(Small groups maximum 10 participants –all year around)
This tour embraces the highlights of Turkey, designed for small groups and private families and organized all year around.
Day 1 ISTANBUL
Upon arrival in Istanbul airport you are met by Esendal Travel representative and escorted to your hotel. You have the rest of the day free or take the orientation tour to begin exploring Turkey’s commercial and cultural capital or to relax et your leisure. Overnight in hotel category of your choice.
Day 2 ISTANBUL
Discover the classical highlights of Istanbul: Visit the Roman Hippodrome where the chariot races and athletic events took place during the Roman period ,the first of the seven hills on the promontory was the most important and dynamic part of the city throughout its history. The important buildings and monuments of the Roman era were built in the vicinity of the Hippodrome. Very few remains of these works have survived to the present day next visit nearby Blue Mosque famous for its magnificent interior with 20.000 blue Iznik tiles. Originally built as a complex in 1616 by Mehmet Aga, a student of the great architect Sinan. We continue our visit with Turkish Islamic Art museum , it gives you a glimpse into the opulent life of the Ottoman upper class in the time of Suleyman the Magnificent. Cross the Hippodrome to visit the Underground Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi) is by far the largest of the many underground cisterns of the city remaining from Roman and Byzantine times was re built by Justinian in 532 A.D to solve Constantinople’s water problem which persisted for centuries. Opposite the cistern we will visit the Museum of St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia) the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture and is one of the most extraordinary and finest buildings in the history of architecture. It stands as a testament to the sophistication of the 6th – century Byzantine capital and was of paramount influence on architecture in the following centuries. The vast edifice was built over two earlier churches and inaugurated by Emperor Justinian in 537. In the 15th century the ottomans converted it into a mosque. After lunch you will visit the Ottoman Topkapi Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara, the great palace of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th centuries housing priceless treasures, unique collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelains, holy relics, robes worn by the sultans and their families, and countless works of arts. The treasury section has the richest collection of its kind in the world. Worldwide famous 'Jeweled Ceremonial Helmet', 'The Topkapi Dagger', 'The Kasikci Diamond are all in Topkapi Palace Museum Return back to hotel for overnight. (B,L)
Day 3 ISTANBUL
Today begin your discovery of Istanbul’s natural beauty and rich historic heritage with a morning tour on the Bosporus by boat or by vehicle. Bosporus known as pearl of Istanbul which connects the Black Sea to Aegean through the Marmara Sea and the Dardanelles. It is one of the most beautiful sights in the world and separate Istanbul into two Asian and European part. Glide past the minarets ,luxury hotels, palaces, stone fortresses ,small fishing villages and wooden ottoman mansions on the Bosphorus. Visit the Sadberk Hanim Museum with its well organized archeological and ethnographical sections. After lunch and orientation tour of Istanbul, you will enjoy the walking tour in Istiklal Street in Beyoglu district, was formerly the Grande Rue De Pera. It was the street with smart shops, several large Embassies and churches, many impressive residential buildings and scattering tea shops, cafes and restaurants. Renovation has restored much of its appeal. It is now a pedestrian way with many cafes, restaurants, shops and art galleries which attract many local people. As you stroll along Istiklal street, try to imagine it during its heyday a century ago. We continue to explore Istanbul with a visit to Suelymaniye Mosque (Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent) it is finest and the most magnificent of imperial most complex in the city. For four hundred years it has attracted the wonders and enthusiasm of all foreign travelers to the city. It was constructed in 1557 by the chief Ottoman architect Sinan who was one most important architects in the world. The Suleymaniye Mosque was not only a place of worship, but also a charitable foundation, or Kulliye The Mosque is surrounded by its former hospital, soup kitchen, schools, caravanserai and bath house. This complex provided a welfare system which fed over 1.000 of the city’s poor every day. Our exploration of city will continue with the Spice( Egyptian) Market and the Grand Bazaar(Covered Market), the oldest and largest covered market place in the world, its labyrinth tunnels (streets) covered by painted vaults is lined with more than 3500 of booth –like shops. The names recall the days with each trade had its own quarter. The Grand Bazaar was built between 1455-1461 by Sultan Mehmet the conqueror in an attempt to enrich the economic life in the city. Today, shops selling the same kind of merchandise tend to be congregated in their own streets or in Hans this was originally the Ottoman system. The atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar is very interesting for tourists, it is the original shopping mall with something to suit to every taste and budget. Return to your hotel for overnight (B.L)
FORMATIONS OF CAPPADOCIA
Full day tour of Cappadocia, known for bizarre landscape, underground cities, churches and dwellings carved from the soft volcanic rock. The fantasy landscape of Cappadocia is probably the best-known tourist attraction in inland Turkey. It is a remarkable region and geological wonderland created by the complex interaction of natural and human forces over vast spans of time. The origin of this beautiful land began with the eruption of high two volcanic mountains Erciyes of 3,916m (12,848 ft) in the east and Hasandagi a volcano of 3,253m (10,673 ft) high in the south. Millions of years ago they were active volcanoes, their explosive eruptions spread a thick layer of hot volcanic ash over the region which hardened to a soft and porous stone called tufa or tuff. Over eons of geological time, wind, rain, snow and sand erosion wore away the tuff, carving it into elaborate and unearthly shapes. The strange but extraordinary formation of Cappadocia has had this appearance for millions of years.
THE HISTORY OF CAPPADOCIA
The history of Cappadocia (the land of beautiful horses) began in prehistoric times. Hatti settled in the region and created high level of civilizations during the Bronze Age, and in about the 2nd millennium B.C., the Hittites (Indo-European immigrations) came and settled in the region. Soon the Assyrians had established their trading posts. Phrygians probably ruled Cappadocia from 1250 B.C., but the Lydians were expelled by the middle of the 6th C.B.C. In AD.17 the region became a Roman province, trade and military routes were built and urban centers and settlements were encouraged. As Asia Minor came under the Christian influence, the first Christian communities appeared in Cappadocia and those persecuted for their religious beliefs elsewhere sought refuge in the region. Cappadocia thus became a melting pot
of a variety of ethnic groups, all of which have influenced the culture and religious beliefs
Day 4 ISTANBUL-CAPPADOCIA
After early breakfast transfer to the airport for a short flight to Kayseri or Nevsehir airport for a short flight. Drive to Cappadocia. (50 minutes drive) .explore one of the oldest settlement s of the region-Goreme. The chimney like formations that spread throughout Cappadocia’s rugged landscape are as fantastic as man’s accomplishment within its stone. Visit the hidden, monastic valley of Pasabagi and Zelve Valley that they have a large number of carved rock houses and chuches where people used to live in cave houses before 1950, and the sides triple valleys are honey combed with stairways, tunnels, storerooms, living quarters, pigeon houses and churches. The churches and dwellings date back to the pre-iconoclastic age (Before the ninth century). The valley was inhabited by Turks as recently as the 1950s the inhabitants simply hacked out their dwellings and churches from rocks. Zelve is one of the most fascinating remnants of Cappadocia's troglodyte past. Zelve is a favorite spot for photographers. Continue your exploration of this intrigue region with strolling through the red valley of Derbent and Goreme Valley where you can take one the best scenic photo of Cappadocia region and more photo stops at these natural formations . Overnight in deluxe boutique cave hotel or selected hotel .(B,L,D)
Optional entertainment with folkloric dances (at additional cost)
Day 5 CAPPADOCIA
We continue to explore Cappadocia’s beauty in the local village of Mustafa Pasa ( Synasos) where you will admire the old stone houses, still occupied by local people. Mustafapasa, formerly the Ottoman Greek village of Sinassos. Before the exchange of population in 1920-23 this town was occupied mainly by Greeks and was known as Sinassos. Because of its commerce with Istanbul, Sinassos prospered and its citizens built themselves fine stone houses with wrought iron balconies and elaborately ornamented facades. The fine old stone houses, frescoed churches, monastery and Ottoman Medrese (School) and Caravanserai are highly worth to see. The people of Cappadocia are dignified, friendly and helpful. Explore early rock carved churches; see typical Cappadocia houses and barted at the local handcraft market. Our exploration of cappadocia will continue with a visit to Kaymakli / Derinkuyu Underground city, Stroll through the underground galleries of Kaymakli / Derinkuyu where the first Christians hid themselves from their enemies for months at the time of danger. Several brief photo stops at the region. Among the most extraordinary phenomena of Cappadocia region are the remains of underground settlements (cave constructions), some of them are large enough to have accommodated up to 30.000 people. A total of 100 such settlements in the region have been discovered, but only a few have so far been opened to the public. The best known are Derinkuyu and Kaymakli that lie beneath the plateau. Perhaps as long as the Hitite era (1900-1200 c B.C.), men began to burrow into the bedrock, seeking shelter and safety from invaders. Later inhabitants enlarged and extended the maze of tunnels, stairways and ventilation shafts, adding living quarters, animal pens, storerooms, all hewn out of the solid rock. The largest of these cities had eight or nine levels extending 55m (180 ft) underground. In times of danger, the whole city could be sealed off heavy 'millstone' doors rolled across the entrance tunnels. The presence of missionary schools, churches and wine cellars indicate that they were used by Christian Communities in the 2nd and 8th centuries, seeking refuge from Roman and later Arab raiders. There were certainly pre-Christian underground cities in the area as early as 400 B.C. After lunch enjoy the natural beauty and the cultural depth of this unique region. Uchisar Castle, Pigeon Valley and visit the ancient monastic site of Goreme Open Air Museum, is the best known and most visited site of all the monastic settlements in the Cappadocia region. This steep-sided little valley once housed a thriving monastic community, living and worshipping in houses and churches cut into the surrounding cliffs. It's also the largest of the religious complexes, and its churches, of which there are over thirty, contain some of the most fascinating of all the frescoes in Cappadocia. The frescoes in these churches, which date from the 5th to the 12th centuries, are true masterpieces of Byzantine art. In the afternoon visit a local handcraft center and learn how the colorful kilims(carpets) echo the earth tones of the region are made during a demonstration by local weavers. In the evening attend an optional performance of the mystic whirling dervishes in a rock carved lounge or old Selcuk Caravanserai (at additional cost).Overnight in Cappadocia.(B,LD.
DAY 6 CAPPADOCIA-(VIA ISTANBUL) - IZMIR
Morning transfer to Kayseri or Nevsehir airport flies to Izmir (Via Istanbul) or direct flight. Transfer to Izmir (Smyrna).It is the provincial capital of western Turkey and the third-largest city in the country. It ranks as the country's most important port and commercial center after Istanbul. The city stands at a central position on the western coast of Asia Minor in the splendid Gulf of Izmir, which forms one of the finest bays in the Aegean region. The city owes its economic significance to an accessible port, which serves as the main outlet for the products of western Anatolia and its proximity to the major tourist attractions such as Ephesus, Sardis, Miletus, Didyma, Pergamum, Pamukkale (Hierapolis), Aphrodisias and Troy. Over the recent decades, the city has become a major industrial base for textile, tobacco, food, paper, chemicals, tanning, and of course carpet-making (Smyrna carpets). Izmir exports mainly textile products, tobacco, cotton, raisin, figs, olives and olive oil. The city is home to a NATO command headquarters. Izmir (Smyrna) was founded around 3000 B. C. By a Trojan Yortan (Aboriginal Anatolians) on the Tepekule, 2 miles north of the modern city. It was the birthplace of Homer who wrote 'The Iliad'. Izmir changed hands among different nations; Aeolians (11th c B.C.), Lydians (7 c B.C.), Hellenistic (4c B.C.), Romans (2c B.C.), Byzantines (4c A.D.), Seljuk Turks (11c A.D.), Ottomans (1415 A.D.). In the 18th and 19th centuries Izmir maintained its position as one of the most prosperous cities of the Ottoman Empire. Izmir (Smyrna) is one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation. Visit Synagogue or St. Polycarp Church(The Anglican church) St. Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna was martyred in 155 AD, the Christians in Roman time in Smyrna suffered and often spent many days in prison because of their faith. visit Synagogue / St. Polycarp Church in Izmir, Roman Agora (time permitting) Overnight in Izmir. (B)
DAY 7 SARDIS-PERGAMUM-IZMIR
In the morning drive to Sardis the ancient capital of rich Lydian Kingdom. Sardis was founded in the middle of the fertile valley of the Gediz (Hermosa) in 1200 B.C. It was an ancient political and cultural center of Anatolia which dominated much of the Aegean area before the Persians came (546 B.C.) Besides being the kingdom’s wealthy capital, Sardis was a great trading center as well. The city continued to flourish the periods of the Romans and Byzantines. Here coins were minted and dyeing of wool originated. The city was the site of one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. The ruins of Sardis spread over a large area. We will visit the Roman – Gymnasium Complex, the oldest Synagogue, once was part of the gymnasium complex and converted into a Synagogue in the 3c A.D. there is some evidences that the Safarid Jews had settled in Sardis as early as 547 B.C, we will visit Temple of Artemis which was once among the four largest in Asia Minor. It was a magnificent building first built by Croesus king of Lydia in 6th century B.C. After lunch we will continue our driving through the beautiful countryside, farmlands and fruit orchards and visit the ancient city of Pergamum which was one of the most important ancient cities in Anatolia. Pergamum was praised for its forbearance (Rev 2: 12 – 17). It was here that first Christians were executed by Rome. Pergamum once was the rival city of Ephesus and the capital of the rich Pergamum Kingdom before the Roman Empire. It was an advanced city specializing in commerce, culture, art and medicine. Pergamum (Bergama) was founded on easily defended hilltop ( 1000 ft) above the town by Aeolians as long ago as the 8th century BC , but the city of Pergamum didn’t become important until the break up of Alexander the Great’s empire in 323 BC. It gained its independence under Eumenes 1, the founder of the Pergamum royal dynasty, whose successors, Attalus I Emenes II. Attalus II. allied themselves with Romans and defeated the marauding Gauls and Selucids of Syria . At the height of its power, in the 2n century BC, Pergamum was one of the most splendid cities on the Aegean coast. Legend maintains that Parchement was invented in Pergamum as a result of the rivalry between Ptolemy of Egypt and Eumenes II.of Pergamum. The last king of Pergamum was the eccentric Attalus III. Who died without an heir and bequeathed his kingdom to Rome in 133 B.C. Under Roman rule the city flourished again, but was damaged by an earthquake during the 2nd century A.D. and slipped gradually into decline. We visit the Pergamum’s healing center of Asclepion, which is visible on the plain below. This was one of the ancient world’s leading medical centers ailing citizens from all over the Aegean came to Pergamum (Asclepion) to seek a cure from the doctor-priests of Asclepius. Galen worked as a doctor in Pergamum’s healing center .The Sacred Way, the Library, the Theatre (entertainment was part of the therapy), the Sacred Spring, the Healing Tunnel, the Treatment Rooms, and the Temple of Asclepius are worth to visit in the healing center . In Acropolis, we visit the Altar of Zeus, the Temple of Trojan, the Temple of Athena, the Library, the Royal Palace, the Steepest Theater of Asia Minor, Archeological Museum of Pergamum and the Red Hall it is believed that this huge structure, which dates from the first half of the 2C AD, was probably dedicated to the Egyptian gods, Serapis and Isis. Drive back along the mythic coastline of the Aegean Sea to Izmir for overnight.(B,L)
DAY 8 IZMIR-EPHESUS-ISTANBUL
Drive to Selcuk to explore the world-renowned Greco-Roman city of Ephesus and its environs. Ephesus is one of the best preserved cities in the world. Ephesus is the highlight of every trip to Turkey. During the Roman era Ephesus was known worldwide a city of trade, art, entertainment, banking, finance and religious sanctuary. Ephesus was extremely a wealthy city. It was a dream city that everybody at the time wanted to see Ephesus. This was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and ornamented with magnificent public buildings. It was the most bustling metropolis in the world, with a population of 250,000. Ephesus had streetlights, and running water .It was a nerve center for the world’s commerce, joining the western end of the Royal Road to Babylon with Mediterranean Sea trade. Ephesus appears to have attracted settlers from the earliest times. Later the Ionian Greeks settled in Ephesus in about 1000 B.C and it soon rose to fame as a center for the worship of Cybele, the Anatolian mother goddess, who was eventually merged with the Greek Artemis. The great Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was erected in her honor. The city we see today was founded in the 4th century B.C by Alexander the Great’s successor, Lysimacus. But it was under the Romans that Ephesus became the chief port on the Aegean. Most of the surviving structures date from this period. As the harbor silted up the city declined, but played an important role in the spread of Christianity. Two great councils of the early church were held here in AD 431 and 449. It is said that the Virgin Mary spent her last years nearby and that St. John the Evangelist came here to look after her. Visit the ruins of Gymnasiums, Agoras, Odeon, Monumental Fountains, City Hall, Basilica, Bath, Public Toilets, , the Celcius Library, Marble Streets, Great Theatre, Double Church and Stadium. After lunch visit the Basilica of St. John and his Tomb, Ephesus Museum, Temple of Artemis and the shrine of Virgin Mary where she spent her last years.. We drive to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport for a short flight to Istanbul.
Transfer to your hotel for overnight in Istanbul.
DAY 9 ISTANBUL
In the morning we visit the magnificent palace of Ottoman empire, the Dolmabahce Palace, a masterpiece of the 19th century palaces in the Renaissance style. A synthesis of European and Ottoman architectural styles in all its opulent glory was built Sultan Abdul Mecid between 1848 and 1856 to exceed the European palaces in extravagance. It is the second largest Ottoman Palace built on the Bosphorus in Barogue Style. The Palace complex consist of Selamlik (Administrative Part ),Grand Ceremonial Hall, Harem (Women’s Quarter) Altogether there are 285 rooms , 43 large Halls and six Baths (Hamam) It is one of the richest palaces in the world. The palace interior was the work of the French decorator Sechan, who designed the Paris Opera, and thus the décor and furniture of Dolmabahce Palace are strongly reminiscent of French palaces and mansions.
A number of European artists and Famous Ottoman artists of that time were commissioned to adorn the palace with paintings , the most notable being Boulanger, Gerome, Frometin, Ayvazovski, Zonaro and Seker Ahmet Pasha ; outstanding examples of their work can still be seen in the original rooms. The opulent furnishings of the palace include 4455 sq m of hand –woven worldwide known Hereke carpets; the fire places and chandeliers are of Bohemian glass and Baccarat crystal. The world’s largest chandelier hangs in state room, comprising 4 ½ tons of Bohemian glass with 750 lights. After orientation tour of new city (down town –new neighborhood ) We continue our sight seeing to discover the church of Saint Savior in Chora (Kariye museum) the old church of St. Savior in Chora treasuring the marvelous Byzantine mosaics and frescoes which represent scenes drawn from the life cycle of the Virgin Mary and of Christ. After Kariye museum walk or drive along the old Cit Walls of Istanbul (with its 11 fortified gates and 96 towers, this great chain of double walls sealed Constantinople‘s land ward side against invasion for more than a thousand years. Extending for a distance of 6.5 km/ 4 miles from the Sea of Maramara to the Golden Horn) in the old neighborhood on the Golden Horn. Visit the last Byzantine Palace of the Porphyrogenitus (Tefkur Sarayi) and The Palace of Blachernae that they were built next to each other as extension of each other. Over centuries the Palace of Blachernae was rebuilt and enlarged several times particularly during the eleventh end twelfth centuries. From that time on Blachernae became the favorite residence of the imperial family. The Great Palace on the first hill was abandoned altogether ,and for the remainder of the Byzantine period the imperial family lived exclusively at Blachernae. In the same vicinity we will visit the Anemas Dungeon located at the end of the land walls of Istanbul where a Byzantine high ranking army officer Michael Anemas and many other important people holding important governmental posts were imprisoned right up until the conquest ,we continue our visit with Bulgarian church and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate , drive along the Golden horn, both banks of the Golden Horn ( Halic) have long been settled by Istanbul’s wealthy minority communities. For centuries the wealthy Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews lived together in Golden Horn’s suburbs of Haskoy, Balat and Fener. Nowadays these areas retain much of their individual character through the old buildings, city walls. Synagogues, Churches and Mosques. Strolling through these quarters is a treat for all the senses. Balat has been the core of the Jewish presence in Istanbul for over five centuries. For the Ottoman Empire the Golden Horn ( Halic) was a vital harbor for centuries. The rest of the day is at leisure at your hotel for overnight (B,L)
DAY 10 DEPARTURE
After breakfast Esendal Travel’s representative will escort you to the airport for your flight back home.