Image credit: Matthias Rhomberg
Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey offers a unique spiritual journey for yoga enthusiasts. I, along with a group of almost 30 individuals, experienced that unique spiritual journey first-hand on a yoga retreat organized last summer by Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in Arlington, Virginia.
Infused with centuries-old history, diverse cultural heritage and a beautiful landscape, our more than 1,600-mile journey took us to several amazing places, but I’ve listed below the top 6 destinations as a sample itinerary so you can explore Turkey for your next yoga adventure.
1. Start your journey in Istanbul
A natural bridge between East and West, Istanbul has been home to many civilizations, from Romans to Byzantines to Ottomans. Imprints of these diverse civilizations makes the Istanbul skyline an ideal backdrop for outdoor yoga sessions. When arriving in Istanbul, don’t forget to cruise the Bosphorus, a great way to adjust to a new time zone. After a morning yoga session, start your day with a visit to Spice Bazaar and awaken your senses further with hundreds of colorful flavors from all over the world. Complete your cultural immersion by visiting one of the many historical mosques.
Gallipoli is right at the Dardanelles Straits, which is also an important site for Australians and New Zealanders whose family members fought there during the First World War. Surrounded by ancient and contemporary history, our group held a sunset meditation for world peace and harmony atop remnants of a Turkish bunker at the tip of Eastern Europe right where the Dardanelles meet the Aegean Sea. 2015 is the 100th year Anniversary of Gallipoli Campaign, a perfect opportunity to wish for peace and harmony through yoga.
Once you are in Gallipoli, cross the Dardanelles by ferry to Asia and check out the site of the legendary city of Troy, an ideal location to have another yoga session on the soil on which Helen once lived!
3. Temple of Athena
Assos, home of the Temple of Athena is just an hour drive from Troy. Our group visited the Temple of Athena right before the sunset. We held a meditation near the Temple of Athena, overlooking Edremit Bay and the Greek Island of Lesbos. Following our yoga session, we swam in the enchanting waters of the Aegean Sea.
4. Hot springs in Pamukkale
Translating to “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, Pamukkale is one of the most fascinating destinations in Turkey with its white terraces filled with thermal water. Together with the nearby ancient city of Hierapolis, Pamukkale is a World Heritage Site. The ancient Roman baths in Pamukkale, where Cleopatra is
reputed to have swum, turned out to be the perfect spot for our group to experience how the thermal hot springs provide buoyancy to the body and ease the stretches of some favorite yoga poses.
Our group continued from the Aegean Coast to the mystical lunar landscape in Cappadocia in central Anatolia after passing through Konya, where 13th century poet and Sufi mystic Rumi’s tomb is located. Our meditation sessions throughout central Anatolia embraced Rumi’s peaceful poetry and philosophy, and we were able to squeeze in a live performance of whirling dervishes.
6. Back to Istanbul
To recover from the last bus ride, start your day in Istanbul with a restorative yoga session facing the beautiful skyline view of old Istanbul from a rooftop near the Golden Horn.
Continue your Istanbul tour at the magnificent Hagia Sophia, a true fusion of East and West. The symbols of Christianity and Islam adorn the walls of Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum. Topkapi Palace is another must see before departing Istanbul. Check out the living quarters occupied by Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years. Then experience centuries-old Ottoman culture at the Blue Mosque through the bright blue tiles that give the historic structure its name. After tasting Ottoman cuisine in Nar Restaurant, shop your way through Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops. Before relaxing with an afternoon yoga session, visit the Basilica Cistern from the 6th century and wonder how and why one of the Medusa pillars was placed upside down. End your day with a rooftop meditation listening to the night-time sounds of Istanbul. On the day of your departure, relax in a Turkish bath and enjoy a massage.
Air travel for the entire group was made on Turkish Airlines, which has been voted as the number one airline in Europe. Turkish Airlines offers direct flights from several points in the U.S. to Istanbul.
Amir Tahami and Annie Moyer, directors/instructors at Sun & Moon Studio, in collaboration with Lincoln McCurdy, a dedicated yogi and president of the Turkish Coalition of America, organized the spiritual trip through Turkey in the Summer of 2014.