Explore the historic and cultural riches of the ancient world, from the glories of Athens and Istanbul, to the Minoan culture of idyllic Crete and the wonders of Cappadocia, flying by chartered air around this fascinating region, and walking historic paths to experience the local life of yesterday and today, up close.
Aircraft: Bombardier Challenger 850 or comparable
Aircraft and seating configuration subject to change.
Flight Details: Athens–Heraklion (50 min) | Heraklion–Izmir (1 hr) | Izmir–Cappadocia (1 hr 15 min) | Cappadocia–Istanbul (1 hr 10 min)
Day 1 - Arrive Athens, Greece
Arrive in Athens, where you are met and transferred to your hotel in the city center. Tonight, join your Resident Tour Director and fellow guests for a welcome dinner.
Day 2 - Athens
This morning, set out on a foodie walking exploration of Athens, visiting some of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and experiencing its charming streets, street food and traditional dishes. Devote your afternoon to leisure, perhaps setting out to explore Athens on your own. Later, view the Parthenon in the early evening light, and then savor a private dinner with stunning views on the rooftop of the Acropolis Museum.
Day 3 - Crete
Board your private aircraft for the short flight to Crete. On arrival, savor lunch before visiting the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, viewing items collected from across the island that date back 5,500 years and offer glimpses into the ancient Minoan civilization. Afterward, proceed to your hotel on the eastern shore of the island.
Day 4 - Heraklion
Today, explore the Palace of Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. As you do, learn more about the Minoans, the people who built the palace sometime in the 17th century BC and who were named by historians for the mythical King Minos, remembered for constructing the labyrinth that imprisoned the monstrous Minotaur. After lunch at a Cretan winery, return to your hotel to enjoy its many amenities.
Day 5 - Crete
Today, set out on an exhilarating off-road safari to absorb fun information about Greek mythology as well as breathtaking views. Visit a local village and take in majestic vistas over Mirabello Bay. Journey to the plateau of Katharo, along winding dirt tracks, passing through the biggest forest on the island, where the mountains soar to nearly 5,000 feet above the sea, perhaps stopping at a kafenio (café) for a refreshment. Later, wind down the mountainside to another plateau, where you savor an al fresco barbecue lunch, served with wine. Afterward, visit Zeus’s cave, where legend holds the father of all the Greek gods was
born. Continue along roads that can only be accessed by four-wheel-drive vehicle, crossing rivers and admiring the rugged terrain, until you reach the village of Krassi. Head back to your hotel, passing en route through the Selinari, an area noted for endangered vultures, which you may spot soaring overhead.
Day 6 - Izmir, Turkey
Depart for Turkey this morning on an illuminating day trip made possible by privately chartered flights. Touch down in Izmir, where you visit the ruins of ancient Ephesus, some of the most well-preserved remains of an ancient civilization anywhere in the world. Founded in the fourth century BC, the city has at times been ruled by the Persians and the Romans as well as the Greeks. It was home to Saint Paul for more than three years, and it was here he established the church that became the head of the Seven Churches in Asia Minor. After your exploration of this history-laden site, with its ruins of temples, roads, baths, fountains and far more, re-board your aircraft and continue to Cappadocia.
Day 7 - Cappadocia
This morning, lift off on an inspiring hot air balloon excursion over Cappadocia, and explore the area’s volcanic stone “fairy chimneys.” View frescoes at the rock-carved churches of Goreme, and discover the stunningly restored Dark Church. Then, sit down to a private barbecue lunch, while taking in views of the incredible Cappadocian landscape. Afterward visit a pottery in Avanos to learn how the renowned earthenware of the region is created and observe master potters at their craft.
Day 8 - Istanbul
Explore the fascinating underground city at Kaymakli, which dates to as early as the eighth century BC and includes chapels, kitchens, air vents and living quarters carved out of volcanic rock. Then, get to know the Goreme Weavers Association on an engaging artisan visit. Next, meet with a local family and join them for lunch in their home. This afternoon, fly by private charter to Istanbul, and settle into your luxuriously appointed hotel.
Day 9 - Istanbul
Early this morning, stroll to the timeless Hagia Sophia for a private, before-hours opening. Take in the structure’s imposing façade, matched only by the grandeur of its towering, vaulted ceilings. Next, visit the Basilica Cistern, its marble columns still standing since the sixth century. Then, revel in the ornately decorated ceilings and spectacular tile work of Topkapi Palace, on an exclusive private opening of this one-time imperial residence of Ottoman sultans. This evening, privately cruise the glittering Bosphorus, toasting its beauty on a Scenic Sundowner.
Day 10 - Istanbul
Set out this morning to explore the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace. This afternoon, enjoy one of these Design Your Day activities.
Ferry to the Asian side of the City, strolling its vibrant food markets and staying for lunch.
Explore Cultural Istanbul at the Pera Museum, the Galata shopping district and Karakoy’s coffeehouses.
Indulge in a Historic Hammam Experience or simply relax in the spa at your hotel.
This evening is at leisure.
Day 11 - Istanbul
Today, explore Suleymaniye Mosque and Istanbul’s fabled Grand Bazaar, meeting local craftspeople along the way. Enjoy your afternoon at leisure, free to relax or explore this marvelous city on your own. This evening, gather with fellow guests for a farewell dinner.
Day 12 - Depart Istanbul
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to board your departing flight.