Holy Land & Aegean Jewels
Day 1 - Istanbul, Turkey Spanning Europe and Asia, exotic Istanbul is one of the world's most fascinating cities. Domes and minarets enhance the skyline. In the old Stamboul area, traces remain of every city built since the community was established over 600 years before Christ. Once Rome's eastern capital, Istanbul was also the center of the huge Ottoman Empire. Landmarks include Hagia Sophia, once Christendom's greatest church; the Blue Mosque with its striking Iznik tiles; Topkapi Palace, containing a sultan's ransom of treasures; Chora Church with its Byzantine mosaics; and the Grand Bazaar, the ultimate shopping experience.
Day 2 - Myrina, Nisos Limnos, Greece Limnos is an arid, volcanic island located near the mouth of the Dardenelles. The volcano and sulphurous springs on the island inspired many legends in ancient times. Limnos was the mythological home of Hephaistos (Vulcan), who was cast off Mount Olympus by his father Zeus and landed on Limnos, breaking his leg in the process. Lame ever since, the God of Fire lived on the island and toiled at his forges, the volcanoes of the island, teaching the people of the island the art of metalworking. Jason and the Argonauts stopped here during their quest for the Golden Fleece and during the Trojan War, Hercules' companion, Philoctetes was cured of a gangrenous wound by the magical earth of the island.
Day 3 - Cesme A popular holiday and resort destination, Cesme is located on a promontory on the tip of a peninsula that carries the same name. The town itself is dominated by the medieval Cesme Castle, while the back streets invite a casual stroll with their old Ottoman and Greek houses that charm passers-by. South of the castle there is an Ottoman caravanserai built in 1528 that has since been transformed into a lovely boutique hotel, and check the Greek Orthodox church of Ayios Haralambos to see the current art exhibition. Along with the historical attractions, visitors will enjoy local pleasures, such as a dip in the thermal baths followed by the culinary delights of native fruits, artisan cheeses and local wines.
Day 4 - Bodrum, Turkey Today Bodrum is a picturesque yacht harbor filled with traditional wood-varnished sailboats, charming outdoor cafes and streets bursting with small shops selling carpets, leatherwear, jewelry and local artwork. In antiquity, it was the site of ancient Halicarnassus. Under King Mausolus, the city prospered, and in death, the king left the city its most enduring legacy, his majestic tomb, from which we derive the term "mausoleum." Only its massive foundations remain today but it was the largest tomb ever built by the Greeks and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Models on the site recreate its form for visitors. Alexander the Great attacked the city in 334 BC, leveling all but the Mausoleum, which was later destroyed by an earthquake. When the Knights of St. John lost their castle in Smyrna in 1402, they came here. Finding the mausoleum in ruins, they used the stone to construct the Castle of St. Peter, which proudly stood sentinel to the city. Together with their fortifications on Kos and Rhodes, the Knights dominated the southeastern Aegean, running a hospital for passing pilgrims and ruling the seas as privateers in swift vessels. They remained until 1523, when Ottoman ruler, Suleyman the Magnificent, conquered Rhodes and the Knights' position became untenable. The castle still dominates the harbor and houses an archeological museum.
Day 5 - Rhodes, Greece Best known of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes is a fascinating architectural patchwork of her past. Here the legacy of the ancient Greeks mingles with that of besieging Turks, crusading knights, and occupying Italians. Twin bronze deer, the symbol of Rhodes, guard the Mandraki Harbor where the 100-foot Colossus is said to have stood, a wonder of the ancient world. The medieval Crusader City is dominated by the Palace of the Grand Masters, while cobbled streets lead to the bustling bazaar and a lively harbor that is a center of the international yachting scene.
Day 6 - Thira (Santorini), Greece "Thira, the Wild Island" and "Kalliste, the Fairest One" - all terms of endearment for this seductive, volcanic Greek island in the Sea of Crete. Extraordinary for its black sand beaches and sheer limestone cliffs, Santorini also showcases remnants of the Phoenician, Spartan and Minoan cultures, which fell under the island's spell - an unvarying, irresistible lure that continues to this day. Fira, the picturesque, pedestrian-only capital, is reached from the seaport via a short cable car ride that offers thrilling views as you ascend.
Day 7 - Spetsai, Nisos Spetsai (Spetses), Greece Nicknamed “The Isle of the Aromas”, Spetsai is a delight to all of the senses. The island’s historic old town is a yachtsman’s paradise, boasting a stunning harbor, quaint shops and some of the finest restaurants in the Saronic Gulf. The rest of the island is relatively unpopulated and is ringed by a single road, along which you can travel in a horse-drawn carriage. As you pass by quiet, rolling hills, be sure to pause at one of the many quiet coves along the way to refresh yourself with a dip into the cerulean waters.
Day 8 - Piraeus (Athens), Greece Piraeus has been the port for Athens since 482 BC. The busy harbor is filled with ferries and cruise ships making their way to the Greek Islands and other Mediterranean cities. The busy metropolis of Athens and its treasure trove of antiquities lie just a few miles from the port. Even as the reality of the modern city took hold, with its high-rise apartments, crowded sidewalks and bustling traffic, the beauty of the Acropolis, the outstanding museums, charming cafés, sidewalk markets and startling views come together in a cultural mosaic for all to enjoy.
Day 9 - Mykonos, Greece The quintessential Greek island of Mykonos is marked by whitewashed houses, domed churches, imposing windmills, and a labyrinth of winding streets designed to disorient pirates. Everywhere there is a dash of bright, bold blue - doors, shutters and window frames, sea and sky. The harbor bustles with colorful fishing boats, vendors selling fish and locals gathered with visitors in the casual seaside cafes. The port even comes with two beloved mascots, the pelicans Petros and Irini.
Day 10 - Symi, Greece Symi belongs to the Dodecanese islands and lies across the Asia Minor coast and just a few nautical miles NW of Rhodes. Aristocratic and far off the model of mass tourism, Symi pleasantly surprises its visitors with its plain, aristocratic yet wild beauty. As you glimpse the perfectly formed harbor of Symi, Gialos, you are confronted with a beautiful picture-postcard Venetian village. Wonderfully well-preserved two and three story mansions with their facades painted in bright and vivid colors reflect the island's rich past since Symi was once one of the richest islands with a tradition in sponge diving, ship building and wood carving. The history of Symi goes back to ancient times. Aigli, Metapontis and Kariki are some of Symi's ancient names where according to mythology the Graces were born. Symi got its current name from the nymph Symi, who according to the myth mated with Poseidon, God of the Seas, and brought to life Hthonios who became the leader of the island's first inhabitants.
Day 11 - Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey Kusadasi, which means "bird island," is set in a superb gulf known for its sparkling water, broad sandy beaches and large marina. The city has managed to retain a certain earthiness while doing a brisk trade in Turkish carpets and leather goods to visitors. The town's old quarter is a picturesque maze of winding streets and houses adorned with flowers and birdcages. In the center stands a 17th-century caravanserai, now converted into a hotel. The resort is also gateway to important sites of archaeological and religious interest.
Day 12 - At Sea
Day 13 - Antalya, Turkey Surrounded on three sides by snow-capped mountains, Antalya is situated on a vast fertile plain that was known in antiquity as Pamphylia. Here the Toros Mountains, blanketed by green forests, sweep down the rocky headlands to isolated coves of clear turquoise water. The stunning scenery and mild climate have made Antalya a principal resort on the "Turquoise Coast" of Turkey sometimes referred to as the "Turkish Riviera." Full of ancient sites, the area was once part of empires controlled by the Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Seljuks, Cypriots and Ottomans. Many of the Mediterranean world's best-preserved ancient ruins are east of Antalya, the most spectacular of which are Perge and Aspendos. The city itself has much to offer the visitor who wishes not to venture far afield. The Kaleici, the historic quarter, protected from modern development and closed to cars, is a perfect place to discover the city's historic past. The old Roman Harbor is now a yacht marina and the winding streets of the picturesque Old Quarter leads you past quaint wooden houses, cafes, shops and the ruins and monuments of bygone eras.
Day 14 - Limassol, Cyprus Limassol on Cyprus' south coast is the island's largest seaside resort. It meanders for ten miles along the coast with the Troodos Mountains providing a magnificent backdrop. Sunshine, blue sky and beaches are the criteria that attract scores of vacationers each year. The more adventurous traveler, too, finds worthwhile attractions, such as medieval castles, remote mountain villages, archaeological sites dating back to 7,000 B.C., and inviting cedar forests, orange groves and vineyards. Although the easternmost island of the Mediterranean, eastern culture is augmented by a large dose of European. Rome and Byzantium, the Crusaders and the Venetians, the Turks and the British have all left their traces. Since the Middle Ages, when the Crusaders held Cyprus under Richard the Lionhearted, Limassol has been known to traders for its wine and sugar cane. Today, the island's second largest city is the hub of its wine-making industry and an important commercial center.
Day 15 - Haifa, Israel Situated on the slopes of Mount Carmel, along one of the most beautiful bays on the Mediterranean coast, Haifa is Israel's primary port. It also serves as an important gateway to the biblical and historical sites of this sacred land. Although the origin of Haifa is obscure, its name appears for the first time in the 3rd century A.D. in Talmudic literature. Over the years, Crusaders, Arabs, Turks and the British occupied the city. Today, this bustling city possesses the nation's largest industries, several important museums and the respected Haifa Technical Institute. It is also the world center of the Baha'i faith, symbolized by a beautiful gold-domed shrine.
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