Flying on the Magic Carpet

  • Destination: Turkey Package Tours
  • Duration: 22 days
  • Price: $5670

*This tour we need a minumum 15 people, please contact us for booking* (Prices are per person in 15 participants)

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Day 1

Meet and greet at Istanbul Airport, and fly to Gaziantep in Turkey’s South-East. Gaziantep is a bustling modern town,but it also has an impressive citadel and a facinating old quarter, the narrow lanes of which are lined with traditional, stone built houses. Their flat roofs and secluded inner courtyards are as much Syrian as Turkish in style, reminding the traveler that south eastern Anatolia is a region where different cultures have mingled for thousands of years. The same traditions are evident in the town’s celebrated cuisine, which will sample in the evening. Overnight in Gaziantep

Day 2

After breakfast, we visit Gaziantep’s Archeological Museum where there is a ravishing display of Roman and early Byzantine floor mosaics rescued from the now largely drowned city of Zeugma. The mosaics lavishly depict a number of mythological scenes and are among the greatest art Works to have survived from the Late Antique World. On our way to Urfa we will visit Zeugma itself. Founded by King Selecus I in 300 BC at an important crossing point on the Euphrates, it grew rapidly, becoming extremely wealthy, and continued to flourish throughout the Hellenistic, Roman and Early Byzantine periods. At its height it is thought to have had a population of 80,000. Its importance was only fully appreciated in recent years, by which time it was already threatened by the construction of a dam just downstream. Emergency excavations revealed the floor mosaics that have made the site World-famous. Luckily, not all of the city was drowned and the remains of luxurious villas and civic buildings can still be seen. The move onto Birecik. The town is of extremely ancient origin but its ruined fortress is largely Ottoman work. Today Birecik’s chief claim to fame is that it is home to rare bald ibis, a protected species. We take a boat trip to the great fortress of Rumkale which rises from a high crag on the West bank of the Euphrates. Given a strategic position it must have been inhabited in very ancient times, but the most intriguing episode if its history began in 1098 with the creation of the Crusader Country of Edessa (Urfa). Rumkale became one of its principal strongholds, an deven after Edassa returned to Muslim rule in 1143, it remained a Christian island in a Muslim sea, known as Hromkla to its Armenian occupants. What made it especially important was the fact that it was the seat of the Katholikos, the head of the Armenian church. It remained so until 1292, when Mamluk advences made the Armenian position untenable and the Katholikos decamped to Sis (Kozan) in Clicia. Finally we arrive at the ancient, Abrahamic city of Urfa. Overnight in Urfa

Day 3

According to Muslim tradition Abraham was born in a cave in Urfa, but the Old Testamentmaintains that he merely passed through on his way from Ur in Sumer (what is now southern Iraq) to Canaan. This latter version makes a good deal of sense. There is an obvious linguistic relationship between the names Ur and Urfa and there is now clear archeological evidence of close links between the two of early as the 4th millennium BC. Nearby Harran is thought to be even older, and is also supposed to have played host to Abraham and his wife Sarah for a time. It is only a short distance from Urfa, and we will spend the morning exploring the ruins of its important 8th century Umayyad mosque, its Islamic university, vast fortress and numerous beehive houses. The fortress is thought to stand on the site of the principal temple of the Sabeans, a sect that worshipped the sun and moon, and somehow managed to survive well into the Muslim period. We return to Urfa for a leisurely walking tour. Perhaps the most brilliant episode in the city’s immensely long history is the period between 70 BC and 214 AD, when it was the capital of a small, but wealthy Roman client kingdom ruled by the Abgarid kings (so called because most of them were named Abgar). Urfa-Edessa become a centre of intellectual and religious ferment, where pagans, Jews, and Christians lived happily side by side. The people of Urfa seem to have been eager to experiment with new ideas and faiths. Symptomatic of this is the conversion of King Abgar VIIIi the Great, to Christianity in about 200 AD, making him the world’s first Christian monarch. Abgar VIII was a great builder, but sadly, with the possible exception of two columns on the citadel hill, nothing remains. The citadel is, at least in part, Crusader work of the 12th century. The mosques, tea gardens and carp pools of Urfa’s old quarter lie immediately below it. Here also is the Cave of Abraham and a covered bazaar that, in essence, has not changed in senturies. The carp pools are of very ancient origin, and the fish are still considered sacred. Overnight in Urfa

Day 4

We make a early start fort he stupendous funerary monument known as Nemrut Dagi, which was built for Antiochus I Epiphanes (69-38 BC), king of Commagene, and dedicated to his own glory and that of the gods. Despite Anticoshus’s overweening pretensions, or hubris, as the greeks would say, his kingdom was only a diminutive Roman client state, pushed up against the borders of the Parthian Empire. On our way to Nemrut Dag we will have time to visit a few other Commagenian sites, among them the tumulus of Karakus, which is framed by colomns and may contain the burial chamber of Antiochus’s wife, and the scant but evocative ruins of his capital city, Arsameia.  None of this can prepare you for your sight of his last resting  place, which is raised towards the heavens on the summit of a peak over 7000 feet high. At the center of the complex is the 164 feet high burial mound, surrounded on three sides by massive terraces. The north terrace is littered with fallen columns and was probably used as a place of assembly and as an arena for solemn processions. The east terrace is flanked by relief-portraits  of his ancestors, while center stage is occupied by colossal, decapitated figures of Commagene’s syncretic, Greco-Iranian pantheon, not to mention Antiochus himself who is portrayed as of equal status. All their heads lie on the ground in front of them. These are the images you will have seen in countless tourist brochures, but a real encounter with them is still a shocking and astonishing experience. The astral symbols of the lion horoscope on the west terrace represent the deification and stellification of Antiochus Epiphanes (the God Made Manifest). This idea of the divine ruler was of Persian origin, and had a profound influence on Roman and Byzantine styles of autocracy, which, in turn, influenced all ideas of absolute rule down to Louis XIV and beyond. Though it may invoke divinity, there is nothing very spiritual about Nemrut Dag, which, in the final analysis, is simply dynastic propaganda on a vast scale, and a brutal assertion of power. There is an irony in this. Shortly after it was completed a dispute arose between Rome and Parthia. Antiochus took the Parthian side; the Romans won and Antiochus lost his throne. Nemrut Dag inevitably brings to mind Shelley’s Ozymandias: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair. Overnight in Urfa

Day 5

From Urfa we drive east across the vast north Mesopotamian plain, passing the ruins of ancient Konstantina on our way. The landscape is somewhat monotonous, and it is easy to imagine armies tramping dustily back and forth across it, as they did for many centuries. It comes as something of a relief to at last descry a line of hills in the distance. As we draw closer, you will see that one of these hills is crowned by a great citadel, and below the citadel the honey- colored houses of Old Mardin seem to cascade down the hillside. Mardin has a number of richly decorated medreses and mosques, among the most distinguished of which are the Kasimiye Medrese and the Latifiye Mosque, with its delightful, shady courtyard. Both date from the 14th century, but what makes Mardin remarkable is not so much individual buildings as the fact that it has preserved, virtually intact, the entire fabric of a late-medieval town. Narrow lanes pass through vaulted passageways beneath the upper stories of elegant, stone built mansions decorated with intricately carved motifs of fruit, flowers and animals, giving the city a dream-like quality that seems infinitely removed from the troubles of the modern world. Expect to be enchanted. Eventhe door knockers of Mardin have a unique form, resembling the curved beaks of birds of prey, all of which bespeaks a culture of great refinement and antiquity. After touring the streets of Mardin we head out to the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of Deyr-az-Zaferan,  which is only six kilometres from the centre of town. According to whom you read it gets its name from the color of the stone from which it was built or because saffron crocuses were used in the mortar. The first explanation seems more likely, since it is hard to see of what use floral mortar might be. The monastery was founded in the late 5th century, and, with the exception of a few interruptions occasioned by the arrival of conquering hordes, has been in use ever since. Between 1160 and the 1920’s it was the seat of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, which makes it a place of considerable importance in ecclesiastical history. We will see the tombs of the patriarchs and the patriarchal throne. The complex also contains frescoes, a fifth century floor mosaic, and a mysterious underground chamber that predates the monastery, and is saidto have been used by sun-worshipers. Overnight in Mardin

Day 6

Depart Mardin for Midyat, another historic town full of beautiful old houses similarto those of Mardin. A short distance beyond Midyat we come to the River Tigris and the spectacular ruins of Hasankeyf, one of Turkey’s most remarkable medieval sites. What first strikes the eye are the massive ruins of a 12th century bridge over the Tigris. For its time this must have been an outstanding feat of engineering. The city stands on a rock high above the river, and is entered through an ornate gate. It was at its height in the 12th century under the rule of the Artukid princes (whose handsome palace can still be seen) but contiuned to prosper under their Ayyubid successors. Apart from the palace, the city walls enclose numerous elegant houses, and several mosques, of which the Great Mosque is the best-preserved. Of particular note is the 15th century Zeynel Bey Turbe, a charming, cylindrical, domed tomb decorated with patterned brick-work and turquoise tiles. Astonishingly, much of this will be drowned if the Ilisu dam Project goes ahead. It seems inconceivable, and a protest movement is growing. We end the day by driving to Diyarbakir airport for a flight to Ankara. Overnight in Ankara

Day 7

The morning will be spent at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which has a priceless collection streching from prehistoric times to the classical period. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest museums, and is housed in a restored Ottoman Han. The different cultures of Anatolia are presented in chronological order. Here you will find outstanding examples of the art of the Hurrians, Hittites, Phrygians, Urartians, and so on. Drive to Cappadocia, which is famous for its lunar landscape, carved by wind and rain from the soft volcanic stome known as tufa. The Byzantines carved hundreds of churches into the rock of Cappadocia, and sheltered themselves from the armies of the Abbasid Caliphate in enormous refuges descending hundreds of feet into the earth. Many of the churches are lavishly decorated with frescoes dating mostly from the 9th to 11th centuries. Overnight in Cappadocia

Day 8

Optional Activity: Hot Air Balloon Ride Early departure from the hotel for a spectacular sunrise balloon ride through the winding valleys of Cappadocia. Flight time is one hour, and includes both low contour and high altitude flying, giving you a bird’s eye –view of this unique and intricate landscape. Our full day sight seeing tour starts with Uchisar, an extraordinary rock formation towering above the landscape and visible for miles around. The rock, which is riddled with Windows and tunnels was once used as a fortress and affords magnificent panoramic views of the surranding landscape and majestic Mount Erciyes in the distance. From Uchisar we will drive to the enchanting Pigeon Valley, so calledbecause of the hundreds of openings of pigeon houses that perforate the cliff faces. Traditionally, the local farmers would gather the pigeon droppings to use as fertilizer on their fields. Our next stop is the celebrated Goreme Open Air Museum, which was once a majör center of monasticism. The finest of its frescoed churches are undoubtedly the Karanlik Kilise (the Dark Church), the Elmali Kilise (the Apple Church), and the oddly named Tokali Kilise (the Church with a Buckle). The last named is in a class by itself, since its frescoes are vastly more sophisticated than any others in Cappadociai and were probably painted by an artist from Constantinople. We visit the cave village of Zelve, where there are monasteries, a convent, and a mosque. The village was only abondoned in the 1950’s. On our way back to hotel, we stop off the Church of Cavusin, which has an extensive fresco cycle including a unique group portrait of the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II and his family. Overnight in Cappadocia

Day 9

In the morning we will become acquainted with traditional local handcrafts such as carpet weaving and pottery making at Avanos.Our next stop will be the astonishing underground city at Kaymakli. Signs of an early troglodytic life style are evident in communal kitchens blackened by smoke, stables, churches, wine presses, and storage spaces carved into the rock as the need arose. We then move on to the tranquil and secluded Soganlı Valley,  which like Goreme was an important center of monasticism. Several of its churches have fine frescoes. Later in the afternoon, we got to meet the local villagers. The men, if they wish, can repair to the coffee house and barber. The woman will discover the secrets of Turkish cuisine in a private home. Finally, everyone will come together to enjoy the food that has been prepared. Overnight in Cappadocia

Day 10

On the way to Konya we visit the magnificent 13th century Sultanhan Caravanserai. The caravanserai looks like a fortified palace and provided free accommodation for travellers of all kinds. In Konya, we will visit the Museum and Tomb of Celaleddin Rumi, the Sufi mystic who founded the Mevlevi sect of Whirling Dervishes and whose philosophical writing and mystical poetry dramatically changed Islam. Our last stop before Antalya will be Aspendos, which boasts the most perfectly preserved classical theatre in the World. It is still used for opera, ballet, and orchestral concerts. Overnight in Antalya

Day 11

Our tour will start with the Antalya Archeological Museum, which has a rich collection of sculpture from the many nearby archeological sites, including Perge, which we will proceed to visit. The ruins of Perge give a very complete picture of a great city of the classical period. Its ornate theatre could accommodate 14,000 people and its stadium 12,000. The site also has two monumental baths, an elegant agora, and is traversed by a very grand, colonnaded street.

We return to Antalya to explore Kaleici, the city’s old quarter which has many handsome Ottoman mansions and is a model of conservation and restoration. It is ringed by walls dating from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. Overnight in Antalya

Day 12

We drive to Finike via the ancient, Lycian cities of Phaselis, Olympos and Limyra. Standing on a wooded promontory surrpunded by three harbors, Phaselis is one of the most romantic sites in southern Turkey. There was nothing very romantic about its ancient inhabitants who were famous for their sharp, not to say unscrupulous, commercial instincts. For a time they even practiced piracy until the Romans lost patience and put a stop to it. The site is traversed by a very grand paved Street bordered by steps and statue-bases. Arrayed around it are a theatre, three agoras, an aqueduct and an extensive necropolis. Beyond Phaselis the road climbs high into the mountains, before descending dramatically to Olympos, which lies concealed in a narrow river valley opening on to one of the finest beaches in Turkey. The ruins are a little hard to explore due to the dense undergrowth, but the setting is very lovely. We drive on through Kumluca to Limyra, one of the most unusual of the Lycian sites. The lower part of the city is crisscrossed by streams that break from the foot of the acropolis hill, and is divided into two walled enclosures. The one to the West contains the tall Cenotaph of Gaius Caesar, the Emperor Augustus’ grandson and designated heir, who died here in 4 AD. The eastern enclosure contains a richly decorated cathedral and a large episcopal palace. Outside the enclosures there are numerous, splendid rock-hewn tombs of a kind that are unique to Lycia, and a remarkably well-preserved theatre. Once in Finike we board our gulet (a traditional Turkish yacht) to sail the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Overnight in Gulet

Day 13

Early in the morning we set sail fort he enchanting region of islands, bays, promontories and inlets collectively known as Kekova. For many, this will be highlight of the tour. Apart from being astonishingly beautiful, it is the only place on a earth where you can look down from the deck of a boat into the drowned houses, streets and churches of a Byzantine town. There should also be time for some swimming, and visits to the charming villages of Kalekoy and Ucagiz. The former stands on the site of ancient Simena and is picturesquely situated on a high promontory capped by a crenellated, Byzantine castle. Just below the castle is what may be the world’s smallest, classical theatre, which is cut entirely from the rock. The village is under a preservation order and any new construction (of which there is very little) has to be in traditional style. Ucagiz has an extensive Lycian necropolis to itse ast, and is set amid the ruins of the Byzantine town of Tristomon. Overnight in Gulet

Day 14

Starting early we cruise to Kas, an attractive, small town on a beautiful bay. It stands on the site of ancient Antiphellos, and a small but perfectly preserved theatre, the ruins of a temple and a number of impressive tombs can still be seen. The view from the theatre across to the Greek island of Meis is particularly lovely. We sail on to the former Greek fishing village of Kalkan from where we drive to Xanthos, one of the most important Lycian cities. Its ruins stand on a hill high above the Xanthos River, and make a very striking impression. Not much is known of its early history, but, since the city is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad it must stretch back to at least the 8th century BC. The most remarkable thing about its later history is the fact that the Xanthians twice burnt their city to the ground and committed mass-suicide when threatened with conquesti which suggests that they had a somewhat exaggerated attachment to their independence. On both occasions the city made a rapid recovery, and, today much remains to be seen, including a theatre, two agoras, two acropolises, city walls and gates, a monastery, a Byzantine basilica with handsome floor mosaics, and, of course, many splendid Lycian tombs. Sadly, virtually all of these tombs were stripped of their remarkable relief-sculptures by Sir Charles Fellowes in 1842. He thought of himself as a “classic enthusiast”, but, in reality, was little more than an imperialist and looter. He even managed to remove an entire structure from the site, namely the lovely Nereid Monument, with its a graceful caryatids. Even Lord Elgin did not go so far. Now, all these wonders lie marooned in the British Museum, far from the light and landscape of their native place. We next move on to the ruins of Patara, which lie only a short distance from Xanthos, anda re on our way back to Kalkan. The city covers a vast area, surrounding a silted harbor. It is highly evocative and the ruins include a perfectly preserved triumphal arch, two monumental, bath complexes, an elegant temple, a Hadrianic granary, several churches, a wide colonnaded street, an exquisite theatre, and a truly enormous necropolis. But, for many people, the chief attraction of Patara is its glorious, over ten miles long sand-beach, which is on of the most perfect in Turkey, and on which no construction has been allowed. Overnight in Gulet

Day 15

We move on to Gemiler Island, sailing along a dramatic and completely unspoilt stretch of coastline dominated by the majestic peak of Mount Cragus. Gemiler Island stands in a setting of quite extraordinary natural beauty, but that isn’t all it has to offer. The island’s landward side is completely covered with the ruins of the 6th century, Byzantine town of Lebissos. There are churches, tombs, cisterns, houses, and fine mosaic floors, but the site’s most unusual feature is a long, vaulted Street, (still showing traces of frescoes) that leads up to an elaborate ecclesiastical complex, which may have served as a centre of pilgrimage. From Gemiler Island we transfer to the mainland, and drive to the remarkable, Greek ghost-town of Kayakoy, which was abandoned in 1923 as a result of the “exchange of populations” between Turkey and Greece. There are three churches with frescoes (one of them medieval) and innumerable ruined houses, some of which are currently being restored. Overnight in Gulet

Day 16

From shelter of Gemiler Island we sail out into the great Gulf of Fethiye, which is framed by mountainous peninsulas and scattered with islands, some of which have small but picturesque ancient sites, for example, the drowned Roman bath known romantically but erroneously as Cleopatra’s Bath. We drop anchor in the secluded cove of Agalimani from where we climb a hillside fragrant with herbs to the ruins of ancient Lydae, anidyllic spot that receives very few visitors. The ruins include two massive Roman tombs, an agora, a council chamber and a fortified acropolis. In the evening we set sail fort he small but sophisticated resort of Gocek, where we will moor fort he night. Overnight in Gulet

Day 17

In Gocek we say goodbye to our crew and drive to the attractive, riverside village of Dalyan. We board a river boat and glide gently past rock cut tombs with elegant temple facades, before winding our way through the narrow channels of the Dalyan delta to ancient Caunos. The highly evocative ruins include a theatre, Hellenistic city walls, temples, a public fountain, and an unusually large and well-preserved Byzantine cathedral. The views from the acropolis are magnificent. Overnight in Bodrum

Day 18

Bodrum stands on the site of ancient Halicarnassos, capital of the Carian Kingdom whose most famous king, Mausolus, was buried here in a magnificent tomb known as the Mousoleum, which was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Sadly, little of it remains today. Much of its masonary was used in the great Crusader Castle of Saint Peter, which now dominates the town. The castle now contains the Museum of Underwater Archeology, where there is an exceptionally fine display of glassware retrieved from ancient and medieval shipwrecks. We now make a tour of the Bodrum Peninsula, stopp,ng at the pretty little village of Gumusluk, which stands on the site of ancient Myndos. Some of the city’s harbor works can still be seen beneath the waters of the bay. Overnight in Bodrum

Day 19

Depart Bodrum for Ephesus. If you’ve ever heard the words “an epistle to the Ephesians”, now is your chance to sit in the theatre where St. Paul preached. Try to see it through the eyes of a Roman, who would probably have been regarded as a barbarian in sophisticated and cultured Ephesus. Walk along its colonnaded streets and imagine them crowded with people visiting the shops and taverns or simply strolling in the shade. Ephesus was one of the greatest cities of antiquity with a population approaching 250,000. It encompassed everything that was necessary for education, politics, entertainment, sport, and the good life in general, for example, the Library of Celsus, bathhouses, a gymnasium and luxurious mansions, decorated with mosaics and frescoes rivaling those of Pompeii. Ephesus is among the best-preserved classical cities of the Mediterranean, and perhaps the best place in the World to get a feeling for what life was like in Eoman times. Its Temple of Artemis was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Transfer to Izmir Airport for a flight to Istanbul. Overnight in Istanbul

Day 20

Our full day sightseeing tour will start at the Hippodrome, which was the scene of chariot races and great public occasions through out the immensely long history of the Byzantine Empire. We next visit Hagia Sofia which was built by the Emperor Justinianan dinaugurated in 537 AD. Forover nine centuries it was the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it remains the world’s 4th largest church. Hagia Sofia contains some of the finest mosaics to have survived from the Byzantine period, including a truly remarkable mosaics of the Virgin and Child.  At one end of a large park stands the Blue Mosque, socalled because of its exquisite tile decoration. After we visit Underground cistern,which is also the work of Justinian. Its roof is supported by a forest of over 300 columns.  Visit the Turkish Islamic Arts Museum, which contains a priceless collection of Ottoman calligraphy in gold, intricate miniatures, ceramics, and magnificent carpets, some dating back to the 13th century. What makes the museum unique is the fact that it is housed in theformer palace of IbrahimPasha, one of Suleyman the Magnificent’s grand viziers. After this we move on to Istanbul’s World-renowned Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar was built between 1455-1461. There are thousands of shops that offer hand-woven carpets, kilims, hand-made gold items and silver jewelery, burnished beaten copper, inlaid wood, hand painted ceramics, leather goods, illuminate dmanuscripts, inlaidebony, and jewelry boxes and Greek and Roman artifacts. Learn about Ottoman textiles and caftans, handmade and unique archeolagical jewelry, Ottoman and Central Asian carpets, and World famous Iznik and Kutahya tiles and ceramics from one of Turkey’s leading collector sand dealers.of IbrahimPasha, one of Suleyman the Magnificent’s grand viziers. Optional activity: A visit to the historic Cagaloglu Turkish Bath. Overnight in Istanbul

Day 21

In the morning we will board our private cruise boat for a trip up the Bosphorus.Crossing back and forth between Europe and Asia we will sail past opulent palaces, fine mosques, imposing fortresses and traditional, wooden Ottoman mansions. We drive to the Spice Marketin the old city. Here you can find a great diversity of spices, sacks of henna, many varieties of oils and herbs, and ofcourse the world’s best Turkish Delight. In the afternoon we visit the Topkapi Palace Museum, lavish home to the Ottoman Sultans. For centuries, this was the place from which the sultans rule dover an empire that streched from Western Iran to the Atlantic  Ocean.  Arranged around a series of spacious court yards, it contains a priceles scollection of jewelry , porcelain and costumes. Legend claims that the ancient rod on display in the Pavilion of Holy Relics is the one used by Moses top art the Red Sea. Other artifacts of similar fame include John the Baptist’s gilded arm and Mohammad’s beard, finger nails and foot imprint. Overnight in Istanbul.

Day 22

Transfer to Istanbul Airport for our home-bound flight.

 

Including

– Istanbul/G.Antep – Diyarbakir/Ankara – Izmir/Istanbul flight tickets (Turkish Airlines)

– 16 night’ accommodation including breakfast at the mentioned hotels (standard rooms)

– 5 night yacht tours

– 60 minute hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia (Optional)

– Turkish bath in Istanbul (Optional)

– Air conditioned luxury bus with driver on tours and transfers

– Professional guiding on tours

– Lunches on tours

– All admission fees to the museums and sights

– Taxes

 

Excluding

– International flight tickets

– Dinners

– Drinks during the lunches

– Not mandatory but customary tips

 

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