Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

The plan was to spend 3 days in Istanbul following a Ponant cruise in Greece. Midway through the cruise the anti Israel and antisemitism demonstrations in Europe caused us to reach out to Karen over our concerns for safety in Istanbul. She outlined what was happening in Turkey and emphasized that we would be okay and that it was business as usual. Our 3 days were memorable. Cenk is a phenomenal guide. He is charming, knowledgeable, fun and warm. We enjoyed learning about Turkish history and were surprised at how little we knew. The tourist sites were crowded but we were able to get in and out without waiting. The shops in the Grand Bazaar were fabulous and our cooking class was fun and yummy. One of the best organized cooking classes we have taken. We were worried about visiting Jewish sites but there was no issue. The Bank Hotel was an excellent choice. A lovely oasis in a bustling city of 20 million people. Once again another terrific travel specialist referral. This might be our 8th or 9th trip with your recommendations. Next trip to South Africa in the spring.

We recently returned from an incredible journey through Turkey this past September. The timing of our trip was perfect — the weather was gorgeous every day. What an amazing country it is! Karen planned a busy and exciting itinerary for us that began in Istanbul. There our well-educated and delightful guide, Cenk, led us on a walking tour of the most important and beautiful mosques (Hagia Sophia is spectacular!), Sultan Ahmed’s luxurious Palace (the Treasury and Armory containing many of the Sultan’s treasures, caftans, dining and smoking paraphernalia, etc. left me in awe), as well as the colorful Spice Market and Grand Bazaar. It was at the Grand Bazaar where Wendy and Karen surprised us with a very special WOW Moment. We were taken to the roof of the Grand Bazaar, escorted by security, and allowed to walk on a narrow catwalk on the rooftop of the Bazaar! The views were amazing as we personally lived a “James Bond” moment. Many thanks to Wendy and Karen! Cenk also escorted us on a very relaxing and beautiful boat ride on the Bosphorus where we saw the Istanbul skyline from a different perspective.

From Istanbul, we flew to Cappadocia to see the other worldly landscape of this ancient land. We debated whether or not to include this area in our travels. Karen encouraged us to see it and we are so happy she did! It is definitely not to be missed! Nowhere else can you see the unusual fairy chimneys, cave dwellings in the hundreds and carefully carved pigeon houses. The sunrise balloon ride was a highlight of the trip! Well worth the early morning wake-up call! We also visited a ceramics factory where my husband even learned how to throw a vase!

We then flew to Ismir, the business center of Turkey. There we drove to Ephesus to see the Virgin Mary and St. John’s home, St. John Basilica, and the Temple of Artemis. This was a very special day seeing both Pagan and Christian ruins, all still very well preserved. Our guide, Bilge, was extremely helpful, informative and enjoyable to be with.

Our tour of Turkey ended in Bodrum, which is incredibly beautiful and relaxing. We toured the Bodrum Castle, which has a storied past but served as a home for the Knights of St. John, among other things.

Karen did a wonderful job in creating a very special itinerary that catered to our interests. In addition, she chose a perfect variety of delicious restaurants, many with lovely views. This was an extremely memorable trip. We just wished we had planned several more days to continue further south along the coast to see the beautiful landscape there. A perfect reason to return someday!

Sailing the Turquoise Coast on a private gulet.

Anne Hall and her husband and sister spent four days sailing the Turquoise Coast on a private gulet. Photo: Traveler Anne Hall

My husband, sister, and I spent eight days in Turkey in September 2023: four days in Istanbul and four days on a gulet sailing along the southwestern coast of Turkey. It was an extraordinary trip. Many thanks to Karen and Mustafa for a unique and amazing trip.

Our guide in Istanbul was Cenk. He is terrific. He showed us the major sites of his city, but we liked best walking around the Asian side of Istanbul where he walked us through the neighborhoods while discussing life in Istanbul. We had tea overlooking the Bosporus, lunch at local workingmen’s lunch spot, and he set us up for massages at an ancient hammam. Cenk was easy to be with, fun to talk to, kind to us, and dedicated to our deeper understanding of Istanbul and its people. He felt like family and we were sad to say goodbye.

Karen’s team recommended we stay at the TomTom Suites in Istanbul. This was a great recommendation (“Best hotel I’ve ever stayed at,” says Bill), with beautiful rooms and a warm and inviting staff.

After four exceptional days in Istanbul, we flew to Dalaman where a driver and guide took us to Gocek Marina to board the Serenity 70, a lovely two-masted gulet. We three were the only passengers. How do you define perfect? We can’t say enough about the incredible crew (captain, first mate, and chef) and the four days of sailing the southwestern coast of Turkey. We would sail for 2-3 hours each day, then anchored at one of the coast’s many bays. Each day we swam in the silky, blue waters and toured an ancient site on land. One day we traveled via flat-bottomed boat through the reeds to the Lycian Rock Tombs and toured ancient villages. This was my WOW Moment provided by Wendy Perrin (thanks, Wendy!) and organized by Mustafa. The old tombs were amazing—like Petra in Jordon. We swam through the ruins of Cleopatra’s bath house, and hiked Gemiler Island. Otherwise, we read, napped or sat up above with the captain while he steered the boat.

The chef was a master (imaginative, well prepared, and fun food), and the first mate was so charming, kind, and fun that we felt at ease (it’s hard to get used to being waited on). We warmed to all of them quickly. It was hard to say goodbye to them, too. At the end of the voyage the chef baked a cake for our newly retired sister, which congratulated her in Turkish on the top of the cake, and the whole crew joined us in the celebration.

Finally, we need to stress how exceptional Karen’s office was to work with. They were responsive to every inquiry, marvelous at keeping in touch, and immediately available to help when one of us unexpectedly got sick. We were met at every airport or at the beginning of a touring day with a driver and guide. Karen’s team is utterly dependable. They ensured we had a unique experience. We would love to travel with them again. Thanks, Karen!

Bernardo Levy Nogueira | September 12, 2023

Karen’s was a great company to work with!
And we found about it by the advice of the great Wendy Perrin!
We had a two-day private tour of Istanbul with our 5-year-old Sophia and it was just G R E A T !
Wonderful meals, locations, guide….

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