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A chance to visit some of the biggest and best preserved classical cities in the world, travelling by traditional wooden gulet on the Aegean coast of Turkey.

Herodotus, a local, claimed that the climate of Ionia was the finest in the world. South-west Turkey’s autumn climate remains splendid indeed. We’ll cruise on a warm sea and under a balmy sun along a coast which developed a civilisation of quite exceptional brilliance.

In the centuries before Alexander the Great, the dynamic cities of Ionia helped lay the foundations of Greek literature, science, and philosophy.

Under Rome, these cities became ever more rich, prosperous, and beautiful – full of the finest temples, theatres and markets that money could buy. Combined with the elegance of sailing, beautiful swimming stops, and heavenly food, this archaeological cruise is the perfect way to explore this remarkable area.

Setting out from Bodrum, ancient Halicarnassus, you will cruise north upon the turquoise waters of the Aegean, mostly anchoring in coves and bays plus the occasional small port town. Every day you’ll explore the rich archaeological heritage that makes these shores a living museum, where prehistoric, Greek and Roman remains rub shoulders with Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman ones.

Well-known and monumental ancient super-cities are complemented by sites off the beaten track that have yet to see any excavation. The highlights are plentiful: from the small harbour of Myndos, where Cassius anchored after murdering Julius Caesar; to the marvellously preserved Hellenistic city of Priene, where the houses, streets and public buildings are laid out in a perfect grid across a hillside.

We’ll visit beautiful Herakleia, nestling under the mighty Latmus Mountains; Labraunda, a mountain sanctuary to Zeus; and of course, Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia. One of the very first cities to have street lighting, the site is magnificent – marble streets, agoras, villas, a theatre for 28,000 and an extraordinary library.

Your guide, Dr. Olivier Henry is a true enthusiast as well as a friendly and sociable travelling companion. He is intimately familiar with the whole region, and has conducted archaeological surveys and published widely on a number of sites you’ll visit on this tour. You’ll have the wonderful opportunity to explore some of Turkey’s most incredible and fascinating sites in his expert company, not least the sanctuary of Zeus at Labraunda where Olivier is the Director of excavations.

Pretty coastal landscapes, the pleasures of a gulet and expert guidance through one of the world’s finest archaeological landscapes – from Halicarnassus to Ephesus is the perfect way to explore this remarkable area.

Day 1: Our gulet is about 40 minutes from Bodrum airport, in the city’s great amphitheatre style harbour, on Turkey’s south west coast. Welcome drink and dinner.

Day 2: A chance to unwind as we set sail west around the Bodrum Peninsula past the Greek island of Kos, to the secluded harbour of Yalikavak.

Day 3: We cruise east to visit the lonely ruins of Bargylia, now marooned beside marshes and old salt pans. Its unroofed temple was once renowned, for neither rain nor snow ever fell inside on the cult statue of Artemis.

Day 4: Inland to Milas, where a Roman tomb modelled on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, still survives. 2,400 years ago the city of Mylasa was once the capital of Mausolus and his Hecatomnid dynasty.

Day 5: On the shores of Lake Bafa lies a city stupendously set beneath the Latmus mountains – Herakleia. The circuit of city walls built by a Hellenistic king nearly 3,300 years ago are 6.5 km long, and still rise mighty and majestic.

Day 6: To one of the very finest Ionian sites: Miletus, with its vast theatre, baths, and brooding atmosphere.

Day 7: North past the beautiful beaches of the Dilek national park, and the island of Samos. We visit the attractive Greek hilltop city of Notion, still standing sentinel over the sea and Claros with its vast oracular temple of Apollo.

Day 8: Inland from Kuşadasi lies one of the most celebrated ancient sites in the world: Ephesus. After seeing its glorious museum we have ample time to explore the spectacular remains.

Day 9: Heading back south, we walk the ancient roads of Priene, an almost perfectly preserved Hellenistic (4th century BC) city.

Day 10: Cruising south we anchor off Altinkum’s golden beach to visit the colossal and awe-inspiring oracular temple of Apollo at Didyma.

Day 11: A romantic stroll to the temple of Zeus at Euromus, one of the best preserved in Asia Minor. Then on into the mountains to Labraunda, Caria’s most sacred sanctuary, site of the great oracular shrine to Zeus Labraundus.

Day 12: We sail south to moor in the harbour of ancient Iasos, where archaeological excavations are revealing a vital and beautiful classical city.

Day 13: A gentle cruise southwest to the pretty coastal village of Gümüşlük, ancient Myndos. The scant ruins offer a glimpse of this once bustling fortified harbour.

Day 14: After a final swim we cruise east to Bodrum, to explore Mausolus’s great capital city, with time for any last minute shopping.

Day 15: Transfer back to Bodrum airport about 40 minutes away.

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