Apostle Paul was Christianity's greatest missionary, responsible for writing over half the New Testament and spreading the gospel in the first century AD. This unique itinerary recreates his pilgrimages through Asia Minor, connecting the original Churches of Revelation and the magnificent remains of the great Roman Byzantine cities. Visit his birthplace then trace his journeys from the books of Acts and Corinthians, an expert guide expanding on the historic narratives.
Istanbul – The Earliest Traces of Christian History
Distant church bells and exotic sounds welcome you to Istanbul, formerly Constantinople and the capital of Roman Byzantine. Glistening mosque domes juxtapose with Christian frescos in the ancient district of Sultanahmet, your base for the first two days. After a transfer from the airport, settle into your hotel and watch the city slowly float by from the rooftop terrace. Fully relaxed, you visit the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in the late afternoon, its vast walls filled with essential Biblical artifacts and iconic marble saved from ruined cities. Reliefs of the Virgin Mary are cracked yet resplendent, chronicles of Paul's journey are inscribed yet faded, and there's a feeling of grandeur that's set to remain throughout this historic vacation.
Istanbul – The Magnificent Hagia Sophia and Ancient Mosaic Churches
The Hagia Sophia is most enchanting in the dawn light, orange hues reflecting off gigantic domes as fresh salty air floats across the centerpiece of ancient Byzantine. Across the old Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque is equally radiant, the two architectural masterpieces harmoniously facing each other. For over 1000 years, the Hagia Sophia was the largest church on the planet, an ode to ingenuity that towered above the capital. A narrow entrance leads to the vast columned interior, each fresco illuminated with natural light from the glass mosaics. Islamic calligraphy reveals the church's transformation to mosque yet the two paradigms remain at peace. Wander across lavish marble floors and there's a growing feeling of personal insignificance, the building's sheer size and history resonantly inspiring.
Dotted around Istanbul are further examples of beautiful Christian architecture. Evocative Byzantine mosaics fill St. Chora Church, each vibrantly standing out behind bare outer walls. Golden patterns swirl and intricate details compel in a church that is usually poignantly silent. Now the Little Hagia Sophia Church, it was built in the 6th century like its famous sister but lacks the fame or size. This tiny place of worship goes unnoticed in Istanbul yet its humble interior and marked stone imbue a deep sense of ancient spirituality.
Antakya – Exploring the Cradle of Christianity in Antioch
The Church of St. Peter stands humble and dignified, almost 2000 years of history gilded into the cracked stone. It stands amongst rubble and modern buildings, a beacon of Christianity on the hillside and a lasting memoir to one of the earliest ever Christian settlements. A direct flight takes you to Hatay Airport, before a 30 minute road transfer to Antioch. On his first missionary journey, Paul visited this ancient Roman city and converted a large proportion of Jewish inhabitants. While the church is small, the history is eminently powerful. Antioch's converts were the first ever to be called Christians and this church is virtually as old as the religion itself. You'll visit a handful of churches that date from various centuries before the afternoon is spent admiring what has been saved from relics and ruins. Vast mosaics fill rooms of opulence and old glory in the Mosaic Museum, Biblical scenes are elegantly carved in bronze, and you're able to piece together impressions of life during the early Christian era.
Antakya – Visiting Apostle Paul's Birthplace in Tarsus
Enchanted footsteps knock along an original Roman causeway, heading alongside millennia-old stone walls that hide hamams and bath ruins. A mosque's minarets guide the journey into historic Tarsus, the resonant call to prayer lingering in the air before sailing across a maze of deteriorating stone houses. Tarsus was Apostle Paul's birthplace, a 4000 year old city in a fragmented state of preservation. Sometimes the Roman walls and houses are battered and decomposed, eerie reminders of their age and history. Yet other parts of Tarsus recreate the glory of the first century AD. A guide takes you through the narrow streets on foot, the path occasionally blocked by a wandering donkey as you tour the historic neighborhood. Stop and take a sip of water at St. Paul's Well, built upon the apostle's birthplace, and then take some quiet time at St. Paul's Church on its perch above the town. Tarsus is a day trip from your base in Antakya.
Pamukkale - Churches of Revelation and Beautiful Columned Streets
A direct flight skirts the coastline, sapphire waters beneath the wingtips as you touch down in Izmir for the next part of your journey. Over the next six days you recreate Paul's pilgrimages by visiting the sites of the Churches of Revelation, as well as old Roman cities where the Apostle preached the word of Jesus. After a short transfer from Izmir, moss covered stone reveals the Byzantine era of Sardis. Paul writes about the Sardis church in Revelations 3:1-6 and the church's foundations can be seen at the archaeological site. Nearby, vast columns shine and carved busts gaze from the Temple of Artemis, an evocative memoir to the city's history as Lydian capital.
Onwards to Hierapolis over a mile of streets roll through ruins leading to the huge Roman theater. Columns rise proud and tower over your journey, unmoved and unbowed since Paul visited on two of his pilgrimages. Two entrances lead to contrasting ruins. First the tomb of Apostle Philip, recently excavated and a blossoming pilgrimage spot. Then you will come to Plutonium, the gate to the underworld in this vast Roman city and World Heritage Site. In the late afternoon you drive to Pamukkale, glistening calcite terraces illuminating the hillside as you settle into a spa hotel and feel the warmth of the town's natural thermals.
Kusadasi - Evocative Church Ruins and Dazzling Greco Roman History
A new morning and another original Church of Revelation; stone protrudes through valleys of dirt while church foundations are being slowly excavated from the soil. Recently discovered, the site of ancient Laodicea is gradually beginning to take shape again as archaeologists scrape away the mounds of soil. You continue to Aphrodisias, an ode to the Greek goddess of love and an essential stop on Paul's route through Asia Minor. Admire the Grand Theater with its steep steps and rumination of gladiators, walk between streets of marble and intrigue, then marvel at the reliefs and statues preserved in the museum. Visiting these two cities in one day allows for fascinating contrasts, one city slowly recreating a former glory and the other already showcasing the ancient pomp and razzmatazz. You continue to coastal Kusadasi where a waterfront hotel is your base for a soothing two nights.
Kusadasi – A Full Day Exploring Ephesus and the St. John Basilica
Paul's journey went into the unknown, his path connecting large Roman cities where the people often resisted his presence. Circa 40AD, Ephesus was rivaled only by Rome and its importance is shown in numerous Bible passages. Marble streets are lined with the houses of luminaries, imposing pillars dominate the skyline, and the main causeway leads your feet towards the resplendent Celsus Library. It takes a few hours to fully tour the site, each corner bringing greater impressions of the city's size. Ephesus was perhaps Paul's greatest breakthrough in spreading Christianity; his three years here are remembered in the Book of Acts and letters to the church in the Book of Corinthians. The beautiful preserved ruins offer an aesthetic wonder while the sheer scale of Ephesus helps imbue the scale and success of the Apostle's work. This is also the site of another of the Churches of Revelation and the first to be mentioned in the Book of Revelations.
Early Christian memories continue in the afternoon. Walk to the Basilica of St. John, a marbled entrance guarding the tomb. From here Ephesus's cityscape is at its most majestic, pillars rising beneath a sky of Mediterranean blue. It's widely believed that a house nearby is also the resting place of the Virgin Mary, another poignant stop on today's journey of discovery. Return to Kusadasi and as charcoal barbecues send intoxicating smells across the hotel terrace.
Izmir - Recreating One of Paul's Missionary Journeys
The ruins of Priene are overgrown and rambling. Pieces of crackled stone rock beneath your feet as the weeds take hold in a once thriving city. Paul had great success in Priene and nearby Miletus, building substantial Christian communities around 50 AD. While the excavated remains don't have the grandeur of Ephesus, look closely and the impact of the Apostle is impossible to deny. Inscriptions in the Miletus Theater allude to the God-fearers, or Gentiles that fiercely followed Paul despite persecution. Throughout this tour you're accompanied by a specialist early-Christianity guide who narrates the stories behind the ruins. Today, you're also joined by a local archaeological expert who helps to piece together the history of these cities.
Cannakkale - Ancient Cities and Narratives of Struggle
Pergamum's history cascades down the hillside, inscribed in the towering Greek columns and sculpted marble that glimmers in the morning light. For the Greeks, the city was an ode to Zeus but Paul was challenged here, and he sites Pergamum as the throne of the devil in the book of Revelation. Pick a path through scattered ruins as your guide recounts the Apostle's journey, then stand at the Acropolis and gaze down across former Asia Minor. Like each of the stops on this itinerary, your guide's detailed narratives help transform remains into real stories of the spread of Christianity. It's then up to you to decide on Paul's assertion that this was the seat of Satan. En route to Cannakkale you stop at Assos, another of Paul's stops on his third missionary journey, mentioned in the book of Revelation.
Istanbul – Completing Paul's Pilgrimage Through Asia Minor
A wooden Trojan horse stares, a temple rises proud, and the city of Troy emerges effortlessly from the hillside. Immortalized in Homer's Illiad, and retaining an atmosphere of mystique, Troy provides a final look at the ingenuity of Greco Roman cities. Excavated streets beautifully meander through temples of sculptures, while pantheons of carving and busts stand cracked beside the courtyard. In the afternoon, continue your journey to Alexandra Troas, the most western stop as you follow the footsteps of Apostle Paul. Narratives of struggle accompany the excavated ruins before a ferry takes you across the Dardanelles Strait and you return to Istanbul by late afternoon. A farewell dinner is enjoyed with views onto the domes of the Hagia Sophia.
Istanbul – Departure
Istanbul's charms float across the hotel terrace as you enjoy a final breakfast in Asia Minor. Wave goodbye to Turkey as you're transferred to the airport for your international departure.
- Recreate the pilgrimages of Apostle Paul as you cross Turkey and visit the famous cities of Asia Minor
- Explore the Churches of Revelation and visit some of the world's earliest ever Christian churches
- Visit Paul's birthplace in Tarsus and relive history in Antioch, an early Christian stronghold and important settlement for the apostle
- Immerse yourself in magnificent Greco Roman ruins by visiting ancient cities like Ephesus, Hierapolis, and Pergamum
- Discover the sites that feature countless biblical references and follow the footsteps of the apostle credited with writing over half the New Testament
- Start the vacation in Istanbul, where early bible copies and stunning Byzantine churches welcome you to an historic land
- Enjoy the rich tapestry of ruins and relics that cover Asia Minor, some cities in redolent states of ruin and others magnificently preserved for exploration
Apostle Paul forever changed the course of Christianity, his missionary journeys spreading the gospel of Christ and founding some of the world's first ever churches. For many years he journeyed across Asia Minor, now modern day Turkey, the chronicles portrayed in numerous books in the New Testament. Conflict was encountered beneath the towering temples of Ephesus, Satan's Throne was challenged in Pergamum, and the first ever Christian settlements blossomed under Paul's teachings. This unique itinerary recounts Paul's footsteps, from his Tarsus birthplace to the ancient Greco Roman cities that stand in conflicting states of preservation and ruin. Explore the seven Churches of Revelation, recount the Apostle's achievements with expert Christian guides, and trace the irrevocable course of history as you cross the verdant valleys of Asia Minor.
This 11-day vacation starts in Istanbul, exploring the remains of Roman Constantinople and the historic churches that spill grandeur and humbleness onto enchanting cobblestone. Day three takes you by scheduled flight to Antioch, one of the first ever Christian settlements. Labyrinthine Roman streets take you to variously dated churches before you spend the next day at Paul's birthplace in Tarsus. Head through the Roman gate and drink from the St. Paul Well as stories of the Saul of Tarsus are transformed into those of Paul the Apostle. Throughout the trip, an expert Christian guide brings the ruins and stones to life, recounting his missionary journeys and elaborating on the tales told in the books of Acts, Corinthians, and Revelation.
Over days five through ten you follow Paul's pilgrimages and visit numerous sites essential to the birth of Christianity. Cities like Ephesus and Pergamum are wonderfully preserved, evoking the glory of a bygone era with their towering temples and marble columns. Hierapolis and Aphrodisias are equally photogenic, imposing examples of Greco Roman brilliance that flow down fertile hillsides. Other cities are still being excavated, their cracked remains are overrun by moss and weeds. These sites, like Assos and Laodicea, might not have the imposing grandeur, yet they powerfully evoke the time of Apostle Paul and his challenges spreading the gospel. Each day features two or three different ancient cities of Asia Minor, each of them referenced in the Bible. As archaeologists continue to reveal the remains, you look closely at marble inscriptions and mosaics that paint sublime stories of the first-century AD.
Despite the pantheon of destinations, the tour runs at a relatively leisurely pace, with four-star hotels providing elegant stops after a day of exploration. Back in Paul's day, journeys were taken on foot. Going on modern roads with a luxury vehicle is the easier modern alternative. The Churches of Revelation cover a small geographic area that's easy to see in a short amount of time. Furthermore, the itinerary is tailored to ensure you avoid the peak hours and crowds at the most popular sites and have ample time to also visit the archaeological museums en route.
$2,855 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.
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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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