two-hectare garden is laid out on five terraces, has five gates. The main entrance to the property is on the upper narrow terrace, from which a wrought iron pergola overlooks the street. The sloping terrain of the property is softened by two large terraces. On the upper large terrace, which is modeled on the natural atmosphere of a forest, there is an ornamental marble basin, various statues, marble vases, original wrought-iron flower pots and a historic marble fountain. This marble fountain from the 18th century is a masterpiece of art with its naturalistic motifs. Greek-style statues of women placed on either side reflect the eclectic style of the garden. The large upper terrace, where the mansion and the historic fountain are located, is designed in the classic Ottoman garden style. In contrast to the large upper terrace, the lower terrace is laid out in a formal Italian garden style. The formal garden with ornamental ponds accessed via a Baroque-style marble staircase. The main path running through the center of the formal garden leads to the heated greenhouse, semi-open recreation area and water lily pond. Most of the old cedars, palms and pines live together in a natural style.

Return to Istanbul via the ferry.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Day 6 - Iznik, Bursa – Tuesday, May 13, 2025
Breakfast included at the hotel. Check out of the Istanbul hotel.

We set off by private transportation to Iznik and Bursa. 

Iznik is located in a fertile valley near the lake of the same name and is a small historic town still enclosed by its ancient walls and surrounded by a beautiful landscape. The historical layout of the town is still visible, with a grid settlement plan from the Hellenistic period and monumental buildings from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The long city wall, built in the late Roman period and extended and reinforced in the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, is one of the city's characteristic features. Iznik is an exceptional testimony to the introduction and early spread of Christianity. Two of the most important ecumenical councils, which were recognized by all churches, took place in the city. The Council of Nicaea here led to the adoption of the first unified Christian doctrine, the Creed of Nicaea, which is still used today in the Christian liturgy by the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican communities.

-Mehmet Aksoy workshop and sculpture garden: Mehmet Aksoy is a Turkish sculptor. His sculptures often contain sensual, figurative elements, but he is also strongly rooted in modernism and has strong conceptual and abstract elements in his work. He works mainly with stone, but also with other materials, fusing metal or different stones into a single sculpture. He currently lives and works in a studio he designed himself, where ''insects are depicted everywhere in the house." 

After a traditional lunch included, we arrive in Iznik, where we visit the gardens of the Iznik Foundation and learn about the production of tiles.

-Iznik Foundation Workshops and Gardens: Founded in 1993, the Iznik Foundation for Training and Education aims to promote the Iznik tiles and the cultural and artistic values of Iznik that preserve world history in its memory. Iznik tiles, which are made entirely by hand in the authenticity of the 16th century, merge the motifs of the past and the traditional art concept with 21st century technology, giving new values to Iznik tile art. The Foundation has completed the tile works for more than 50 monuments around the world and continues to preserve the ancient colors and patterns of İznik tiles as well as their healing spirit achieved by the quartz composition and offers them to humanity after a break of four centuries. The foundation gardens are also a little piece of paradise that must be seen.

We will then do a short tour of historical monuments in Iznik before our 2 hour drive to reach Bursa. On the way we will see Lake Iznik, fruit plantations, walnut and olive trees.

Dinner on your own in Bursa.

Overnight stay in Bursa.

Day 7 - Bursa – Wednesday, May 14, 2025 
Breakfast included at the hotel. 

Morning freetime to spend at leisure and enjoy the thermal facilities at your hotel. Be sure to pack a swimsuit for the thermal baths.

Bursa, often called "Green Bursa"," is an enchanting city and the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, known for its lush landscapes and rich Ottoman heritage. 

Lunch included.

-Grand Mosque: - The Grand Mosque was built by Sultan Yıldırım Bayezid between 1396 and 1399. After the victory at Nikopolis (Nigbolu) in 1396, the sultan wanted to build 20 mosques in Bursa, but on the advice of his son-in-law and one of the most important scholars of the time, he only built one, the Grand Mosque, and covered it with 20 domes.  

-Green Mosque & Tomb: One of the most beautiful tiled buildings in Turkey, the name Green Mosque comes from its green and blue interior tile decorations. The Green Mosque was commissioned in 1412 by Sultan Mehmed I, who ruled from 1413 to 1421. After the death of Mehmed I, his son continued the decorative work on the mosque and erected the Green Tomb opposite the mosque as a royal tomb for his father and his family members. The Green Tomb is covered with blue, green and turquoise glazed Iznik tiles. 

-Koza Han: Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, was also the center of silk production and trade. The Koza Han, literally: 'Inn of the Silk Cocoon, is a historic caravanserai (Han) located in the heart of the city's historic market district. The entrance is decorated with ornate turquoise tiles, and opens onto a central garden courtyard. There are almost 100 rooms. Today, Koza Han still serves as a modern bazaar selling a variety of silk and other products.

-Covered Bazaar: The Covered Bazaar is famous for towels, loofahs, kese (massage gloves), clogs, bowls and soaps made in Bursa.

-Bursa Botanical Park: This has been a first-class nature reserve since 1998 and is a  park open to plant research and scientific studies. Construction of the park began in 1995 and it was opened for use in 1998. Various garden themes have been created in the Botanical Park, such as the Japanese Garden, the French Garden, the English Garden, the Rose Garden, the Rock Garden, the Scented Herb Garden, and the Topiary Garden. 

Dinner on your own.

Overnight stay in Bursa.

Day 8 – Odemis, Birgi - Thursday, May 15, 2025
Breakfast included at the hotel. Check out of the hotel.

We will set off early today, but the experiences will be worth the trip. After breakfast, we'll drive about 4 hours to Odemis, a charming town in Turkey known for its thriving nurseries and horticultural heritage. While exploring this delightful destination, we have the opportunity to visit the nurseries where a variety of plants and flowers are grown. The economy of Odemiş is based on agriculture and 36% of the cultivated area is agricultural land. More than 21 thousand families are engaged in agriculture and earn their living from farming potatoes, figs, olives, sesame, chestnuts, tobacco, grapes and raw vegetables. The other important product in Odemiş is Bryndza with Tulum cheese. There is no one in the entire Aegean region who has not tried it. 

We will arrive in Odemis around lunchtime when we can have our included box lunch while we’re visiting a nursery.

Not far from Odemis is Birgi, a very well-preserved village with a beautiful river meandering through. It is also involved in international organizations such as the Cittaslow Slow Cities network. We will explore the town's cultural heritage by visiting the Çakırağa Konağı (old Ottoman mansion), admiring a monumental cypress tree, strolling through enchanting private gardens and talking to a local silk producer who will give us an insight into the fascinating process of silk production from cocoon to weaver. 

Travel to Izmir.

Dinner on your own in Izmir.

Overnight in Izmir.

Day 9 - Ephesus, Sirince – Friday, May 16, 2025 (B, L)
Breakfast included at the hotel.

Today we head south to visit one of the most remarkable ancient cities in the world and its surroundings. We start the morning with the village of Sirince, located on a hill about 12 km from the ancient city of Ephesus and 85 km from Izmir itself. We walk through the peach and cherry fields, see historic houses and the bazaar of Sirince, one of the largest markets on the Aegean coast. You are welcome to try a piece of fruit from one of the vendors, as you are usually allowed to try everything before you buy it. At this bazaar you can find great jewelry, souvenirs, soaps, dried fruits, handmade clothes and much more that is produced in the village and the surrounding area.

We continue with a very traditional experience, a visit to Can Carpet: At this atelier in the village of Camlik, we will explore the fascinating world of natural dyes and their use in carpet making, focusing on Turkish oriental carpets. We will look at some of the most commonly used natural dyes, their history and cultural significance, and the techniques used to create the vibrant and long-lasting colors in these stunning works of art. 

Lunch included at Can Carpet.

This afternoon we will visit the stunningly beautiful and very well preserved ancient city of Ephesus. We will spend an unforgettable time in this ancient city visiting the Trojan Fountain, the Polio, the Temple of Hadrian and the Temple of Domiton, the Private House, the Library of Celsius, the various baths, the Bouloterion and the Great Theater with a capacity of 24,000 spectators. Ephesus appears several times in the New Testament. The first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary is also located in the ancient city. Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her last years in Ephesus with John. You can visit her house and the tomb of John. Many Popes and the Apostle Paul and John the Evangelist also visited Ephesus. Prepare to be amazed.

On our way back to Izmir, we visit the Lucien Arkas Vineyards for wine tasting. Turkey's largest organic vineyard, it has more than 20 different high-quality grape varieties suitable for the soil and climate conditions of the Aegean. The vines are cultivated using organic methods and the grapes are harvested at night by moonlight. This allows the grapes to naturally preserve the original fruit aromas produced by the terroir. The breathtaking views of the fascinating vineyard landscape, the tastings under cinnamon and cypress trees and the delicacies served in the LA Mahzen restaurant make the time fly by to enjoy these different experiences.

Dinner on your own in Izmir.

Overnight in Izmir.

Day 10 - Izmir, Urla – Saturday, May 17, 2025
Breakfast included at the hotel.

Today we start with a visit to the Mattheys House and gardens in Izmir. We stop at the Yelki organic market and have lunch before driving to Urla to visit the Kostem Olive Oil Museum. Urla is a picturesque coastal town in Turkey that offers a delightful mix of natural beauty and gastronomic delights. We will have our farewell dinner at the famous Michelin-starred restaurant OdUrla.

-Mattheys Mansion: Nestled in the enchanting Mattheys Gardens in the Bornova district of Izmir, the memories of the historic Mattheys Mansion are brought back to life after a painstaking renovation to showcase a stunning collection of Anatolian rugs from the Arkas Carpet Collection. The collection includes carpets made between the 16th and 19th centuries. The mansion has a rich history and has hosted many important personalities. The Bornova district has carefully tended gardens that were just as important as the mansion buildings themselves. The most striking feature of Matthey's Mansion is the arched main entrance door, famous for its beauty and decorated with purple wisteria flowers. Entering through the garden gate, a tree-lined path leds up to the mansion. The entrance path to the manor house has a double row of cypress trees, symbolic of the cypress trees in the manor house garden, along with a symbolic plane tree and many other trees in the garden.

-Yelki Organic Market: The village of Yelki is located in the district of Guezelbahçe, İzmir. Yelki's street market sells organic fruit, herbs, vegetables, dairy products and some of the best gözleme and freshly squeezed juices from the district.

Lunch included.

Kostem Olive Oil Museum: It is a museum complex includes the Museum of Technology, the Soap, Hygiene and Cleaning Museum, a modern olive oil factory and warehouse, olive and olive oil information departments and wood and ceramic workshops. All the tree species that can be grown in the region have been planted in the front garden of the museum to create an arboretum, and a collection of olive trees with Anatolian olive varieties, especially those from the Aegean, has been planted in the backyard.

Free time in Urla.

Farewell Dinner, Odurla: A winding road leads to the top of the hill, from where you get your first impression of Osman Sezener's world. Once you arrive at his family estate, you swap the view of olive trees and vines for his impressive vegetable garden. A visit to the garden is an absolute must. The commitment to sustainability and local sourcing is just as much a part of this restaurant's identity as the focus on cooking over an open fire to highlight the natural flavors and textures of his ingredients.

After dinner, it will be a one hour drive back to Izmir. 

Overnight in Izmir. 

Day 11 - Izmir – Sunday, May, 18, 2025, Sunday
Breakfast included at the hotel. Check out of the hotel.

Today, after breakfast, we will take you to the Izmir airport for your connecting flight home. 


Istanbul - Galata Decamondo Hotel -
Bursa - Kervansaray Thermal Hotel -
İzmir - Swissotel - 


Prices & Inclusions

Per person in DBL / TWIN Room
Single Room Supplement

In order to reserve your seat, we require a non-refundable 10% deposit upon booking. The balance will be required in January 2025. 

This tour will operate with a minimum of 8 participants. 

Prices Include: 

  • A unique Garden Tour itinerary of Turkey curated by Gursan Ergil and Beverly Hurley. 
  • Accompany of Gursan Ergil as a tour leader and lecturer throughout the itinerary
  • Services of an English-speaking, licensed tour guide throughout the itinerary
  • 10 Nights accommodation in boutique hotels in towns as stated in the itinerary
  • Airport transfers and all transport in an air-conditioned, deluxe vehicle
  • All sightseeing tours as stated in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees
  • Daily breakfast and lunch (10 breakfasts, 9 lunches)
  • Welcome and farewell dinners (2 dinners)
  • Wine tasting in Lucien Arkas Winery. 
  • Private garden and local visits as per itinerary
  • Private cruise along the Bosphorus
  • Service charges, parking fees, 18% VAT


Prices do not Include:

  • International flights
  • Domestic flight from Izmir
  • Tips for tour leader, guide and driver
  • Lunch on arrival and departure days 
  • Dinners except welcome and farewell dinners
  • Personal expenses