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The Treasures of Western Turkey

The Treasures of Western Turkey

The Treasures of Western Turkey

This two-week Turkish journey will take you through the timeless treasures of the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman civilizations that have flourished here. While visiting early Christian, pagan, and Islamic icons of art and architecture you will discover a synthesis of meaning through diverse moments of faith and religious communities.

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This two-week Turkish journey will take you through the timeless treasures of the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman civilizations that have flourished here. While visiting early Christian, pagan, and Islamic icons of art and architecture you will discover a synthesis of meaning through diverse moments of faith and religious communities.

The Flourishing of Humanity: Where East Meets West

The overlapping influences of education and civilization that shape the rich tapestry of Turkish history will guide you through the Haggia Sophia, Ottoman palaces, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, the cave cities of Cappadocia, and the inspiring beauty of hot springs, ancient theaters, and sailing through the gorgeous islands of the Aegean.

You will encounter the living traditions of weavers, wool producers, ceramic artisans, and wine makers. And you'll sit with village grandmothers to learn their recipes and hear their stories.

Together with fellow travelers you will experience a vision of life that flourishes through the diversity of history and celebrates a continuity of understanding stretching from east to west and from the ancient to the modern.

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Day 1

Istanbul: Where East Meets West

Welcome to Istanbul, the gateway between East and West, Europe and Asia.

At 2:00 pm  we’ll meet our guide for an orientation and introduction to the Alithea style of travel at our hotel. Then we’ll set out on foot to explore the city. Starting from the famous Sultanahmet Square we’ll begin to perceive how this marvelous city has been shaped by overlapping civilizations including the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Turkish.

Together we’ll see the Roman hippodrome with its towering obelisk, the Blue Mosque, and one of the city’s ancient underground cisterns whose massive columned-rooms feel more like gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe than Byzantine era storage facilities for drinking water.

We’ll conclude our first day with a Turkish feast at a restaurant chosen by our local guide.

Walking: light, 2 miles

Day 2

The Hagia Sophia, Spice Market, and the Suleymaniye Mosque

This morning we’ll begin our local guided tour with a visit to the former church Hagia Sophia. For nearly a thousand years it was the largest church in Christendom with its astonishing dome and gorgeous mosaics. It was the seat of the Eastern Patriarch until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans when it was converted into a mosque.

After our visit to this holy marvel we’ll hop on a tram and head over to the spice market for an introduction to Turkish spices, teas, halva, and perhaps the world's tastiest Turkish delight. For lunch our guide will introduce us to an assortment of street-food treats before bringing us to one of Istanbul’s greatest architectural marvels, the Suleymaniye Mosque. Designed in the middle of the sixteenth century by the architect Sinan, it is a mathematical wonder of beautiful proportions like the greatest buildings of the Renaissance.

This afternoon we’ll hop on a boat together for a tour of the Bosporus where we’ll see Istanbul from the water with its beautiful cityscape and yili houses, or the waterside mansions. After our boat ride we’ll have an option to explore Istanbul’s Asia and try an assortment of delicious mezes or to return to Karaköy, the beautiful neighborhood around our hotel.

Walking: strenuous, 5 miles

Day 3

Topkapi Palace, Hagia Irene, and the Grand Bazaar

This morning our local guide will lead us through the luxurious fifteenth century Topkapi Palace. The story-book beauty of the palace feels almost enchanted. This place is a window for the imagination, the intrigue of palace romances, political aspirations, and the royal setting of the Ottoman court. We’ll also visit Hagia Irene, the church of Holy Peace, originally constructed during the reign of Constantine.

After our visit to the Topkapi Palace and museums we’ll stroll over to the Grand Bazaar, the largest and oldest covered market in the world. With over sixty streets and 4,000 shops, a visit to the Grand Bazaar is a multi-sensory experience like stepping into a covered city out of a story-book. This magical market is filled with craftsmen, jewelers, ceramics, and the vaulted ceilings where the expertise of thousands of years of artisan culture is gathered into one place. We’ll chat with local shop owners to learn the routine of daily life in Grand Bazaar. After our visit to the Grand Bazar we’ll be free for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

As an optional activity,  treat yourself to hammam or a Turkish bath where we’ll experience the next-of-kin to the ancient Roman bathhouse. Men and women will remain separate for this invigorating steam and exfoliating olive-soap massage by our local Turkish masseuse. Tea, hot marble slabs, relaxation, and another massage.

Walking: strenuous, 5 miles

Day 4

Cappadocia Village Life

After breakfast this morning we’ll head to the airport to fly to Cappadocia. Famous today as a site of natural wonders and hot-air balloons floating over fairy-chimneys at dawn, the underground fourth century A.D. cities of churches, homes, stables, and warehouses are equally marvelous. After lunch and checking into our hotel we’ll have a quick orientation to Sinassos village, one of the oldest settlements of Cappadocia. The architecture here is unique for its stone brick houses with spacious courtyards and castle-like feel.

Tonight we’ll enjoy a Turkish family-style meal with terracotta pots of eggplant, sautéed beef, and the traditional comfort food whose recipes have been passed down from generation to generation.

Walking: easy, 2 miles

Travel time: approx. 4.5 hrs.

Day 5

Hot-Air Balloon rides and Ancient Cave Dwellings

We’ll set out early this morning for a hot-air ballooning experience. The soft morning light rising over the honey-combed landscape is an enchanting perspective of the Pasabag valley shaped over the course of millions of years.

At the end of our magical morning ride we’ll enjoy the morning’s second breakfast before heading off with our local guide to explore on foot some of the terrain seen from above. Together we’ll stroll through this magical stone valley to enjoy the spectacular view of one of the most beautiful places in Cappadocia, before visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum. These fourth century cave dwellings were once home to a thriving monastic community who embraced a vision of simplicity and sanctity in a life dedicated to prayer in the wilderness. After visiting these ancient churches and hermitages our guide will bring us to a local home for a traditional lunch and casual question and answer session hosted by a local grandmother. After lunch we’ll be free for the afternoon to explore Sinassos, to chat with locals, hike to nearby monasteries.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles

Day 6

Underground Cities, Ceramics, and the Uchisar Castle

Today we’ll visit the highest and deepest places of Cappadocia on the same day. This morning our local guide will lead us through a tour of the underground cities of Kaymakli. Originally carved deep into the stone for protection from enemies and heavy winters as early as the seventh century B.C., at one time there were possibly hundreds of these subterranean cities with populations ranging into the thousands.

Following our visit to the ancient cities our guide will bring us to a ceramic workshop in Avanos. Located along the Kizilirmak, ‘the red river’, and the source of the red clay, the pottery factories in this area date back to the bronze age and the time of the Hittites. We’ll witness this three-thousand year-old tradition in artisan demonstrations and explanations and a quick visit to the museum.

Our afternoon will conclude with a visit to Uchisar castle. This high rock promontory has served as a natural fortification and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and fairy chimneys. We’ll return to Sinnasos for a relaxed late afternoon and free evening.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles

Day 7

The Basilica of St. John the Museum of Ephesus

This morning we’ll continue our journey with a flight to Izmir in the western part of Anatolia on the Aegean Sea. Around noon we’ll take a guided tour through the Ephesus Archeological Museum whose collection of artifacts dates back to the founding of cities in this region, about nine-thousand years ago. These fragments of continuous civilizations through almost ten millennia help us not only to imagine the daily lives of ancient cultures but also to understand how history is collective like a story that continues from one page to another.

After lunch we’ll visit the Basilica of St. John, the beloved apostle of Jesus who wrote the Gospel and the book of Revelation. Constructed by the emperor Justinian in the sixth century it stands over the believed burial site of St. John. According to tradition, after his exile to Patmos, St. John lived the remainder of his days preaching the gospel in Ephesus which became an important pilgrimage site through the miracles that followed his death.

Next we’ll visit the Museum of Ephesus where we’ll see spectacularly preserved statues of Artemis and relics of the sanctuary. Then we'll visit the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, said to have 'mounted to the clouds.' The work of rebuilding this sanctuary will be given to our guide and our imaginations as we explore the fragments that remain of this temple to the Greek virgin goddess of the hunt, of nature, the moon, and wild animals.

‍In the late afternoon we’ll arrive at the seaside town of Kusadasi where we’ll sleep for two nights. After checking into our hotel we’ll be free for the evening.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles

Travel time: approx. 4.5 hrs.

Day 8

The Ancient City of Ephesus and Sirince Wine and Artisans

After breakfast this morning we'll drive to the nearby ancient city of Ephesus. Similar in many ways to the Greek sister-city of Athens, Ephesus tells the story of beauty, prosperity, self-governance, and then tragedy, and tyranny. As our guide tells the stories of love, possibility, and betrayal we'll walk the ancient streets and visit the theater that once housed 25,000 spectators. As we explore ancient Roman terrace houses and the remnants of temples, shops, bathhouses, we'll glimpse the sophistication and simplicity of the port-city that endured more than a thousand years.

This afternoon we'll visit the quaint village of Sirince famous for its wine production, cobblestone streets, silversmiths, small textile shops, olive oil soaps and creams, and friendly artisan shop-keepers. In the later part of the afternoon we'll return to Kusadasi where our guide will give us recommendations on the best seafood restaurants.

Walking: moderate, 4 miles

Day 9

Ancient Greek Aphrodisias and Pamukkale

After breakfast this morning we'll drive inland towards the ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias. Named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodisias was one of the most beautiful and intriguing cities in antiquity. It was tax exempt when it became the holy city of the Roman emperors and was famous for its beautiful sculptures and school of philosophy. Today it houses perhaps the best-preserved ancient stadium anywhere in the Mediterranean. Its auditorium, the odeon, and the tetrapylon, the monumental gateway to the sanctuary of Aphrodite inspire an idea of ​​the former magnificence of the city.

After lunch we'll continue towards Pamukkale, a site that has been drawing visitors to its thermal waters since ancient times. The name, which means 'cotton castle', derives from the cascading plates of white limestone shaped over the course of millennia as the calcite-rich springs continuously overflow into pools below. Our hotel is built at the top of these hot springs with its own thermal pool free for our use.

Walking: strenuous, 2 miles

Bus time: 4 hrs.

Day 10

Thermal Baths of Pamukkale, St. Philip, and Bodrum

First thing this morning, our guide will bring us to the outdoor thermal spring at the terraces of Pamukkale. Here we’ll visit the Pool of Cleopatra, the famed queen of Egypt, and we’ll join the tradition of classical Greeks and Romans with a calming soak in these waters renowned for their healing properties. After a barefoot walk over the travertine stone and a relaxed soak, we’ll follow our guide to the nearby tomb of St. Philip, one of Christ’s twelve apostles. Recently discovered at the site of ancient Hierapolis, it was to the church of Colossians in this area that St. Paul wrote his famous letters. Before departing for the day, we’ll visit a spectacularly preserved Roman theater from the second century A.D. where they still host concerts today.

After lunch today we’ll load our bus and drive west back to the Aegean coast to Bodrum. After checking into our hotel this evening we’ll be free for dinner, either at our hotel’s excellent restaurant and beautiful view of St. Peter’s Castle or in town by the sea.

Walking: moderate, 3 miles

Bus time: 3 hrs.

Day 11

The Turkish Village Experience, Carpets, Coffee, and Cooking

After breakfast we’ll drive to Etrim for an immersive experience in the traditional culture of a small Turkish village. Etrim is not in your average traveler’s guidebook and may give us the most authentic local experience of the trip. We’ll start our day in the village coffee house where we’ll meet our host who will introduce us to the local traditions of wool production and carpet weaving, of wine making, farming, and beekeeping. Next our host will bring us into a couple of local houses where we’ll see firsthand the artisan practice of processing and dying wool, boiling cauldrons of pigments, and the looms where the millennial old art of weaving is practiced. This visit is both a step back in time to an older way of life and a step closer to humanity and the natural gifts of the world.

Next our host’s mother will bring us into her small kitchen and teach us how to make a dolma, often a communal event in rural Turkish communities. After lunch, coffee, wine, and conversation shared with locals we’ll take a tour of locally made carpets and have an opportunity to learn more about the cooperatives of women that produce them.

In the late afternoon we’ll return to Bodrum for another relaxed evening by the sea.

Walking: light, 2 miles

Bus time: 1.5 hrs.

Day 12

Discovering Bodrum and Sailing a Traditional Gulet

This morning we’ll visit Bodrum’s St. Peter’s Castle. Built by crusaders at the beginning of the fourteenth century this castle served as a fortification for five hundred years before becoming home to Bodrum’s underwater archeological museum. It now houses the treasures of thousands of amphora recovered from the sea floor and shipwrecks of boats from the twelfth century B.C., and sixth century A.D.. After lunch we’ll board our ‘gulet’ our traditional two-masted, Turkish, sailing boat to explore the beautiful islands' beaches by boat.

We’ll spend the afternoon sailing the crystal waters of the Aegean while stopping to swim, sunbathe, and chat with our local guide about the beauties we've visited over the previous two weeks. After a day of sailing we'll celebrate our voyage together with a final meal on board before returning to our hotel.

Walking: light

Day 13

Farewell, Until We Meet Again

Breakfast is included, but no activities are planned for today. Whether continuing your journey in Turkey, Greece, or elsewhere, our guide will be available to help with travel plans.

Day 14

Day 14
Day 15

Day 15
sample Itinerary
· Day 1  
Arrive in Rome, get settled into the Villa Lante, our beautiful convent residence. This afternoon we’ll stroll through the city visiting Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the Capitoline, and the Pantheon before celebrating our first night with a traditional Roman dinner.

· Day 2
This morning we’ll visit the Forum and Palatine, taking time to read excepts from Cicero, Plutarch, and Livy.

· Day 3
Today we’ll travel to Subiaco to visit the first Monastery of Saint Benedict. Returning to the city after lunch, we’ll stop to see Santa Costanza, Saint Agnese outside the walls, and the Catacombs of Priscilla.

· Day 4
This morning we’ll visit the Scavi of Saint Peters, tour the Basilica, then visit the Vatican Museum.

· Day 5
After breakfast this morning, we’ll depart for Pompeii, the ancient Roman city destroyed (and preserved) by the eruption of Vesuvius.  

· Day 6
Students who wish to attend Sunday services this morning may do so. In the later part of the day we’ll regroup to visit Saint Peter in Chains, San Clemente, and conclude the day with vespers.  

· Day 7
This morning we will visit the Borghese Gallery and make a tour of churches with the works of Caravaggio in Rome.

· Day 8
We’ll depart by train for Florence. After checking into our hotel, we’ll visit the central market for lunch, have a walking tour through Medieval and Renaissance Florence, and conclude with a visit to the Accademia and Michelangelo’s David.

· Day 9
This morning we’ll visit San Marco, visit the Baptistry and climb Bruneleschi’s dome. This afternoon we’ll be free to explore the city in small groups before regrouping for vespers in San Miniato.  

· Day 10
This morning we’ll visit the Uffizi Gallery followed by a free afternoon with small group visits to Dante’s house, the Bargello, and Santa Croce. This evening we’ll celebrate with a Tuscan feast.

· Day 11
Depart Florence, fly home.

12 Days In Turkey

· Istanbul, 3 days: Hagia Sophia, Hagai Irene, Chora, Patriarchate, underground cistern, Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace

· Cappadocia, 3 days: Gorem church, underground city and churches, open air monastery, Hittite Pottery lecture, and hot air balloon ride.

· Pergamon, 1 night: an ancient Roman city where Paul preached and one of the churches of Revelation.

· Sardis, stop only: One of the oldest synagogues, one of the churches of Revelation to whom it is written:  “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”

· Loadacia, (2 nights in Pamukkale): one of the churches of Revelation, to whom it is written: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”

· Hierapolis: archeological site of the ancient city and the monument to the martyrdom of St. Phillip.

· Miletus: one of the stops on St. Paul’s third missionary journey.

· Ephesus, (3 nights Kusadisi): the Basilica of Saint John, Ephesus, House of Mary, and Basilica of Mary

· Tarsus, (possible extension): the birthplace of St. Paul, center of stoic philosophy, where paul trained at the gymnasium

· Antioch, (possible extension): the church of St. Peter (one of the oldest churches in the world), center of Paul’s missionary journeys, and first site where Christians took the name.


Guided by the image of the Incarnation, that “God was made flesh and dwelt among us” in order that we might become like Him, a pilgrimage is more than a trip to the places of the bible, to the sites of the early church, or to the homes of the saints, it is a journey that seeks to place the image of Christ in us that we might be made more like Him.


The antidote to consumer travel, the goal of pilgrimage is for travelers to stand as Moses before the burning bush, to be transformed, and to have their own lives taken up and changed by the spiritual realities they seek.

Each day will incorporate suggested readings from scripture and the writings of the early church, time for private or shared reflection and prayer, and meals that celebrate the joy of God in neighbor.

A prayerful understanding of place

For Christians, place is never just the created, natural order, nor is it pure, spiritual reality, it must always be both. A pilgrimage encounter with place must both seek God in place, in the finite and particular, through the lives and examples of the Saints and it must require travelers to take those footsteps themselves, each traveler must seek to move through place to God. From this perspective, pilgrimage is an image of prayer, it seeks to turn the body, the footsteps, the act of every traveler into the image of prayer.


The modern country is the geographic center of many of the events of the bible and early church. It is in in Turkey that Abraham circumcised Isaac, that Jacob wrestled the angel, that Paul and Peter founded the church of Antioch, that Byzantine Christianity thrived for more than thousand years, and to this day it is the home of the Armenian Apostolic tradition, the Assyrian church, and it is the only county where Aramaic, the language of Christ, is still spoken.


To challenge the apathy and aimlessness of our current cultural moment with mental discipline and rigorous training.


• Early morning workouts
• Rucking
• Pre-dawn Mount Kerkis hike
• Hike to Cave of Pythagoras
• Underwater rock hauling
• Megalo Seitani hike
• Ice baths
• Roasted lamb or goat on a spit
• Big meals with an abundance of food, roasted meats, wine, toasts, and a spirit of fellowship and conviviality
• Camaraderie, contemplation, and conversation
• Open-water swims and spearfishing (optional)


SQ4 coaches men to achieve a higher level of fitness and athletic excellence by blending the principles of ancient philosophy with the empirical depth of modern exercise science designed to permanently enhance their life, mindset, habits, and physique.


The key to a lasting fitness transformation is understanding the layered nature of man.  The SQ4 methodology is based on the ancient understanding of man and virtue that transcends cultures and epochs:

• Psyche – Life – Courage
• Nous – Mindset – Wisdom
• Pneuma – Habits – Temperance
• Soma – Physique – Justice


The trip exceeded my expectations in terms of accommodations, activities, and overall group dynamic! We had an amazing time throughout the trip!

Written by
Shaza F.

I never write reviews. But this trip was the best trip I’ve had. I didn’t know what to expect traveling with strangers in Turkey of all places. My experience was absolutely fantastic. We visited a variety and multitude of places and had fun hikes and activities along the way. I also really liked how the transportation and logistics were taken care of (private vehicle, booked flights and hotels for intermediate travel). The tour guide was exceptional and helped navigate the language barrier and lead the group flawlessly. He also taught us a lot about the culture and historical information.

Written by
Mokhan K.

Our trip with Sunshine and tour guides (Nate, Mert, and Berna) was amazing!! Itinerary was full of fun activities and was very well organized. The trip was an unforgettable experience and I made friends along the way. 10 strangers became 10 genuine friends!

Written by
Derrica J.


• Daily pilates
• Biking the trans humana ancient shepherd paths
• Cooking lesson
• Winery and Olive Oil visits
• Castel del Monte of Frederick II
• Visits to locals towns
• Relaxing evenings of wine, food, and a spirit of celebration
• Practicing keeping the body young with age
• Meeting with local pottersSpa and self-care


More than a trip to Italy, this weeklong travel-retreat will focus on being healthy physically and mentally through activities that nourish and rejuvenate. Whether detoxing from cell phones, work, or other daily demands, this is an opportunity to be in the moment, to enjoy delicious Italian food, wine, and the fresh perspectives provided by a stunning Italian landscape.


Self care doesn’t just mean pampering, it means intentionality. Pilates trains your body to make intelligent movements that support your body all day, every day. Travel encourages a perspective of vulnerability, of stepping into the new and beautiful in order to rediscover the new and beautiful within yourself. From this perspective, an experience of the ‘importance of place’ in Puglia is equally to realize that connectedness within yourself.


All breakfasts and 10 lunches or dinners.
All tour a related transportation, including bus, and flights with In Turkey. International flights not included.
12 nights accommodation in family-run boutique hotels.
The cost of all entrances, local guides, and tips to 14 tour activities.
Your friendly Alithea tour manager for the duration of the tour.
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For further questions don't hesitate to reach out to us directly.



Pack Light

Alithea hotels are boutique, family-run and centrally located in the historic centers where the ancient roads are too small for buses. That often means needing to walk between our bus and hotels. Between destinations we will be required to carry our own luggage which may include significant stairs and no elevator. We encourage our travelers to take a simple carry-on size bag with a small backpack for outings.

Come Prepared

Like every great story, there is no possibility of discovery and of arriving at beautiful places without a journey to get there. On our Turkey journey we will take the bus and boat in order to arrive at the spectacular destinations we’ll be visiting. We’ll not only use this time to relax and enjoy the view but also to prepare with our Alithea guide for the sites we’ll visit next. Of course, we can’t appreciate the gorgeous vistas of the mountains without significant driving on winding roads.

Bus and Travel Time

Like every great story, there is no possibility of discovery and of arriving at beautiful places without a journey to get there. On our Turkey journey we will take the bus and boat in order to arrive at the spectacular destinations we’ll be visiting. We’ll not only use this time to relax and enjoy the view but also to prepare with our Alithea guide for the sites we’ll visit next. Of course, we can’t appreciate the gorgeous vistas of the mountains without significant driving on winding roads.


For further questions don't hesitate to reach out to us directly.

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Reserve Your Place

The Treasures of Western Turkey

A $500 deposit is required to reserve your spot. All deposits and discounts (if applicable) will be applied to the total tour price. Deposits are refundable within 30 days of payment.

*Read our refund policy here
A Christian Classical Approach to Travel
Travel encourages a living experience of art, history, and ideas that transforms the classroom into an immersive experience of truth, beauty, and goodness. Museums, meals, archeological sites, and foreign languages are not merely artifacts that help students consider the world, they cultivate a love of wonder, moral imagination, and a rich understanding of the truth. More than a student trip, travel is an invitation to become a lifelong practitioner of the loves that shape the soul.
The Prayerful Traditions of Europe
Rather than treating churches and monasteries as defunct historical monuments, Alithea and Oakdale Academy invite students to approach them as places of prayer and worship