There is magic in every step in Greece and Turkey. You smell the aroma of spices at the spice markets of exotic Istanbul and see it in the daring cliff-side settlements of Santorini. You hear it in the call to prayer echoing from the Blue Mosque, you taste it in Greece’s famous Mediterranean cuisine, you feel it everywhere you turn. This is a place where the past comes alive, where the majesty of nature collides with the might of civilization, and where every day brings something new and unforgettable.
Istanbul – Arriving in Transfixing Turkey
You land today on the outskirts of one of the great cities of world history, the stirring metropolis of Istanbul, the former capital of the Byzantine Empire founded by the legendary Constantine the Great. A private driver will pick you up from the airport and will deliver you to your centrally located, elegant and comfortable hotel, where you’ll enjoy all the best modern conveniences and gorgeous accommodations. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy, walking the hurried streets and taking in the sites and the monuments to the glories of this incredible city: you can marvel in the majestic edifices that line the street or take a quick visit at one of the many hamams, or Turkish baths, that can be found throughout Istanbul.
Istanbul – The Highlights of One of History’s Greatest Cities
Today features a tour of the best sites of the city, led by a guide who is as engaging at he is informative. Begin at the famed Sultan Ahmet Center in the city of Istanbul’s Old City, the heart of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and the home to some of the world’s most famous buildings and monuments. Tour the stunning Hagia Sophia, the unforgettable church-turned-mosque-turned-museum that is one of the most famous religious builidings in the world. You’ll be dazzled by the incredible and eclectic mix of Islamic art and Byzantine iconography that fills the interior and moved by the incredible mosaics and the stunning history that is recorded here, stretching back to the first millennium A.D.
Next, visit the spectacular Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, its interior gilded by beautiful Iznik tiles while its exterior issues a powerful declaration of faith with six spiraling minarets climbing into the Turkish sky, intermingling with the series of smaller domes and resulting in one of the most incredible mosques in the world. The morning ends at the former site of Greek chariot races in the ancient Constantinople, the famed Hippodrome, that has since been turned into one of the city’s most fascinating squares, from the impeccable condition of Theodoric’s Obelisk to the pockmarked surface of the Walled Obelisk. Then make your way to the amazing Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, where more than 250,00 people search for antiques, fine rugs, souvenirs and jewelry every day.
After a delicious and authentic lunch at one of the city’s excellent restaurants serving true Turkish cuisine, you’ll turn to the historic Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years and the site of some of the holiest relics in the Islamic world. Stroll through the courtyards and cross under the gates that mark the entrance, crenelated and protected by guard towers, before visiting the stunning Chinese porcelain collection and private living quarters. Your final stop today is at the Rustem Pasha Mosque, built for the Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century and renowned for its impeccable Iznik tiles, gorgeous interior and incredible positioning near the regal and robust stalls of the Spice Bazaar.
Istanbul – Cruising the Divide Between Europe and Asia
Set out for the seas and straits of Asia Minor as you board the ship that will take you along the shores of the noteworthy Bosphorus Strait, the edge of Europe and the narrowest strait used for international navigation in the world. Begin at the Golden Horn, an arm of the strait that separates the older and newer parts of Istanbul, taking in the residence quarters of some of the many ethnicities that call the city home. Make your way through Balat – the traditional Jewish quarter in Istanbul’s Faith neighborhood – and take in some of the amazing sights along the way, like the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church, famed for being made out of cast iron, and the famous City Walls, the remnants of the last great fortifications from the Classical world. Your final stop this morning is at Istanbul’s famed spice bazaar, where your senses are sure to enjoy the rich scents that fill the air.
After a delicious lunch, you hit the waters around Istanbul’s peninsula as you make your way along the Bosphorus, marveling in some of the impressive sites that you can see from the water’s surface. As you cruise languidly down the strait, you’ll be struck by the juxtaposition of Ottoman palaces and modern mansions, ogle at the impressive defenses constructed along the shores of the city, and be wowed by the imposing façade of the Rumeli Fortress, built by Sultan Mehmed II in preparation for his conquering of Constantinople in the middle of the fifteenth century.
Cappadocia – Into Captivating Cappadocia
Today, you leave the streets of Istanbul and turn to the rugged and romantic region of Cappadocia, an area filled with otherworldly wonders and historical sites, from the fairy chimneys that dot the landscape to the rock-cut temples that can be found here. Start at Goreme, where people have lived for more than 1500 hundred years, and where the many murals and frescoes of the neighborhood churches will take your breath away, from the ceiling fresco depicting the Crucifixion at the Tokali Kilise to the ancient art at the Elmali Kilise, better known as the Apple Church.
From Goreme, you explore the natural formations and incredible wonders that fill the many valleys and villages of Cappadocia, from the ancient Church of St. John the Baptist in Cavusin Village to a visit to a pottery workshop at Avanos, a center of art since the third millennium B.C. Explore your surroundings at Ortahisar Village, where ancient cave dwellings hold fruits stored by the locals and where you can gain an incredible view over the surrounding countryside as you climb to the top of the nearby fortress that dominates the horizon.
Cappadocia – Discovering the Ancient Settlements of Turkey
Spend your day learning all about the ancient history of this venerable region first-hand as you’ll tour the many underground cities and stunning natural landmarks of the Cappadocian region. Your journey begins at Kaymakli, a city that descends more than eight stories underground, making it one of the largest cities of its kind in the area, before visiting the aptly named Pigeon Valley, where you’ll discover how pigeons helped the natives in ancient times with everything from sending messages to fertilizing the grapes that were so imperative to their survival.
Next, climb to the top of the rock fortress at Uchisar, carved out of the scenic landscape and perched in formidable fashion, overlooking the encompassing rock formations and primeval villages of Cappadocia. From here, turn to the Esentepe Panorama – where you’ll get the best views of the Goreme Valley stretching endlessly before you – before finishing today at the remote Rose Valley behind Urgup, filled with gorgeous landscapes, beautiful churches and a labyrinthine set of trails that link the small villages and towns together in a convoluted and complex fashion that is truly wondrous to behold.
Athens – On to Athens
After an incredible exploration of transcendent Turkey, today sees you turning west to the nearby nation of Greece, the home of democracy and the cradle of Western Culture, the birthplace of Socrates and Aristotle and the inspiration for the works of men like Homer and Aristophanes. You fly from Istanbul and land in arresting Athens, the capital of the country and one of the most famous cities in world history, where some of the great minds and rulers of the ancient past lived and worked and loved and died. A private driver will transport you from the airport to your perfectly situated and undeniably luxurious accommodations, where you can drop off your luggage and freshen up before setting out to explore Athens’ bustling night scene.
Crete – Visiting the Parthenon, Then Turning to the Birthplace of Zeus
Today begins with an in-depth exploration of famous Athens, beginning with the city’s more recent past before moving on the visit the monuments to the incomparable glory of ancient Greece. Start at Syntagma Square, the oldest and most socially important city square in modern Athens, the home of the Hellenic Parliament and many of the city’s best-known attractions. You’ll also get to visit the exhibits at the Syntagma Metro station, where your informative and entertaining guide will teach you all about the modern history of Greece, from its tumultuous lows to its thundering highs.
Then it’s on to the famous Acropolis, the ancient fortress located high on the rocky outcropping which dominates the city, home to the famous Parthenon of Athens, an ancient temple dedicated to Athena that was complete during the fifth century BC and which now stands as an enduring testament to the power of ancient Greece. After surveying the surrounding countryside and taking in the scene at this truly unmatched monument, you’ll return to your hotel, where a private driver will be waiting to take you to the airport, where you’ll board the flight that will take you to Crete.
Crete – Around the Charming Venetian Port Town of Chania
One of the hidden gems of the Greek islands, Chania is sure to delight all of your senses, filled with delicious food, stirring scenery and incredible buildings that are a testaments to the city’s long and distinguished history. Arguably the most beautiful urban area on the island, visitors are sure to love Chania’s Old Town, particularly at the Old Harbor, built by the Venetians during their occupation of the island in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. You might find that your perfect morning involves nothing more than strolling the scenic promenade along the shore of the sea, enjoying the gorgeous weather and the stunning cityscape of this truly unique community.
Chania is also the home to a diverse and bustling cultural scene, a center of the arts and a valued repository of history that is filled to the brim with museums, concert halls, theaters and educational institutions. The Archaeological Museum of Chania in the former Monastery of St. Francis is particularly fine, and houses an extensive collection of Minoan and Roman artifacts, from a bust of the emperor Hadrian to a beautiful floor mosaic that depicts Dionysus and Ariadne. Sea-lovers will certainly want to stop by the city’s Nautical Museum, art aficionados simply must stop by the Municipal Art Gallery, and those who love the outdoors would do well to spend an afternoon and early evening at one of the city’s nearby beaches
Crete – The Myths and Stories of the Ancient Minoans
Today, you drive from Chania to Crete’s capital at Heraklion, where the Mediterranean coastal scenery is sure to leave you sighing at its nearly indescribable beauty, the sun hanging languidly over the wide blue stretch of the sea and casting its warm glow on the ancient shores of the island that was reputed to be the birthplace of Zeus, the mighty king of the gods in Greek mythology. Once you arrive at Heraklion, you’ll stop by the incredible complex at Knossos, the legendary palace of King Minos that some consider the oldest city in Europe. You’ll be amazed by the remarkable restorations the place has seen and captivated by the stories of this mythical structure, the home of Daedalus’s labyrinth and the cruel Minotaur, the site of Perseus’s greatest victory and Icarus’s tumbling defeat, as you walk the surrounding environment and take in the stunning beauty of the hills and gentle rises that surround you on every side.
This evening sees you enjoying the vibrant scene of Heraklion, the hometown of some of the greatest Greeks in the country’s history, from acclaimed literary lights and artists like Kazantzakis and El Greco to religious figures and political leaders, including Pope Alexander V.
Santorini – The Quintessential Greek Island Experience
Today you leave the island of Crete and venture into the Cyclades, taking a one-of-a-kind ride to one of the most picturesque pieces of land in the Mediterranean, as the morning features a hydrofoil transfer to incredible Santorini, where the blue domes of the houses lining the streets mirror the stunning azure waters of the sea beyond. Once you arrive in Santorini, a private driver will take you to your amazing hotel, situated right on the edge of the rocky shore, where cliffs drop dramatically to the swelling surf of the sea and where the sunlight breaks into a thousand shards of brilliant color as it hits the waves right outside your hotel window. From the incomparable amenities to the wonderful staff to the views that are simply breathtaking, this is sure to be a hotel stay you’ll always remember.
This evening, enjoy some of the fantastic food on Santorini, where the veggies are fresh, the seafood is delicious and the wines are delectable: the island is particularly known for the sweetness of their tomatoes and their traditional Greek specialties, like domato-keftedes and fava beans.
Santorini – Exploring Sensational Santorini and Its Villages of Fire Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia
Discover the incredible history and stirring scenery of this remarkable island, from her charming, cliff-clinging towns and villages to the great geological formations that can be found throughout the landscape. Walk the streets and take in the views at Fira, Santorini’s main metropolis, where you can simply meander along the Med, take a cable car or guided donkey down to the city’s Old Port or learn more about the area at the superb Museum of Prehistoric Third, where you’ll find an impressive collection of artifacts from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The remains of Skaros and the gorgeous Monastery of Saint Nicholas are certainly worth visiting in Imerovigli, and the beautiful homes and charming streets of Firostefani offer the perfect place to enjoy lunch and the weather.
This afternoon features a very special treat, as you’ll step onboard a beautiful catamaran to reconnoiter the waters surrounding Santorini, where you’ll see the remains of the volcano whose caldera makes up the current island and swim in the hot springs powered by the volcano’s geothermal activity. From the sensational views to the unforgettable swim to a stunning sunset over the island, all of your senses will be delighted in stupendous Santorini.
Santorini – An Active Volcano and a Dip in the Hot Springs
Your final day in Greece is a glorious one, as you’ll have the chance to explore more of this enchanting island and discover more about its remarkable past. Stop by Faros on the southern part of the island to get incredible photo opportunities of Santorini and its surroundings, or make your way to one of Santorini’s best beaches, from the ochre-rich hues of the Red Beach to the charming feel at Kamari, Perivolos and Perissa. History buffs will certainly want to visit Akrotiri, the remains of the once-flourishing Minoan civilization that is Greece’s answer to Pompeii, filled with frescoes that are nothing short of immaculate, depicting everything from blue monkeys to slender boats to boxing youths.
In the afternoon, you can learn more about Santorini’s rich culinary tradition in one of two exciting and unforgettable ways. Step into the kitchen with a talented Greek cook and learn how to prepare some of the country’s favorite fare, from hearty appetizers to delectable main courses to scrumptious desserts, or head out to the country and explore Santorini’s vibrant wine country, one of the most unique viticultural areas in Europe and home to a range of delicious varietals. Learn about the challenges and peculiarities of growing grapes on the island, uncover the history of wine-making in the area, and even get a taste of the incredible final result of this true labor of love.
Santorini – Returning Home
Today, you’ll be taken from your hotel to the airport, ready to board the flight that will take you back home to the States. From the marvels of Turkey to the magnificence of Greece, from the streets of some of history’s greatest cities to the tranquil surroundings of some of the most beautiful islands on Earth, this trip is sure to hit all the highlights of this truly captivating region.
If you wish to extend the Greece portion of this trip, visit the Greece vacations section on Zicasso for more ideas.
- Discover all of the incredible edifices and inimitable history of Istanbul, from the triumphant Hagia Sophia to the impressive Topkapi Palace to the remains of the Hippodrome of Constantinople
- See the marvels of Istanbul from the water as you set sail and cruise the famous Bosphorus Strait, the narrow strip of blue that has separated Europe and Asia for millennia
- Visit the ancient cities and stirring natural sights of Cappadocia, from the plunging underground village of Kaymakli to the towering rock castle in Uchisar
- See all of exciting Athens, from the arresting structures that line Syntagma Square in the city’s modern portion to the towering Acropolis that dominates the city’s skyline
- Experience island hopping in true style as you make your to two of Greece’s best-known and best-loved islands, from the history and legend that lingers everywhere on the island of Crete to the serene and subdued luxuries and relaxation that can be found on sumptuous Santorini
From the Aegean Sea to the Golden Horn, from the glories of classical Athens to the stories that fill Istanbul, Turkey and Greece are two of the greatest nations in world history, home to some of the past’s greatest figures, from poets to statesmen. This thirteen-day voyage will show you all the best of this fascinating region, filled with delicious food and incredible sights that are sure to captivate, and locals that are sure to warm your heart. From the sunrise over the Bosphorus to a sunset on Santorini, this is a trip where every day is memorable.
Walk the streets of incomparable Istanbul, a world capital for more than two millennia and home to some of the planet’s best-known landmarks, from the stunning Hagia Sophia to the bustling Grand Bazaar, one of the largest markets in the world. Explore the remnants of Constantinople as you cruise the Bosphorus, the strait that marks the end of Europe and the beginning of Asia, before turning to astounding Athens, the birthplace of people and ideas that have shaped the entire Western World. Explore the amazing history and culture at Crete – the mythical birthplace of the King of the Gods – before ending your tour in fine fashion on the romantic and awe-inspiring island of Santorini, known the world round for its charming white-washed houses and spectacular sunsets.
From the immense geological wonders of Cappadocia to the liveliness of an Athenian evening, from the shores of the Cyclades to the Straits of the Dardanelles, the wonders of Greece and Turkey are unlike anything else in the world. You’ll marvel at the incredible architecture and be dazzled by endless natural beauty; you’ll ogle at the famous sites and be awed by the hidden gems that are often overlooked. No matter what your pleasure, you’re sure to find it here, in the historic heart of civilization.
$3,310 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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