CFT’S FERTILE CRESCENT & CYPRUS TOUR
Israel, Jordan & Turkey
20 Nights / 22 Days
Land & Air (from JFK/includes four domestic flights) cost:
$8,480 per person
Day 1 - DEPART USA (Mar 21/Oct 5)
Your international direct flight will depart from the United States, arriving in Istanbul the next day.
Day 2 - ARRIVE ISTANBUL / CAPPADOCIA (Fly) (Mar 22/Oct 6)
After arriving in Istanbul, you will then take a connecting flight to Kayseri. Upon arriving in Kayseri, you will be picked up by an agent and taken to the spectacular Cappadocia Cave Suites, the newest and most luxurious “cave living” in Cappadocia. In 2005, Abercrombie and Kent rated the Cave Suites one of the most boutique hotels in the World. Located in Göreme, a World Heritage site, the hotel’s thirty six spacious units almost all have windows with views to the outside and most feature a Jacuzzi. Some units have beautiful 200-year-old wooden ceilings and one unit is decorated in original 8th century painted frescoes showing the Maltese cross. The views are spectacular with the Fairy Chimneys in sight (www.cappadociacavesuites.com). Breakfast and dinner will be at the Cave Suites restaurant. The rest of the day will be free to relax before dinner.
Day 3, 4 – CAPPADOCIA (Mar 23, 24 / Oct 7, 8)
While in Cappadocia we will enjoy the unique landscapes of wind and rain-eroded volcanic rock formations and have opportunities for incredible hikes. Our hotel is just a few minutes walk from the starting point of five different hiking routes. During the hikes, you will see amazing formations, valleys, grapevines and orchards full of fruit trees and hot air balloons fill the sky early in the morning. Cappadocia is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a World Heritage site. You will see why. It is the highlight of all of our Turkey tours regardless of the fact that we also go to places like Istanbul, Ephesus, Troy, Pamukkale and many other impressive locations, all of which are World Heritage sites.
Discovering the unknown Cappadocia, we will go off the "tourist track". One of these outings will be to the Ballidere Valley where many formations of rocks, carved by nature (similar to phallic symbols) 100 feet tall (or higher) and 10 to 15 feet wide, create otherworldly vistas. Because it isn’t easy to access this site, most people aren’t aware of it. Missed by 99% of visitors to this area, you will be able to take unbelievable pictures at this site.
Also amazing is the incredible underground cities of Cappadocia, some of which were home to as many as 15,000 inhabitants. We will go to Derinkuyu where ancient civilizations from 3,000 to 4,000 years ago started carving layers of living quarters into the bedrock connected by catacombs. These floors are separated by huge wheels of stone that could be moved by a lever to close the passage, providing security.
In the region of Cappadocia, a 10,000 square mile area, there are 1,000 churches carved into bedrock by early and later Christians. About 100 of the churches still have frescoes from the Old and the New Testament. We will visit these churches and living quarters at the Open Air Museum, which is less than a mile from our hotel. This is a very impressive site.
We will also visit ancient handicraft shops and a caravanserai, an ancient caravan motel. Cappadocia is also famous for its rugs and kilims. We will have an excellent lecture-demonstration on Turkish kilims and carpets.
OPTIONAL: Hot air balloon rides over Cappadocia at reduced rates. A balloon ride in Cappadocia (for people of all ages) is safe and nothing less than spectacular.
OPTIONAL: Attend a Whirling Dervish ceremony at a 12th century caravanserai. There will also be an opportunity to take cooking lessons from the Cave Suites chef. A Cappadocia Cave Suites Turkish cookbook will also be available for sale. All proceeds from the Whirling Dervish ceremony, the cooking lessons and the cookbook’s sales will go toward scholarships for underprivileged girls from Yassical and Cappadocia to attend high school.
Day 5, 6 – MT. NEMRUT (Mar 25, 26 / Oct 9, 10)
Today, we will drive several hours to Mt. Nemrut. Resting at an elevation of 7700 ft., this extraordinary mountaintop features a funerary-temple complex composed of two flattened areas strewn with huge statues and fallen heads of Greco-Roman Gods. Each head measures six to nine feet high, belonging to the likes of Zeus, Hercules, Fortuna, Apollo and the King Antiouchus, who considered himself a God. There is also a mound of broken gravel that makes a perfect false peak of crushed rock. Antiouchus built the entire complex 2,050 years ago as a monument to his "divine ancestry". Our stay will be at the best available Grand Isias Hotel, a fine little hotel, in Adiyaman.
Please Note: The hike to Mt. Nemrut consists of 20 to 40 minutes of a 30% uphill hike, mostly with stairs. There is no time limit and most can do the hike. There are also donkeys or mules available for hire.
On the next day, we will drive to Gaziantep to visit the mosaic museum and see the famous mosaic of a gypsy girl from the ancient city of Zeugma. This is the one of the two best mosaic museums in the World, displaying 2,000 year old Roman mosaics. A new museum building that houses all of the mosaics opened in April 2010. If time permits, we will also visit the copper district and the fortress. Afterwards, we will drive back to Adiyaman to stay at the Grand Isias hotel.
Day 7 – URFA (Harran / Göbekli Tepe) (Mar 27 / Oct 11)
Today, we will drive to Urfa, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. We will visit nearby Harran and see the incredible beehive houses. Harran, according to the Bible, was the site where the prophet Abraham lived with his family for several years before moving to Israel, the Promised Land. We will also visit the holy sites at Ainzelha, a lake with domesticated fish. There are exceptional photo opportunities in this area. We will also visit Göbekli Tepe, a recently discovered site where excavations have just begun. Built in 10,000 B.C., it is the oldest known temple in the World. This temple was mysteriously buried by the people who built it in 8,000 B.C. and it was not used again. This is another unique place we visit on our tours. Our stay will be at the 5-star Hilton Garden Hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 8 - TARSUS-MERSIN (Mar 28 / Oct 12)
On the way to Tarsus and Mersin, we will drive through a mountainous area and stop at Karatepe (“Black Hill” in Turkish), a Neo Hittite fortress and open air museum located in the Taurus Mountain, where we will see stone reliefs, a stone lion gate and many statues. After lunch, we will then drive to Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, where we will visit St. Paul's well. We will then continue to Mersin to check into the 5-star hotel Mersin Hilton. Each room will have a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 9 – NORTHERN CYPRUS (Fly)(Mar 29 / Oct 13)
After breakfast, we will drive to the Adana airport where we will take a flight to Cyprus. Arriving in the afternoon, we will be picked up and taken to the Savoy Hotel, a deluxe hotel modeled after an Ottoman palace, to check in. You will have time to rest before dinner on the top floor of the hotel, which features a lovely view.
Day 10 - KYRENIA (Girne) (Mar 30 / Oct 14)
After breakfast, our first stop is at The Bellapais Abbey. The beauty of Bellapais is legendary. Set in the mountains, just ten minutes above Kyrenia, this 14th century Lusignan abbey with its fabulous location and pervasive atmosphere of calm is a must see. Later, we will visit another unique picturesque place, St. Hillarion Castle. Our final stop of the day is at the Kyrenia harbour where we will take an old town walking tour as well as visit the Kyrenia Castle, Church of St. George, the Sunken Ship Museum, which features a 2,300 year old ship, and the Kyrenia harbour warehouse in which countryside fruits are stored before being exported. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Our stay will be at the Savoy hotel. Dinner will also be at the hotel.
Day 11 - NICOSIA (Mar 31 / Oct 15)
We will drive to Nicosia, the capital of Northern Cyprus. Places to visit here are the Presidential Palace and Guest House, the Great Inn, a gothic style cathedral, St. Sophia (Selimiye Mosque) and The Bedesten, which is home to amazing handcrafts and art galleries with traditional and modern art pieces. After lunch, we will go through passport control and immigration to pass through the Nicosia Green Line Border Gate (this will be an opportunity to see the buildings affected by the war), an important social and cultural meeting place in Ottoman times, to enter Southern Cyprus. At this time, we would recommend changing your money to Euros. Here, we will walk to the Famagusta Gate and, if time permits, we will visit the Cyprus Archaeological Museum. After about two hours in this area, we will return to Northern Cyprus to drive to the Arkın Palm Beach Hotel to check in. This hotel has a beautiful private beach along the Mediterranean Sea and each of your rooms will have an incredible view. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 12 – FAMAGUSTA (Apr 1 / Oct 16)
Today, we will drive to Famagusta, which is very important area of the island for its history and culture. Our first stop will be at the Salamis Ruins, which was founded by Achaeans, a tribe from Anatolia and Greece that emigrated to Cilicia at the beginning of the end of the Bronze Age. Afterwards, we will continue to St. Nicolas Cathedral, which was built during the Lusignan Dynasty period between 1298-1312. It is one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the whole Mediterranean area. We will also visit the Othello Tower, which is the setting for William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, and Verdi’s opera. The tower also features the famous statue of the winged lion of Venice. Our final stop in Famagusta will be at the Castle, the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (formerly the Cathedral of St. Nicholas) and the prison of Namık Kemal. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Our stay will be at the Arkın Palm Beach Hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 13 SOUTHERN CYPRUS / AMMAN (Apr 2 / Oct 17)
İn the morning, we will continue our tour of Cyprus. We will visit the Aya Trias Basilica of the 6th century and a two-kilometre sandy beach. Untouched by the civilization, this beach is located within a national park and is one of the favourite places for the spawning of loggerhead and green sea turtles. The national park is also home to wild donkeys. There are over 1,500 types of flora in Northern Cyprus and flowers bloom all year around. At around 2 p.m., we will be taken to the Larnaca Airport in Southern Cyprus to take a non-stop flight at 6:05 p.m. to Amman, arriving at 7:15 pm. (air tickets will be purchased in advance and will be sent to you before your departure). In Amman, an agent will assist us with the visa arrangements and then take us to the 5-star Regency Palace hotel. We will have a simple dinner in Amman.
Please Note: The Cyprus schedule is subject to change.
Day 14 – AMMAN / JERASH / MT. NEBO / MADABA / PETRA (Apr 3 / Oct 18)
After breakfast, we will continue our tour of Amman before driving to the ancient city of Jerash, which offers the most complete and best preserved ruins of a Greco-Roman city in the world. It has an impressive cardo with an oval-shaped forum encircled by 56 graceful Roman columns, Hadrian’s Arch, a hippodrome, the Temples of Zeus and Artemis, a massive theater, and the ruins of multiple Christian churches. We will also visit Mount Nebo, which features a beautiful view of the Jordan valley where Moses saw the Promised Land. In addition, we will visit Madaba, a Byzantine center of mosaics, to see the oldest surviving map of the Holy Land. Afterwards, we will continue to Petra to check into the Movenpick or Marriott Regency Hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel or a local restaurant.
Day 15 - PETRA (Apr 4 / Oct 19)
Today, we will spend a whole day touring Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven new wonders of the world. This city was carved into sandstone rock mountains and was a stop along ancient trade routes. The guide will offer a choice of hiking around the city or, if you do not wish to walk, visiting the rock formations at the bottom of the gorge. We will also see Al Khazneh (meaning “The Treasury”), which is a detailed ruin built into a cliff. In Petra, we will stay again at the Movenpick Hotel or the Marriott Regency Palace. Dinner will be at the hotel or a local restaurant.
Day 16 – WADI RUM / DEAD SEA (Apr 5 / Oct 20)
In the morning, we will drive to Wadi Rum, also known as “The Valley of the Moon,” which is an impressive desert landscape full of canyons and ancient rock drawings. We will also see the Desert Police, who dress in traditional khaki uniforms and can be seen riding camels. After a jeep safari and lunch at a Bedouin Tent, we will then drive through Aqaba to enjoy a view of the Red Sea. We will then drive to the Dead Sea to stay at the 5-star Dead Sea Holiday Inn Resort. Each room will have a sea view. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 17 – DEAD SEA / AMMAN (JORDAN) (Apr 6 / Oct 21)
On this day, you can choose to either visit the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex and Parkway to enjoy the scenic view or swim in the Dead Sea. This valley around the Dead Sea is believed to be the site of the Garden of Eden. In the afternoon, we will drive to Amman to tour the city. Our stay will be at the 5-star Regency Palace Hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 18 – JERUSALEM (Masada) – ISRAEL (Apr 7 / Oct 22)
Early in the morning, we will cross the Allenby Bridge border from Jordan into Israel and then continue to Masada, an ancient Judean fortress occupied by Herod the Great atop a rock plateau between 37 to 31 B.C.. We will then drive to the holy city of Jerusalem. If time permits, we will begin our tour of the city.
Our stay will be at the 5-star Leonardo Plaza hotel, which is located downtown. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 19 – JERUSALEM (Apr 8 / Oct 23)
We begin atop the Mt. of Olives for a view point on Jerusalem: Overlooking the Old City, the mount is covered partly in olive trees, cemeteries and churches. On to visit the Garden of Gethsemane. Enter the Garden of Gethsemane, with the ancient olive trees believed to date back to the times of Christ. We will also enter the Church of All Nations (Church of Agony). We enter the old city and walk along the Via Dolorosa and we will follow this path to the Church of Holy Sepulcher. We proceed to Mt. Zion on the south side of Jerusalem, King David’s city. We visit the Upper Room, view the traditional tomb of King David, Last Supper Room and Church of St. Peter in Galicantu, and Dormition Abbey.
We will proceed to Israel Museum, Shrine of the Book and the Model of Jerusalem for the 2nd Temple period. We then head to the village of Ein Karem, the birthplace of St. John the Baptist and to the Church of Visitation where the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, and proclaimed the 'Magnificat'. We will then continue to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, which stands upon the site where Jesus was born and visit the Milk Grotto. If time permits, we will visit the Hadassah Hospital and view the Chagall windows.
We end the day at the holiest site in the Jewish Tradition today the Western Wall. Our stay will be at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 20 – NAZARETH / TEL AVIV (Apr 9 / Oct 24)
After breakfast we will visit any of the remaining sites that were missed on the previous day. We will then leave Jerusalem and drive to Nazareth. In Nazareth, we will visit the beautiful churches that now grace Jesus’ boyhood home, including Mensa Christi in an old residential quarter, the Synagogue Church in the market, St. Gabriel’s Church over the ancient spring, the Church of St. Joseph, and the jewel in the crown, the Basilica of the Annunciation, with its magnificent representations of Mary from around the world. We will then continue to Tel Aviv where we will visit Old Jaffa, an ancient port. Here, we will visit St. Peter’s Church, built in the late 19th century. The rocks at the entrance to the port is, according to Greek mythology, where Perseus slayed the Hydra to save Andromeda and the city. Dinner will be at an outside café. Our stay will be at the Herods Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Day 21 – TEL AVIV (Apr 10 / Oct 25)
Today, the guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel to continue your tour of Tel Aviv, a modern city and cultural capital. It is internationally renowned for its contemporary art scene and rich history. Here, we will visit the Bauhaus architecture at the Unesco World Heritage site, the White City of Tel Aviv. We will also take a trip to the Neve Tzedek district to visit the Suzanne Dellale Centre, which is World famous for its modern dance and modern art. Afterwards, we will visit Independent Hall and the Shalom Tower. In addition, we will explore the Diaspora Museum where Jewish people from all countries can trace their ancestors. There is also a special music section to hear traditional Jewish folk music from all over the world. We will stay again at the Herods Hotel. Dinner will be at a local restaurant.
Day 22 – TEL AVIV / ISTANBUL / DEPART FOR USA (Apr 11 / Oct 26)
**Flight schedules and itinerary are subject to change**