The stunning Dodecanese Islands of Greece dotting the azure waters of the Aegean Sea hug the southwest shoreline of Turkey. They offer the traveler a glimpse into the intriguing and varied civilizations which have existed in this region for millennia.
The unsurpassed means to see and fully appreciate this region and its unique history is by sea. And to travel aboard a charming Turkish wooden gulet (traditional yacht) with only eight other participants offers a truly memorable 14-day experience.
Beginning and ending in Turkey, cruise through the azure waters of the Aegean to explore Samos, Pátmos, Kalymnos, Kos, Nisyros, Tilos, Symi, and Rhodes, and along the way learn that even the smallest island boasts stunning ancient temples, striking Byzantine churches, and medieval castles built when the islands were controlled by the Knights of Rhodes.
This little-explored and remote part of Greece has a long history quite separate from that of mainland Greece.
Highlights will be the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The 12th-century village of Chorá; the medieval city of Rhodes still surrounded by formidable fortification walls; and Pythagoreion and the Heraion Temple.
Along the coast of Turkey, explore castle museums in both Marmaris and Bodrum and walk the Byzantine walls of Istanbul.
Picture yourself sitting on the teak deck of a 90-foot yacht surrounded by breathless vistas, azure seas with an indigo sky above, one of only eight others onboard.
Imagine watching a glorious crimson sunset and then the canopy of stars as it slowly appears overhead. Dream of a smiling crewman handing you a frosty drink and then serving you delectable cuisine created by your personal chef.
See yourself standing next to the captain as he steers the craft into a silent bay, once an ancient port. Our craft, a Turkish gulet, is an all-wooden handcrafted motor-sailer (YES! It sails!) that has been carefully chosen for its comfort and service.
Continue reading to learn more about this Far Horizons adventure. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Depart on a flight bound for Turkey.
Arrive into Istanbul. Our welcome lunch will be in a restaurant within a restored Ottoman mansion serving authentic Ottoman cuisine. We will then walk along the fortified walls of the ancient city. Numerous additions and modifications made them one of the most complex and last great fortification system of antiquity. Begin at the Golden Gate, the imperial entrance into the capital, used for the triumphal return of victorious emperors from battle. Finally, visit the Church of the Pantocrator, formerly a monastery and one of the most important historic landmarks of the Byzantine period; today it is the Zeyrek Mosque. Late this afternoon, we board a private yacht for a leisurely cruise up the Bosphorus, the sinuous strait separating Europe from Asia. In the 17th and 18th centuries it became fashionable for high-ranking people of Istanbul to own a summer home on the Bosphorus. These wooden yalis, as they are called, were extremely beautiful and elegant, of a perfection of structure and a refinement of decoration that are the supreme examples of their architects’ and painters’ genius. As we cruise, we will view these lovely wooden villas and elegant marble palaces along the shore, and Remeli Hisar, the fortress built by Mehmet the Conqueror to close the Bosphorus to Christian invaders. With the creation of this citadel, the Selcuk Turks brought down the Byzantine Empire. Dinner is on our own. Overnight for one night in the Ottoman Imperial Hotel, located in the heart of the city’s historic area. (L)
Begin today in Hagia Sophia, the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years; now converted into a mosque. It is part of Istanbul’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage. In the Fourth Crusades, the cathedral was ruthlessly attacked, desecrated and plundered by the Crusaders, who also forcibly replaced the Patriarch of Constantinople with a Latin bishop. This event cemented the division of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Originally located outside the first set of city walls, the 11th century Church of St. Saviour in Chora Monastery, or Kariye Museum, was almost destroyed by the crusaders during the Fourth Crusade in the 13th century when forces from the western Christian churches pillaged Orthodox Constantinople. Rebuilt in 1313, the stunning mosaics and frescoes in the interior date from this period, and are some of the best examples of the Byzantine Renaissance. Yerebatan Cistern is the largest and most magnificent covered cistern in Istanbul. It was built in the 6th century in the reign of Justinian and supplied water to the Byzantine Great Palace complex nearby. After lunch, transfer to a flight to Izmir, one of Turkey’s loveliest seacoast cities, and drive south to Kuşadası where we board our yacht. Gather on deck for cocktails and our welcome dinner under the stars. (B/L/D)
Cruise across the Mycale Strait to Samos, the Greek island that is the closest to Turkey in the Aegean Sea. We will explore this small island with its many layers of civilizations from as far back as the 3rd millennium BC. Our drive along stream beds and mule tracks and through secluded mountain villages offer thrilling views of the sea and landscape. Our destination is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pythagoreion, an ancient port that was originally encircled by fortification walls that can still be seen today. Renowned since ancient times, it was as a place of pilgrimage for the cult of the goddess Hera, queen of the gods and wife of Zeus. According to Greek mythology she was born and raised here, and was the motivation to make her temple the largest in antiquity. The Heraion of Samo was the first of the gigantic free-standing Ionic sanctuaries, and the earliest known Greek Temple dedicated to the goddess Hera. The remains of the city are fascinating, with still visible monuments including the 4,000 foot long Tunnel of Eupalinos, one of the greatest engineering achievements. Excavated through a limestone mountain to supply the town with water, this 6th century BC masterpiece was the longest tunnel of its time. Nearby, the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani was built inside a large cave and hosts a marble icon of the Virgin Mary that is considered miraculous. Archaeologists believe that this was a sacred spot thousands of years ago as part of an ancient temple was found inside the cavern. The Castle of Lykourgos Logothetis was important to the War of Independence. (B/L/D)
We leave Samos and travel to Pátmos, reputed to be where St. John wrote both his Gospel and the Apocalypse. Our exploration of the island begins in the town of Chorá, one of the few settlements in Greece that has remained largely unchanged since the 12th century. It was designated UNESCO World Heritage in 1999. Crowning the top of the hill in Chorá and dedicated to the disciple, the 10th century Monastery of St. John has been a place of pilgrimage since in was constructed. The Cave of the Apocalypse is believed to mark the spot where St. John received the vision of the Revelation, which his devotee Prochoros recorded and is now the last book of the New Testament. There will be time to wander in Chorá village with lunch in a local taverna. Return to our vessel in the late afternoon with dinner onboard. (B/L/D)
Our early morning crossing takes us to scenic Kalymnos, known as the sponge fisher’s island. Shadowed by stunningly-beautiful, dramatic massifs, the lively town of Pothia is the capital and port of the island. Begin in the Archaeological Museum where there are displays of objects from the prehistoric to the Byzantine era; the Folklore Museum that highlights life within a traditional house; and the Nautical Museum presenting the history and traditional methods of sponge-fishing. Several eras of history will be revealed as we move into the countryside of the island. The many caves dotting Kalymnos’ mountains were inhabited during the Neolithic period. The Temple of Delios Apollo was an ionic-style temple entirely constructed of marble. Its columns are preserved, but are now part of the church of Panagia Haritomeni at Chorá, the old capital. In 1310 the island came under the control of the Knights of Rhodes, and during this time the Castle of Chrisocheria was constructed and became the medieval capital of Kalymnos. This evening’s dinner is free to search out one of Porthia’s seaside tavernas. (B/L)
Cruise through the beautiful islands of Leposo and Leros to Kos. In antiquity Kos was renowned for its healing Temple of Asklepios, founded after the death of the famed physician Hippocrates. The Asklepion functioned as a hospital for about a thousand years, before finally falling into disrepair. The Knights of St. John, who were established on Rhodes, took control of Kos in 1315 AD. A century later, they built the superb fortress that stands today at the entrance of Kos harbor. In the afternoon, we pull anchor and motor to Nisyros. According to Greek mythology, this island was formed during the battle between the Giants and the Gods. Our walk takes us along winding lanes to the Monastery of the Madonna of the Caves (Panagia Spiliani), the patroness of the island. Built in 1600, it is linked with many traditions and has a lovely 18th century iconostasis. Then it’s on to the island’s highlight, the still active volcanic crater that formed this land mass. Dinner is on our own to search for a local restaurant in the old part of Nisyros town. Overnight onboard in Nisyros. (B/L)
Move on to Tilos, which according to legend was named after the youngest son of Alia and Apollo. It is an unspoiled Aegean island with nineteen beaches, twelve mountains, seven medieval castles, a Byzantine monastery and two hundred churches, a cave full of natural discoveries, a village that is declared a cultural monument, one hundred bird species, hundreds of wild flowers and herbs, and five hundred residents. We will have time to explore the island including St. Panteleimonas Monastery, originally built in 1470. The sanctuary’s zenith was reached during the 18th and 19th centuries as it printed bank notes used on the island, owned vast tracts of land with animal herds and served as a key economic as well as spiritual center. We pass through a walled courtyard leading to the church whose inspiring, centuries-old frescoes have been restored after the removal of the plaster covering by the Turkish occupation. In Megalo Chorio, view the Fortress of Misaria, a medieval building founded by the Knights of Saint John. Elephants lived on the island from 45,000 years ago and disappeared in the second millennia BC. Learn about this curiosity in the Dwarf Elephant Museum. Dinner will be onboard. (B/L/D)
This morning we will explore the rocky, mountainous island of Symi, northwest of Rhodes, and one of the most beautiful of the Dodecanese chain. It was part of the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, and then was conquered by the Knights of St. John in 1373. The deep harbor is like an amphitheater, with elegant, multi-colored two- and three-story 19th century neo-classical homes of the former sponge trading merchants, and churches with colored domes climbing up the steep hillsides. The high hill overlooking the harbor is Kastro, with the original settlement of Chorá and dominated by the Church of Megali Panagia containing beautiful frescoes and the ruins of the Byzantine castle that was expanded by the Knights of St. John. The afternoon is free to explore the town with dinner onboard. (B/L/D)
After breakfast, pull anchor and motor to Rhodes. The island has always been important strategically and its position on the vital trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean has greatly influenced the course of its history. Protected by impregnable 14th century walls, the medieval city is renowned for its archaeological treasures and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Knights of the Order of St. John occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and set about transforming it into a stronghold. This afternoon, we will walk the almost four miles of still-standing, formidable city walls and see the 11 entry gates and towers incorporated within the ramparts. Dinner is on our own this evening to enjoy a meal in one of the town’s many exceptional restaurants. (B/L)
Our exploration today takes us to many impressive sites in the Old City, a living museum. With the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Great Hospital, and the Street of the Knights, the Upper Town is inspired by the conservative and monastic character of the holy order. The result is one of the most beautiful urban centers of the Gothic period. We will walk through several other parts of the town to view the Mosque of Suleiman, the Jewish Quarter, the Hospice of St. Catherine, and the Archaeological Museum, containing a large collection including the tombstones of many of the Crusader Knights of St. John who once made this island their own. Lunch will be in a local taverna and dinner will be onboard. (B/L/D)
This morning we journey across the Aegean Sea to Marmaris, located on Turkey’s western coast, and where we say goodbye to our lovely yacht and the crew that took such good care of us for the past nine days. In the afternoon, walk to the castle, first built by the Ionians in 1044 BC, and later on repaired during the era of the Alexander the Great. The Castle was rebuilt and widened by Suleyman the Magnificent during his campaign for the Greek island of Rhodes in 1522, and it now houses an archaeology museum. Drive north to Bodrum one of the loveliest towns on the western coast of Turkey, and where we will overnight for two nights in the lovely boutique Hotel Karia Princess. Dinner will be in one of Bodrum’s fabulous dining spots. (B/L/D)
As a place where people have lived continuously for thousands of years, Bodrum has an incredibly rich past. In ancient times known as Halicarnassus, this town is the location of the Tomb of King Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Dominating the harbor is the Castle of St. Peter, begun in 1402 by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John as a hospital for pilgrims to Jerusalem. It soon became part of a network of fortresses to defend the southeastern Aegean. Now it houses the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum containing a wide range of fascinating underwater findings displayed throughout the Castle in a myriad of atmospheric halls and galleries. The afternoon is free to relax before the long flight back home. Gather this evening for our final dinner party in one of Bodrum’s fine restaurants. (B/L/D)
Our morning flight departs for Istanbul and our flights home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for a mile or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging 3-4 miles of walking. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least half an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 30 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking for a mile or two every day. We feel that this preparation will increase your enjoyment of the trip. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.