Ancient Turkey

Detailed Itinerary
March 15-27, 2011

Days 1 & 2: Thursday & Friday, March 15 & 16, 2012 - Home | Istanbul
Depart home for Istanbul, Turkey, arriving in Istanbul on Day 2. You are met and transferred to our hotel in Sultanahmet, the oldest district of Istanbul and the center of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium, founded in 700 B.C. This became Constantinople and later the center of the Ottoman Empire. Almost all of the major sites we will see are within walking distance of our hotel, whose rooftop terrace provides splendid views. Overnight at the Sultanhan Hotel for three nights.

Day 3: Saturday, March 17 - Istanbul
Spend the day exploring ancient monuments of Istanbul on foot, beginning with Yerebatan Saray, one of the grand underground cisterns that were an important source of water for the city during Byzantine and Ottoman times. Sensitively restored, the cistern (whose roof is supported by 336 columns) is now equipped with meandering walkways above the water, plus atmospheric illumination and music. Continue on to the majestic church of Hagia Sophia. Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century and reigned as the grandest church in Christendom for nearly 1,000 years, until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. After lunch at a local restaurant, explore the Archaeological Museum, which features one of the world’s richest collections of Greco-Roman antiquities, including an extraordinary collection of sarcophagi, and antiquities from the first two millennia of the city’s history. If you wish, continue on to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, and explore on your own its bustling, covered maze of shops. Enjoy a welcome reception overlooking Istanbul before dinner. (B,L,R,D)

Day 4: Sunday, March 18 - Istanbul
Today we explore Ottoman monuments of the city on foot, beginning with the imperial residence of the Ottoman sultans, the Topkapi Palace and Harem, the most extensive and fascinating monument of Turkish civil architecture in existence. In addition to its historical and architectural interest, it houses extraordinary collections of porcelain, armor, fabric, jewelry, miniatures, calligraphy, and many other precious objects that once belonged to the sultans and their court. After lunch at Topkapi, proceed to the Blue Mosque, one of the most prominent landmarks in Istanbul. It has the most splendid exterior of the city’s imperial mosques, with a graceful cascade of domes and semi-domes, six slender minarets accentuating the corners of the building and the courtyard, and generally imposing but harmonious proportions. Stroll through the ancient Hippodrome en route to visit the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. Enjoy the sights and scents of the famous Spice Market during a brief visit before dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 5: Monday, March 19 - Istanbul | Izmir | Kusadasi
This morning we visit the Church of St. Saviour in Chora, an 11th century church boasting some of the very finest Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. After lunch, drive along the Theodosian Walls, built between A.D. 412-422 as an imposing, 4-mile-long chain of double walls. Transfer to the airport for a mid-afternoon flight to Izmir, where upon arrival we drive to Kusadasi to check-in to our hotel and have dinner. Overnight at the Korumar Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

Day 6: Tuesday, March 20 - Kusadasi | Ephesus | Kusadasi
Spend the day exploring Ephesus, the best preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean, which provides compelling insights into life in Hellenistic and Roman times. 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 down to the magnificent Library of Celsus. Ephesus has been extensively excavated and restored. 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 Selçuk Archaeological Museum, one of the best regional museums in Turkey. It houses a large collection of artifacts found at Ephesus and the surrounding area. (B,L,D)

Day 7: Wednesday, March 21 - Kusadasi | Priene | Miletus | Didyma | Bodrum
En route to Bodrum today we explore the Meander Valley and three great Ionian cities. Priene is the oldest and best example of a Hellenistic city, and was laid out by the famous architect Hippodamus. Priene’s splendid Temple of Athena became the classical model of Ionic architecture. Miletus has an impressive theater, stadium, three agoras, baths, and a bouleuterion. The great Temple of Apollo at Didyma was one of the leading oracles in the ancient Greek world, and is remarkable for its huge size and unique plan. This evening, arrive in Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus), a charming port with a rich history that spans thousands of years. Overnight at the Marmara Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

Day 8: Thursday, March 22 - Bodrum
This morning, enjoy a private tour  of the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, renowned for its wide range of fascinating artifacts displayed in a myriad of atmospheric halls and galleries. The Museum is housed in the 15th century Castle of Saint Peter, built by the Knights of St. John as part of a network of fortresses to defend the southeastern Aegean. The remainder of the day is at leisure to enjoy Bodrum, a small city alive with Turkish artists and intellectuals, and a major boat building and yachting center. (B,L)

Day 9: Friday, March 23 - Bodrum | Aphrodisias | Burdur
We continue our journey through the most fertile land of Turkey to visit Aphrodisias, the ancient city of Aphrodite. This is one of the most beautiful and exciting archaeological sites in Turkey. The stadium is the best preserved in Asia Minor, while the Temple of Aphrodite, the 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. Check in to our hotel in Burdur this evening. Overnight at the Grand Ozeren Hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 10: Saturday, March 24 - Burdur | Sagalassos | Antalya
Make a morning visit to Burdur’s Archaeology Museum, and then drive through the Lake District high up into the mountains of Pisidia until we come to the site of ancient Sagalassos. Far off the main tourist routes, Sagalassos has been extensively excavated in recent years by a team of Dutch archaeologists. Now visible are a library with mosaic flooring, temples, baths, and the residences of what was once the largest city in Pisidia. As impressive as the ruins, however, are the breathtaking views from 5,000 feet up into the mountains. 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)

Day 11: Sunday, March 25 - Antalya | Perge | Aspendos | Antalya
We begin the day with an excursion to Perge, where we explore the great theater, stadium, enormous Hellenistic and Roman gates, and colonnaded street. Continue on to the best-preserved ancient theater in the world, located in the ancient city of Aspendos. Having thoroughly tested the near-perfect acoustics, we circle the ancient acropolis to see some remarkably well preserved sections of the aqueduct that supplied the ancient citizens with their water. This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner at an exclusive traditional restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 12: Monday, March 26 - Antalya | Istanbul
This morning we visit the Antalya Archaeological Museum and its newly opened Perge Hall. The rest of the day is at leisure until we transfer to the airport for our evening flight to Istanbul, where upon arrival we check-in to a comfortable, convenient airport hotel. Overnight at the Novotel Istanbul. (B)

Day 13: Tuesday, March 27 - Istanbul | Home
Transfer to the international terminal for flights home. (B)

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