Day 1: Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, once the capital of both the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, now beckons with its remarkable architecture, historical landmarks, culinary delights, shopping opportunities, vibrant nightlife, and an enchanting atmosphere. Immerse yourself in the Old City, where you can discover iconic sites such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace.
Day 2: Mytilini, Greece (Lesbos)
Officially recognized as Lesbos but more commonly referred to as Mytilini, this island ranks as Greece's third-largest, renowned for its olive oil production. Rolling hills on the island are home to an astounding 11 million olive trees that gleam like silver in the sunlight, while the higher peaks are cloaked in dense pine forests. Mytilini was the birthplace of influential intellectual figures, including Sappho, the world's foremost lyrical poetess, Pittacus, one of the Seven Sages of antiquity, the poet Alcaeus, and many other prominent individuals.
Day 3: Mykonos, Greece
Immersed in the rich tapestry of Greek mythological lore, Mykonos derives its name from Mykons, the grandson of Apollo, and serves as the backdrop for the epic battle between Zeus and the Gigantes. Today, it stands as one of Greece's most beloved destinations, captivating visitors with its postcard-perfect scenery and burgeoning nightlife. Mykonos stands as an exquisite representation of Cycladic architecture, with even new constructions mandated by law to adhere to the timeless style of whitewashed, organic, cube-shaped structures. Don't miss the chance to plan a day trip to explore the enchanting Little Venice, the exceptional Paraportiani church, and the archaeological site at Delos.
Day 4: Ephesus (Kusadasi), Tukrey
Ephesus, the timeless classical hub of Europe, once reigned as one of the grandest cities in the entire Roman Empire, featuring a gem among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. Delve into the remnants of its colossal Theater, the Temple of Hadrian, and the splendid Celsus Library during your visit.
Day 5: Patmos, Greece
Uncover the charming yet highly significant town of Patmos, adorned with its fortified monastery and precariously positioned, whitewashed residences. Navigate the narrow, meandering alleyways leading you to the imposing Monastery of St. John the Divine, and step into the very cave where he received his revelation in 95 AD. Explore the adjacent convent and relish breathtaking vistas of the pristine Aegean, stretching as far as the eye can see. Take a refreshing break at one of the numerous public beaches or seek out your secluded cove. Engage in shopping for sacred icons, exquisite jewelry, high-quality leather goods, fine ceramics, and original artwork. Savor a glass of local wine or embark on a tour of a nearby olive grove.
Day 6: Rhodes, Greece
Famed for being the location of the once majestic Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the island of Rhodes also served as the residence of the Knights of St. John from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The renowned Palace of the Grand Masters, a historical treasure, is a "must-see," along with the well-preserved inns used by the Crusaders and the replica of the old church. To delve deeper into the city's history, visitors can explore the Archaeological Museum, where the Acropolis of Rhodes and the ancient stadium offer excellent opportunities for capturing memorable photos.
Day 7: Limassol, Greece
Limassol serves as the ideal starting point to embark on an exploration of Cyprus's ancient treasures. Encounter historical ruins, expansive citrus and olive groves, magnificent mountain vistas, and breathtaking coastal landscapes. Don't miss a visit to Lemesos Castle, where the wedding of Richard-the-Lionheart and Berengaria of Navarre took place, along with its captivating museum. Take a leisurely stroll through the ancient marvels of Curium, where you can admire its remarkable mosaics, ancient theater, basilica, and sweeping views of the sea. Venture inland to Nicosia to explore the wonders of the Cathedral of St. John, Venetian fortifications, a meticulously restored old town, a mosque, and a museum. Before departing, consider bringing home some exquisite lace, copper goods, jewelry, and pottery. Savor an extensive array of appetizers that could easily constitute a hearty meal, or indulge in fresh seafood paired with a delightful glass of wine.
Day 8: Antalya, Turkey
Explore this enchanting ancient town and its myriad treasures, ranging from the remarkable artifacts showcased in the museum to the Ottoman mansions, Byzantine churches, mosques, Hadrian's Gate, and the restored ancient Roman harbor bustling with cafes and pleasure boats. Alternatively, venture to the awe-inspiring ruins of Perge and Aspendos, and transport yourself through the rich history of these cities, from the times of Alexander and St. Paul to the eras of the Romans and Arabs. Stand in wonder before the colossal Roman theater and the decaying aqueduct. Peruse the local handicrafts in the historic district, including carpets, copper items, jewelry, leather goods, and textiles. Savor kebabs, delectable stuffed grape leaves known as dolmas, and a local dessert named beurrek, a cheese-filled pastry. Complement these treats with a cup of Turkish coffee, a regional beer, or a glass of wine for a delightful light meal or snack.
Day 9: Bodrum, Turkey
Nestled in the southwestern region of Anatolia, Bodrum is a coastal town where elegant yachts find refuge in twin bays beneath the imposing walls of a medieval Crusaders' castle. The town's renown is attributed to a historical figure of antiquity, Mausolus, and his iconic "Mausoleum," which was once recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Bodrum's additional claim to fame is linked to Herodotus, often hailed as the "Father of History," for his pioneering work in crafting the first comprehensive world history of the Western world.
Day 10: Heraklion, Greece
As the capital city of Greece's largest island, Heraklion captivates visitors with two of Crete's indispensable attractions: the state-of-the-art Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which houses a wealth of Minoan civilization artifacts spanning over 5,500 years of Crete's history, and the Palace of Knossos, an ancient center of Minoan authority dating back to 2000 BC, renowned as the fabled site of the Minotaur's Labyrinth. Savor breathtaking harbor views from Iraklion's 13th-century fortress and the revitalized waterfront, where "fish taverns" offer authentic Cretan delicacies like sweet or savory kaltsounia, perfectly complemented by raki, Crete's distinctive local spirit.
Day 11: Athens (Piraeus), Greece
Piraeus is the gateway to the ancient city of Athens, known as the “Cradle of Western Civilization” because of its immense impact on cultural and political achievements throughout the world. Due mainly to tourism and the 2004 Olympics, Greece has redeveloped many sites in Athens. A historian’s delight, Athens is home to such magnificent wonders as: the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the atmospheric winding streets of the Plaka, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Temple of Athena Nike, and the Archaeological Museum with the world’s finest collection of ancient artifacts.