Discover the world’s oldest temple, and the most important archeological site of the last decades. Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobeklitepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it’s the site of the world’s oldest temple. Our Journey will start right there in Gobeklitepe-Urfa. 13 days.
- Day 1: Saturday. Flight to Urfa via Istanbul
Flight to Urfa via Istanbul. Arrival and short visit around the City of Urfa and Harran Valley.
Urfa is the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. Urfa has been occupied since the Babylonians followed by the Hurrites, Hittites, Assyrians and Greeks. We will visit nearby Harran and see the incredible beehive houses. Harran, according to the Bible was the site where Prophet Abraham spent a few years with his family before moving on to modern time Israel. We will also visit the holy sites at the Ainzelha, a lake with millions of domesticated fish. While in Urfa we will also visit the cave where the prophet Abraham was born and visit a bustling sheep market as well.>
- Day 2: Sunday. Urfa
After breakfast, we will drive to Gobeklitepe about an hour and start our visit at this magnificent excavation area. We will have our lunch boxes and spend the day there. Dinner and overnight at hotel in Urfa (B,L,D)
- Day 3: Monday. Urfa–Nemrut Mountain–Mardin
Early morning 03:30 am departure. Hike to the summit of the mount Nemrut (one of the most popular UNESCO world cultural heritage sites) to watch the spectacular sunrise over the heads of colossal heads Gods, as you step into mythology. This extraordinary landmark rests at an elevation of 8000 ft. The mountain top complex is composed of two flattened areas strewn with statues and separated by a false peak of crushed rock. Antiochos built the entire complex approximately 2000 years ago as a monument to his divine ancestry. Also definitely take time to visit the old castle, Arsemeia, cross over the still functioning Cendere Bridge (Septimius Severus bridge) dating all the way back to the 3rd Century and Tumulus Tomb of Karakus. Then drive back to the hotel for breakfast. You then depart to Mardin with a lovely ferry ride across the dam and have lunch in Siverek. We will reach Mardin around 4 pm and check into hotel.
You will take the time to visit, walk in its busy streets and bazaars, and admire the stonework all around the town. Overnight stay in Mardin (B,L,D)
- Day 4: Tuesday. Mardin–Diyarbakir–Ankara–Cappadocia
Early morning departure to Diyarbakir, visit old city and bazaar. After lunch, transfer to the airport short flight to Ankara. Visiting Hitit Museum and castle of Ankara, we will continue to Cappadocia. Dinner and overnight (B,L,D)
- Day 5: Wednesday. Cappadocia
This morning we visit the Göreme Open Air Museum: The people of Göreme, at the heart of the Cappadocia Region, realized that the soft rocks of the area could be easily carved into farm houses, churches, monasteries. This Christian sanctuary contains many examples of Byzantine art from the post-iconoclastic period. These frescoes are a unique artistic achievement from the 10th – 12th centuries. There are several Byzantine cave chapels to explore, most of them decorated with exquisite and colourful biblical frescoes. In the afternoon we discover the local handcraft of the region and visit a carpet workshop, a tradition that reveals the nomadic origins of the Turkish people. Later in the afternoon we embark on a short walk through the unusual ‘Love Valley’ before heading back to our hotel in Goreme. There is the option of enjoying a traditional Turkish bath to unwind from the day’s activities. (B,L,D)
- Day 6: Thursday. Cappadocia
After a relaxing breakfast we take a walk toward Kizilcukur (Red Valley), where its magnificently sculptured, red rock formations have created arguably the most beautiful valley in Cappadocia. Small valleys, cones, peaks and fairy chimneys blend harmoniously with fascinating cave chapels that date back to the early Christian period. In the afternoon we drive to the unique Pasabaglari Valley, where multiple fairy chimneys hewn from the earth and shaped by centuries of erosion lend a moon-like landscape and atmosphere to the valley. A chapel dedicated to St. Simeon and a hermit’s shelter are built into one of the fairy chimneys, which appears to have three heads! We enjoy walking in the valleys and surrounds today, the path can be a little slippery in parts so please come prepared with appropriate walking shoes. In the afternoon we will take the opportunity to discover the local handcraft of pottery. Returning to Goreme, we have a night at leisure. We may have an opportunity to attend a folk dance show or witness an original Whirling Dervish ‘Sema’ performance. (B,L,D)
- Day 7: Friday: Cappadocia–Antalya via Konya
Konya, known as ‘Iconium’ in Roman times, was also the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to 13th centuries and home of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, who founded a mystic Sufi order popularly known as the ‘Whirling Dervishes’. We visit Mevlana’s Mausoleum and the museum housing manuscripts of his works, as well as various artefacts relating to the mystic sect that he founded. We then take a five hour drive to the coastal city of Antalya one of the best-known classical sites in Turkey. A highlight here is the beautifully preserved theatre at Aspendos – one of the finest in the ancient world. (B,L,D)
- Day 8: Saturday. Antalya
After breakfast we stop at the Lycian city of Phaselis, which was founded in the 7th Century BC and flourished as a commercial trading centre where anything could be bought and sold, including citizenships for 100 drachmas! The Phaselians were more concerned about preserving the affluence of their commerce than with staking any political independence, so they pragmatically accepted any conquerors that came their way. The city thrived until the 12th Century when it was superseded in importance by the nearby ports of Antalya and Alanya. The beauty of Phaselis is in its picture postcard setting. It is built around three small bays, each with its own beach, surrounded by fragrant woods and mountains. We continue on to the beautiful seaside village of Kas (pronounced ‘kash’). This has charming whitewashed houses graced with bougainvilleas as well as an ancient Greek theatre. This fishing village is a wonderful place to sample the local cuisine and we have a two nights here to soak up the atmosphere in the quaint town centre. (B,L,D)
- Day 9: Sunday. Antalya–Pamukkale
After breakfast this morning we drive to Pamukkale, also known as ‘Cotton Castle’ and a truly unique sight. This magical and spectacular natural phenomenon was created by deposits from thermal waters that cascaded down the mountainside over hundreds of years, forming a myriad of pools and terraces. As the water overflows from the pools, dazzling cream-coloured stalactites are formed that, from afar, resemble cotton or snow. The pools are filled with hot spring waters that supposedly have healing properties for a person’s circulation and digestive systems. Close to Pamukkale are the ruins of Hierapolis, which was founded by the King of Pergamon in 190 BC and by the 2nd Century AD it had become an important Roman bath centre. The extensive ruins of Hierapolis are well worth exploring and include a theatre, temple, holy area, monumental fountain, bath, basilica and necropolis. We spend our night in a hotel in Pamukkale.
- Day 10: Monday. Pamukkale–Kusadasi
After breakfast we make an early start for a drive of about four hours to Selçuk, which is our base for visiting Ephesus – one of the best-preserved classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean and a great example of Roman architecture. We drive to Ephesus, possibly the greatest Greco-Roman site in the world and definitely a highlight of your trip! Always an important religious centre, Ephesus was founded by Ionian Greeks in the 11th Century BC and flourished under Roman rule. The Greeks replaced the cult of the Anatolian fertility goddess Cybele with Artemis and built a fabulous temple in her honour. With the arrival of the Romans, it became the Temple of Diana and was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. We visit the vast amphitheater, walk the marble street once trodden by Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and marvel at the gymnasium, baths and wonderfully restored Library of Celsus. An orientation tour familiarizes us with Selçuk, a sprawling town lying at the base of the ancient fortress on Ayasoluk Hill. Those who wish can take an option visit to the last home of the Virgin Mary, who as legend states came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot. We spend the night in a hotel in Selçuk and have a chance to reflect and fully comprehend the history and splendour of our day’s discoveries.
- Day 11: Tuesday. Kusadasi–Istanbul
Early morning pick up from your hotel to go to the Izmir airport to fly to Istanbul. In Istanbul continue to visit the Hagia Sophia a 5th century church, once the greatest in all the world. The next stop is at the Blue Mosque renowned for its striking blue Iznik tiled interior. Afterwards, visit the ancient Roman Hippodrome. Following a lunch break in the old town, visit Imperial Palace of Topkapi from which Ottoman Sultans ruled their grand empire for over 400 years and visit the Suleymaniye Mosque. Tour finishes around 17:00, transfer back to hotel. Overnight in Istanbul.
- Day 12: Wednesday. Istanbul
After breakfast departure from your hotel to visit Spice Market and followed by a boat cruise through the Bosporus, the strait dividing the European and Asian continents, Following lunch break in the afternoon, visit the luxuriously opulent Dolmabahce Palace, the last residence of the sultans. A drive to the Asian part of Istanbul crossing the Intercontinental Bosporus Bridge to visit Camlica Hill The highest point where you can overlook Istanbul and take nice pictures. Tour finishes around 17:00, transfer back to hotel.
- Day 13: Thursday. Transfer
Transfer to airport for departure.
- Day 14: Friday. JORDAN
Today we get an early start at MT NEBO where, like Moses, we will view the Promised Land. We then drive to MADABA to see the oldest map of the Holy Land. In the afternoon we will visit MACHAERUS, the palace of Herod Antipas where John the Baptizer was beheaded. Next we will drive beside the Dead Sea to the off- the-beaten-path site of BAB-EDH-DRA (proposed site of Sodom) where you will walk in the ash layer and be able to handle shards of pottery and bits of brimstone (sorry no fire). We then arrive to overnight in PETRA at the hotel.
- Day 15: Saturday. PETRA
Enter the previously forbidden site of PETRA through the once secret Siq to tour the Nabatean and Roman remains of the ancient 15-mile long rose-red city in stone! Tour at leisure the Treasury and rent a donkey and escort to climb to the Monastery and High Place. Evening return to Israel and overnight in EILAT at the Hotel. Evening at leisure to enjoy the nightlife or stroll around the bazaars nestled around the Red Sea.
- Day 16: Sunday. EILAT/TIMNA PARK
We start with an optional swim or snorkel in the RED SEA or shopping at the Eilat Mall. We finish our morning and have lunch at the MARINE OBSERVATORY to see the exotic aquatic life of the coral reefs. Next we visit the WILDERNESS TABERNACLE, a full-scale replica of Israel’s first sanctuary in the desert. We then proceed to Tel Aviv for dinner and then to BEN-GURION Airport for flight for back home.