The Aegean Sea, lying between modern Greece and Turkey, was perhaps the most important stretch of water in all of the ancient world. The Greeks arrived on its western shores at the beginning of the second millennium BCE and were firmly settled in fortified citadels like Athens and Mycenae by the time they ventured east across the Aegean to lay siege to the city of Troy. Two centuries later they began migrating across the islands to what is now the west coast of Turkey, where they established colonies to exploit the agricultural and mineral riches of the area. These settlements became some of the most important Greek cities: Miletos, the centre of philosophy and learning in the 6th century BCE; the island of Kos, home to the 4th century physician Hippocrates; and Ephesos, re-founded by one of Alexander the Great's generals and destined to become the capital of the Roman Empire's province of Asia. Here were located two of the seven ancient wonders of the world — the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassos — and three cities, all within a few miles of each other, that boasted the three largest temples of the ancient world.
The Aegean was also at the very centre of early Christianity: both the Apostle John and Jesus' mother Mary lived in Ephesos, and the former wrote the last book of the New Testament — Revelations — in a cave on Samos; St Paul's Seven Churches of Asia flourished here. The Emperor Constantine's new capital on the Bosporus became one of the great cities of the world and the preserver of the classical heritage of Greece and Rome; and the Crusaders passed through on their way to the Holy Land, and subsequently built formidable castles at Bodrum and Kos to try to limit the westward expansion of the Ottoman Turks.
Our tour through the south eastern quadrant of the Aegean will take us to these historic places, as well as to remote islands, villages of white-washed houses, and sandy beaches and isolated coves for swimming. We'll eat in typical tavernas and elegant restaurants, and taste the regional wines. And you will have plenty of time to shop in bazaars and markets for Turkish carpets, leather jackets, bronze utensils, and local delicacies. Most of our travelling will be on a private motor-sailer, called a gulet by the Turks: the comfortable twin and double cabins have portholes, air conditioning, and private toilets and showers; there is a large salon with a bar, but most of our time on board is spent under the awnings of an immense outdoor lounge, where we will also have our meals.
For those who have never visited Istanbul, and for those who cannot visit it too often, we have designed an optional three-day advance program to give you the experience of one of the world's greatest cities, bridging the traditions of Europe and Asia.