Oldest Cities in the World Tour 2013
ITINERARY (Click for Detailed Itinerary...) - View all details
Day 1 – DEPART USA
Your international direct flight will depart from the United States, arriving in Istanbul the next day.
Day 2 – ARRIVE ISTANBUL
After passport and visa procedure, you will be taken to the 5-star hotel Eresin in the old city. There will be time to rest before meeting the group for a welcome dinner.
Day 3 – GAZIANTEP (Fly)
Early in the morning, we will fly to Gaziantep to visit the mosaic museum and see the famous mosaic of a gypsy girl from the ancient city of Zeugma. This is the one of the two best mosaic museums in the World, displaying 2,000 year old Roman mosaics. In April 2010, a new museum building that houses all of the mosaics will open. We will then stay at a 5-star Hotel there.
Day 4 – URFA (Göbekli Tepe)
Today, we will drive to Urfa, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. We will visit nearby Harran and see the incredible beehive houses. Harran, according to the Bible, was the site where the prophet Abraham lived with his family for several years before moving to Israel, the Promised Land. We will also visit the holy sites at Ainzelha, a lake with domesticated fish. There are exceptional photo opportunities in this area. We will also visit Göbekli Tepe, a recently discovered site where excavations have just begun. Built in 10,000 B.C., it is the oldest known temple in the World. This temple was mysteriously buried by the people who built it in 8,000 B.C. and it was not used again. This is another unique place we visit on our tours. Our stay will be at the 4-star Harran Hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 5 – MT. NEMRUT (8th Wonder of the World)
The next day, we will drive to Mt. Nemrut. Resting at an elevation of 7700 ft., this extraordinary mountaintop features a funerary-temple complex composed of two flattened areas strewn with huge statues and fallen heads of Greco-Roman Gods. Each head measures six to nine feet high, belonging to the likes of Zeus, Hercules, Fortuna, Apollo and the King Antiouchus, who considered himself a God. There is also a mound of broken gravel that makes a perfect false peak of crushed rock. Antiouchus built the entire complex 2,050 years ago as a monument to his “divine ancestry”. Our stay will be at the best available tourist class Zeus Hotel, a fine little hotel.
Please Note: The hike to Mt. Nemrut consists of 20 to 40 minutes of a 30% uphill hike, mostly with stairs. There is no time limit and most can do the hike. There are also donkeys or mules available for hire.
Day 6, 7, 8, 9 – CAPPADOCIA (One of the Natural Wonders of the World)
Early in the morning, we will drive to Cappadocia; stopping frequently for rest breaks during the drive. One of the places we will stop in is Kanesh, a 4,500 year old city that was the capitol city of the Hattis and a trade city for the Assyrians. Arriving late in the afternoon, our stay will be at the spectacular Cappadocia Cave Suites, the newest and most luxurious “cave living” in Cappadocia. In 2005, Abercrombie and Kent rated the Cave Suites the seventeenth most boutique hotel in the World. This hotel’s thirty six spacious units almost all have windows with views to the outside and most feature a Jacuzzi. Some units have beautiful 200-year-old wooden ceilings and one unit is decorated in original 8th century painted frescoes showing the Maltese cross. The views are spectacular with the Fairy Chimneys in sight (www.cappadociacavesuites.com). Breakfast and dinner will be at the Cave Suites restaurant.
While in Cappadocia we will enjoy the unique landscapes of wind and rain-eroded volcanic rock formations and have opportunities for incredible hikes. Our hotel is just a few minutes walk from the starting point of five different hiking routes. During the hikes, you will see amazing formations, valleys, grapevines and orchards full of fruit trees and hot air balloons fill the sky early in the morning. Wild flowers also decorate the landscape from April through September and will be blooming most brilliantly from early April to late June. Cappadocia is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and you will see why. It is the highlight of all of our Turkey tours regardless of the fact that we also go to places like Istanbul, Ephesus, Troy, Pamukkale and many other impressive locations, all of which are World Heritage sites.
Discovering the unknown Cappadocia, we will go off the “tourist track”. One of these outings will be to the Ballidere Valley where many formations of rocks, carved by nature (similar to phallic symbols) 100 feet tall (or higher) and 10 to 15 feet wide, create otherworldly vistas. Because it isn’t easy to access this site, most people aren’t aware of it. Missed by 99% of visitors to this area, you will be able to taking unbelievable pictures at this site.
Also amazing is the incredible underground cities of Cappadocia, some of which were home to as many as 15,000 inhabitants. We will go to Derinkuyu where ancient civilizations from 3,000 to 4,000 years ago started carving layers of living quarters into the bedrock connected by catacombs. These floors are separated by huge wheels of stone that could be moved by a lever to close the passage, providing security.
In the region of Cappadocia, a 10,000 square mile area, there are 1,000 churches carved into bedrock by early and later Christians. About 100 of the churches still have frescoes from the Old and the New Testament. We will visit these churches and living quarters at the Open Air Museum, which is less than a mile from our hotel. This is a very impressive site.
We will also visit ancient handicraft shops and a caravanserai, an ancient caravan motel. Cappadocia is also famous for its rugs and kilims. We will have an excellent lecture-demonstration on Turkish kilims and carpets. These handicrafts of Turkey will be offered to you not at a “tourist rate” but at a special rate for our clients only. This means you will get the best quality for the least amount of money. Your purchases will be sent to your address (shipping and insurance included). On one evening, we will attend a Whirling Dervish ceremony in a 12th century caravanserai.
OPTIONAL: Hot air balloon rides over Cappadocia at reduced rates. A balloon ride in Cappadocia (for people of all ages) is safe and nothing less than spectacular.
Day 10 – PAMUKKALE (One of the Natural Wonders of the World) – Hierapolis
On this day, we will drive to Pamukkale. On the way, we will drive to Çatalhöyük, which is the best preserved and largest Neolithic site found to date and is considered by archaeologists as the oldest-communal living-city in the World. It goes back to 7,500 B.C.. Layer by layer, archaeologists have excavated this tumulus/mound and put a cover over their excavations. Very few people visit this site. We will then continue to Konya to visit the Whirling Dervish Museum, a very holy place for Turkish Muslims. There are exhibits of Dervish costumes, instruments, illuminated manuscripts and various ethnographic artifacts.
Arriving in Pamukkale, we will visit the snow-like travertine of calcium for which Pamukkale is famous. Pamukkale is one of the natural wonders of the world with strikingly beautiful mineral springs clinging to the hillsides that will amaze you. We will stay at the 5-star Colossae Hotel, with a thermal mineral pool for your enjoyment.
Day 11, 12 – KUSADASI (Aphrodisias/Ephesus)
In the morning, we will visit the Greco-Roman city “Hierapolis”. It has an incredible necropolis (city of the dead) and we will see many sarcophagi (burial monuments) there. Afterwards, we will drive to Kusdasi. On the way, we will drive to Aphrodisias, the city of art dedicated to the Goddess Aphrodite. Octavian once said that “of all the cities in the world, Aphrodisias is my favorite.” The marble theatre is beautiful and the stadium that seats over 35,000 is immense. It is also the largest in the world and the best preserved. The city was a center to cultivate the finest sculptors, whose works were found all over the Roman Empire. We will then drive to Kusadasi where we will stay at the 5-star Korumar Hotel, which features a private beach on the coast. All the rooms assigned to us will have superb views of the Aegean Sea and the Greek Samos Island on the horizon.
The next day, we will visit the incredible city of Ephesus and its colossal Greco-Roman Theater where St. Paul preached. This particular theater is still used for performances today. The Marble Road, the Celsus Library, and the Temple of Diana are just a few of the sites we will visit. We will also visit the house where St. Mary lived her final days (After the crucifixion of Jesus, St. John brought her to Ephesus). We will then return to the Korumar Hotel where there will be free time to swim in the Aegean Sea and enjoy the hotel’s many amenities.
Day 13 – CANAKKALE (Troy)
We will have a scenic five-hour drive up the Aegean Coast. On the way, we will stop in Pergamon to see the Asklepion, the world’s oldest hospital. We will then drive to Çanakkale where we will visit the legendary city of Troy and have the opportunity to see a replica of the Trojan Horse. To date, nine different Troys have been discovered with each one built on top of the other. We will have a chance to see this site still in the process of excavation. While in Çanakkale we will stay at the best available hotel, which overlooks the Dardanelles and Gallipoli across the Straits.
Day 14, 15, 16 – ISTANBUL (Gallipoli)
A drive and a 35-minute ferry ride will take us to Istanbul. On the way we will stop to visit Gallipoli and the WWI battle sites, cemeteries and memorials. Afterwards, we will check into our hotel, the 5-star hotel Barcelo Eresin Topkapi, situated in the old city. In the afternoon we will visit the Military Museum to enjoy a concert performed in traditional costumes by the world’s first established military marching ensemble before having dinner at a local Turkish restaurant.
Istanbul, once called Byzantium in the 7th century B.C., was renamed Constantinople in 326 A.D. by Constantine the Great when he moved the capital of the Roman Empire to what is now Istanbul. Istanbul received its current name from Mehmet II in 1453 and is the only city in the world that spans two continents. Here, we will visit several of Turkey’s most famous museums and mosques. Topkapi Palace was first built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and was the home of the Sultan until the 19th century. St. Sophia was built by the Roman Emperor Justinian and was completed in 537 A.D. It was the largest Christian church in the world for more than 1000 years. The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet in 1603 and was constructed with the deliberate intention of rivaling the St. Sophia. We will also visit the spice market, the Rüstem pasha mosque with its exceptional tiles and the impressive mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent. On one evening, we will have a dinner with lots of live music and entertainment by a gypsy orchestra.
On the final day in Istanbul, we will take a morning Bosphorus cruise (the size of the boat will vary depending on the group’s size):
The afternoon will then be free and will give you a chance to go out on your own to explore the city. We would recommend visiting the Grand Bazaar on this day. Dinner this evening will be on your own.
Please Note: The order of events may vary with each tour depending on the availability of various museums on certain days of the week.
Day 17 -DEPART FOR USA
We will depart the hotel shortly after breakfast for your return flight home to the United States the same day.
**Flight schedules and itinerary are subject to change**