Crossroads of Empires: Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt & Jordan

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    Destinations: Middle East
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Tour Description

Our Mediterranean expedition and Suez Canal tour introduce us to the legacies of the world’s most celebrated empires. As we visit Crete, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordon, expect to be wowed by archaeological ruins, art, and architecture, from the Palace of Knossos in Crete to the World Heritage Site of Rhodes to the ruins of the Bellapais Abbey in Cyprus. Mediterranean adventure travel should always include some water time, so plan to enjoy a world-class snorkel excursion over the coral reefs of Sharm el Sheikh’s warm, translucent waters. We end our remarkable journey back in time in Petra, the rose-colored capital of the Nabatean Empire.

Mediterranean and Suez Canal Expedition highlights include:

  • Memorable Suez Canal tour—a daylight transit on our way to beautiful Sharm el Sheikh.
  • Wadi Rum in Jordan, the majestic valley of T.E. Lawrence fame; marvel at the huge sandstone and granite rock formations.
  • The rose-red ruins of Petra, a must-see for any world traveler.
  • Ample activity choices during our Mediterranean tour, including hikes to medieval castles, a glass-bottom boat ride, swimming, and snorkeling.
  • Zodiac excursion to Anamur and its fortress-castle, a massive monument occupied by the Crusaders and Ottomans.
  • Byblos, Lebanon, with a history reaching back 7,000 years and a plethora of Phoenician-, Roman-, and Byzantine-era ruins.

What to Expect:

Mediterranean adventure travel requires a relatively low level of exertion. We will be sailing aboard the elegant, 110-passenger Clipper Odyssey, with Zodiac excursions ashore when the temperatures will be most pleasant. Temperatures will range from the high 50°sF to low 70°sF throughout our itinerary. Please be prepared to walk moderate distances over uneven surfaces and sometimes rough terrain. While visiting Muslim countries during our Mediterranean tour and Suez Canal expedition, women should be prepared to wear long sleeves and long pants or skirts; you may be asked to remove your shoes when visiting religious sites. Those who travel with a spirit of adventure will gain much from this experience.

Itinerary

Day 1

Depart USA

Depart on your independent flight to Crete.

Day 2

Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Arrive in Heraklion and make your way to our hotel. Gather this evening at the hotel for our welcome dinner and a briefing on tomorrow’s activities.

Day 3

Heraklion / Knossos / Embark Clipper Odyssey

After breakfast and a short tour of Heraklion, Crete’s capital, we drive inland to the Palace of Knossos, the most celebrated monument of Minoan civilization. Vivid frescoes adorn the 1,300-room palace where mythical King Minos held court. In the late afternoon board the Clipper Odyssey.

Day 4

Rhodes / Fethiye, Turkey

Our tour of Rhodes City departs from the quayside and brings us to Mount Smith where the acropolis of ancient Rhodes commands a dramatic view of the port. Back in the center, walk the winding streets built by the Knights of St. John to the Palace of the Grand Masters. During lunch on board we cruise to the resort town of Fethiye located on Turkey’s famed Turquoise Coast. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure or embark on a short historical tour to Lycian rock-cut tombs. Tonight choose to dine on board or on your own at one of the many charming restaurants in town.

Day 5

Kas / Kekova

Today we visit the picturesque seaside village of Kas. Stroll through meandering alleyways flanked by homes with flower-draped balconies and explore the seaside Hellenistic theater. During lunch, we sail past glorious Mediterranean scenery to tiny, cove-riddled Kekova. Options here include a hike to the medieval castle, perched on a hilltop and surrounded by sculpted sarcophagi. Or, view the remains of the sunken village of ancient Simena by glass-bottom boat. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore on your own, or perhaps take a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters.

Day 6

Antalya / Perge / Aspendos

This morning we go ashore in Antalya and visit the excellent museum which displays artifacts discovered throughout this region. We continue to the once-great center of learning, Perge, whose superb ruins make it one of the eastern Mediterranean’s most spectacular Greco-Roman sites. We then drive to Aspendos and enjoy a picnic lunch by the river, before we visit the impressive 15,000-seat Roman Theater.

Day 7

Anamur

Like the invaders of ancient history, our ship sails under the magnificent crenellated walls of Mamure Kalesi, Anamur’s fortress-castle, whose sheer walls plunge to the sea. We go ashore by Zodiac to marvel at this massive monument fortified with 36 turrets, constructed by the Cilician kings of Armenia and later occupied by Crusaders and Ottomans. We then make the short drive to Anemurium, the most southernly city of Ancient Anatolia. Partially excavated by archaeologists, it also offers the perfect opportunity for a swim with crystal-clear waters and a lovely beach.

Day 8

Kyrenia, Cyprus

Today we explore Kyrenia, or Girne as it is known locally, a bustling harbor town back-dropped by mountains. The magnificent Kyrenia Castle, believed to have been founded by the semi-nomadic Akkadians in the 9th century B.C., still gives the impression that it is protecting the busy horseshoe-shaped harbor below. We visit the castle and its Shipwreck Museum. The ship on display, along with its cargo of amphoras discovered off the coast of Kyrenia in 1965, is believed to be the oldest ship ever discovered in the Mediterranean. We then make our way to Bellapais Abbey, the jewel of the namesake village. This imposing ruin, built by monks in the 13th century, is in a wonderful position commanding a long view down to Kyrenia and the Mediterranean. We cap off our time in Kyrenia with lunch at a local restaurant before returning to the Clipper Odyssey to depart for Beirut, Lebanon.

Day 9

Beirut, Lebanon / Byblos

This morning we arrive in Lebanon’s historic capital, Beirut, and depart overland to beautiful Byblos. The city’s history reaches back 7,000 years and offers a panoply of Phoenician, Roman, and Byzantine-era ruins. This seaport, from which the words “Bible” and “book” are derived, once imported papyrus and exported it as scrolls. A highlight is a visit to Byblos Castle, built by Crusaders and enclosing a picturesque walled city of Phoenician monuments.

After lunch on board we visit the National Museum where artifacts from prehistoric times to the medieval Mamluk period are on display. Then continue with a guided tour of Beirut whose recent turbulent past is in a remarkable state of fast-forward recovery. The modern and ancient worlds collide here in a collage of architectural marvels. We drive through the commercial Hamra area and past Martyr’s Square. The afternoon is at leisure for you to explore the “Paris of the Middle East.”

Day 10

Beirut / Baalbek

Today we drive across the fertile Bekáa Valley to Baalbeck, one of the most impressive sites of the ancient Roman world. We explore the well-preserved temples of Jupiter, Bacchus, and Venus, surrounded by lovely gardens, as well as the Roman Acropolis, considered to be among the most important ever built.

Day 11

Port Said, Egypt / Tanis

We disembark in Port Said and depart for Tanis—once capital of Egypt from 1070 to 715 B.C., this is the most important and impressive archaeological site in Egypt’s northern delta. Our historians guide us through the walled city, which is studded with obelisks, statues, and columns, many inscribed with royal rulers’ names, particularly Ramses II.

Day 12

Port Said / Suez Canal Transit

An extraordinary experience awaits us today as our ship slips into a convoy of vessels for the southbound transit of one of the world’s greatest engineering feats: the 101-mile-long Suez Canal. Its completion in 1869 marked the severing of the African and Asian continents, providing a convenient shortcut for ships that formerly made the arduous and lengthy journey around the Cape of Good Hope. We learn the history of the canal and the ancient trade routes that preceded it and our vantage point on deck affords us close-up views of the contrasts in landscape—rugged terrain on one side and lush greenery on the other.

Day 13

Sharm el Sheikh / Monastery of St. Catherine

Choose between two options today. From the coastal town of Sharm el Sheikh, we ascend nearly 5,000 feet to explore the splendid 6th-century Byzantine Monastery of St. Catherine. Built by the Emperor Justinian to commemorate the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments, the church is a treasure trove of one of the world’s most magnificent collections of gold icons, dating back to the 5th century, and the museum has a sampling of manuscripts second in importance only to those of the Vatican.

Alternatively, take a local boat to Ras Mohammed, where the Gulf of Aqaba meets the Gulf of Suez, for a delightful snorkel experience among some of the world’s best coral reef ecosystems.

Day 14

Aqaba, Jordan / Disembark Clipper Odyssey / Wadi Rum / Petra

Disembark this morning in Aqaba, Jordan’s only seaport. We drive north to Wadi Rum, the majestic valley made famous by T.E. Lawrence and featured in the epic movie Lawrence of Arabia. Dramatic sandstone formations tower over the desert floor strewn with immense boulders. Arrive in Petra this evening for dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 15

Petra

We rise early this morning to visit the superb ruins of Petra, capital of the Nabataean civilization, which flourished between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200. In a dramatic approach we enter the Siq, a narrow chasm between 600-foot-high rock walls, which opens into the ancient city. Before us are spectacular rock-cut tombs, temples, and a theater, each carved from vividly hued, iron-rich sandstone, which earns it the nickname “Rose-Red Petra.” The façade of the treasury, remarkably well preserved, bears testimony to Petra’s prominence as a wealthy center monopolizing the lucrative trading routes north of the Red Sea. Overnight at our hotel.

Day 16

Petra / Amman

In the morning, we drive north along the King’s Highway through the picturesque Jordanian countryside, passing traditional villages and the spectacular canyon of Wadi al-Mujib en route to the Castle of Kerak. Dating from 1132, this stunning castle lies within a walled crusader city situated on an ancient caravan route between Egypt and Syria. We arrive at our hotel in time
for dinner and overnight.

Day 17

Amman / USA

Transfer to the airport for your independent flights homeward.

Departures

Pricing Information

Clipper Odyssey

One of the finest adventure ships afloat, the Clipper Odyssey is a 110-passenger luxury expedition vessel, ideally suited for cruising in off-the-beaten-path locales. On all Clipper Odyssey expeditions, guests have access to a fleet of Zodiacs, which allows remote landings anywhere nature or curiosity dictates. All cabins on a Clipper Odyssey cruise have an ocean view, safe, minibar, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, in-room music system, and sitting area with sofa. Beds can be configured for twin or queen-size sleeping arrangements, and all cabins have an en suite bathroom complete with shower and small bathtub. In the comfort of their cabin, passengers can track the progress of their expedition on the Global Positioning System broadcast—a highlight of a Clipper Odyssey voyage for adventure-minded guests. Additional facilities include a gourmet kitchen featuring American and international cuisine, dining room, lounge, small library and gym, outdoor pool, and gift shop. An elevator services all passenger cabin decks. Ship registry: Bahamas.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers. For planning purposes, below please find suggested travel dates for this itinerary: