Far Horizons offers 14 participants an extraordinary 17-day archaeological sojourn that includes nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This is a Western Türkiye cultural tour packed with a multitude of highlights: revel in a barbeque and beer dinner onsite with the archaeological crew of Hattusa; enjoy an evening cruise up the Bosphorus by private vessel; view outstanding museum collections in Ankara, Burdur, Antalya, and Ephesus; and enjoy specially arranged private tours with archaeologists at several archaeological sites including four of the most important excavations in the eastern Mediterranean – Hattusa, Çatalhöyük, Ephesus, and Troy.
Our limited group size allows for overnights in unique boutique hotels, dinners in upscale restaurants serving traditional Ottoman cuisine, and intimate discussions onsite with our study leader.
From Ankara to Cappadocia, Çatalhöyük to Sagalassos, Ephesus to Pergamum, Assos to Istanbul, this exciting expedition reveals the texture and hue of Türkiye’s history. This truly unique journey is sure to resonate with the discerning traveler for years to come.
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 Istanbul, Türkiye.
Arrive Istanbul and transfer to the historic area of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a light lunch, visit Aya Sofya, the first church of Christianity, begun in the 2nd century AD by Constantine the Great. One of the great buildings of the world, it served as the cathedral of Constantinople and was the center of the Byzantine Empire for almost a thousand years.
Walk to the Hippodrome, scene of Byzantine chariot races, athletic events, victory celebrations and executions, and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. Housed within a 16th-century palace built by the brother-in-law of Sultan Suleyman, the museum contains the world’s richest collection of 13th to 20th-century hand-knotted Turkish carpets and an ethnographic section depicting objects used in everyday Turkish life.
Then it’s on to the the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I, known to foreigners as the Blue Mosque Built partly on the site once occupied by the Byzantine imperial palace stands, it is one of the city’s most prominent landmark. The shrine took seven years to build, and has an enormous central dome supported by four huge freestanding pillars and six fluted minarets. The interior walls are covered with stunning hand-crafted Iznik tiles from the 17th century which give the mosque its name.
Overnight for the next two nights in the Ottoman Imperial Hotel. This former Ottoman residence has been transformed into a charming bed-and-breakfast inn and is within walking distance of the important sites within the historic section of Istanbul. Dinner is on our own. (L)
Walk through Topkapi Sarai, built in 1468 as a summer palace for Mehmet the Conqueror. Within the estate are exquisite gardens, the council chambers of government, and the harem, the home of the sultan’s family.
Nearby, Yerebatan Cistern is the largest and most magnificent covered cistern in Istanbul. Built in the 6th century in the reign of Justinian, it supplied water to the Byzantine Great Palace nearby
This afternoon, we will travel by chartered boat up the Bosphorus to view these lovely villas and elegant marble palaces along the shore. We will leave the vessel to dine in one of the excellent seafood restaurants along the strait. (B/L/D)
An early flight takes us to Ankara, the capital of the country. Here, we examine the extraordinary collection of artifacts in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. The exhibits are housed within a splendidly restored 15th century covered bazaar. Displayed are frescoes from Çatalhüyük, grave offerings from Early Bronze Age burials at Alaca Hüyük, a unique and priceless collection of Hittite art, and discoveries from Gordion’s Midas Tomb.
Located within the 7th century citadel above the city is one of the best surviving Byzantine forts. Our lunch restaurant is within its walls with dazzling views over the city.
Later, move on to Yazilikaya, an open air rock shrine located where a spring of fresh water once flowed. The site has characteristics similar to other Anatolian spring-sanctuaries and may well have been a place of worship for hundreds or even thousands of years before the rise of Hittite power. The former importance of the shrine is shown by the incised Hittite gods marching across the cliff face.
Continue to Boğazkale where, if available, members of the Hattusas archaeological project will host us at their dig house for a barbeque and beer dinner party. Overnight at the simple Asikoğlu Hotel. (B/L/D)
Four thousand years ago, the Hittite Empire stretched from the Black Sea to Syria. This morning, we join the project director for an insider’s view of the capital of the Hittites from 1600 to 1180 BC. Hattusa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a fortified city. And inside the walls was the residence of the great kings, the administrative seat as well as the principal cult center. One of the most important discoveries found here has been the royal archives of cuneiform clay tablets. When translated, they consisted of official correspondence and contracts, as well as legal codes, procedures for cult ceremony, oracular prophecies and literature of the ancient Near East.
One particularly important tablet details the terms of a peace settlement between the Hittites and the Egyptians under Ramesses II, circa 1283 BC. A copy is on display in the United Nations in New York as an example of one of the earliest known international peace treaties. Move on to the Cappadocia region, noted for its Byzantine churches and monasteries carved out of the volcanic tuff. Spend the next two nights in the Upper Greek House, a beautifully restored 300 year old villa in the village of Mustafapasa. (B/L/D)
Millions of years ago, a volcano near Cappadocia spewed out molten lava and dust. Since then, wind and weather have reshaped the soft rock, leaving an eye-catching landscape of cones and “fairy chimneys.” Early Christians carved churches and monasteries out of the volcanic tuft, many with colorful wall paintings still visible. They also dug huge underground cities where they could hide from their persecutors.
Early this morning, float above this dramatic landscape on an optional balloon ride. Afterwards, our explorations take us to the rock-cut churches of Göreme Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, cliff faces are riddled with openings to houses and churches. In the underground city of Kaymaklı, walk through a maze of tunnels and rooms at least eight stories deep. In Mustafapaşa, walk down steps carved hundreds of years ago to see a church, Ayios Vasilios, still containing painted murals of St. Basil. (B/L/D)
Travel along ageless caravan trails with stops to examine an intricately carved 13th century caravansary built by Seljuk Turks as a rest stop for camel trains. Continue to Konya, the center of the whirling dervish orders. Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi, later given the honorary title of Mevlâna (“our master”), was a beloved, 13th-century Sufi mystic. This Persian-language poet is renowned for his lyrics. As such, he deeply influenced early Muslim mystical thought and literature. The former monastery of the original whirling dervishes now houses Rumi’s tomb.
In the late afternoon, we stop by the Eflatunpinar Hittite Monument, and the stone-built pool monument built at the time of the Hittite Empire.
Overnight at the Fulya Hotel in Egidir for one night. (B/L/D)
Once a humming Roman metropolis, monumental structures, colossal baths and a 9,000-seat theatre still proclaim the importance of Sagalassos. Markedly, this was the highest city in the Roman Empire. The Sagalassos Archaeological Project has made many remarkable discoveries recently. In particular, the finds include a colossal, 15-foot tall statue of the emperor Hadrian, a huge statue of Marcus Aurelius the longest surviving successor of Antoninus Pius, and an imperial statue of the empress Faustina. We will inspect many of these breathtaking treasures in the Burdur Museum that we visit this afternoon.
Afterwards we will drive to Antalya, majestically situated atop 150-foot cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean coast. The award-winning renovations of the Old Port Section have recaptured the charm of the age-old Roman and Ottoman styles.
Our hotel for the next two nights is in the Ruin Adalya Hotel. A series of beautifully restored 19th-century Ottoman mansions, the complex is located within the Roman walls encircling the ancient section of town. Dinner is on our own to discover one of Antalya’s fine dining establishments. (B/L)
Nearby Perge, is one of the southern coast’s most remarkable ancient cities. Greek settlers journeyed to Perge following the Trojan War, and the ruins of a great theater, stadium, enormous Hellenistic and Roman gates, and a colonnaded street can be seen.
Here, we meet with the director of excavations to learn about the latest archaeological finds. Continue to Aspendos, where almost ten miles of Roman aqueduct still stand. Also, we will walk through what is probably the finest Roman theater in the country, restored by Ataturk in 1932.
This afternoon we return to Antalya and visit the Antalya Archaeological Museum to view its stunning collection of marble sculptures, many from Perge. Enjoy some free time this afternoon to explore the historic quarter of Antalya with dinner on our own. (B/L)
We leave Antalya this morning and begin our journey along the western coast. Heavily indented and full of isolated caves and islets, the terrain displays some of Lycia’s most rugged scenery. Hundreds of tombs dot the hills and valleys, and castles guard the sea channels.
Our drive takes us first to Myra’s huge necropolis of tombs carved in the cliff-faces by Lycians before the time of Christ, and Demre where St. Nicholas was the bishop in the 4th century. Through his good works the cleric became known as Santa Claus and we will see the still standing church dedicated to him.
In the afternoon, we visit Patara, the capital and port of the Lycian Federation after the 4th century BC. Turkish archaeologists have been excavating here for the past two decades, and they are restoring the city to its former grandeur. Continue to the village of Kaş, our home for one night. (B/L/D)
We begin today at Xanthos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, another capital city of the Lycian Federation and its greatest metropolis. Excavations show that the city dates back to the 8th century BC, but it is possible that the site may have existed during the Bronze Age. The history of the city is quite violent – the Xanthos people twice demonstrated their fierce independence. Markedly, they chose to commit mass suicide rather than submit to invading forces.
After lunching on tasty fresh fish and salad at a mountainside trout farm, we enjoy a boat trip on the Dalyan River. Along the way, we stop to explore the ancient city of Kaunos. Continue to Geyre with dinner and overnight at Anatolia Boutique Hotel. (B/L/D)
Our destination is the ancient city of Aphrodisias. Dedicated to the goddess of love, it is a UNESO World Heritage Site. In recent years, breathtaking revelations made by an international team of archaeologists have excited worldwide interest. Ongoing research has brought to light the substantial remains of a theater, an odeum, temples, baths, streets and public squares, a building that may have been a bishop’s palace, and several Byzantine churches. Notably, monuments and statues of great beauty, many of Aphrodite herself, have been uncovered. Many of these sculptures are on exhibit in the site’s museum.
Continue on to Kusadasi and overnight for two nights at the charming La Vista Hotel, overlooking the sea. (B/L/D)
We spend today in monumental Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. Dedicated to the virgin goddess of the chase, the Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, dominates the city. We will walk through the Church of Saint John, where St. John spoke. Likewise, stroll the streets in the classic Ephesus with its stunning 2nd century Library of Celsus.
Along the way, if they are available, we meet with a member of the archaeological staff for a private tour of the project’s excavations and restorations. Then it’s on to the nearby Selçuk Museum containing outstanding artifacts found in the nearby excavations. (B/L/D)
Created by the heirs of Alexander, Pergamum was a Hellenistic city that rivaled Ephesus. This UNESCO World Heritage Site stands majestically on an acropolis rising precipitously to a height of nearly a thousand feet above the modern city of Bergama.
Next is Antandros where remains, including a huge bath complex, Roman cisterns, and an extensive necropolis, date back 2,500 years. The biggest attraction here is a wonderfully preserved Roman villa, festooned with stunning mosaic floors and colorful wall frescoes.
Continue over a 14th century Ottoman bridge to Assos, a picturesque village clinging to the side of the ancient acropolis. Down the cliff-face from the ruins is the port with charming buildings dating from the last century when the town was Greek. Overnight here for one night. (B/L/D)
This morning we will explore the splendid ruins of Assos dominating the top of a mountain overlooking the Aegean Sea. The oldest part of the city was Hellenistic, and the formidable, still standing basalt walls encircling the site date from this period. On our way to lunch we stop at an olive oil production center and museum.
Drive on to Troy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Late 19th century excavations revealed nine principal levels of occupation covering a period of over 3000 years. Possibly founded by the Hittite King Tudhaliyas IV, it was encircled by more than two miles of imposing 4th century BC walls.
We meet privately with one of the archaeologists to learn how recent excavations have given us much more information on the city. Overnight in the Hotel Iris in Çanakkale. (B/L/D)
Today we complete our route and return to Istanbul. A trip across the newly opened bridge spanning the Dardanelles Straits and a scenic journey through European Thrace returns us to Istanbul. Our farewell dinner will be at one of Istanbul’s fine local restaurants. Overnight back at the Ottoman Imperial Hotel. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport for out return 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 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. 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.