An adventure as epic as the land it encompasses. Explore the heady hubbub of Istanbul and the ancient ruins of Ephesus and Troy, before sailing across the Dardanelles to wander and reflect at the war graves of Gallipoli. Stroll through Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and take in the great Greco-Roman ruins at Palmyra in the desert of northern Syria. Visit the stunning crusader castle of Krak des Chevalier and the ancient wonders of Allepo. In Jordan, experience the red granite and sandstone oasis of Wadi Rum and the astounding archaeology and architecture of Petra. Enter the Holy Land and discover Jerusalem, a city of enormous significance to Christians and Muslims alike, and visit legendary Bethlehem, Jericho, Masada and the Dead Sea, before flying to the enchanting metropolis of Cairo. In Egypt, take in the Pyramids, the Cairo Museum, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, and a leisurely cruise down the Nile to Aswan.
Day 1 - Istanbul
Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your starting hotel. After checking in, please look out for the Peregrine noticeboard in the hotel lobby, which has a list of suggestions for things to see and do in your free time. As today is an arrival day, there is no formal sightseeing planned. Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, with a history spanning thousands of years. It has been through several incarnations, firstly as Byzantium, then Constantinople and finally Istanbul. The city today is bustling and its streets are crowded with locals busily going about their daily lives. Our hotel is situated in the old town and is mere minutes walk to attractions such as the Grand Bazaar, Spice Markets and Blue Mosque. If you arrive early enough, you can wander and absorb the vibrancy of this exciting city that links Europe and Asia. In the evening there will be a Welcome Meeting (please check noticeboard for exact time) held in the hotel, where you will meet your tour leader and fellow travel companions.
Day 2 - Istanbul
Today our guide introduces us to the treasure-trove of the historic old town. We visit the iconic 17th century Blue Mosque, built for Sultan Ahmet I and a unique piece of architecture because of its six minarets, rather than the usual four found across the rest of the Muslim world. Another striking feature is its 20,000 beautiful Iznik tiles. The ancient Hippodrome with Obelisk of Theodosius, Snake Pillar and German Fountain of Wilhelm II are also visited. A free afternoon enables us to explore the famous covered Grand Bazaar or Spice Market, armed with advice from your leader as to how to get the best bargains and become more savvy in the art of haggling! There is everything from clothing to jewellery, sweets and spices on offer in the bustling marketplaces.
Day 3 - Istanbul-Izmir-Ephesus-Selcuk
This morning we transfer to the domestic airport for the short flight to Izmir. From here it is a short drive to Ephesus - one of the best-preserved classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean and a great example of Roman architecture. Always an important religious centre, Ephesus was founded by Ionian Greeks in the 11th Century BC and flourished under Roman rule. The Greeks replaced the cult of the Anatolian fertility goddess Cybele with Artemis and built a fabulous temple in her honour. With the coming of the Romans, it became the Temple of Diana and was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. We visit the vast amphitheatre, walk the marble street once trodden by Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and marvel at the gymnasium, baths and wonderfully restored Library of Celsus. Nearby is the last home of the Virgin Mary, who as legend has it came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot. Later in the day we continue on to the town of Selçuk where we spend the night and have a chance to reflect and fully comprehend the history and splendour of our days discoveries.
Day 4 - Selcuk-Troy-Canakkale
This morning after breakfast we begin the drive to Çanakkale, located on the shores of the Dardanelles, which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea and touches both Europe (with the Gelibolu Peninsula) and Asia (with the Biga Peninsula). On the way, we visit an important historical site near Canakkale, Troy. Troy was a city that existed over 4.000 years ago and was known as a major ancient civilization. For many years people believed that it was the city mentioned only in the tales and never truly existed, as the area had become known as Ilium, or New Ilium. Archaeological digs subsequently proved that there had been nine separate periods of settlement (3000 BC-AD 400) on what became accepted as the site of ancient Troy. Each successive period of habitation lies on top of its former incarnation. Here we can see the remnants of the ancient city walls in addition to a replica of the famous wooden horse. Historian's are still at odds as to whether or not this fable or indeed the battle itself is stuff of lore or reality. Arriving in Çanakkale where we have the remainder of the day free to wander around this vibrant waterfront town and perhaps view the Trojan horse used and subsequently gifted to the city by the producers of the movie Troy filmed in 2004.
Day 5 - Canakkale-Gallipoli-Damascus
We cross the Dardanelles and to 'Europe,' where we visit the Gallipoli Peninsula - a place of enormous significance to Australians, British and New Zealanders. Located at Turkey's most westerly point this area is now serene, but the role it played in April 1915 during the First World War is now firmly etched on the psyche of the New Zealand and Australian nations. We visit the beach and cemeteries of Anzac Cove, then head up the hill to pay homage at the poignant memorials of Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. The latter the highest ground secured in the campaign on the 8th of August, 1915 (by New Zealand and British troops) before being beaten back due to lack of reinforcement. From the Ataturk Memorial at this spot we can view the Allied troops goal - the Dardenelles. We can look down upon the rough and barren hills and gulleys that became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. Around this area we can find remnants of trenches used by the Turkish soldiers. After touring the former battlefields we head back to where our adventure began - Istanbul.
Day 6-7 - Tel Aviv - Jerusalem
Fly to Tel Aviv then transfer to our hotel in Jerusalem. Free time until we meet our Israeli tour leader this evening and enjoy dinner together. Spend the day with a local guide seeing the major sites, including the old city of Jerusalem and the Garden of Gethsemane.
Day 8 - Masada - Dead Sea
Visit Masada and see the ruins of King Herod’s mansion followed by a stop by the Dead Sea. Relax on the mineral beach and float in the salt-rich sea before heading back to Jerusalem.
Day 9 - Jerash - Amman
Morning transfer to Allenby Bridge, and on to Jerash, the jewel in the Roman Empire’s Jordanian provinces, and today its ruins are among the most intact in the region. Continue to our hotel in Amman.
Day 10 - Amman-Madaba-Dana Village-Shobak Castle-Petra
This morning we drive to Madaba, where we visit the Greek Orthodox church of St George that houses a 6th century mosaic map depicting the old city of Jerusalem. This is of particular interest, as it clearly depicts Palestine and Lower Egypt around 550 AD. We continue on to Mount Nebo, where a monastery believed to be the burial place of Moses is located on a hill overlooking the Holy Land. The custodians of this monastery are Franciscan monks and it also contains some of the most impressive mosaics in the world. We then travel to Dana, where we stroll though the ancient village. Recent finds have revealed evidence of Palaeolithic, Egyptian, Edomite, Assyrian, Nabataean and Roman civilisations. We visit workshops where local artisans sell attractive silver jewellery and charms to support their families and their local community. Our final stop before arriving in Petra is the imposing Crusader fort at Shobak.
Day 11 - Petra
For most people the image of Petra is a narrow chasm with glimpses of the famous Treasury in the distance. We are sure to be surprised by the size of this ancient city, built by the Nabataean people. With our guide we explore the old Roman road, amphitheatre and several old tombs. We also climb up to the Monastery for a fine view of the entire site. It is a memorable day and sure to be one of the main highlights of our trip. There is a cafeteria on the site where you can buy a light lunch. In the mid-afternoon we return to our hotel and our tour leader will try hard to persuade us to take a Turkish bath! This is a great experience and Petra is an excellent – and safe - place to try one. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 12 - Petra - Wadi Rum - Amman
Leaving Petra behind us we now head for imposing Wadi Rum - a truly beautiful place with towering red sandstone mountains rising from the desert. The area is home to Bedouin tribes who live in scattered camps throughout the area. Wadi Rum is probably best known because of its connection with the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18. Much of David Lean's movie on his exploits, 'Lawrence of Arabia', was actually filmed in Wadi Rum. We enjoy a fantastic jeep tour into the desert and later we continue our journey returning to Amman in the late afternoon.
Day 13 - Amman - Cairo
Welcome to Egypt! Morning flight to Cairo before we settle into our hotel and begin exploring.
Day 14 - Memphis - Saqqara
We begin our Egypt leg with a drive out to Memphis, on the edge of the Western Desert. Visit the necropolis, Saqqara and the step pyramid of King Djoser. It’s believed to be over 5000 years old and pre-dates the Great Pyramid at Giza.
Day 15 - Pyramids - Sphinx
The day you've been waiting for as we drive out to Giza to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. We also explore the extensive collection in the Egyptian Museum before boarding our sleeper train to Luxor.
Day 19 - Luxor - Karnak Temple
After an early breakfast on board we roll into Luxor and head to our Nile home for the next few nights – a comfortable cruise boat. Later in the day we take horse-drawn carriages to Karnak – one of the world's most celebrated temple complexes.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 17 - Nile Cruise
Rise early to head into the Valley of the Kings where, buried under the arid hills, are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. See the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon in between bouts of relaxation on deck or in your cabin.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 18-19 - Nile Cruise - Aswan
Visit the well-preserved temple dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god, at Edfu and the Kom Ombo Temples. Sail to Aswan and explore the beautiful Temple of Isis. Free time to shop at the colourful Nubian Bazaar.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 20 - Aswan
The optional visit to Abu Simbel this morning is well worth it. With four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Free afternoon to relax in Aswan.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 21 - Cairo
Morning flight to Cairo. Uncover another layer of Egyptian history as we explore medieval Cairo, including the Gayer-Anderson Museum, Ibn Tulun Mosque and the Khan al-Khalili bazaar.
Day 22 - Cairo
Our Grand Middle East Adventure ends after breakfast this morning. Check-out time is usually around 12.00 noon and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Cairo.