Adventure meets history in stunning Kaş


Kaş is filled with striking views and bountiful history. (Source: Pixabay)

Kaş, which dates back to antiquity and has a rather offbeat bohemian vibe, is popular with both Turkish and foreign tourists. The town offers a dramatic setting of the mountains and the Mediterranean Ocean. With clean and calm waters free of jet skis, this is one swimming holiday not to miss.

Kaş originally became popular with backpackers in the 1980s, later with divers, and now with swimmers.

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History lovers with an appreciation for nature won’t regret a stay in this old port town. The best thing to do is spend a day swimming and hiking at the ruins of Aperlai of the ancient Roman Empire. You’ll also see a surprising variety of wrecks of ancient ships and ancient cities sunk under the sea by earthquakes over the centuries. The sea is so perfectly clear that the details of city buildings such as staircases or columns can be seen from the boat.


Dive into history: Kekova Island is a sunken city you can explore. (Source: Wikicommons)

The Lycian period

In the ancient times of Lycia, Kaş was originally called Habesos and was later renamed as Antiphellos. This small port town was once an unspoilt fishing village and has of one of the oldest settlements of Lycia.

It was a member of the Lycian League, and its importance during this time is confirmed by the presence of one of the richest Lycian necropoleis. In the Hellenistic period and under the Roman Empire it served as the port of Phellus. The town suffered because of Arab incursions, then was annexed under the name of Andifli to the Anatolian Sultanate of Rum, led by the Seljuks. After the demise of the Seljuks, it came under the Ottomans.


A street in Kaş with traditional houses and a Lycian tomb in the background. (Source: Wikicommons)

The town suffered because of Arab incursions, then was annexed under the name of Andifli to the Anatolian Sultanate of Rum, led by the Seljuks. After the demise of the Seljuks, it came under the Ottomans. (Insert photo of Greek abandoned houses) In 1923, because of the Exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey after the Greco-Turkish War, the majority of the population, which was of Greek origin, left the town for Greece. Abandoned Greek houses can still be seen at Kaş today.

In 1923, because of the Exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey after the Greco-Turkish War, the majority of the population, which was of Greek origin, left the town for Greece. Abandoned Greek houses can still be seen at Kaş today.

#Kaş #antiquity #travel #Roman #ocean


Early Christianity’s roots in Ephesus


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The ancient city of Ephesus is filled with impressive historic ruins. (Source: Murat Guzelgun)

If there’s one place not to miss when traveling along the Aegean coast in Turkey, it’s a trip to the ancient city of Ephesus. Just a couple of hours drive from the coastal city of Izmir, Ephesus attracts thousands of Christian pilgrims (as well as non-religious holidaymakers) each year. The appetite for foreigners to explore their faith and its early history in Turkey is here. Let’s take a closer look at three saints from early Christianity who travelled to Ephesus.


The House of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus


Ephesus is home to the House of the Virgin Mary. It is believed John brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus.  (Source: Wikicommons)

Just above the Greco-Roman ruins at Ephesus, there stands a simple stone square building known as the House of the Virgin Mary. For those looking to visit, you’ll be immediately struck by the calm and silence you feel. There’s no doubt this is a religious holy site.

According to tradition, it was here that Mary lived her final years. She was brought to Ephesus by the apostle John.

But it’s not just Christians who celebrate Mary. In fact, don’t be surprised if you see Muslims also praying near a small Muslim shrine to Mary outside her home. Mary is actually mentioned more often in the Koran than in the New Testament. However, she is honored as Maryam, the mother of the prophet Jesus.

St Paul and the Silversmith’s revolt at Ephesus 



Today, the Temple of Artemis is left in ruins. (Source: Wikicommons)


St. Paul spent the Apostle years in Ephesus, but he mainly used it as a base while traveling in Asia Minor on missionary work.

When Paul came to Ephesus around the year 53 A.D., the city already had a small Christian community. While in Ephesus Paul tended to new converts and tried tirelessly to make more.



This model of the Temple of Artemis at Miniaturk Park, Istanbul, Turkey aims to recreate the probable appearance of the first temple. (Source: Wikicommons)


This model of the Temple of Artemis, at Miniatürk Park, Istanbul, Turkey, attempts to recreate the probable appearance of the first temple. But one incident that stands out most from Paul’s time in Ephesus is his distaste for the Temple of Artemis. The sale of the icons of the goddess Artemis to tourists and pilgrims was quite a lucrative business for the local community of Ephesus. Artisans who crafted miniature icons of Artemis and her temple made big money from tourists. This did not stop Paul from openly preaching that gods made by humans were not gods at all and should not be worshipped. When the silversmith Demetrius heard there was a man named Paul preaching against these icons, he feared his livelihood was at stake. Demetrius and his fellow artisans marched to the amphitheater shouting, “Great is Artemis of Ephesus!” They found some of Paul’s followers and hustled them along with them, creating a scene that was on the brink of becoming violent. Government officials intervened and Paul was forced to leave Ephesus.


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The amphitheater in Ephesus could seat thousands of people. (Source: Murat Guzelgun)


The Basilica of St. John
The other saint who has great prominence in Christianity was John – the apostle, evangelist and prophet. While it must be noted that there is no Biblical mention of John being here in Ephesus, early church tradition strongly links the apostle to the ancient city. Some scholars speculate that John came to Asia Minor to assume leadership of the growing church communities there after the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome. Also according to early church tradition, John brought the Virgin Mary with him to Ephesus.



The Basilica of St. John was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinia in honor of St John the Apostle. (Source: Wikicommons/Casalmaggiore Provincia)

For those who remember the following Gospel, it is said John wrote this in Ephesus just before he died near the location of his tomb.


The beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.



As you walk along the hill to St. John’s tomb, you will see ornate Ionic columns in Ephesus. (Source: Murat Guzelgun) 


To honor St John, the 6th century Emperor Justinian built The Basilica of St. John. The great church stood over what was believed to be the saint’s burial site. Now in ruins, the basilica was once one of the largest and most important churches in Christendom with thousands coming to visit the elevated tomb. But with the decline in importance of Ephesus and after Arab raids, the basilica fell into ruins until the Seljuk Aydinoglu clan converted it into a mosque in 1330. The building was then completely destroyed in 1402 by Tamerlane’s Mongol army.

#Ephesus #travel #turkey #history

Turkish tourism goes beyond beaches, celebrates historic culture

Turkey is a country of contrasts. Ottoman ruins rub shoulders with Roman temples, spice markets sit alongside quaint cafes, and dramatic mountains sweep down to sun-baked beaches. But sadly, for our country, the tourism industry has taken a turn for the worse. It may even be responsible for a majority of the 11% unemployment rate and the millions lost in the hotel business over the past two to three years.

In November 2016, the country saw a drop in foreign visits by 20%The combination of political drama and terrorist attacks did us no favors for bookings.

But I am an optimist. I believe there is a silver lining to these unfortunate circumstances my country finds itself in. We have much more to offer than beautiful beaches to European tourists. We have a history that no one else can compete with. And that’s why I’m happy to hear the Turkish Minister of Tourism recently announce a change in our marketing strategy that has been needed for a very very long time, in my opinion. As a history lover and tour guide and an expert in Turkish culture, I believe now is the time to show the world what we have to offer and go beyond the European market. Asia and South America await.

According to the Hurriyet newspaper this is what the minister of tourism said:

“For the diversification of the market, we are planning to enrich our market from China to North America and South America apart from just Russia, Germany and Britain” In the newly launched 150 exhibitions, “we will conduct more specific promotions for Turkey, either for destinations like Van, Cappadocia or Eskişehir, or in a field like health tourism, gastronomic tourism or historical tourism” “Turkey is not just a sea, sand and sun country, Turkey also has a very rich culinary culture, which is well-suited to gastronomic tourism”

I believe this is an opportunity to offer consult on matters of promoting the historical tourism at global expos. We must market Turkey’s history from the Cappadocia historical Christian roots to the legend of the Roman freed slave Cif Amotan II to the Lycian period during the 4th century when St Nicholas lived in Demre, Turkey. By celebrating this great history, we will attract people to different parts of this country that haven’t been celebrated recently.

#Turkey #Tourism #History #Culture #Amotan #StNicholas #AncientRome

Where did Santa Claus come from? The south of Turkey!

Santa Claus has long been associated with the North Pole. But the friendly white-bearded man actually originated from what is modern day Turkey.

Nicholas was born in nearby Patara, and became a priest. He later became a bishop, and did much of his good work in the Roman town called Myra. This was set during the 4th century Lycian period when the Roman Empire ruled. Today this town is in southern Turkey and attracts thousands of tourists from all over. Some are religious, and some are just curious about the roots of this legendary man.

The legend of Santa Claus originates from a generous bishop who lived in the south of  Turkey. Credit: Wikicommons

Legend has it that he’d drop small bags of gold coins down the chimneys of houses with poor girls who were old enough to marry, but had no dowry. The legend also says that he’d leave gold coins in the shoes of the poor who put them out for him. His good work didn’t go unnoticed though and he later became the patron saint of virgins, sailors, children and Holy Russia.

An 11th-century church in Myra, now the Santa Claus Museum (Noel Baba Müzesi), once held his earthly remains, but in 1087 most of his bones were taken by force to Bari in Italy, and the remainder taken to Venice in 1100. Then, in 2009 the Turkish government demanded the return of the relics to Demre – the home of St. Nicholas.

A ceiling from St. Nichola’s church in Demre, Turkey. Credit:Wikicommons

To find out more about Demre and Santa Claus, in 2014, the BBC shot a lovely news piece about him. There’s also a factual YouTube video from an American tourist explaining and showing the quarters of St. Nicholas.

For those of you unfamiliar with Turkey’s geography, the district of Demre is in Antalya and about a thousand kilometers from Antakya. It is located on the coastline and easier to drive or sail to. If there is interest, I may consider doing a Myra tour where we visit the St. Nicholas church and museum. This could be perfect for those in the holiday spirit looking to learn more about the life of Santa Claus next year for my Christian tour. #Turkey #Tourism #Santa #History

Soap opera takes the world by storm – but what does this mean for Turkey’s culture and tourism sector?

The world is having a love affair with Turkish soap operas. It may sound strange, but, in fact, the export of Turkish soap operas is set to hit $1 billion by 2023. And if you’ve ever stumbled across “Magnificent Century” Turkish soap opera, you’ll understand why there’s such an interest!


Magnificent Century is one of the most popular Turkish soap opera’s widely watched in the Arab world and Eastern Europe.


The 2011 soap opera was based on the life of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and ran for four seasons and gathered an audience across 47 countries. It’s filled with cunning dialogue, epic costumes and some educational history about the Ottoman era.

But what if Turkey’s top producers and directors got together and went deeper into Turkish history and started to explore storylines from the Roman Empire? This could be set in the ruins of ancient towns like Ephesus, Antioch, Myra and other cities along the Turkish Riveria where coastal ports attracted an exciting array of life: trading sailors, wealthy merchants, fleeing slaves and rare goods.

But what if Turkey’s top producers and directors got together and went deeper into Turkish history and started to explore storylines from the Roman Empire?

This could be set in the ruins of ancient towns like Ephesus, Antioch, Myra and other cities along the Turkish Riveria where coastal ports attracted an exciting array of life: trading sailors, wealthy merchants, fleeing slaves and rare goods.

But it seems I’m not alone in my hope to marry the best of Turkish soap opera and historical tourism. In fact, a recent Reuters article shows how one Arab Turk is doing just that:

‘Abet, a travel agency owner, had an idea that a soap opera set in the Mediterranean province of Antalya might lure Arab tourists. He has since become a backer of the Turkish-Arab co-produced series, and its unlikely star. With a budget of $3 million, “Big House” began airing this week on TRT Al Arabiya, the Arabic language channel of Turkey’s state broadcaster. Abet thinks its 30-episode run during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan can boost Antalya’s visibility and arrest a sharp decline in tourism.’

Maybe there is a chance to pitch a series from the ancient cities of the Roman period? Leave your comments below and let me know! #History #Tourism #Antioch #Myra #Turkey #AncientRome

Why the history of the Aegean to Antioch?


An October morning in the Aegean Sea.

The idea for my upcoming tour first came to me six months ago when half a dozen European and American academics based in Athens and elsewhere around Europe attended the November 15 G20 summit in Antalya. They wanted a tour exploring the maritime history of the region (that didn’t involve getting wet or having to put a wetsuit). So now with my partnership with Aegean Gulets, this is a reality.

The Aegean Sea is filled with some impressive history as is the south east of Turkey. The tour will begin with the latest discovery of 23 sunken ships in the remote Aegean and move from West to East. One of my favorite parts of the tour includes the Fourni archipelago where they have had some amazing discoveries over the past year.

The earliest shipwreck dates to roughly 525 B.C., while the most recent is from the early 1800s. The other wrecks range across the centuries, with cargoes from the Classical period (480-323 B.C.), the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), the Late Roman period (300-600 A.D.), and the Medieval period (500-1500 A.D.).


Experience history and culture on the Aegean in a wooden Turkish gulet boat.

The area is also the birthplace of the legend of Cif Amotan II and the undiscovered wreckage of the Apistos. I’ve been fascinated with the Legend of Amotan ever since I started my plans for a tour specializing in the shipwrecks of the Aegean Sea. The tour will begin in Bodrum’s Underwater Archaeology Museum and take you on a Turkish gulet around the Aegean up to Fourni and explore those islands.

Back on land we will explore Antioch, which is filled with hidden treasures of history and the birthplace of Cif Amotan. We will visit areas that may have been home to Amotan during his life as a slave. After gaining his freedom (manumission) Amotan became so rich that he was able to gather a treasure trove so rich and impressive, even the most rich Ottoman kings would have been jealous. His great wealth was lost in the wreckage of his boat which may well be lying undiscovered in the Aegean!
#tours #Turkey #CiFAmotanII #Amotan #shipwreck #AegeanSea #Apistos #travelling

Antioch and the Apistos: Underwater History

Our dates for my latest tour are out now! The crystal clear waters and our large ‘glass bottom’ viewing wells allow you to dive the wrecks – without getting wet. During our cruise you will experience the magnificent preserved shipwrecks and the scenic shoreline.


A model reconstituting a Roman boat of coastal traffic (Source: Wikipedia)

Learn the exciting tales of many famous ships and the history, legends and lore of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.


The Hatay Archaeology Museum in Antioch, Turkey is filled with 40,000 artifacts. This famous mosaic is one of the many pieces you’ll see on my Antioch tour.

From the legendary shipwreck of Cif Amotan II in the imperial Roman period to the Ottomans of 1880s, you’ll be impressed by all this tour has to offer. We’ll cover the birth of ancient civilization from both land and sea. Sign up now!

Oct 19-29

Nov 10-20

Dec 5-15

*1000 euros including accommodation, but not food per person!

#Antioch #Apistos #AncientHistory #CifAmotanII #Amotan #shipwreck #tours

Antioch Tour: Turkey Still Matters

Despite recent problems, Turkey’s allure is not lost. In fact, the country is still the 6th most popular tourist destination in the world. In 2015, Turkey hosted 37.4 million tourists – that’s almost 40 million people. It is at least as safe as other major European countries such as France, Spain, Germany or the U.K.

Though Istanbul in particular has seen a drop in foreign visitors, the tourism sector is still relatively healthy in other regions of the country like Antioch and Antalya. These areas remain popular for the more academic types and those interested in the history and culture of the country.


An Antioch summer day at Koz Kalesi.


That’s why I’m announcing a new 10-day tour taking you from Ancient Rome to the Ottoman Empire starting this autumn. We’ll take you to cities like Bodrum and Antalya on a traditional Turkish boat – a gulet. From there we’ll explore 5 days in Antakya, also known as the ancient city of Antioch which is interesting for its history of religion and Roman freedmen.

The tour won’t just include Turkey, but also Greece. Not only do they have such a rich history that crosses over with Greece, but we will also stop over at the nearby Greek Islands. From Kos to Symi and Leros – we may even add another island or two depending on time and interest. It therefore seems like no better time than to expand my tours to the breathtaking beautiful south of the country. More details to come!

Hoşgeldiniz! Görüşürüz!

#AncientHistory #Tours #AncientRome #Antioch #holiday #Turkey #OttomanEmpire

Turkey’s rich history of shipwrecks 

Just this past January, Turkey found itself again at the center of another shipwreck discovery. This time in the Marmaris Sea dating back to 4,000 years ago with the Minoan civilization.

According to Ancient Origins, “Turkish researchers from the Marine Science and Technology Institute of Dokuz Eylul University have discovered a 4,000-year-old shipwreck in the Marmaris Hisarönü Gulf, which is believed to be a trading ship from the Minoan civilization. It is the oldest shipwreck ever recovered in Turkish waters.”

Who knows how long it will take for this to see the light of day. But I’ll be giving tours when it does.

In the meantime, here are some other underwater shipwreck exhibits that you can see (on land) in Europe:

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  1. Sunken Cities: Egypt’s lost worlds exhibit is on at the British Musuem from May 19 – November 27, 2016. This one explores the lost and sunken hidden worlds of Ancient Egypt:

    Submerged under the sea for over a thousand years, two lost cities of ancient Egypt were recently rediscovered. Their story is told for the first time in this blockbuster exhibition.

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2. Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian SeasThe Mediterranean is also home to some of the greatest shipwrecks of our time. This exhibit  – which is in Oxford, England at the Musuem of Art and Archaeology – dates back some 2,500 years. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans left their mark on Sicilies impresssive islands. This runs until September 2016…

This major summer exhibition explores the roots of this multi-cultural heritage through objects rescued from the bottom of the sea – from chance finds to excavated shipwrecks, from the pioneering Phoenician traders to the Emperors of Byzantium.

Let me know if you come across other shipwreck exhibits in the comments!
#sunkencities #shipwrecks #ancient origins #Turkeyshipwrecks

Turkey’s 5 best sites for Christians

Over the years, more and more Christians have begun to flock to the Aegean coast of Turkey to discover the roots of their religion. This land has close ties to the Christian faith mentioned in the Bible. Take a look at the top Christian sites to visit when you’re next on the Aegean coast.

1. The Seven Churches of Revelation are seven major churches of Early Christianity, as mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation. But the ones not to miss include Ephesus, Pergamon and Sardis.

2. The Cave of Seven Sleepers near Ephesus – If you get a chance to visit the ancient city of Ephesus, you simply won’t regret it. Home to a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is often known for being the birthplace of ancient civilization. But it is also linked to an important Christian tale called The Cave of Seven Sleepers. The Seven Sleepers were young third-century Ephesian Christians who went against the pagan Emperor Decius. According to the legend, they hid in a cave on a nearby mountain, praying and waiting to be taken away for refusing to honor the pagan gods. Later, Decius ordered the cave sealed by a rock, with the young men inside. Nearly 200 years later, after the empire had become Christian, the owner of the land where the cave was had the rock moved, and discovered that the young men had been sleeping for all that time. The tale goes that the Seven Sleepers appeared in the city, said what happened to them, were seen by many, and then died.

3. The House of the Virgin Mary – Did you know the Shrine of the Virgin Mary is located in Turkey? After the resurrection of Christ, it is believed Saint John brought Mary to Ephesus between 42-28 AD. The house was officially declared a shrine of the Roman Catholic Church in 1896, and since then it has been running as an active chapel over a century. So far, approximately 1.5 million people from different faiths and religion visit this house.

4. Saint John’s Basilica Many are aware that St John or the Apostle John wrote the Fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation. But did you know that he also spent his last years in the region around Ephesus and was later buried there? About 300 years after his death, a small chapel was built over his grave in the 4th century. But during Emperor Justinian’s reign during the Byzantine Empire, it became an impressive basilica which you can visit today.

5. The Bodrum Castle was built in 1402 by the Knights Hospitaller – the medieval Roman Catholic military order. Located in southwest Turkey in the city of Bodrum, the castle currently houses an impressive museum of underwater archaeology, with items excavated from ships that went down in the Aegean Sea as many as 3,000 years ago. The castle was also a Christian haven for those in Asia Minor.

Do you want a bespoke Christian tour of Turkey? Reach out to me and maybe I can help:

#Aegean #Travel #Turkey #Christianity #AncientHistory #Ephesus