Day 1: Australia – – Istanbul
Make your way to the airport and board your Emirates flight to Turkey!
Day 2: Istanbul
You arrive in Istanbul, the gorgeous Turkish city that spans two continents – Europe and Asia – and has been occupied by the likes of the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans across the centuries. You will be met by your tour leader upon arrival and assisted with the transfer to the hotel for check in. Use the rest of the day to relax in anticipation of your first full day of touring tomorrow!
Day 3: Istanbul (B)
A welcome meeting begins at 9am and is your introduction to your fellow travelling companions. It is then time to head out straight into the Istanbul cityscape with an orientation walk in Hippodrome Square. Formerly a public arena used for chariot races, Hippodrome Square is today one of the most-visited sites in Istanbul. It is also called Sultanahmet Square. Learn about its history and how it fell into slight disrepair, then enjoy a cup of Turkish tea ahead of visiting another of Istanbul’s emblematic landmarks: the Blue Mosque. This striking mosque is perhaps one of the most famous in Turkey and was built between 1609 and 1616, at the behest of Sultan Ahmet I. Its nickname comes from the more than 20,000 handmade ceramic Iznik tiles that adorn the mosque’s interior. Look out for tiles featuring tulip, rose, carnation and lily designs. The third visit of the day is to the neighbouring Hagia Sophia. Originally built as a Greek Orthodox cathedral, Hagia Sophia went on to become an Ottoman mosque and is now a museum. One of its most awe-inspiring claims to fame is its dome ceiling – take a moment to gaze up at its grandeur once inside. Today’s final stop is at the Grand Bazaar. This sprawling covered market stretches across 61 streets and more than 4000 stalls selling everything from spices and ceramics, to Turkish lamps, rugs and jewellery.
Day 4: Istanbul – – Izmir – Selcuk (B)
A transfer takes you to the airport for your one-way flight to Izmir. This journey typically takes about five hours if travelling by car, so this morning’s flight is the ultimate in convenience! Upon arrival in Izmir your group heads to Ephesus near Selçuk. The Roman ruins here are among some of the best preserved in Turkey and are a fascinating insight into what life may have been like in ancient times. See the amphitheatre, the marble streets and structures including the gymnasium, public baths and Library of Celsus. Afterwards, your group makes a stop in the village of Şirince for some free time.
Day 5: Selçuk – Pamukkale (B, D)
It is an early start to the day as you set out on today’s drive (about two-and-a-half-hours) from Selçuk to Pamukkale. This town in Western Turkey is home to the Hierapolis, and is also know for its mineral-rich waters that flow down a series of white travertine terraces. The Hierapolis and the sites found here – theatre, temple, fountains, baths and more – is your first go-to upon arrival in town. You’ll also see the terraces and have opportunity to learn about these springs. Dinner is served at the hotel tonight.
Day 6: Pamukkale – Konya (B)
Embark on the drive from Pamukkale to Konya (about five hours by road). Have some time to rest in your hotel upon arrival ahead of this evening’s outing to a Dervish Lodge. Watch a performance of the famous Whirling Dervishes and learn about the history of this 700-year-old ritual; an act done in an effort to become one with God.
Day 7: Konya – Cappadocia (B)
Today’s drive to Cappadocia takes about two-and-a-half hours, and an orientation and valley walk led by your leader takes place upon arrival. This region of Turkey is characterised by the ‘fairy chimneys’ sprinkled across its semi-arid landscape. These conical rock formations can be found in clusters throughout various valleys. Another of Cappadocia’s calling cards is its caves; homes and churches carved into the valley walls as far back as the Bronze Age.
Day 8: Cappadocia (B, L)
Head to Özonak Underground City this morning. Located in the area around Avanos, this ancient metropolis was only rediscovered in 1972 and its carved rooms are connected by large tunnels. Lunch today is enjoyed with a local family. The sightseeing then continues at Göreme Open-Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the frescoes adorning the rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries found here, and learn about the site’s history as a Byzantine monastic settlement and place of pilgrimage. Tonight is your final evening in Turkey.
Optional: Hot Air Balloon Ride
Rise before the sun and hop into the basket of a hot air balloon to take to the skies for this unforgettable experience. Have a front row seat to the sun rise as it emerges from the horizon and casts the Cappadocian landscape in a golden glow. Additional cost applies. Please note this activity must be booked locally and travellers should talk to the Tour Leader on Day 2 to organise.
Day 9: Cappadocia – Istanbul – – Amman (B)
The time has come to bid goodbye to Turkey as a transfer takes you to the airport in Istanbul. Here you board a one-way flight to Amman, the modern capital of Jordan! Arrive at Queen Alia International Airport and be met by a tour representative who will take you to your hotel for transfer. Rooms are generally available after midday.
Tonight’s welcome meeting is an official introduction to your tour leader and your fellow travellers. It is also a great opportunity to ask questions and find out more about what you can expect from your time in Jordan. Any spare time you have between your flight and the meeting can be spent relaxing, exploring the area around the hotel, or heading to some of Amman’s top attractions such as the Roman Amphitheatre in the Old Town, the Temple of Hercules or the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts.
Day 10: Amman – Jerash – Amman (B)
The day begins with a city tour around Amman. The Jordanian capital is steeped with biblical and ancient history, and there are a myriad of sights to see around the downtown area. Take in the Roman ruins at the Citadel, and duck into the Archaeological Museum to spy the collection of Dead Sea Scrolls. Walk along the Souq towards the Roman Theater, and then head out of the city on a one-hour drive to Jerash, the largest site of Roman ruins in Jordan. Jerash has been occupied since the Bronze Age and is a major drawcard for tourists wanting to see Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Artemis and its Corinthian columns, and the sprawling Forum. Your group returns to Amman in the evening and you have the night as free time.
Day 11: Amman – Dana – Shobak – Petra (B)
Today sees you set out for one of Jordan’s most legendary destinations – Petra. First however, you make a stop in the village of Dana, located on the fringe of the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Locals sell beautiful silver jewellery and charms – all making for great souvenirs! Continue to the ancient Crusader castle at Shobak (also called Montréal). The castle was first built to defend eastern trade routes through the old world kingdom, however it fell into the hands of the all-conquering Saladin in 1189. It is then onto Petra, arriving in the evening.
Day 12: Petra (B)
Petra is a bucket list experience for travellers the world-over, and you may just feel giddy with excitement as you rise this morning and begin the walk through the Siq. The Siq is the main entrance to this ancient Nabatean city; this path leads visitors on a 1.2-kilometre journey through a narrow canyon-like gorge. Turn a corner and then come face-to-face with the sight that perhaps most embodies Petra: the Treasury. Spend time capturing the beauty of this world-recognisable façade from all its glorious angles. One of the most surprising things about Petra is its sheer size; the covers a huge area and there is almost an overwhelming amount to explore, discover and admire. Your guide will be on-hand to lead you along Petra’s old Roman road, point out notable structures, and offer insight into the history of this unrivalled site. Make the climb up the Monastery for unbelievable views of the wild landscape surrounding Petra, and have lunch at an on-site cafeteria. You are then free to continue exploring Petra however you wish. Tip: be sure to wear your sturdiest walking shoes for today. The ground around Petra can be uneven and the various walks, especially up to the High Place of Sacrifice require a good level of fitness.
Day 13: Petra – Wadi Rum (B, D)
There is simply too much to see in Petra for it all to be done in just one day. So, set an early alarm to make another morning visit to the ancient city.
Reconvene with your group to set out on the drive to Wadi Rum. As you near closer to this other-worldly landscape, you will swap vehicles for old Jeeps driven by members of local Bedouin tribes. This government-led initiative was introduced as a way to bring employment and income to the local communities. Lunch is served in the small village of Rum and you have the opportunity to look around the visitor’s centre. It is then back into the Jeeps to venture further into this magnificent arid landscape, moving between striking rock formations, undulating sand dunes and towering sandstone mountains. You may even come across herds of camel! It is hard not to channel Lawrence of Arabia as you explore, especially as you arrive at the Bedouin camp where you’ll be spending the night.
Day 14: Wadi Rum – Dead Sea (B)
Wake up this morning to find yourself surrounded by the magical sand dunes and formations of Wadi Rum – a truly spectacular sight to greet the day with! Join a guided walk around the camp area and learn more about Wadi Rum and the Bedouin tribes who call this remarkable place home. Keen photographers must remember to have their camera poised at the ready as Wadi Rum offers little in the way of bad angles! Return to the 4WD vehicles for the drive to Wadi Rum’s main entrance.
You then swap sand for sea as the group travels away from Wadi Rum and to the shores of the infamously buoyant Dead Sea. Make a quick change into your swimmers for the chance to take a dip in these mineral-rich waters. Delight in reclining into the water and feel yourself languidly float without the need for a lilo! You can also purchase some of the Dead Sea mud to cover your body with (avoid putting it on your face!) for an impromptu spa treatment. Tonight is your final night in Jordan.
Day 15: Dead Sea – – Cairo (B)
A transfer takes you to the airport following breakfast at the hotel. You board a quick one-way flight that sees you soon landing in the ancient capital of Egypt, Cairo! You will be met upon arrival and escorted to the hotel for check in. Use the rest of the day to relax or explore the neighbourhood around the hotel.
Day 16: Cairo – – Aswan (B, D)
Your first day in Egypt starts on an iconic note: a visit to the Pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza! These spectacular structures are among some of the most recognisable ancient landmarks in the world, and the opportunity to get up close to these fascinating landmarks will be an opportunity not soon forgotten. It is then onto the Egyptian Museum, home to a dazzling collection of Egypt’s most precious antiquities and artefacts. One of the jewels in the collection is undoubtedly the treasures found inside Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Later in the afternoon, you will be transferred to the railway station for your experience aboard an overnight sleeper train. Accommodation is in cosy two-berth cabins that can be converted into bunk beds. Cabins are provided with linens and there are Western-style bathrooms located in every train carriage. Meals are also provided (dinner and breakfast) with airline-style trays delivered to every cabin. Travellers are also welcome to bring their own snacks aboard (the breakfasts in particular tend to be heavy on the carbohydrates and not much else!). Anyone with dietary requirements should raise this with the tour leader.
Day 17: Aswan (B, D)
Your train arrives into Aswan this morning. It is straight from the station to the temple of Philae. This island sits within the Aswan Low Dam and is dedicated to the goddess Isis. A boat ferries you out to the island and you have time to wander its structures, learn about the hieroglyphics and those that used to pray here. You will also learn about how the island isn’t the temple’s original location; it was moved to protect it from rising river waters. The afternoon following the temple visit is yours for free time. Meet back up with your group this evening for a dinner of traditional Nubian cuisine and hospitality. You may even be invited to partake in a Nubian dance or two!
Day 18: Aswan – Abu Simbel – Aswan – Nile River Cruise (B, L, D)
Today’s excursion calls for a very early start as the group sets out on the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Aswan to the site of Abu Simbel. The long journey becomes instantly worth it the moment you catch your first glimpse of these spectacular temples. Abu Simbel is the location of two temples – one for Ramesses II and another for his favourite queen, Nefertari – that have been carved into the rock face. The four gargantuan statues of Ramesses II guarding his temple are one of Egypt’s most photographed outlooks. Head inside each of the temples to gaze upon the ancient hieroglyphics that adorn the interior walls.
Make the return drive to Aswan. Upon arriving back in the city your group hops into a traditional felucca (a wooden boat) for a scenic cruise around the River Nile and some neighbouring islands. Tonight also marks the first evening you’ll spend aboard your River Nile cruise!
Day 19: Aswan – Kom Ombo (B, L, D)
The cruise sets out on its voyage from Aswan to Kom Ombo this morning. A visit to the Temple of Kom Ombo is on the agenda upon arrival. This temple is unique in that it is devoted to two gods: the northern section for Haroeris, the falcon god; the southern section for Sobek, the crocodile god of fertility. A crocodile museum housing recently-discovered mummified crocodiles is attached to the temples. Return to the ship afterwards for free time. Your cruise sets out for Edfu later today.
Day 20: Edfu – Luxor (B, L, D)
Step foot back on dry land this morning with a visit to the Temple of Edfu (also called the Temple of Horus). This temple is among one of the best-preserved in Egypt thanks to the desert sand that filled its rooms and halls once those that formerly worshipped it abandoned the practice. Please note that the only way to reach the Temple from the ship is in a horse-drawn carriage. The cruise continues its route towards Luxor afterwards, sailing through the Esna lock on the way.
Arrive in Luxor and head straight to Karnak. This astounding complex is one of the world’s most celebrated. It was built across a period of 2000 years, and there is a dazzling number of things to see and take in. Your guide will point out the most notable points around the complex and you may have some free time to wander at leisure. Among some of what you’ll see at Karnak include temples, pylons, chapels and shrines.
Day 21: Luxor (B)
Disembark your Nile cruise this morning after breakfast and move to your hotel. Today’s sightseeing agenda takes you to the sights of the West Bank, including the Valley of the Kings, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepshut and the Colossi of Memnon. These location encompass Luxor’s best-known and most-visited to-sees.
Head inside the burial chambers of three tombs at the Valley of the Kings, and learn about the funerary rites of ancient Egyptians as you walk past walls dressed with paintings and hieroglyphic scenes. It is then onto the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepshut – perhaps the most famous Egyptian Queen after Cleopatra – to explore this vast complex. Finally, stare up at the 17-metre-high Colossi of Memnon – which once stood at the entrance of Amenhotep’s funerary temple.
Day 22: Luxor – – Cairo (B)
A transfer takes you to the airport for a short one-way flight to Cairo. Making this journey by plane rather than road maximises the time you get to spend in the bustling Egyptian capital. You go straight from the airport to Khan el-Khalili. This bazaar was established in the mid-1300s and is a labyrinth of stalls selling knick-knacks, jewellery, crafts and souvenirs. Take your time wandering the souk and soaking up the atmosphere. Tonight is your final evening in Egypt so make use of this shopping opportunity to pick up any last-minute gifts for friends and family back home.
Day 23: Cairo – – Australia (B)
You have breakfast at the hotel and will be taken to the airport at the appropriate time to catch your return flight to Australia.
Day 24: Australia
Arrive back in Australia