On Location
International Expeditions

Exploring Turkey: One Grand City and Endless Natural Wonders

with Jennifer Spelman

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Course Description

This once in a lifetime journey into Turkey leads us through some of the most breathtaking historical sites in the world. Istanbul, known as the city where East meets West, was the land of the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans and each contributed to its remarkable mix of churches, mosques, cisterns, and palaces. Cappadocia’s awe-inspiring rock formations and beautiful valleys are a natural phenomenon without comparison. Our path leads us through a mix of modern, ancient, and natural world wonders.

It all begins with our arrival in Istanbul, where we are met by a private driver and taken to our luxury 5-star hotel in the heart of the city. After an evening orientation tour, we share our first group dinner of traditional Turkish cuisine.

The next day—our first full one—is spent in the colorful, historic Sultanahmet neighborhood, home to such mesmerizing structures as the beautiful Hagia Sophia, the wondrous Blue Mosque, and the fascinating underground Basilica Cistern. We learn the history and connect with local people while taking advantage of stunning photo opportunities. In the evening, we gather at a popular local restaurant for food, tea, and traditional music.

Our third day begins with a walk to the Grand Bazaar, a massive 15th-century indoor market with dozens of lanes and more than 4000 shops, where endless nooks and crannies hold endless photographic opportunities. After lunch we walk to the spectacular 16th-century Suleymaniye Mosque before hitting the city’s famous spice market, a gorgeous building full of intense colors and magical aromas.

After an early breakfast on day four we take a short drive to the Balat neighborhood, home to Jewish, Roma, and Armenian populations over the years and recently re-invigorated by the restoration of its colorful traditional wooden homes and buildings. Here we participate in an organized photo session with local models. After lunch, we wander the picturesque waterfront of vibrant Eminonu, a neighborhood full of activity. In the evening we pause to share and review images together.

Today is a day to plan your own itinerary, at your own pace, to explore and enjoy other parts of this great city. Options include photographing alongside the lively Galata bridge, walking along Istiklal Street (one of the most photogenic pedestrian avenues in the world), visiting grand palaces, or simply relaxing at a luxury traditional spa. Jennifer Spelman and Derek Baron are both available to help plan your day and make the most of a “free day.”

On day six we depart Istanbul for the beautiful region of Cappadocia on a 90-minute flight. Upon arrival, we take a panoramic orientation tour of South Cappadocia before arriving to our unique cave hotel (yes, inside of a cave!). Once settled, we’ll head out for a photographic walk in the local village to take in the sweeping views over the region.

Our seventh day we visit the Goreme open air museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we explore a rock carved monastery, cave churches with colorful original frescoes, living quarters of monks and more. We also visit the Ortahisar Castle and soak up the Fairy Chimney Valley with its mushroom-like rocks and out-of-this-world formations. Our last stop is at a red clay pottery workshop located along the river where we learn about this craft that has become well known in Cappadocia.

Day eight begins with a most memorable early morning excursion—a hot air balloon ride at sunrise! We rise-up between two volcanic mountains for unforgettable images out over this otherworldly landscape. Our day takes us to Uchisar Castle, the Kaymakli Underground City, and the Pigeon Valley. In the evening, we settle in for a Whirling Dervish performance and a traditional Turkish dinner.

On day nine, after a leisurely morning, we head away from central Cappadocia in order to visit the more remote villages in this region. We go for a nature walk, meet local villagers, visit their homes and have a relaxed, yet truly rewarding, experience out in the quiet countryside. This day provides an excellent chance to photograph a slice of Turkish culture that is rarely recorded as we visit communities that seldom receive visitors. On the return to our hotel, we stop to enjoy a special home-cooked dinner with local friends in a small village which brings our adventure to a joyous ending.

The next morning, we fly to Istanbul to catch connections back home after a memorable journey full of rich interactions with local people and immersion into Turkish life.

Additional Information


This program is open to photographers at all levels who are passionate about travel and improving their image making.

What You Should Know:

Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. This a photographic tour, not a photography workshop and there isn’t structured classroom time. There will be group image review sessions with Jennifer, as well as help with photographic ideas and techniques on-location.

Activity Level:

To get the most from this international experience, participants should be in good physical (mobility, stamina) and mental health. In general, arrive prepared for long days and seasonal weather including variable temperatures. You must be able to carry your own photographic and personal gear at all times. You are responsible for being open and honest about your physical fitness, and we reserve the right to remove you from the workshop if we find your fitness to be less than that which you have described.

It’s important to note that many parts of Istanbul are pedestrian-only and can therefore only be reached by foot. Participants should be able to walk a minimum of three hours per day and to be comfortable walking up and down hilly streets. There is also a good amount of walking in Cappadocia, as the sites in both areas are best explored by foot.


View Payment, Refund, Withdrawal, and Transfer Policies for this International Program.

Package Price INFO:

$7,895 includes double accommodations for nine nights (ideal for couples and friends traveling together; single supplement available for an additional $850);  all breakfasts, four lunches, and seven dinners; all transportation in Turkey including two domestic flights; airport transfers; and all entrance fees. Airfare to Istanbul as well as required travel insurance, meals and activities not mentioned in the itinerary, gratuities, and passport/visa fees are not included.

Nature & Landscape, Portraiture, Street Photography, Travel Photography
© Nerissa Escanlar
Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.

Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.

A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co-instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Morocco, India, Turkey, Romania, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.

A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Instagram: @jennifer_spelman

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