A Tale of Two Empires: Turkey & Greece Tour

A 10 day trip to Greece & Turkey 
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Ancient Greece and Roman Byzantine collided in modern day Turkey, the two great empires leaving behind mesmerizing odes to the earliest Western Civilizations. Ancient cities like Ephesus and Troy vividly unveil a Greco Roman affair. In Istanbul and Athens the heartbeats of two empires stand still, reflected in marbled pillars and resplendent domes that cascade from afar. Journey to a land where the mystery of legends and the beauty of antiquity are wonderfully preserved.

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General Information

Photos
View of an orthodox cathedral in Thessaloniki, Greece
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Istanbul, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Cistern, Ephesus, Pergamum, Troy, Sirince, Athens, Acropolis, Temple of Hephaestus, Attalos Stoa, Ancient Agora, Acropolis Museum, Parthenon, Syntagma Square, Plaka and Monastiraki, Benaki Museum, Panathinaiko Stadium, Temple of Olympian Zeus

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Istanbul – Traditional Hamam Welcome to Istanbul

Exotic delights welcome you to Istanbul. Fabulous domes reflect in the Bosphorus, cobbled streets smell of fresh pastry, and there's an immediate impression of being immersed in a bygone era. While Rome's Western Empire was disposed of in the 5th century, Roman Constantinople and Byzantine survived for almost another 1,000 years. Evidence of this glorious past is omnipresent and views of an empire come directly from your private terrace at your five-star hotel. Admire the antiquity that lines the corridors, settle into your deluxe suite, and soak up an exclusive hospitality once reserved for emperors.

Today is designed to be relaxed and therapeutic. The historical revelations will start tomorrow. Before then, a salubrious Ottoman treatment helps overcome any travel fatigue. Traditional hamams started to dominate the city soon after Constantinople became Istanbul in 1453. Lie back on a steaming hot stone, a tiny domed ceiling casting beams of light through the mist. Using a prodigious roll of cloth and soap, layers of dirt are scrubbed from your open pores. After the scrubbing, settle into the sauna before enjoying a cup of Turkish coffee in the cafe. Completing the exotic welcome to Istanbul, tonight's dinner is accompanied by a Whirling Dervish performance, the hypnotized Sufis spinning without pause as you tuck into a sundry meze.

What's Included: accommodation, Suleyaminiye Hamam experience, dinner

Day 2: Istanbul – Exploring the Magnificent Remains of the Roman Empire

Architectural splendor dominates Sultanahmet and the memories of Byzantine still tower over the city. Today's easy full-day walking tour threads a narrative that starts with Constantine the Great. Perhaps Istanbul's greatest highlight is its ability to effortlessly merge renowned history with modern traditional life. This is immediately apparent as you sit on a bench at the site of the ancient Hippodrome. Drink a steaming masala chai as the domes of the Hagia Sophia twinkle in the foreground. Absorb the chatter of locals and watch the world go by. An historical connoisseur is your guide, starting the story of Roman rule from this ancient vantage point.

Now explore the Hagia Sophia, the largest building in Roman history combining inspiring scale with intricate detail. Frescos paint tales of early Orthodox Christian history while gleaming candle chandeliers cast a faint glow across rooms of Islamic calligraphy. It takes a couple of hours just to explore the whole site, fascinating chronicles etched into every wall and ceiling. Across the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque doesn't come from Roman times, but it's an equally stunning Istanbul highlight. Walk across the thick red carpet and savor the exquisite courtyards before taking lunch at a cute cafe nearby.

This afternoon you go underground and down side streets to relive early Byzantine. Three obelisks are dotted around the Hippodrome remains, each with remarkable stories. For example, the Egyptian Obelisk was sculpted around 1450 BC but somehow moved to Constantinople by Emporer Theodosius. Enter the Ibrahim Pasa Palace, where carpets and artifacts stretch back to the 8th century and are elegantly displayed beneath gilded ceilings. Then descend into Yerebatan Saray, two heads of Medusa welcoming you to this sunken palace and Roman columns rising beside the cistern walkway. Return to your hotel around late afternoon and the evening is free.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, full-day Sultanahmet walking tour

Day 3: Istanbul – The Vibrant Neighborhoods of Constantinople and Istanbul

While Sultanahmet reveals the pomp and razzmatazz of history, today's tour offers a more localized side to Istanbul. Colorful houses line streets of Greek history, glamorous boutiques are fringed with floral scents, and mansions stretch along the banks of the Bosphorus. Start in the Golden Horn, where the neighborhoods of Balat and Fener are far more Greek than Turkish. Cast iron churches and charming taverns dominate these quiet suburbs, the latter emanating Armenian gypsy music and the scents of barbecued fish. Across Galata Bridge, where hopeful fishermen cast their rods, the bohemian atmosphere of Beyoglu spills out of artists' studios and elegant cafes. It's an ideal place for a lunchtime meze as you watch modern Istanbul wander by.

In the afternoon you return to continental Europe and the cobbled lanes of Ortakoy, where wooden mansions tower above fishing boats, and antique shops inspire the eyes. The tour culminates at the Rumeli Fortress, hastily constructed in just four month by Mehmet the Conqueror to complete his takeover of Constantinople. Now a museum, it offers a fascinating look at the final days of Roman rule. Like always, the tour is relaxed and runs at your own pace, enabling each attraction to be fully savored and the atmosphere of each neighborhood to be completely absorbed.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, full-day Istanbul neighborhoods tour

Day 4: Sirince – Mysterious Remains at the Ancient City of Pergamum

Tumbling down the hillside, mystical Pergamon conjures early examples of Greco Roman history. After the flight to Izmir four rising terraces beckon you to this ancient city. Carved pillars rise against the Mediterranean sky and the steeply descending amphitheater glimmers from a distance. Get lost in the Temple of Athena that beautifully dominates the hilltop, wander down streets laced with stone boulders and sculpted gods, then admire the altar of Zeus and consider its importance. St. John declared this to be Satan's Throne and there is something unexplainably haunting to be found in the ruins that cascade across Pergamum.

After Pergamum and a hearty local lunch you drive across to Sirince, where a luxurious village guesthouse is your base for the next two nights. With a private terrace gazing across the memoirs of kingdoms, your serene accommodation provides the welcome of a homestay with the exquisite charm of an historic region.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, airport transfers, half-day Pergamum tour

Day 5: Sirince – Exploring Two Empires in Ephesus

Ephesus ignites the imagination. From the moment the cityscape appears across the valley, there's a feeling of being catapulted to a distant era. Ionian columns hint at the city's foundations, rising straight and true as they dot the landscape. While little remains of the original world wonder, the Temple of Artemis, the rest of Ephesus has been brilliantly preserved and restored. Stand before the Library of Celsus and get lost amongst the rising pillars. Now you discover odes to Greek gods as the lavish architecture extends over a vast area.

But as you explore you begin to scent the ingenuity of ancient Rome. This regional capital reveled in its artistic indulgence and the Gymansium and Nymphaion once rivaled any in the empire. Look closely and marvel at the intricacy of sculpted emperors and now cracked temple remains. Thermal baths are encrusted with mold yet somehow resplendent. The Domitian Temple continues the submersion in architectural bliss before you observe numerous archaeological findings in the Ephesus museum. Before returning to the guesthouse, there's a chance to discover the city's Christian history as you see the resting place of the Virgin Mary and Basilica of St. John.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, full-day Ephesus tour

Day 6: Canakkale – Renowned Greco Roman Brilliance at Troy

For almost 4,000 years the world believed Troy was a mythical city, dreamt up by Homer as the setting for his Iliad. One-hundred and fifty years ago it was discovered by farmers digging in the mud. It's since been reborn, the remains carefully excavated and stretching across vast green slopes. But you're not looking at the crumbled stone just yet, you're first transfixed by the wooden horse that stands guard at the city's entrance. Hollywood may have glamorized and indulged upon Troy's story, but there's few better exemplars of Greco Roman history than gazing upon this towering remnant of erudite war.

Start rambling. Step by step you wander along ancient streets marked by the remains of ascetic stone houses. While Ephesus is about vivid temples and glory, Troy imbues impressions of a real lived-in ancient city. You can sense the life as you discover carved lion heads and an amphitheater that's cracked and crumbling. Corridors scream of past empires and the real war history of Troy is narrated by your expert guide. So push past the Hollywood myths and stand at the temple entrance where views onto a kingdom are revealed. After the leisurely tour you continue the drive to Canukkale where you spend the night at your luxurious accomodation, enjoying its lush gardens and elegant terraces.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, full-day tour of Troy and transfer to Canakkale

Day 7: Athens – A Therapeutic Welcome to Ancient Greece

The site of Ancient Greece stands proud above the hilltop, the Acropolis glistening beneath the wingtips as you fly from Istanbul to Athens. Touch down and the late afternoon light bathes the city in enchantment. Reddish tints reflect off marbled streets and whitewashed houses sweep you into neighborhoods from the 19th century. Sublimely situated and elegantly surrounded, this five-star hotel is your base for three nights in Athens. Leave your bags with the porters at reception and you're taken directly to the hotel's spa where a masseuse kneads out any knots and soothingly recreates treatments for the gods.

What's Included: accommodation with use of spa and massage on arrival, breakfast, lunch, airport transfers

Day 8: Athens – Exploring the Birthplace of Western Civilization

Roasted coffee scents accompany your view onto whitewashed streets. Glimmers of antiquity awake from slumber as a pink dawn tone is cast across the marble. Today you head far back in history to the realm of ancient Greece and the birthplace of Western civilization. Dominating the Athenian sky and standing above the city, the Acropolis guides you forward. This old fortified town promises splendor from afar but you start in the foothills, wandering the green slopes of the Ancient Agora. Perhaps the world's best preserved Greek temple, the Temple of Hephaestus satisfies all reverie about the ancient empire. But it's just the start. Visit the Attalos Stoa and then explore the Roman Forum. Even in central Athens, at the heart of the Greek empire, history is never clear cut.

From the Agora you walk towards the Acropolis, footsteps on white stone as you ascend to this eternal symbol of our planet. First you will come to the Acropolis Museum. Wander between the pillars, intricate marble statues following your trail with artistic splendor. Individual details can be spellbinding, like the curled hair on a 3,000 year old bust or the dream-like views onto the Parthenon above. Now it's footsteps on marble as you ascend through opulence to the gates of the citadel. Columns surround you and your eyes glance skyward, following the marble to sculpted scenes engraved in the metopes. A spiral of history flows across the Parthenon, battles between gods and giants part of one of the world's most famous temples. You get lost in the artistic ingenuity, hypnotized by a single square inch of marble. Then you turn around and the whole of Athens spills out from beneath the Acropolis.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, full-day Athens tour

Day 9: Athens – Ancient Neighborhoods and Resplendent Temples

As the clock ticks nine you're standing in Syntagma Square watching peculiar soldiers' footsteps as they change guard outside the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Today's tour connects the dots of history, completing a metaphorical jigsaw on this tale of two empires. The soldiers' salutes bid you into this final realm of entrancement and you follow their fingertips into streets that juxtapose modern Athens and ancient Greece. On narrow alleys, boutique shops emerge from the shadows, while views onto the Acropolis are glimpsed between side streets of curiosity. Neoclassical homes mingle with charming ruins as you get lost on the pedestrian streets of Plaka and Monastiraki. These historical suburbs glowing beneath the Acropolis are an ode to the city's continual rejuvenation and respect for antiquity.

Head out to Lycabettus Hill where magnificent views of the Parthenon accompany your lunch. You're now in Kolonaki, a neighborhood of art galleries and bohemia. Spend an hour in the vast Benaki Museum, a feast of classical artistry that spans both Greek and Roman rule. The final part of today's tour merges the myths with reality. Gaze upon the toppled ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the great god still able to hypnotize while lying cracked and fallen. Nearby, the gigantic marble Panathinaiko Stadium is where the Olympic Games were revived in 1896. Return to the hotel and lounge on the terrace, glimpses of temples flickering through sunset colors on your final evening.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, full-day Athens tour.

Day 10: Athens – Farewell to Two Empires

After ten days of historical wonders of Turkey and Greece, you wave goodbye. A luxury chauffeur transfers you to the airport for your international return flight. Or if you would like to extend your tour onto the Greek islands, please visit the Greece tours page.

What's Included: breakfast, airport transfer

Price

Starting Price 

$2,545
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.