Istanbul: Arrive in Turkey
Meet with your tour director at the international arrivals terminal outside the customs area and continue to your hotel. After check in to the hotel attend the welcome meeting with other tour participants headed by the tour director to have further info about the tour.
Classical Istanbul – Full Day
Depart from the hotel to visit historical highlights of Istanbul including the ROMAN HIPPODROME where chariot track was built in AD 203 by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus on the model of the Circus Maximus in Rome. No stadium, ancient or modern, was ever so famous in its time, or played such an important role in its city’s public life. Much more went on here than just chariot races and the athletic events, then continue to the BLUE MOSQUE, This massive structure, officially called the Sultan Ahmet Camii-the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I, is studded with domes and surrounded by six minarets. Only after entering do you understand the name. The interior is decorated with 21,043 shimmering blue Iznik tiles and interspersed with 260 stained-glass windows; an airy arabesque pattern is painted on the ceiling. Following this visit, we will stop at the ST. SOPHIA MUSEUM, The greatest church in Christendom for more than a millennium with a huge dome, massive pillars, and magnificent wall mosaics, the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia is one of the most magnificent buildings ever constructed.
Afternoon, we will start our sightseeing with the TOPKAPI PALACE, Istanbul’s number one attraction sits on Seraglio Point, where the Bosphorus meets the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. The heart of the Ottoman Istanbul for more than four centuries, this former imperial palace of the sultans holds priceless jewels, porcelain, paintings, costumes, royal armory and holy relics. Then finally we will stop at the GRAND BAZAAR. This early version of a mall consists of a maze of 65 winding, covered streets crammed with 4,000 tiny shops, cafés, and restaurants. It is reputedly the largest number of stores under one roof anywhere in the world.
Istanbul – Ankara
After breakfast, Depart from the hotel to visit the SPICE BAZAAR, also known as the Egyptian Market, this bazaar is much smaller than the Grand Bazaar but still lively and colorful. Once a vast pharmacy filled with burlap bags of herbs, the bazaar today is stocked with Turkish delight, nuts, and royal jelly from the beehives of the Aegean, as well as white sacks of spices. And then take boat to sail along the European and Asian shores of the Bosphorus, zigzagging between the two continents. Enjoy pretty panorama of the richly decorated late Ottoman palaces, wooden houses, and the fortresses.
In the afternoon, we will drive to Ankara, The Hittites are said to have settled on the hills of Ankara and built a fortress there. The Phrygians came BC 1200, and they were followed by the Lydians. The ancient name of the town is Ankyra, which some scholars believe to be of Phrygian origin, though it is a Greek word-meaning anchor. Ankara was first mentioned as a staging post on the great Persian royal road from Susa to Sarde. On 13 October 1923, Ankara became the capital city of the new Republic.
Depart from the hotel to visit the MUSEUM OF ANATOLIAN CIVILIZATIONS where beautifully restored 15th century AD caravansary. It was originally known as the Hittite Museum in an attempt to call the world’s attention to the newly discovered works of the first great Anatolian kingdom. As other sites came to light in the explosion of archaeological activity after WW II, explorations that have reshaped the knowledge of the ancient Middle East, other fine pieces of artefacts have been brought here, making it the richest of its kind in the world. The museum as a whole gives a solid education in this field from the Paleolithic to the Classical era. And the MAUSOLEUM OF ATATURK, on a hilltop overlooking the city, this monumental building complex rises like an ancient temple over Ankara, and it is surrounded by a heavenly park area, the Peace Park. It was built between 1943–1953 as an eternal resting place for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk- the heroic leader of Turkish people during the War of Independence and the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Afterwards drive to CAPPADOCIA by the Salt Lake via Aksaray. On the way from Aksaray to Cappadocia along the Silk Road, visit the AGZIKARAHAN KERVANSARAY. This is one of the best-preserved and the most impressive caravansaries from the Selcuk period in Anatolia, dating from AD 1231-1243. Some of the finest features are the magnificent portals with stalactite vaulting. The Agzikarahan and other such hostels provided for the needs of those traveling on the caravan routes like the Silk Road, hence the name Kervansaray- palace for caravans that were the main arteries of Selcuk trade and commerce. Arrive in Cappadocia, The ancient name of the area in the central part of the country was probably derived from the name given by the Persians, Kappa Tuka or Katpa Toka, which meant the land of the beautiful horses. Over 30 million years ago, their volcanic ash consolidated into a soft porous rock called tufa that covered an area of almost 4000 square km.
Cappadocia Full Day
Depart from the hotel to visit the GOREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM; Goreme, ancient Korama, was one of the great centers of Christianity from the 6th century AD to the 12th century AD, and there were about 400 churches around. The architectural design of the churches tended to follow the accepted Byzantine patterns with arches, pillars and dome. The St.Basil’s, the Apple, the St. Barbara, the Serpent (St. Onophrius), the Carikli (Sandals) are the churches to see within the open air museum, and the Tokali (Buckle) church outside of it. Continue to the OZKONAK UNDERGROUND CITY. This is one of the largest underground cities carved into tufa by early Christians. There are living rooms, storerooms, kitchen, ventilation system, and wine cellars. Through history, the local people used the underground cities of Cappadocia as retreats to escape the invading hordes of armies that poured across the Anatolian plain. The highlights of the day also include visits to the PIGEONS’ VALLEY. The pigeons in the area are highly prized for their droppings that are used as the best quality fertilizer. Therefore, farmers of the area carve small holes into tufa as dovecotes. Although it is true for almost the entire region, there are so many of these dovecotes in this particular valley in addition to the spectacular view of rock formations and the neighbouring village of Uchisar. The OLD VILLAGE OF CAVUSIN where the village partly built into a pock marked cliff face. In 1950s, an earthquake led the villagers to rebuild their houses on lower level ground, abandoning the higher troglodyte dwellings.The last stop will be the pottery manufacturing town of AVANOS. This is the Roman Venasa, a town on the banks of Kizilirmak- the “Red River”, known in the ancient days as the “Halys”. This is the longest river in Turkey flowing for 1355 km.
Cappadocia – Konya
Depart from the hotel for a drive to the town of GUZELYURT. In ancient times this town was known as Karbala and in Christian period as Kalvari, then Gelveri, in which one of the founder fathers of the Christian Church- St. Gregory of Nazianzus was born in AD 328.. After a brief sightseeing around the town, continue to the city KONYA via Aksaray along the Silk Road. Visit the MEVLANA MUSEUM. This is the best known and probably the most famous building in Konya with the dominant Green Tomb, the symbol of the city today. And if it were possible to weigh the fervor with which the millions of visitors spend their time at various places in the city, then the tomb of the “greatest poet and deepest thinker and most pious of all men” would probably be the most important place in Konya and the KARATAY MUSEUM. This is originally a medrese from the Selcuk era, which was exclusively an institution of advanced specialist education, in contrast with the mosque, in which elementary instruction was also given. The “university “of philosophy, astronomy, medicine and mathematics, this medrese founded in AD 1251 in Konya. Konya, The city which was known as Iconium in ancient periods lies in the enormous central Anatolian high steppes where extensive salt lakes have formed due to imperfect drainage through the syncline. The excavations have confirmed settlement here during the Chalcolithic age, and one of the oldest known cities in the history, Catalhoyuk, had a proven settlement from BC 7000, during the Neolithic age.
Konya - Pamukkale
Depart from the hotel to drive to the town of PAMUKKALE near the city of Denizli, via the towns AKSEHIR, known as Philomeion in Byzantine period, this lively town in the central Anatolia was the home of Nasreddin Hoca, the great master of tricks and jokes, a prankster who was one of the best-known personalities in old Anatolia. Continue to visit the ruins of the ancient city HIERAPOLIS, The ancient city was founded by the Pergamene King Eumenes II and he established a border fortress for a military colony in BC 190. He called it after Hiera, the wife of the mythical Pergamene founding father Telephos. When the town was taken over by the Romans in BC 129, the name of this city was mistakenly understood as the Holy City, as the Greek word “hieros” means holy and the city had many temples. And the limestone wonders of Pamukkale. This is the name of the area that means the “Cotton Castle”. It refers to the ruins of a Selcuk period fortress which has only survived in fragments by the world famous stalactite terraces falling over 100 m. from the plateau of the ancient city Hierapolis.
Pamukkale – Sardis – Kusadasi
Depart from the hotel for a drive to Laodiceia on Lycus, This was a Hellenistic settlement which had replaced an earlier settlement called Diospolis. History of foundation of the city dates back to the 3rd century BC. Either the Syrian kings Antiochos I Soter (BC 280-261) in honor of his sister Laodice, or Antiochos II Theos (BC 261-246) in honor of his wife Laodice established the city at the junction of the main routes from North to South and from West to East. Drive to the village of Geyre to visit the ancient city of APHRODISIAS, The earliest name of the city, Ninoe, may suggest an early Assyrian settlement possibly with a shrine to Isthar, the goddess of love and planet Venus in Mesopotamia-the Land of the Two Rivers, who under the Greeks became Aphrodite, hence the name Aphrodisias. Once a beautiful city dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty. Drive to Sardis. This was the capital city of the Lydian Kingdom and the commercial center of the Roman province of Asia Minor. The city owed much of its wealth to the gold that was taken from the Pactolos stream- Sart Cayi which comes down from the Mt. Tmolos- Bozdag. In the Old Testament Sardis- Sfard in Lydian, is probably the place called Sepharad where there were exiles from Jerusalem (Obadiah 20). These may have been people who had left Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple in BC 586, or those slaves who were sold to the Lydian Kingdom by one of Nebuchadnezzar’s ministers, Nabuzaradan (II Kings 25:11-12). Kusadasi.
Depart from the hotel for a short drive to the nearby town of Selcuk to visit the remains of the ancient city EPHESUS. Being a city of pure white marble and offering a full range of business and entertainment opportunities, the city of Ephesus rivaled Rome and Alexandria in its glory. For pagans, one of the Seven Wonders of ancient world- the Artemis Temple drew the pilgrims. About a quarter of a million people lived here at its height during the Roman and the early Byzantine Periods. The Council building, the City Hall, the Temple of Hadrian, the Public Toilets, the Brothel, the Celsus Library, the Marble Road, the Agora, the Theater and the Arcadian street are some of the highlights of the city to be seen. The HOUSE OF VIRGIN MARY; this is a sanctuary where according to the belief of people of different religious faiths, the Virgin Mary lived her last days. According to the Biblical traditions Jesus, while he was on the cross, entrusted his mother to St. John and St. John took her with him to Ephesus (John 19:27). Our final stop will be the BASILICA OF ST. JOHN. The remains from once the Cathedral Church of St. John lie on the Ayasuluk Hill. This 6th century AD church by the Emperor Justinian had replaced an earlier chapel that just covered the grave of St. John. St. John is believed to have lived in Ephesus before and after his exile on the island of Patmos.
Kusadasi - Canakkale
Depart from the hotel to drive north along the Aegean coast to the town of Bergama for a visit to the ACROPOLIS; Once the Hellenistic capital city with magnificent white marble buildings, this is the ground of the Altar of Zeus, the Temple of Athena, the library, the theater and the Roman Temple of Trajan.
And the ASCLEPION ;it was set up during the Hellenistic era, this medical center flourished as the primary medical complex and cult center for the god of medicine- Asclepios, during the Roman period. This center of medicine was the second after that of Epidauros in Greece in its reputation for healing. The famous physician of the Roman age, Galenus, practiced medicine here during the second century AD.
Then continue further north to the village of Tevfikiye before the Dardanelles to visit the remains of the legendary city of TROY; from the time of Alexander the Great, many travelers have come expressly to see Troy. No place is so highly charged in the Western imagination; for three and a half millennia it has intrigued, inspired and became a metaphor. The tale of the Trojan War- the wrath of Achilles, the beauty of Helen, the death of Hector, the ploy of the wooden horse and the sack of the high walled city, the misfortunes that dogged the victors on their journey home- all are stuff the western culture was born of.
Canakkale - Bursa
Depart from the hotel and continue to the city of BURSA to visit the GREEN MOSQUE; This mosque is one of the finest mosques in the country. A marvel not only in the perfection of its form and decoration but for the way these two elements, the simple structure and the lavish stone carving and colored tiles, are combined into a harmonious work of art the GREEN TOMB; This is the tomb of Sultan Mehmet I who died in AD 1421. It’s perfect proportions, its position between cypress trees and its decorations inside and out combine to make this one of the most beautiful buildings in the country. The GRAND MOSQUE; this is the first congregational mosque erected by the Ottomans during the reign of the Sultan Bayezit I in AD 1399. With 20 domes, hence the term multi-domed mosque set over on 12 piers, this is the largest of the Ottoman pierced mosques. And the KOZA HAN; this is one of the several Ottoman stone complexes with shops and storerooms built around a courtyard with trees and fountains. The Koza Han was built in 1490s in accordance with the requirements of inner city commerce: a courtyard with a tiny octagonal mosque built over a fountain. Koza Han, whose name means cocoon in Turkish, has been the ground for the annual silk cocoon fair in July. Villagers from around Bursa who have nurtured the silkworms for the past six weeks bring in sacks of white cocoons to sell.
Bursa – Istanbul
Depart from the hotel and continue to the city of Iznik, was founded in BC 326 by Antigonos I and named Antigonia in his honor. Lysimachos, after defeating Antigonos I, named the city after his wife, Nicaea. The first and the seventh Ecumenical Councils of Christianity were held in here. The world famous Iznik tiles came from this town between the 15th and the 18th centuries AD. Then visit the Green Mosque;
This is one of the early Ottoman mosques which was built between AD 1378 – 1391 by Halil Pasa. It has one of the prettiest minarets in the country. Continue to St. Sophia Church; was built originally during the era of Justinian and renovated during the 11th century AD. It housed the seventh Ecumenical Council of Christianity. The Ottomans converted the church into a mosque during the 14th century AD.
Afterwards, drive to Istanbul.
Depart from the hotel for your return flight home, with unforgettable memories from TURKEY.