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Turkey & Greece:

From Istanbul to Athens, East and West meet here at the end of the Silk Road. Stand at the crossroads of ancient Empires. Surround yourself in thousands of years of history. Experience the blended cultures of two continents and enjoy the sunshine! Highlights include Istanbul, Athens, cave homes, Greek Islands, world heritage sites and delicious food!

Day-01 TORONTO - ISTANBUL
Day-02 ARRIVE at ISTANBUL
Welcome to Istanbul, the capital city of 4 empires! We will meet you at the airport and help you transfer to your hotel in city. Your arrival depends on your flight schedule, if you arrive late, we suggest that you get a good rest tonight and take a fresh start with touring Cappadocia the next morning. If your flight comes in early, you will have some time to walk on your own near your hotel. Find a good place to eat and get a good rest for an exciting day ahead of you. Overnight at hotel.
Day-03 ISTANBUL - CAPPADOCIA
After an early breakfast we head to the airport to take a short flight to central Turkey in the region of Cappadocia. At an average elevation of a thousand meters, the plateau of Cappadocia is famous for its unique landscape that is often referred to as “fairy tale land”. The many volcanos overlooking this region may have been responsible for shapping its bizarre rock formations. The rocks form conic shapes, with many of them towering over forty meters. There are thousands of rock formations and spread through the valley. This afternoon we have time to explore the area and its many interesting valleys. Unique experience: at a Cave Hotel: Tonight we enjoy a unique experience – living in a cave like the cave dwellers of this land. The only difference is that our caves are luxurious. They have all the basic needs, a nice bed, en-suite washroom even a television for those lonely cave nights. This surely makes for a memorable lifetime experience as it evokes the charms from the tales of the thousand Arabian nights. Dinner will be served in the cave dining hall.
Day-04 CAPPADOCIA
We arrive in Ankara in the afternoon and Ankara Castle and the Mausoleum of Ataturk, modern Turkeys founder. After lunch we will visit the Anatolian Civilizations Museum. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery on our drive to Cappadocia. Tonight we enjoy a unique experience - living comfortably in a cave hotel.
Day-05 CAPPADOCIA - ISTANBUL
After breakfast we explore the unusual terrain of Goreme Valley and its open air museum. There are hidden frescoed churches which hid Christians long ago from disapproving Romans. See cave houses and Fairy Chimneys (ancient volcanoes) in the Zelve, Pasabag and Red valleys and The Avanos. Visit Urgup, famous for its cave dwellers, and Uchisar, the highest point in this region, with its castle built in the rock. Dinner and overnight at hotel. Optional Tours: Options are available for an early morning hot air balloon ride and Pottery Kebob lunch in a cave Restaurant.
Day-06 ISTANBUL
Enjoy your breakfast in the world’s most famous city that touches two continents. Today we embark on a city tour that explores the great monuments of celebrated empires and sacred religions. We tour Sultan Ahmet the old downtown of Istanbul. This is where the most important historic attractions are located. In Sultan Ahmet Square we can retrace the course of the ancient chariot races that took place in the Hippodrome. The Byzantine Emperors added an obelisk (shipped from Egypt) and various other monuments to the grandeur of the place. Here stands the 17th century Sultan Ahmed Mosque, still in use for worship today. Even Pope Benedict himself said prayers here. This gem of Byzantine-Islamic architecture is known as the “Blue Mosque” because of its blue-tiled interior. The 8 volumes of work detail are housed in our next site, Topkapi Palace. The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire called Topkapi home for 400 out of the 600 years of their reign. On the Topkapi grounds is the Haigia Irene (Church of Peace), the first church Constantine had built. Topkapi, which once protected sultans, still protects their treasures today as well as many religious and cultural treasures. The treasures of the Silk Road, including Far East porcelain, traveled by camel caravan and ended up here at the palace to remind us of ancient trade routes. The grounds of Topkapi themselves contain natural curiosities as well: check out the hollow trees and the fused trees! Marvel at the famous Hagia Sophia, a museum that pays tribute to the religious past of two great world religions. Justinian built the third version of Hagia Sophia, the one that stands today. For almost a thousand years, this was the biggest church in the world. Hagia Sophia was the epitome of Byzantine architecture and the model for many mosques to come. Designed by a mathematician and a physicist, Hagia Sophia was built with materials from Egypt, Syria, Greece, and even the pagan Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. It provided a place for coronations, a seat for the Patriarch and asylum for those in trouble with the law. Step into history and view the mosaics, calligraphy, icons and frescoes. Tonight after a quick dinner you cross the Bosphorus into the Asian side to the Hayderpasha train station. Overnight at hotel.
Day-07 ISTANBUL
This morning we start the tour with an exciting tram ride to visit to the famous Dolmabahce Palace. After residing in Topkapi Palace for four hundred years, the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire ordered the construction of this exquisite palace, completed in 1857. The palace originally inspired by European architecture marries eastern and western art in a unique style. The palace houses the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier and the world’s largest silk on silk carpets in rooms adorned with gold and silver. Such an extravagant show of wealth is hard to find in a palace of its age. Next we head to Takksim Square. From here we stroll down Istiklal Street. This mile long pedestrian walk will give a great opportunity to see its new-classical and neo-gothic buildings. This bustling street attracts many tourists to its exquisite boutiques, music stores, art galleries, theaters, pubs, restaurants and cafes. The walkway leads us to the famous Galata Tower. If you like to get some panoramic views of the city, pay your entrance at the tower and enjoy some breathtaking views. If you like to try some unique local food, try Istanbul’s famous 'wet burgers'. It sounds weird, but they taste wonderful. Continue walking to cross the Galata Bridge. Here visit the 16th century Rustem Pacha mosque, built in a similar style of the Blue Mosque. Nearby is the Egyptian Market, also known as the spice bazaar. Let your senses lead you through the spice market and hunt for such local treasures as authentic Turkish delight. After you shop for a taste of Turkey, try out the local fish market for dinner. Overnight at hotel.
Day-08 ISTANBUL(Free Day)

Enjoy today to relax and catch up with some rest or venture out for some personal activities. There are many activities that are unique only to Istanbul. Here are a few that we strongly recommend:
• Treat yourself at a traditional Turkish Hammam (bath). Try out a traditional bath that has been in business for over a few centuries. Even a visit can be an experience in itself.
• Visit a local performance of Belly Dance with dinner.
• Witness the traditional performance of ‘Whirling Dervishes’
• Visit many of the its Churches and Mosques
• Dinner cruise along the Basphorous

Day-09 GALLIPOLI BATTLEFIELDS - Troy

Today we take an exciting drive westwards to the peninsula of Gallipoli. Your drive along the Sea of Marmara gives you an excellent opportunity to see the magnificent countryside of Thrace – the European side of Turkey. The understanding of the history of the world wars remains incomplete without Gallipoli: the battlefield where the Turkish forces met with the ANZAC forces (the Australian and the New Zealand Corps). It is a little known fact that Canadian soldiers served and died at Gallipoli as well. We will see the cove where ANZAC forces landed and a few sites on the battlefield. Even if you are not a history buff, the beautiful landscape itself makes Gallipoli a worthwhile visit. Visible from here are the ever-strategic and sought-after Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora and the beautiful Aegean. Overnight at hotel.

Day-10 TROY-PERGAMON-IZMIR
After breakfast, drive to the site of Troy, the setting of ancient legends and epic battles. Look back in time through the excavated levels of the city of Homer’s heroes and Virgil’s wandering Aeneus. None less than Alexander the Great himself came to this site as a pilgrim to honour the memory of Achilles and Patroclus. Our guide will explain to us how the different cities of Troy built on this site were laid out on top of each other. We head on to visit another great ancient Greek City site, Pergamon. This ancient Greek City was the capital of Pergamon Kingdom during the Hellenistic Period. Pergamon’s most significant contribution to the world was the invention of ‘Parchment’ made mainly from cattle skin. The word Parchment can trace its routes to the name of this great city. During a time when Pergamon was seeing its rise to fame as a city of learning and scholarship second only to that of Alexandria in Egypt, there were likely several reasons (including political) that the supply of papyrus (paper of the time) was disrupted. The necessity for a new source of paper gave rise to the Pargamon paper industry. Continue to Izmir, a modern metropolitan city that has its own history of a major civilization that dates back to 4000 years. Transfer to hotel for overnight. Take some free time to explore the city on your own.
Day-11 IZMIR - PAMUKKALE
After breakfast we head out to visit another highlight of Turkey - Pamukkale. Along the way we make an interesting stop at the site of an ancient city that gave rise to the powerful Lydian Empire. Its history dates back to 8th century B.C. During the 7th Century BC the Persians captured the city and called it Sardis and linked it with the great Persian Empire. As one of the seven churches of Asia it was also addressed by the author of the book of Revelations. The discovery of the archeological remains also unearthed one of the most impressive Jewish Synagogues of the western Diaspora. After we visit the site we drive on to Pamukkale. (*visit to Sardis is time permitting only) Arrive and transfer to your hotel and then head out to visit the site including the Hierapolis. This world heritage Greco-Roman and Byzantine site was built on top of the famous ‘cotton castle’, so called for its white limestone travertines formed by the sedimentary deposits from its hot springs. The travertine has been used as a spa for thousands of years. You can also enjoy a refreshing spa experience at this historic natural wonder. Overnight at hotel.
Day-12 PAMUKKALE - APHRODESIAS - KUSADASI
After, a hearty breakfast, we head on to see another ‘world heritage’ site. This is the site dedicated to Aphrodite the Goddess of Love. The site was built near a marble quarry and hence extensively built in marble. After our visit we head on to Kusadasi. This Aegean town has been inhabited since 3000 BC and may have once been home to Mary and St. John, but a haven to pirates during the middle ages. Arrive and transfer to your hotel. Take time to explore the local markets. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
Day-13 EPHESUS - SAMOS
After an early breakfast we head out to visit one of the most impressive sites in all of the Greco-Roman world. Ephesus carries with it a reputation for many wonders like the site of the Temple of Artemis – one of the seven ancient wonders. It is also known to be one of the prominent cities of the Ionian League. During the early Christian era Ephesus was visited by St. Paul and John. It is believed that John must have written the book of John here in Ephesus. Paul also stayed here and he may have written the letter I Corinthians out of the Paul Tower nearby. Later he also wrote a letter to the Ephesians while he was imprisoned in Rome. The site unearths the history of mankind for over 6000 years. From Neolithic to Bronze Age, from Greek through the Roman Period and through the Byzantium era, Ephesus has seen it all. Our tour will take us to visit the ancient site. The highlights here are remains of the city and the Library of Celsus. This impressive monument once held over 12,000 scrolls. The Basilica of St. John was built during the sixth century by orders from Justinian I. We will walk through the gate of Augustus and stop to see the massive theater that can hold nearly 45 thousand spectators. This is probably the largest outdoor theater of the ancient world. Next we head out head out to see the Church of the Virgin Mary. This site is believed to have been seen in a series of visions by Ann Catherine Emmerich, a German Augustinian Nun during the early 19th century. Based on her visions this little house was discovered near Ephesus which is believed where the Virgin Mary had spent her last days. Time permitting; we may also visit the Ephesus Museum. Entrance fees to be paid by people who would like to go inside. Return to Kusadasi and check out from your hotel. In the afternoon we will take our short ferry ride to Samos, the home of Muscat wine, where the pace is relaxed with fewer tourists than other Greek islands. Transfer to hotel.
Day-14 Samos - Mykonos
After an early breakfast, we will catch our ferry to Mykonos. The journey takes about 5-6 hours with great views of the blue Aegean waters. Once you arrive at your destination our staff will transfer you to your hotel. Your time in Mykonos is free. Take the time to go for a swim at a nearby beech or hop on a local bus to tour its many towns. We suggest that you keep the evening free to view a spectacular sunset from Little Venice. There are many nice restaurants here beside the famous windmills, the icons of Mykonos. Although the food may be a bit pricy, it is still a good idea to come out just to watch the sunset. Overnight at your hotel.
 
Day-15 Mykonos
Free day to explore Mykonos on your own. We strongly suggest a visit the nearby Island of Delos, one of the most important islands of the Greek mythology as it is considered to be the birth place of Apollo and Artemis. Overnight at hotel.
 
Day-16 Mykonos - Santorini
After breakfast, transfer to the pier for an exciting boat ride to Santorini. Traversing to the Cyclyades Islands, your boat ride takes about six hours. You arrive in the afternoon to your destination at the port of Thira. Thira is the official name of Santorini. Our staff will assist you upon arrival and will take you to your hotel. On the way to the hotel our staff will share some useful information about the island and will explain how you can go around seeing the best of it. Once you arrive at the hotel, you are free to relax or explore on your own. We strongly suggest that either today or the following day you watch a spectacular sunset from the town of Oia. You can take a local bus to get there. Overnight at hotel.
 
Day-17 Santorini
Today you are free to explore on your own or take a local guided tour of the island. The lime washed houses with blue domes are a typical sight here. You may want to sample local flavours, such as Santorini’s flavourful cherry tomatoes, sweet white eggplants and its famous local wine. Marvel at how plants grow here in the absence of rivers, watered only by the morning dew. Overnight at hotel.
 
Day-18 Santorini - Athens
Morning is free, take the time to relax or explore on your own. In the afternoon board your boat that takes you to Athens. Arrive and transfer to hotel for overnight.
 
Day-19 Athens
We will introduce you to Athens with a half day tour after breakfast. The tour focuses on the Acropolis of Athens. Our tour starts with a drive around the acropolis to give you a glimpse of modern Athens. We see interesting sites of the Acropolis as we work our way up to reach the Parthenon. This massive landmark is visible from almost all over Athens. The views of the city are just superb from here. In the afternoon you have time to explore the city on your own. If you like to explore the downtown we suggest walking from Syntagma Square to the Plaka. There are many good restaurants here for wining and dining. Overnight at hotel.
 
Day-20 Athens - Departure
After an early morning breakfast we will take you to the airport for your departure flight.
 
Antio sas! (Goodbye!)

Istanbul, Blue Mosque, St. Sophia, Topkapi Palace Cappadocia, its Cave houses and underground cities Pamukkale and its lime terraces, Ephesus and its many ruins The scenic islands of Mykonos and Santorini

Walking tours to see the monuments, city exploration by foot and short hikes along nature trails.

Moderate

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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