Christian Heritage & the Seven Churches of Revelation
Prices are per person, double occupancy, in US dollars, and in your own private group
Subject to availability on dates selected
A 10% discount applies to the following period: November 15 - March 15
Single room supplement: +$750
Istanbul • Bursa • Akhisar (Thyatira) • Izmir (Smyrna) • Bergama (Pergamum) • Sart (Sardis) • Alasehir (Philadelphia) • Hierapolis • Pamukkale • Denizli (Laodicea) • Aphrodisias • Kusadasi (Ephesus)
Christianity's heritage in Turkey is exceptionally important, not only because there are references in the New Testament to sites and to historical figures of Anatolia, but that its roots are here: it is in modern-day Turkey that Christianity essentially became the social and political institution. St. Paul was born and traveled extensively here. St. John is buried near Ephesus, and St. Phillip, in nearby Hierapolis. The first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary is in Ephesus, as it believed that she herself lived and died there. Emperors Constantine (who gave a privileged status to Christianity) and Theodosius (who made it the official religion of the realm), did so in Istanbul. The First Ecumenical Council which established the Christian Creed also met in Nicaea, modern-day Iznik. Our Christian Heritage & Seven Churches of Revelation Tour is designed give you deep insight into many of these early Christian sites in a relatively short period of time. As a large number of these sites are clustered in Western Turkey, we will thus concentrate on this area.
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul
Meet your guide and enjoy a private transfer to your hotel, located in the charming Old City district of Sultanahmet. Traveling along the old city fortifcation walls, you’ll learn a bit about this exciting city along the way. The remainder of the day is at leisure; why notstretch your legs with a walk around the neighborhood, then with dinner on your own at a rooftop restaurant. We can suggest several with great views over the Sea of Marmara!
Day 2: Istanbul
Your full day of private sightseeing includes: the Church of Saints Sergius & Bacchus, the Mosaic Museum, the Roman Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar. (B)
Day 3: Istanbul
Today’s private sightseeing includes: the underground Basilica Cistern, the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate and the Church of St. George, the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos, St.Savior/ Chora Church and the Spice Market, topped off with an hour-long leisurely cruise on the Bosphorus Strait. (B)
Day 4: Istanbul / Bursa
In Bursa, we make a small detour for the town of Iznik, ancient Nicaea, famous for its historic Iznik tile production. Nicaea is where the Ecumenical Council met and wrote the Nicean Creed. Here, we also will see the impressive ancient city walls, the ruins of Hagia Sophia Church and the Iznik Museum which has tiles and artifacts found in excavations in the city’s ancient kilns.
On the lower slopes of Uludag Mountain, we will stop for a panoramic view of Bursa, also known as “Green Bursa”, owing to its lush surrounding forest (and thus giving the term “green” to nearly everything!). Now the fourth most-populated city in Turkey, in 1335, the Ottomans selected it to establish their capital. Today, in the center of this lively and now modern city, one can see some of the finest examples of early Ottoman architecture, including the tombs of sultans who ruled before the conquest of Istanbul. We will visit the tomb of Mehmet I, the Green Tomb (Yesil Turbe), because of the green tiles covering its surface, and the Green Mosque (Yesil Camii) which is adjacent to it. Next, we visit the Grand Mosque (Ulu Camii), in the center of the city, a stone’s throw from the city’s famous bazaars. Historically, Bursa has also been the center of the silk trade for centuries; we will visit Koza Han (“Cocoon Inn”), an attractive market that still specializes in producing, dyeing and selling silk. We spend the night in Bursa. (B, L)
Day 5: Bursa / Akhisar (Thyatira) / Izmir (Smyrna)
In the morning, after breakfast, we begin our drive to Izmir, or Smyrna, as it was referred to in the Bible. On the way, we stop at Thyatira, one of the least-remembered of the Seven Churches today, despite its gospel being the longest. Thyatira is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the hometown of Lydia, a well-to-do purple dye merchant who gave shelter to St. Paul and his company throughout their stay in Philippi. Thyatira was founded more than 2,000 years ago and today is now known as Akhisar. Today, we visit the only site remaining from the town's less-distant past, a Byzantine basilica and a colonnaded street.
In the late afternoon, we arrive in Izmir, site of another of the Seven Churches addressed in the Book of Revelation. Today, the ancient city of Smyrna has disappeared almost completely under the modern metropolis of Izmir, yet, we will be able to visit the old agora/marketplace of classical-age Smyrna. In keeping with the theme of this tour, we visit the oldest church in Izmir, dedicated to Saint Polycarp, a disciple of St. John, who became the Bishop of Smyrna and who was martyred here in the 2nd century. This 17th century Catholic church was lavishly decorated later in the19th century. Overnight is in Izmir. (B, L)
Day 6: Izmir / Pergamum / Izmir
During the period which the Book of Revelation was being written, Pergamum rose to prominence as one of the most important cities in all of Asia Minor. Much of Pergamum has been lovingly restored and is now considered to be one of the primary and best-preserved ancient sites in Turkey. Here, we visit the magnificent acropolis, which contains the ruins of Pergamum's acclaimed library - so large it rivals the world's greatest library (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) in Alexandria. Next, we visit the Asclepium, a sanctuary and healing center built in the name of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. We return to the hotel in the late afternoon, where you will have the evening at leisure. (B, L)
Day 7: Izmir / Sart (Sardis) / Alasehir (Philadelphia) / Hierapolis / Pamukkale
In Pamukkale, we will see another one of the Seven Churches, Sardis. In earlier times, the city was the home and capital of the powerful Lydian kingdom and its legendary King Croesus. We will visit the ruins of the temple of Athena, the agora, a gymnasium and a synagogue. After lunch we continue to Alasehir, the site of ancient Philadelphia, home to another one of the Seven Churches. Attalos II, the King of Pergamum, established Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, in honor of his brother Eumenes. The impressive ruins of its ancient cathedral still stand. Next, we visit Hierapolis, site of an ancient thermal spa originating in Pamukkale, which is famed for its hot springs and dazzlingly-white travertine terraces formed by calcium-rich waters. The Roman period ruins, intertwined with the travertine, offer us an unforgettable backdrop while we lookout over the valley. We stay in the Pamukkale region overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 8: Pamukkale / Denizli (Laodicea) / Aphrodisias / Kusadasi
We visit Laodicea, the most southern of the Seven Churches. The gospel addressing the Laodicean congregation is the sternest of the Seven Letters, containing much reprimand and no praise: the people of Laodicea are blamed for their lack of wholeheartedness. Once a large city, Laodicea is under a massive artificial mound today; excavations started relatively recently and have exposed only a small part of the ancient ruins.
Next, we visit Aphrodisias, one of the oldest and most sacred sites in Turkey. Dedicated to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, it was the site of the magnificent Temple of Aphrodite, which later, became a Christian basilica (through an impressive swapping of columns!). Because Aphrodisias was the home to one of the most important marble sculpture schools in the classical world, some very beautiful examples are visible in the museum. We drive to Kusadasi via Selcuk, taking a short detour along the way to see the Basilica of St. John, built on the tomb of the saint who wrote the Book of Revelation. After this visit, we continue our drive and we arrive at the seaside town of Kusadasi, set in a calm and picturesque gulf, and is popular for its sparkling water, broad sandy beaches, and charming marina. (B, L)
Day 9: Kusadasi / Ephesus
In the morning, we visit the ruins of Ephesus, the last of the Seven Churches on our tour. The size of the site, particularly the amphitheatre, never fails to impress visitors. More impressive still, is the richness of detail even a casual observer will notice. The Terrace Houses, set atop the hill overlooking the main street, were recently opened to the public. They have been compared to Pompeii in terms of its preservation and visible detail as to how people really lived. After our time in Ephesus, we drive to the local village of Sultankoy, where we learn about local rug-making processes which include silk extraction, dyeing and weaving. Then, we will break for a fresh and organic al fresco lunch using ingredients from Sultankoy’s farm and orchards. After lunch, we will head to the Ephesus Archaeological Museum, visiting the House of the Virgin Mary and Church of St. Mary afterwards. The Church of St. Mary (Meryem Kilisesi) is a church of great historical significance. It is also known as the Double Church, as it is believed that one aisle was dedicated to the Virgin and the other to St. John; the Council of Ephesus is also believed to have been held here in the Council Church. (B, L)
Day 10: Izmir / Istanbul - Homebound departure
Gule gule! Farewell! Transfer to the Izmir Airport for a flight to Istanbul, connecting to your flight home. (B)
Optional Post - Tour Extention: Roundtrip Boat Trip
Kusadasi / Patmos Island, Greece
(3 hours each way; weather permitting)
In the morning, head to the pier and board a comfortable ferry for a delightful day trip to the Greek island of Patmos. The earliest remains of human settlements on the island date to the Middle Bronze Age. Patmos and Christianity were closely linked when, in the late 1st century, when Emperor Domitian exiled St. John the Apostle here. Upon arrival, we visit the castle-like Monastery of St. John, which crowns the hill of Chora. About halfway up the cobbled path that leads to the monastery is the Cave of the Apocalypse, the place where St. John is said to have received his Revelations. The monastery consists of interconnecting courtyards, chapels, stairways, arcades, galleries, and roof terraces. The Treasury has an impressive array of religious art and treasure, mainly consisting of icons from the Cretan school. In the late afternoon, we return to Kusadasi by ferry. (B, L)
Note: Prices for this extension will be calculated separately upon request.