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. Along the way you’ll explore many of the country’s most fascinating and best preserved ancient and cultural sites, see some of its most striking and beautiful landscapes, savour many of the highlights of Turkish cuisine and stay in some delightful, characterful and charming small hotels.
Join this remarkable archaeological tour in Turkey, 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!
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 and cultural voyage. Following in Alexander’s footsteps on the first leg of his journey across Turkey we travel from Istanbul to ancient Halicarnassus, modern day Bodrum and site of one of seven wonders of the ancient world. On this epic tour we’ll discover the history and architecture of the cities on Alexander’s route and much else besides, including the key sites of the Gallipoli peninsula witness to the fateful campaign during the First World War.
Turkey is rich with Alexander’s legacy: Troy, where Alexander ran naked around Achilles’ tomb; Sardis, kingdom of Croesus once famed as the richest man in the world; Ephesus, one of the best preserved classical cities in the world; and Apollo’s great oracular temple at Didyma, where we’ll stand below monumental marble columns and stroll along the sacred way. You’ll traverse magnificent landscapes, enjoy fabulous Turkish food and stay in beautiful accommodation
This inspirational historical 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?
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul. Transfers from the airport to our hotel in the centre of the city, about 50 minutes away. Welcome drink and dinner.
Day 2: A day in one of the greatest gems of the ancient world, Istanbul, already an Hellenic outpost in Alexander’s time. The king’s plunge into Asia created a vastly greater Greek world, ultimately laying the cultural foundations of the Byzantine Empire which, as Constantinople, this marvellous city ruled for a thousand years. We begin the tour at its superb archaeological museum by one of the most celebrated images of the king in battle, the Alexander Sarcophagus.
Day 3: We depart Istanbul and encounter a name forever associated with a doomed attempt to take it: Gallipoli. This peninsula, a long thin finger by the Hellespont, draws a trailing line where Europe and Asia stand almost as one. Here Alexander stood and offered sacrifice at the cusp of Asia, his yearning for fame drawing him on.
It is a place that has beckoned travellers, traders, and colonists for millennia, a superb route by land and sea – others besides Alexander saw it as a stepping-stone to conquest. Most famously in the Dardanelles conflict of a century ago, when Churchill’s plan to force the Dardanelles descended into tragedy. We’ll see the rugged, impossible terrain, the flanks of hill to which the Allies clung and the bright white memorials they’ve left under the peninsula’s blue skies. We arrive at our hotel for a fine meal. Asia’s coast awaits us.
Day 4: After some free time in the morning we follow Alexander, cross the narrow waters, and come to fabled Troy. We follow him, but there are many other reasons to come here: to encounter the beginnings of European literature and history, to romantically connect the site of the greatest epic to an archaeological reality, like Troy’s controversial first excavator, Heinrich Schleimann; or for an almost unrivalled depth of archaeology that sets the scene for an entire region.
Troy goes beyond the city’s Fall – we have a site that saw the earliest Bronze Age and classical Greece come and go, while still having Alexander himself and a Roman city in its future. We revel in this exceptional site and its acclaimed new museum before visiting the burial mounds scattered in a loose halo around it, including the ‘Tumulus of Achilles’ and maybe sparing a thought for Hector, tamer of horses.
Day 5: We head out from Çanakkale east into the hills, where Alexander and the armies of the Persian satraps first met in pitched battle. We stand at the most likely spot from which he and the Companion cavalry surged into the river Granicus, Bucephalus bearing him up its steep banks into a fierce fight in which came close to death. Here, Cleitus the Black saved the king’s life, an act with a tragic outcome far distant, and the king gained his first extraordinary victory.
Day 6: A morning drive through beautiful rolling countryside brings us to the extraordinary Bin Tepe, the ‘thousand mounds’, huge tumuli which constitute the almost outlandish burial ground of the Lydian kings and aristocracy. After lunch we visit the capital of these gold-rich kings, Sardis, dominated by its supposedly impregnable peak acropolis which failed to save the famed last monarch, wealthy Croesus. The seat of the Persian governors who faced Alexander, and currently being excavated, we view the fine remains of the Graeco-Roman city it became.
Day 7: We visit ancient Smyrna, modern Izmir and the spring nearby where stories told of Alexander sleeping and dreaming of restoring the city to its ancient glory. We see the results in its magnificent agora, lined with column after upstanding column, flanked by serried ranks of impressive vaults. Today’s excavations are one of the most exciting developments in the region, revealing more and more of the heart of old Smyrna, an icon of the Greek presence in Asia Minor into recent times. We also visit the new museum displays of the sculptors’ skill, and treasures from the city’s long life.
Day 8: We arrive at the Archaeological Museum of Ephesus as an appetiser for our visit to the great city nearby. A richly-filled repository of its long story, replete with ornate detailing from the city’s great buildings, its baroque Roman sculpture, tense classical lions, fine ivory carvings, and the iconic statue of Ephesian Artemis tell the story of this, the centre of gravity of Greek and Roman Asia Minor. We visit the remains of Artemis’ colossal temple, one of the Seven Wonders, burnt down at the moment of Alexander’s birth and begun anew at the end of his reign. We’ll then be more than ready to see the home of the city’s marvels just as the crowds are leaving, ready to explore this vast and spectacular site at leisure.
Day 9: After a morning relaxing in Kuşadasi, we head south, to Priene, an almost perfectly preserved Greek city left much as it was when Alexander was here, streets laid out beneath a towering perpendicular brow of gnarled rock which gives it an aesthetic appeal to match its archaeological importance.
The road from Priene takes us to its larger neighbour with which it had a quarrelsome and troubled relationship, the great ancient city of Miletus. A powerhouse of early Ionia, it dared to refuse Alexander admission, drawing on itself a viciously contested siege until the Macedonians battered the city into submission. Its great theatre and agoras speak of its broken power.
Day 10: We visit one of the most spectacular of all ancient sites, Didyma. A once-famed oracular shrine of Apollo, in Alexander’s time it lay silent after betrayal by its sacred guardians, the Branchidae, and long-since looted. At his coming it again found its voice to foretell his greatest victory over the Persians, ushering in a new era of renown and royal patronage for the temple. What this has left us is one of the greatest, and most unusual, shrines of the Greco-Roman world, huge in size and swathed in intricate carvings. From the iconic Medusa with its deeply-knotted brow right down to the ornate detailing even of the column bases, all was made beautiful for the god.
From there, we come to Carian Iasos, one of the prettiest sites in Turkey, fringed with fine tombs and with a lonely Byzantine tower standing sentinel in the midst of the waters below. In these waters, it was said, a boy swam with dolphins, and Alexander made him priest of the god Poseidon.
Day 11: We reach Bodrum, famous Halicarnassus, and the site of the Mausoleum, another of the Seven Wonders. We visit the fine remains of this city at the margin between Greek and non-Greek, birthplace of the Father of History, Herodotus, which brings us full circle. The first to layout the idea of an enduring clash between east and west, which Alexander played his part in, he, like the king bridged two worlds and brought them together. You’ll have free time to relax and replay the unforgettable things you’ve seen – or just shop! - before our farewell dinner.
Day 12: Transfer to Bodrum airport, about 40 minutes away.
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Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Istanbul Ataturk
Departure Airport – Bodrum Milas
Check in time at your hotel in Istanbul is after 14:00 so we recommend choosing a flight that arrives mid to late afternoon. Check out time from your hotel in Bodrum is 10:00 am. We will arrange local transfers from Istanbul Airport and to Bodrum Airport on the first and last day of the tour.
Where possible we try to use smaller, family run, boutique hotels with character rather than large chain establishments. Almost all of the hotels are of a very high standard. When we are staying in less well visited areas we use the best hotel available in the area.
Booking Flights: If you are staying in or connecting via Istanbul then the easiest way to get to and from the gulet is to fly. There are a number of airlines that offer domestic flights in Turkey. The cheapest way to book flights is directly with the airline online.
Please note: Flights are subject to change. Please contact the airline for exact details.
If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.
Travel Insurance: We consider adequate travel insurance to be essential. You should ensure that you take out a suitable policy, to make sure that your trip is properly covered. Please be advised some insurers may require you to take out a policy within 15-20 days of booking your holiday to receive all of their insurance benefits.
Visas: You must check to see if you require a visa to enter Turkey. Visas are easily obtained online at eVisa and must be purchased before you travel.
Istanbul: If you are planning to stay in Istanbul before or after your gulet tour we would be happy to help with suggestions and information and things to see and do. Please get in touch.
Custom Tours: If you are thinking of extending your trip to Turkey to include visits to Cappadocia, Istanbul or further afield, please contact our office for further information.