A classic gulet cruise in Turkey that takes in a series of the country’s most important and interesting archaeological sites, including the stunning ruins of Ephesus.
Beginning in Bodrum and following the shores of the ancient regions of Caria and Ionia, this cruise makes for an ideal introduction to the glories of Turkey’s archaeological heritage. It takes in some of the most impressive and best-understood sites in the country, a veritable succession of “must-see” highlights, as well as a number of more intimate “off the beaten track” remains and includes a visit to the astoundingly monumental ruins of Ephesus.
Cruising to Ephesus opens up a panorama of the ancient world, presenting a great variety of extraordinary visits, ranging from prehistory via Classical Greek and Roman antiquity to the Middle Ages and beyond. Every day will bring new insights and new beauties to behold.
Ancient cities and sanctuaries are the central themes of this cruise. From ancient Iasos, where the remains of a once-vibrant port town are scattered among olive groves to the mysterious mountaintop sanctuary of Zeus at Labraunda and the beautiful Temple of Zeus at Euromos. A major highlight of this tour is Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia and one of the most magnificent ancient sites in the world, with its vast theatre, ornate library and wonderfully decorated Roman mansions. At Miletus, we explore the vast ruins of a “lost” city that was a major centre of culture in Greek and Roman days, as well as its main shrine, the huge oracular Temple of Apollo at Didyma. Priene, in its remarkably beautiful wooded setting, is the most clearly accessible and comprehensible of all Greek cities, its private homes and public buildings there to see.
Archaeology apart, Cruising to Ephesus also includes much time for swimming, sunbathing, admiring the scenery or simply relaxing on our beautiful gulet.
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Day 1: Your gulet awaits you in the harbour of historic Bodrum, about 40 minutes from Bodrum airport. Home to an impressive Crusader castle and the site of the ancient Mausoleum of Halicarnassus it is a truly appropriate place to begin!
Day 2: A gentle cruise north-east, with plentiful swimming opportunities on the way, before mooring in the late afternoon in the pretty harbour of ancient Iasos where archaeological excavations are revealing a vital and beautiful classical city. Long-lived, though often beset by dangers, its remains range across the millennia from a Bronze Age settlement, through the classical and Hellenistic city and its Roman successor with their theatre, council building and temples right through to the Middle Ages, with the city crowned by a medieval fort, and a lonely Byzantine tower standing sentinel over the port in the midst of the sea.
Day 3: Our journeying today takes us inland, into an olive grove where we are suddenly met by the sixteen standing columns of a well-preserved temple, once the chief holy place of the city of Euromus, dedicated to its local version of Zeus. Unusually, the columns bear inscribed panels recording the lavish gifts of notable benefactors, gifts which don’t seem – however – to have been enough to complete the temple, as the unfinished fluting of those triumphantly standing columns testifies.
From one Zeus, we visit another, Zeus Labraundus or Stratios in his great oracular shrine at Labraunda at a steep and vertiginous site in the mountains, site of a Carian last-stand against the Persians. The sublime location in which the temple sits, and the unusual structures built on the shoulders of its lofty terraces by the Carian kings makes this a truly unique site.
In the afternoon, a chance to swim, kayak, snorkel and relax as you cruise westwards.
Day 4: After breakfast, we have a short drive to the great ancient city of Miletus. One of the most significant of all ancient Greek sites, she was a powerhouse of early Ionia, a centre of colonisation and precocious producer of philosophers. Now that the sea has long withdrawn its favour, the city sprawls over an extensive inland site with a brooding atmosphere, a vast theatre, spacious agoras and impressive Roman baths remaining to witness the city’s ancient greatness and its turbulent history.
After a break, we’ll then make another short journey to one of the most impressive classical sites in the Aegean: Didyma. In ancient times this was an oracle-temple of the god Apollo, and one with a roller-coaster history of highs and lows: of guardianship by the renowned Branchidae and destruction, and then of rich patronage from kings and emperors for a temple famed for its secure guidance alternating with periods of inexplicable oracular silence.
What this has left us is one of the greatest, and most unusual, temples of the Greco-Roman world, huge in size and intricately carved from the iconic Medusa with its deeply-knotted brow right down to the ornate detailing even of the column bases, making them beautiful for the god. Inside the temple, past a spill of cogwheel-like column drums, its walls marked with curious signs whose meaning is debated, you’ll come to the breath-taking central space, a vast quadrangle laid out below and hear what we can tell of this leading oracle.
In the afternoon, we leave behind the Branchidae and have a glorious cruise north to an area famous from Greek history, with the island of Samos on our left and Mount Mycale, where the Greeks won the Ionians freedom from Persia, dead ahead. We anchor off the southern coast of what is now the Dilek peninsula, a National Park whose rugged hills are smoothed over with a ruffled green carpet of trees and where herds of wild horses roam free.
Day 5: We head north to Kuşadasi. From there, we travel a short distance to the town of Selçuk, where we visit the Archaeological Museum as an appetiser for our visit to the great city nearby. This is a richly-filled repository of Ephesus’ story, replete with ornate detailing from the city’s great buildings, baroque Roman sculpture, tense classical lions, images of Roman notables and fine ivory carvings, and the iconic statue of Ephesian Artemis. We’ll be more than ready to see the home of these marvels, and we’ll enter the great city, the Metropolis of Roman Asia, just as the main crowds are leaving, ready to explore the vast site at leisure. We’ll walk in awe through street after street of one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, through its monumental squares and along marble-paved roads stretching into the distance, whether towards the expanse of the 25,000-seat theatre, or the lovingly-decorated storeys of the Library of Celsus dominating the viewer as they strain for height. From these outstanding public buildings, we’ll turn to the remarkable Terrace Houses, a huddle of fine residences filled with room upon room, space upon space, from open courtyards where the owners displayed their public face to an impressed world, to the intricate warren of more private rooms, lavishly bedecked in mosaics, wall paintings and marble inlay. It stands in the first rank of sites where we can get a real feel for the lived life of the Roman era.
Day 6: Heading south overland, we come to Priene, an almost perfectly preserved Greek city fanning out beneath a towering perpendicular brow of gnarled rock which gives this special site an aesthetic appeal to match its archaeological importance. Here we have an important city of middling rank, filled with Classical and Hellenistic remains, crucially without much of the overwhelming overlay of titanic Roman structures. This allows us a fine impression of the Greek world of the city-state and the kings after Alexander, before that Roman imprint. We’ll walk its extensive streets and houses, admire the beauty of the Greek theatre and the deft sculpting of its most prestigious seats. Awed, we’ll come to the bouleuterion, the ancient council building with its tiers waiting for the city’s leaders and be rapt by the perfect vista of the standing columns of the temple of Athena framing the sheer rugged bluff of Priene’s great rock rising behind them.
We then return to the coast for a swim in waters where history was made.
Day 7: After a leisurely day cruising around the Bodrum peninsula, we put in at Bodrum itself, the ancient city of Halicarnassus. As Halicarnassus, it has fascinating historical connections. These come not merely in terms of the history itself, though these are extensive enough: a Greek city with a strong Carian element in its population, it’s name is intimately linked to the great Carian rulers Artemisia and Mausolus (whose ‘Mausoleum’ was one of the Seven Wonders), and to that of the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander, who subjected it to a siege, relayed to us with dramatic interludes, in 334. The historical connection also comes with the development of the idea itself, Halicarnassus being the birthplace of Herodotus, the ‘father of history’, and one of the most engaging writers of the ancient world.
In the late afternoon we visit the site of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and the magnificent Crusader castle impressively sited on a peninsula stretching out into the blue waters of Bodrum’s expansive harbour. Fascinating in its own right, bearing warnings to spies and the arms of Henry VII of England, the castle’s story is further enriched by housing one of the finest museums of underwater archaeology in the world. We’ll discover finds from two Bronze Age wrecks of unsurpassed significance, viewing across a gap of nearly three thousand years remains of the Mycenaean era in a site of the Crusader and Turkish periods which rests on a Classical city. A superb way to bring our encounters with the long story of this coast to a close, leaving us plenty to talk about at our farewell meal.
Day 8: Transfer to Bodrum airport.
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Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Bodrum (Milas)
Departure Airport – Bodrum (Milas)
Arrival Location – Bodrum Harbour (approx. 40 mins from airport)
Departure Location – Bodrum Harbour (approx. 40 mins from airport)
Embarkation and departure is planned for approx.17:00. You are more than welcome to arrive earlier to drop off your bags, but please be aware that the crew will be busy cleaning and tidying making everything ready for your group so you will not be able to settle into your cabin.
If your travel plans or flights do not allow you to arrive before 17:00 we recommend arriving the day before the tour starts. This would also allow time to relax, recover from any jet lag and arrive at the boat on time for embarkation and departure.
If you arrive at the gulet after 17:00, we will do our best to enable you to join the tour at a later time and place.
Please Note: Departure time is subject to change depending on weather, harbour, or other conditions.
Disembarkation is around 09:00. We will arrange local transfers on the first and last day of the tour.
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.