Biblical Ancient Greek & Turkish Exploration
Embark upon your journey with a flight to Istanbul. Prepare yourself for a life-changing experience and get some rest on the flight. Tomorrow you will be walking where the apostle Paul walked! Upon arrival to the Istanbul airport, we will meet our guide in the arrivals hall and head to our hotel located near Taksim Square, the bustling heart of modern Istanbul. Dinner and overnight are in Istanbul. After enjoying our Turkish breakfast, we will depart from our hotel and begin our tour of the historical highlights of Istanbul. First, we will stroll through Hippodrome Square, the former sporting and social center of Constantinople that hosted chariot races during the Roman period. Afterwards, we are off to witness the incredible majesty and splendor of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Popularly known as the Blue Mosque, this 17th century Ottoman sanctuary is adorned with six minarets and more than 20,000 hand painted Iznik tiles. Then we will walk directly across from the mosque to visit the domed masterpiece of the Hagia Sophia before we head to Topkapi Palace. Located on the very cape of the peninsula where Constantinople was founded, Topkapi Palace is the former abode of Ottoman Sultans that still houses their legion of treasures, including an extensive collection of royal jewels. We will end our day with an evening of shopping at the Grand Bazaar, the massive covered market that houses a labyrinth of streets lined with shops selling jewelry, leather products and many other handcrafted souvenirs. Dinner and overnight are in Istanbul.
Following in Paul’s Footsteps
We will begin our day with a morning of shopping at Eminönü’s Spice Bazaar. Also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, this large covered market has remained the city’s center for spice trade since its creation in the 17th century. Then we embark on a cruise of the Bosphorus, the winding straight that separates Europe and Asia and connects the Black Sea with the inland Sea of Marmara. This is our time to relish the views of the old wooden mansions, Ottoman palaces, and ancient fortresses that dot the river’s coast. We then drive to Istanbul Airport to board our flight to Athens. We’ll arrive into Athens airport where we’ll meet our Greek guide and then connect with our next flight to Thessaloniki. This is the city where Paul was received by Jason. Paul was preaching the Word of God here until he was rushed out of the city. We transfer to our hotel in Thessaloniki where we check-in for dinner and overnight. The next day, we follow the route of the Via Egnatia and visit, like Paul and his companions, the area of Amphipolis, to see the famous funerary Lion of Amphipolis. Next, we continue to Philippi where we visit the Baptistery of Lydia, where Paul baptized her. Lydia was the first convert of Paul on European soil, followed by the jailer. Also, we visit the ruins of the Forum of Philippi, the Christian Basilicas, the “Prison of Paul” and the Theater. Then we drive to Kavala (Neapolis), Paul’s first step in bringing the Gospel to present day Europe. A picturesque port, we view the Byzantine Castle and the Roman Aqueduct. We return to Thessaloniki for dinner and overnight. The following morning, we start with the landmarks of the city: the White Tower, the Walls of the Byzantine Acropolis, the Roman Arch of Galerius and the Rotonda. We visit two of the city’s oldest and most admired Christian churches, the Basilicas of St. Demetrius and St. Sophia. We then drive to Berea to see the synagogue (evidence of Jewish presence (Act 17:11) and the stream below. Afterwards, we continue to Kalambaka where we will have dinner and overnight.
Experience Ancient Greek Architecture
This morning we see the world-famous Byzantine monasteries that are perched on summits of gray rock peaks of varied and beautiful shapes. Their history goes back to the 14th century when the monks sought refuge in the cliff-side caves, then fled higher to build the original wooden shelters, which were later transformed into monasteries. Afterwards, we continue to Athens where we will have dinner and overnight. The next day we begin with a visit to Ancient Corinth. This is the once-glorious city near the Isthmus, where Paul met Aquilla and Priscilla and spent a year and a half preaching the Word of God. We visit the Archaeological Museum, the Forum, the Temples, and the famous Bema, where Paul stood before Gallio, accused by the Jews of Corinth. Then we drive to Cenchreae, the little harbor from which Paul sailed back to Asia, thus ending his second missionary journey. Then we return to Athens for dinner and overnight at our hotel. The following day we explore ancient Athens, as we follow our guide to the world-renowned Acropolis, to see the Propylea, the Erechtheum, and the Parthenon. We visit Mars Hill, where Paul delivered his speech on the “Unknown God.” Then we see the Agora, the ancient center of the economic and public life of the city, where Paul preached to the skeptical Athenians. During the bus tour, we also see Constitution Square with the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Temple of Zeus, the Old Olympic Stadium, and the Neoclassical Buildings of Athens. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Athens on your own. Farewell Dinner and overnight are in Athens. We then transfer in the morning to Athens Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. We arrive home the same day.
Optional Greek Isles Cruise Extension
After breakfast, we transfer to Piraeus where we board our Greek Isles cruise onboard Celestyal Cruises – Olympia ship. This will be our floating hotel for the next 3-nights. After embarking on our cruise, we sail this morning from Athens to the quaint isle of Mykonos, called the island of windmills. We arrive at Mykonos, where we disembark and have time to experience the waterfront lined with shops and cafes. We stroll the charming walkways through a maze of white-washed buildings before returning to the ship for dinner and evening activities. No excursions are included today, as we will visit the island at our leisure. The next morning, we arrive in Kusadasi, Turkey. Excursion Included: A short drive takes us to Ephesus, where Paul spent three years during his ministry. The impressive remains of Ephesus include the Agora, the Theater, the Stadium, the Library of Celsus, the ruins of the Temple of Diana (one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”) and many more. Later, we sail for the island of Patmos. Excursion Included: Here we visit the Monastery of St. John, on one of the island’s highest points. From there, we walk down to the Grotto of the Apocalypse, the site of the apocalyptic Revelations of St. John the Divine. On the following morning, we arrive at Heraklion, Crete and disembark. Excursion Included: During this excursion, we take a short ride through the town of Heraklion and then arrive at the Knossos excavations. Here, Sir Arthur Evan’s archaeological discoveries revealed a civilization dating back to 4000 B.C., when a great empire flourished on the island of Crete. Paul left Titus in Crete and gave instructions on appointing church leaders in the towns (Titus 1:5). In the afternoon, we cruise to the isle of Santorini and disembark. Excursion Not included: Santorini is often referred to as the most breathtaking of all the Greek islands. The exquisite, whitewashed villages, including the town of Fira, or Thira, cling to volcanic cliffs, accessible by cable-car, or mule. We disembark the cruise this last morning in Piraeus. After disembarkation, we will continue to Athens Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. and arrive home the same day.