Arrive at Istanbul airport, meet our driver and guide. Transfer to hotel. Overnight in Istanbul
After breakfast, we start group tour. 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. Its Pavilion sand fountains evoke a sacluded, hedonistic World. At one end of a large park stands the Blue Mosque, socalled because of its exquisite tile decoration. Its courtyard is exceptionally beautiful, and it is only mosque in Istanbul to have six minarets. Next we move on to the Hippodrome, which was the scene of chariot races and great public occasions through out the immensely long history of the Byzantine Empire. The afternoon starts at the Church of St. Chora, which has immaculately preserved early 13th century mosaics and frescoes that are among the supreme masterpieces of Medival art, with the Harrowing of Hellbeinge specially note worthy. We proceed to the Suleymaniye Mosque. Designed by Sinan for Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, this is the grandest and largest mosque in Istanbul. Its great dome and soaring minarets dominate the skyline of the Old City. Overnight in Istanbul
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. After tour we take night flight to Ankara. Arrive at Ankara airport, our driver meets you at the exit gate, with a board on which your name is written and transfers you to your hotel. Overnight in Ankara
After breakfast we spend the morning in The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which is indisputably one of the world’s greatest museums. Here you will find 8,000 year-old wall paintings from Neolithic town of Catal Hoyuk, magnificent, Urartian bronze couldrans, exquisite grave-goods from tomb of King Midas at Gordian, and an extraordinarily rich collection of Hittite and neo-Hittite artifacts. We drive South-East to the land of wonders that is Cappadocia. In the Neolithic period Cappadocia was caught between two active volcanoes, Mount hasan and Erciyes, which buried under a thick layer of ash. This formed the soft malleable stone known as tufa, and over the centuries erosion and human effort combined to create the fantastic landscape we see today, with its many thousands of varicolored pinnacles and surreal rock formations hollowed out with hundreds of dwellings and churches. Overnight in Cappadocia
After breakfast, full day private sight-seeing will start with the magical valley of Goreme,which is now an open-air museum. We will see hundreds of rockpinnacles, known as fairy chimney sand Byzantine Churches. GoremeValley was home to hundreds of monks who lived in cells carved from the rock. Several of the churches in Goreme have well preserved frescoes, for example the Karanlik Kilise (thedarkchurch), the Elmali Kilise(1190-1200) and the Church of St. Eustace(970-1148). Finest of alla re supremely elegant frescoes in the Tokali Kilise, which were painted in the 10th century by a certain Nikephoros, who probably come from Constantinople. . We move on to the Uchisar, an extraordinary rock formation towering above the landscape and visible formiles around. This rock, riddled with chamber sand tunnels, was once used as a fortres sand offers a magnificent panaromic view of Cappadocia and over 13,000 footpeek of Mt. Erciyes in the distance. From Uchisar we will drive to Dove cote Valley (Guvercinlik Vadisi), so called because of thehundred of dovecoatsper for ating the rock faces. The birds droppings provided valuable fertilizer fort he neighboring farmers. We will also explore the regian’s traditional handicrafts, carpet-weaving and pottery making in Avanos.Next we will visit the church of John The Baptist at Cavusin which is the oldest surviving church in Cappadocia. Beyond Cavusin lies the Zelve Valley, where there are monasteries and convents carved from the rock. Nearby Pasabag, also known as Monk’sValley, has amazing examples of hermitages hollowed out of volcanic rock formations. Overnight in Cappadocia
Optional Activity: At five in the morning, smoke is beginning to rise from the village chimneys below you. The barking of dogs, startled by the balloon, attracts sleepy villagers outside to wave enthusiastically. The weird twisted landscape of corroded rock to which you have partially become accustomed from the ground level, becomes even more unearthly when viewed from several hundred feet above. A 90-minute hot air balloon flight culminating in a champagne breakfast on landing. In two words? Breathtaking and Unforgettable!
After breakfast we departure to the Agzikarahan Caravanserai, a glorious masterpiece of early 13th century Seljuk Turkish architecture. The landscape of this western region of Cappadocia is magnificent and through its heart runs the Ihlara Valley, a narrow, steep-sided yet verdant ravine that conceals many painted churches and monastic complexes. We are turn to Urgup via the “underground city” of Derinkuyu. Cappadocia has at least seven “undergroundcities” – vast labyrinths of corridor sand chambers complete with churches, stables, wine-presses and sophisticated ventilation systems that still function remarkably well. At Derinkuyu eight levels have been excavate dandare open to the public, but it is throught that there may be more than twice that number. Once back in Urgup, we spend the evening getting to know the locals. Overnight in cappadocia
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 Kahta.
After breakfast, We take a drive to Gaziantep. 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. Overnight in Gaziantep
After breakfast we take a drive to Silifke. We visit Antakya Mosaic Museum which houses one of the best collections of Roman mosaics in the world; and St. Peter’s Grotto, the earliest Christian church ever built. Continue to Tarsus, the birth place of St. Paul, to see the St. Paul’s Well and Cleopatra Gate. It was also here where Marcus Anthony reputedly met Cleopatra. Overnight in Silifke.
After breakfast, We take a drive to Antalya. We will visit the great classical cities of Aspendos and Perge. The former has what may be the world’s best-preserved Roman theatre, as well as a magnificent agora and a fine aqueduct . Perge, which is only a few miles away, has a stadium, a theatre, a city gate, two bath complexes, an elegant agora, and it traversed by a very grand colonnaded Street. We visit the Antalya Archeological Museum, which has a rich collection of sculpture from the many nearby archeological sites, including Perge. We then explore Kaleici, th ecity’s old quarter, which has many superb Ottoman mansions and is a model of conservation and restoration. It is ringed by walls dating from Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Seljuk periods. The view from the harbor to the mountains of Lycia is one of the most enchanting and picturesque to be found any where in the Mediterranean. Overnight in Antalya
We drive to Finike via the ancient Lycian cities of Phaselis, Olympos and Limyra.Standing on a wooded promontory surrounded by three harbors, Phaselis is one of the most romantic sites in SouthernTurkey. However, there was nothing very romantic about its ancient inhabitants who were famous for their sharp, not to say unscruplulos, commercial instincts. For a time they even practiced piracy until the Romans lost their patience and put a stop to it. The site is traversed by a very grand paved Street bordered by step sand statue-bases. Arrayed around it are a theatre, three agoras, an aquaductand an extensive necropolis. Beyond Phaselis the road climbs into the mountains, before descenting dramatically to Olympos, which lies concealed in a narrow river valley opening on to one of the finest beaches in Turkey. The ruins are little hard to explore due to the dense under growth, 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 criss crossed by streams that break from thefoot of the acropolis hill, and is divided into two walled enclosures. The one to the West contains the tall Cenotaph of Gaius Ceasar, The Emperor Augustus’s grand son and designated heir, who died here in 4 AD. The eastern enclosures there are numerous, splendid rock-hewn tombs of a kind that are unique to Lycia, and a remarkably well-preserved theatre. Once the Finike we board our gulet (a traditional Turkish yacht) to sail the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Overnight in Gulet
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 the highlight of the tour. Apart from being astonishingly beautiful, it is only place on earth where you look down the deck of a boat into the submerged houses, streets and churches of a Byzantine town. There will also be time for 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 living 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.
Starting early, we cruise to Kas, a small, attractive town on a beautiful bay. It stands on the site of ancient Amthipellos, 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 accross to the Greek island of Meis is particulary lovely. We sail on the former Greek fishing village of Kalkan from where we drive to Xanthos, one of the most important Lycian cities. Its rtuins 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 date back to atleast the 8th century BC. The most remarkable thing about its later history is fact that the Xanthians twice burnt their city to the ground and committed mass-suicide when threatened with conquest, which suggested that they had a somewhat exaggerated attachment to their independence. On both occasions the city rapidly recovered, and today much remains to be seen, including a theatre, two agoras, two acropolises, city walls, 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 the English archeologist and adventurer Sir Charles Fellowes in 1842. We next move on the ruins of Patara, which lie only a short distance from Xanthos, and are on our way back to Kalkan. The city covers a vast area, surrounding a now silted up 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 sand-beach, over ten miles long, which is one of the most pristine in Turkey, on which no construction has ever been allowed. In the evening we return to Kalkan. Overnight in Gulet.
Our next destination is Gemiler Island, sailing along a dramatic and 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 eleborate ecclesiastical complex, which may have served as a centre of pilgrimage. From Gemiler Island we transfer to the mainland, and drive to remarkable Greek ghost-town of Kayakoy, which was abondoned 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. We spend the night anchored off Gemiler Island, once again dining beneath the stars. Overnight in Gulet.
From the shelter of Gemiler Island we sail out into the vast Gulf of Fethiye, which is framed by mountainous peninsulas and scattered with islands, some of which have small but picturesque ancient sites, for example, submerged 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, an idyllic and secluded spot that very few visitors have the privilage to explore. 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
In Gocek we say goodbye to our crew and drive to attractive, riverside village of Dalyan. We board a riverboat and glide gently past rock-cut tombs with elegant temple facades, before winding our way through the narrow, reed-lined 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. Then we drive to Pamukkale. Overnight in Pamukkale.
After breakfast, We start the day visiting Hierapolis, only a stone’s throw away from our hotel. After we enjoy ourselves walking on the calcareous terraces of Pamukkale, we start for Kusadasi, giving an en route visit to Aphrodisias, where there was a fertility cult dedicated to Aphrodite. After a well-earned lunch, we drive to Kusadasi, and check-in to our hotel, and have time in the late afternoon hours to see the sun set over the Kusadasi Bay. Overnight in Kusadasi
Today we first drive to the Virgin Mary’s House; after that we visit to the Church of St. John for a tour and a scenic overview of the surrounding area. From here our guide will point out the location of the ancient harbor of Ephesus and describe the silting process that led to the demise of this important Roman city. Of special interest is the tomb of John and the baptismal where new believers were immersed. We will also be able to view the site of the ancient wonder – the Temple of Artimus and the nearby Mosque of Jesus (Jesus is a respected prophet to Muslims). This afternoon we’ll view a wealth of artifacts awaiting us at the Museum of Ephesus and visit the archeological site of Biblical Ephesus, which hosts a large restoration effort and miles of ancient treasures. Ephesus was once a thriving port town of 250,000 people. Today you can still see the spectacular excavations of the major streets in this ancient city where we view the Library, Agora, theatre, colorful mosaics, a panoramic view of the surrounding ancient port area including a wealth of church history and cultural insight. Overnight in Kusadasi
We start our full day tour. We’ll start the day off by traveling to the nearby towns of Miletus and Dydima. Miletus was a proud and important coastal city of its day and was visited by Paul during his missionary journeys. It was here that he said goodbye to his friends. Dydima was a close-by pagan worship center for the people of Miletus. With the rise and spread of Christianity, eventually, Christian chapels were founded in Dydima which were later destroyed by Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate. Overnight in Kusadasi
After breakfast check out and take a drive to Izmir Airport. That gives best connection to your international flight.
– Istanbul/Ankara – İzmir/Istanbul flight tickets (Turkish Airlines)
– 60 minute hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia
– Boat Tours in Antalya to Fethiye.
– 14 night’ accommodation including breakfast at the mentioned hotels (standard rooms)
– Air conditioned luxury minivan with driver on tours and transfers
– Professional guiding on tours
– Lunches on tours
– All admission fees to the museums and sights
– International flight tickets
– Drinks during the lunches
– Not mandatory but customary tips