Christian Heritage & The Seven Churches (9 nights / 10 days)
Istanbul • Bursa • Akhisar (Thyatira) • Izmir (Smyrna) • Bergama (Pergamum) •
Sart (Sardis) • Alasehir (Philadelphia) • Hierapolis • Pamukkale • Denizli (Laodicea) • Aphrodisias • Kusadasi (Ephesus)
Christianity's heritage in Turkey is exceptionally important, not only because there are many references in the New Testament to the sites and the people of Anatolia, but also because Christianity turned into a social and political institution in this part of the world. St. Paul was born, lived and traveled extensively here. St. John is buried near Ephesus, and St. Phillip, near Hierapolis. The first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary is in Ephesus, plausibly because she herself lived and died in this vicinity. Emperors Constantine, who gave a privileged status to Christianity, and Theodosius, who made it the only religion of the realm, did so in Istanbul. The First Ecumenical Council which established the Christian Creed also met in Nicaea, modern Iznik.
We designed this tour to give you as much insight as possible into the early Christian sites in this country in a relatively short period of time. As a large number of these sites are clustered in Western Turkey, we concentrate on this area.
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul
Private transfer to your hotel; orientation walking tour of the neighborhood with your private guide. Some good local restaurants can be pointed out for dinner this evening.
Day 2: Istanbul
Private sightseeing includes the Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Mosaic Museum, the Roman Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar. (B)
Day 3: Istanbul
Private sightseeing includes Basilica Cistern, Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate and Church of St. George, Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos, St. Savior in Chora Church and the Spice Market, a boat ride on the Bosphorus Strait for about an hour. (B)
Day 4: Istanbul / Bursa - Drive to Bursa
On the way to Bursa , we detour to Iznik, ancient Nicea, famous for its historical tile production. Nicaea is where the Ecumenical met and formulated the Nicean Creed. In Iznik, we also visit the impressive ancient city walls, the ruins of Hagia Sophia Church and Iznik Museum which displays tiles and artefacts found in the excavations of the ancient kilns of the city.
Standing on the lower slopes of Uludag, in the midst of a fruit growing area, this city is known as Green Bursa. In 14th Century, the Turkish Ottoman dynasty established a small emirate in this area which was destined to become one of the world biggest empires. Their first capital was the city of Bursa. Today, in the center of this lively and heavily industrialized city, one can see some of the finest examples of Early Ottoman architecture. The tombs of all the sultans who ruled before the conquest of Istanbul are here as well. We first visit one of them, the tomb of Mehmet I, better known as Yesil Turbe (Green Tomb), because of the green tiles covering the edifice, and Yesil Cami, the mosque near the tomb. Next we visit Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) at the center of the city. Around this mosque are the traditional markets of the city. As Bursa has been the center of the silk trade for centuries, we visit Koza Han (Cocoon Inn), an attractive market building still specializing in silk. We spend the night in Bursa. (B, L)
Day 5: Bursa / Akhisar (Thyatira) / Izmir (Smyrna) - Drive to Izmir
In the morning, we begin our drive to Izmir, Smyrna, as it was called in the bible . On the way, we stop at the site of Thyatira, the least remembered of the seven churches today, even though the letter written to its church was the longest of the seven letters. Thyatira is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the hometown of Lydia, a well-to-do purple dye merchant who gave shelter to St. Paul and his company throughout their stay in Philippi. Thyatira has survived centuries since the foundation of the city more than 2000 years ago and turned into a modern town: Akhisar. Here we visit the only site remaining from the town's distant past, a Byzantine basilica and a part of a colonnaded street next to it.
In the late afternoon we arrive in Izmir, Smyrna of ancient times, one of the Seven Churches addressed in the Book of Revelation. Today, the ancient city has disappeared almost completely under the modern metropolis of Izmir. Here, we can visit the old agora, market place, of Classical Smyrna. In keeping with the theme of this tour, we visit the oldest church in Izmir dedicated to Saint Polycarp, a disciple of St. John, who became the bishop of Smyrna and was martyred here in the 2nd.century. This 17th century Catholic church was lavishly decorated later in the19th century. Overnight is in Izmir. (B, L)
Day 6: : Izmir / Pergamum / Izmir - Excursion to the ancient site of Pergamum
During the times the Revelation was written down, Pergamum was one of the most important cities of Anatolia. Much of Pergamum has been lovingly restored and is now considered one of the primary ancient sites in Turkey. Here, we visit the magnificent Acropolis, which contains the ruins of Pergamum's acclaimed library - so large it rivals the world's greatest library in Alexandria. Next, we visit the Asclepium, a sanctuary and healing center built in the name of Asclepius, the god of healing. We return to the hotel in the late afternoon for an evening of leisure. (B, L)
Day 7: Izmir / Sart (Sardis) / Alasehir (Philadelphia) / Hierapolis / Pamukkale - Drive to Pamukkale
On our drive to Pamukkale, we visit another of the Seven Churches, Sardis. In earlier times, the city was the capital of Lydian Kingdom and its legendary King Croesus. Here, we visit the ruins of the temple of Athena, Roman period shops, a gymnasium and a synagogue. After lunch we continue to Alasehir, a modern town descending from ancient Philadelphia. Attalos II, the king of Pergamum, established the city for his brother Eumenes and named it Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Being one of the Seven Churches, Philadelphia enjoyed much praise for the Christian community of the city in Revelation. Here, we visit the ruins of the ancient cathedral of the city.
Next, we visit Hierapolis, the ancient site in Pamukkale, famous for its hot springs and natural white terraces formed by them. The Roman period ruins, intertwined with the natural travertine formations, offer a spectacular view. We stay in the Pamukkale region overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 8: Pamukkale / Denizli (Laodicea) / Aphrodisias / Kusadasi
We visit Laodicea, the most southern of the Seven Churches. The letter addressing the church in Laodicea is the sternest of the seven letters, containing much reprimand, but no praise. Although there is no mention of heretics, persecutors and evil doers, the people of Laodicea are blamed for lack of wholeheartedness. Once a large city, Laodicea is under a massive artificial mound today. Excavations started here relatively recently and have exposed only a small part of the ancient ruins to date.
Next, we visit Aphrodisias, one of the oldest sacred sites in Turkey. Dedicated to the goddess of love Aphrodite , it was the site of the magnificent Temple of Aphrodite which later became a Christian basilica through an impressive swapping of columns. Aphrodisias was the home of one of the important marble sculpture schools in the Classical World. Some very beautiful examples of its productions can be seen in the museum on the site. We drive to Kusadasi via Selcuk. On the way, we take a short detour to the Basilica of St.John, built on the tomb of the saint who wrote the Revelation. After this visit, we continue our drive and we arrive at the town of Kusadasi, which is set in a superb gulf, known for its sparkling water, broad sandy beaches, and large marina. (B, L)
Day 9: Kusadasi / Ephesus
In the morning we visit the ruins of Ephesus, the last of the Seven Churches on our tour. The size of the site, particularly its giant theatre, impresses visitors. More impressive still, is the richness of detail even a casual observer will notice. The Roman period villas, known as the Terrace Houses, on the hill slopes overlooking the main street, were recently opened to the public and they are comparable only with Pompeii. After this visit, we drive to the local village of Sultankoy. Here we break for a grilled lunch and have the opportunity to learn about some local crafts, such as rug-weaving. We may also be able to see demonstrations performed by local craftsmen.
After this lunch and learning experience, we will visit Ephesus Archaeological Museum. Afterwards, we will visit the House of St. Mary and Church of St. Mary. The Church of St. Mary (Meryem Kilisesi) is a church of great historical significance located in Ephesus. It is also known as the Double Church, because it is thought one aisle was dedicated to the Virgin and the other to St. John, and the Council Church because the Council of Ephesus is believed to have been held here. (B, L)
Day 10: Izmir / Istanbul - Homebound departure
Transfer to Izmir airport for a flight to Istanbul, connecting to your flight home. (B)
Optional Post - Tour Extention
Kusadasi / Patmos Island - A roundtrip boat ride to Patmos Island
(three hours each way and weather permitting)
In the morning we head to the pier and board a ferry for a day trip to the island of Patmos.
The earliest remains of human settlements on the island date to the Middle Bronze Age. Patmos and Christianity were closely linked when in the late 1st century Emperor Domitian exiled St. John the Apostle to Patmos. Upon arrival, we visit the Monastery of St. John.
The monastery crowns the hill of Chora. It looks like a Byzantine castle and was built like a fortress. About halfway up the cobbled path that leads to the monastery is the Cave of the Apocalypse,
the very place where St. John is believed to have received his Revelations. The monastery consists of interconnecting courtyards, chapels, stairways, arcades, galleries, and roof terraces. The Treasury has an impressive array of religious art and treasure, mainly consisting of icons of the Cretan school. In the late afternoon, we return to Kusadasi by ferry. (B, L)
Note: Prices for the Patmos extension will be calculated separately upon request.
Prices are per person, in USD and based on double occupancy at hotels:
Subject to availability and dates selected
A discount (10 %) will apply for following period: November 15th to March 15th
Price of the package includes:
Price of the package excludes:
3 nights Istanbul: Hotel Ottoman Imperial (in the historic Sultanahmet neighborhood) or similar
1 night Bursa: Hotel Almira or similar
2 nights Izmir: Hotel Movenpick or similar
1 nights Pamukkale: Hotel Lycus River or similar
2 nights Kusadasi: Hotel Kismet or similar
Domestic flights in coach class within the program (Izmir to Istanbul).
Meals as indicated by (B, L, D) - B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
16 Meals: 9 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 1 dinner include bottled water.
Services of a private licensed, professional English-speaking guide throughout your trip.
All transfers and travel by private, modern, air-conditioned, chauffeur driven vehicles, appropriate to the size of your group.
All entrance fees to the sites and museums mentioned in the program.
Parking, ferry, and toll road fees. Not applicable if you are driving a rental car.
Gratuity at restaurants where a meal is included in the program.
Porterage fees at airports when our guide travels with you.
Airfare for international flights.
Beverages other than water during included meals.
Optional gratuities to the tour guide(s), driver(s). Also the gulet crew when applies.
Tipping for porters at hotels.
Visas, laundry, and personal items.