We can customize this program and add more sights in both Turkey and/or Greece, or provide extra nights in Istanbul and/or Athens.
- Saturday - Day 1 - Arrival in Athens
KALOS ORISATE! Welcome to Greece!
We will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. After a short briefing about your tour, you will have the afternoon free to rest and explore Athens on your own.
Overnight in Athens.
- Sunday - Day 2 - Athens - (B)
After breakfast around 8:30 AM, we will meet you at your hotel for your guided tour of Athens.
You will explore Temple of Olympian Zeus, Panathinaiko Stadium (where the first Olympic Games took place in 1896). After that, we will drive by the Prime's Minister's residence, the Royal Palace, (guarded by colorful Evzones), Zappion (Conference and Exhibition Hall), National Garden, Hadrian's Arc, St. Paul's Church, Parliament, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Schlieman's House (Numismatic Museum), Catholic Cathedral, Academy, University, National Library, Old Parliament, Constitution Square, and the impressive Russian Orthodox Church.
At the Acropolis, you will visit Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike, Parthenon, Erechtheion and the Museum of the Acropolis.
In the early afternoon, we will provide a transfer to your hotel, or we can also drop you off at the Plaka so you can wander and explore.
Overnight in Athens.
- Monday - Day 3 - Athens to Santorini - (B)
In the early afternoon, we will provide a transfer to the Athens airport and for your 50-minute flight to Santorini Island. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel; you will then have the rest of the afternoon to explore on your own.
Overnight in Santorini.
- Tuesday - Day 4 - Santorini - (B)
After breakfast, we will take you on a full-day tour of Santorini. You will visit Acrotiri, take a boat trip to a caldera, visit hot springs, take in the ruins of Thirrassia, and wrap up your day watching the romantic sunset from Oia. You will then be taken back to your hotel. Overnight in Santorini.
- Wednesday - Day 5 - Santorini to Rhodes, then to Kusadasi - (B)
After breakfast, you will have a free day to relax and explore Santorini on your own. Many take this opportunity to relax and tan on one of Santorini's famous beaches, such as Red Beach, or return for some more sightseeing in Oia
Around midnight, you will be transferred to Santorini Harbor for your overnight ferry from Santorini to Rhodes Island.
- Thursday - Day 6 - Rhodes to Marmaris then to Kusadasi - (B/D)
Early morning arrival in Rhodes, we will board a relaxing ferry to Marmaris, Turkey. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to the resort town of Kusadasi, where you will check into your hotel.
Overnight in Kusadasi
- Friday - Day 7 - Kusadasi - (B/L/D)
We will visit some of Turkey's most impressive Roman and Biblical-era sites today, in what promises to be one of your most memorable days in Turkey!
Sites you'll see today:
* Ephesus is the best-preserved classical cities from ancient times, and was inhabited by Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Turks. St. Paul lived here circa 60 AD, when it was at its most populated at 250,000. During your visit, youíll walk its stony boulevards, stand in the grand theatre, and marvel at the beauty and size of the Celsus Library, the agora, as well as the baths, giving you the unique chance to get up-close-and-personal with history by literally being able to walk into it.
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th century Ecumenical Councils. It is also the site of a large gladiators' graveyard.
* The Temple of Artemis is situated in serene countryside and celebrates the Greek goddess Artemis, the virginal huntress and twin of Apollo, who supplanted the Titan Selene as goddess of the Moon. This temple, known as Artemision in Greek times, was the largest of its kind at the world. Artemis was passionately venerated in an archaic, pre-Hellenic cult image that was carved of wood, and kept decorated with jewelry.
* The House of the Virgin Mary, (Meryemana Evi), high on a hill overlooking the town of Selcuk, is where it is believed that St. Mary came to live with St. John the Baptist in the later years of her life. Masses are held here on Sundays. Overnight in Kusadasi.
- Saturday - Day 8 - Kusadasi to Pamukkale - (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we will depart Kusadasi for our scenic 3-hour drive to Pamukkale, where you will have a guided tour of Pamukkale and Hierapolis.
* Pamukkale ("cotton castle" in Turkish) is the result of limestone formations created over thousands of years. Warm, calcium-rich mineral water from nearby thermal hot springs flowed over these travertine cliffs and, as these waters cooled, they deposited the calcium that we see today.
* Hierapolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded as an ancient healing care center in 190 BC, taking advantage of the mineral waters. It was one of the most important intellectual, artistic, religious and commercial centers of the Roman Empire. Overnight in Pamukkale.
- Sunday - Day 9 - Pamukkale to Cappadocia - (B/L)
After breakfast we will depart Pamukkale and drive on to Cappadocia, stopping to visit the Mevlana Museum in Konya.
* Mevlana Museum is a holy site for Muslims and features beautiful architecture and tile work; it was the former primary lodge of the whirling dervishes order.
(Note: a guided tour of the museum is not included, but you may explore on your own.)
In the afternoon, we will provide a transfer east to the Cappadocian region; after arrival you will check in at your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day to relax or explore Urgup. Overnight in Urgup - Cappadocia.
- Monday - Day 10 - Cappadocia - (B/L)
Today, we'll stroll through an amazing subterranean city where ancient Christians once hid from Arab invaders; we'll then wander through the Ihlara Gorge and spend time in a classic Anatolian village.
* Underground City of DerinkuyuóWeíll gradually make your way down into the depths of the earth of this ancient settlement that has 18-20 floors which boast depths as long as 40 meters. (But don't worry, we'll only go down to the 8th floor!) Youíll marvel at the fact that Derinkuyu is just one of 36 Cappadocian underground cities, which archaeologists date back to the time of the Hittites around 4,000 years ago.
* Ihlara Gorge is an oasis in the middle of the Anatolian plain. We'll explore the canyon and take in the beautiful green scenery as we stroll casually alongside the river. Here, you'll see ancient monasteries complete with pigeon holes carved into the cliffs by the monks; the pigeons acted as messengers to communicate with neighboring monks!
* Traditional Anatolian village -- You'll see head-scarved women in the fields (where they work from sun up until sundown) and the mustachioed, vest-wearing men hard-at-work playing cards or tavla (backgammon) in the kahvehane (coffee shop). You'll get time to stroll in a village such as this and see the average Turkish villager at work...or play. Overnight in Urgup - Cappadocia.
- Tuesday - Day 11 - Cappadocia to Istanbul - (B/L)
This day will be spent exploring more of the amazing sites of Cappadocia. (Those who have purchased the optional hot-air balloon tour: you will be transferred before sunrise to the launch site. You will then enjoy breakfast at the hotel.)
Sites youíll see today:
* Goreme Open-Air Museum - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Goreme is an ancient town carved right out of the rock (tufa); you'll explore Byzantine-era churches, chapels and monasteries which house wonderfully-preserved 11th- and 12th-century cave frescoes.
* Fairy Chimneys--This strange geological phenomenon was created over millions of years, and were formed during regional volcanic eruptions. Reaching at times 40 meters in height, they are conical in shape and have a whimsical "hat" top to them.
* Devrent Valley--This valley is known as "the pink valley" because of the color of its soil. This is a lovely place to wander about and really take in the magical rock formations indicative to Cappadocia, including the Fairy Chimneys.
* Uchisar Castle, also known as Uchisar Fortress, is actually a formation of two gigantic rocks surrounded by smaller ones that together, form a natural fortress with towers. These formations were inhabited during both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
If there is time, we'll also visit local crafts people and learn the special art of making dolls and traditional pottery.
After the tour, we will provide a transfer to Nevsehir Airport for your 1-hour flight back to Istanbul. After arrival, we will take you to your hotel. Overnight in Nevsehir.
- Wednesday - Day 12 - Istanbul - (B/L)
This will be a full day exploring Istanbul's most historical monuments. Weíll set off just after breakfast, around 8:30 AM.
Sites you'll see today:
* Blue Mosque/Sultanahmet Mosque (Camii) built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I during 1609-1616. It is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets. Due to its magnificent hand-dyed blue, green and white Iznik tiles it has been named the "Blue Mosque" by Europeans. The central dome is 43 m in height and is 33.4 m in diameter; it also boasts 260 windows.
* Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya is a truly awe-inspiring, 1,400-year-old Byzantine cathedral which houses mosaics, relics and iron work. Hagia Sophia was, for nearly a thousand years, the largest enclosed space in the world, and still seen as one of the world's most important architectural monuments. It is one of Turkey's most popular attractions, drawn by the sheer spectacle of its size, architecture, mosaics and art. Built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD.
* Hippodrome: the backdrop of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life. Of the ornaments which once decorated it, only three remain: The Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine.
The Obelisk is in the Egyptian style and was erected in 1547 BC and stood 60m tall. The German Fountain is also within the hippodrome area, constructed in Germany to mark German Emperor Wilhelm II's second visit to Istanbul; it was imported and officially opened on January 1 1901. The fountain's three domes are decorated with gold mosaics.
* Topkapi Palace, the residence and administrative center of the Sultans during the Ottoman Empire, was constructed in 1459-1465 shortly after the establishment of Constantinople. You'll see the Treasury that houses the Topkapi Dagger, the 86-carat Spoon Maker's Diamond, and the jewel-encrusted bones of St. John the Baptist.
* Grand Bazaar (Kapali Áarsi ñ ìcovered bazaarî) is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with more than 58 covered streets and over 4,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and half a million visitors daily.
The bazaar began construction in 1455 and opened in 1461. It is well-known for its jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of good: leather, textiles, gold jewelry and the like.
Additionally, the bazaar contains two bedestens (domed masonry structures built for storage and safe keeping), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly expanded in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, and in 1894, underwent a major restoration following an earthquake. Today, the grand bazaar houses two mosques, two hamams, four fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes. The sprawling complex consists of 12 major buildings and has 22 entrances.
After the tour, weíll return to the hotel. Overnight in Istanbul
- Thursday - Day 13 - Istanbul - (B)
This will be a half-day exploring the historical sites of Istanbul.
* The Spice Bazaar/Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) transports you back to the Silk Road days with its mystical aromas of various spices. Here, you'll also find other shops selling fruits, vegetables, teas, flowers, fish, and Turkish Delight (lokum).
* Bosphorus Cruise takes you though the waterway separating the two continents, Europe and Asia; along its shores, you can take photographs of marble palaces and antique wooden Ottoman-era villas that sit beside luxurious modern residences. You will also see Dolmabahce Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, and Ortakoy Mosque.
After the tour, we can take you back to the Grand Bazaar for some more souvenir shopping.
Overnight in Istanbul
- Friday - Day 14 - Istanbul to Home - (B)
Gule, gule! It's time to go home. We will transfer you to the airport and wish you well, asking that you keep Turkey and all of us in your hearts. We hope that our paths cross again.
* * * Program ends * * *
Total cost: 1,885 Euro per person, double room & 2,385 Euro, single supplement - ask for early booking discounts
Price includes:* All hotels
* All land transfers with comfortable vehicles
* All meals mentioned in the itinerary (B-breakfast, L-lunch & D-dinner)
* Professional, English-speaking tour guides
* Domestic flight tickets from Athens to Santorini
* Ferry tickets from Santorini to Rhodes
* Ferry tickets from Rhodes to Marmaris
* Domestic flight tickets from Cappadocia to Istanbul
* Admissions to: Acropolis, Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Gallipoli Museum, Troy, Ephesus, Pamukkale, and Cappadocian sites
* All taxes and service charges
* International flight tickets to Istanbul
* Drinks with meals
* Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia (15% discount if booked with this tour)