Day 1 - Cairo
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 4 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive early in Cairo, perhaps travel along the river by felucca (a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails) or head out to explore the markets. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, the Christian Coptic sector is well worth a visit.
Day 2 - Cairo
This morning a private van will transport you to Giza, the home of some of the world’s most iconic sights. Approach the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx by camel, with panoramic views across the dunes. Instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is amazing. Explore these structures that have stood tall for 4,500 years, and for an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, (although occasionally it may be closed to visitors). The inside thoroughfares of the Pyramids are very small and very warm, so for those suffering from claustrophobia it is not recommended. Please note that you'll be required to walk around the Pyramids complex. It can be very hot in the summer months, so be prepared for little shade and pack appropriate clothing, sun protection, and carry lots of water. Afterwards, make your way to the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of antiquities. Wander the treasure-filled halls of the museum, and make sure to check out the Mummies Hall (optional) for a close encounter with some of the country’s most important queens and pharaohs. Later in the evening, meet your leader and travel to Giza station, where you will board a sleeper train to Aswan (approximately 13 hours). Bedding and air-conditioning are provided.
Notes: Western-style toilets are located in each carriage, but we recommend bringing additional toilet paper. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. An included dinner and breakfast are served on board. You may want to purchase something extra beforehand to supplement your meal, particularly if you're a vegetarian as only a single type of meal is served for dinner, which always includes meat. In rare circumstances you may be paired in your cabin with a group member of the opposite sex, depending on the group configuration. On other occasions, you might be sharing with another traveller of the same sex who may not be part of our group, again determined by the group configuration.
Day 3 - Aswan – Nile Felucca
The Nile, Elephantine Island and white-sailed feluccas: welcome to Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city. Its easy-going charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Today is a free day so take the opportunity to see such Aswan sites as the unfinished obelisk or the High Dam. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is top of many visitors’ lists. Highly recommended is the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island. It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. The evening sound and light show at Philae Temple is a beautiful experience – well worth the 100 Egyptian pounds. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan's 'corniche', runs alongside one of Nile's most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. This evening you’ll experience modern Nubian culture first-hand with a visit to a nearby village. You’ll join a local Nubian family for dinner and get an unforgettable insight into the daily life of the local people. This is a rare and memorable experience, giving you the chance to become fully immersed in the local culture.
Day 4 - Aswan
Today perhaps head out of Aswan and visit stunning Abu Simbel this morning. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, carved directly out of the mountain on the west bank of the Nile, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Please note this optional activity has a very early start (but it’s totally worth it). You can get there by a 40-minute flight, or by the cheaper option of renting a minivan with a group and leaving very early (flights do not operate daily). The journey by land is 3 hours each way, with a very early departure from Aswan between 5am and 6am. Otherwise, you could take a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively, take a camel ride to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned 7th-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply relax and take in the beauty of the Nile, or do some shopping in the friendly bazaar.
Notes: Flights can be booked online through EgyptAir: http://www.egyptair.com/English Return flights vary throughout the season, depending on the day of the week you fly and how far in advance you book, but expect to pay between US$250-300. Due to the southerly location, it's recommended to book the early flight and visit Abu Simbel at sunrise to avoid the heat.
Day 5 - Nile Felucca
Board a felucca and spend a day out on the river, watching rural Egyptian daily life play out on the banks, then spend a night under the stars. Your Nubian sailing crew provides all the meals, which are hearty and delicious. Being a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails, your felucca offers some shade and protection from the elements. However, there is no cabin or enclosed section. Nonetheless, watching the sun setting across the Nile in the evening is a sight you won't forget. This is the absolute highlight of the trip for many.
Notes: Conditions will be basic during your felucca trip. If you are prepared for this, you’re sure to have a memorable adventure. You'll sleep outside on the deck of the felucca on a mattress. While blankets are provided, a sleeping sheet is recommended. During the colder months (October to March) temperatures can get as low as 5°C at night, so a sleeping bag is highly recommended. Slight alterations may have to be made to the Nile itinerary throughout the year, depending on winds and currents. As the felucca is a sailing craft without any outboard engine, if there's no wind we won't travel very far. Our Felucca does have a shared bathroom facilitiy onboard.
Day 6 - Luxor
After farewelling your felucca crew, take a private van to the open air museum of Luxor (approximately 3.5 hours). From the spectacular temple complex of Karnak to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor is full of wonderfully preserved reminders of the Pharaohs. On the way, there's the option to visit either the unique mirror-image design of the Temple of Kom Ombo, or the beautifully preserved Temple of Edfu, also dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god. Today you’ll visit the Intrepid Foundation's local project ACE (Animal Care in Egypt). It’s a great chance to see the holistic approach the project takes towards animal welfare, and to raising awareness among the locals. You’ll also explore the magnificent Karnak Temple, which is perhaps the most impressive of all the ancient Pharoahs' monumental works. One of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, Karnak is a house of the gods built over a period of some 200 years. Your guided tour of this vast temple of impressive pylons, obelisks and chapels will reveal its finest sections, such as the Avenue of Sphinxes and the Great Temple of Amun. The rest of the day will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local teahouse.
Day 7 - Luxor
Today you’ll hop in a private minivan and discover some the many wonders of ancient Thebes. Your first stop is the Colossi of Memnon, two 17 metre-high statues on Luxor's west bank. Carved from granite blocks, they represent the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and were once part of an impressive colonnade. Hop onto donkeys (in the winter months of October to May only) for a ride of a different kind, through local villages and fields of sugar cane (approximately 30 minutes). Continue on to the spectacular royal burial site of the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 richly decorated tombs of pharaohs. With your leader, explore this sprawling and spectacular place, where the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BC) were secretly interred for all eternity, and where discoveries are still being made. Your group leader will explain the history and legends of these remarkable people, their funerary rites, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics. Join a local family for lunch to try some tasty traditional home cooking. The rest of your afternoon is free to explore. The Luxor Museum is a great place to visit in your free time. Alternatively, hire a bicycle and venture into the countryside. For a more upscale experience, check out the Winter Palace, a lovely five-star historical building with wonderful views over the Nile – a great place for a refreshing cocktail. Catch an overnight sleeper train from Luxor to Cairo (approximately 10 hours).
Day 8 - Amman
Today you will take a short flight from Cairo to Amman. You will meet your new leader and new group members at the welcome meeting at 6pm Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. Your new leader will be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. Once you arrive you will have some free time before the welcome meeting. Take some time to start doing some sight seeing. Some of the highlights are the citadel with its amazing sweeping views of Amman, the Jordan Museum – home to the Dead Sea Scrolls – or the Roman Theatre, right in the middle of downtown Amman. Either way, this evening get out on to the streets, where you’ll soon hear “Welcome to Jordan” from the locals, and maybe pick up a coffee from one of the cafés and partner it with an ara’yes, a toastie filled with spicy mincemeat.
Day 9 - Wadi Rum
Follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia with a journey to the extraordinary desert scenery of Wadi Rum, a rugged moonscape of huge sandstone mountains (approximately 5 hours). A four-hour jeep safari will visit some of the most beautiful and sublime desert scenery on the planet, a true highlight of this trip. Wadi Rum is full of weird and beautiful lunar-like rock formations, and traces of ancient civilisations can be seen in the many carved inscriptions found throughout the area, from pictographs to Thamudic, Nabataean and Arabic texts. Tonight sleep in a simple desert camp, with the choice of sleeping under a camel hair tent or out under the stars. Enjoy a delicious dinner cooked in an earthen oven by your Bedouin hosts. Conditions are basic at the desert camp, but the hospitality of your hosts is legendary.
Notes: A mattress and blankets are provided. Please be aware that while the desert may be very hot during the day, it will still be cool at night and warm clothes and a sleeping bag are highly recommended when travelling outside of the summer months. Western-style toilet facilities are available.
Day 10 - Wadi Rum
After waking up in the unique surrounds of the Bedouin camp this morning, you will enjoy a trek around the area (approximately 12 to 15 kilometres), with a stop for tea and a lunch break. You might scale one of the large sand dunes for sensational views of the surrounding area. This is the perfect chance to snap some unbelievable pictures. Wadi Rum is a truly beautiful place, where great gouts of rock on a carpet of bright red sand have been eroded into fantastical gnarled shapes. Explore the distinctive rock formations and soak in the vast silence of this lunar-like landscape. Wadi Rum is probably best known for its connection with the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18. You’ll get to spend another memorable night in the desert camp with your new Bedouin friends. Meaning ‘Desert Dwellers’ in Arabic, the Bedouins are a semi-nomadic people, and in Jordan up to 40 per cent of the general population is though to have Bedouin ancestry. This might explain the legendary hospitality of the Jordanians – in traditional Bedouin culture, a huge onus is placed on taking in and feeding any visitor, and so you’ll enjoy brilliant hospitality while you’re here in this incredible place.
Notes: Please make sure you have appropriate, sturdy, comfortable footwear for this trek.
Day 11 - Petra
This morning you'll leave your desert camp, taking 4WDs to the main entrance, which is opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. The visitor's centre here is also a great spot to buy some jewellery and handicrafts, mostly made by a women's co-operative that is aimed at supporting traditional local industries. You will then continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra (approximately 2 hours) by private van. On arrival there is time in the afternoon to check out the town that has grown up around the site, and to just relax in preparation for a big day of exploring Petra tomorrow.
Day 12 - Petra
Petra is justifiably on most people’s list of ‘must-visit’ places. It's the jewel of Jordan, the lost city of the biblical Nabateans, an impressive series of tombs and dwellings hidden behind ornate façades carved directly into the rock, and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Dating back to the 6th century BC, the site was lost to Western minds until it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer – he dressed up like a local to sneak in and then revealed the secret to everyone. Thankfully he did though because this isn’t something you’d want to miss. Squeeze through a mile long narrow path, known as the Siq, through huge towers of rock and get your first glimpse of the iconic Treasury – it’s impossible not to imagine the armies and traders who made their way down here in the ancient times. It’s amazing to think that this awesome, intricate building entrance was hand carved out of the rock. The site is surprisingly big, and you can explore the old Roman road, temples and several old tombs, as well as the rock-hewn amphitheatre. In the afternoon, you have the opportunity to explore the rest of the site at your own pace. For those with the energy, there's the challenging but highly rewarding walk up the steps to the stunning Monastery (approximately 1 hour). Seek out a Turkish bath for the perfect end to an incredible day.
Notes: One day's entrance fee to Petra is included. Please note that when entering Petra as a group, a complimentary horse ride is included in the ticket price from the entrance point down to the Siq. Intrepid doesn't recommend that you take this option due to the safety and insurance liability involved. Please note a lot of walking is required to see all the sites and viewpoints of Petra. A basic level of fitness will enhance your enjoyment of your visit.
Day 13 - Madaba
Travel the King's Highway to the historic crusader castle of Kerak, which stands on a cliff commandingly overlooking Wadi Karak and the Dead Sea in the distance (approximately 2.5 hours). You’ll have time to explore the evocative ruins and discover the legends of the 12th-century battles between the Crusaders and the Muslim armies led by the Arab hero, Saladin. Pack your swim gear as next you can wash off the dust from exploring with a dip like no other. Drive to the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth (420 metres below sea level). This isn’t actually a sea but a super-salty lake (dead because of the lack of life in it) where the density of the water means you’ll go for a float, not a swim. Spend some time relaxing here and get some classic floating pictures. The mud here is supposed to have healing properties, so why not cover yourself from head to toe for a nutrient-rich natural mineral mud bath. Towels are available for hire. Continue to Mt Nebo, the spot where the prophet Moses is said to have seen the ‘promised land’ and where he’s supposedly buried. Explore this sanctuary and view the remarkable mosaics of the 4th century church. 30 minutes down the road is the historical town of Madaba, famous for its Ottoman-style houses and beautiful Byzantine-era mosaics, including the famous 6th-century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land at St George's Church. Other mosaic masterpieces found within churches and the Archaeological Museum depict a rampant profusion of flora and fauna, as well as scenes from mythology and daily life. Literally hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th to 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba’s churches and homes.
Day 14 - Madaba
Today you will leave Madaba for a short drive north (approximately 75 minutes) to Jerash, once one of the grandest ancient Roman cities in the world. These are some of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins around. The city thrived due to its position on the route of the spice and incenses trade, and it reached its zenith as a favourite of the emperor Hadrian around AD 130. The ancient walled town that survives today is a remarkable evocation of life 2,000 years ago. It has a striking collection of archways and theatres, baths, public buildings and colonnaded streets, and is a beautiful place to spend a day exploring. Discover Hadrian’s arch, the partially restored hippodrome, ornate public fountains, the south amphitheatre, and see the collection of daily artefacts uncovered during excavations. Grand ionic columns encircle the city's centrepiece, the Oval Plaza, a wonderfully atmospheric place to linger after uncovering Jerash's riches. After a full day of exploring, transfer back to Madaba for your final night. Maybe gather your travel buddies together and share a celebratory shisha as this Jordan exploration comes to an end.
Day 15 - Istanbul
Today you will take a flight from Amman to Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. Enjoy a whole day free to explore the capital until a Welcome Meeting at 6pm – make sure you have all your important documents and details for your leader. Double check with the hotel reception or the noticeboard for meeting confirmations. After the meeting, maybe gather together your new friends and seek out some Turkish cuisine in a street-side cafe.
Day 16 - Istanbul
This morning you’ll set out on a walking tour of the city with your expert leader. This will take in some of Istanbul's notable cultural and historic sites in Sultanahmet (the Old City, formerly Constantinople), but also some lesser-known gems as you venture into the backstreets. The rest of your afternoon is yours to spend as you please. You might visit the jaw-dropping giant church/mosque/museum of the Hagia Sofia, whose stunning construction is said to have changed the history of architecture. Don’t miss the excellent mosaics found inside. Maybe gaze upon the beauty of the cascading domes of the Blue Mosque, so called for the blue tiles found on its interior walls, or stroll the area where chariots used to race in the hippodrome. Choose to dive into the historic Grand Bazaar (closed on Sundays), and do some good-natured haggling with local artisans who man the over 3,000 stalls of handcrafted jewellery, textiles and books. A boat cruise around the blue waters of the Bosphorus, taking in the sights of the European and the Asian sides, is also recommended. Tonight maybe treat yourself with a relax at a Turkish Hamamm, or take in a hypnotic performance of the Whirling Dervish.
Day 17 - Canakkale
Rise very early this morning as you depart by public bus for Eceabat (approximately 5 hours), your base for visiting Gallipoli. In the afternoon, you will head out with your guide to the Gallipoli Peninsula and pay your respects at a site of immense significance for Australians and New Zealanders. It’s a spot of pilgrimage and reverence, and the calm lapping waters belie the murderous campaign that took place here during the First World War. At this now-serene site you’ll get a sobering insight into the plight of the ANZAC, Allied and Turkish forces at the site of one of the most significant military battles in Australia’s history. It’s hard to think that this area was once Anzac Cove and the battlefields of Nek and Lone Pine, and saw such brutal scenes of war. It’s possible to look down upon the rough and barren hills and gullies that sadly became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. In the museum you can hear stories of heroism and camaraderie that unfolded among the tragedies, and also take the time to read moving inscriptions etched onto a sea of gravestones. Later, head to Canakkale, a charming traditional fishing town that has a great range of dinner and nightlife options, not to mention medieval ruins to explore.
Day 18 - Ayvalik
Drive down the coast by bus to Ayvalik (approximately 4 hours), a town where you can fill up on food and drink, and a place that even takes its name from food (ayva is Turkish for quince). The town is famous for olive oil, but we suggest finding the nearest seaside cafe and ordering Ayvalik toast (like a club sandwich but better), and mezes made with local olive oil and stuffed mussels. You can wander around and discover a town that’s a fascinating mix of Greek and Turkish cultures (in fact the island actually swapped all its Greek residents for Turks in 1923). Check out the cobblestone backstreets, beautiful houses and lively cafes. The village is set around a harbour and looks out to the Aegean Islands – a wonderful place to escape from it all and enjoy a harbourside drink at sunset.
Day 19 - Selcuk
Depart Ayvalık in the morning and journey to one of the world's best preserved ancient cities, Pergamon. Here there are splendid Roman ruins, from the Asclepion (the medical centre that was the home of one of the fathers of Western medicine), to the magnificent mountainside Acropolis that’s served by a cable car. After some time to explore this beautiful ancient city, join a carpet-making demonstration at a nearby village cooperative. Later try some famous fruit wine at the Şirince village. In the afternoon arrive at Selcuk, which will serve as a base for exploring Ephesus. The town is culturally rich but still relatively undisturbed, so this is an opportunity to experience the 'real' side of Turkey as it was lived for centuries. Perhaps explore the Isa Bey Mosque and Grand Fortress on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill.
Day 20 - Selcuk
Enjoy an exploration of mighty Ephesus with the aid of a local guide. This is one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman classical cities in the world, which was founded by Ionian Greeks in the 11th century BC and brought to full flower under Roman rule. Be amazed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had running water, public toilets, in-house heating, a renowned medical institute, and Roman baths. Nearby are the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the last home of the Virgin Mary who, as legend has it, came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot. You can also delve deeper into the area’s fascinating history with a visit to the artefacts of the Archaeological Museum, the ruins of the Basilica of St John and some impressive Roman Terrace houses.
Day 21 - Pamukkale
A train ride inland through mountainous landscapes (approximately 3.5 hours) brings you to one of Turkey's most photographed sites, Pamukkale, which literally translates to “cotton castle”. Here spectacular natural hot springs with high calcium bicarbonate content cascade over the edge of the cliffs, leaving bright white deposit terraces (the ‘cotton’). It's been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Though you won't be able to bathe in these travertines, you can take a walk through them (after removing your shoes), and these pools are said to fix up any circulation and digestion problems. If you’ve got Cleopatra on the mind after yesterday’s stories, then maybe choose to head out to the ancient city of Hierapolis and take a dip in what used to be her old pool – the transparent water-filled pool, sculpted as a gift from Marc to Cleo, is beautiful (even if you’ll be sharing it with a few more people than she did). You can also check out the other ruins of the city – Hierapolis is known for its abundance of temples and religious structures, vast necropolis and strange tombs, and the amphitheatre shouldn’t be missed. During winter departures you’ll stop by Aphrodisias, a city dedicated to the Greek goddess of love and beauty, filled with more great classical ruins.
Day 22 - Antalya
Take a bus to Antalya, the largest city on the western Mediterranean coast (approximately 4 hours). It’s hard to get a bad photo of Antalya thanks to cobblestone streets, the old city, the marina, and the Taurus Mountains in the distance. After an orientation walk that takes in minarets, old streets, and religious centres, spend some time of your own exploring the town's mix of urban sophistication and old-world charm. You might want to check out Kaleici – the old city area that’s now a historical zone and protected from modern development – and see relics of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman occupation. You can visit ancient Hadrian's Gate and Hıdırlık Tower, or be lured by the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean – stroll down the marina and head for the white sands of the beach.
Day 23 - Antalya
Today you’ll visit the Antalya Museum, one of the largest and best museums in Turkey. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Mediterranean and Pamphylia regions of Anatolia, with some 5,000 works of art and artefacts on display – pottery, coins, mosaics, sculptures, costumes, sarcophagi, and artefacts found in the once-inhabited caves of coastal Turkey. You’ll then enjoy some free time in the afternoon. You can choose to visit some impressive sites further afield, including the ancient cities of Aspendos and Side. Aspendos is know for it’s beautiful intact Roman theatre, perhaps the best preserved in the world, while Side away from the tourists is awash with colonnaded streets and Hellenistic and Roman ruins. For those after a nature fix, Duden Waterfalls, about 12 kilometres north-east of town, is a lovely spot to relax. Tonight, maybe gather together your newfound travel buddies and enjoy a drink or dinner to celebrate the final night of this Turkey adventure.
Day 24 - Antalya
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money