Monday, April 25, the day after Easter, is when you will have to leave the USA in order to get to Istanbul for the official start, the evening of Tuesday the 26th, at the Madison Hotel in Istanbul. On the last day, Saturday, May 14, you will be able to leave Istanbul in the morning and arrive in Los Angeles (or anywhere else in the USA) on the same day. (Yes, that means you could be back to work on Monday, May 15, if need be.) There will be an optional two-day (or more) extension, at modest extra cost, for those who can afford the time. (It will be worth your while to do this if you can.)
Please see the post below this one for some reflections on why I believe this Pilgrimage is important.
The cost is $3,000, double occupancy, not including air transportation to and from Istanbul. (Right now that runs $1,000-$1,200, plus whatever fees the airlines may choose to add.) I think you could conservatively budget around $5,000 for the entire trip, plus about $400 for the two-day extension. Early reservations will get a substantial discount.
Here is the complete schedule. As you read through this, be sure to click on the links for many details and pictures about each place.
Day 0, Monday, 4/25 - Easter Monday. Travel USA to Istanbul (10 hours time difference). I will book and publicize my own flights early in case anyone wants to join me. I will also have recommendations for various options.
Day 1, Tuesday, 4/26 - İstanbul arrival at Atatürk International Airport, and official beginning of the Pilgrimage in the evening with Mass, orientation talk, and dinner at the Madison Hotel in the Beyoğlu district, where we will spend two nights.
Day 2, Wednesday, 4/27 - Orientation tour of İstanbul (including the view from the Galata Tower, the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Hagia Sophia, Miniaturk, and Bosphorus cruise), concluding with Mass at St. Esprit Cathedral.
Day 3, Thursday, 4/28 - Travel from İstanbul to Gallipoli to visit WWI Anzac Memorial, then to Troy. Overnight in Çanakkale at the Tusan Hotel.
Day 4, Friday, 4/29 - Visit Alexandria Troas, the Temple of Apollo at Gulpinar, Assos, and Pergamon, then to İzmir for overnight at the Kaya Prestige Hotel.
Day 5, Saturday, 4/30 - In the morning visit Sardis; return to İzmir for lunch on the waterfront, followed by Mass at St. Polycarp Church. After a brief tour of Izmir. we drive to Kuşadasi for dinner, and two nights' stay at the Pine Bay Marina Hotel.
Day 6, Sunday, 5/1 - Full day in Ephesus, during which we visit the ancient city, including the Curetes Street, Terrace Houses, St. Paul's Cave, the Double Church of the Theotokos, lunch and a "fashion show" at a local leather factory, the Basilica of St. John and the Ephesus Museum. We conclude the day with Mass at the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary, returning to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 7, Monday, 5/2 - We drive to visit Aphrodisias, followed by a leisurely lunch at a wonderful outdoor restaurant and then to Hierapolis, with time for a tour that will include the amazing limestone formations of Pamukkale, and a hike up to the hilltop Martyrion of St. Philip. After a long day with a lot of walking, there will still be time to soak in the warm mineral water pools at the Lycus River Hotel before dinner.
Day 8, Tuesday, 5/3 - After driving past the ruins of Laodicea, we travel to Pisidian Antioch (present-day Yalvac) and then on to Konya (ancient Iconium) for the night. After dinner at the Ozkaymak Park Hotel, we will have an opportunity to witness a private performance (sema) of the famous Whirling Dervishes.
Day 9, Wednesday, 5/4 - We first go to the tiny St. Paul's Church downtown for Mass, followed by a visit to the tomb of Mevlana (Rumi), the Sufi mystic founder of the Whirling Dervishes. Then we visit Catalhoyuk, excavations of a 9,500-year-old neolithic settlement. Then we drive to Silifke (ancient Seleucia) to visit the Cave and Monstery of St. Thecla. Finally we spend the night at the Kilikya Hotel on the Mediterranean coast, on the way to Tarsus.
Day 10, Thursday, 5/5 - In Tarsus we visit St. Paul's House and Well and other important points of interest, including Mass at St. Paul's Church. Then we drive to Antakya (ancient Antioch-on-the-Orontes) for a two-night stay at the Buyuk (Grand) Antakya Hotel..
Day 11, Friday, 5/6 - In Antioch we will visit the Grotto of St. Peter and the Mosaic Museum before celebrating Mass at the local Catholic Church, which is in a nineteenth century house, much like in the time of the Apostles. After lunch, we will drive to Seleucia Pieria on the coast to walk through the Tunnel of Vespasian, visit the Necropolis and an Alevi shrine.
Day 12. Saturday, 5/7 - Today we drive from Antakya through the Taurus Mountains and the Cilician Gates to Cappadocia, visiting the Eski Gumus Monastery and the underground city of Kaymakli on the way. We will spend two nights in Cappadocia at the Perissia Hotel. After dinner tonight, we will have the opportunity to enjoy a folkloric music and dance show.
Day 13, Sunday. 5/8 - We begin our full day in Cappadocia visiting a Turkish carpet and kilim cooperative and learn how Turkish carpets are made. We will have lunch and Mass at the village of Gamirasu, where the modern hotel and restaurant are carved into the hillside, and there is an ancient cave church. Then a scenic drive to Avanos to visit local art and pottery centers, and back to the hotel early to get a good sleep for the balloon ride tomorrow.
Day 14, Monday, 5/9 - Very early in the morning we can take a sunrise balloon ride over the fantastic landscape of Cappadocia. Then, after breakfast, we will tour some of the many rock-cave churches, with fabulous frescoes, in the Goreme Valley. After lunch, we will drive through the ancient territory of the Galatians to Ankara, where we will have a quick tour, including the Mausoleum of Ataturk and government buildings, and settle into the Ickale Hotel for dinner and the night.
Day 15, Tuesday, 5/10 - This morning we will tour one of the greatest archaeological museums in the world, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Here we will see artifacts and treasures from many of the sites we have already visited, and it will help us to put these ancient peoples in perspective. We will then drive to Safranbolu for a taste of the Ottoman culture and architecture, and spend the night in a hotel which is a restored house from the Ottoman period.
Day 16, Wednesday, 5/11 - We will drive to Iznik, ancient Nicaea, and have lunch by the lake, near the site of the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD), and then visit the Hagia Sophia Church, where the Second Council of Nicaea was held (787 AD). Aydin will then take us to a small town not far from Iznik, where we will meet his childhood Nanny and her family, and get a taste of small village life. We then return to Istanbul and the Madison Hotel for dinner and a good night's sleep to prepare for the next two days of touring Istanbul.
Day 17, Thursday, 5/12 - Today we will first explore the unique and fascinating Basilica Cistern, followed by the Hagia Irene Church, one of the oldest in Constantinople, and the site of the First Council of Constantinople (381). (It's usually closed to tourists, but is a popular concert venue.) Then we tour the Topkapi Palace, where we will have lunch and see the Harem. Our tour will conclude with the nearby Archaeological Museum, followed by Mass at the Church of St. Antoine on Istiklal Street, the largest and busiest Catholic Church in Istanbul.
Day 18, Friday, 5/13 - Friday-the Thirteenth will find us first visiting the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate and St. George Church, followed by St. Stephen of the Bulgars, one of the few remaining churches built entirely of cast iron. We will then admire the wonderful 14th-century mosaics and frescoes of the Church of St. Savior in Chora (Kariye Museum) and see the Kalendarhane Mosque (Kyriotissa Church), on our way to the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, where we will witness the Friday Prayer. Following lunch at the historic Daruzziyafe Restaurant, we will tour three significant Byzantine churches: Pammakaristos, St. Mary of the Mongols, and the Pantocrator Monastery. We will then return to the Madison Hotel to celebrate the final Mass of the Pilgrimage, and go to the Liman Lokantasi Restaurant at the water's edge for our sunset farewell dinner, where we will say goodbye to Aydin and our driver..
Day 19, Saturday, 5/14 - This is the official end of the Pilgrimage, and those leaving for home this morning will arrive the evening of the same day.
Day 19 (extended), Saturday, 5/14 - For those who choose to extend the Pilgrimage, there will be options of exploring on your own or coming with me to places not yet determined, for example: spending more time at museums, mosques, or churches we've already visited (Hagia Sophia and the Archaeological Museum will both amply reward more time spent there), or seeing something new; taking a leisurely Turkish bath at a historic hamam; finding a concert or musical performance (Mehter military music is performed every day at the Military Museum bear our hotel); shopping (Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Istiklal Caddesi, etc.); or just wandering around and soaking in this wonderful city. I plan to conclude the day with Mass at St. Esprit Cathedral, followed by dinner at the nearby Akcanlar Ocakbasi, at the end of Papa Roncalli Street, named after Pope John XXIII.
Day 20 (extended), Sunday, 5/15 - This day is pretty much free, but I plan to begin it by joining the tiny Chaldean Catholic community in Istanbul for their liturgy at 10:00 am. For other activities, the same recommendations as yesterday.
Day 21 (extended) Monday, 5/16 - The extension concludes today, and those who leave for home in the morning will arrive by day's end.
I will be planning to stay a few more days (until Thursday) in another hotel (probably the Terrace Guesthouse in the Sultanahmet area -- a truly wonderful spot). Anyone who wishes to join me for any of these extra days will be most welcome.
If you haven't yet seen my videos from previous pilgrimages, I encourage you to enjoy them on YouTube.
You will also enjoy Aydin's 2005 Video tour of Turkey, also on YouTube:
And his 2009-2010 Video presentation of the Treasures of Istanbul: