Monday, March 30, 2009

SmarTours Turkey itinerary

We will leave Chicago May 11 and stay until May 28 so we have 4 extra days in Istanbul, Turkey.
This is the planned ITINERARY for the SmarTour "Treasures of Turkey" tour, May 13 - 26, 2009. 

DAY 1: Depart USA. Your fascinating trip to Turkey, the "Crossroads of Civilizations" begins as you depart on an overnight flight.

DAY 2: Arrive Istanbul. Upon arrival in vibrant Istanbul, you’ll be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. This evening your tour director hosts a welcome dinner and orientation. Pera Tulip Hotel (D)

DAY 3: Situated at the meeting point of Europe and Asia, Istanbul offers a fascinating blend of east and west. Your guided morning tour includes visits to St. Sophia, the great Byzantine Basilica built in the 6th century. You also delight in a visit to the Spice Market, the exotic food market selling dried fruits and spices, the underground cistern, the water source of the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Your tour ends with a visit to the vast and bustling Grand Bazaar, world famous labyrinth and passages housing numerous stores where you'll have shopping opportunities galore. The balance of the day is at leisure and you may wish to join a leisurely curise on the Bosphorous. (B)

DAY 4: Istanbul/Ankara. Depart for the Turkish capital, Ankara, home of the 12th-century Aladdin Mosque. Upon arrival, visit the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the Turkish Republic. Leading up to the Mausoleum, is a vast brick courtyard and monumental avenue lined with NeoHittite stone statues and cenotaphs beneath its colonnades. The balance of the day is at leisure to explore on your own. You may wish to visit the fascinating Anatolian Civilization Museum. Ickale Hotel(B)

DAY 5: Ankara/Cappadocia. Today, travel by road through the Turkish countryside to the world-renowned region of Cappadocia, a breathtaking landscape with striking and bizarre rock formations and underground cities. Peri Tower Hotel. (B,D)

DAY 6: Cappadocia. On today’s guided excursion, visit the Open Air Museum in the Goreme Valley to view early Christian churches decorated with beautiful frescoes depicting various scenes from the Bible. You’ll also visit the Kaymakli Underground City, which was hollowed out of volcanic rock and extends seven to nine floors deep into the earth. It is made up of a maze of corridors, chambers, storehouses, kitchens and churches. Finally, visit the village of Avanos, famous for its beautiful old houses as well as pottery and onyx workshops. (B)

DAY 7: Cappadocia/Konya/Antalya. This morning visit the 13th century Caravanserai of Agzikarahan (Caravan Palace), a complex of structures built on the Silk Road, whose main portal gate is considered a fine example of Turkish Seljuk art. During the Seljuk period, trade flourished, requiring roads for caravan transport and inns for the traveling traders and their camels. Continue your journey by road via Konya, passing through lush forests, orchards and olive groves on the sloping hills downward to the splendid Mediterrannean Sea. Dedeman Resort (B,D)

DAY 8: Antalya. Full day at leisure to enjoy at your own pace. Your seaside resort hotel enjoys a choice location overlooking Turkey's fabled Turquoise Coast. You may join an optional tour ($50) to ancient Perge, the most attractive and well-preserved Pamphylian city that reached its apex during the reign of Alexander the Great. Continue to Aspendos, founded by the colonists from Argos and best known for its huge theater as well as the stadium and a fountain. On this optional tour you’ll also visit the Antalya’s Archaeological Museum that houses artifacts and antiques from 2500 years of Anatolian culture. (B,D)

DAY 9: Pamukkale/Izmir. Journey to Pamukkale and visit the Necropolis and the ancient city of Hieropolis ("Holy City"), situated atop the Pamukkale hot springs. These hot springs have served as a thermal bath since the 2nd century B.C. Later, arrive in Izmir, believed to be the birthplace of Homer. Kaya Prestige Hotel (B,D)

DAY 10: Ephesus Excursion. Today, venture to explore Ephesus considered to be the world’s best-preserved classical city and famous throughout history for its Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus was undoubtedly one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world and among its impressive structures you will marvel at the Library of Celcus, Temple of Hadrian, the Great Theater and the Odeon. Later, visit to the House of Virgin Mary, a shrine said to be the final home of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus. Return to Izmir. (B)

DAY 11: Pergamum/Canakkale. Drive to Pergamum, a powerful kingdom during the ancient Hellenistic period, and visit the Acropolis, an impressive structure that houses the Temple of Trajan, the Heroon Shrine, the Sanctuary of Athena and the Altar of Zeus. You'll also view the Theater and the Library of Pergamum, whose collection came second only to that of Egypt's Alexandria. Arrive in Canakkale. Akol Hotel. (B,D)

DAY 12: Troy/Istanbul. This morning, marvel at the classical city of Troy as you tour this 4000-year-old city and legendary center of the Trojan War, made immortal by Homer's epic poem the Iliad. Cross by ferry the Dardanelles, a narrow strait connecting the Aegean and Black Sea and arrive in Istanbul. This evening savor an included festive farewell dinner. Pera Tulip Hotel (B,D)


DAY 13: On a guided morning tour, a local expert will introduce you to some of the highlights of the city, previously known as Constantinople and the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire. Visit the splendid Topkapi Palace, the residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 600 years and now a fascinating museum. Here, visit of the Treasury section with the crown jewels and the unique collection of Chinese porcelains. Continue to the ancient Hippodrome, the place chariot races and competitive athletic events took place during the Roman period and finally, explore the elegant Blue Mosque, a 17th century Ottoman Mosque famous for its six minarets and magnificent interior with blue tiles. The balance of the day is at leisure. (B)

DAY 14: Istanbul/USA. Today we bid lovely Turkey farewell. Your exciting journey concludes as you arrive New York. (B)