My wife and I have booked the Gate 1 Affordable Turkey trip for March, and I'm happy to see there are several good reviews of the tour here. I didn't sign up for any of the optional tours yet, trying to see if we'd be better of booking day trips through a local agency. Specifically, I'd like to hear opinions on the Cappadocia and Ephesus day trips.
Here's what Gate 1 offers:
Ephesus - $75 pp
Ephesus is situated in the fertile Ionian landscape and famous throughout history for its temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. Ephesus is considered to be the showpiece among all the antique cities of the world. Leave your hotel for Ephesus and first visit the house of Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary accompanied St. John to Ephesus, where she spent her last years living near a grove of olive trees close by to Ephesus. A visit is considered to be a Pilgrimage by the Vatican. You may collect holy water from the sacred spring. Visit the Basilica of St. John who came here and wrote his gospel. Ephesus was undoubtedly, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. Among its impressive structures you will marvel at the library of Celsus, temple of Hadrian, the theater and the Odeon. Includes lunch at a local restaurant.
I found some local tours (Reliable Travel is highly recommended) for a bit cheaper, but the house of the Virgin Mary was not on that tour.
Cappadocia full day - $69 pp
Depart your hotel for a full day tour in Cappadocia. Visit the Open Air Museum in Goreme Valley to see the early Christian churches decorated with unique frescos depicting various scenes from the Bible. Later, visit the Ozkonak Underground City, an ancient city built on the northern slopes of Mt. Idis. The city has many strata made up of volcanic granite. Its larger areas are connected to each other by tunnels. Ozkonak had a built-in communication system of pipes on each of its levels, unlike Kaymakli and Derinkuyu, which have no such systems. Each carved out room had ventilation provided by holes when the city was closed against enemies. Lastly, visit the village of Avanos that is famous for its beautiful old houses, pottery and onyx.
As with Ephesus, I found several recommended local tours that are a bit cheaper, but they go to some different sites. Most go to either one of the underground cities OR the Goreme Open Air museum, not both as in the Gate 1 trip.
So, any thoughts? Are the more expensive Gate 1 trips worth the added cost, as well as (I assume) the downside of a larger group?
Or are there sites in the Gate 1 trips that it would be OK to miss to gain a smaller, more personalized tour with a local company?
We'll also probably want to do some tours in Istanbul and need to look into local option there as well.