(This program is available on days other than Sunday, and can depart from any city; please ask for more details.)
Sunday, Day 1 - Arrival in Istanbul
HOS GELDINIZ! Welcome to Turkey! We will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. After a short briefing about your tour you will have the afternoon free to rest and explore Istanbul on your own.
Overnight in Istanbul
Day 2 - Istanbul - (B/L)
This will be a full day of exploring Istanbul's most iconic sites:
* Blue Mosque/Sultanahmet Mosque (Camii) built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I during 1609-1616. It is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets. Due to its magnificent hand-dyed blue, green and white Iznik tiles it has been named the "Blue Mosque" by Europeans. The central dome is 43 m in height and is 33.4 m in diameter; it also boasts 260 windows.
* Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya is a truly awe-inspiring, 1,400-year-old Byzantine cathedral which houses mosaics, relics and iron work. Hagia Sophia was, for nearly a thousand years, the largest enclosed space in the world, and still seen as one of the world's most important architectural monuments. It is one of Turkey's most popular attractions, drawn by the sheer spectacle of its size, architecture, mosaics and art. Built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD.
* Hippodrome: the backdrop of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life. Of the ornaments which once decorated it, only three remain: The Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine.
The Obelisk is in the Egyptian style and was erected in 1547 BC and stood 60m tall. The German Fountain is also within the hippodrome area, constructed in Germany to mark German Emperor Wilhelm II's second visit to Istanbul; it was imported and officially opened on January 1 1901. The fountain's three domes are decorated with gold mosaics.
* Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi), the residence and administrative center of the Sultans during the Ottoman Empire, was constructed in 1459-1465 shortly after the establishment of Constantinople. You'll see the Treasury that houses the Topkapi Dagger, the 86-carat Spoon Maker's Diamond, and the jewel-encrusted bones of St. John the Baptist.
* Kucuk Aya Sofya ("Little Aya Sofya") and the Grand Bazaar ((Kapali Carsi - "covered market"), will also be visited during the tour.
Overnight in Istanbul
Day 3 - Istanbul - (B)
This will be a half day of exploring the historical sites of Istanbul:
* The Spice Bazaar/Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) transports you back to the Silk Road days with its mystical aromas of various spices. Here, you'll also find other shops selling fruits, vegetables, teas, flowers, fish, and Turkish Delight (lokum).
* Bosphorus Cruise takes you though the waterway separating the two continents, Europe and Asia; along its shores, you can take photographs of marble palaces and antique wooden Ottoman-era villas that sit beside luxurious modern residences.You will also see Dolmabahce Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, and Ortakoy Mosque.
Overnight in Istanbul
Day 4 - Istanbul to Cappadocia - (B/L)
Early in the morning, we will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the domestic airport for a 1-hour flight to the central Anatolian city of Kayseri. After arrival, we will transfer you to Cappadocia and continue on the program.
This day will be devoted to exploring the most unforgettable sites of Cappadocia:
* Goreme Open-Air Museum - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Goreme is an ancient town carved right out of the rock (tufa); you'll explore Byzantine-era churches, chapels and monasteries which house wonderfully-preserved 11th- and 12th-century cave frescoes.
* Fairy Chimneys--This strange geological phenomenon was created over millions of years, and were formed during regional volcanic eruptions. Reaching at times 40 meters in height, they are conical in shape and have a whimsical "hat" top to them.
* Devrent Valley--This valley is known as "the pink valley" because of the color of its soil. This is a lovely place to wander about and really take in the magical rock formations indicative to Cappadocia, including the Fairy Chimneys.
* Uchisar Castle, also known as Uchisar Fortress, is actually a formation of two gigantic rocks surrounded by smaller ones that together, form a natural fortress with towers. These formations were inhabited during both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
We'll also visit local crafts people and learn the special art of making dolls and traditional pottery.
Overnight in Urgup - Cappadocia
Day 5 - Cappadocia to Istanbul then to Athens - (B/L)
As we have a lengthy drive to our first destination, we'll be starting out quite early this morning. Today, we'll stroll through an amazing subterranean city where ancient Christians once hid from Arab invaders; we'll then wander through the Ihlara Gorge and spend time in a classic Anatolian village.
* Underground City of Derinkuyu--You'll gradually make your way down into the depths of the earth of this ancient settlement that has 18-20 floors which boast depths as long as 40 meters. (Don't worry, we'll only go down to the 8th floor!) Youll marvel at the fact that Derinkuyu is just one of 36 Cappadocian underground cities, which archaeologists date back to the time of the Hittites around 4,000 years ago.
* Ihlara Gorge is an oasis in the middle of the Anatolian plain. We'll explore the canyon and take in the beautiful green scenery as we stroll casually alongside the river. Here, you'll see ancient monasteries complete with pigeon holes carved into the cliffs by the monks; the pigeons acted as messengers to communicate with neighboring monks!
* Traditional Anatolian village -- You'll see head-scarved women in the fields (where they work from sun up until sundown) and the mustachioed, vest-wearing men hard-at-work playing cards or tavla (backgammon) in the kahvehane (coffee shop). You'll get time to stroll in a village such as this and see the average Turkish villager at work...or play.
After the tour,we will transfer you to the Kayseri Airport for a 1-hour flight back to Istanbul; there, you will go to the international departures terminal for your flight from Istanbul to Athens.
You'll arrive in Athens and be driven to your hotel. Overnight in Athens
Day 6 - Athens to Santorini - (B)
You will begin today's tour of Athens this morning.
You will see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Panathinaiko Stadium (where the first Olympic Games took place in 1896). After that, we will drive by the Prime's Minister's residence, the Royal Palace, (guarded by colorful Evzones), Zappion (Conference and Exhibition Hall), National Garden, Hadrian's Arc, St. Paul's Church, Parliament, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Schlieman's House (Numismatic Museum), Catholic Cathedral, Academy, University, National Library, Old Parliament, Constitution Square,and the Russian Orthodox Church.
At the ACROPOLIS, you will visit Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike, Parthenon, Erechtheion and the Museum of the Acropolis.
In the early afternoon, we will provide a transfer to the domestic airport and put you on a 50-minute flight to Santorini, Greece; upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel.
Overnight in Santorini
Day 7 - Santorini - (B/L)
After breakfast we will take you on a full day tour of Santorini. You will visit Acrotiri, goon a boat trip to the remaining volcano out in the center of the area, visit hot springs, view the ruins of Thirrassia, and wrap up the day watching the romantic sunset from Oia. After sunset, you will be taken back to your hotel. Overnight stay in Santorini.
Santorini is one of those places that will be permanently etched in your mind. Everywhere you turn is a photo opportunity. Essentially, the island is what remains of an enormous volcanic eruption, which destroyed the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island. The aftermath of the explosion created what you see today, a caldera. All of the whitewashed, charming houses cling to the high cliffs of the rim, while the deep blue Aegean Sea wraps around the geological masterpiece, hundreds of feet below. Its spectacular physical beauty, along with lively nightlife, have made this island a perennial tourist favorite.
Day 8 - Santorini to Athens then to your next destination - (B)
After breakfast we will provide a transfer to the Santorini Airport for a 50-minute flight to Athens. Upon arrival in Athens, you'll go to international departures for your next destination. It has been our pleasure to serve you!
Prices are starting from 1685 Euros per person in a double, contact us to get a price quote for your dates
(Ask for early booking discounts!)
* All hotels (each individually-chosen)
* All land transfers with comfortable vehicles
* All meals mentioned in the itinerary B-breakfast, L-lunch & D-dinner)
* Professional, English-speaking tour guides
* Domestic flight tickets from Istanbul to Cappadocia
* Domestic flight to From Cappadocia to Istanbul
* International flight tickets from Istanbul to Athens
* Domestic flight tickets from Athens to Santorini
* Domestic flight tickets from Santorini to Athens
* All admissions to ancient sites
* All taxes and service charges
* International flight tickets to Istanbul
* Drinks with meals