This luxury 8 – night itinerary is full of history, culture, a day on a privately chartered Gullet with hidden beaches, swimming and snorkeling, visit to a vineyard near Izmir and a Bosporus cruise on a private motor yacht.
Arrive in Istanbul. Meet the representative. Transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Begin your full day tour with a visit to the Roman Hippodrome, which was the scene of chariot races and the great public occasions throughout the immensely long history of the Byzantine Empire. Visit the Blue Mosque, one of the most important temples of worship in the world. It is named for the blue Iznik tile work that decorates its interior and its dome can be seen from all over the Sultanahmet district.
You will next step into the extraordinary Hagia Sophia Church. Built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, this church stands as a testament to the sophistication of the former Byzantine capital and influenced architecture in the medieval world for centuries. Its original design was supposedly created as a mirror image of the heavens. Converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in the 15th century under the Sultan Mehmet II, this vast edifice now includes minarets and Turkish Rococo fountains. Take your time exploring the huge galleries and beautiful mosaics. Given its age, the church is in remarkable condition and the interiors are full of important frescoes and mosaics depicting holy subjects.
Continue your guided exploration of Istanbul with a visit to the Topkapi Palace Museum, lavish home to the Ottoman Sultans. For centuries this was the place from which the Sultans ruled over an empire that stretched from Eastern Europe to the Atlantic Ocean. It contains a priceless collection of jewelry, porcelain and costumes. Legend claims that the ancient rod on display in the Treasury, is the one used by Moses to part the Red Sea. Other artifacts of similar fame include John the Baptist’s gilded arm and Mohammad’s beard, fingernails and foot imprint. Visit the treasury section which contains jewel-encrusted thrones; the world’s largest emerald, the famous Topkapi dagger, and the kitchen that currently houses the greatest collection of Chinese porcelain.
Your last visit at the old town will be the dramatic and beautiful Underground Cistern, built in the 6th century as a secure water reservoir for the city. It is one of Istanbul’s most unusual tourist attractions. It was laid out in 532 under the rule of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Do not miss the 336 Corinthian columns resting on busts of Medusa’s Head, which are believed to be a shrine to the water nymphs! This sunken palace has so much to hold that they shot scenes of Hollywood movies in it.
In the morning, visit the Suleymaniye Mosque, one of the key landmarks on the skyline of the old city of Istanbul; the classic building by the classic architect of the classical Ottoman age. Few visitors realize that the mosque, a lofty structure of space and geometry, is just one part of a vast complex of buildings designed by Sinan in the 1550s for the sultan whose name it bears.
Continue your tour with a visit to the Chora Church with its 14th century mosaics and frescoes of almost supernatural beauty demonstrating the finest Byzantine art forms and parallel, in time, developments in Italian renaissance art. Dedicated to Christ the Saviour, it was originally outside the Constantine Walls, hence ‘in Chora’, meaning in the country. Built in the 6th century by St.Teodoros, the basilica you see today was renovated in 1321 by Theodore Methochite, the Treasury Minister of Byzantine Emperor II Andronikos Paleolog. It was converted into a mosque in 1511 and Ataturk declared it a National Museum in 1935.
Your next stop will be the Sveti Stefan Church, one of the most important structures of the Bulgarian Orthodox community all over the world. It is the first prefabricated building constructed in Turkey, while also being the only iron church in the world. Previously there were two iron churches in Argentina and Austria, but when these two were demolished, the Sveti Stefan Church remained the only example of its kind in the world.
Next you will wander around Balat, one of Istanbul’s oldest neighborhoods. This part of town is a melting pot of immigrants, including Jews, Orthodox Christians, and of course Turks. During your walking tour, you will view the Ayios Nikola Church. You will continue your walking tour viewing The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, which has been the spiritual center of the Greek Orthodox world since around 1600. Officially the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, it is known locally as the Fener Rum Patrikhanesi (Fener Greek Patriarch). It could be considered the Vatican of the Eastern Orthodox church. The 18th century Aya Yorgi Kilisesi, Istanbul (Church of St. George, Istanbul), is located on its grounds.
Complete your tour at the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar’s first phase of construction began in 1455 under Mehmet the Conqueror, but it was added to many times over the centuries. The end result is an enormous labyrinth of covered streets lined with thousands of shops selling, for example, hand-woven carpets and kilims, gold and silver jewelry, hand-painted ceramics, leather goods, fine antiques and illuminated manuscripts.
Breakfast is at the hotel. Transfer to the Istanbul Airport for your flight to Bodrum.
Bodrum enjoys a picturesque setting on the Aegean. It was named as Halicarnassus in the ancient times, the birthplace of Herodotus and the home of one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Upon arrival to the town center, start the touring with the Castle of St. Peter. The castle dates from the time of the Crusades and now houses the Museum of Nautical Archaeology. In the castle, you will also visit the Glasswreck Hall.
Your next visit before checking into your hotel will be the Mausoleum, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built by Artemisia, the sister and the wife of King Mausolos, B.C. 355. The mausoleum was destroyed in an earthquake; and the ruins were used in building of the Halicarnassus Castle.
Once the Dorian city of Halicarnassus, it is the birthplace of Herodotus, the father of written history, as well as the location of the partially reconstructed mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Named after king Mausolus who ruled in the 4th Century BC, it was intended as his tomb, and used to be 135 ft. high and comprised of a pedestal, a colonnade of 36 columns, and a pyramid topped by a statue of a horse-drawn chariot.
After breakfast, transfer to the marina where you will board your privately chartered Gullet, a typical wooden sailing yacht from the region. The gullet will cruise and anchor in secluded bays where you can enjoy swimming in the crystal waters of the Aegean Sea. Visit hidden bays and beaches, go swimming and snorkeling in the turquoise sea and soak in the sights from the sundeck. A delicious lunch will be served onboard anchoring in a scenic location including local beverages. There is plenty of space on the yacht to enjoy both sunbathing and relaxing in the shade.
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Ephesus, which was considered one of the most complete cities of antiquity. It was supposed to contain everything for education, politics, entertainment and sports. It boasted the Library of Celsus, the Roman Baths, the Gate of Hadrian and Roman Terrace Houses. Ephesus is still the best-preserved classical city on the Mediterranean, and perhaps the best place in the world to get the feeling for what life was like in Roman times. As a strategic coastal gateway to the Eastern World, this Ionian refuge grew to be the second largest city in the Roman Empire, the site of a Christian shrine, and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Next, visit the Archeological Museum of Ephesus, which is actually located in Seljuk, and is definitely worth a visit. One of the more interesting sights in this museum is the row of marble statues of Cybele, later called the goddess Artemis, which you’ll just have to see. Varying scholars have interpreted what she wears draped around her neck to be breasts, eggs, or bull’s testicles. The museum also contains a remarkable collection of beautiful statues, including the famous bronze Boy on a Dolphin, the enormous statue of the emperor Domitian, mosaics of all sorts, ethnographic sections depicting Turkish and Ottoman life, and countless significant artifacts from nearby historic Ephesus, the “first and greatest metropolis of Asia.”
Later, arrive in Izmir. The ancient Smyrna is Turkey’s third largest city, its second busiest port, and the reputed birthplace of Homer. Today the city is a bustling mix of broad boulevards, gleaming high rises and old quarters full of narrow winding lanes.
After breakfast, drive to Sardis in the valley of the gold bearing river, Pactolus. Visit the impressive ancient remains of Sardis that have been unearthed since 1958 by American archaeologists. Sardis was the capital of the Lydian kingdom and home of Croesus, the legendarily wealthy Lydian king, long credited with the invention of coinage.
On the way back to Izmir, visit the biggest vineyard of the region.
You will continue your touring in Izmir with a visit to the Roman Agora, the open – air museum of Izmir, which was used as a square shaped market place during the Roman rule of the city followed by the visit of the antique Bazaar one of the most crowded corners where you can taste a great variety of delicious street and local food. Nearby is the Clocktower, the symbol of the city located in the heart of the town in Konak Square.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before you transfer to Izmir Airport for your flight to Istanbul.
Upon arrival, drive to the Old city and visit the 17th century Spice Bazaar also called the Egyptian Bazaar, because in the 17th century it was built with money paid as duty on Egyptian import goods. From medieval times, spices were an important and expensive part of Oriental cooking and they gradually became the bazaar’s main focus, taking advantage of Istanbul’s strategic position on the main trade route between the East and Europe.
Next you will be treated to a Bosporus cruise on a private motor yacht, which will be an impressive and unforgettable experience. Bosphorus, the famously beautiful stretch of water, is 32 km long with a maximum of 3.700 m width. It plays a central role in the history of Byzantium, later Constantinople and today’s Istanbul. The Bosphorus, with the Golden Horn (an inlet of the Strait) and Maiden’s Tower (Kiz Kulesi) at its southern entrance, has a definite personality. Relax and enjoy close up views including the European side, Dolmabahce Palace, Bosphorus Bridge, the Asian side and more.
At the end of the tour, you will be transferred to your hotel.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and transfer to Istanbul International Airport for your flight back home.