Istanbul – Arrival
Upon arrival to the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, we will meet our guide in the arrivals hall and head to our hotel located near Taksim Square, the bustling heart of modern Istanbul. Dinner and Overnight in Istanbul.
Istanbul – City Tour
After enjoying our Turkish breakfast, we will depart from our hotel and begin our tour of the historical highlights of Istanbul. First, we will stroll through Hippodrome Square, the former sporting and social center of Constantinople that hosted chariot races during the Roman period. Afterwards, we are off to witness the incredible majesty and splendor of the Hagia Sophia, the Orthodox patriarchal basilica-turned Ottoman imperial mosque-turned secular museum commissioned by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Then, we head nearby to Topkapi Palace. Located on the very cape of the peninsula where Constantinople was founded, Topkapi Palace is the former abode of Ottoman Sultans that still houses their legion of treasures, including an extensive collection of royal jewels. Close by is the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul where we will see an incredible collection of antiquities spanning over 5000 years. Then, we will end our day with an evening of shopping at the Grand Bazaar, the massive covered market that houses a labyrinth of streets lined with shops selling jewelry, leather products and many other handcrafted souvenirs. Dinner and Overnight in Istanbul.
Istanbul – City Tour
We will begin our day with a morning of shopping at Eminönü’s Spice Bazaar. Also, known as the Egyptian Bazaar, this large covered market has remained the city’s center for spice trade since its creation in the 17th century. Then, we will embark on a cruise of the Bosphorus, the winding straight that separates Europe and Asia and connects the Black Sea with the inland Sea of Marmara. This is our time to relish the views of the old wooden mansions, Ottoman palaces, and ancient fortresses that dot the river’s coast. Afterwards, we will head to the Church of Saint Saviour in Chora. This church is an exquisite example of Byzantine architecture that is embellished with 13th century frescoes and gold-gilded mosaics. We will end our day at the Suleymaniye Mosque, the crowning achievement of Mimar Sinan, who was so proud of his creation that he chose to be buried next door. Here, we see the magnificent dome and tour the mosque complex, passing the mausoleums of Süleyman and Roxelana. And from the mosque terrace we can enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the Golden Horn. Dinner and Overnight in Istanbul.
Istanbul / Troy / Canakkale
Today, we will depart from the hotel and drive along the shore of the Sea of Marmara into Thrace, the European part of Turkey. Crossing the Dardanelles by ferry, we will continue to the village of Tevfikiye by the entrance of the Dardanelles to see the remains of the legendary city of Troy. Settled as early as 3,000 BC, Troy was made famous by Homer’s Iliad, the epic account of the Trojan War. Dinner and Overnight in Canakkale.
Canakkale / Assos / Pergamum / Thyatira / Kusadasi
This morning, we are off to visit the ancient theatre at Assos before we continue on to the town of Bergama to visit Pergamum, one of the most powerful cities in the ancient world. The city rose to prominence following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and eventually came under Roman control in 133 B.C. Today, we will tour the Acropolis which sits atop a 1000-foot windswept mountain, offering a view of the neighboring modern towns, the azure waters of the Aegean, and the ruins of Pergamum that cascade down from the ancient city center. Here, we will explore the Temple of Trajan, the Temple of Athena, and the Altar of Zeus. Unfortunately, little is left of the altar, which was once among the grandest monuments of the ancient world. In fact, every stone of the structure, including its 400-foot long frieze depicting the battle of the gods and giants, was shipped off to Berlin by German Archaeologists leaving only the altar’s foundation. Thankfully, much more remains of the Great Theatre. Among the steepest of its kind and an acoustic phenomenon, this theatre could entertain up to 10,000 spectators. Nearby are the remains of the famous Library of Pergamum. Once housing some 200,000 scrolls, the library’s collection even exceeded that of the great library of Alexandria before Mark Anthony gave it to Cleopatra as a wedding gift. Afterwards, we will explore the Asklepion. Allegedly one of the world’s first full-service health clinics, the Asklepion was the ancient world’s version of a spa, attracting health pilgrims from all over the region, including Roman Emperors Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. Moreover, the physician Galen trained at this center and developed the foundation for modern Western medicine. Then, we will drive to Akhisar and end our day with a visit to Thyatira, one of the Seven Churches of Revelations praised for its increasing faith but admonished for its tolerance of Jezebel (Rev. 2:18-28). Dinner and Overnight in Kusadasi.
Kusadasi / Ephesus / Kusadasi
This morning, we will head to the modern town of Selcuk and up Mt. Koressos to visit the House of the Virgin Mary to see where the mother of Jesus is believed to have spent the last days of her life with the Apostle John. Afterwards, we drive down the mountain to nearby Ephesus, one of the most well-preserved archaeological sites in Turkey. Originally an ancient Greek Ionic city built in the 10th century B.C., Ephesus grew to become the largest metropolis and capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor. This political influence and the city’s large Jewish community attracted the attention of the apostles, including Paul, who was born “Saul of Tarsus” before his conversion and great missionary journeys that were responsible for spreading Christianity to the West. In addition to Paul, Ephesus was also the home of the Apostle John who was Bishop of the Ephesian Church before he was exiled to Patmos. Today, we will walk on the Marble Road passing numerous historically rich sites including the wonderfully ornamented Fountain of Trajan and the Temple of Hadrian. We will also see the Library of Celsus, which adorns the site’s most impressive square, and sit in the theater (the largest surviving from the Roman period). This massive theatre (capable of entertaining up to 25,000 spectators) was the scene of an uprising provoked by a merchant named Demetrius against Paul and his teachings (Acts 19:23). Before heading to our Kusadasi hotel, we will stop at the ruins of St. John’s Basilica. Constructed by Justinian I in the 6th century, this basilica stands over the believed burial site of the Apostle John. Dinner and Overnight in Kusadasi.
Kusadasi / Priene / Miletus / Didyma / Bodrum
Today, we leave Kusadasi and head to Priene, an ancient Greek city that was a member of the Ionian League. Here, we will see long stretches of the Hellenistic wall and ruins that lie on top of the site and down the cascading terraces. Next, we are off to Miletus, one of the most important cities of the ancient Greek world that Paul the Apostle visited on his Third Missionary Journey (Acts 20:16-38). Here, we will see impressive ruins like the 25,000-seat theatre, and hike to the top of the site to enjoy a beautiful view of the Meander River flood plain. Close by is Didyma, an important sacred site in the ancient Greek world. Its famous oracle and Temple of Apollo attracted throngs of pilgrims and was second in importance only to Delphi. Here, we will see the ruins of the massive temple that was designed by the same architects behind the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Temple of Hera at Samos. Then, we head to Bodrum for the night. Dinner and Overnight in Bodrum.
Bodrum / Kaunos / Fethiye
After breakfast, we will visit the ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the tomb of the king, Mausolus. The structure was built by his queen, Artemesia, and was so magnificent that his name came to be associated with all stately tombs through the word mausoleum. Then, we head to the medieval Bodrum Castle, also known as the Castle of St. Peter. Built by the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes in 1402 and later expanded and fortified (likely using stones pillaged from the nearby Mausoleum), this structure dominates the harbor and houses the Museum of Underwater Archeology, established here in 1962. Next, we are off to Kaunos, an ancient Greek sea port dating back to the 10th century BC that we will reach by boat. Here, we will see beautiful archeological ruins including ancient rock tombs carved into the side of the cliffs. These necropolis’s facades resemble the fronts of Hellenistic temples. Afterwards, we drive to Fethiye, a beautiful town that rests on a wide stretch of the Mediterranean coast and sits on the site of ancient Telmessos. Dinner and Overnight in Fethiye.
Fethiye / Demre / Phaselis / Antalya
Today, we are off to Demre, a gorgeous Mediterranean coastal town that is the site of Myra, an ancient Greek town of Lycia. The town is the birthplace of St. Nicholas and is traditionally associated with Paul the Apostle, who changed ships in its harbor. Here, we will explore the incredible Lycian tombs that are carved into the vertical faces of the Myra cliffs. Then, we will board a boat to reach Phaselis, an ancient Greek and Roman city that used to be an important harbor and center for commerce between Greece, Asia, Egypt, and Phoenicia. Here, we will explore the archaeological site which includes numerous sarcophagi and a 24-meter wide ancient street lined with Roman baths, agoras, theaters, and shops. Afterwards, we head to Antalya, Turkey’s largest international sea resort, which sits on the Turkish Riviera. Dinner and Overnight in Antalya.
Antalya / Perge / Aspendos / Antalya
After breakfast, we are off to the archeological site of Perge, a chief city of Pamphylia that was visited twice by Paul the Apostle and his companion, Barnabas (Acts 13:13–14 and 14:25). Here, we will explore Perge’s extensive ruins, including a well-preserved theatre, the Agora, a colonnaded boulevard, Roman baths, a gymnasium, the necropolis, a memorial fountain, and the Greek and Roman gates. Next, we are off to the ancient Greco-Roman city of Aspendos to see the best-preserved theatre of antiquity. Here, we will also see the ruins of a basilica, agora, nymphaeum, Roman aqueduct, and the Roman Eurymedon Bridge before returning to our Antalya hotel. Dinner and Overnight in Antalya.
Antalya / Çatalhöyük / Cappadocia
Today, we will visit the well-preserved Neolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük, a UNESCO World Heritage site located on the southern Anatolian Plateau that is regarded as a chief source for understanding human pre-history. The vast site’s distinctive layout of back-to-back houses with roof access, and the presence of findings such as wall paintings and reliefs representing the symbolic world of the inhabitants are considered exceptional by archaeologists and historians. Afterwards, we are off to Cappadocia, a plateau where ancient volcanic eruptions and subsequent wind and water erosion created this fairytale landscape of chimney, cone, mushroom, and pinnacle rock formations. Here, we will not only see the rocky creations of Mother Nature, but we will also witness the remarkable product of human ingenuity in the honeycombed networks of carved-from-rock cave churches, homes, and storehouses. In fact, these human populations were able to carve out extensive tunnel complexes to form entire towns with as many as eight different stories hidden underground, complete with ventilation systems that still function today. Dinner and Overnight in Cappadocia.
This morning, we will explore the Monastic Center of Goreme. This open-air museum is dotted with quaint carved-from-rock churches and chapels embellished with colorful Byzantine frescoes. Then, we will climb the natural rock citadel of Uçhisar, the tallest point in Cappadocia that boasts a spectacular view of the region. Afterwards, we are off to Ortahisar to see its gorgeous valleys and stop at the Three Beauties, the most famous of the region’s many conic rock formations. Today, we will also hike through the valley of Zelve and see its hundreds of carved-from-rock houses and chapels, and we will visit Pasabag Valley, also known as Monk’s Valley, to explore its tower-shaped hermitages. Next, we will descend into Özkonak Underground City before heading to the potter’s studio in Avanos, a town established by the Hittites on the banks of the Halys River. This town has carried on the Hittities’ tradition of pottery that uses the river’s famous red clay to make ceramics. Dinner and Overnight in Cappadocia.
Cappadocia / Hattusha / Ankara
Today, we depart from Cappadocia and head to the vast archeological site of Hattusha, the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age dating from around 2000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.. This UNESCO World Heritage site sits against the extraordinary backdrop of the high Anatolian plains and includes extensive ruins which are spread throughout the sloping uneven plateau. Here, we will hike through the remains of this imperial settlement, passing monumental sculptures and ruined walls, palaces, temples, and residences. Afterwards, we drive to Ankara, the capital of the Republic of Turkey. Dinner and Overnight in Ankara.
After breakfast, we will visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, a beautiful museum housed in two Ottoman buildings located near Ankara Castle. Here, we will see the museum’s extensive display of cultural treasures, including examples of the first minted money. Afterwards, we will explore the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, World War I front-line commander, revolutionary leader, and father of the Republic of Turkey. Known in Turkish as Anitkabir, this structure sits atop a hilltop overlooking the city and houses a museum that provides insight into 20th century Turkish history. Before heading to our hotel, we will visit the Temple of Augustus. Also known as the Monumentum Ancyranum, the temple was built following the conquest of Central Anatolia by the Roman Empire. After Augustus’ death in 14 AD, a copy of the text of Res Gestae Divi Augusti, the Emperor’s funerary inscription, was inscribed on the temple’s interior. Dinner and Overnight in Ankara.
Ankara – Departure flight via Istanbul
Today, we say good-bye to Turkey and head to the Ankara Airport to board our departure flight via Istanbul Ataturk International Airport.