Cyprus, Rhodes & Malta Tour
Cyprus, Rhodes & Malta Tour: Follow in the path of the Crusader Knights after the fall of Jerusalem as they traversed Mediterranean Islands
with Professor John France
Why Take This Tour?
- Travel with Professor John France, renowned Medieval specialist
- Tour Neolithic Choirokoitia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Tour the medieval city of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Private tour of prehistoric sites with Dr. Nicholas Vella of Malta University
- Maximum 14 participants
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive Larnaca, Cyprus and transfer to Troodos Mountains.
Day 3: Tour Troodos Mountains.
Day 4: Choirokoitia. Kolossi Castle.
Day 5: Tour Famagusta.
Day 6: Kyrenia Castle, Bellapais Abbey and St. Hilarion’s Castle.
Day 7: Fly to Rhodes, Greece. Tour Rhodes.
Day 8: Tour Rhodes.
Day 9: Lindos Castle. Churches of Phaneromeni and of Panayia. Fly to Athens, Greece.
Day 10: Fly to Malta. Harbor cruise.
Day 11: Tour Valletta.
Day 12: Ferry to Gozo. Rabat. Ta’ Cenc. Ggantija. Return to Valletta.
Day 13: Cottonera Lines. Notre Dame Gate. Wignacourt Tower.
Day 14: Hagar Qim. Mnajdra. Tarxien Temples. Mdina.
Day 15: Fly back to the USA.
Join Far Horizons for a 15-day tour from Cyprus to Rhodes to Malta, along the path of the Knights of the Crusades. Known as the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the order was founded to defend the crusader towns in the Holy Land. When these settlements collapsed, the Knights continued their fight in Cyprus, Rhodes, Symrna, Bodrum and ultimately Malta. The Order still exists in Rome as ‘The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, called of Rhodes, called of Malta’, while in Britain it spawned the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. We will follow its journey across time and across the Mediterranean Sea upon which it left very deep and still visible imprints.
John France is Professor Emeritus from Swansea University in Wales and is a renowned specialist on the Medieval Period. He has published numerous articles, and is the author ofThe Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom, Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, and Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade. Additionally, he has edited several important books includingMedieval Warfare, Warfare in the Dark Ages, andWar and Peace in Ancient and Medieval History. As a result of his research covering this period, he has compiled an electronic database of lives of saints prior to the year 1000. He is also an editor of the Journal of Medieval History. Dr. France was a featured scholar on the History Channel’s impressive two-part documentary, The Crusades: Cresent & the Cross.
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 2: Arrive into Larnaca, Cyprus, and drive to the Casale Panayiotis Hotel wand overnight for two nights. (D)
Day 3: Travel through charming villages of the Troodos Mountains, the largest mountain range in Cyprus, declared a national park in 1992. Situated predominantly on the northern slope of the range are remarkable painted Byzantine churches, ten of which are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Several of them contain lovingly painted frescos on the interior walls. Agios Nikolaos Tis Stegis is the only surviving monastery church of its kind on the island and the interior is covered entirely in wall paintings from the 11th to the 17th centuries. Its name, which translates to St Nicholas of the Roof, stems from the pitched timber roof. Agios Ioannis Lampadistis Monastery is actually three churches that include the Agios Irakleidios Church, the Holy Church of Ioannis Lampadistis, and the Latin Chapel. The wall-paintings within include some rare depictions, and the wooden templon screen, dated to the 13th -14th century and with painted decoration imitating coats-of-arms is the oldest in Cyprus. (B/L/D)
Day 4: We step back in time with a visit to Choirokoitia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Neolithic settlement, occupied 7,000 to 4,000 B.C., is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean as it is the first human occupation of the island by farmers coming from the Near East mainland. The discoveries here have shed much light on the evolution of human society in this key region. From here, continue to the great castle of Kolossi. After the collapse of the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291, the castle became the focus of operations for the Knights of St. John until they seized Rhodes. Its chief importance after that was as a source of wealth for the order as it was an important center of sugar production. In the chapel of the castle, Richard the Lionheart, then King of England and Berengaria of Navarre were married sometime during the 13th century. Overnight for three nights at the Hilton Hotel in Nicosia. (B/L/D)
Day 5: This morning we cross the Green Line, the border between Turkish and Greek Cyprus, and head into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus towards Famagusta, a Mediterranean backwater until Christian Crusaders came to the region. During the 14th century it was briefly the wealthiest city on earth. Although filled with many fascinating sites, including the citadel, called Othello’s Tower, one of the best-preserved and most magnificent is the Lusignan monument, Lala Mustafa Pasa Camii (or St. Nicholas Cathedral), with its three striking porticoes which rise toward a six-paned stained glass window. The remains of the magnificent 14th century cathedral, St. George of the Greeks, presents a rare example of an Orthodox church built in the regional ‘Cypriot’ Gothic style of the period. The nearby Martinengo Bastion was built by the Venetian architect Giovanni San Michele between 1550 and 1559. With its triangular design it is an excellent example of military architecture. Time permitting, we will stop by the nearby late Bronze Age remains at Salamis where an important battle was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states and the invading Persian Empire in September 480 BC. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Our morning takes us once again across the Green Line as we head to Kyrenia, located on the north coast and considered one of the most charming of the Cyprus coastal towns. We will see the harbor and its guardian castle, last renovated by the Venetians, but originally a Roman fort built and subsequently added on to by the Byzantines. The castle consists of a simple square with four towers, one on each corner, and was at one time protected by a moat and had an inner harbor which connected to the outside via a Seagate on the north wall. We will enter the fortifications to view the Byzantine church of St. George, the French dungeons and Royal apartments. Continue to the village of Bellapais, renowned for both the long term residency of Lawrence Durrell as well as the early 13th century abbey, originally founded as St. Mary of the Mountain by Augustinian canons fleeing Palestine. Surrounded by cypress trees and with a Gothic aura, the remains are truly lovely. In the afternoon, view St. Hilarion’s Castle perched among the rocky crags of the Kyrenia hills. It was built by the Byzantines to protect the island from Arab pirates and guarded the pass between Kyrenia and Nicosia. Richard of England conquered the island in 1191 and in 1192 sold it to Guy of Lusignan whose dynasty would rule the island for three centuries. They greatly extended and improved the citadel. Next, explore the heart of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus and Europe’s only militarily divided city. Here there are numerous, interesting sites for us to discover. The Lusignan kings protected Nicosia, but nothing remains of the medieval fortifications because in 1567 their heirs, the Venetians, built the present defenses in what was then the latest style of artillery fortification, a great star shape with 11 bastions. Much of the old city was demolished, but several significant monuments remain within the fortified area. One of the most important is Selimiye Camii, originally the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Ayia Sofia. It is the work of French masons who accompanied the crusaders and is the oldest and one of the finest examples of Gothic art in Cyprus. Construction began in 1209 during the reign of Lusignan King Henry I and lasted 150 years. Amongst the earliest and most beautiful of the monuments of the Ottoman period is Buyuk Han, or the ‘Great Inn’. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 7: Today take an early morning flight to Rhodes, the island that has always been an important strategic stronghold. The medieval city is renowned for its mighty fortifications and archaeological treasures, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its position on the vital trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean has greatly influenced the course of its history. The Knights of the Order of St. John occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and set about transforming the city into a stronghold. In 1522, after repeated attempts, the Ottomans finally conquered the city. After a rest and lunch on our own, we will walk the almost four miles of still-standing, formidable city walls. Overnight in the Rodos Park Hotel on Rhodes for two nights. (B/D)
Day 8: Our exploration today takes in many impressive sites in the Old City. With the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Great Hospital, and the Street of the Knights, the Upper Town is one of the most beautiful urban centers of the Gothic period. In the Lower Town, Gothic architecture coexists with mosques, public baths and other buildings dating from the Ottoman period. We will explore several other areas of the town including 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. Dinner is on our own this evening to enjoy a meal in one of the town’s many exceptional tavernas. (B/L)
Day 9: Standing guard over the southeastern coast, the citadel at Lindos is guarded by medieval walls which were constructed by the Knights in the 13th century. As we climb the winding, narrow paths between small traditional whitewashed buildings from the village to the castle, we will stop to view the Church of Phaneromeni and the Church of Panayia. Proceed on foot uphill, to the great staircase leading from the Hellenistic Portico to the Acropolis and the Temple of Athena. From the top, marvel at the breathtaking views covering the great expanse of the Aegean Sea and St. Paul’s Bay, where the apostle cast anchor during his historic voyage to Ephesus. Close to the promontory of Agios Minas, ancient Mylantio, lies Kamiros, one of the three large Doric cities of the island. After lunch overlooking the sea, we will drive to Filerimos Monastery, built in the 15th century by the Knights of St. John over an early 5th century Byzantine abbey. Inside, there was the holy icon of the Virgin Mary that the Knights had probably brought to Rhodes from Jerusalem. When the Ottomans conquered the island in 1523, the Knights left and took the icon with them; it is now housed in the National Museum of Montenegro. Continue to the airport for our late evening flight from Rhodes to Athens. Overnight for one night at the Hotel Sofitel Athens Airport. (B/L/D)
Day 10: This morning fly from Athens to Malta. Malta owes its existence to the Knights Hospitaller Order of St. John. When defeated by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522, the knights were forced to leave Rhodes. After seven years of wandering Europe, the king of Spain gave them Malta, and the Knights set about transforming the inhospitable islands and creating a series of mighty fortresses. Valletta, Malta’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage city, is an open-air museum. The bastions of this fortress city rank among the world’s greatest examples of military engineering. This afternoon, we take a cruise on a dghajsas, a traditional boat, and view The Three Cities of Vittoriosa (Birgu), Senglea and Cospicua, located on the Grand Harbor and enclosed by the massive line of fortification, the Cottonera Lines. Overnight for five nights at the Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta. (B/L)
Day 11: Today will be spent in Valletta, the city created by the Knights after the Great Siege by the Ottomans. Our walking tour will take us to several stunning sites. The opulent Grand Master’s Palace has always been the house of government in Malta, first by the knights, then the British, and it now hosts the President’s office. The many rooms throughout the building contain lavish furnishings and are embellished with precious tapestries, and on the lower floors are fine examples of medieval armor and weapons used by the Knights of St. John and their adversaries. Manoel Theatre, one of the oldest working theaters in Europe, was built in 1731 by the Grand Master of the Knights who personally funded the construction. Continue to the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, and the Old Saluting Battery in time for the noon firing of the canons and with a breath-taking view of the Grand Harbor and the Three Cities. Then it’s on to St. John’s Co-Cathedral, designed by the Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar in the 16th century and containing the largest painting ever created by Caravaggio. When the Knights of St John built the city of Valletta they constructed an auberge or inn for seven of their eight langues (languages, or nationalities). The buildings were intended mainly as the residences of knights who did not have a home of their own in Malta. We will see two of them. The Auberge de Castille was the official seat of the knights of Castille, León and Portugal – one of the most powerful of the Order. The mansion is today the office of the Prime Minister. The Auberge de Provence, the palace built for the French Knights of Provence, now houses the National Archaeological Museum where nearly 7,000 years of Malta’s heritage is presented. We will end the day with a film, the Malta Experience, which gives an overview of the history of the island. (B/L/D)
Day 12: This morning we cross by ferry to the smaller island of Gozo where we walk through Città Vittoria, or Rabat, the largest town on the island, and visit Gozo’s Archaeology Museum, housed within the 15th-century house used for guests of the Knights of St. John. Ta’ Cenc is an area where Neolithic dolmens and tombs can be seen scattered through the fields. Ggantija, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a complex of two temples that were created more than 5,500 years ago making them the oldest in Malta and some of the oldest in the world. Archaeologists believe that the statues and figurines found here may mean that the holy site was home to a fertility cult. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 13: Our explorations this morning take us to several fascinating, sometimes rarely-visited sites. The Cottonera Lines was one of the largest projects of military architecture undertaken by the Knights on Malta. Massive fortification walls, they encircled the three old cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua) and the Margarita Lines. Built in 1675, Notre Dame Gate is the principal gateway into Cottonera and the most imposing. Wignacourt Tower is one of the seven coastal defense towers built by the Knights and is the oldest surviving coastal defense post on the Maltese Islands. Today it contains a small museum dedicated to Malta’s architectural-military heritage. St. Agatha’s Tower is a former Knight’s stronghold with views over to the neighboring islands of Comino and Gozo. In the 17th century, Grand Master Martino De Redin built a set of 13 coastal watch-towers that were designed to send early warning signals along Malta’s coast to Valletta. In the evening, we will walk through M’dina, once the capital. This medieval town situated on a hill in the center of the island, is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city. Impressive palaces of noble families line the narrow streets, some of them built as far back as the 12th Century. Dinner will be in one of M’dina’s finest restaurants. (B/L/D)
Day 14: If on the island, Professor Nick Vella of the University of Malta, a specialist in Maltese prehistoric sites, will join us today. Our explorations begin in the 5,000-year-old Hagar Qim temple, the best-preserved of several ancient limestone temples in Malta. Nearby Mnajdra, a megalithic temple complex, is one of the oldest religious sites on earth and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. In the afternoon visit a megalithic complex dating from about 3,000 BC. Both have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Tarxien contains four temples notable for their complexity, fine construction and variety of figural carvings, and is considered one of the oldest freestanding monuments in the world. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 15: Depart for the USA.
CALL (per person, double occupancy) internal flights (Cyprus to Rhodes, Rhodes to Athens, Athens to Malta); all hotels; meals as noted in brochure; ground transportation; entry fees; and gratuities. Price is based upon the euro at no higher than 1.25. If a fluctuation raises the euro, the final price may go up.
Single Supplement: CALL. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: Round trip international airfare; a separate $150.00 donation check made out to a designated donation project; passport or visa fees; airport or departure taxes; alcoholic drinks, other beverages or food not included on regular menus; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; email, telephone and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: The cost of the trip does not include the separate donation check for $150.00. As a tour company that benefits from the historical, cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to scholars, archaeological and cultural projects, and museums in each of our destinations. This has created a bond with the academic community that allows you to gain an ‘insider’s view’ of work being done in each country. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. A donation project for this trip will be assigned shortly.
A deposit of $750.00 and the separate donation check for $150.00 (made out to the designated project) are required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest to the trip. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will result in an administrative fee of $450.00. Cancellations received less than 120 days before departure will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip interruption and trip cancellation protection.
If you do not fly on the recommended group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. 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. If you issue your own international flight, please send the complete schedule as soon as you have it.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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 onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments, or that the date or time of our visit to their project must be changed.
Travel in this Part of the World
This trip is considered strenuous by our standards. You will be on your feet for much of every day. All participants must be physically active and able to walk independently for distances that could exceed four miles or more each day. We will walk the four miles of walls encircling Rhodes Old City, and also some of the bastions on Malta. The group will also be walking up, into, and around sites extensively. Please remember that most castles are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing stairs. This may mean one hundred steps or more, and these steps will frequently be uneven with risers at different heights.
We will be traveling between four countries – Turkish Cyprus, Greek Cyprus, Greece, and Malta – and when traveling there will be no one to assist with luggage. Participants will be responsible for all the luggage that belongs to them. We strongly recommend that you carefully consider what you need in order to travel as light as possible. Wheeled suitcases will be invaluable.
If you are not physically strong, are walking with a cane, or have problems with climbing, there will be no one to assist you. We therefore strongly recommend that you consider your physical abilities before joining this tour.