This 15 day tour, starts and ends in Istanbul, Turkey. Visiting Istanbul's Ottoman Old City (*), the calcium travertines at Pamukkale (*), ancient sites Laodicea, Aphrodisias (*), Hierapolis (*), Perge, Aspendos and Ephesus (*). Cappadocia (*) with its amazing underground cities and surreal lunar landscape. Continue on south-eastward visiting Göbekli Tepe (*), Kahramanmaraş, Kahta, Mt. Nemrut(*), Sanliurfa (Urfa), Gaziantep and Antakya (Antioch). (*) - indicates a UNESCO site
Welcome to Istanbul! You will be transferred to your hotel and the remainder of the day is yours, free to explore.
After breakfast, you enjoy a fully guided tour of the only city to span two continents, visiting the Blue Mosque, St Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace (including Hagia Irene) and the Hippodrome.
After breakfast we start with a Bosphorus cruise between two continents on the stretch of water that separates Europe from Asia. In the afternoon we fly south to Izmir and are transferred to Kusadasi.
After breakfast, the visits of the day will be amongst the highlights of your tour. We will visit famous Ephesus, site of the Temple of Artemis, The Cave of Seven Sleepers, Isabey Mosque and Sirince Village. Also, we'll see the traditional Turkish craft of carpets making, originally from central Asia, 2300 years ago. The carpet weaving tradition still goes on and as we visit a weaving centre, we learn how Turkish Carpets are made with the double knot technique and what determines its value. To see several of carpets with their different colours and patterns, each with its own story, is being in the paradise of colours.
We start the day with a visit to a local handcraft leather goods outlet, where you will enjoy a fashion show and get detailed information about the well-developed leather industry in Turkey. We will then drive to Aphrodisias, named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. We will visit, amongst other sites, the temple of Aphrodite, dating from the 3rd century BC, before moving onto the museum. Marble quarries nearby saw the growth of sculpture schools and workshops during the Hellenistic period which reached their peak in second century A.D. supplying the entire Roman Empire with marble sculptures and friezes. We drive on to Laodicea, site of one of the Seven Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelations. Towards the end of the Roman Republic, Laodicea, benefitted from its advantageous, trade route, location becoming one of the most important commercial cities of the region.
Today's program will start with a visit to one of the wonders of nature, at Pamukkale. This unusual formation is caused by the build-up of calcium carbonate deposits. Nature has created terraces, like water basins, that are known as Travertines. The ancient city of Hierapolis was built near the hot springs and has been used as a spa and healing centre since the 2nd century BC, where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients. The great baths were constructed with huge stone blocks without the use of cement. The Tomb of Philip the Apostle is also here. This afternoon we will drive to Antalya, the capital city of Turkish Riviera. You will be free to explore at your leisure, maybe grab dinner at a seaside restaurant.
After breakfast the tour will start with visits to Perge and Aspendos. In 46 A.D., according to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul journeyed to Perge for his first missionary journey. You will be amazed to see the remains of the Roman Gate, Hellenistic Gate, Roman Bath and Angora in Perge. And at Aspendos, the best-preserved Roman Theatre of antiquity, remains of a basilica, agora, nymphaeum and 15 kilometres of a Roman aqueduct. Our program will continue with the visit of amazing Antalya Archaeology Museum. The remains from Neolithic Period to Ottoman Period will take you to another time.
Today we drive to Tarsus along the Mediterranean coast. As we pass by Alanya, we visit its 3rd century BC castle and fortress overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We continue on to Anamur, formerly known as Anemurium, a Medieval castle complex with the remains of 39 towers, an inner courtyard, hamam and mosque, situated on the southernmost point of the Turkish mainland. Excavations continue on the fortifications, Acropolis and Roman Baths and the several well preserved floor mosaics. Next will be Silifke where we visit Christian site called Meryemlik to see the Church of St. Tekla dating from 5th Century A.D. Another wonder of nature is nearby, known by the local people as Cennet/Cehennem (Heaven and Hell). There are two large natural sinkholes. The larger one called Heaven has a grotto containing the ruins of a monastery built in the 5th century.
We start the day with a walking tour exploring Tarsus with its old houses in the narrow streets, old Bazaar, 'Mamul' dealers on the streets will amaze you. Tarsus is also the birthplace and hometown of St. Paul, we will see the remains of the house with its well of St. Paul and the Church that is dedicated to his name. The Roman Cleopatra's Gate takes us back to 1st Century A.D. This is the place where Emperor Mark Antony and Cleopatra first met and fell in love. We continue drive to Hatay. Upon arrival we go to the district Harbiye to see the Titus Tunnel.
After breakfast, we will start with a visit to Church of St. Peter. This church is known the first church in Antioch Orontes that is clearly mentioned in Bible. The first Christian activities were started here by St. Peter. After the liberation of Christianity, this church has preserved its importance until today. Next, we will visit amazing Hatay Archaeology Museum famous for its extensive collection of Roman and Byzantine Era mosaics. Before we leave Hatay, take the chance to taste the regional delicious cuisine before we drive to Gaziantep. Upon the arrival, we will visit worldwide famous Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep. The symbol of this museum, the famous mosaic of the 'Gypsy Girl', is waiting for you.
Today we will head to Sanliurfa (Urfa), known in Turkey, as the centre of the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will see the Ayni Zeliha Lake that locals call 'Balikligol', cave of the Prophet Abraham, and the narrow streets of the old bazaar where we will see traditional copper workshops. We continue on to Harran, one of the earliest culture and science centres, first inhabited in the Chalcolithic Age (6th millennium BC). But its main claim to fame are its mud-brick beehive houses. Next visit will be the mysterious Gobekli Tepe, dating back 12,000 years, it is possibly the world's first temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognising it as "one of the first manifestations of human-made monumental architecture". After a break at Atatürk Dam, one of the largest in the world, we continue to the burial tumulus of King Antiochus, at Mt. Nemrut. The terraces here are decorated with the huge statues of mythological gods and goddesses. We will view the sunset from the West terrace before heading for Adiyaman.
After breakfast, we make our way to Cappadocia, another breath-taking wonder of nature. Its spectacular landscape, entirely sculpted by erosion, rock-hewn sanctuaries, churches, dwellings, troglodyte villages and underground cities, the remains of a traditional human habitat dating back to the 4th century, can also be seen there. Upon arrival we check in the cave hotel, it will be another unforgettable memory to you.
Today we explore the unusual and interesting formations of Cappadocia with the visits to the Goreme Open Air Museum, Underground City, Fairy Chimneys, and several valleys where you see the most beautiful landscape of formations.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Istanbul. Upon arrival in Istanbul, you'll be transferred to our hotel. This is a leisure day in Istanbul.
After breakfast, the tour concludes. As we say goodbye to all our new friends, you will be transferred from hotel to the airport.