Turkey: Istanbul and the Turquoise Coast

May 8-20, 2013

Turkey_ketchA unique and exclusive Mediterranean adventure in Turkey, from the Byzantine and Ottoman treasures of Istanbul to the Mediterranean Sea's "Turquoise Coast", strewn with the ruins of ancient civilizations--Lycian, Greek, and Roman--early Christian churches, and Byzantine and crusader fortresses.

It will be Turkey at its best, under clear blue skies with balmy breezes, warm enough to swim in the clear waters and dine in the evening on the deck of our private yacht--and, most importantly--ahead of traditional summer holidays at home. In other words: A perfect time to experience firsthand Turkey's glorious past and fascinating present, in the luxury of a small group.

Our exploration of Istanbul and Turkey's astonishing coast will be enriched by the participation throughout of a top-notch, congenial, authorized Turkish guide, whose command of the English language is excellent, and whose insight and depth of knowledge of Turkey's past and present is impressive.

Istanbul_city fountainOur exclusive journey will begin in Istanbul with individual arrivals at our superbly located hotel in the exotic Old City, Sultanahmet, with its soaring minarets and domed mosques overlooking the beautiful Bosphorus straits between Europe and Asia.  

Our first class hotel and residence for two nights is located in this historic center of Istanbul, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among its many celebrated monuments are the 6th century Aya Sofia (Hagia Sophia) and the graceful 17th century "Blue Mosque", surrounded by a lovely park that once was the location of Roman chariot races!

Istanbul_sunsetOn our first evening, we'll get acquainted at a celebratory "Welcome" dinner in a charming local restaurant that specializes in Mediterrean Turkish cuisine. Many flights to Istanbul arrive in the afternoon or late afternoon, for which reason our sightseeing program will begin after breakfast the next morning, in the historic center of Istanbul. One of the highlights of our sojourn in Istanbul will be a private cruise on the Bosphorous.

From Istanbul, we will take a short flight to Izmir and begin our idyllic coastal journey at Ephesus, one of Turkey's most exquisite and appealing sites whose white marble remains tell us what life was like here in the time of the Romans, who built and decorated with white marble. For the Romans, this formerly Greek harbor, surrounded by fertile land, was the "mother city" of Asia.

Ephesus_Temple HadrianOur visit at Ephesus will include entrance to the recently opened "Terrace Houses of the Wealthy"--a fascinating residential complex of the Roman elite, built on a slope opposite the Temple of Hadrian, with richly frescoed rooms that have been meticulously excavated. A series of "viewing bridges" connected by stairs will allow us to enter into two of these immense homes, lavishly decorated with marble plates, frescoes and mosaic floors.

If you have visited Ephesus before and have not seen these houses, they definitely merit a return visit to Ephesus!

En route to Bodrum--where our luxurious hotel for two nights overlooks the ancient Dorian city of Halicarnassus, crowned by the last Crusader castle on Turkish soil--we'll take in another spectacular ancient site: Didyma, where, amidst some of the loveliest scenery in Turkey, lie the ruins of the 7th century BC temple of Apollo, which, had it been finished, would have been the third largest in the Greek world. During our stay in Bodrum, we'll take in the fabulous Underwater Archeological Museum, in the Castle of St. Peter.

Lycian tombThen it's on to the port city of Goçek, on the Aegean Coast, to board our private, spacious gület--a ketch-rigged traditional Turkish yacht--on a five-day cruise where large ships dare not venture. Our exclusive voyage will combine historical discovery along the dazzling Turquoise Coast with the simple pleasures of swimming, hiking, pure relaxation, and fine dining. Ancient history will rise for us above the rugged coastline!

Along the incomparable stretch of Mediterranean coast from Goçek to Demre/Kale (ancient Myra), the ruins of cities thousands of years old emerge from sun-bleached grass on plains above the sea; Lycian sarcophagi and Ionian capitals litter the hillsides in the shade of centuries-old olive trees; and tombs with temple-like façades stare out at us from the cliffs.

Quick transfers from our yacht to shore will enable us to take easy walks with our expert guide at Lycian, Greek and Roman sites remote from highways. Some are even underwater, visible only from a boat!

Our voyage would be difficult, if not entirely impossible, for you to chart on your own. Along the way, we'll step back in time in sleepy coastal villages, and our courteous, friendly, professional crew will take marvelous care of us!

Turquoise Coast_Lycian hillside tombsLate each afternoon we will anchor in a quiet bay, with time for swimming, kayaking, hiking, or other individual pursuits before gathering for a glass of wine and conversation with our guide about contemporary Turkey, followed by a delicious dinner served in style in one of the two spacious dining areas on the yacht. Fresh, local ingredients are plentiful along the coast, and the chef is talented!

At Demre/Kale we'll bid farewell to our marvelous crew and continue our exploration of the Turquoise Coast with visits to the ancient city of Myra, where we will find a superb Hellenistic Greek theater and an exceptional complex of Lycian tombs carved into the cliffside. Of course, no visit to Myra would be complete without taking in the evocative 9th-11th century Byzantine Church of St. Nicholas, Myra's first bishop. En route to Antalya, we'll find, in the cool of an immense, fragrant pine forest, the ancient city of Phaselis, right on the Mediterranean Sea. Remarkable is its wide central avenue, amazingly well preserved.

Our adventure along the Turquoise Coast will conclude in Antalya--in the Old City, Kaleiçi--a maze of narrow streets and 18th  and 19th century Ottoman houses coiled around a tiny cove on the shore of a great gulf: a natural port, if there ever was one! Kaleiçi is a rare example in the 21st century of what an Ottoman village on the Mediterranean looked like. Several old Ottoman houses, beautifully restored, comprise our attractive hotel (for two nights) with its inviting garden restaurant.

Hellenistic Greek theatreDuring our stay in Antalya, we'll also take time to visit the finest Roman Theater in Asia, at nearby Aspendos, and Antalya's outstanding archeological museum, to round out our comprehensive exploration of ancient civilizations.

On Monday, May 20th, we'll bring our odyssey amidst the beauty and great variety of experiences along Turkey's magnificent coast to a close with a morning flight to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, to facilitate individual intercontinental departures the same day (at 1 p.m. or later). 



Turkish guideOur once-in-a-lifetime, unrushed trip in the Asia Minor of antiquity will be enhanced by a top Turkish guide, who will bring this country's history and rich heritage alive for us along our way.

Deluxe and first-class hotels await us in Istanbul, Izmir, Bodrum, and Antalya, and our comfortable, spacious gulet is first class. For more details about the cabins on our private yacht, please contact Travel Designs.

We also will enjoy hearty breakfasts and delicious Mediterranean cuisine throughout the trip, prepared from fresh-from-the-garden ingredients, local cheeses and yogurt, succulent fish, poultry and meat, savory herbs, and seasonal fruit, accompanied by tasty breads. All in the luxury of a small group--only 12-14 persons maximum!

For more information, contact the Office of Alumnae and Alumni at 434-947-8102, or Sharon Bouck Smith '66, Travel Designs, P.O. Box 782, Alfred, NY 14802,
607-587-8324, or e-mail at info@travel-designs.com.