Arrival in Istanbul, transfer to your hotel and free time to recover from travel.
In the event your arrive in the morning and wish to already attend some activity in the afternoon : stroll the covered and Egyptian Bazaars and in the evening enjoy a “dinner-cruise” on the Bosphorus.
Overnight in Istanbul
Today we will visit the capital of three empires, the only city spread over two continents, bridge between East and West... a metropolis full of surprizes !
The highlights of this city, the must do’s are the Ayasofya Museum, the Topkapi Palace, the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, the Hippodrome… ! To better feel, live Istanbul, we propose a walking tour (max. 2km) :
Our visits will start at the Saint Sophia, a basilica built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century. Once the symbol of the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul and reconverted to a mosque, the Saint Sophia is today a museum and one of the architectural marvels of all times.
Just opposite the Saint Sophia, the Sultanahmet Imperial Mosque : this building of the 16th century is also known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior decoration of blue Iznik tiles. The Hippodrome was the scene of chariot races in the Byzantine times. The three monuments in the middle, the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine column and the Column of Constantine, are relics of these glorious times. After lunch, we continue with the visit of the Topkapi Palace, the palace of the Ottoman sultans for about 5 centuries which today houses a marvelous collection of crystal, silver and Chinaware, robes worn by the sultans and their families, the imperial jewels, miniatures. Except from these you will also enjoy wandering in the gardens entering imperial rooms and salons.
Overnight in Istanbul.
In the morning, transfer to the airport and flight to Izmir. Upon arrival, meet with your tour guide for a full day tour to Ephesus :
Meet at your hotel with your tour guide and driver and depart for the Shrine of Virgin Mary.
After a short visit of this site, we will proceed to the upper gate of Ephesus. The visit of this site is expected to take between 1,5 and 2 hours.
Ephesus, famous in antiquity for its Temple of Artemis - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - and later the home of St. John. As you arrive at Ephesus, enter the ancient site through the Magnesian Gate, follow your guide as you discover the monuments such as the Forum, the Odeon, the Library of Celsus, the Thermal Baths of Scholastica and the Great Theatre, built in the Greek era and reconstructed in the Roman period, which is still remarkable for its acoustics. Observe the symbols and ancient Greek inscriptions all around which can still be read. As your guided tour comes to an end, leave Ephesus along the Arcadian Way, whe-re once Mark Anthony and Cleopatra rode in procession. Driving back to Kusadasi, just outside Ephesus , you will notice the Basilica of St. John, erected over the grave of St John in the 6th Century AD by the Emperor Justinian. Just downhill, lays the site of the famous Temple of Artemis, today in ruins.
If you wish, you may consider visiting the Terraces Houses (instead of the Shrine of Virgin Mary), an exhibit of several antique mansions representing lifestyle and decoration of the Antique period.
In the afternoon, we propose two natives :
1. You proceed with visit of archaeological sites such as the Basilica of Saint John, the Mosque of Isabey and the Archaeology Museum of Selcuk.
2. Take a lighter program and enjoy a tour to the old Greek village of Sirince whe-re - while strolling the streets - you will enjoy fruit wine tasting and /admire handmade household linen.
Overnight in Kusadasi
Full day excursion to Pamukkale (with group) :
After a trip of about 2,5 hours through the wild landscapes and cotton fields, we will reach Pamukkale, meaning cotton cas-tle in Turkish. This natural site and attraction in south-western Turkey enjoys a temperate climate over the greater part of the year. The ancient city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white cas-tle which is in total about 2700 meters long and 160m high. After a tour on the travertines and a swim in one of the numerous thermal pools, we will continue our tour with the visit of Hierapolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the hot springs of Pamukkale were used as a spa since the 2nd century B.C. great baths were constructed with huge stone blocks without the use of cement, and consisted of various closedopen sections linked together. There are deep niches in the inner section of the bath, library, gymnasium and other closedopen locations. The complex, constructed in the 2nd century, was visited by people who came to soothe their ailings here. Many of them retired and died here which explains the origin of the large necropolis filled with sarcophagi.
If you prefer to enjoy a private excursion, you will have the possibility to also visit :
the ancient city dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of Beauty, Love and Fertility. Aphrodisias, a small city in Caria, Asia Minor, was built near a marble quarry which was extensively exploited in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and sculptors in marble from Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world. Many examples of statuary have been unearthed in Aphrodisias, and some representations of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias also survive from other parts of the Roman world, as far afield as Portugal. We will visit the stadium, which is the best preserved in Anatolia, the Temple of Aphrodite, the Tetrapylon, the Theatre and finish our tour with a visit of the museum, an exhibition of the most beautiful artifacts of ancient times.
One of the seven churches of the Revelation, Laodicea is situated on the long spur of a hill between the narrow valleys of the small rivers Asopus and Caprus, which discharge their waters into the Lycus. It was approximately 10 km south of Hierapolis and, according to Strabo, it was on a major road. The existing remains attest its former greatness. The ruins near Denizli are well preserved and are being substantially renovated (2012). Its many buildings include stadium, baths, temples, gymnasium, theatres, bouleuterion, etc… On the east the line of the ancient wall may be distinctly traced, with the remains of the Ephesus gate; there are streets traversing the town, flanked by colonnades and numerous pedestals. North of the town, towards the Lycus, are many sarcophagi, with their covers lying near them, partly imbedded in the ground, and all having been long since rifled.
Return to Kusadasi for overnight.
Transfer to the airport of Izmir and direct flight (if operated on this day) to Athens. An native – to avoid the international flight via Istanbul – is to take the ferry from Kusadasi to Samos (only possible from April till October) and then fly to Athens. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and free afternoon.
Overnight in Athens.
Athens Sightseeing with Acropolis Museum :
From Tuesday to Sunday, all year round - Dep: 08:30 - Ret: 13:30
From the Acropolis to Omonia Square, with the half-day sightseeing and Acropolis museum tour, you'll see all the famous sites of ancient and modern Athens on this comprehensive morning tour. Offering a perfect overview of the modern city, this guided half-day tour will help you get your bearings if this is your first visit to Athens.
The Athens half-day tour depart for a photo stop at Panathinaiko Stadium whe-re the first Olympic Games took place in 1896. It is the only stadium built out of white marble. Proceed, passing by Zappeion and Temple of Olympian Zeus. You will then pass the Athens Trilogy which includes the University of Athens, the Academy of Athens, and the National Library. Continue passing by National Garden, Hadrian’s Arc, St. Paul’s Church, Parliament, Tomb of the Unknown soldier, Schliemann’s House (Numismatic Museum), Catholic Cathedral, Old Parliament, Constitution Square ,Russian Orthodox Church, and finally ACROPOLIS (visit Propylae, Temple of Athena Nike, Parthenon, Erechtheion with its Porch of Maidens). Continue the expert guided Athens sightseeing and museum tour with a pleasant short walk passing by Herodion and Dionysos Theater, in order to visit the ACROPOLIS museum. Avoid and skip the lines of the new museum. Main attractions such as votives, artifacts of every day life, statues from archaic period, Caryatids, and of course the Parthenon hall with the metopes, the pediments and the frieze will impress you.
Free afternoon to stroll the “Plaka” (old town) area.
Overnight in Athens.
Day at leisure in Athenspossibility to a one day excursion :
Delphi : Daily service from 01 April to 31 October (except Mondays) - Dep: 08:45 - Ret: 18:45 Depart from our terminal for one day trip from Athens to Delphi to expore one of the most famous archaelogical sites of Greece. Along the way, you will see the plain of Beotia, an agricultural center and you will also pass by the city of Theva, the birthplace of King Oedipus.
You will continue your Delphi day tour towards Mt. Parnassos, making a short rest stop outside the town of Levadia.You will drive then to DELPHI, known in ancient times as the navel of the world. Pass by cas-talia Spring, visit at the archaeological site and view the monument of the Argive Kings, the treasury of the Athenians, the Athenian Stoa, the Polygonal Wall, the monument of Platea and the Temple of Apollo famous for its oracle and Delphi museum, with it's spectacular exhibits include the frieze of the Treasury of the Sifnians, the Naxian Sphinx, the Statue of Antinoos the metopes of the Athenian treasury, the famous bronze Charioteer, originally creat-ed to commemorate a victory during the 476 B.C. Pythian Games, and many other artifacts. After lunch return to Athens via the picturesque mountain village of Arachova, built on the south slopes of Parnassus, well known for its attractive hand-woven carpets, rugs and quilts, as well as for its wine and cheese (short stop).
Argolis : From 01 April to 31 October : Monday to Thursday and Saturday - Dep: 08:45 - Ret: 18:45 Explore with this guided one full day trip from Athens the remains of the ancient city of Mycenae a major centre of Greek civilization from 1600BC to 1100BC and a world heritage monument. Depart from our terminal for one day tour via the coastal National highway for the Corinth canal (short stop). After the Corinth Canal, you enter the region of Argolis, land of Homer’s Golden Mycenae, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dating back to the second century B.C., Mycenae was one of the major centers of Greek civilization and a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece . Visit the archaeological site, home to the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon. You will see the Cyclopean Walls, the Lion’s Gate, the Royal Tombs, including Agamemnon Clytemnestra's, and the Treasury of Atreus, a magnificent 14th-century B.C. structure. Time will then be taken for a traditional Greek optional lunch at a nearby restaurant. Before lunch an optional stop in a pottery factory. After lunch through ARGOS proceed to Nauplia the first capital of modern Greece with its Venetian fortress of PALAMIDI and the fortified islet of BOURTZI (short stop). Continue on to Epidaurus and visit the ancient theatre. The UNESCO’S world heritage listed monument is reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo's son Asklepios, the healer and was the most celebrated healing center of the classical world. Epidaurus is probably most famous for its theatre, one of the best preserved classical Greek buildings and still used today due to its amazing acoustics. The Mycenae - Epidaurus day tour returns to Athens in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Athens.
Time at leisure till departure to the airport for home flight.
If you still have a morning spare, why not the morning tour to Corinth (canal and archaeological site) ?
You may also consider to add a 2-3 days organized tour to Delphi and the Meteoraa 5 days Grand Tour of Greece.