Constantinople / Istanbul - Ancient and Modern - Crossroads of the World

Constantinople / Istanbul - Ancient and Modern - Crossroads of the World
Istanbul/constantinople - Ancient/Modern - View of the Old City from across the Golden Horn, atop the Galata Tower.

2013 Pilgrimage News

We have ELEVEN wonderful Pilgrims going.
Registrations are now closed.
Thanks to all.  Keep us in your prayers. 

You can fill out a registration form online. Just fill out the form (one per passenger), print and sign it, and mail or fax it to 310-552-2622. Full payment will be needed by the last week of January.
A Pilgrimage e-brochure (PDF) is available. It has information you can easily print out and share with others.

Early Christian World Pilgrimage-Retreat  
Eighteen Days in Turkey with Fr. Tom Welbers
 March 31 to April 18, 2013
Cost: $5,495, double occupancy, including air fare.

This Pilgrimage-Retreat, under the leadership of Fr. Tom Welbers and an expert local tour guide, will include reflection and exploration of our spiritual heritage as we visit significant sites of Scripture and history. We will explore far beyond the “standard” Footsteps of St. Paul, to immerse ourselves in all dimensions of our religious past to gain understanding of the present-day reality of our faith.  We will celebrate the Eucharist almost every day, often at significant sites, and we’ll have time for leisurely retreat-like reflection and prayer, including a full day at the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ephesus. 

The cost will be $5495, including double-occupancy accommodations, breakfasts and dinners, hotel porterage/included meal tips, taxes, and group coach airfare (non-stop round-trip on Turkish Airlines from LAX, and two domestic flights within Turkey).  Not included is the cost of lunch on most days, optional activities (e.g., balloon ride in Cappadocia, Whirling Dervishes, and Folk Dance show), personal purchases, and tips for the guide and driver. A limited number of single rooms will be available at a supplemental cost of $995. 

If you live outside the southern California area, and need to make alternate travel arrangements to and from Istanbul, please contact Executours directly: or 800-323-7004 

There will be two preparatory gatherings for Pilgrims at Good Shepherd on the following Sunday afternoons: February 17 and March 17. We will be able to explore background information to help you to enter this Pilgrimage-Retreat experience more fully, as well as address specific questions about our travel. Some Pilgrims from past years will join us and will share their own experiences.  All are welcome.

Our Itinerary

Days 0 & 1 - Sunday & Monday, March 31 & April 1 - Arrival in Istanbul
We will leave LAX on Easter Sunday evening, 6:20 pm on Turkish Airlines Flight 10, non-stop to Istanbul. Arriving Monday afternoon at 5:10 pm, we will transfer to a hotel near the airport, where we will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Pilgrimage, have dinner, and get a good night’s sleep.

Day 2 - Tuesday, April 2 - Flight to Izmir
After an early morning flight to Izmir (ancient Smyrna), we will go immediately to the historic Church of St. Polycarp for Mass and a reflection in the garden.  We’ll then have lunch in a wonderful fish restaurant by the waterfront, and have some free time. An hour-long bus ride will take us to Kuşadası, near Ephesus, where we will spend three nights.

Day 3 - Wednesday, April 3 - Ephesus
This will be a full day in ancient Ephesus, where we will visit the Roman ruins, the Terrace Houses (similar to those where St. Paul’s early Christian community would have gathered), the Double Church of the Mother of God (the site of the Council of Ephesus in 431), St. Luke’s Tomb, the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, the site of the Temple of Artemis, the Basilica and Tomb of St. John the Evangelist, and the Ephesus Museum. After this full day of touring, we will return to the hotel to celebrate Mass and have dinner.

Day 4 - Thursday, April 4 - Ephesus: Retreat day at Mary’s House
Today we will spend a full day in the peaceful setting of the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There will be several spiritual reflections, readings and time for prayer, as well as Mass. To end the day we'll have a little fun at a fashion show at a local leather goods production center, with, of course, an opportunity to shop for export quality leather goods at greatly reduced prices.  Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Kuşadası.

Day 5 - Friday, April 5- Hierapolis
Today we will drive to Hierapolis (Pamukkale), about 3-4 hours on the road, and after checking into the hotel, where we’ll spend two nights, we’ll tour the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, including the Martyrium and newly discovered Tomb of St. Philip. We will celebrate Mass back at the hotel, and have a chance to relax in the famous thermal waters of Hierapolis before dinner and bedtime.

Day 6 - Saturday, April 6 - Hierapolis, Laodicea, Aphrodisias, Colossae
Today we will visit the ruins of Laodicea, still in the process of excavation and restoration, and then drive to the magnificent ruins of Aphrodisias, where we will see evidence of the early blend of pagan and Christian cultures. Following lunch at the rustic Doğa Restaurant, we'll visit the unexcavated mound of the ancient city of Colossae on the way back to our hotel.  After Mass at the hotel, we'll again have a chance to soak in the thermal waters, before dinner and bedtime.

Day 7 - Sunday, April 7- Antalya
Today we will drive about four hours to Antalya (ancient Attalia), where we hope to be able to celebrate Sunday Mass in a German Catholic “House Church,” St. Nikolaus Gemeinde.  We will also visit the excellent Museum, and check into our hotel where we will spend three nights.

Day 8 - Monday, April 8 - Antalya, Myra, Phaselis
Today we will visit Myra, the city of St. Nicholas (a three-hour scenic drive each way) and hope to get permission to celebrate Mass at the ancient Basilica of St. Nicholas.  On our way back to Antalya, we’ll visit Phaselis, a picturesque ancient Lycian city.  Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 9 - Tuesday, April 9 - Antalya, Perga
This morning we’ll drive an hour or so to Perga, visited twice by St. Paul and an early center of Christianity.  We’ll return to Antalya for lunch and a tour of other sites, including a boat ride from the old harbor, where Paul and Barnabas concluded their first missionary journey. We hope to visit and possibly celebrate Mass at the St. Paul Cultural Center, an English-speaking Protestant community in Antalya.

Day 10 - Wednesday, April 10 - Aspendos, Derbe, Lystra, Catalhöyük, Konya
Today we will travel from Antalya to Konya, approximately five hours total driving time.  The trip will take all day, however, because we will stop at Aspendos, site of one of the best-preserved Roman theaters, still in use for concerts and plays.  We’ll have lunch in a small village restaurant in the Taurus Mountains, and drive past the unexcavated mounds of Derbe and Lystra, sites of St. Paul’s missionary activities. Then, we’ll stop for a tour of Catalhöyük, a fascinating active archaeological site where a 9,000-year-old neolithic farming settlement is being excavated and studied.  When we arrive at Konya (ancient Iconium, one of the centers of St. Paul’s missionary activity), we’ll check into the hotel, and have dinner before bedtime after a long day.  We’ll spend only one night in Konya.

Day 11 - Thursday, April 11 - Konya, Cappadocia
We’ll leave the hotel early to get to the little St. Paul Church in the heart of the city for Mass at 8 am.  There we will have a chance to visit with Sisters Serena and Isabella and learn of their mission of presence and service with no resident priest and no permanent Catholic community.  Following a visit to the Tomb of Mevlana (Rumi), the 13th-century Sufi mystic, poet, and philosopher who founded the order of the Whirling Dervishes, we’ll drive to Cappadocia, about a four hour drive.  Along the way we’ll visit the Sultanhani Caravanserai, one of the many places of rest and hospitality along the ancient Silk Road. We’ll spend three nights in Cappadocia.

Days 12, 13, and 14 - Friday to Sunday, April 12, 13, and 14 - Cappadocia
We’ll have three days to explore the wonders of Cappadocia, which boasts one of the most fantastic landscapes in the world, as well as traces of ancient Christian and pre-Christian life.  The great theologians who helped to formulate the way we express our belief in Christ and the Trinity came from here.  Many rock-carved monasteries and churches, as well as underground cities, give witness to an as-yet not fully understood way of life for many centuries in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages.  One of the best ways to see Cappadocia will be from an optional, early morning, hot-air balloon ride.  Cappadocia is also a center for the revival of ancient village carpetmaking techniques and finely crafted pottery.  We will have the opportunity to attend an optionalsema of the Whirling Dervishes, and celebrate Mass in several cave churches. On Sunday, after a festive Mass and lunch at a small village restaurant/hotel with an ancient cave church on its own property, we’ll take a late afternoon flight back to Istanbul, where we’ll settle in to our hotel for four nights.

Days 15-18 - Monday-Thursday, April 15-18 - Istanbul
These three full days in Istanbul have yet to planned in detail, but we hope to include if possible:
      Mass in significant Catholic churches, such as the St. Esprit Cathedral and St. Antoine Church.
      Great historic Orthodox Churches, such as the Hagia Sophia, St. Savior in Chora, Our Lady of the Mongols, Pammakaristos, Pantocrator, the cast-iron Church of St. Stephen of the Bulgars, among others.
      Great Museums, such as the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, the Topkapi Palace, and others.
      Meeting significant people, such as His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop Louis Pelatre, and Dr. Rinaldo Marmara (historian and secretary to the Turkish Bishops’ Conference)
      Visiting the Mosques of Suleymaniye and Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque)
      Other places and events, such as the Hippodrome, the Basilica Cistern, and a cruise on the Bosphorus.
      Shopping at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, as well as the famous upscale Istiklal Street.
Thursday, at midday, the Pilgrimage will end with Turkish Airlines Flight 9, non-stop to LAX, departing at 12:45 pm, and arriving the same day at 4:30 pm.

For more information about the itinerary or questions about the nature of the Pilgrimage-Retreat experience, please visit, e-mail Fr. Tom Welbers at,
or phone 909-367-4592 (Fr. Welbers' cell).
For information about registration, logistics, or other trip details, contact Executours directly.

TRIP PRICE -- $5,495
The trip price is based on double occupancy and includes round-trip group coach air from Los Angeles; lodgings per itinerary; Continental breakfasts and dinners; admissions to listed museums visited; and local guide.

Trip prices are per person based on double occupancy. Availability of single occupancy is limited and at additional cost of $995. All offers are subject to availability, are capacity controlled and may be withdrawn at any time without prior notice. Trip price does not include airline baggage charges, travel insurance cost, individual transfers, optional items or personal expenses, or other items not listed as included. Changes in fees, fuel surcharges, and taxes may result in surcharges. Lunches and beverages at meals are not included. Executours and/or Fr. Welbers reserve the right to cancel this trip for any reason in their sole judgment, including insufficient number of participants. We cannot be responsible for incomplete or inaccurate representations, which may not be under our control. In the event of a pricing error, misrepresentation or omission, we reserve the right to adjust pricing or make other corrections. Fr. Welbers and Executours may adjust, omit or limit itineraries, scheduled stops or activities, and/or substitute or change hotels or flight arrangements as circumstances warrant in their sole judgment. Information and pricing is subject to change without notice. Additional restrictions, terms and conditions apply.

$500 deposit per person upon application. Full balance due must be received by Dec. 31, 2012.

If written cancellation is received by Executours by the date(s) specified below, refunds and cancellation penalties are:

Dec. 14, 2012 – final payment deadline
By Dec. 31, 2012 - final full payment deadline.
By Jan 14, 2013 - refund of payment less $1,500 fee per person.
By Feb. 15, 2013 - refund of 50% of full payment per person.
After Feb. 15, 2013 - no refund.

Executours encourages you to purchase travel insurance, provided by Travelex.Based on a package price of $5,495, the estimated cost is $399.  Travel insurance must be bought before final payment is due. Terms, conditions, exclusions, and limits are governed by the coverage documents, which are available on request. Travel insurance payment is non-refundable.
A description of coverage provided by Travelex is available here. Executours makes no representations about coverage.

This trip requires walking (up to a few miles daily) on uneven surfaces, climbing stairs and inclines, and at times significant exertion in order to see and experience all aspects of the itinerary. The itinerary is not suitable for and cannot be accessed by persons with limited mobility, including persons who use a wheelchair or walker. Trip members should consult their personal physician for individual assessments and recommendations.  Each trip member certifies that he/she is fully fit and able to participate in the trip and all related activities and has no physical, mental or emotional condition that would create a hazard or detract from the trip for him/herself or other passengers.

A signed registration form (including Seller of Travel disclosures) is required from each passenger agreeing to the terms and conditions for the trip.
TO REGISTER OR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION  You can fill out a registration form online. Just fill out the form (one per passenger), print and sign it, and mail or fax it (to 310-552-2622) with your deposit. A signed registration form is required from each passenger agreeing to the terms and conditions for the trip.

For more information on tour arrangements or to book:
or call 
Executours at 800-323-7044