Day 01: Arrive Ankara
Arrive Ankara. We are met by our local representative and escorted to our hotel. This evening, we will be briefed by our guide at the hotel then we will enjoy a group dinner.
Overnight: Ichkale Hotel, Ankara (1 night) (D)
Day 02: Ankara / Safranbolu
Explore Ankara, the nation's capital since 1923. Visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations with its rich collection from the Hittite, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman periods; Arslanhane Mosque from 13th century; Ankara Citadel with its narrow streets; and the Mausoleum of Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. In the afternoon we drive to Safranbolu*.
Overnight: Hatatice Hanim Konagi Hotel, Safranbolu (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 03: Safranbolu / Amasya
From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East-West trade route. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese were built in 1322. During its apogee in the 17th century, Safranbolu's architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire. Stroll this museum town to discover the Cinci Caravanserai, Kaymakamlar Kiosk, Izzet Pasha Mosque, Clock Tower, and Kazdaglioglu Mosque, as well as bazaars (blacksmiths and shoemakers). Lunch at the village Yoruk famous for its old houses Drive to Amasya to see its impressive remains. Appreciate the special architectural features of old mansions (konak). Marvel at the Ancient Castle, the Pontic Kings' tombs, and Gok Medrese, as well as Torumtay Turbesi (Seljuk mausoleum with Mongol mummies). Visit the medieval mental hospital Ilhanli Bimarhane, and the beautifully landscaped Sultan Beyazit Mosque.
Overnight: Apple Palace Hotel, Amasya (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 04: Amasya / Hattusha / Cappadocia
Today we drive to Bogazkoy. After lunch, we visit Hattusha, the Hittite Capital*. The archaeological site of Hattusha, former capital of the Hittite Empire, is notable for its urban organization, the types of construction that have been preserved (temples, royal residences, fortifications), the rich ornamentation of the Lions' Gate and the Royal Gate, and the ensemble of rock art at Yazilikaya. The city enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium B.C. We explore the city's Lion Gate, Great Temple, Walls, Royal Gate, and Tunnel. Continue to Yazilikaya, a rock sanctuary decorated with reliefs of deities of the Hittite pantheon. Continue to Cappadocia.
Overnight: Mustafa Hotel, Cappadocia (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 05: Cappadocia
We take a full day to explore Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia*. In a spectacular landscape, entirely sculpted by erosion, the Göreme valley and its surroundings contain rock-hewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period. Dwellings, troglodyte villages and underground towns / the remains of a traditional human habitat dating back to the 4th century / can also be seen there. We visit the Goreme Valley, an open-air museum with rock-hewn churches (7th-13th c.) adorned with biblical frescoes. Marvel at the cave dwellings and fairy chimneys. At a handicraft center, learn about the arts of rural Turkey and watch a demonstration of rug weaving. Tour an Underground City, a multi-level labyrinth for protection during invasions. Take photos at Uchisar and Avcilar, magnificent vista points. Admire the impressive rock formations at sunset. (B, L, D)
Day 06: Cappadocia / Kayseri / Sivas
We drive to Kayseri, the ancient Caesarea and capital of Cappadocia region to visit Honat Hatun Mosque and make a picture stop in front of Selcuk Kumbets, funerary monuments from the 13th century. We continue to Sivas, an important trade city in medieval Anatolia. In this old Seljuk city, we see the Buruciye Medresesi; the Ulu Mosque; Kursunlu Han; Tas Han; and the intricately carved façade of the Sifaiye Medresesi.
Overnight: Buyuk Hotel, Sivas (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 07: Sivas / Divrigi / Kahta (Nemrut)
Drive to Divrigi to see the complex built in the 13th c. by Emir Ahmet Shah, ruler of the Seljuk Mengucek Emirate (Beylik). Admire the exquisite geometric and floral reliefs of the Great Mosque and Hospital of Divri?i*. This region of Anatolia was conquered by the Turks at the beginning of the 11th century. In 1228–29 Emir Ahmet Shah founded a mosque, with its adjoining hospital, at Divrigi. The mosque has a single prayer room and is crowned by two cupolas. The highly sophisticated technique of vault construction, and a creative, exuberant type of decorative sculpture – particularly on the three doorways, in contrast to the unadorned walls of the interior – are the unique features of this masterpiece of Islamic architecture.
Overnight: Nemrut Hotel, Kahta (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 08: Kahta / Mount Nemrut / Gobeklitepe / Urfa
Early in the morning we visit Nemrut Dag*. The mausoleum of Antiochus I (69–34 B.C.), who reigned over Commagene, a kingdom founded north of Syria and the Euphrates after the breakup of Alexander's empire, is one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period. The syncretism of its pantheon, and the lineage of its kings, which can be traced back through two sets of legends, Greek and Persian, is evidence of the dual origin of this kingdom's culture. We return to Kahta for lunch and drive to Urfa, the ancient city where Abraham allegedly spent several years. On the way we stop at Gobeklitepe to see the recent discovery of the oldest temple in the world.
Overnight: Harran Hotel, Urfa (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 09: Urfa / Harran / Gaziantep
In Urfa, we visit Abraham's Caves and Balikli Gol, a large carp-filled pool reflecting mosques. Drive to Harran to see beehive houses with cone-shaped roofs. Return to Urfa for lunch. In the afternoon we drive to Gaziantep. On the road, we'll make a picture stop for the ancient city of Zeugma, partially covered by the dam water. At the Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep, admire magnificent mosaics from the Roman era discovered at Zeugma.
Overnight: Ravanda Hotel, Gaziantep (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 10: Gaziantep / Antioch / Adana
We travel to Antakya, ancient Antioch, where the disciples of Jesus were first called "Christians." After lunch, we visit the Mosaic Museum, which displays one of the richest collections of Roman and Byzantine mosaics in the world. Tour the Grotto of St. Peter (designated by the Vatican as a place of pilgrimage) where the Apostle Peter allegedly preached. Drive through the Plain of Issus (Dörtyol) where Alexander the Great crushed the Persian army of Darius III and Crusaders built the Fortress of Toprakkale. Continue to Tarsus, birthplace of St. Paul. Visit St Paul's Well, Ulu Cami Mosque, and Eski Mosque, as well as the Gate of Cleopatra. (Note that Mark Anthony allied with Cleopatra VII in Tarsus.) In the evening, arrive in Adana.
Overnight: Surmeli Cukurova Hotel, Adana (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 11: Adana / Silifke / Konya
We drive to Silifke. En route, visit the Roman-Byzantine city of Kanlidivane with its enormous red-walled chasm. Stop at Kizkalesi, see the "Fortress of the Beauty" built on an island off in the distance. Drive high (3,700 ft.) in the Taurus Mountains to admire Alahan Monastery, an excellent example of early Byzantine architecture and continue to to the holy city of Konya, capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.
Overnight: Ozkaymak Hotel, Konya (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 12: Konya / Pamukkale
We visit the Museum of Mevlana honoring the famous mystic poet who founded the Sufi Order of the Whirling Dervishes; Aladdin Mosque from 13th century; and Karatay Medresa, today a tile museum. We drive to Pamukkale to admire the unreal landscape at the "Cotton Castle" with its white terraces of limestone deposited by thermal waters through the ages. We also see the ancient spa still used today at Hierapolis*. At the end of the 2nd century B.C. the dynasty of the Attalids, the kings of Pergamon, established the thermal spa of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other Greek monuments can be seen at the site.
Overnight: Pam Thermal Hotel, Pamukkale (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 13: Pamukkale / Aphrodisias / Sagalassos / Antalya
We tour Aphrodisias, the ancient site dedicated to the goddess of beauty, love, and fertility. Appreciate Anatolia's best-preserved stadium. At this site, which drew artisans to its famous school of sculpture, we explore the Temple of Aphrodite, the Tetrapylon, the Theater and the Museum. After lunch we continue to Sagalassos, to visit the remains of this Greco-Roman city recently discovered. The site is exceptional for its natural beauty. We then drive to Antalya.
Overnight: Khan Hotel, Antalya (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 14: Antalya
We drive to Aspendos, a treasure with the world's best-preserved Roman Theater, still used today for festivals and concerts. We also explore Perge, a spectacular Greco- Roman city before our return to Antalya, to stroll through the picturesque streets of the old town, Kaleici. (B, L, D)
Day 15: Antalya / Myra / Xanthos / Fethiye
Drive to ancient Myra to see stunning Lycian rock tombs in the cliff above the Roman Theater. At Demre, visit the Church of St. Nicholas. Take a boat ride over the sunken city of Kekova (weather permitting). After lunch we drive to Xanthos-Letoon*. This site, which was the capital of Lycia, illustrates the blending of Lycian traditions and Hellenic influence, especially in its funerary art. The epigraphic inscriptions are crucial for our understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language.
Overnight: Atapark Hotel, Fethiye (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 16: Fethiye / Caunos (Dalyan) / Selcuk
From there we will take a boat ride following the Dalyan River to Caunos ancient city, all the way to Iztuzu Beach. After lunch, we continue to Selcuk (Ephesus).
Overnight: Kalehan Hotel, Selcuk (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 17: Ephesus
Visit the fascinating city of Ephesus and explore the Marble Street, Agora, Odeon, and Theater, as well as the Fountain of Trajan, the Temple of Hadrian, and the Library of Celsius. Here we view the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and visit the Ephesus Museum, where statues of Artemis are housed. (B, L, D)
Day 18: Selcuk / Sardis / Pergamum / Kucukkuyu
We travel to Sardis, capital of the Kingdom of Lydia. In this Pactolus Valley city famous for its wealthy King Croesus and the invention of coinage, visit the Bath - Gymnasium Complex, the marble-paved Synagogue (3rd c. AD), and the Temple of Artemis. After lunch, we continue to Pergamum, the ancient capital of the Attalid dynasty and the place where parchment was invented. Ride a cable car to the upper city to take in the ruins of the Acropolis. In the lower city, visit the Asclepion, a sanctuary and a healing center dedicated to the god of healing, Asclepius.
Overnight: Gure Saruhan Hotel, Kucukkuyu (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 19: Kucukkuyu / Assos / Troy / Canakkale
In the morning, depart for Assos to see the Temple of Athena overlooking the sea from the highest spot on the acropolis. We explore the Archaeological Site of Troy*, with its 4,000 years of history, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The first excavation was undertaken by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1870. In scientific terms, its extensive remains are the most significant demonstration of the first contact between the civilizations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. Moreover, the siege of Troy by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece in the 13th or 12th century B.C., immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, has inspired great creative artists throughout the world ever since. We also pose at a reconstruction of the legendary Trojan Wooden Horse at the entrance to the site. Continue to Canakkale.
Overnight: Akol Hotel, Canakkale (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 20: Canakkale / Edirne / Istanbul
Ferry across the Dardanelles Strait and drive to Edirne, the Ottoman summer capital. We visit Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex*. The square Mosque with its single great dome and four slender minarets, dominates the skyline of the former Ottoman capital of Edirne. Sinan, the most famous of Ottoman architects in the 16th century, considered the complex, which includes madrasas (Islamic schools), a covered market, clock house, outer courtyard and library, to be his best work. The interior decoration using Iznik tiles from the peak period of their production testifies to an art form that remains unsurpassed in this material. The complex is considered to be the most harmonious expression ever achieved of the Ottoman külliye, a group of buildings constructed around a mosque and managed as a single institution. We also visit Eski Cami Mosque, Uc Serefeli Mosque and the Old Bazaar (Bedesten). Drive to Istanbul in the afternoon.
Overnight: Aziyade Hotel, Istanbul (3 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 21: Istanbul
In the next couple of days we explore the Historic Areas of Istanbul*. With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque, all now under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution and uncontrolled urbanization. In the morning, we visit the Blue Mosque, recognizable by its six minarets. Built between 1609 and 1616 for Sultan Ahmet I, the interior is decorated with some 21,000 blue Iznik tiles. We then head to the Hippodrome, where political, cultural, and athletic activities took place during Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman times; and visit the imposing Hagia Sophia, which marked the apogee of Byzantine Emperor Justinian's reign. After lunch, we visit the treasure-filled Topkapi Palace (residence of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th century) with its terraces overlooking the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn. End the day at the historic Grand Bazaar. Dinner is on our own. (B, L)
Day 22: Istanbul
In the morning, we visit Suleymaniye Mosque; Rustempasa Mosque and the Spice Market. We cruise on the Bosphorus, separating Asia from Europe and connecting the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea. We enjoy the best views of the city and discover beautiful marble palaces (Dolmabahce and Beylerbeyi), wooden Ottoman villas (yalis), and medieval fortresses. We can have an optional lunch at a seafood restaurant along the Bosphorus. In the afternoon, we visit St. Savior Church in Chora, whose mosaics and frescoes are among the most beautiful in the Byzantine World. We also visit Eyup Mosque and its cemeteries. Dinner is on our own. (B)
Day 23: Depart Istanbul
Check out by 1100 hrs. After our enlightening journey through millenary history, we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight. (B)