Participants should note that the daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in opening hours, road conditions, flight schedules etc. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B= breakfast, L= light lunch (either a light 2-course meal or picnic lunch) and D=evening meal.
Athens, Greece - 2 nights
Day 1: Saturday 16 May, Arrive Athens
- Afternoon Orientation walk
Participants taking the designated flight are scheduled to arrive into Athens in the early afternoon. Upon arrival we shall transfer directly to our hotel. Tour members who are not arriving on this flight should make their own way to the group hotel, or phone ASA to book a private transfer. After a ‘Welcome & Housekeeping’ meeting a short orientation walk in the neighbourhood of the hotel will familiarise you with their your immediate surroundings. This will be followed by a light dinner at one of the restaurants in the nearby Plaka area. (Overnight Athens) D
Day 2: Sunday 17 May, Athens
- Short Coach Orientation Tour
- Benaki Museum
- The New Acropolis Museum
- Welcome Evening Meal
Following a short coach orientation tour of the city we visit the Benaki Museum, Athens’ most important private collection, given to the State by Antoine Benaki, son of an Alexandrian cotton magnate. Exhibits range from classical artefacts to traditional peasant costumes, with an important group of icons that includes works by two Cretans, Poulakis and El Greco. The latter traveled from Candia (Heraklion) to Venice, Rome and finally Toledo.
After some time at leisure for lunch in the Plaka area, we explore the Acropolis and its environs. Occupied without interruption since the Mycenaean period, the citadel served as a religious centre, palace for the Athenian kings, and fortress. We follow the ancient Sacred Way up to the Acropolis and enter through the Propylaea (gateway). On the Acropolis plateau, the Parthenon, or Temple of Athena Polias, dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens, represents the pinnacle of aesthetic purity and architectural perfection in antiquity. The existing temples were erected in a period of fervent building initiated by Pericles in the latter half of the 5th century BC as a statement of Athenian glory and a celebration of the Athenians’ defeat of the Persians (490, 480-479 BC).
Next, we walk to the New Acropolis Museum, to explore its magnificent collection of sculpture from the Acropolis. Designed by Swiss-American architect Bernard Tschumi, the new museum takes full advantage of the ample natural sunlight of the Attica region. Tschumi designed the armature displaying the Parthenon metopes and frieze to mirror exactly the proportions and orientation of the Parthenon. The ground floor of the museum has been fitted with a series of glass floor panels through which visitors can see recently discovered remains of the ancient city right beneath their feet. The middle section has been designed as a large trapezoid plate to accommodate the Archaic Collection, permanent galleries, and a restaurant. Visitors reach the majestic top floor on which the Parthenon sculptures are displayed through levels connected by ramps that mirror the approaches to the Parthenon.
After an introductory lecture we conclude today’s program with a welcome evening meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Athens) BD
Rhodes, Greece - 4 nights
Day 3: Monday 18 May, Athens – Sounion – Rhodes
- Athenian Agora
- National Archaeological Museum
- Doric Temple of Poseidon, Sounion
- Evening flight from Athens to Rhodes (A3210 2140 – 2240)
We begin today with a visit to the Athenian Agora. The Agora was the civic heart of a Greek city. The Athenian Agora was situated below the Acropolis. Crossed by the Sacred Way (which led from the city walls to the Acropolis), it was a large open space used for a broad range of public functions. Established in the late 7th century BC, it remained the political and religious centre of the city throughout antiquity. Located here were the bouleuterion or council house, the tholos, a public dining hall and law courts. Religious buildings included the Hephaistaion, the Altar of the Twelve Gods, and the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherius. It was also the commercial centre of Athens. The colonnaded Stoa of Attalus II of Pergamon (159-138 BC), reconstructed by the American Academy of Classical Studies in 1953-6, now houses the Agora Museum.
A light lunch will be served at Kentrikon Restaurant, an ‘old style’ restaurant, whose warmth, hospitality and superb Greek cuisine have made it a favourite lunchtime meeting place for Athenians for 40 years.
We spend the afternoon in the National Archaeological Museum in order to develop an overview of the Helladic, Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic styles of Greek sculpture. We shall see the Helladic collection, Minoan exhibits and the treasures of the Mycenaean grave circles, found by Schliemann. We shall also trace the development of Attic Archaic kouros and kore figures, the genesis of 5th century naturalism and the Classical ideal, marked by sculptures of the time of Phidias. We shall spend some time in the vase collection, considering not only the style of black and red-figure vases but also their iconography, which often depicts themes from the Homeric epics and from later drama and comedy.
In the early evening we drive east along the scenic Attic coast to Cape Sounion. Here, the white marble Doric Temple of Poseidon is dramatically perched on the edge of a sheer cliff; the views of the temple overlooking the Aegean Sea are quite breathtaking. Byron spent several months in Athens in 1810 and 1811 and there are two documented visits by him to Sounion. Byron mentions the Cape in his poem Don Juan:
Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep…
From Sounion we travel directly to the Athens Airport for our evening flight to the island of Rhodes, just off the Turkish southwest coast, arriving at our hotel around midnight. (Overnight Rhodes) BL
Day 4: Tuesday 19 May, Rhodes
- Harbour of Mandraki
- Palace of the Grand Masters
- Lunch at Vasilis Restaurant
- Archaeological Museum, Hospital of the Order of the Knights of St John
- Kahal Shalom Synagogue (time-permitting)
Rhodes, known as the ‘island of roses’, can be considered a ‘crucible’ of Eastern Mediterranean history. The third largest of the Greek islands, Rhodes is graced with two concentrations of monuments: the city of Rhodes and the citadel of Lindos. According to ancient tradition, Early Iron Age Doric colonists settled Rhodes, dividing the island into three states. These shared the port-city and harbour of Rhodes, later famous for the colossus that supposedly straddled its entrance. When the other Hellenic republics were absorbed into the empire of Alexander the Great, and then into Hellenistic successor states of the Seleucids and Ptolemies, Rhodes retained its independent status. It grew rich as a major participant in maritime trade linking the Aegean, Egypt and Syria. Seleucid hostility to the concept of the autonomous city-state, however, made Rhodes uneasy and in the 1st century BC the island appealed to Rome for protection. During the Roman period the development of more southerly maritime trade routes from Italy to the Levant decreased Rhodes’ importance and the island had become somewhat of a backwater when St Paul visited it.
Rhodes remained outside the main currents of Mediterranean life until the Crusades, when it became one link in a chain of fortresses and ports that connected the Crusader kingdoms of the Levant with the western Mediterranean. In the 14th century the Knights Hospitaller, expelled from the Holy Land by the Egyptian Mamluks, sought refuge in Rhodes. Rhodes became the Order’s stronghold and the Knights built a number of beautiful palaces there for their different Langues (‘tongues’: the national groups into which the Order was divided). Then, in 1503, the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent forced the Knights to leave after a six-month siege.
Following a late breakfast, we transfer by coach to Rhodes’ Venetian harbour, Mandraki, where we will examine the medieval harbour and fortifications, and discuss the controversy over the original location and size of the famous Colossus of Rhodes, the 3rd century BC statue of Helios, the Sun God.
From there we continue with a walking tour of the old city which was originally laid out in the 5th century BC by the architect Hippodamus of Miletus. His fame rests on his reputed invention of the urban grid plan, seen at Miletus, Priene and other West Anatolian cities. Modern Rhodes has some buildings greatly influenced by the Italian fascist architecture of the late 1930s but is dominated by the old fortified medieval town. Of particular interest is the so-called ‘Street of the Knights’, where the Gothic palaces of the Langues form marvellous late-medieval streetscapes. Each palace has an impressive arched doorway surmounted by the emblem of its particular Langue.
The highlight of our walking tour is the impressive medieval Palace of the Grand Masters. The building was begun in 1440 by Grand Master de Lastic with money bequeathed by his predecessor, Fluvian, and completed in 1489 by Grand Master d’Aubusson.
This afternoon we continue our tour of the old town with a visit to Rhodes’ Archaeological Museum, housed in the Hospital of the Knights, which was built in 1440 and completed by the Grand Master d’Aubusson (1476-1503). The museum displays pottery, jewellery and figurines from the Iron Age tombs of the island’s three cities, a good collection of Classical, Hellenistic and Roman sculpture, and a series of Hellenistic to Early Christian mosaics. Particularly impressive are the funerary slabs from the period of the Knights with relief representations of the dead or of their coats of arms.
Time permitting, we also visit the Kahal Shalom Synagogue (Holy Congregation of Peace), the oldest Jewish synagogue in Greece, and the only remaining Sephardic temple in Rhodes. Known as the New Synagogue, it is now part of a large complex consisting of two yards, the ruins of a small house, a courtyard with a plaque inscribed with the synagogue’s founding date of 1577, and a fountain. The courtyard held a library until World War II. On either side of the temple’s central door is an Ehal, a marble niche where the Torah is kept. To ensure its long-term survival, the synagogue was included on the 2000 World Monuments Watch.
Today’s program will also include lunch, accompanied by a short cooking demonstration, at the Vasilis Restaurant, a traditional Greek restaurant located in the heart of the Old Town. (Overnight Rhodes) BL
Day 5: Wednesday 20 May, Rhodes – Lindos – Epta Piges – Kamiros – Rhodes
- Medieval village of Lindos and ancient Acropolis
- Valley of Epta Piges
- Ancient Kamiros
We depart early this morning to visit the medieval village of Lindos and the ancient acropolis above it. We shall climb to the acropolis via the monumental staircase and propylaea (entrance building) dating to the Hellenistic period, passing an unusual carved rock relief showing an ancient Rhodian ship. Within the acropolis, which was fortified during the Middle Ages with impressive walls, is the fine Doric temple to Athena, where the offerings table and base of the cult statue can still be seen. The temple also affords stunning panoramas of the island, including a view of Agios Pavlos, the place where St Paul is said to have landed.
Following lunch at a local seafood restaurant we journey along the southern coast to the site of Epta Piges (Seven Springs), a valley with flowing clear springs and covered with enormous plane and pine trees. From here, we turn inland and cross the island to the ancient city of Kamiros, located on the north coast, approximately 50 kilometres south-west of Rhodes Town.
Kamiros, along with Lindos and Ialissos, was, according to Homer, one of the three City-States founded by the Dorians who settled on Rhodes. The western and central parts of the island belonged to Kamiros; it was more conservative than the other two City-States of the island. Its agricultural production, made possible by its fertile, loamy soils, formed the basis of its prosperity. The oldest evidence of settlement in the wider area of Kamiros known to this day, namely Kamirida, date back to the Mycenaean times and come from the cemetery of chamber-like tombs in the village of Kalavarda, a few kilometres north-east of Kamiros. Twice destroyed by earthquakes (in 226 and 142 BC), the main remains at Kamiros date to the Hellenistic period, although some Classical elements are also visible. The Hellenistic city was built on three levels with various buildings and monuments including an agora, a Doric fountain house, a reservoir and a stoa. The acropolis commands fabulous views across the sea to the coast of Turkey. Below it are the reasonably well-preserved remains of a town with all its ancient conveniences.
In the late afternoon we return to Rhodes Town, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rhodes) BL
Day 6: Thursday 21 May, Rhodes – Ialyssos – Rhodes
- Monte Smith (Temple of Apollo, Old Stadium)
- Monastery of Philerimos, Ialyssos
- Time at leisure in Rhodes Town
We begin this morning by exploring St. Stephen’s Hill, known locally as Monte Smith, site of the acropolis of ancient Rhodes. It has a 3rd century BC Hellenistic stadium that hosted the athletic events of the Alioi Games held in honour of the sun-god Helios. At its summit you will encounter the Temple of Apollo, patron deity of the city. The bizarre name of Monte Smith derives from the name of a British Admiral, Sir Sydney Smith, who used the location in 1802 as a lookout from which to observe the manoeuvres of Napoleon’s Egyptian fleet.
Nearby we also visit Philerimos (Filerimos), a hilltop monastery built by the Byzantines in the 5th century AD on the ruins of ancient Ialyssos.
We return to Rhodes Town for an afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Rhodes) B
Bodrum, Turkey - 2 nights
Day 7: Friday 22 May, Rhodes – Kos – Bodrum
- Ferry to Kos
- Orientation tour of Kos including The Tree of Hippocrates, Ancient Town, Sanctuary of Asklepeios and village of Zia
- Ferry to Bodrum
- Evening meal at Kocadon Seafood Restaurant, Bodrum
Early this morning we depart Rhodes and take the ferry to Kos, one of Greece’s Dodecanese islands, known for its abundant sandy beaches, Greek and Roman antiquities, and the 15th-century castle.
On arrival we explore the centre of Kos, which has an unusual layout, unique in the Greek Islands, characterised by several large park-like archaeological zones defining and surrounding the core of the city. Following a major earthquake in 1933 the local Italian colonial government reshaped the city restoring important monuments such as the Crusader Castle of Nerantzia, but also sponsoring a series of major archaeological excavations. Thus a considerable proportion of the Hellenistic and Roman city underneath Kos Town was explored.
One of the most striking testaments of the city’s history is the Castle of Nerantzia, erected by the Knights of Rhodes in 14th and 15th centuries and dominating the city’s ancient and modern port.
Opposite the entrance to the castle stands a magnificent plane tree. Tradition claims that Hippocrates, the father of medicine, who practised in Kos in the 5th century BC, used to sit in its shade. The current tree is only about 500 years old, but may possibly be a descendant of the original tree which allegedly stood there 2400 years ago in Hippocrates’ time.
South of the castle we visit the archaeological park, comprising the remains of several temples (including those of Aphrodite and Herakles), a massive stoa or colonnade from the 4th or 3rd century BC, perhaps the ancient city’s agora (market), part of the ancient city’s defensive walls, and an Early Christian basilica.
At the top of a verdant hill, four kilometres to the south east of Kos Town lies the sanctuary of Asklepios, an ancient medical centre. It dates from the first half of the 3rd century BC and was built to honour the god of health and medicine, Asklepios, after the death of the famous ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates (460-380 BC).
The site is laid out in three terraces. On the lowest terrace there is a stoa and a complex of Roman baths dating from the 3rd century AD. On the second terrace you will see the remains of a large altar which was built around the middle of the 4th century BC and is one of the earliest structures in the Asklipeion. To the west of the altar there is a Temple of Asklepios dating from the 3rd century BC and to the east of the altar there is a Roman temple in the Corinthian order from the 2nd century AD. On the third and final terrace there lie the remains of the Doric Temple of Asklepios from the 2nd century BC.
We continue with a visit to the traditional mountainous village of Zia, which lies at the base of Mount Dikaios. Here there will be time at leisure for lunch at one of the tavernas and a walk around the village enjoying beautiful views of the island.
In the late afternoon we take a ferry to the Turkish harbour city of Bodrum, arguably Turkey’s most sophisticated seaside resort. Bodrum is situated between two beautiful bays located at the juncture of either the southernmost point of the Aegean, or the eastern end of the Mediterranean, depending on your viewpoint.
Once known as Halicarnassus, Bodrum has a history that dates back to the 13th century BC. Although a Dorian foundation in the early days of Greek colonisation, Halicarnassus became one of the largest and strongest cities of the Carian people, one of the dozen indigenous peoples of western Anatolia. From the beginning of the 4th century BC Halicarnassus was ruled by a Carian royal family who, in keeping with ancient matriarchal customs in Anatolia, had a tradition of female heredity. A king’s son therefore could only become eligible for the throne by marrying his sister, as was the case with Caria’s most celebrated king, Mausolus, who married his sister Artemisia. Halicarnassus reached the peak of its prosperity under Mausolus around 353 BC. Under Persian rule since the 6th century BC, in Mausolus’ time Halicarnassus was the capital of the Satrap of Caria and was famous for its trade, sailing and boatbuilding. Mausolus managed to acquire a large measure of political independence for his city, promoting Hellenistic culture and traditions there. On Mausolus’ death Artemisia commissioned his magnificent Mausoleum that was to become one of Pliny’s Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Tonight we dine at Kocadon, one of the best seafood restaurants in Bodrum, situated in a renovated stone house built by the Kocadon family in 19th century. (Overnight Bodrum) BD
Day 8: Saturday 23 May, Bodrum – Bodrum Peninsula – Bodrum
- Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Bodrum Castle (subject to reopening in 2020)
- Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
- Theatre of Halicarnassus
- Gümüslük (ancient Myndos)
Dominating Bodrum’s harbour is the Castle of St. Peter, begun in 1402 by the Knights Hospitaller as a hospital for pilgrims to Jerusalem. Today the castle houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, which this morning we will visit with Don Frey, an American living in Bodrum who worked at many underwater excavations with the INA (Institute of Nautical Archaeology) in the 1970s.
Bodrum is the centre of Turkish marine archaeology and the Museum has a wide range of fascinating underwater finds displayed throughout the Castle in many atmospheric halls and galleries. Displays include finds from a wreck dating from 1350 BC that was carrying, possibly on royal consignment, copper and tin ingots, amphorae packed with terebinth resin used in making perfume, as well as fragments of scrap gold and silver jewellery that were intended for reuse. From another wreck, an early medieval merchant ship discovered in the 1970s and known as the ‘Glass Wreck’, comes a display of intact glass cups and bottles. The greater part of this vessel’s cargo appears, however, to have been over a million shards of broken glass, which were also being transported for recycling.
Our next visit is to the site of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Once this edifice stood over 50 metres high, but today only the foundations remain. The Knights Hospitaller used the Mausoleum as a quarry to build their castle. When the site was excavated in the middle of the 19th century, moreover, the surviving frescos and statuary discovered by C. T. Newton were sent to the British Museum. In the 1950s, the Turkish writer Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçlı – known as ‘The Fisherman of Halicarnassus’ wrote to Queen Elizabeth requesting that the Mausoluem’s artifacts be returned to Bodrum. He argued that such exquisite works of art were not given their true place under the foggy, grey sky of London. The response he allegedly received stated: ‘Thank you for reminding us of the matter, we have painted the ceiling where the Mausoleum is located in blue.’
Nearby we also visit the Theatre of Halicarnassus. Built in the late 2nd century BC, it originally had a seating capacity of 10,000 people.
We spend the afternoon exploring Bodrum’s peninsula, including the small fishing town of Gümüslük, which was formerly the ancient Carian port city of Myndos. Originally, Myndos was located a few kilometres to the southeast of the present site. This was established in the 4th century BC when King Mausolus relocated the entire population here. Following an earthquake some time in its history, parts of Myndos’ seafront slid into the sea and are now under water. (Overnight Bodrum) BD
On board Gulet: Gulf of Goçek - 1 night
Day 9: Sunday 24 May, Bodrum – Stratonikeia – Dalyan – Kaunos – Goçek
- Ancient town of Stratonikeia
- Lycian Rock tombs
- Village of Kaunos
- Short stop at Dalyan supermarket for supplies
- Board Gulet
We leave Bodrum early this morning to visit the charming ancient town of Stratonikeia, which, according to Strabo, was named after Stratonike, the wife of its founder, the Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter (281-261 BC). Today the small village of Eskihisar is built on top of its ruins.
Next we drive to the village of Dalyan where we stop for lunch. Dalyan’s sandy Iztuzu Beach is famed as one of the few remaining Mediterranean breeding grounds of the endangered species of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta Caretta). A protracted battle was successfully fought in the 1980s to protect the area as a nature reserve, and while visitors can access and swim at Iztuzu Beach during the day, it is prohibited to stay in the area overnight when female turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Consequently, few people ever see the real turtles. There is, however, no shortage of images of these creatures. All over town there are sculptures of turtles and the innumerable souvenir shops and stalls sell images of them in every imaginable shape and material.
In Dalyan we will climb aboard a small boat, vaguely reminiscent of that in The African Queen (some scenes of the movie were actually shot in Dalyan), and meander through the marshy river delta to see the impressive Lycian temple tombs hewn into the rock faces that dominate the town.
At the end of our ride is Kaunos, an important Carian fishing centre in ancient times. Although the city was initially settled during the 9th century BC, the buildings standing today are Graeco-Roman. There is also a Byzantine church.
In the late afternoon we make a short stop at a supermarket in Dalyan where you may wish to buy alcohol, snacks, etc. for the gulet trip. We then proceed to Goçek where we board the gulet that will be our home for the next five nights. Our first anchorage will be in one of the small serene coves in the Gulf of Goçek. (Overnight Gulet) BLD
On board Gulet: Gemiler Island - 1 night
Day 10: Monday 25 May, Gulet cruise to Gemiler Island
- Kayaköy (Levissi) deserted village
- Gemiler Island (Island of St. Nicholas)
Returning to the mainland, we transfer by coach to the abandoned Greek village of Kayaköy. Settled in the 18th century by Greek Orthodox Christians from the nearby Dodecanese Islands, the town, then known as Levissi, had a population of over 6000 inhabitants before 1923. In that year Greece expelled approximately 600,000 Turks from Thrace and Turkey expelled about 750,000 Greeks from Anatolia and Levissi became a ghost town. Its story is told in Louis de Bernières’ epic novel Birds Without Wings. There are now plans to restore its 2,000 or so buildings.
Following lunch at a restaurant Kayaköy, we return to the gulet and cruise to Gemilar Island (Island of St Nicholas). St Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, a few miles from Gemiler Island in modern day Demre. Archaeologists believe that after his death on the 6th of December 343 AD he was buried on Gemiler island. The Island became an attraction for pilgrims who would stop off on their way to Jerusalem to visit the shrine and pay homage at the basilica that housed the saint’s remains. Around 650 AD the remains were removed to the safety of Myra after the island was repeatedly attacked by Arab pirates, forcing the inhabitants to abandon the settlement in favour of nearby Kayaköy. From Myra the bones of St Nicholas were stolen by Italian merchants in 1087 and taken to the two Italian cities of Bari and Venice. The merchants from Bari raided the tomb first and in their haste they took only the large bone fragments. The Venetian merchants came later and took the remaining smaller bone fragments. A scientific study in 1992 confirmed that both collections are from the same skeleton.
In the late afternoon we hike to the top of the island for fantastic views of the sunset and to explore the remains of the Monastery of St Nicholas. On the island there are the remains of four churches, related religious buildings, Byzantine dwellings, a harbour, cistern, stone tombs, a graveyard and a ceremonial passageway. The church that housed the Saint’s remains is referred to as the third church, and is on the highest part of the island at the top of the ceremonial passage. (Overnight Gulet) BLD
On board Gulet: Yesilköy Cove – 1 night
Day 11: Tuesday 26 May, Gulet cruise to Yesilköy Cove
- Optional excursion to Kalkan
This morning we cruise to Yesilköy Cove. After lunch there will be an optional excursion by zodiac to the small resort town of Kalkan (ancient Phoenicus) set in idyllic surroundings. Once a fishing town, Kalkan is located between Kas and Fethiye and is famous for its whitewashed houses built on the slopes that descend to the sea and its brightly coloured bougainvilleas. Until the early 1920s the majority of the town’s inhabitants were Anatolian Greeks. They, like the Greeks at Kayaköy, were forced to leave in the 1923 population exchange. Most immigrated to Attica, where they founded a new town called Kalamaki, Kalkan’s former Greek name. Because it was the only seaport in the area, however, Kalkan did not die, but remained an important harbour town until the 1970s. It declined after the construction of Fethiye road but then revived following the emergence of tourism to the region. Many visitors use it as a base to explore the remains of many nearby ancient Lycian cities, which we shall visit tomorrow. Today we have time to enjoy Kalkan before returning to the gullet for dinner. (Overnight Gulet) BLD
On board Gulet: Kas, Turkey – 1 night
Day 12: Wednesday 27 May, Yesilköy Cove – Xanthos – Patara – Kalkan – Kas
- Xanthos: Capital of Ancient Lycia
- Patara: Principal port of ancient Lycia
- Kas: Ancient Theatre, Lycian Sarcophagi, time at leisure
This morning we go ashore at Kalkan and drive to two spectacular and important Lycian sites, Xanthos and Patara. Xanthos was the capital of ancient Lycia. The many inscriptions found at this site were crucial for understanding the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language. The earliest historical references to the Lycians, who were Anatolians, date back to the Late Bronze Age (ca 1500-1200 BC) when they were referred to in numerous Egyptian, Hittite and Ugaritic texts as ‘Luwian and Lukka’. Until recently few roads accessed the mountainous site of their kingdom, located between modern-day Fethiye and Antalya, and the only alternative to an approach by sea entailed an arduous horseback journey.
Despite the steep, broken topography that isolated Lycian communities from each other and the fact that Lycia itself was fragmented politically into independent city-states, these people developed the first known democratic union in history, the Lycian League. This collaboration gave the League a strong regional-cultural identity and ensured a political stability that allowed them to remain largely self-governing until the Byzantine period (ca 395-1176 AD), despite occupation by powers like the Persians (545-333 BC) and the Romans (42 BC- c. 400 AD).
Their history, nevertheless, had its bloody episodes, such as the first Persian siege of Xanthos (540 BC). The Xanthosians chose mass suicide rather than surrender. The men of Xanthos gathered their wives, children and possessions in their acropolis and set fire to all and then charged out to meet the Persian army and certain death. Xanthos was later repopulated by about 80 families who had been outside the city at the time of the mass suicide, as well as by other Lycian immigrants.
Xanthos was rediscovered in the 19th century by Charles Fellows, who took its Nereid Monument to England. The most important remaining monuments are the Harpy Tomb, the Pillar Tomb and the Xanthian Obelisk, which has the longest inscription in the Lycian language. We shall also visit the theatre, a newly excavated Roman road and the Lycian and Roman acropolis. Many of its monuments blend Lycian traditions with Hellenic influence. This is seen especially in Xanthos’ funerary art.
Next we drive to Patara, where in the early 2nd century BC representatives of the 23 city-states of the Lycian League met. Its now silent bouleuterion (council chamber) once witnessed the proceedings of the world’s first recorded representative democracy. After its capture by Alexander the Great the city became an important naval base. Patara’s lost Temple of Apollo (the god was believed to spend his summers in Delphi and his winters in Patara) rivalled those in Delphi and Delos. In Roman times, the city was a major Lycian port, where St Paul changed ships on his third missionary journey. St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, was born here. Parts of Patara are covered by dunes but the Roman triple triumphal arch is in excellent condition. We shall also visit the theatre, necropolis, basilica, baths, tombs, and Patara’s Corinthian temple.
At midday we continue by coach to Kas, another resort town 28 kilometres further down the coast. Founded by the Lycians, Habesos as it was then called, also became an important member of the Lycian League; it had one of Lycia’s richest necropoleis. The ancient Greeks called it Antiphéllos, which means ‘the harbour in front of the city of Phellos’. During the Roman period, Antiphéllos was famous for exporting sponges and timber. After 395 AD when Theodosius bequeather the eastern and western halves of the Empire to his sons Arcadius and Honorius, the town became part of the (Eastern) Byzantine Empire before being annexed by the Seljuks and later the Ottomans. As the majority of the inhabitants were of Greek origin, like Kalkan and other towns in the region, its size diminished significantly following the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923. It became a sleepy backwater until the 1990s. Since then, tourism has boomed in Kas and it has become a favourite stopover for people taking the Blue Cruise. It remains, however, a place where fine monuments of great historical interest are set against the beauty of forest and sea.
This afternoon you will have free time (lunch at your own expense) to explore some of the town’s natural and historic sites, including its ancient theatre and the Lycian sarcophagi scattered around the town. This evening we re-board our gulet for dinner. (Overnight Gulet) BD
On board Gulet: Kekova, Turkey – 1 night
Day 13: Thursday 28 May, Cruise to Kekova
- Lycian Sunken city, Kekova
- Hamlet of Kekova including visits to the Citadel of Kaleköy and Lycian Necropolis at Teimiussa
- Time at leisure
This morning we cruise to the little hamlet of Kekova, arguably the most picturesque place in Turkey. Access to much of it is possible only by sea. ‘Kekova’ is Turkish for ‘plain of thyme’. The region encompasses the island of Kekova, famous for its submerged harbour, and, on the mainland, the villages of Kaleköy and Üçagiz as well as the three ancient towns of Simena, Teimiussa and Tersane.
Facing the mainland on the island of Kekova is an ancient Lycian sunken city. Half of its houses became submerged during terrible earthquakes in the 2nd century AD; staircases descend into the water and the foundations of buildings and the ancient harbour are clearly visible below the surface. An increase in maritime trade between the cities of Lycia and other parts of the Greek world during the Hellenistic period also saw a marked increase in piracy, which necessitated the fortification of islands like Kekova. Later it became an outpost of the Knights of Rhodes.
In 1990 the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forests, hoping to prevent the removal of antiquities, declared the Kekova region a specially protected area. All diving and swimming, except by special government permit, was prohibited. In recent years the prohibition has been lifted and swimming is now permitted outside the archaeological site.
A well-preserved castle dominates the charming fishing village of Kaleköy (‘castle village’). The Knights of Rhodes built this citadel upon the ancient foundations of a Lycian settlement. Inside the castle walls Lycia’s smallest amphitheatre has been preserved.
At Teimiussa, near present-day Üçagiz (‘three mouths’) and surrounded by ancient olive trees, lies a fascinating Lycian necropolis with sarcophagi spread out along the coastline overlooking the sea. Not much is known about the history of this small community, however tombs with Lycian inscriptions point to settlement by the 4th century BC. The community seems to have been politically dominated by Myra and Cyaneae. An ancient road leads directly from Cyaneae – some of Teimiussa’s tombs bear inscriptions saying that they were constructed for citizens of Cyaneae and Myra.
We return to our gulet for lunch, after which the remainder of the afternoon is free to relax and swim. (Overnight Gulet) BLD
Çirali, Turkey - 2 nights
Day 14: Friday 29 May, Kekova – Cayagzi – Myra (modern Demre) – Arykanda – Çirali
- Myra: Rock-cut tombs, Roman theatre and Byzantine Church of St Nicholas
- Ancient Lycian city of Arykanda
While enjoying breakfast on board our gulet this morning we cruise the short distance from Kekova to Cayagzi, where our cruise ends. Upon disembarkation, we board our bus to drive a few kilometres to Myra (modern Demre). Myra was one of the most prominent members of the Lycian Federation and remained important throughout the Middle Ages because of its association with St Nicholas.
Myra boasts an excellent collection of rock cut tombs and an imposing Roman theatre built in the 2nd century AD. It was also the original burial site of St Nicholas, who was beatified after miracles occurred at his tomb. This tomb consequently became an important pilgrimage site and a church was built over it in the 6th century. Destroyed by the Arabs, this church was rebuilt in its present form in 1043 with the help of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX and the Empress Zoe. By the 10th century Nicholas had become the most popular saint in the Eastern Church; he was the patron of children, sailors and of Russia and Greece. Teophano, a Byzantine princess married to the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, brought his fame to Western Europe. In 1087, following the invasion of Anatolia by the Seljuks, merchants from the South Italian port of Bari broke into the tomb and removed Nicholas’ bones to their city, where the famous shrine of San Nicola di Bari now stands. Under Ottoman rule the original Church of St Nicholas fell into disuse, until in 1862 Tsar Alexander II bought and restored it. He replaced the cupola above the central nave with a vaulted ceiling and constructed a belfry.
From Myra we journey into the Taurus Mountains to Arykanda. This ancient Lycian city was built in a spectacular setting upon five large terraces ascending a mountain slope. Occupying these terraces are a Greek upper city and a Roman lower city. Its earliest parts date from the 5th century BC and survived until the 6th century AD when the settlement moved to a new site south of the modern road; this came to be known as Arif Settlement to distinguish it from its predecessor. Ancient Arykanda’s acropolis has Hellenistic remains including the Temple of Helios, a bouleterion and a prytaneion, the council chamber of the city executive (Pryteneis). Its upper agora has shops and several excavated houses. The Roman remains in the lower city include a virtually intact bath complex on the lowest terrace next to the gymnasium (the city once had 7 bath houses of various sizes). There is also an odeon dating from the 2nd century AD; you will see a portrait of Hadrian that once surmounted its portal in the Archaeological Museum in Antalya.
Arykanda also has a well-preserved theatre built during the 1st century BC. Its cavea has 20 rows of seats accessed by 6 aisles; holes at the end of each row anchored poles that supported protective awnings. Above the theatre is a small stadium from the Hellenistic period. There are also two necropoleis: the eastern necropolis has barrel-vaulted monumental tombs, temple-tombs and sarcophagi, and the western necropolis has rock-cut tombs and barrel-vaulted tombs. (Overnight Çirali) BLD
Day 15: Saturday 30 May, Çirali – Chimaera – Olympos – Çirali
- Optional Hike to Chimaera/Yanartas (Flaming Rock)
- Ancient Lycian city of Olympos
- Time at leisure in Olympos
We begin our day with an optional hike (the climb is quite steep and rocky) to Chimaera. About 3 kilometres north of the village of Çırali, near ancient Olympos, is an area known as the Chimaera (Yanartas, or ‘flaming rock’, in Turkish), where an ‘eternal’ flame of methane gas spontaneously ignites as it springs from the earth. Believed by the ancients to be of supernatural origin, the phenomenon was called ‘Chimaera’ after the ferocious fire-breathing beast which terrorised ancient Lycia in the myth of Bellerophon. Chimaera consists of some two dozen vents clustered in two groups on the hillside above the Temple of Hephaestos (Vulcan), the god of fire worshipped here by the Olympians. In antiquity, mariners sailing along the coast used the Chimaera’s bright flames to navigate. Of little use for modern navigation, the flames are now more often used to brew tea!
Following a light lunch at a local restaurant we continue to the archaeological site of Olympos. Its ruins include a small theatre, hot springs, an agora and some tombs dating from the Hellenistic period, as well as the monumental gate of a Roman temple (late 2nd century AD) and remains of a Byzantine fortress. Established in the 3rd century BC, Olympos was described by Strabo in 100 BC as one of six cities in the Lycian Federation. The fortunes of the city diminished during the 1st century BC when it came under the control of pirates, but were revived after the arrival of the Romans in the 2nd century AD. Renewed attack by pirates in the 3rd century initiated a permanent decline. A brief revival occurred in the 11th and 12th centuries when the Venetians, Genoese and Rhodians used the city as a trading base and built fortresses along the adjacent coast. In the 15th century, however, after the Ottoman navy established its mastery over the Eastern Mediterranean, Olympos was abandoned. Before leaving Olympos we have some time at leisure to enjoy its pristine beaches. (Overnight Çirali) BLD
Antalya, Turkey - 3 nights
Day 16: Sunday 31 May, Çirali – Phaselis – Antalya
- Ancient Graeco-Roman city of Phaselis
- Guided Walk in old harbour sector (Kaleiçi), Antalya
This morning we depart Çirali and travel north to Phaselis. The ancient harbour town of Phaselis, originally colonised by Greeks from Rhodes, once had three natural harbours and was located close to a richly forested region that provided valuable timber for the construction of ships. The city voluntarily opened its doors to Alexander the Great when he and his armies moved across Anatolia, admitting him as a guest. Alexander accepted many envoys from the coastal cities of Pamphylia here before he conquered each of them in turn on his way to Gordion, the political centre of Anatolia. Like Olympos, pirates constantly threatened Phaselis during the 1st century BC. The pirate Zekenites controlled it for a time before the Romans defeated him and absorbed the city into their client Lycian confederacy.
Leaving Phaselis we head to the open coastal plain of Pamphylia and the beautiful harbour city of Antalya, ‘capital’ of the Turquoise Coast and our base for three nights.
Antalya was founded by kings of Pergamum during the 2nd century BC, as the southern port of the Attalid kingdom. Following lunch at a local restaurant, we explore its old harbour, a picturesque old quarter called Kaleiçi, which has narrow, winding streets and quaint, old, wooden houses. It is located next to the city old walls and is now a terminus for pleasure craft and fishing boats. On our walk, which starts at the fine Classical triumphal arch at the entrance to the old sector, we will encounter an attractive blend of traditional Greek and Ottoman architecture.
Following our orientation walk the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Surrounded by gardens, the Tuvana Hotel is situated in Antalya’s historical centre. You may wish to return to Kaleiçi district where some of the best shopping may be found. Meander down through its side streets and you will find old Turkish kilims, original gold jewellery, leather products, natural cotton clothing, handmade wood items as well as other traditional Turkish handicrafts. Antalya’s three other shopping avenues are Ataturk, Cumhuriyet and Isiklar. Alternatively you may wish simply to enjoy the facilities of your hotel, which include an outdoor pool. (Overnight Antalya) BL
Day 17: Monday 1 June, Antalya – Termessos – Perge – Aspendos – Antalya
- Pisidian city of Termessos
- Ancient Anatolian city of Perge
- Ancient Graeco-Roman city of Aspendos
This morning we travel north west from Antalya to the spectacular ruins of Termessos. We reach Termessos, which is situated 1650 metres above the coastal plain, by driving up into the mountains and then ascending a track on foot. Mentioned by Homer in The Iliad, Termessos lay just inside ancient Pisidia, whose inhabitants were named Solymians after nearby Mt Solymos, and were renowned across the Greek world as a tough, war-like people. They refused to surrender to Alexander the Great in 334 BC, knowing themselves to be well protected by their remote and inaccessible stronghold. Alexander did not take the city but retaliated by burning its olive groves. High points in the visit are the ruined theatre teetering on the edge of a chasm, the great cisterns, and remains of a temple and villas.
This afternoon we shall visit the two Graeco-Roman sites of Perge and Aspendos, both outstanding exemplars of the richness and diversity of Eastern Mediterranean culture in antiquity. Perge, an ancient settlement mentioned in Hittite inscriptions, was colonised by Greek settlers after the Trojan Wars. It became an archetypal Greek polis and then, after the invasion of Alexander the Great, was ruled successively by the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Graeco-Syrian Seleucids. As Seleucid power in the Eastern Mediterranean faltered, piracy increasingly disrupted maritime trade in the area and Perge, along with other Greek cities, was incorporated into the Roman Empire and transformed into a Roman civis. Perge was highly receptive to St Paul’s teachings and became a base for Christian proselytising in the region. Seat of an important Byzantine bishopric, Perge sent representatives to the Council of Nicaea (325 AD). In the 7th century it went into decline as Arab raids began to disrupt commercial contacts between the Levant and Anatolia.
Nearby Aspendos had a similar history. After the Trojan Wars, Greek colonists built upon an earlier settlement that was then successively integrated into the Greek, Roman and Byzantine Eastern Mediterranean empires. Like Perge, Aspendos reached its apogee during the Roman period when it was embellished and enriched with the accoutrements of Roman civilisation. These included a finely decorated theatre, one of the best preserved in the world. (Overnight Antalya) BL
Day 18: Tuesday 2 June, Antalya
- Antalya Museum
- Afternoon at leisure
- Farewell Meal at 7 Mehmetler Restaurant
This morning we visit the Antalya Museum with its fine collection of ancient sculptures and artifacts representing the high points of the Pamphylian and South Anatolian coastal cultures. Professor Dr Gül Isın from the archaeology department at Akdeniz University will lead our visit.
Following an afternoon at leisure in Antalya, we enjoy a farewell meal at the 7 Mehmetler Restaurant, serving traditional Turkish recipes with grilled meat, fish and meze. (Overnight Antalya) BD
Day 19: Wednesday 3 June, Depart Antalya, Tour Ends
This morning we transfer to Antalya airport, where our tour ends. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights will take a domestic flight to Istanbul to connect with their international flights back to Australia. B