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Day 1 - Arrive Istanbul
Our coach will meet us at Istanbul airport and take us to our hotel in the Old City. After checking in, we will go on a two-hour walking tour of the Old City.
Day 2 - Istanbul
Our day in Istanbul will include the Ancient Hippodrome (at Meydani); the Blue Mosque, founded by Sultan Ahmet in the early 17C, distinguished by its 20,000 blue Iznik tiles; Ayasofya (Haghia Sophia), a monument of Christian glory rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian in the 6C, later converted into a mosque; the “Sunken Palace,” (Byzantine Cistern), the largest underground cistern in Istanbul; Topkapi Palace, luxurious setting of the Ottoman sultans; and the world famous Grand Bazaar, a shopper’s paradise.
Day 3 - Sea of Marmara, Gelibolu (Gallipoli), the Dardanelles, Troia (Troy), Canakkale
We depart from Istanbul early and drive along the European side of Turkey, with a good coastline view of the Sea of Marmara. Lunch at Gelibolu (Gallipoli), near the national historic park commemorating the heroism of those who died in the battle of the Dardanelles (1915). Crossing the Dardanelles by car-ferry, we move from Europe to Asia and enter the Troad, the mountainous northwest corner of the Asia Minor subcontinent. We make an afternoon visit to Troia (Troy), the celebrated site made famous by the 19C German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. This extensively excavated site has yielded nine different periods (levels) in the city’s history, ranging from 3000 BCE to 400 CE. Afterward, we drive to Canakkale and spend the night .
Day 4 - Alexandria Troas, Assos, Bergama
Driving south, we stop at the coastal site of Alexandria Troas, which was founded in 310 BCE, refounded as a Roman colony under Augustus, and became the most important city of the region. Next we come to Assos, near the medieval city of Behramkale. Situated on a rocky peak overlooking the Gulf of Edremit, Assos affords a magnificent view of the southern coast of the Troad and the island of Lesbos. Remains of the 6C Doric Temple of Athena dominate the acropolis. Aristotle lived in Assos from 348 to 345 BCE. It is the birthplace of the Stoic philosopher Cleanthes (331-232 BCE). From Assos we drive east along the Gulf of Edremit, passing Mount Ida, going through Edremit, then south through Ayvalik to Bergama, where we stay overnight.
Day 5 - Pergamum (Bergama), including the Acropolis and Asclepion; Kusadasi
Today we focus on Pergamum, about 15 miles inland from the Aegean, strategically positioned overlooking the plain of the river Caicus. As capital of the Attalid kings during the Hellenistic period, Pergamum rivaled Alexandria and Rome in importance, eventually becoming capital of the Roman province of Asia. Of archaeological interest are the Upper City, with impressive ruins of the Temple of Athena, Trajan’s Temple, and the spectacular hillside theatre; the Middle City, with the Temple of Demeter; and the Lower City, location of the renowned health center, the Asclepion, where Galen (131-201 CE) practiced medicine, researched, and wrote. A city of great cultural importance, Pergamum boasted a library that rivaled that of Alexandria. After our day at Pergamum, we drive south, passing through Izmir (ancient Smyrna), to the coastal city of Kusadasi, where we spend the next three nights.
Day 6 - Ephesus and vicinity, including St. John’s Church, the House of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana), and the Selcuk Museum
A short distance northeast of Kusadasi is Ephesus, where we spend the day. Located on the river Cayster, the city was originally situated beside the sea. It is now some 4 miles away owing to centuries of accumulated silt from the river. Probably founded about 12C BCE, Ephesus achieved special prominence during the Hellenistic-Roman period, attaining a population of about 250,000 by the 2C, which made it one of the largest cities of the Roman world. As capital of the Roman proconsular province of Asia, it had high visibility in the ancient world.

One of the best preserved ancient Hellenistic-Roman cities, it is also one of the most archaeologically significant. Its vast size, combined with its monumental ruins, make it one of the most visited sites in Turkey. Among its many impressive treasures are the Curetes Way and the Marble Way, the main street of the ancient city; Hadrian’s Temple; the Library of Celsus; and the theatre. On the edge of the city, we will visit the Church of the Virgin, almost certainly the site of the Council of Ephesus (431 CE). We also visit St. John’s Church and see the traditional burial site of the apostle John; also the popular shrine, the House of the Virgin Mary, honoring Jesus’ mother who is said to have been brought to Ephesus by the apostle John. In the late afternoon, we will have some free time in Kusadasi; dinner at the hotel.
Day 7 - Priene, Miletus, and Didyma
Driving south from Kusadasi, we visit three archaeologically impressive sites, each a significant classical city in its own right. Located on the southeastern slope of Mount Mycale, Priene has a magnificent view overlooking the plain defined by the Maeander River. A small Greek city that had a population of about 5,000, Priene is one of the best surviving examples of a Greek planned city, which was laid out in a grid pattern on its hillside location. Here we will see another superb theatre, as well as ruins of the Temple of Athena Polias, the bouleuterion, and the Sanctuary of Zeus Olympius.

Approximately 12 miles south, we come to Miletus, originally a major port city but now some 6 miles from the sea. With origins dating to the end of the second millennium BCE, Miletus achieved fame for establishing numerous overseas colonies. It was a major intellectual center, the home of the famous “nature” philosophers Thales (640-546 BCE), Anaximander (610-546 BCE), and Anaximenes (fl. 546-525 BCE). Among its ruins are numerous public and religious buildings, including another impressive theatre. Another 12 miles south we come to the village of Yenihisar, which encloses ancient Didyma, with its ruins of the colossal Temple of Apollo Branchidae. Located here was the oracle of Apollo, famous throughout the Hellenistic world for inciting the priestess of Apollo to deliver her oracles in a state of prophetic ecstasy. In the afternoon we return to Kusadasi for some free time and dinner at the hotel.
Day 8 - Sardis, Alasehir (ancient Philadelphia), Pamukkale (ancient Hierapolis), the Church of St. Philip
We head north to Izmir, then turn east, traveling inland along the Hermus River (Gediz Cayi), following the ancient route that connected the Aegean coast with central and eastern Asia Minor. About 60 miles inland we reach Sardis (Sart), capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia (7C BCE). The city’s wealth and prosperity derived from gold that came from the nearby Pactolus River. This also explains why the earliest known system of coinage was created here. The Lydian king Croesus (561-547 BCE) established a foundry at the foot of the mountain. We will see the ruins of the colossal Temple of Artemis, which is situated within a natural amphitheatre and dates from the 5C BCE.

Less than a mile away is the Roman gymnasium, a multipurpose facility with baths, vast spaces for sports and cultural events. Of special importance is the Synagogue, which is located adjacent to the exercise hall. The largest ancient synagogue known from antiquity, the building was donated to the Jewish community by the city of Sardis in the 3C CE. Its location, size, and beauty bear important testimony to the prominence of Jews in Sardis (and Asia Minor) in the 3-4C CE. Traveling east, we pass through (without stopping at) Alasehir (ancient Philadelphia), arriving at Pamukkale-Hierapolis. Our first stop here is the Church of St. Philip, atop a hill overlooking the city. Built in the 5C CE, the large octagonal chapel was an important pilgrimage site during the Byzantine period. It affords a spectacular view of the city below. We spend the night in Pamukkale at the Lycus River Hotel, resplendent with warm baths, Turkish baths, and massage facilities.
Day 9 - Hierapolis (with its white, cascading travertine basins), the Lycus River Valley, including Colossae and Laodicea; Aphrodisias; Antalya
Pamukkale, “cotton castle” in Turkish, derives from the geological wonder of white, steppe-like hills that define the city. The ancient city was Hierapolis, which literally means “sacred city” because of its many sanctuaries in ancient times. It is an excellent example of a 1C Roman city, with a well preserved cardo (colonnaded street) leading from a necropolis (which displays the devastating effects of earthquakes in antiquity) on the northern edge of the city to a central cluster of buildings. These include the Nymphaeum, the Temple of Apollo, the Southern Baths, and a superbly preserved theatre built during the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211). Ancient Hierapolis prospered from the wool industry and also from its hot springs, which attracted visitors from afar (as today) and ensured its fame as a Roman spa.

Also located in the valley formed by the Lycus River, which flows into the Maeander River, are Laodicea and Colossae. Laodicea was founded in the 3C BCE by Antiochus II, who named it after his wife Laodice. It is usually referred to as Laodicea-Lycus, to distinguish it from other Laodiceas founded under the Seleucids. The unexcavated site consists of scattered ruins; still visible is a large cavity in the earth showing the outlines of the ancient stadium. We drive a little further to see Colossae, today just a hill, but Paul’s Letter to Colossians makes it a NT site important enough to justify an out-of-the-way, brief visit.

From the Lycus valley we travel a short distance to Aphrodisias, the city of Aphrodite. Archaeological excavation over the last several decades has unearthed a city of remarkable scale and astonishing beauty. Of importance to us is the “Aphrodisias inscription,” published in 1987 by Reynolds and Tannenbaum, with a list of names, many Jewish, which mentions prosēlytos; this confirms that Jews were a prominent element of the population in the 3C. Entering the city we pass the Sebasteion, built to honor Roman emperors. We find yet another spectacular theatre, well preserved Theatre Baths, the Great Basilica, the Tiberius Portico which enclosed the South Agora, Hadrian’s Baths, the North Agora, the Odeon, and the Temple of Aphrodite. At the city’s northern extremity is a stadium of stunning proportions (860 x 193 ft). We also see the Tetrapylon, a monumental gate erected during Hadrian’s reign. From Aphrodisias we drive through the mountains southeast to Antalya
Day 10 - Perga, Aspendos, and Antalya, including the Antalya Museum and a short walk through the public park, the Old City, and the Old Harbor
Now in Pamphylia, the coastal region defined by the Taurus Mountains to the north, we visit Perga, located about 8 miles northeast of Antalya. One of the most interesting archaeological sites along the southern coast, Perga presents yet another layout of a Roman city. Approaching the city we pass the theatre and stadium, then enter the city gates and proceed along the main way, notable for its canal. Along the way are the Agora, a Byzantine basilica, baths, the Palestra (exercise room), all leading to the Nymphaeum, one of the most impressive features of the site.

About 15 miles east of Perga, we come to Aspendos, a site dating to about 1000 BCE. Here we visit the theatre that was built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE). With its front façade still standing, this remarkable structure is the best preserved theatre in Turkey. Returning to Antalya, we take a walk through the Old City, stopping to view the Old Harbor. We also visit the Antalya Museum, one of the most stunning collections of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine artifacts in Turkey.
Day 11 - Antioch of Pisidia (near Yalvac), Konya (Iconium)
Traveling north, we drive through the central Anatolian plateau, following the river Kestros, passing turquoise lakes, such as Lake Egirdir, gradually ascending into the mountains of central Anatolia. Near modern Yalvac, we come to the ancient city of Antioch of Pisidia. The most important Roman colony in Asia Minor, Pisidian Antioch was the home of Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus. While the city has attracted archaeological attention since the early 19C, much of it is still unexcavated. Even so, much of the 1C city remains: the decorated city gate; the well preserved main street, Decumanus Maximus; theatre; the breath-taking Imperial Sanctuary built to honor Augustus; the aqueduct leading to the Nymphaeum; and a large bath house. Other notable features include the Great Basilica (the Church of St. Paul) and the Sanctuary of Men Askaenos. We also visit the Yalvac Museum, which houses numerous artifacts from the region. We then drive southeast to Konya (ancient Iconium), which is located in the heart of the Anatolian plateau. We spend the night in Konya.
Day 12 - Konya, including the Karatay Tile Museum, Ince Minare Museum of Wood and Stone Carving, Mevlana Museum, and Museum of Ethnography; Sultanhani, en route to Cappadocia (Urgup)
Today we concentrate on Konya, the conservative-minded provincial capital where head scarves abound, and the home of the famous Whirling Dervishes, whose origins date to the 11C. Since Konya became the capital of the Seljuk sultanate of Rum in the 11C, it abounds with Seljuk monuments. It was eventually annexed by the Ottomon Empire in 1466. Because of its central role in Seljuk and Ottoman history, Konya affords us a good opportunity to explore these periods of Turkish history.

We visit the Karatay Tile Museum, with its stunning display of turquoise-blue and black tiles. It is located in the Karatay Medrese (school), one of Konya’s most beautiful Koranic schools. Also striking for its Seljuk art and architecture is the Ince Minare Medrese, which houses the Museum of Wood and Stone Carving. We also visit the Mevlana Museum, which houses the tomb of the holy man Celaleddin-I Rumi (1207-73), who established a monastery (“tekke”) devoted to Sufi mysticism and Dervish ecstasy, and became known by his disciples as Mevlana (“our master”). Converted into a museum in 1953, the Mevlana tekke remained a vital center of worship and is one of Turkey’s most venerated pilgrim sites.

The Koyunoglu Museum, which has an excellent display of carpets in its ethnographic section, and is adjacent to the Turkish House, a superb 19C Ottoman residence. Leaving Konya, we drive northeast toward Urgup, and along the way visit Sultanhani, a caravanserai in the middle of the Anatolian plain. We spend the next two nights in Urgup at the Hotel Perissia.
Day 13 - Cappadocia, including the Kaymakli Underground Village, Zelve Open Air Museum, Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar, and Zelve
Cappadocia was an area of vital importance in 3C and 4C Christianity. In this region lived the “Cappadocian Fathers,” the three influential proponents of 4C Christian orthodoxy: St Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea (in Cappadocia), St Gregory of Nazianzus, and St Gregory, bishop of Nyssa. Here we experience the austere terrain that fostered 4C asceticism and spiritual devotion. We visit the Soganli Valley, with its undergrounds cities, the most notable of which we tour—Kaymakli Underground Village, a city of ten levels spread out over a depth of 100 yds. We also visit the stunning formation of cliffs that constitute the Zelve Open Air Museum, an important religious center from the 9C to the 13C. One of the most stunning views is provided by the Goreme Valley, comprising natural cliff formations that house numerous churches dating to the medieval period. Among the most memorable churches in the Goreme Open-Air Museum are the Dark Church, with its luminous frescoes; the neighboring Sandal Church, Buckle Church, the Apple Church, among others. We will also see the Uchisar peak, whose hole-riddled cliffs afford magnificent views of the lower plateau.
Day 14 - Ankara, including Ataturk’s Mausoleum, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, and the Old City
From Urgup we drive northwest toward Ankara, along the way passing the seemingly neverending Lake Hirfanli Baraji (Hirfanli Dam). In Ankara, capital of modern Turkey we see the Mausoleum honoring Mustafa Kemal, who emerged in 1923 as the powerful leader of the newly established Turkish Republic and became known as Ataturk, “father of the Turks.” We will spend some time in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Turkey’s national museum that contains artifacts from throughout the country tracing in chronological order the history of the Anatolian people from the Paleolithic Era forward. Especially notable is the collection of Hittite sculptures. In the Old City we will see the Citadel and some well preserved wooden Ottoman houses. In the afternoon, we fly from the Ankara airport to Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, where we spend the night.
Day 15 - Gaziantep, Zeugma, the Euphrates River, Antakya (ancient Antioch of Syria)
A city with over a million inhabitants, Gaziantep is experiencing industrial growth, especially in the textile industry. Also famous for its baklava and other bakery goods, the city has a modest museum that houses spectacular mosaics uncovered at the ancient city of Zeugma on the Euphrates. After visiting the Gaziantep Museum, we will drive east about 20 miles to Zeugma, literally “bridgehead” or “ford,” an ancient city founded by Seleucus I Nicator (312-281 BCE) near the crossing he built over the Euphrates here. This will afford us a stunning view of the Euphrates River and Birecik Dam, whose construction in the 1990s exposed Roman villas on the western bank of the Euphrates.

We then reverse course and head west along the Syrian border through well cultivated rolling hillsides, coming finally to Antakya (Antioch of Syria). Having driven through hills overlooking the Orontes River valley, we now see how the river bisects the city of Antakya. One of the three most important cities, along with Alexandria and Rome, in the 1C Roman world, Antioch of Syria figured prominently in the spread of early Christianity. Its fame as a major Christian center continued in the 2C through Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, and subsequently as the city where John Chrysostom preached. Few ancient ruins remain, but the Archaeological Museum, with its dazzling collection of mosaics from the region, will require us to visit for an hour or so.

From Antioch, we drive west about 14 miles to the coast, where the ancient city of Seleucia was located. Here we visit Titus’ Tunnel, built in the late 1C to divert the course of the raging Orontes as it flowed into the Mediterranean Sea. We spend the night in Antakya.
Day 16 - Drive from Antakya to Gaziantep. Gaziantep to Istanbul.
Today we drive northward along the base of the Taurus Mountains, passing the probable site of Issus in southeast Cilicia, where Alexander the Great defeated Darius III in 333 BCE. From the modern interstate we will also see the modern port city of Iskenderun, with its harbor full of oil tankers and other sea vessels. Since major pipelines delivering oil and gas from the east terminate here, this strategically located city plays a central role in Turkey’s modern economy.

Heading west, we have a continuous view of the Taurus Mountains that define Turkey’s southern coast. We will see the “Cilician Gates,” the major mountain pass through which ancient travelers gained access to central Anatolia. We visit Tarsus, an ancient city whose origins date to the 14C BCE. An important center of commerce, Tarsus owed much of its prosperity to a flourishing linen industry. During the Hellenistic-Roman period, it was also a well-known center for philosophical study. Here we will see Cleopatra’s Gate, one of the Roman city’s six gates; the Archaeological Museum, with a modest but important collection; St. Paul’s Well, the apostle’s traditional birthplace; the richly decorated Church of St. Paul; and a sequestered city block exposing the remains of the Roman road than ran through Tarsus. Notable for its basalt stones, the section of the road that is displayed vividly illustrates Roman highway architecture.

From Tarsus we drive to Adana, where, among other things, we will see the 300-yd Roman bridge (2C CE) built on 13 arches that is still used to convey modern traffic. In the late afternoon, we fly from Adana to Istanbul.
Day 17 - Depart Istanbul
Fly from Istanbul to the US
Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1 - Arrive Istanbul
Day 2 - Istanbul
Day 3 - Gallipoli/Troy
Day 4 - Alexandria Troas, Assos, Bergama
Day 5 - Pergamum (Bergama)
Day 6 - Ephesus and vicinity
Day 7 - Priene, Miletus, and Didyma
Day 8 - Sardis, Alasehir (ancient Philadelphia), Pamukkale (ancient Hierapolis)
Day 9 - Hierapolis
Day 10 - Perga, Aspendos, and Antalya
Day 11 - Antioch of Pisidia
Day 12 - Konya
Day 13 - Cappadocia
Day 14 - Ankara
Day 15 - Gaziantep, Zeugma, the Euphrates River, Antakya
Day 16 - Antakya to Gaziantep to Istanbul
Day 17 - Depart Istanbul