Optional Turkey Prelude
June 30 - July 5, 2022
Churches of Revelation
Thursday, June 30, 2022
Depart United States
Depart the United States for overnight transatlantic flights to the ancient city of Izmir, Turkey (airport code ADB).
Friday, July 1, 2022
Arrive in Izmir
From the Izmir airport, hop in a waiting taxi for transfer to Swissôtel Grand Efes, a five-star gem with the country's first recognized "Leading Spas of the World" designation.
Saturday, July 2
Following breakfast, the first of the Churches of Revelation await us today. Smyrna is right under our feet - Smyrna was renamed "Izmir" by the Turks in 1930. Only a few blocks from our hotel, we visit the site where Smyrna's ancient two-story agora has been excavated. Encouraged by our Lord's words in Revelation 2:10, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer," Smyrna's bishop, Polycarp, went to his martyrdom near here during a period of persecution in A.D. 156.
Sunday, July 3
Sardis, Philadelphia, Pamukkale
This morning we head into the Turkish countryside to visit the spectacular ruins of Sardis, wealthy capital of the ancient kingdom of the Lydians. Here we inspect the Roman gymnasium (excavated by Harvard archaeologists) and a restored Jewish synagogue. Most unforgettable, though, are the huge columns of the Artemis Temple. Commissioned in the fourth century B.C. by Alexander the Great, the sanctuary dedicated to Artemis was ultimately three times the size of the Parthenon in Athens.
After lunch in a countryside taverna, we make a short visit to the site of ancient Philadelphia where the crumbling pillars of the city's seventh century Basilica of St. John still stand watch.
Later we continue to Pamukkale for our spa hotel, the Colassae Thermal. Enjoy a rich dinner at our hotel featuring local produce and savories.
Monday, July 4
Pamukkale – Hierapolis – Colossae – Laodicea to Istanbul
After breakfast, it is only a five-minute drive to Hierapolis, the "Holy City" founded by the Romans in the second century B.C. Most impressive are the well-preserved 15,000-seat theater; the Temple of Apollo; and the necropolis where more than 1,200 sarcophagi, mausolea, and funerary monuments have been found and excavated.
Next to Hierapolis is Pamukkale — the "Cotton Castle." Now a protected World Heritage site, few geological wonders compare to these white cliffs and crystalline terraces created over time by mineral-rich spring water gently cascading 330 feet down a mountainside. From basin to basin, stair step terraces of white stalactites form an amazing fairyland of thermal pools.
After lunch at our hotel, we'll journey to the site of biblical Colossae off in the distance en route to the mournful ruins of Laodicea, the "lukewarm" church addressed in the book of Revelation. Christianity came to this city as a result of Paul's ministry in Ephesus. By the fourth century, Laodicea had left another important footprint in church history as the host venue for a strategic ecclesiastical council. Today, Laodicea is one of the most active archaeological "digs" going on in Turkey. The archaeologists are usually happy to show us whatever they are unearthing that very day!
Hop aboard your late afternoon flight to Istanbul. Complimentary private transfer to your luxury accommodation at Ritz-Carlton Istanbul awaits your arrival.
Tuesday, July 5
Our full day tour of Istanbul begins after the breakfast at our hotel. We will start this morning with a visit to the St. Savior-in-Chora Church, home to perhaps the finest Byzantine mosaics in the world. The church walls, covered in tiny stones of fish-belly-glitter, provide a nearly complete visual of the Gospels. And the church's intimate size affords the opportunity to appreciate this most intricate art form at close range.
Remove your shoes at our next stop as we mix with the few worshippers who still come to pray at the Blue Mosque. Nearby is the ancient sports Hippodrome - five times the size of and American football field.
After an included Turkish luncheon at a fine restaurant in the Old City, you will visit the most impressive building of Old Constantinople, the multi-domed basilica Hagia Sophia. Commissioned in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian, this great edifice was the capital of Christendom for nearly 1,000 years.
Your tour will include a visit the breathtaking Underground Cistern built in 532. In the cool, subterranean air, take a stroll in the forest of hundreds of marble columns arranged in symmetrical precision.
To conclude the day, it is time for us to haggle in the famous Covered Bazaar, a medieval labyrinth of 3,000 tiny shops. Custom demands that you sit down for sweet apple tea as a profusion of Turkish goods are presented for your inspection.
We can help with dinner suggestions anywhere in the city. You are free to have dinner tonight whenever and with whomever you choose.
Cabin Categories D & E: $1,795
Cabin Categories B & C: $1,995
Owner's Suite: $2,295
Single supplement $400
Wednesday, July 6
Core Itinerary Begins
Join the rest of our group for a half-day tour of Istanbul and embarkation on the majestic SEA CLOUD II, our luxurious yacht.