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Core 650 Study Tour to Turkey

With Whitworth Theology Professor Emeritus Jerry Sittser

Sept. 10-25, 2021

Modern Turkey links east and west like no other place on earth. Its major city, Istanbul, half in Europe and half in Asia, symbolizes this link. The region is home to a history that shaped the major cultures of Europe and the Middle East. Much of the human story has somehow passed through Turkey.

Turkey is a place of natural beauty and cultural magnificence. Water borders three sides, creating a long and rugged coastline of unspeakable beauty. Mountain ranges dominate much of the interior, and waterways snake their way from the interior to the coast. Temples still tower over the ruins of ancient cities like Ephesus and Pergamum, which are archeological wonders that once boasted populations into the hundreds of thousands. The modern city of Istanbul unites ancient and modern into one whole. The country teems with life.

Turkey is also a religious crossroad. The traditional religion of Rome once flourished in Turkey, then known as Asia Minor. Christianity worked its way into the culture, too. After the first Christian emperor, Constantine, assumed the throne in 312 and founded the Byzantine Empire, the religion of Christianity dominated the land for over a thousand years, only to be replaced by Islam after the Seljuk Turks conquered the city of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman Empire eventually took control, surviving into the 20th century. Today Turkey boasts a population that self-identifies as 99 percent Muslim.

Paul traveled through much of southern Asia Minor, planting churches in cities like Ephesus, Colossae and Pisidian Antioch. Both the apostle John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, might very well have spent the last years of their lives in Ephesus. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, traveled through Asia Minor on his journey to Rome, where he was martyred around AD 110. Polycarp became the bishop of Smyrna around the turn of the first century, a post at which he remained until he was martyred in 155 at the age of 86. Gregory Thaumaturgis worked miracles and planted churches in north central Asia Minor. The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus) served as bishops, monastic leaders and theologians, helping to establish what we now call historic orthodoxy. John Chrysostom, known as the greatest preacher of the ancient world, dazzled the city of Constantinople with his sermons. Christians founded monastic communities that attracted thousands of monks to practice ascetic disciplines and live in the caves of the Cappadocian region. Christian architects and artisans built magnificent churches, like the Hagia Sophia, and Christian artists "wrote" stunning icons to create liminal places between heaven and earth.

On this tour we will walk through the ruins of civilizations that date back to the Bronze Age. We will explore ancient cities, temples, stadiums, marketplaces, houses, tombs, statues and art from the classical period into the modern period and investigate how traditional Roman religion, Christianity and Islam each shaped the culture. We will trace the steps of the apostle Paul in his church-planting endeavor. We will visit churches, monasteries and mosques; wander through marketplaces and bazaars; and view stunning Turkish coastland and mountains. We will gaze at the wonders of Byzantine art. And we will also enjoy the warm hospitality of the Turkish people and eat their excellent food.

Finally, we will ponder how the fledgling religion of Christianity flourished against all odds in a world that was clearly suspicious of and hostile to it, and we will reflect, as a community together, on what we can learn from the early Christians and apply it to our own time and place. This tour will challenge us to consider how ancient and modern can speak to us, engaging us intellectually, dazzling us with beauty, and inviting us to set a course for our lives that is faithful to the gospel.

Throughout our study tour, we will learn from daily on-site instruction provided by acclaimed teacher and author Jerry Sittser. Aydin Aygun, a longtime friend of Whitworth, will serve as our Turkish guide.


Day 1: Friday, Sept. 10 – Flight Day

Depart the U.S. on a flight to Istanbul.

Day 2: Saturday, Sept. 11 – Istanbul

Arrive in Istanbul Airport and transfer to the hotel in the old city. Enjoy your rest in the hotel after check-in. Orientation walk around Sultanahmet Square followed by our welcome dinner.

Meals: Welcome Dinner

Accommodation: Vogue Hotel Supreme

Day 3: Sunday, Sept. 12 – Istanbul

After breakfast we explore the great imperial landmarks of Istanbul in Sultanahmet Square. Visit the Roman Hippodrome and the church of Hagia Sophia, the religious center of the Byzantine Empire and Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Underground Cistern. After a lunch break on your own around our hotel, explore the Blue Mosque, Mosaic Museum and Arasta Bazaar. Enjoy your rest in the hotel before Bosporus Cruise and our group dinner in a local restaurant.

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodation: Hagia Sophia Mansions Istanbul

Day 4: Monday, Sept. 13 – Istanbul to Cappadocia

After breakfast we dedicate our morning to Topkapi Palace-Harem, the royal residence of the sultans and the administration center of the Ottoman Empire and the church of Hagia Eirene. Discover Istanbul Archeological Museum and artifacts related to Biblical Archeology. Walk to the Golden Horn and after lunch visit the Spice Market and Rustem Pasa Mosque. Transfer to the airport and fly to Nevsehir at 6:35 p.m. and arrive in Cappadocia at 7:45 p.m. Transfer to the hotel and enjoy a late dinner in the hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Utopia Cave Hotel

Day 5: Tuesday, Sept. 14 – Cappadocia

Explore the lunar and surrealistic landscape of the region with its valleys and churches. Visit the Goreme Open-Air Museum and its churches with vivid frescoes depicting Biblical scenes as the best example of local Byzantine art. Stroll through the fairy-chimneys of the Red and Pasabag Valleys and hike through the valleys in the afternoon. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Utopia Cave Hotel

Day 6: Wednesday, Sept. 15 – Cappadocia

Start the day with an optional balloon trip over Cappadocia. Travel to the lesser visited sites of Cappadocia; the dramatic settlement of the Mustafa Pasa Village attracts travelers to its beauty as well as the peaceful people of the village. Then continue to Ayvali Village to enjoy a village lunch prepared in a local home. Visit the pottery-making of Avanos, Uchisar and the Ortahisar Villages. Dinner in one of the valleys with local musicians.  

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Utopia Cave Hotel

Day 7: Thursday, Sept. 16 – Ihlara Valley to Konya

After breakfast, drive to Kaymakli and explore the labyrinths of the Underground Cities of the region. Continue to Ihlara Valley and walk through the canyon from Ihlara to Belisirma. After lunch, drive along the Silk Road and visit one of the caravanserais where ancient travelers stayed overnight on their journeys. At the end of the day visit Mevlana Museum, the center of the whirling dervishes in Konya, and discover their humanistic theology based on love and respect for the diversity of the universe in Sufi tradition before checking into our hotel. Dinner in the hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

AccommodationHilton Garden Inn Hotel

Day 8: Friday, Sept. 17 – Antalya

After breakfast, check out of our hotel and drive west to the Lake region with a stop at Eflatunpinari, the Hittite open air sanctuary for water gods. Then drive the scenic route along Lake Beysehir to Pisidian Antioch. Walk through extensive ruins of Pisidian Antioch where the longest sermon of Apostle Paul was recorded in Acts. Drive to Antalya with a break along the Egirdir Lake in the afternoon. Check into our hotel and enjoy dinner in the hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

AccommodationAkra Barut Hotel

Day 9: Saturday, Sept. 18 – Antalya

After breakfast drive to Demre and visit the ancient city of Myra, with its theater and the church dedicated to St. Nicholas who served the Christian community as the bishop. Explore the ancient harbor where Apostle Paul changed his ship and visit the workshops of morex, the harbor synagogue and ancient granaries housing a new museum. Enjoy your lunch onboard while cruising the sunken city along Kekova Island and Simena. Drive back to Antalya and enjoy dinner in the hotel. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Akra Barut Hotel

Day 10: Sunday, Sept. 19 – Antalya

Participate in the Sunday service at Saint Paul Church in the old city or enjoy your leisurely breakfast and free morning by the pool of the hotel or the platforms along the Mediterranean. We meet at the lobby at noon and visit Antalya Archeological Museum. Then enjoy an excursion to Perge, a Hellenistic city that welcomed Alexander on the way to Gordion in 333 BC and later the Apostle Paul in late '40s AD. With its cascading pools, the city was bisected by the colonnaded marble street which still bears the ruts of wagon wheels. We will tour the old city and ancient harbor with free shopping time in the late afternoon. Dinner is in a local restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Akra Barut Hotel

Day 11: Monday, Sept. 20 – Pamukkale

After checking out of our hotel, drive to Denizli in the morning. After lunch, visit the Tumulus of Colossae and then Laodicea, the last of seven churches in Revelation. Continue to Pamukkale and explore the travertine of Pamukkale overlooking Lycus Valley. We walk through the Necropolis of Hierapolis, explore the burial place of St. Philip and the Roman Theater in the late afternoon. After check-in at our hotel enjoy your rest or swim in the thermal pool before our dinner in the hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

AccommodationColossae Thermal Hotel

Day 12: Tuesday, Sept. 21 – Kusadasi

We travel through the delta of the River Meander to Aphrodisias and explore the best preserved stadium of the ancient world and the imperial cult center, Sebasteion, with the exquisite works of the sculptor school of Aphrodisias. Enjoy our lunch in a local restaurant and drive through the fertile farming valleys with olive and fig trees to Kusadasi in the afternoon. Check into our hotel and enjoy your dinner with a sunset view in the hotel. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

AccommodationCharisma Deluxe Hotel

Day 13: Wednesday, Sept. 22 – Ephesus and Kusadasi

After a leisurely breakfast, a short drive takes us to Selcuk. Explore the well-known ancient site of Ephesus and environs. Ephesus contains extensive ruins of the agora, the Library of Celsus with its imposing façade, the biggest theater and the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. After lunch in a local restaurant, we will also tour the Basilica of John and the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk in the afternoon. Drive to Kusadasi and enjoy your rest around the pool in our hotel in the late afternoon. Walk along the waterfront and enjoy your dinner during the sunset in a local restaurant.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Charisma Deluxe Hotel

Day 14: Thursday, Sept. 23 – Sardis to Pergamon to Balikesir

We drive via Izmir to Sardis where you explore the capital city of King Croesus and discover the biggest ancient Jewish Synagogue and the letter addressing the Christian community in Revelation. After lunch in Thyatiera drive to Pergamon. Enjoy the tour of Acropolis of Pergamum, crowned by the temples dedicated to Zeus, Athena, Demeter and finally Roman Emperor Trajan. Continue to the site of Asclepion, one of the most important healing centers of the ancient world in where Galen practiced. Continue to Balikesir in the late afternoon. Check into our hotel and dinner is in the hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Onhann Hotel

Day 15: Friday, Sept. 24 – Nicaea to Istanbul

After breakfast check out of the hotel and drive on the newest highway of Turkey to Iznik. Visit the ancient city walls and gates and the Church of Hagia Sophia in the morning. After lunch continue to Istanbul through the new bridge which crosses the Sea of Marmara.  We drive to the ancient city along the ancient city walls of Constantinople and visit the Church of St Savior in Chora (Kariye Museum) with its splendid mosaic and frescoes. Then stroll through the labyrinth-like Grand Bazaar. Drive to our hotel for check-in and some rest before our farewell dinner.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

AccommodationDivan Hotel Istanbul

Day 16: Saturday, Sept. 25 – Back to Home

After breakfast we transfer to Istanbul Airport and fly back home.

If you want to extend your stay at the beginning or at the end of the program, please contact Deniz,, for the hotel reservations.

Program Details

Cost of this educational program, including roundtrip airfare from Seattle, is $5,965 per person. Price includes all transportation (air, coach, transfers), lodging (assumes double occupancy), tours, tickets, departure taxes, and most all meals. Land rate (for those intending a different departure/return date or home airport other than Seattle or Spokane) is $4,265. Single-occupancy rate is an additional $900.

Academic credit is available upon request and is subject to additional costs.

Prices are subject to change. A $1,500 deposit per person (refundable before March 1, 2021) paid by check will hold your spot. Payment in full is due by May 1, 2021. We regret that we cannot accept credit cards for tours.

Spaces are limited, so please reserve yours now.

What's included?

  • Hotel accommodations as indicated in the itinerary or similar
  • All meals with bottled water as indicated in the itinerary. Most meals will be in restaurants specializing in the local cuisine
  • Professional, English-speaking guide
  • Air-conditioned vehicle with professional tour bus driver
  • Hotel gratuities and restaurant tips (for included meals)
  • Arrival and departure group flight transfers
  • Complete program of tours as indicated in itinerary – all entrance fees, admissions and parking
  • Baggage handling
  • Bottled water in the bus during the entire program
  • Tips for guides and drivers

What's excluded?

  • Non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages during meals
  • Visa (can be obtained online for $20 per person)
  • Travel and health insurance
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, telephone calls and mini-bar expenses

Send your reservation deposit check to:

Core 650 Turkey Tour 2020
Office of Institutional Advancement
Whitworth University
300 W. Hawthorne Road
Spokane, WA 99251


Please contact Tad Wisenor at 509.777.4401 or