Arrive in Venice and transfer to Corinthian.
Originally a Greco-Illyrian settlement called Aspalathos, Split is an ancient city centered around the formidable Palace of Diocletian, built in a.d. 295. An extensive structure, much of which is well preserved, the palace contains within its walls Split’s medieval town, making it the only palace that has been continuously inhabited since Roman times. Also visit the Archaeological Museum.
Sail to Ploce for an excursion to Mostar, which became a thriving center in the 15th century under the Ottoman Turks. Admire the ethereally graceful Stari Most (“The Old Bridge”), originally built in 1566, and the nearby Tabacica Mosque.
For hundreds of years, Dubrovnik (the “Pearl of the Adriatic”) was an independent city-state set in competition with Venice for Constantinople’s trade routes. Visit the Franciscan Monastery, Dominican Monastery, and the Baroque Cathedral, containing works by Titian and Andrea del Sarto. Also view the wonderful courtyard of the Rector’s Palace. Depart on a scenic drive through the mountains to Kotor, located at the head of its namesake bay. One of the most quaint and best-preserved medieval towns along the Dalmatian coast, Kotor is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The town’s fortifications and most of its monuments, which you will visit on a walking tour, date from the time of Venetian rule.
From Saranda, drive to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the city was founded by the Trojans, or so claimed the poet Virgil. A gem of an archaeological site, its ruins span 2,500 years and include the remains of a Greek acropolis, Roman theater, 6th-century baptistery, and 19th-century fortress.
It was at Nafpaktos (the medieval Lepanto) that the celebrated Battle of Lepanto was fought in 1571 between the Turkish fleet and an allied fleet of Venice, Genoa, the Papal States, Spain, Sicily, and Naples. The overwhelming defeat of Muslim sea power was one from which they never recovered. Nafpaktos’s medieval appearance is well-preserved. Enclosing walls come down to the sea, while an imposing castle sits above the town in a beautiful forest of pine.
Today visit Chios, the Greek island claiming to be Homer’s birthplace. The island’s volcanic rock formations and deep green valleys forge a landscape of stunning color oppositions and intricate appearances. Visit the 11th-century Monastery of Nea Moni, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important ecclesiastical monuments in Greece. The Monastery sits majestically in a wooded vale and is decorated throughout with exquisite frescoes and mosaics.
Arrive in Izmir and take an excursion to the ruins of the ancient city of Sardis. Sardis was one of the world’s wealthiest cities from the 7th to the mid-6th centuries b.c. and was most likely inhabited as far back as 1200 b.c. First settled by the Lydians, natives of Anatolia, the city was also home to Persians, Macedonians, and Romans. During the first major excavations here in the 1950s, archaeologists unearthed an ancient synagogue. Later excavations revealed remnants of a flourishing Jewish settlement, which coexisted peacefully with Christian ones. Explore the massive 4thcentury a.d. synagogue, whose walls are covered by impressive mosaics; the bath complex; the Temple of Artemis, built by the Lydian king Croesus and later rebuilt by Alexander the Great; and other ruins.
Arrive in Thessaloniki, justly famous for its late Classical and Medieval remains as well as early Christian churches. On a tour of the city, explore several of these monuments, including a visit to a Byzantine church as well as the Byzantine Museum (or the Archaeological Museum).
Attend lectures while sailing toward Bulgaria.
Disembark in Istanbul and transfer to the airport for return flights home.