Turkey & Greece


Itinerary

 

Day 1. Transatlantic flight to Istanbul, Turkey

 

Day 2. Istanbul

Welcome to Istanbul, one of the world’s greatest historic cities! Formerly Byzantium and Constantinople, it was the center of the Eastern Roman Empire, and is situated astride Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait. Enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel. (WD)

 

Day 3. Istanbul

Today visit Chora Church, whose interior is covered with some of the oldest and finest surviving Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Afterwards, visit Yerebatan Underground Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. Continue to see the remains of the Hippodrome, a circus that was the sporting and social center of Constantinople. Marvel at the magnificent Byzantine Basilica of St. Sophia, which was the largest church in the world and the heart of Orthodox Christianity within the Byzantine Empire for nearly a thousand years. It was converted into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Finally, visit Hagia Irene, the first Christian church built in Constantinople, constructed by the emperor Constantine in the 4th century as part of establishing the new capital for his empire. Overnight in Istanbul. (B, L, D)

 

Day 4. Istanbul – Fly to Cappadocia

Transfer to Ataturk Airport for your flight to the Cappadocia region, where the foundations of Catholic Faith were laid by St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen; and St. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century. Visit the Zelve Monastery, a Byzantine-era monastery carved into the rock in pre-iconoclastic times . In the afternoon, visit the Underground City of Ozkonak, tunnelled into the soft volcanic rock by Christian inhabitants around 6th century. Overnight in Cappadocia. (B, L, D)

 

Day 5. Cappadocia

Early this morning, take an optional hot air balloon ride over the deep canyons and lush valleys of Cappadocia. Gentle winds carry you over places that could never be reached except by balloon. Then, enjoy a visit to a local carpet-making factory. Continue with a visit to the fascinating Goreme Valley, with its unusual rock formations known as “Fairy Chimneys”. Many have homes and churches carved into them. Some of the grottos are magnificently decorated with colorful frescoes depicting biblical scenes. Then, explore the hidden monastic valley of Pasabag, which has a large number of carved rock houses, and Avanos to see the techniques of ceramic art dating from 12th to 3rd centuries BC. Overnight in Cappadocia.
(B, L, D)

 

Day 6. Cappadocia – Pamukkale (Hierapolis)

Journey across the lovely Anatolian countryside to Hierapolis, where St. Philip the Apostle preached and died. It was a thriving Roman city that became an important Christian center and where over the last 14,000 years, calcium-rich water from an underground thermal spring has flowed over the mountainside and slowly solidified, creating shallow white basins and twisted stalagmites. Overnight in Pamukkale. (B, L, D)

 

Day 7. Pamukkale – Laodicea – Philadelphia – Sardis – Kusadasi

Today visit three of the seven Churches of the Apocalypse: Laodicea, which was accused of being lukewarm; neither hot nor cold (Apoc. 3:14-16); Philadelphia (today Alaşehir), located on the Imperial Post Road, an important trade route, and which is praised in the Apocalypse (Apoc. 3: 7-10); and Sardis, part of the Roman province of Asia in New Testament times, and which the Lord asked to be watchful and do penance. Overnight in Kusadasi. (B, L, D)

 

Day 8. Kusadasi: Ephesus, House of Virgin Mary

Take an excursion to Ephesus, the marble city where St. Paul spent three years of his ministry. It was to this community that St. Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesians. The ruins of Ephesus have been restored much like the city was in St. Paul’s time. Visit the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary, .where she lived with St. John. Also visit the ancient agora, the library of Celsus and enter the Great Theater mentioned in the book of Acts. Afterwards, see the ruins of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, which was built by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century and where the tomb of the apostle had once been located. Overnight in Kusadasi. (B, L, D)

 

Day 9. Kusadasi: Patmos by private boat (weather permitting)

Take a private boat to the beautiful, Greek island of Patmos, where St. John the Apostle was exiled and where he wrote the book of the Apocalypse. Explore the 17th-century Orthodox Monastery of St. John, which houses 40 steps underground the Sacred Cave in which St. John wrote the last book of the New Testament during his months of exile from 95 to 97 AD. Return to Kusadasi for overnight. (B, L, D)

 

Day 10. Kusadasi – Smyrna – Thyatira – Pergamus – Canakkale

Today visit three more Churches of the Apocalypse. Begin with a stop in Smyrna (modern day Izmir) to visit St. Polycarp Church, the oldest Christian church in Smyrna. It is dedicated to St. Polycarp, the city’s first bishop, who was converted by the St. John the Apostle. He was martyred by the Romans at age 86 in 155 AD near Izmir. Continue north to Thyatira (modern day Akhisar), which became an early center of Christianity, and St. Paul visited on a number of occasions during his missionary travels. Lydia, the woman converted by St. Paul at Philippi, was from Thyatira (Acts 16:13-15). Finally, visit the ruins of the ancient city of Pergamus, praised for its perseverance but cautioned against idolatry (Apoc. 2:12-20). Its strategic location along both land and sea trading routes , as well as its commanding 1,000-foot-high perch, contributed to its prosperity. Overnight in Canakkale. (B, L, D)

 

Day 11. Canakkale – Kavala – Philippi – Thessaloniki

Cross the boarder into Greece and journey towards the modern port city of  Kavala (the biblical Neapolis, later renamed Christoupolis “city of Christ”), where St. Paul accompanied by Sts. Silas, Luke and Timothy, first set foot in Europe. See the Roman aqueduct and enjoy a stroll along its picturesque fishing port. A short drive will take you to Philippi, where St. Paul delivered his first sermon in Europe, planting the seeds of Christianity. Visit the place where St. Paul and St. Silas were imprisoned; admire the splendid ruins of a Christian church; walk on Egnatia road; and visit the ancient market (Agora). Afterwards, visit the site where Lydia was baptized (the first baptism in Europe). Continue to Thessaloniki for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)

 

Day 12. Thessaloniki – Veria – Kalambaka

Explore the city of Thessaloniki, where St. Paul lived, preached, and wrote the epistle “to the Thessalonians”. Head first to the “upper city”, dominated by the massive and impressive Theodosian walls, and enjoy stunning views. Continue to the famous White Tower, the Roman market, and the triumphal Arch of Galerius, before arriving at the Church of St. Sophia, the largest and most famous Byzantine church in Thessaloniki. Afterwards, visit the Church of St. Demetrius, patron saint of the city. Its crypt marks the spot where he was killed by Roman soldiers and buried. Drive south to the beautiful town of Veria (biblical Berea), one of St. Paul’s missionary stops. See the monument marking the spot where St. Paul stood and preached. Finally, arrive in Kalambaka for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)

 

Day 13. Kalambaka – Athens

Visit the beautiful and strange geographical formation of Meteora, formed by hanging rocks on top of which several Byzantine monasteries were built between the 9th and 12th centuries. Visit two of those monasteries, which still reflect the real monastic life of the Middle Ages. On the way to Athens, make a short stop at Thermopylae, to admire the statue of Leonidas (king of Sparta). Dinner and overnight in Athens. (B, L, D)

 

Day 14. Athens – Corinth – Athens

Follow the coastal road along the Saronic Gulf towards Corinth, where St. Paul lived for at least two years and wrote the first and second letters to the Corinthians. Under the Acropolis of Corinth, visit the ruins of the ancient city where St. Paul worked with Aquila and Priscilla, the agora (market) where his trial by Gallio took place, the temple of Apollo, and the Peirene Fountain. Return  to Athens. There, visit the agora where St. Paul spoke to the Athenians, and ascend Aeropagus Hill, where he delivered his sermon “on the unknown God” and gained his first convert, Dionysius the Aeropagite, who subsequently became the patron saint of Athens. Continue with a visit to the magnificent Acropolis, including the Propylaea, the ruins of the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike. Afterwards, take a panoramic bus tour of the most important monuments and landmarks of the city. Return to your hotel for a farewell dinner and overnight. (B, L, FD)

 

Day 15. Homebound flight

Transfer to Athens Airport for your return flight to the USA.

 

Breakfast (B); Lunch (L); Dinner (D); Welcome Dinner (WD); Farewell Dinner (FD)

 

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