Cruising The Lycian Shore

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis gulet cruise explores the virtually untouched coastline of ancient Lycia, on Turkey’s breathtaking turquoise coast. The tour includes well-known highlights like the marble-clad city of Perge, where archaeologists are unearthing a site to rival Ephesus, Myra, with some of the finest rock cut tombs and Xanthos, a vast fortified citadel city that dominated the region for centuries.

These famous sights are complemented by a whole series of “hidden gems”: ancient settlements, shrines and cemeteries set within the region’s wonderful landscapes, waiting to be discovered and explored. Examples include magnificent Arykanda, surrounded by lovely natural scenery on the edge of a mountain, beautiful Phaselis, famed in antiquity for its rascally merchants and three fine harbours, now swathed in pine trees, and unforgettably picturesque Kale, where the cottages of a traditional Turkish village rub shoulders with a medieval castle, an ancient fortification and a vast necropolis. The cruise also includes a visit to the award-winning museum of Antalya, housing a remarkable collection of Roman sculpture, a tour of the islet of Gemiler, with the remains of an unusually elaborate Byzantine pilgrimage centre, and an opportunity to see Patara, where a huge and monumental Roman city is emerging from the sand dunes.

Travelling below the soaring Taurus Mountains, we will discover the extraordinary heritage of one of antiquity’s most mysterious peoples: the Lycians. Their enduring sense of identity prevailed for centuries, even as they adopted and adapted Persian, Greek and Roman cultural influences. It found expression especially in their unique funerary architecture, unlike anything else in the world, their tombs and sarcophagi still scattered around their once prosperous ports. We find many of them lying in breathtaking and rugged settings, seemingly untouched by human hands. Others are set within modern settlements, such as the lovely resort of Kas, where rock-cut tombs, shaded by vibrant red bougainvillea, stand silent witness to the ancient city of Antiphellos.

Turkish gulet at Gemiler, Turkey
Turkish Gulet near Gemiler

Each day Peter will take you back in time, guiding you through the fascinating story of how the region evolved from Classical antiquity through Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman times to the present day. Each visit is an archaeological adventure, part of a historical puzzle that reveals a remarkable story of civilisation. The enigmatic history of the ancient sites, their often astonishingly fine preservation and their stunning settings make this tour a very special treat for anyone seeking inspiration from past human achievement.

The spirit of discovery, finding new sites, new beauties and new mysteries day by day, is balanced by the time we spend cruising on a beautifully hand-crafted Turkish gulet, the ideal way to explore the maritime region of Lycia. Of course, there are frequent opportunities to swim in the crystal waters of the Turquoise coast, to kayak, to go for a hike and admire the local flora or simply relax on deck. Naturally, delicious Turkish food, freshly prepared aboard or in selected local restaurants is a vital component of this, as of all our gulet cruises in Turkey.

This balance of fascinating historical narrative, immense natural beauty and time spent unwinding aboard, distinguishes Cruising the Lycian Shore, a holiday designed to relax and inspire in equal measure.

Exploring Istanbul

turkey-tourA large number of our guests over the years have enjoyed doing a tour of Istanbul before or after one of our gulet cruises. We are often asked to recommend hotels, restaurants, sites to see and local guides in this amazing city, Peter’s favourite metropolis in the world. So we thought we should use our extensive knowledge and contacts to create the definitive Istanbul tour, the very finest historical adventure and exploration of this vibrant and exotic city.

“Richard’s ability to describe was really magnificent – his detailed expertise really added to our experience.” David Blank, Ohio, USA

Your expert guide, Dr. Richard Bayliss, is a Byzantine specialist and passionate enthusiast. The many years he has spent leading archaeological projects in and around Istanbul have given him an intimate knowledge of the city throughout its history: from its roots as a small Greek town on the Bosphorus, via its reincarnation as Constantinople, opulent centre of the Byzantine Empire, to the teeming capital of the Ottoman Empire.

It’s hard not to speak in superlatives when describing this epic cradle of civilisation. No other city in the world has been besieged so many times, so greatly was it coveted by peoples outside of its walls. Not only is Istanbul ancient, unlike any other city on earth it sits astride two continents. During its time as capital of the Ottoman Empire it was the most multicultural city in Europe, on whose streets more than a dozen languages were spoken, from Italian to Persian, Greek to Arabic, Armenian to Turkish. This city utilised its mercantile dominance over the narrow waterway that connects the Mediterranean and Black Sea to grow wealthy and enhance its political strength. These succeeding cultures have liberally endowed the city with beautiful symbols of imperial power, from its imposing fortifications to its serene places of worship.

“My trip with Peter Sommer Travels was one of the best holidays of my life – a high-quality experience worth the price tag. This was a mind-blowing in-depth historical/architectural (and gastronomic!) exploration of the city of Istanbul in the company of two warm and engaging expert guides and interesting, well-travelled fellow guests.” Judith Brown, Cumbria, UK

On this escorted Istanbul tour you will see such world-famous sites as Topkapı Palace, Haghia Sofia and the Blue Mosque through expert eyes, and compare them with some seldom-visited wonders that only the true connoisseurs of the city ever visit. We sample some of the best food that Istanbul has to offer, from the long-established cornerstones of Istanbul-cuisine to traditional local eateries that have raised the simplest of local dishes to a culinary art form. Our Istanbul tours allow you to immerse yourself in a city that has been shaped and moulded by some of the key cultures of the western and eastern worlds for over 3,000 years.

If you’d like to know more about our expert-led tour of Istanbul, please get in touch. One of our specialists, even Peter himself, will be only too pleased to give you a call and answer any questions you might have.

Ahoy, Matey: Uber Introduces Boat Service in Istanbul

boatISTANBULUber may be seeing resistance in some parts of the world (ahem, East Hampton), but the car service app is expanding to new forms of transportation in others. The company just announced their first foray into the world of boating with UberBOAT and the debut location couldn’t be more perfect: Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait. The waterway divides two continents (Europe and Asia) and sees millions of commuters every day.

Once an Uber user nears the Istanbul’s central waterway, the UberBOAT option will become available on the smartphone app. There are currently a number of services travelers and locals can use to get from Point A to Point B: a public ferry system currently running 20 routes per day, an underground metro tunnel, and two suspension bridges for drivers and other public transportation services. There is also another bridge and a car tunnel in the works. The new UberBOAT service will hold seven-to-ten passengers and rates will start at 50 liras—about $19—per trip. Local company Navette-Tezman Holding will offer the boat rides using their Beneteau boats, bringing customers wherever they want to go along the coast. Austin Kim—Uber’s operations manager in Istanbul—shared a few words with Skift: “This is a good addition to help solve Istanbul’s traffic problems by offering transport on the Bosporus, which is obviously underutilized.”

Dispatch From Istanbul: Why the Art Scene Here is Better Than Ever

istanbulA few weeks ago, artists of different generations and pursuits gathered in Istanbul for the Istanbul International Arts & Culture Festival (IST.), a weekend of free conversations and art exhibits—the stuff that brings together luminaries from fields as diverse as architecture, literature, and millinery.

Once a small series of workshops, IST. is now an international affair; past guests include Zaha Hadid, Gore Vidal, and Courtney Love. And if this fifth annual event proved anything, it’s that the art scene in this timeless city is fresher than ever.

For that fact we have Demet Müftüoglu-Eseli and her husband Alphan Eseli to thank. Demet is an art director who climbed to the top of Istanbul’s fashion world; Alphan is a filmmaker whose bleak historical drama The Long Way Home won awards in film festivals from Montreal to Hong Kong. In 2009, the pair—who met at university in Ankara—founded the arts and culture organization Istanbul ’74, which spawned IST. the following year.

Along with the Istanbul Biennial (the 14th edition takes place Sept. 5 to Dec. 1), IST. propels the Istanbul’s contemporary art scene, not only bringing art to the city, but making it accessible to the public. “Each year the panels get fuller,” the founders say. “The blend [of audience backgrounds], growing interest, and excitement of the audience is amazing to watch.”

IST. 2015 kicked off at the Istanbul ’74 gallery with an exhibition of Alex Prager’s photographs inspired by classic Hollywood. Over the next two days, artist Daniel Arsham and actress Juliette Lewis discussed their new film, Harvey Keitel waxed nostalgic about working with a young Marty Scorsese, and artists like JR and Trevor Paglen showed how images can not only represent reality, but also change it.

Like in years past, IST. spread across Istanbul. Saturday’s talks took place on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, at the VAKKO Fashion Center, home to one of Turkey’s top fashion brands. Everyone then reconvened at the historic Bomonti brewery across the river for a show of Francesco Carrozzini’s photographs and a multimedia-production by the performance duo Carnet De Voyage.

Sunday was spent at the Soho House, which just opened in a 19th-century palazzo that was once home to the U.S. Consulate. Mike Figgis, the director of Leaving Las Vegas, parsed today’s digital culture. Down the street at the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, Waris Ahluwalia (a fixture in Wes Anderson’s movies) hosted an afternoon tea to celebrate his new tea line. The weekend ended on a sailboat disembarking from the five-star Ciragan Palace’s pool deck, where Harvey Keitel had swum laps that morning.

Cruising To Ephesus

A classic cruise that takes in a series of Turkey’s most important and interesting archaeological sites, including the stunning ruins of Ephesus.

Beginning in Bodrum, ancient Halicarnassus, birthplace of the historian Herodotus, and following the shores of the ancient regions of Caria and Ionia, this cruise makes for an ideal introduction to the glories of Turkey’s archaeological heritage. It takes in some of the most impressive and best-understood sites in the country, a veritable succession of “must-see” highlights, as well as a number of more intimate “off the beaten track” remains, culminating in a visit to the astoundingly monumental ruins of Ephesus.

“The combination of our beautiful gleaming gulet, a totally professional crew, a talented chef producing exquisite yet simple dishes, our lovely local guide and our scholar tour leader who led us into the magic of the ancient world with charm and humour was a rare privilege. We went to deserted bays to swim every day, when there was wind the sails went up and we gently sailed along the beautiful coastline. All the sites were fascinating… Every night one’s head was reeling with what one had seen and heard. What more can I say? I shall never forget it.” Katherine Wyld, West Sussex, UK

ephesusCruising to Ephesus opens up a panorama of the ancient world, presenting a great variety of extraordinary visits, ranging from prehistory via Classical Greek and Roman antiquity to the Middle Ages and beyond. Every day will bring new insights and new beauties to behold.

Ancient cities and sanctuaries are the central themes of this cruise. From ancient Myndos, where excavations have only just started, it leads to Iasos, where the remains of a once-vibrant port town are scattered amongst olive groves. An inland excursion leads to the mysterious mountain-top sanctuary of Zeus at Labraunda and to the beautiful Temple of Zeus at Euromos.

At Miletus, we explore the vast ruins of a “lost” city that was a major centre of culture in Greek and Roman days, as well as its main shrine, the huge oracular Temple of Apollo at Didyma. Priene, in its remarkably beautiful wooded setting, is the most clearly accessible and comprehensible of all Greek cities, its private homes and public buildings there to see. The final site on our cruise is Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia and one of the most magnificent ancient sites in the world, its vast theatre, ornate library and wonderfully decorated Roman mansions offering a memorable and fitting conclusion to this fascinating tour.

Archaeology apart, Cruising to Ephesus also includes much time for swimming, sunbathing, admiring the scenery or simply relaxing on our beautiful gulet.