19 May “The Path of Saint Paul”: Turkey – Greece – Italy (16 Days / 15 Nights)
ISTANBUL – ADANA – ANTIOCH – CAPPADOCIA – KONYA – PAMUKKALE – HIERAPOLIS – LAODICEA – PHILADELPHIA – KUSADASI – EPHESUS – IZMIR – PERGAMON – ASSOS – CANAKKALE – KAVALA – THESSALONIKI – KALAMBAKA – DELPHI – ATHENS – CORINTH – ATHENS – ROME
DAY 1 – ISTANBUL (TURKEY): Upon arrival at Istanbul Ataturk Airport early in the morning, meet at the airport and we drive to the ‘Old City’. Our first stop is the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the centre of Byzantine civic life, where horse and chariot races used to take place. We then travel towards the Blue Mosque, known for the impressive blue tiles lining its walls. The Basilica of Haggia Sophia (Divine Wisdom), now called the Ayasofya Museum, is unquestionably one of the finest buildings of all time. Built by Constantine the Great, it was reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century. After lunch, we visit the Underground Cistern and check-in to the hotel. Overnight in Istanbul.
DAY 2 – ISTANBUL – ADANA (flight) – ANTIOCH (240 km): After breakfast, transfer to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, we connect directly to a domestic flight to Adana, ancient Cilicia. Than, we journey east to Antakya, ancient Antioch. Antioch is thought to have been founded in 300 BC. St Peter was the first to preach here, followed by St Paul and Barnabas whose extensive efforts proved to be very fruitful for Christianity. Highlights include the museum which houses a superb collection of mosaics from Antioch, Daphne and Seleucia Pieria. St Peter’s Grotto, the cave church, came to be known as the meeting place of the early Christians. The most interesting monument here is the Tunnel of Titus, which is a tremendous canal dug for the purpose of diverting waters from the Orontes River. Another highlight is the rock tombs with their impressive facades pertaining to the Hellenistic period. Overnight in Antioch.
DAY 3 – ANTIOCH – CAPPADOCIA (450 km): After an early breakfast, we drive north to Cappadocia. Our first stop is Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul. Highlights include St Paul’s well and Cleopatra’s Gate. We continue on to Antioch at Orontes and stay the night there. Than second stop is Derinkuyu, an underground city carved into soft rocks resembling a huge labyrinth of tunnels, rooms, kitchens, wine cellars and passageways. A huge chimney ventilates this 8-level dwelling, which was used by Christians hiding from their Roman and Byzantine persecutors. Their colourful frescoes remain as vibrant as when they were first made. Further on, we come to Cappadocia, which reminds the visitor of a village out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Overnight in Cappadocia.
DAY 4 – CAPPADOCIA: In the morning, we visit the Valleys of Goreme to explore the unusual troglodyte dwellings, remains of the early churches comprising complicated rooms hollowed out of the cones of volcanic ash and decorated with scratched frescoes. We will visit the Apple Church, the Church of Sandals, and the Church with a Buckle in Goreme. Next stops are Ortahisar and Avanos.Overnight in Cappadocia.
DAY 5 – CAPPADOCIA – KONYA – PAMUKKALE (230 km – 400 km): Following an early breakfast, we drive to Pisidian Antioch (Yalvac). During Paul’s time, the population was made up of Jews, Romans and Greeks. Very little is left of Pisidian Antioch today. Thereafter, we proceed to Pamukkale and stay the night there. Overnight in Pamukkale.
DAY 6 – PAMUKKALE – HIERAPOLIS – LAODICEA – PHILADELPHIA – KUSADASI (6 km – 17 km – 94 km – 227 km): In the morning, we visit Hierapolis, which was founded by Pergamon King Telephus and named after his wife, Hiera. During the Byzantine period, the city became the seat of diocese with a large Christian Church dedicated to St Philip, who was martyred there in 80 AD. Highlights include the Roman Baths, the Temple of Apollo, the Theatre and the famous white calcium cascades of Pamukkale (the white “Cotton Castles”). Then, we visit Laodicea, where we will find a Theatre, a large Stadium, a Water Tower and an Odeon. This city is supposed to have been named by Antiochus II in honour of his wife, Laodicea. Next stop will be on Philadelphia which was an important Christian centre during Byzantine times. Overnight in Kusadasi.
DAY 7 – KUSADASI – EPHESUS – IZMIR (21 km – 80 km): Following an early breakfast, we drive to the famous city of Ephesus, one of the world’s finest archaeological sites. Our tour will begin with the Basilica of St John “the Evangelist” who came here with the Virgin Mary and wrote his Gospel in Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis, considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of Antiquity, was located here. Highlights include the Library of Celcius, the Temple of Hadrian, the Fountain of Trajan and the Theatre. We will also stop by the House of Virgin Mary (on top of Mt Coressos). She was believed to have spent her last years in this area. On 18 August 1961, Pope John XXII proclaimed this place to be sacred. Drive to Izmir. Dinner and overnight in Izmir.
DAY 8 – IZMIR – PERGAMON – ASSOS – CANAKKALE (100 km – 159 km – 85 km): After breakfast visit Church of Smyra. Drive to the hauntingly beautiful Pergamon. Among the impressive structures of this city, dating from 399 B.C., we will see the Altar of Zeus, Temple of Dionysus and the 200,000 volume library which was surpassed only by that found in Alexandria at the time. Then visit Troas and Assos. Troas was a busy port situated on the north-west coast of Asia Minor. During his stay in Troas, St. Paul had a dream in which he saw a vision of a man asking him to “come over to Macedonia and help us” after which he decided to go to Europe. Assos perched high on a cliff overlooking the Aegean and the Island of Lesbos is breathtaking. Its Acropolis carries the impressive Temple of Athena. Arriving at Assos on foot from Troas, St. Paul preached here and climbed down to the little port on the shore to board the boat on his return journey to Jerusalem. Dinner and overnight in Canakkale.
DAY 9 – CANAKKALE – GREECE BORDER – KAVALA (143 km – 195 km): After breakfast, check-out from the hotel and drive to Greece Border. Cross to Ipsala at around 11:30. Meet on the Greece side of the border and walk to the coach. Depart and drive via the first Greek town, Alexandroupolis. Continue along the coast to Kavala, Biblical Neapolis. Drive to and visit Philippi. See the remains of the Agora, the Octagon, the remains of the 2 Basilicas and St. Paul’s prison. Completing the tour, drive to Kavala. Dinner and overnight in Kavala hotel.
DAY 10 – KAVALA – THESSALONIKI – KALAMBAKA (153 km – 230 km): Breakfast at the hotel. If not done, visit Philippi. Continue along the coast to Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki. Proceed on tour. See the White Tower, (the symbol of the city), the Via Egnatia, the Church of St. Dimitrios, the Rotunda. Lunch at a local restaurant. Drive south, into central Greece, to Kalambaka, the town nestling at the foot of Meteora. On the way, visit the mountain town of Veria. See the spot from where St. Paul preached the gospel. Continue onto Kalambaka. Arrive in Kalambaka. Dinner and overnight in Kalambaka hotel.
Day 11 KALAMBAKA (METEORA) – DELPHI (226 km): Breakfast at the hotel. Visit Meteora with its impressive scenery, visit 2 monasteries, suspended between earth and sky. Inside, see priceless historical and religious treasures. Depart for Delphi, the navel of the earth. Dinner and overnight in Delphi hotel.
Day 12 – DELPHI – ATHENS (183 km): Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to and visit the archaeological site of Delphi. On the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, lie the ruins of the Sanctuary of Apollo Pythios. See and visit the Doric Temple, the Treasury of the Athenians and see Castalia Spring. Visit also the museum holding masterpieces of ancient Greek sculpture such as the bronze charioteer. On the way back to Athens, passing the mountain village of Arachova, Levadia and the town of Thebes. Arrive in the early afternoon in Athens and proceed on your Half Day City Tour. With an official English Speaking Guide, see Syntagma Square, (Constitution Square), the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by the Evzones in their traditional costume. See the Athens Academy and the University. Stop at the Pan Athenaic Olympic stadium, (where the first Olympic Games of the modern era were held in 1896). See the archaeological site of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. Visit the world famous site of the Acropolis and see the Propylaea, the Parthenon. Completing the tour, transfer for dinner to a local. After dinner, transfer to the hotel and check in. Overnight in Athens Hotel.
DAY 13 – ATHENS – CORINTH – ATHENS (100 km – 100 km): Breakfast at the hotel. With an official English speaking guide depart for your Half Day Corinth Tour. Drive west, along the coastal highway, the Apollo coast and stop to see the Corinth Canal, which connects the Aegean and the Ionian Seas. Continue to and visit Ancient Corinth. See the Bema, the Temple of Apollo, the remains of the Agora, and Pyrene Fountain. Lunch at a local restaurant. Drive back to Athens. In the afternoon free time at own leisure.
DAY 14 – ATHENS – ROME (flight): After breakfast, transfer to Athens airport for your flight to Rome. Meet at Rome airport and transfer to the hotel for accommodation. Rest of the day at leisure. Dinner and overnight in hotel.
DAY 15 – ROME: Breakfast. Today enjoy a full-day sightseeing (with local guide) of the “Eternal City”: in the morning we’ll visit St. Peter’s Basilica with the Vatican Museums (included Sistine Chapel). In the afternoon we’ll visit the major Basilicas in Rome: the Basilica of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran plus the Holy Stairs. Dinner and overnight in hotel.
DAY 16 – ROME DEPARTURE: Breakfast. According to your flight departure time, transfer to the airport.