We are considering doing the Turkey 13 day tour in the fall. It will be our 4th RS tour (Eastern European, Greece, Norway). We are 73 years young and walk 4-6 miles/day in upstate NY and Florida. Website says it’s the most strenuous tour on RS scale of activity. If you have done this tour, please tell us about the actual activity level experience that you had. Thank you in advance.
I took both the Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul tours last May and June and wrote this trip report, which includes a summary of the miles I walked in both tours:
My miles combined walking during the tour and during free time.
Best of Turkey
Minimum: 4.58 (does not include last day of tour, which ends after breakfast)
Maximum: 9.77 miles
The walking often included stairs, hills, cobblestones and uneven surfaces. Some of the sights, such as Ronan ruins, were reached by an uphill climb on a dirt path, though it was optional to make the trek to the one at Pamukkale, which I recall as being the most strenuous.
I recently took the Best of Bulgaria tour, which is listed as far less strenuous. I definitely noticed the difference in activity levels.
Also keep in mind that time of year will be a factor: the path I climbed at Pamukkale seemed more strenuous on our hot tour day.
I should also mention that the waking is broken up throughout the day. At home, I walk my miles in 1 or 2 spurts. During a typical tour day, the walking might be spread across many hours, interspersed with bus time, lunch breaks, rest stops and museum visits. At no time did we walk the miles in one go.
The walking was sometimes optional, but not exactly always.
For example, at Ephesus, the tour bus dropped us off at the top and we walked the path through the site, downhill, to meet the tour bus at the other end.
At the site, there are stairs through the excavations of the residences. The entry to the theater is from below, so you don't have to clamber up those stairs unless you want the views.
In Istanbul, we walked through the Old Town and Grand Bazaar - sightseeing along the way - to eventually meet the bus.
Having been on other RS tours, and having done the Turkey tour, I think the rating is probably based upon the first few days in Istanbul. Istanbul is quite hilly and there is a lot to see so we did a lot of walking with the guide. I remember being tired at the end of each day in Istanbul. However, the days ended early enough that you could either go back to the hotel and relax or continue on to other sights without the guide. There was a lot of walking, though, with the guide, but nothing was too strenuous. It was broken up by lunch stops, a boat tour on the Bosphorus, and furnicular and bus rides.
The other days activities were about equal to other tours, but maybe what it is referring to is that there were quite a few days of activity. Yes, there is a lot of walking, but you can drop off and do as much or as little as you want. For example in Cappadocia, you started with the guide and walked into the fairy chimney area, and could continue on as far as you wanted to or could take a shorter loop. At Ephesus and Pamukkale it was the same thing, walk with the guide and then she would let us have time to go off and explore as much as we wanted. We had time to swim in the pool there, while others took a longer hike and went to the far end of the historical site. There is an underground city that you tour and you have to be able to walk up and down some narrow stairs and walk through some narrow passages and do a little bending over in the shorter tunnels (but never crawling or crouching). At Goreme there were some ladders to climb to see some of the cave churches, but again those were completely optional. There was plenty to see without climbing ladders. In Cappadocia we did a hot air ballon ride (optional) and you had to be able to climb into the ballon basket, although the balloon guides assisted with that.
There were a few days of relaxing on the bus and days when we stopped and walked through markets and ate at local cafes, or stopped at an ancient amphitheater near the road without much walking. And there are a couple of days in the middle where we had a "vacation from our vacation" in Antalya where we all took a boat out onto the Aegean and swam (optional) and then people either spent the afternoon at a museum or shopping or doing a Turkish bath (optional). So the active days were nicely spaced by more cultural type stops.
So if you are walking 4-6 miles a day, you shouldn't have any trouble doing the tour. Just pace yourself and do what you want to physically. You won't miss much if you want to ease off and hike a shorter loop or just sit at a cafe and relax.
I agree with the above posts.
I have bad knees and was able to do most of the activities on the Turkey tour.
I do use a walking stick.
I skipped an optional hike and I did not go into the underground city. I also did not climb the stairs to the top in the amphitheaters.