Day 1: Depart U.S. for Istanbul, Turkey
Day 2: Arrive Istanbul We arrive in Turkey’s cultural and spiritual heart today and transfer to our hotel located near Taksim Square, the heart of modern Istanbul. As guests’ arrival times may vary greatly, we have no group activities or meals planned; on our own we can explore the area surrounding our hotel or simply relax. Dinner tonight is on our own.
Day 3: Istanbul We get our first real taste of this city straddling two continents today as we set out on a walking tour along lively pedestrian Istiklal Street, lined with boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and late Ottoman-era buildings. We see the acclaimed mosaics and frescoes at Chora Church (now Kariye Museum) then take a panoramic drive along Istanbul’s Old City walls. Then we visit intimate Rustem Pasha mosque, with its exquisite Iznik tiles, followed by the renowned Spice Market. After lunch on our own here, we take a private cruise on the Bosphorus, the waterway that separates Europe from Asia. This evening we take a short walk to a local restaurant for a welcome dinner of traditional Turkish fare. B,D
Day 4: Istanbul Today we encounter Old Istanbul, beginning with the ancient Roman Hippodrome, the 3,500-year-old obelisk brought from Egypt in 390 CE. Next we visit the Blue Mosque, with its 20,000 blue Iznik tiles and signature six minarets. We then visit the renowned Museum of Turkish & Islamic Art, housing priceless artifacts from the 8th to 20th centuries. After lunch at a local restaurant we continue on to Hagia Sophia, the 6th-century church that was Christendom’s most important before becoming a mosque in the 15th century. B,L
Day 5: Istanbul This morning we tour splendid Topkapi, for 400 years the palace of Ottoman sultans that today ranks among the world’s richest museums. We continue on to the Basilica Cistern, the marble-columned underground chamber that provided water to Istanbul in antiquity. Our next stop is the Grand Bazaar, the covered market housing some 5,000 shops along 60 “streets.” The remainder of the day and evening is free for independent exploration. B
Day 6: Istanbul/Gallipoli/Troy/Assos Leaving Istanbul this morning, we travel to the northern Aegean Coast for a brief visit to Gallipoli, haunting site of 31 Allied cemeteries from World War I. Then we ferry across the Dardanelles to Troy, once believed to exist only in Homer’s epic poem until the present site was discovered in the 1870s. After touring here we continue south to Behramkale, ancient Assos, where we spend the night. B,L,D
Day 7: Assos/Pergamum/Izmir Today we explore one of Turkey’s most spectacular ancient sites: windswept Pergamum, a major power in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, with a wealth of Hellenistic ruins. Then we continue on to Izmir. B,L,D
Day 8: Izmir/Ephesus Few ancient sites compare to Ephesus, the world’s best-preserved classical city which we explore today. Dating to at least 1300 BCE, Ephesus was Asia Minor’s largest metropolis and principal port. Our tour includes the Terrace Houses, the recently restored “houses of the rich,” with their outstanding mosaic floors and frescoed walls. Then we enjoy lunch in the rustic village of Sirince. B,L
Day 9: Izmir/Göcek Today we journey south to coastal Göcek, stopping along the way at a carpet factory to watch a demonstration of this age-old craft. Late afternoon we board our gulets. B,L,D
Day 10: Cruising – Aga Limani/Cleopatra Baths Our route for the next few days is along the stunning coastline Antony is said to have given Cleopatra as a wedding gift. We begin our “Blue Voyage” this morning as we cruise to the hidden cove of Aga Limani. From here we have the option of taking a three-hour hike to the Greco-Roman ruins at Lydea, ending at the Sunken Baths of Cleopatra. Set in a breathtaking inlet, the Baths offer crystal-clear waters for swimming and snorkeling. Those who prefer a less strenuous day can stay aboard the gulets as we sail to the Sunken Baths. B,L,D
Day 11: Cruising – Göcek/Dalyan This morning we disembark and coach to Dalyan, an environmentally protected area known for its loggerhead sea turtles. Here we board a small skiff for a trip through an intriguing maze of channels; high on the hills above we see well-preserved ancient Lycian rock tombs. B,L,D
Day 12: Cruising – Gemiler Island/Kayakoy Today we cruise to Gemiler Island to tour its 6th-century Byzantine monastery. Then we coach to the Greek “ghost town” of Kayakoy, abandoned after World War I and now preserved as a historical monument. We explore the town and its churches then return to our gulets for our last night on board. B,L,D
Day 13: Fethiye/Antalya We cruise this morning to Fethiye, where we disembark then set out by motorcoach through the Taurus Mountains for Antalya. We reach the seaside city in time for lunch and a visit to the acclaimed Archaeological Museum. B,L
Day 14: Antalya/Perge This morning we tour the ruins at Perge, an ancient Greek city once among the world’s prettiest and most prosperous. Then we return to Antalya for a walking tour of its charming Old Town, including Hadrian’s Gate and the lovely Yivli Minare (Fluted Minaret). This afternoon is at leisure before tonight’s farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Day 15: Depart for U.S. This morning we board an early flight for our return to the United States. B
A Note on Visas: At this time, both the USA and Turkey have suspended all non-immigrant visa services for travel between the two countries. We expect the suspension to be lifted in the futrure and would, of course, operate the program only once visa services are resumed.
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking on uneven or cobblestone streets and at sites of ancient ruins. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to its fullest.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included