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In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great

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Rated one of the world’s ‘Top Ten Learning Retreats’, and one of ‘The 100 Best Worldwide Vacations to Enrich Your Life’ by National Geographic

For more than 2,000 years Alexander the Great has excited the imagination of people around the globe. This archaeological tour in Turkey is a unique opportunity to retrace his footsteps across Asia Minor, the first leg of his extraordinary 22,000 mile journey.

Join this remarkable historical tour escorted by Peter Sommer, who in 1994 walked 2,000 miles across Anatolia, from Troy to the battlefield of Issus, retracing Alexander the Great’s march in Turkey. Who better to lead you on Alexander’s route than someone who has walked the entire distance!

“Peter was the ideal person to help produce our In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great TV series for the BBC/PBS. Our particular style of documentary making leans heavily on understanding history by following in its footprints. Peter had worn out 4 pairs of boots doing just that on Alexander’s trail. Who better to show you how the conqueror’s story unfolded and how the locations helped mould the legend.” David Wallace, Director, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great

Travelling back through time we’ll delve into Alexander’s personality and the lives of the people that inhabited his tumultuous world.

This is a true archaeological voyage. We’ll discover the history and architecture of the cities on Alexander’s route on this epic escorted tour. Turkey is rich with Alexander’s legacy. Troy, where Alexander ran naked around Achilles’ tomb. Ephesus, one of the best preserved classical cities in the world. Termessus, a rocky eyrie that said ‘no’ to Alexander the Great and got away with it.

We’ll stroll along the sacred way to Apollo’s great oracular temple at Didyma, stand on Alexander’s hill at Sagalassos, from which he launched a bloody siege, and cruise on a gulet along Lycia’s timeless coast.

This inspirational historical Turkey tour is a tale of romance, war and power, an amazing expedition full of unforgettable vistas and historical highlights. Won’t you join us for this once in a lifetime archaeological adventure?

You can see a selection of testimonials on the right. Below is an extended piece of feedback from one guest which we think encapsulates the nature of the tour perhaps better than we can:

I have been raving about the trip to everyone I meet. I had never been on a tour before and was not sure I would like it. I’m used to striking out on my own, don’t want to be trapped with people I don’t find interesting, and I have a real aversion to ‘group food’, and ‘group hotels’. None of my fears were warranted. The food was outstanding in every respect and Cem’s (our tour manager/local guide) choice of places, most of which we would never have found on our own, was terrific, and the choice of each menu, highlighting particular specialities of wherever we were couldn’t have been more perfect.

The places we stayed - mostly small, and each with unique local features - were exactly the kinds of places I choose to stay when I’m on my own, and I felt like Alexander’s gods must have looked favorably on our trip because our little band of travelers couldn’t have been more interesting. It seemed like each person brought a different perspective to the trip that - through their questions, observations, and comments - expanded and enriched what we were seeing. The overall organization of everything, from the separate luggage van so that we never had to carry our suitcases even an inch, to the well timed rest stops, and Cem’s absolutely unflappable approach to the unexpected made it 3 weeks of bliss - no cares or worries, just time to enjoy and soak it all up.

And last but not least, your enthusiasm and knowledge were inspiring and contagious. It was exciting to learn about a man and a country that have so many lessons for us today. We could all learn a lot by studying Alexander’s leadership style, and it is humbling to actually see the succession of civilizations and empires - Hittite, Macedonian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Ataturk to name only the major ones. I couldn’t help but reflect on what a different perspective that offers, and how much better off the world would be if our current empires were less arrogant about their importance in the larger scheme of things.

Life is fleeting, great civilizations pass, but what remains is the evidence - in every site and museum we went to - of the human drive to create beauty, to build beauty not only in our architecture, but in the smallest objects of every day life. I found the sarcophagi particularly interesting - obviously emblems of death - but all I saw and marveled at was how the stone masons managed to make the stone scenes that decorated the exteriors sing with such life and movement that mortality was the furthest thing from my mind. Sadly, the trip, like the early civilizations, is over, and it’s back to reality, but I find that it’s a reality that has been changed and enriched by walking in the footsteps of Alexander the Great - and Peter Sommer.

Thanks for a unique experience. For me, Sagalassos was quite literally the high point. The Nymphaeum (ornamental fountain house) simply took my breath away, with the sound of the water flowing I could picture myself there - all those thousands of years ago - walking among the crowds of people through the Agora intent on their daily errands, with their private joys and sorrows and fears. It was truly magical. It’s moments like that that - time travel if you will - that keep us from being ‘tourists’.
Joan Lancourt, Brookline, MA, USA

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Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul. Meet at the airport and transfer to hotel. Welcome drink and dinner.

Day 2: A day in the great metropolis of Istanbul, Turkey’s most dynamic city, gateway between east and west. An introduction to the tour in the archaeological museum beside the Alexander Sarcophagus, followed by some of the greatest sites of the city.

Day 3: Follow the Marmara Sea to the mighty Hellespont. When Alexander the Great crossed he sacrificed to Poseidon and poured libations of wine to the spirits of the sea. We visit Achilles’ tomb on the plain of Troy, where Alexander paid homage to the hero, running naked anointed with oil. At the legendary city itself, we explore the ruins swathed in myth. At the great temple of Athena, the fabled shield of Achilles was presented to Alexander - it would save his life during a siege in India.

Day 4: A visit to Çanakkale’s splendid little archaeological museum then east into the hills. On the banks of the river Granicus Alexander nearly died in his first victory over the Persians. We examine the most likely location of the battle.

Day 5: A morning visit to Sardis where the imposing city of Croesus and the Lydian kings is being excavated. After lunch we see Ephesus’s marvellous archaeology museum, close to the Temple of Artemis, which reportedly burned down the night Alexander was born. We reach monumental Ephesus as the tourist buses depart.

Day 6: A morning to relax in Kuşadasi, then we walk the stepped streets of Priene, virtually unchanged since Alexander the Great was here. To the south lay Miletus, which refused him entry. It became his first major siege and his first chance to try out a new weapon, the torsion catapult. The city was battered into submission.

Day 7: The temple of Apollo at Didyma remains one of the most spectacular of all monuments. It was here that Alexander’s ultimate victory over the Persians was prophesised. Beside the sea, we explore Iasus, one of the very prettiest sites in Turkey, where Alexander made a local boy, who swam with dolphins, priest of Poseidon.

Day 8: In Bodrum, birthplace of Herodotus, we visit the site of the celebrated Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the remains of the fortifications against which Alexander laid a desperate siege. We finish with a tour of the Castle of St. Peter.

Day 9: A day to just relax - sit back and read a book, have a drink in a cafe and watch the world go by, or go exploring or shopping.

Day 10: East to Xanthus, Lycia’s pre-eminent city, full of tombs, grand civic buildings and a vast church floored with mosaics. Some say Alexander sacked it as Brutus later did. Nearby we visit Letoön’s moody sanctuary, and at Kalkan transfer to our gulet.

Day 11: A chance to relax and swim aboard a traditional Turkish gulet, as we sail along Lycia’s turquoise coast. A perfect opportunity to reflect on Alexander’s navy, shipping in antiquity, and the ancient Mediterranean in general, while going ashore to see the remains of once grand cities.

Day 12: Beside soaring pine clad mountains we cruise to triple-harboured Phaselis: a city later renowned for possessing Achilles’ original spear, and for being a haunt for pirates. When Alexander arrived, they crowned him with golden wreaths. When he left he gambled on a short cut around the coast. Supposedly the sea parted in supplication, making way for his army.

Day 13: Visit Antalya’s archaeological museum housing one of the finest collections of ancient sculpture. Admire one of the world’s best preserved theatres at Aspendos and explore the acropolis where people shook at the very sight of Alexander the Great.

Day 14: Stroll the colonnaded streets of Perge, Alexander’s key regional base, with its marble baths, stadium and shops. Discover Termessos, perched high on a mountain, one of the few cities to say ‘no’ to Alexander and survive.

Day 15: Heading north we walk along an ancient stone road, once the main route to the central plateau. We visit Sagalassos where archaeological excavations are revealing a vast, impressive ancient city, captured by Alexander in a bloody siege.

Day 16: To Gordion, capital of ancient Phrygia, where we visit the tomb of King Midas. Here, Alexander cut the Gordion knot sparking a myth that foretold his rule over Asia. East to Ankara’s fabulous Museum of Anatolian Civilisations.

Day 17: South to Cappadocia, which Alexander put under the control of an Oriental, not wishing to waste time securing it. The area is a geological wonderland, full of fairy chimneys, rock-hewn churches, and underground cities.

Day 18: We retrace Alexander’s march south through the Taurus Mountains. Alexander hurried to seize Tarsus, rescuing it from burning by the Persians. Here he fell dangerously ill, spending several months in bed. All the while the Persian king mustered his forces nearby.

Day 19: As tension mounts we follow the build-up to the great Battle of Issus. We explore the area and sites, like Kinet Hüyük (ancient Issus) now being excavated, that once reverberated with the Macedonian war-cry, and witnessed Alexander the Great charging at the head of his cavalry.

Day 20: Transfer to the airport at Adana, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Fly to Istanbul.

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This is a previous tour itinerary. However, we can offer it as a private tour. Please see our Gulet Charters page for more information.