Turkey: Ancient Splendors

DETAILED ITINERARY 


Wednesday & Thursday, May 14 & 15, 2014 - HOME | ISTANBUL
Depart home for Istanbul, Turkey, arriving on May 15th. You are met and transferred to our hotel in Sultanahmet, the oldest district of Istanbul. Almost all of the major sites we will see are within walking distance of our hotel. Overnight at the Sura Hotel for four nights.
 
Friday, May 16 - ISTANBUL
Spend the day exploring Istanbul’s ancient monuments on foot, beginning with the Roman Hippodrome. Continue on to the Yerebatan Saray, a grand underground cistern whose roof is supported by 336 columns. Sensitively restored, the cistern is now equipped with meandering walkways above the water. Nearby is the majestic 6th century church of Hagia Sophia. Now a museum, it reigned as the grandest church in Christendom for nearly 1,000 years. After lunch at a local restaurant, explore the Archaeological Museum—one of the world’s richest collections of Greco-Roman antiquities. End the day at the Church of St. Savior in Chora, beautifully decorated with early 13th century mosaics and frescoes. Enjoy a welcome reception overlooking Istanbul before dinner. (B,L,D)
 
Saturday, May 17 - ISTANBUL
Explore Istanbul’s Ottoman monuments on foot today, beginning with the imperial residence of the sultans, Topkapi Palace and Harem. In addition to its historical and architectural interest, it houses extraordinary collections of porcelain, armor, fabric, jewelry, miniatures, and calligraphy. After lunch at Topkapi, walk to the nearby Blue Mosque, featuring the most splendid exterior of Istanbul’s imperial mosques, including six slender minarets accentuating the corners of the building and the courtyard. Continue on to one of Istanbul’s most attractive smaller mosques, the Rustem Pasa Mosque, decorated (inside and out) with exquisite Iznik tiles. After a brief visit to the famous Spice Market, those who are interested can wander through the Grand Bazaar’s bustling, covered maze of shops until we gather for dinner. (B,L,D)
 
Sunday, May 18 – ISTANBUL
This morning, for a change of pace from our otherwise ancient itinerary, we visit the fabulous Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, showcasing diverse forms of domestic and international art. Afterward, board a privately chartered boat for a cruise up the Bosphorus, between Europe and Asia, past opulent palaces, exquisite mosques, imposing fortresses, and traditional, wooden Ottoman mansions. Next, we will visit Ortakoy, where the Ottoman Sultan welcomed Sephardic Jews to Turkey, now home to quaint cafes and restaurants. After lunch, we visit the sumptuous last palace of the Ottoman rulers, Dolmabahce Palace. A Turkish-Indian baroque masterpiece, it boasts 14 tons of pure gold in its interior decoration, priceless paintings and furniture, and a rich collection of glass and crystals. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening. (B,L)
 
Monday, May 19 – ISTANBUL­ | TROY
Depart Istanbul this morning for a drive to legendary Troy, site of the epic siege famously narrated in Homer’s Iliad. Xerxes (king of the Persians), Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar visited this site, honoring the ancient victory of the Greeks and thereby soliciting the gods’ blessings, en route to their own victories. An array of ruins dating from the Early Bronze Age through the Roman period attest to the continuing importance of the site. Overnight at the Tusan Hotel. (B,L,D)
 
Tuesday, May 20 – PERGAMON | KUSADASI
Check out of our hotel and drive to Pergamon, one of the greatest cities of western Asia. Its spectacular ruins, dramatically located on a high hill and in the valley below, include two theaters, an amphitheater, several temples, a vast gymnasium-bath complex, and a library that in its day was considered second only to the great library of Alexandria. Just outside the city lies the Asclepeion, a shrine to Asclepeios (god of healing and medicine) with an unusual circular temple, small theater, and subterranean passage to a sacred spring. After lunch at a local restaurant, drive to Kusadasi and check in to our hotel. Overnight at La Vista Boutique Hotel & Spa for two nights. (B,L,D)
 
Wednesday, May 21 – KUSADASI | EPHESUS | KUSADASI  
Spend the day exploring Ephesus, the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean, which has been extensively excavated and restored. At its peak, it was the largest Greco-Roman city in Asia Minor with a population of 250,000 and an infrastructure that included street lights, running water, a huge stadium and theater, and the marble-paved Arcadian Way leading to the magnificent Library of Celsus. Take a private tour of the Terrace Houses—magnificent villas of the wealthy, filled with colorful wall frescoes and intricate mosaic floors. After lunch, continue on to the Basilica of Saint John, built by Emperor Justinian in the early 6th century, which was the model for St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. (B,L,D)
 
Thursday, May 22 - KUSADASI | PRIENE | APHRODISIAS | PAMUKKALE
Start the day with a visit to the Ionian city of Priene, the oldest and best example of a Hellenistic city, whose Temple of Athena became the classical model of Ionic architecture. Continue our journey through the most fertile land of Turkey and, after having lunch along the way, visit Aphrodisias, one of the most beautiful and exciting archaeological sites in Turkey. Its stadium is the best preserved in Asia Minor, while the Temple of Aphrodite, tetrapylon, and baths of Hadrian make Aphrodisias unforgettable. Most of the statues and architectural remains discovered here are displayed in a well-organized museum at the site. This afternoon we continue on to Pamukkale and check in to our hotel. Overnight at the Colossae Thermal Hotel. (B,L,D)
 
Friday, May 23 – PAMUKKALE | HACILAR | BURDUR
Begin the day with a visit to Hierapolis, which was founded in the 2nd century B.C. as a thermal spa and grew into a highly important area with magnificent temples, a theater, and sacred hot springs. Continue on to Hacilar, where excavations have brought to light several prehistoric layers, perhaps most significantly those dating to the 6th millennium B.C., the Pre-Ceramic Neolithic and Late Neolithic periods. Check in to our hotel in Burdur this evening. Overnight at the Grand Ozeren Hotel. (B,L,D)
 
Saturday, May 24 – BURDUR | SAGALASSOS | ANTALYA
Make a morning visit to Burdur’s Archaeology Museum, a jewel among regional museums, and then drive through the Lake District, high up into the mountains of Pisidia, to the site of ancient Sagalassos. Far off the main tourist routes, Sagalassos has been extensively excavated in recent years and now visible are a library with mosaic flooring, temples, baths, and residences. As impressive as the ruins, however, are the breathtaking views from an elevation of 5,000 feet. This afternoon, continue driving to the Mediterranean coast, where we check in to our charming hotel in the heart of old Antalya. Overnight at the Tuvana Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)
 
Sunday, May 25 - ANTALYA | PERGE | ASPENDOS | ANTALYA
An early start today takes us to Perge to explore its great theater, stadium, enormous Hellenistic and Roman gates, and colonnaded street. Continue on to the ancient city of Aspendos, location of the best-preserved ancient theater in the world, where we circle the ancient acropolis to see remarkably well-preserved sections of the aqueduct that once supplied the city with water. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Antalya Archaeological Museum and its newly opened Perge Hall. In the evening, celebrate the culmination of our travels with a farewell dinner at an exclusive traditional restaurant. (B,L,D)
 
Monday, May 26 - ANTALYA | ISTANBUL | HOME
Transfer to Antalya airport for an early morning flight to Istanbul for connections to your homeward flights. Alternatively, travelers on the optional extension will depart Antalya for Konya. (B)
Optional Post-Tour Extension:
Cappadocia, ÇatalHöyük, Bogazkale, Ankara, GÖBEKLİ TEPE, and ŞANLIURFA
 
Monday, May 26, 2014 - ANTALYA | MEVLANA TEKKE | ÇATALHÖYÜK | KONYA
After breakfast, take a scenic 4½ hour drive through the Taurus Mountains, arriving at the vast Anatolian plateau to explore Konya’s splendid Selçuk monuments. After lunch, visit the Mevlana Tekke, the mausoleum of the Sufi mystic Mevlana, a.k.a. Rumi, and former lodge of the Whirling Dervishes. Continue on to the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük, one of the most important archaeological sites in Turkey. Discovered and first excavated in the 1960s, archaeologists renewed excavations in 1993 to shed more light on its remarkably advanced Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures. Overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn. (B,L,D)
 
Tuesday, May 27 - KONYA | CAPPADOCIA
Travel along the ancient trade route from Konya to Cappadocia, where time and erosion have transformed the soft, porous volcanic ash-rock (tuff, or tufa) into a lunar-like landscape of fantastic geologic shapes. Stop at panoramic vistas and explore the chapels and dwellings that early Christian settlers carved into the rock. En route to the hotel, visit the 13th-century Sultan Han caravanserai, stopping place for the camel caravans along the ancient Silk Road. In the evening an optional excursion to a Whirling Dervish ceremony will be available (additional cost). Overnight at the Kale Konak Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)
 
Wednesday, May 28 - CAPPADOCIA
An optional, sunrise hot-air balloon ride will be available (additional cost). Everyone will then visit scenic Ihlara Canyon, once the site of more than four thousand residences and one hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes very different from those elsewhere in Cappadocia. Continue on to explore the rock-cut churches in the open-air museum of the Göreme Valley. After lunch, visit the well-known pottery center of Avanos and enjoy time at leisure before gathering for dinner at our hotel. (B,L,D)
 
Thursday, May 29 - CAPPADOCIA | BOĞAZKALE | ANKARA
Depart Cappadocia early this morning for Ankara, stopping en route for lunch and to visit the spectacular ruins of Hattusa (Boğazkale), capital of the Hittite Empire, and the nearby rock shrine of Yazilikaya. Continue on to Ankara, chosen in the 1920s as the capital of the new Republic of Turkey. Overnight at the Divan Cukurhan Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)
 
Friday, May 30 - ANKARA
Spend the morning exploring Ankara’s superb Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (under renovation; parts of the museum will be subject to closure). This afternoon, visit the Mausoleum and Museum of Atatürk, founder and first president of the modern secular state of Turkey; and the 1st century B.C. Temple of Augustus and Rome, whose walls preserve the most complete record of the emperor Augustus’ political autobiography, the Res Gestae. (B,L,D)
 
Saturday, May 31 – ANKARA | ŞANLIURFA | ISTANBUL
Take a short morning flight to Şanlıurfa to visit the stunning site of Göbekli Tepe, the oldest known example of monumental architecture in the world, where massive carved stones were erected about 11,000 years ago (6,000 years before Stonehenge). The tallest megaliths are 16 feet high and weigh seven to ten tons; some are elaborately carved with figures of birds and animals. After lunch explore the pilgrimage town of Şanlıurfa, also known for its shady parks and labyrinthine bazaar. In the evening we fly to Istanbul and check in to a comfortable, convenient airport hotel. Dinner is on your own. Overnight at the Novotel Istanbul. (B,L)
 
Sunday, June 1 - ISTANBUL | HOME
Transfer to the international terminal for flights home. (B)

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