Day 1 Ephesus and Laodecia
Pick up from your hotel (Istanbul) transfer to airport, flight to Izmir. arrival in Izmir. arrival in Izmir. Transfer & Tour the ancient city ruins of Ephesus and Laodecia. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale. (L, D)
Day 2 Hierapolis, Philidelphia, Sardis and Thyatira
Breakfast in hotel. Tour the ancient city ruins of Hierapolis, Philidelphia, Sardis and Thyatira. Dinner and overnight in Bergama. (B, L, D)
Day 3 Pergamon and Izmir
Breakfast in hotel. Tour the ancient city ruins of Pergamon. Continue to Izmir and tour the Church of St. Polycarp, Kadifekale (Mount Pagos) and what remains of the ancient agora. Dinner and overnight in Izmir. (B, L, D)
Day 4 Final departure
Breakfast in hotel. Transfer to the airport for departure flight to back Istanbul. (B)
Day 1 Ephesus and Laodecia
You will be picked up either from the Izmir Airport or from your hotel in Izmir or Kusadasi for departure to begin touring the Seven Churches of Revelation. The tour will commence with the ancient city of Ephesus, a splendid site that is quite large and well presented.
There is evidence of human habitation in the area around Ephesus as far back as the bronze age and Mycenaean artifacts have been excavated close to the archaeological site that you will visit today. The famous Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is believed to have first been constructed by these early Greeks and devout veneration of Artemis carried on here until Byzantine times. Ephesus was built by the sea on the north slope of Mount Pion extending southward to the slope of Mount Koressos and was first founded as an Ionian colony of Athens some 1000 years before Christ. It prospered through the centuries and developed into a center of trade and banking despite varied and inconsistent leadership. In the 7th century BC the city fell to the Lydians and many advancements were made during the administration of the famous Lydian King, Croesus, who ruled Ephesus until losing his entire kingdom to the Persians after invading Persia and being soundly defeated by Cyrus the Great in 546 BC. The Persians ruled until the campaign of Alexander the Great crushed the forces of King Darius III at the battle of Granicus in 334 BC, returning Ephesus to Greek domination. The city was rebuilt and fortified with city walls by Lysimachus, who had been left in charge of the city by Alexander. Through the following two centuries, Ephesus was ruled in turn by the Selucid, Egyptian and Pergamon Empires until the last King of Pergamon, Attalus III, bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans in avoidance of all out war.
The Roman period in Ephesus got off to a rocky start as the region in which it is located was so deeply rooted in Greek culture and tradition. Under Caesar Augustus, who ruled the roman empire from 27 BC until his death 14 AD, Ephesus entered its golden age. It became Rome’s Asian capital, prospered as a major center of commerce and is estimated to have had at least 300,000 residents by the year 100 AD. From the other cities in Asia Minor, all roads led to Ephesus.
The apostle, Paul, came to Ephesus during this time of success and abundance. As described in Acts, chapter 19, he lived in the city and ministered to its citizens for two years in the middle of the 1st century, gaining many believers and also facing harsh opposition from the Jews and from the pagan worshippers of Diana, the Roman equivalent of Artemis. It is believed that he wrote his letter to the Corinthians and possibly others during his stay and that Ephesus was merely a base from which he and his close associates spread Jesus’ message into the surrounding region. It was largely through Paul’s efforts and his perseverance in the face of severe persecution that the Seven Churches of Revelation took root in their respective communities.
Revelation’s message to the Christians of Ephesus begins with the Lord’s metaphorical reminder that He is their sovereign while at the same time intimately connected to them (Revelation 2:1). He then shows His compassion by acknowledging their diligence and their devotion to obedience, their enduring perseverance and strength and the tenacity and purity of their conviction (Revelation 2:2,3). He cautions the faithful in Ephesus that their focus on doctrinal piety and their congregational catharsis has caused a crisis in their fellowship and that, among them, there is a loss of trust and benevolence. They must regain their esteem for one another and the love that the family of their church once shared or, they are warned, they will lose their position as a testimonial pillar in the greater Christian Church (Revelation 2;4,5). If they can restore their kinship, they are promised eternal blessings (Revelation 2:7).
You will tour the ancient city of Ephesus extensively with your guide. Explore the white marble wonder of this ancient city and marvel at the spectacular ruins of the Celsus Library, the Agora, the Odeon, the Trajan Fountain, the Domitianus Temple, the theater and the roman latrines, etc.
You will also visit the House of Mother Mary, located upon the Mount of the Nightingale seven kilometers south of the ancient city of Ephesus. Here the Virgin Mother is said to have lived her last years on earth having been brought to the area under the care of St John, who also lived and preached here. It was reconstructed on the foundations unearthed in 1891 by Lazarist Fathers following the detailed description given by Catherine Emmerich, who claimed to have been shown this neighborhood in visions that she had of the Virgin Mother. Soon after, this site began to attract interest and is visited today by pilgrims from all over the world. Pope John XXIII visited this shrine many times during his stay as the Apostolic Delegate in Turkey while Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II came here as pilgrims in 1967 and 1979 respectively.
The tour will visit St. John’s Basilica. A church of great importance in Ephesus during the Byzantine era, it was constructed by the Roman emperor, Justinian, in the 6th century BC and is located upon what is believed to be the burial site of St. John, the apostle, author of the Gospel of John and recorder of Revelation.
Before heading towards Pamukkale, a traditional Turkish meal will be served for lunch in a local restaurant.
Just before arrival in Pamukkale, you will stop to visit the ruins at Laodicea the first of the Seven Churches of Revelation that you will visit over the next days. Situated at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and having produced a black wool that was highly sought after, under Roman dominion, Laodicea was one of the most successful commercial cities of its time in Asia Minor and was also well known for its medical school. We know from the late 1st century writings of Josephus that there was likely a large Jewish population in the city and, from his letter to the people of nearby Colossae, that Paul was concerned also with the people in Laodicea as well as their neighbors in Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13,15,16). The city’s remaining ruins leave no doubt as to the prosperity of the local population and in Revelation the angel of the church at Laodicea is described as boastful about the accumulation of wealth, full of pride, self-satisfied, deluded and, furthermore, ignorant of its spiritual indigence (Revelation 3:17). Jesus advises the Laodiceans to wholeheartedly repent, to change their self-perception, to strive for purity and to revive and deepen their faith (3:18,19). He offers them His grace and salvation should they attain spiritual triumph (3:20,21). In reference to the choice of wording used to describe the lack of obedience to God amongst the Laodiceans, lukewarm, neither cold nor hot (3:16); it is interesting to note that water was supplied to the city from a hot spring about 4 miles away through an aqueduct that you will see ruins of today along with others including walls and temples, the stadium, gymnasium and theaters.
Upon arrival in Pamukkale, which means ‘Cotton Castle’ in Turkish, you will visit the famous and picturesque travertine pools, one of the world’s natural wonders. View the terraces of hot spring pools which have been formed by deposits of white calcium carbonate. The area has been declared a World Heritage Site and is not open for bathing; however, your hotel provides thermal soaking pools of water which has been piped from the same springs that have formed the terraces. Overnight in Pamukale. (L, D)
Day 2 Hierapolis, Philidelphia, Sardis and Thyatira
After breakfast and check-out, we will depart to visit the nearby ruins at Hierapolis. Founded in the second century BC by the king of Pergamum and ceded to Rome a few decades later in 133 BC, its thermal pools were revered by the ancients as sacred baths. Its location upon a popular trade route and its close association with the neighboring cities of Loadicea and Colossae, together with the allure of its famed thermal springs, insured Hierapolis’ prosperity. As evidenced by sarcophagi in the necropolises, there was a significant Jewish population among these cities which became the foundation of what became a strong center of Christianity quite early on in its proliferation. We know that the early spread of Christianity into Asia Minor is attributed to the apostle, Paul, and his close associates, Barnabas and Silas. Paul mentions Hierapolis specifically in his letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:13). St. Phillip, the apostle, is believed by many to have been martyred here in 80 AD and you will visit ruins of the large martyrium built and dedicated to him here in the 5th century. You will see also the ancient city gates, Roman baths, the well preserved theater, necropolis and much more.
After you have explored these ruins sufficiently, we will be on our way towards Izmir. Within an hour we will arrive to visit the scant ruins of Philadelphia, located at the edge of the small town of Alaşehir. Philadelphia was established at the beginning of the 2nd century BC by the King of Pergamon. Like Aphrodisius, it was a center of pagan worship well known for its temples that later developed into a thriving Byzantine Christian community.
Having received no condemnation by Christ in his Revelation message, Philadelphia is known as the good church, abiding, loyal and steadfast in the face of persecution (Revelation 3: 8-10). He offers the community of believers an open door and tells them that if they continue forth in their faithfulness they will become pillars in the Temple of God (Revelation 3: 8,12). Here, it is interesting to note that the city had suffered a devastating earthquake in 17 AD and the residents may have been in need of emotional security and strong foundations.
The city prospered, especially during the 13th and 14th centuries when the Genoese set up a trading colony to benefit form its production of leather goods and red-dyed silk. (The name Alasehir means City of Red in english). Philadelphia is known for having resisted Ottoman rule and it was the last Byzantine stronghold remaining in inner Asia Minor until it was finally overtaken around 1400. All that remains of Roman Philadelphia is a small theater at the edge of the hill overlooking Alaşehir and its Byzantine ruins are limited to three of the great pillars that supported the dome of St. John’s Basilica, built early 7th century.
We will continue on the road for about thirty minutes for our next stop to visit the ruins of Sardis, where excavations have uncovered settlement levels dating as far back as 1400 BC. By 700 BC Sardis had become the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia, which arose in the 12th century BC after the collapse of the Hittite Empire. It was located on the banks of the Pactolus, the river of Greek mythological legend whose sands turned into gold when King Midas was told by Bacchus that he may wash off his cursed power in its waters. It is believed that the famous Lydian King, Croesus, who is known as being the first monarch in history to have minted coins, became extraordinarily wealthy from the gold that he found in the Pactolus.
The city fell into the hands of the Persian Achaemenid empire when Cyrus the Great defeated King Croesus in 547 BC. After Alexander’s conquest and death, the city went to the Seleucids before falling under the control of Pergamon, whose last king bequeathed it to the Romans, along with the rest of his kingdom, in avoidance of all out war. During Roman times, the status of the city grew along with its population until it was one of the most influential centers of trade and commerce in the region. It was well known for its manufacture of dyes and dyed woolen products. The synagogue at the excavation site, the largest yet found in the ancient world, attests to the size and influence of Sardis’ Jewish population. When Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in 330, a system of roads was developed in order to connect the new capital with the provinces. The new routes left the city less well connected than it had been previously and its commercial status suffered; though, it did remain an important church center and episcopal see, with bishops serving right up through the modern era.
The message from Revelation that was intended for Sardis is one of general condemnation for a congregation that had become lifeless in its obedience to God, despite the city’s status as a thriving business center. They are cautioned to wake up, to become aware of their shortcomings, to nourish what seeds remain within themselves, and to emulate those among them who are watchful and pure, that their community may enliven and grow out of its stale spiritual condition. Those who overcome the crisis of faith will be rewarded with recognition and salvation. Revelation (3:1-5)
The excavations at Sardis are extensive and among many capitals and columns and statuary, you will see the Temple of Artemis, the gymnasium complex which includes the baths and the synagogue, with its intricately inlaid marble details. At the site of the acropolis, you will see remains of 6th century BC city walls as well as those of a Byzantine church.
We will continue northward to visit the ruins of Thyatira, which are located within the town of Akhisar. Thyatira also fell under the rule of the Kingdom of Pergamon after Alexander’s death. Located in a wide, shallow and fertile valley between two rivers, it was built up as a military outpost to be a first line of defense for the more important centers beyond, in Pergamon and Ephesus. Eventually, the Roman armies captured the garrison; and, when Attalus III finally surrendered his Pergamonian Kingdom over to the Romans in 133 BC, thus ushering in an era of security and peace, Thyatira began to develop into a prosperous city, its growth ensured by its location on the road between Pergamon and the other cities which you have visited on this tour. As evidenced by several inscriptions that have been found during excavations of the site, the commerce here was based on production by the various guilds of the artisan workers of wool, linen, leather, bronze, dye, bakeries and slave trading, among others. Thyatira was well known for its manufacture of dyes; in particular, a purple dye obtained from the root of the madder plant which we see referenced by Paul when he mentions Lydia, a dealer of purple cloth form Thyatira. (Acts 16:14)
Christianity came early to Thyatira, though it was corrupted by the staunch pagan practices of the guild culture. In order to make connections, obtain property and gain influence among these guilds, it was imperative to participate in the debauchery of their feast banquets, which included ritual sacrifice and unrestrained lasciviousness. The message that St. John received and conveyed to the church at Thyatira begins with dramatic imagery to convey the Lord’s authority as well as His indignation at this behavior; and, more significantly, at the tolerance of this behavior and the tolerance of Jezebel, the false prophetess who had enticed and led the faithful astray despite their good works, service and forbearance (Revelation 2:18-20). The congregation is castigated by the Lord and warned that unless those who have succumbed to this impiety reform and repent wholeheartedly, they will suffer great pains to come in their just desserts (vv. 21-23). They are implored and encouraged to persevere, to adhere to whatever faithfulness remains within them and to whatever fellowship remains among them. Their endurance will be rewarded in the promise of ascendancy and of unity with Christ (Revelation 2:25-28). It is interesting to note that by the beginning of the 3rd century, Thyatira had flourished into a solid Christian community and sent its bishops to attend the great ecumenical councils in Nicea and in Ephesus.
The modern city of Akhisar has taken over most of the ancient city and few ruins remain; though, there are walls remnant of a 5th or 6th century basilica as well as some older columns and arches and other scattered stone and marble upon which Greek inscriptions can be seen.
This will conclude our sightseeing for the day and we will be on our way to Bergama for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 3 Pergamon and Izmir
After breakfast in your hotel, we will depart for the extensive archaeological site at Pergamon. Artifacts have been found here that date back to the time of the Hittites, there were early Greek settlements and later Persian domination; though, the city apparently did not blossom until the Hellenistic period. Built upon a steep hilltop 1000 feet above the plains below where the rivers Cetius and Selinus join to create the Caicus river, the Kingdom of Pergamon was founded in the 3rd century BC by Philetarios, a commander who served under Lysimachos, who had been one of Alexander’s generals. The kingdom faced repeated skirmishes with the invading Gauls and, later, in allegiance to Rome, it fought and defeated the Seleucids. It thrived, nonetheless, as a center of culture and learning throughout the Hellenistc period, especially under the Attalid dynasty, when many of the building projects that you will see remains of today were undertaken. It was during this time that the famous Charta Pergamenta, the first sheep-skin parchment, was developed. The library at Pergamon, built and founded by Eumenes II, rivaled that of the day’s foremost library in Alexandria and, out of jealousy, the Egyptian King, Ptolemy, banned the export of papyrus inspiring the invention of the new writing material. It is necessary to make note of the Asclepieion, which was a spa and center for healing and for the study of medicine established in Pergamon at the beginning of the 4th century BC. Pergamon came under the control of the Romans in 133 BC and continued to be an important center for culture and medicine, though not so much for politics as Ephesus became the regional capital.
Though Pergamon was a major center of pagan worship and not conducive to Christian life, the church there was well established by the end of the 1st century. It was severely challenged, however, by the activities of the pagan community and this struggle is what lies at the heart of the Book of Revelation’s message to the church at Pergamon. The message is similar to the one sent to Thyatira. The Lord commends the congregation for its obedience, devotion and faithfulness in the face of the persecution, flagrant heathenism and impiety that was being practiced all around them in this city of temple worship and ritual sacrifice (Revelation 2:13). They are then condemned for loosely interpreting doctrine, compromising their morals and allowing themselves to be mislead in order to satisfy their carnal desires and their worldly aspirations (Revelation 2:14,15). If they do not recognize the error of their ways and right themselves, they will face perdition; if they do prevail, they will receive from the Lord sustenance, blessings and more of the grace that is already working within them to allow them the capacity for faith (Revelation 2:16,17).
Among the many ruins at this sprawling site, you will have the opportunity to see the incredible theater that is set into a steep hillside, the famous library, the Temple of Trajan, the baths, the acropolis and more. The Asclepieion, where the famous medical researcher and physician, Galen, studied is located a few kilometers south of the acropolis. Though the impressive Zeus altar has been removed to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, its foundations remain to be seen lying in the shade of large trees. What remains of Pergamon is quite extensive and well presented.
After suitable perusing of the ruins at Pergamon, you will proceed about an hour’s drive to Izmir, Turkey’s third largest metropolis.
Izmir has a spectacular location at the end of a long bay of the Aegean Sea, which has made it a perfect harbor throughout its long history. Excavations show that there have been human settlements there since the Bronze Age and a colony of Ionian and Aeolian Greeks was established as early as 1000 BC with city walls dating to the 8th century BC. The city at Smyrna was destroyed by Lydian invaders around 600 BC and was nonexistent until the end of the 3rd century BC when Lysimachus won control over central and western Asia Minor and had a new and magnificent city built at Smyrna upon Mount Pagos. After a century and a half of domination under the Kingdom of Pergamon, Smyrna became a leading city in the new Asian province of the Roman Empire. Having had no prior ties to Rome and in order to cultivate good relations with its new ruler, the city built a temple to the goddess Roma establishing the cult of Roma. Smyrna was known for its loyalty and the emperors responded by contributing heavily to its security and development. During the Roman period, the city was on par with Ephesus and Pergamon in terms of its cultural, political and architectural status.
The first reference to early Christianity in Smyrna is from the Book of Revelation. As with the other six churches of Revelation, the early Christian congregation in Smyrna was challenged by the longer established system of pagan worship and they faced persecution by the local Jewish population, as well. The Lord’s message commends the Christians of Smyrna for their devotion in the face of the severe pressure and suffering that was brought on their church by the local Jewish opposition and also acknowledges their spiritual wealth in the face of abject material poverty (Revelation 2:9). He appeals to them to have no fear, to remain unwaveringly courageous that their conviction be undeterred by future trials that may even include martyrdom (Revelation 2:10). If they are able to remain steadfast in their witness for God, they are promised a ‘crown of life’ or exaltation and eternal blessings after this earthly life (Revelation 2:10,11). The language used is significant in that the monuments of ancient Smyrna ringed Mount Pagos much like a crown.
An early bishop of the church at Smyrna and a respected leader of early Asia Minor Christians in general, St. Polycarp is believed to have been martyred in Smyrna by burning in the middle of the 2nd century. He was one of the most influential of the Apostolic Fathers. These were a small group of early church leaders and authors who had personal relationships among Jesus’ twelve disciples and who were significant in the development of the church. Through their associations with the apostles, they were in a position to authenticate or repudiate the different interpretations of Jesus’ message that were being preached in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries. St. Polycarp is memorialized in Izmir’s oldest standing church which was built and dedicated to him in the early 17th century following an agreement between the French King, Louis XIII and the Ottoman Sultan, Suleyman.
You will visit the Church of St. Polycarp and also contemplate the view from Mount Pagos, known locally today as Kadifekale, as well as what remains of a castle, cistern and city walls that were built there by Lysimachos. The 4th century BC agora sits not far to the north of Kadifekale and you will visit its scattered ruins.
After the tour, you will be transferred to your Izmir Hotel for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 4 Final departure
After breakfast and check out from your hotel, you will be transferred to the Izmir Airport for your departure flight. (B)
(B – Breakfast, L –Lunch, D –Dinner)
>>Tour Package Includes:
0 Pick-up and drop-off to Izmir airport, Kusadasi or Selcuk
0 Transportation in a fully air-conditioned, non-smoking minivan
0 Professional English-speaking private tour guide
0 Guided sightseeing at locations of the ancient communities of the Seven Churches of Revelation
0 Entrance fees for all included sightseeing
0 VIP entry to many sights
0 Tips except driver and guide
0 Local taxes and service charges
0 24-hour emergency hotline
0 9 meals: 3 breakfast, 3 lunch, 3 dinner
(This tour provides a variety of dining experiences, including buffets, à-la-carte dining and set menus. Whenever possible, we will try to honor special dietary requests)
0 3 nights – 4 star and boutique accommodation in total.
– 1 night in Izmir http://www.hotelkonakizmir.com
– 1 night in Pamukkale http://www.pamukkale.richmondint.com.tr
– 1 night in Pergamon http://tr.lespergamon.com
>>Tour Package Excludes:
0 Entry visas where applicable
0 Meals unless otherwise stated
0 Personal expenses
0 Transport to and from Turkey
Low Season (01.11.2017-15.03.2018 ⊥ 01.11. 2018-15.03.2019)
575 Euro twin share
550 Euro triple share
125 Euro single supplement
High Season (16.03.2018-30.10.2018)
675 Euro twin share
650 Euro triple share
145 Euro single supplement
If you are travelling with children you may be eligible for a discount, please advise childrens ages.
>>Please make note of the following:
0 We’ll be happy to work with you in creating and fine tuning an itinerary for your holiday. Our itineraries are flexible and you can certainly make changes to hotels and other aspects of the tour program. You can travel by air, land or sea with public transport or private arrangements. Whatever you want to include in your personal itinerary we can arrange it and maybe suggest a few things you hadn’t thought of. True Blue Tour means trouble free, pleasant and positive experience throughout Turkey…
0 We can arrange any type of accommodation you prefer, whether it be budget or five star luxury or anything in between. Our suggested hotels are based on True Blue Tour’s experience in accommodating our guests and also based on feedback from our guests. Each suggested hotel is located superbly and provides excellent service and accommodation quality. Those hotels can be upgraded or downgraded as per your preference.
0 We’ll be happy to make alternate suggestions if you’ll let us know your general preferences.