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The ornate carvings on the 2nd century AD Temple of Hadrian at Ephesus in Turkey.

This is part 4 of our series about the 2020 Peter Sommer Travels brochure, which was posted as a printed copy to our guests and friends last month and is also available on our website as a pdf download or as a browsable online brochure. Together, the posts in the series present a full overview of our activities and the experiences we offer to our guests in 2020. Part 1 looks back at what we did 2019 and forward to our new plans for 2020 and beyond, part 2 showcases our cruises in Croatia, and part 3 describes what we do in Greece. This post is about our expert-led tours and cruises in Turkey.

Turkey - a special bridge between cultures

The Alexander Sarcophagus in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul. Discovered at Sidon (nowadays Lebanon) in the 19th century, it depicts most probably the battle of Issus, showing Alexander the Great defeating a Persian enemy. It is usually considered a work of the late fourth century BC, i.e. from within a generation of Alexander's lifetime.

Turkey is where it all began for Peter Sommer Travels: it is where Peter embarked on his epic walk in the footsteps of the campaigns of Alexander the Great some 25 years ago, and where he discovered his passion for discovering archaeological sites in their settings. We are pleased to see that an increasing number of our guests are interested in joining our tours and cruises in that extraordinary country. Turkey contains countless ancient sites from many periods - Neolithic, Bronze Age, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman and so on - some of them of enormous size, and many of them set at or near a long and convoluted and very beautiful coastline. Together, they stand witness to the many peoples and cultures that have passed through the country since prehistory, creating a fascinating cultural mosaic and an unparalleled wealth of historical insights . Our 2020 programme in Turkey comprises of twelve trips on nine different itineraries.

The theatre of Priene, one of the best-preserved in Turkey, and part of a superbly accessible site, perhaps the best example of a planned Greek city.

Our only scheduled land tour in Turkey next year has been one of our most popular itineraries for over 20 years: In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: the Conquest of Asia Minor (Part 1). As the title says, it is our only tour so far that follows a specific historic personage and a pivotal series of events, namely Alexander's whirlwind campaign through Asia Minor, the western part of Anatolia, which took place in 334 BC. Led by Peter Sommer himself, it focuses on the drama of those heady days and on the unprecedented military success the warrior-king and his troops enjoyed. At the same time, it also serves as a superb introduction to some of Turkey's most famous ancient sites, including the splendours of Istanbul itself, the fascinating multi-layered site of Troy, splendid Ephesus, Sardis, capital of ancient Lydia, atmospheric Priene, and so much more: a veritable panorama of the region's extraordinary history. Next year, it runs once, in April/May.

Bronze Age fortifications at Troy.

Private tailor-made tours will have pride of place in the 8th post of this series, but here I should refer to a very special land itinerary we have developed for 2020. Troy: Apollo, Achilles and Alexander in a Land that Gave Birth to Epics is a six-day itinerary inspired by the British Museum's current exhibit, Troy: Myth and Reality, which opened last month and runs until March; it will be reviewed on this blog in due course. The tour is available as a tailor-made trip as of now. It is an example of the additional possibilities we have for developing focused trips in all our destination countries...

Wide shot of gulet Sunworld 8

Turkey is the home of the gulet, the type of traditional wooden boat that we use on our cruises in Turkey itself, and also in Greece and Croatia. Gulet cruises in Turkey once formed the single core of our activities and the vast bulk of our offers, and although we have diversified in many ways, they are still a quintessential part of the Peter Sommer Travels experience! Travelling on a gulet is a remarkable way to travel a region, nothing to do with the conventional meaning of a cruise. Of course, we choose the gulets we use extremely carefully, as we only work with the best-made and best-run boats.

Walking above the bay of Hisarönü in Lycia.

The 2020 cruise programme starts with Walking and Cruising Western Lycia, the week-long 'little brother' of our longer Lycian walking cruise (see below). Lycia is a very fascinating region, with a very distinctive identity and history in antiquity, and this is a delightful trip, taking in a series of mysterious and atmospheric sites, some of them quite remote and all of them spectacular, for example the grand remains of Roman Patara or the carved tombs of ancient Teimioussa. The tour offers a very direct approach to the superb coastal landscapes of this ancient region, loosely following the celebrated Lycian Way. It runs twice, in May and September/October.

Rock-cut tombs at Pinara in Lycia,

The two-week version, Walking and Cruising the Lycian Shore, was our first-ever walking cruise and its considerable success has been an inspiration to us across the countries we work in. It has been maintained and reworked constantly, following Peter Sommer Travels' principle of creating and maintaining tours of the highest possible quality. It combines the pleasures of travelling on a gulet with the in-depth discovery of the region and its landscapes that only walking it can provide. Compared to the one-week version, it offers more and longer walks, but also more strenuous ones, and a richer variety of Lycian sites, including ones that are considered hard of access. The most prominent example of these is Pinara, probably a local capital in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, a place where local Lycian tradition and Hellenic/Greek influence combined to create a unique and intriguing  site in an extraordinarily rugged setting. In 2020, it will be our final cruise, running in October. It is our longest-running Walking and Cruising itinerary for many good reasons!

The theatre and two Lycian pillar graves at Xanthos in Lycia.

Our 'normal' cultural cruise in Lycia, Cruising the Lycian Shore, is a very fascinating trip in the same area, a region of Anatolia that had its own very distinctive identity in antiquity, veering between Greek and Eastern influences and once speaking its own Anatolian Indo-European language. The archaeological sites in Lycia are as attractive as they are unusual, indicating the very special nature of its ancient inhabitants, much of which remains mysterious to modern scholarship. We explore the Lycians' archaeological heritage, underlining the many pen questions adhering to it and highlighting their uniquely elaborate burial monuments, but also tracing the Greek and Roman influences that effected Lycia later on. As an in-depth exploration of Lycia, this itinerary is virtually unmatched.

The well-preserved apse of an early Christian basilica church at Knidos in Caria.

Another long-established cruise in Turkey, a week long, follows the Anatolian Peninsula's southwestern corner: Cruising the Carian Coast. It is remarkable how little impact mass tourism has had on the rugged coastline of Caria, and how even its most famous sites, Knidos and Kaunos, attract only moderate numbers of visitors, leaving so much for us to explore by ourselves, including many less-trodden archaeological treasures, all of them hugely interesting and important. for example the great Rhodian fortification of Loryma, throwing much light on the region's role as a theatre of war in the reshuffle of power after the death of Alexander the Great. Among our cruise itineraries, this one is distinguished by spending virtually all nights in coves rather than harbours, so it offers even more opportunities to swim than most of our cruises. It is available two times, in May and September, and as a family cruise in July.

Squid and aubergine cooking in TurkeyAlong the same coast, a second week-long itinerary has a notably different focus: this is our original Gastronomic Gulet Cruise in Turkey, a trip that offers an unusual combination of experiences, mixing the hands-on experience of a seasoned archaeologist tour expert with his equally hands-on deep and affectionate knowledge of the local culinary tradition in a region that has been making food and has been presenting food for millennia. Watching the locals make their food, and joining them in doing so, makes this an unforgettable holiday. The long-standing success of this unique tour has inspired our gastronomic tours and cruises in Sicily and Croatia. In 2020, we have scheduled it for June.

Bodrum Castle, home to the Turkish Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

We have reintroduced another week-long itinerary that touches upon the Carian Coast. It is Cruising the South-East Aegean, a combination of Greek Islands and Turkish Shore, and we mentioned it already in the preceding part of this series, which was about Greece. The modern borders of the region are very different from its ancient definitions and we are thrilled to offer an itinerary that embraces both countries, throwing much light on how interconnected the region was in antiquity. On Cruising the South-East Aegean, our expert guides present some of the most famous sites in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece, such as ancient Kos, volcanic Nisyros and picturesque Symi, as well as ones in the adjacent part of Caria in the Turkish mainland, most prominently the vast remains of Knidos and the excellent castle and museum at Bodrum. This wonderful trip is available in August/September.

The elaborate façade of the Library of Celsus (ca AD 100) and the great Gate of Mazaeus and Mithridates (early 1st century AD) are just two of the stunning monuments at Ephesus.

Cruising to Ephesus is another one-week cruise, a long-standing favourite that follows the coastline of northern Caria and southern Ionia, core regions of ancient Asia Minor. Its wealth and power in antiquity are reflected by a long list of truly superlative and very famous archaeological sites, representing the key achievements of the Greek and Roman eras, such as vast Ephesus, brooding Miletus, venerable Didyma, lovely Priene, and buzzing Bodrum, each of them worth a voyage by itself.  This array of extraordinarily well-preserved and unusually extensive ancient cities and shrines makes the cruise a perfect introduction to Turkey's ancient history and archaeology and a most delightful lesson in Classical architecture. In 2020, we are able to offer it twice, in May/June and September.

The same waters are the venue of the two-week From Halicarnassus to Ephesus. It includes all of the famous highlights mentioned in the previous paragraph, complementing them with further, lesser known sites that see fewer visitors, among them the largely unexplored ancient city of Bargylia, slumbering under olive groves since millennia ago; the finely-preserved Roman tomb at Milas, erstwhile capital of Caria; and the seaside ruins of ancient Myndos, a port town looking out over the Aegean. The most spectacular addition is Herakleia-under-Latmos, a large ancient city set in a nearly surreal landscape of rocks and boulders. The cruise also offers an extra helping of leisure time for swimming, relaxation, and so on. It was a particular joy for us to bring back this itinerary, an old stomping ground for Peter Sommer Travels, in 2019 and we can't wait to run it again in August/September!

A relaxing swim near Knidos.

These are our Turkish offerings in 2020, or to be accurate, our scheduled ones. As always, they will be accompanied by a number of private trips or charters, since tailor-made travel plays an increasing role among our many activities. Of course, this list is part of a work in progress: as we already mentioned in part 1 of this post series, we are also working on new ideas and extra itineraries are already under preparation.

To see our 2020 brochure, get it as a pdf download or consult the browsable online version.

Also in this series:

Travel brochure 2020 - part 1: looking back and looking ahead

Travel brochure 2020 - part 2: Croatia

Travel brochure 2020 - part 3: Greece

Travel brochure 2020 - part 5: Italy

Travel brochure 2020 - part 6: United Kingdom

Travel brochure 2020 - part 7: Ireland

Travel brochure 2020 - part 8: gulet charters, tailor-made tours and add-ons

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