Full buffet breakfast daily; 1 special lunch at the Sultan’s Village; 6 three-course dinners with wine, including a welcome dinner and a special farewell dinner with wine in Istanbu
Inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE in the tour description.
Day 1 Arrive in Istanbul, Turkey
After arrival at Atatürk Airport, check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free to start soaking up the unique atmosphere of this city built on two continents. At 6:30 pm, meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a welcome dinner with wine at your hotel.
Day 2 Istanbul
Founded by the Greeks as Byzantium more than 2,500 years ago, renamed Constantinople in 330 AD when Constantine the Great elected it the capital of the Roman Empire, and finally called Istanbul after the Ottoman conquest in the 15th century, the city on the Bosporus remains one of the most exciting places in the world. Its strategic location as gateway between Orient and Occident, the Islamic and the Christian worlds, and the Black Sea and the Mediterranean predestined it for a turbulent history. Guided sightseeing starts at TOPKAPI PALACE, the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Admire the rich and spectacular kaftans of the sultans that were worn during the Ottoman period. Then, tour the HAGIA SOPHIA, followed by the ROMAN HIPPODROME, and visit Sultan Ahmet’s BLUE MOSQUE. A special visit has been included to the UNDERGROUND CISTERN, brought to life in Dan Brown’s best seller Inferno. For a taste of Turkish nightlife, join our optional dinner outing and discover the fascination of belly dancing.
Day 3 Istanbul–Gallipoli–Troy Area
Visit the colorful GRAND BAZAAR before setting out on your discovery tour of a country with the population of Britain and more than three times its size. Drive along the European shore of the Sea of Marmara and head westward through sunflower and olive groves to the Dardanelles. Visit the WWI battlefields on the Gallipoli peninsula, where Allied troops, mainly Australians and New Zealanders, suffered heavy casualties in a disastrous campaign. Pay tribute to the heroes of those tragic months of 1915 at the ANZAC CEMETERY and the LONE PINE MEMORIAL. Travel by ferry across the Dardanelles to the Troy area for your first overnight in Asia on the Aegean coast.
Day 4 Troy Area–Pergamum–Izmir
Enjoy a guided visit of TROY, the perfect place to brush up on Homer’s Trojan War—hollow wooden horse and all! Vistas of the Greek isle of Lesbos greet you as you follow the shores of the Bay of Edremit. Continue south to Pergamum, an ancient center of learning and the arts, and visit its MUSEUM. After lunch, visit the ASCLEPION, a shrine to the Greek god of medicine. Drive to Izmir for your overnight stay.
Day 5 Izmir–Ephesus–Pamukkale
Today, visit Ephesus, home of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and later, the capital of Roman Asia Minor. Visit the SITE OF ANCIENT RUINS and the ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM with its famous statue of Artemis, goddess of fertility and destiny. At this beautiful location, a souvenir GROUP PICTURE will be taken. A highlight is a stop at the SULTAN’S VILLAGE. Here, you will learn all about the traditional Turkish weaving art and taste local specialties. Then, travel along the Silk Road, and through the lush valley of the meandering Menderes River. Next, Pamukkale. The name means “Cotton Castle” and refers to the spectacular white lime cascades formed by its hot springs. At your hotel tonight, maybe a leisurely bath in a pool of hot thermal water might be just the way to relax after a busy touring day.
Day 6 Pamukkale–Hierapolis–Bursa
This morning, visit the fascinating archaeological site of HIERAPOLIS, the thermal resort founded by a Pergamene king in 190 BC and greatly enlarged and embellished by the Romans. Then, enjoy the ever-changing cultivated landscapes and timeless scenes of rural life on your way to Bursa. Spot farmers working their fields or transporting produce in traditional horse-drawn carts. Bursa lies in the shade of the Uludag–also called Mount Olympus of Mysia—a 7,700-foot-high ski mountain surrounded by lovely orchards. Founded by the Greeks, like most ancient cities in this part of the world, and hotly contested during the Crusades, Bursa had its heyday as the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. In the afternoon, visit the GREAT MOSQUE (Ulu Camii). Also on the agenda, of course, are the ancient Covered Bazaar and the Silk Market.
Day 7 Bursa–Iznik–Istanbul
Visit Iznik, site of the first Ecumenical Council. See its ancient city walls before visiting ST. SOPHIA CHURCH and the ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM. Later, return to Istanbul. Tonight, enjoy a PRIVATE CRUISE on the Bosporus River, while having tea and traditional Turkish Delight candy. A farewell dinner with wine at a local restaurant is the proper way to celebrate the success of your Turkish adventure.
Day 8 Istanbul (Embarkation)
Morning at leisure before embarkation.
Day 9 Cruising: Kusadasi
Arrive in Kusadasi.
Day 10 Cruising: Santorini, Greece
This morning, call at Santorini (weather permitting), the “Black Pearl of the Aegean.” Join one of the optional shore excursions either to the volcano or up to the cliff-top village of Oia for one of the world’s most breathtaking panoramas.
Day 11 Cruising: Agios Nicholaos, Crete
Early arrival in Agios Nicholaos on Crete. A few miles away is Knossos, the center of the 3000 BC Minoan civilization, and an optional excursion can be booked. Plenty of time to enjoy the ship’s amenities.
Day 12 Cruising: Rhodes, Greece–Symi
Two ports of call today: first, the island of Rhodes. Explore the Old Town with its ramparts and palaces built by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades. An optional excursion is available to Lindos to see Athena’s fabulous temple, or, if sightseeing isn’t your thing, Rhodes’ sun-drenched public beaches and colorful shopping districts are within easy walking distance of the port. Next, Symi, located in the southern Dodecanese and renowned for its beautiful harbor.
Day 13 Cruising: Chios–Mykonos
The island of Chios is situated in the northeastern part of the Aegean and close to Asia Minor. Besides its fine beaches, Chios has many attractions and is famous for its Mastic tree. Next, discover the mountainous island of Mykonos with its characteristic windmills and dazzling white houses. Time to wander at whim through narrow paved streets lined with trendy boutiques and shady tavernas before returning on board.
Day 14 Lavrion (Disembarkation)–Athens
After breakfast on board, disembark at Lavrion and return to Athens. Sightseeing with a Local Guide features a visit to the Parthenon’s crowning beauty atop the ACROPOLIS, the Erechtheum with its Porch of Maidens, the beautifully preserved Theseum, Roman temple dedicated to Zeus, Theater of Dionysus, and the Agora where Socrates taught. Vistas of the government buildings and elegant homes in the modern city provide a striking contrast to the remains of the glorious past. The remainder of the day is free to catch up on last-minute shopping. Enjoy an optional dinner in a romantic restaurant.
Day 15 Athens
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning.