Is it already November? It is indeed - at Peter Sommer Travels, we are looking back upon a very busy 2015 season, and forward to what 2016 will bring to us. The brochure for next year has left the printers two weeks ago already (earlier than ever) and is now in the process of reaching our past guests all over the globe - and hopefully also finding its way to new ones: we love to share the sites and landscapes that fascinate us with anyone willing to take part in that fascination and to join us in exploring them and their history, from antiquity to the present.
As Peter notes in his customary greeting at the beginning of the brochure, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the first cruise he led in Turkey in 1996, inspired by his 2000-mile walk following the route of Alexander the Great through Turkey back in 1994. We've come a long way in those two decades, as we already discussed last year and the year before, and once again the brochure itself stands as a testament to that. From offering first one or two, then a handful, of tours and cruises in Turkey in the early years, we have grown and strived to create the much broader portfolio of sea- or land-based experiences we are now able to offer. Only ten years ago, the first printed Peter Sommer Travels brochure comprised just six Turkish itineraries on 20 pages. The 2016 edition, counting 108 pages, lists all our European escorted tours: 27 trips on 20 different itineraries in three countries.
Those numbers are not even a full representation of how we have developed: there are several more itineraries that we have run in recent years and intend to run again in future ones - and further ones are being conceived, designed and planned as I am writing this. The next brochure - and next year's version of this post - will reveal more of our plans, so watch this place!
(Am I sounding mysterious? - Maybe I am!)
In 2016, we are continuing to expand our offers, but - just this once - not by presenting those newly developed tours quite yet. We have added a great many itineraries in the last half-decade, the freshest being 2015's Exploring Rome tour, Exploring the Peloponnese tour and Walking and Cruising the Carian Coast, all of which are available in 2016.
Instead, we are increasing the availability of existing tours, answering to the interest shown by our past, present and future guests. In Turkey, we have been offering multiple runnings of some itineraries for many years, such as our "Cruising the Carian Coast", which is available in both May/June and September, and the classic "Cruising to Ephesus", one of our oldest and most popular itineraries, is likewise available in both June and September; additionally, we are offering it as a Ephesus family tour. The tour's namesake site and highlight, Ephesus, has just received UNESCO World Heritage status!
In Italy, we already offered "Exploring Sicily" twice this year, as it was in very high demand. In 2016, we have arranged dates for both April and May. The tour is distinguished by being our richest in UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites, including six places bearing that accolade, since the addition of Monreale to the list earlier in 2015. "Cruising the Amalfi Coast" is also being offered twice, in late August and in September.
In Greece, we are increasing our offers very substantially in the same way. Both of our 2-week Greek cruises are available twice next year: "Cruising to the Cyclades" in spring and September, "Cruising the Dodecanese" in June and September/October. Furthermore, our very popular "Exploring Crete", the most in-depth tour of that island currently on the market, is offered in both April (which just sold out) and October.
All our itineraries, even the oldest, are constantly changing and improving, following developments in the field. There are countless examples: since this year, "Cruising to Ephesus" takes in the newly-designed exhibits in the Ephesus Museum - it also follows the ongoing restoration project in the site's superb Roman Terrace Houses. Peter's Following the Footsteps of Alexander will, as of now, include the brand-new site museum at Troy, a welcome addition to one of the most important and evocative archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. The tour has also been slightly expanded to allow more time for exploring the Gallipoli Peninsula, site of the formative events of the Gallipoli Campaign a century ago.
In 2016, "Exploring the Dodecanese" and "Cruising to the Cyclades" will - hopefully - be able to visit various sites and museums slated to be opened or reopened, as will "Exploring the Peloponnese". "Exploring Crete", including the now fully re-opened Archaeological Museum at Heraklion with its incredible collection of Minoan artefacts since this year, has been modified a little to take in some more of the fascinating archaeological sites in the rugged east of the island, and we are watching the progress of numerous other ongoing museum and site reorganisations and openings with great interest.
"Exploring Rome" in 2016 may well give its guests access to the "Ramp of Domitian", a major monument in the heart of the ancient city that has been opened to the public for the first time just a few weeks ago. Likewise, for "Exploring Sicily", Michael is constantly on the lookout for new sites and exhibits to enhance the tour - the amphitheatre at Syracuse, with recently improved visitor access, is an example of a potential addition.
At the same time, we are constantly changing, modifying and - of course - improving the choice of restaurants we take our guests to - it would be tedious to report this in detail (also, it would spoil the surprise!), but to give a sole example, in April I discovered a place in Heraklion that focuses on an authentic and non-standardised take on Cretan cuisine and serves some of the best food I have ever eaten - and I am eager to share that with others!
Beyond the scheduled itineraries, which take up the bulk of the brochure - as they should - we are also offering private charters and tailor-made land tours, bringing our expertise and the skills of our tour experts to guests who are eager to share the experience of a Peter Sommer tour with their friends or families, often on itineraries we design especially to meet their interests. At the moment, we are working on a range of trips aimed especially at families with children (of all ages): it is important to us to share our passion for antiquity, history and culture, but also our informal and hands-on approach to them, with the younger generations - there is so much to learn, so much to admire and so much to think about!
As you can see, we are busy even when we are not actively leading tours or cruises. Our mission is to bring the most informative, entertaining, inspiring and - most of all - enjoyable experience of the regions we travel, their past and present, their beauty and fascination, their stories and their mysteries, to our guests. We aim to make each trip a unique and memorable experience - and we hope you will be able to join us to see for yourself!
In the coming months, we will share more news and information on our tours - as well as a stream of enticing photographs - through this blog, and even more frequently through our Facebook page. To be even more up to date, you can also ask to be included in our newsletter, in which we share information on new tours, availabilities, offers and other things that might interest our guests: to do so, simply send us a message.
For the time being, if you have not received our 2016 travel brochure yet, you can request a printed copy here. Alternatively, or maybe while you are waiting for it to arrive, you can also browse it online page by page or download the PDF version to peruse at your convenience.
It would be our privilege to host you on one of our tours or cruises in 2016.