We embark on a religious Pilgrimage of a lifetime as we retrace the footsteps of Paul through Greece and Turkey, to discover firsthand the sacred sites of Christianity, and the unforgettable shrines and markers commemorating the early Christians, Eucharistic miracles and dedicated saints. We'll experience some of the world's richest displays of architecture - from magnificent basilicas and cathedrals to humble convents.
DAY 1 DEPARTURE FOR GREECE: Today we board our flights for our pilgrimage to the ancient civilization and first Christian communities in Europe where St. Paul preached starts with flight to Athens.
DAY 2 ARRIVAL TO ATHENS: Arrival to Athens, meeting with our guide and escort, transfer to hotel. Time permitting group will celebrate holy mass before check in to hotel. Dinner and overnight in Athens.
DAY 3 ATHENS - CITY TOUR: In the morning after the breakfast we will be whole day visiting and exploring the city of Athens (Acts 17: 16-34). Acropolis with Parthenon the greatest monument of antiquity, dedicated to the goddess Athena, from here one can see Areopagus (Areios Pagos = Hill of Ares) visited by Pope John Paul ll same hill where St. Paul gave his famous sermon of "Unknown God", and more of it today. In the afternoon free time in the Plaka, maybe some shopping or walking and enjoying coffee in one of many restaurants and cafés in Old Town of Athens. Dinner is in one of the typical Greek restaurants with live bouzouki music before return to hotel.
DAY 4 ATHENS - CORINTH: Today pilgrimage will continue with drive to Corinth first across the Corinthian Canal, started by roman emperor Nero and then to one of the oldest towns of Greece, where St. Paul came after he left Athens and. After a stop at the ancient Corinth (18: 1-18; Cori.) we again meet with the St. Paul, here he remained for one and a half-year. We will be visiting marketplace where the Apostle preached to the Corinthians, the Temple of Apollo and the Corinth Museum. Returning back we will make a short stop at what used to be ancient port of Cenchreae now barely any remains of the same; it was that from here St. Paul sailed to Ephesus, nowadays Turkey. Same evening we are in Athens in time for dinner and packing for next day cruise.
DAY 5 CRUISE – MYKONOS: Today we’ll leave Athens early in the morning for Piraeus and at 11:00 a.m. sail into the Aegean Sea. Our first island is one of the islands belonging to the Cyclades group of islands. This mountainous island of Mykonos has about 400 churches. City of a picturesque white houses and island's trademark the charming windmills. Place has a unique architecture of Byzantine and Western characteristics. To visit are Church of the Virgin Paraportiani, on the main square Cathedral and an old Catholic Church and many boutiques and taverns along tiny paved streets. Return on board of the ship. Mykonos Island from 6:00 pm until 11:00 pm.
DAY 6 CRUISE - EPHESUS, TURKEY - PATMOS GREECE: This morning you will arrive at the Turkish port city of Kusadasi. From here you will travel to Ephesus, where the Blessed Virgin Mary lived with St. John in a small house on the hill behind the city. Here you will have Mass before traveling down to the ancient city where you can walk the marble roads rutted by wheels of countless chariots and pass the ruins of architectural masterpieces. It is here that St. Paul preached to the Ephesians, and where he was arrested and cast out of the city. In the afternoon you will visit the island of Patmos, where St. John wrote the apocalyptic Book of Revelations. On our excursion we will visit the cave where he lived, now the site of a monastery housing priceless icons and manuscripts.
DAY 7 CRUISE - SANTORINI – CRETE: Today on the last day of the cruise group will enjoy on their own visiting Heraklion on the island of Crete and visit to Fira town on the island of Santorini – optional excursion on Crete to Knossos Palace is offered for those interested on more activities on the last cruise day.
DAY 8 ATHENS - KALAMBAKA - METEORA MONASTERY: Today early morning breakfast and group is here disembarking the cruise ship. We again meet our guide and bus for transfer to Kalambaka, town near the Meteora Monastery. Same afternoon we will visit Grand Meteoron Monastery (Transfiguration of Christ) most beautiful Byzantine monastery. The word Meteora means literally 'hovering in the air' as all the monasteries were built on top of the high rocks. First monks have lived here in the caves already in 11th century. The Church of the Transfiguration is the best known of the Monasteries and is built upon the highest rock, founded by Athanasios the Meteorite, well-known figures in Orthodox monasticism. After visit we are on the way to our hotel for dinner and overnight in Kalambaka.
DAY 9 KALAMBAKA - BEREA – THESSALONIKI: After good night rest and morning breakfast group will leave Kalambaka, same day journey continue via Berea (Veria) where St. Paul and St. Silas were accused by Jewish community, after visit we will continue to Thessaloniki. In the late afternoon some visit to Rotonda, St. George church, one of the oldest constructions in the city, building made church at the end of 4th century by roman emperor. We will read today from the Acts 17:1-9 and "Letter to the Thessalonians" will become more alive to us, visit will include the Galerius Arch, built a little before 305 AD in commemoration of Galerius's victory over the Persians in 297. Next is the most beautiful basilica in the city St. Demetrius where Saint was imprisoned tortured and buried. We are on our last evening in Greece; return our hotel for last dinner and overnight in Thessaloniki.
DAY 10 THESSALONIKI - KAVALA – ALEXANDROUPOLIS: After breakfast we continue with our pilgrimage, end our Thessaloniki visit and continue with excursion to Kavala, which occupies the site of ancient Neapolis and Philippi (Acts 16:12-40, Phil.), that today lies as a major archaeological site near Krinides where St. Paul and St. Silas were imprisoned after St. Paul's first sermon in what we today call Europe. Here we meet with the women named Lydia form Thyatira (Rev.2: 18-29 and Acts.16: 14 -15) who became first convert. After visiting the ruins of the great Acropolis, the Market Place, Theatre and Forum in the afternoon we will leave for Turkey and overnight in the area – Alexandroupolis city.
DAY 11 GREECE - TURKEY ISTANBUL: In the morning we will head to Asia, Turkey after crossing the border another few hours until we reach Istanbul, check in to our hotel for two nights. Same late afternoon group will have panoramic city tour of Istanbul; get to know this city on two continents little bit better and then on to dinner in one of the typical Turkish restaurants. Return to our hotel for first night in Istanbul.
DAY 12 ISTANBUL CITY TOUR: Here our main target are the highlights of this unique city settled on two continents, it is old city including Residence of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years (Dolmabahce Palace), it is The Basilica Cistern an fascinating underground chambers of 336 columns built by Justinian in AD 532. Sultan Ahmet Mosque, built by Sultan Ahmet I in 1616, more popular as the “Blue Mosque” because of its interior blue tile decorations. Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, containing some of the finest Byzantine mosaics. Topkapi palace with Istanbul's oldest surviving church - Aya Irene, Hagia Sophia as probably the most important site, used to be the biggest church in the world, today as a museum.
DAY 13 ISTANBUL/ GRAND BAZAAR: This morning we will have time to visit the Grand Bazaar for shopping. The Grand Bazaar is an amazing place - literally a maze of streets. It is one of the largest undercover bazaars in the world and is even divided into areas like the leather section, or the rug section. Afternoon is at leisure. Night we gather for a Farewell dinner in traditional Turkish restaurants, return to hotel for last night in Istanbul.
DAY 14 ISTANBUL - USA: Today early morning breakfast and group is on the way to Istanbul International airport for flight back home.