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Immerse yourself in the exoticism, fascinating history, and resplendent architecture of Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia along the bustling Bosphorus Strait. You’ll step into the world of Ottoman sultans at the Topkapi Palace, marvel at the towering domes and minarets of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and roam the endless passageways of the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, teeming with colorful carpets, leather goods, jewelry, and lanterns. Your three nights in this intoxicating cultural capital is the perfect way to round out your ocean expedition.
Fly to Istanbul
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Istanbul.
Arrive in Istanbul
Welcome to Istanbul! If you purchased your flights through Vantage, you'll be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Settle in and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to acclimate before an evening Welcome Briefing and Dinner.
Royal and cultural splendors of Istanbul
After breakfast, head to the Fatih district, home to the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Begin your explorations at the Topkapi Palace, once home to Ottoman sultans and today a magnificent museum. Your guided tour leads you into some of its many chambers, including the Harem Apartments. After lunch, continue to the spectacular Blue Mosque, named for the countless blue iznik tiles that adorn its vast interior. Cultural Discovery: Conclude the day among the teeming stalls and passageways of the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul’s historic marketplace.
Spectacular Sultanahmet on foot
Stretch your legs this morning during a walking tour of the Sultanahmet district. You’ll stop at the 6th-century Hagia Sophia, built as a church and later converted into a mosque. It has been a magnificent museum since 1935. After, follow your nose to the Spice Bazaar, where mounds of colorful turmeric, saffron, and countless other spices vie for your olfactory attentions. Be sure to sample some Turkish Delight, the nation’s favorite sweet, while you’re here! After lunch, embark on an optional scenic cruise along the legendary Bosphorus Strait, the narrow waterway separating Europe and Asia, or enjoy an afternoon at your leisure.
This evening, reunite with your fellow expeditioners at a local restaurant for a Farewell Dinner, which will feature a spread of classic Turkish dishes and traditional folkloric entertainment!
Enjoy a scenic cruise down the Bosphorus, a strait connecting the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. One of the most exquisite places in the world, this naturally formed passage was very much esteemed by sultans and pashas, who built their kiosks and residences along the water. As the wearing effects of time caused wooden buildings to demolish, they have been replaced with new ones. In place of the Besiktas Palaces, there appeared the Dolmabahçe Palace. Beylerbeyi Palace was rebuilt, while stone buildings were erected to complete its final outlook.
With its architecture matching its natural delights, the Bosphorus has reached an incomparable beauty. The buildings embroidering the shores of free-flowing waters, embraced by a green background, offer a view of unceasing delight. This wonderful cruise will provide unforgettable memories as you see the magnificent waterfront houses and palaces close up.
Fly to Athens, join the base program
Transfer to the airport this morning for your flight to Athens, where you join the base program.
Proud capital of Spain’s Catalonia province, Barcelona offers an unrivaled blend of historic treasures, cosmopolitan culture and architectural showpieces, all underlined by a spectacular culinary scene. This is the city of Antoni Gaudí, the Modernism architect whose surreal style changed the cityscape with works like La Sagrada Família Cathedral. This is a famously gracious city where wide, tree-lined boulevards were made for strolling, intimate tapas and wine bars were made for lingering, and richly historic quarters and artistic institutions were made for deep exploring. Immerse yourself in Barcelona and find out what Catalonians are so passionate about.
Exploring Barcelona on your own
After two days in Barcelona on your base tour, you have more time today to follow your own whims in this epic city, or to join our optional tour to Figueres and its Salvador Dali Museum and Girona, a richly hued pastiche of Gothic churches, medieval walls and modernisme mansions.
If you remain in Barcelona and are looking to admire some of the city’s Modernism structures treasures, head to Passieg de Gràcia, the city’s most beautiful street. Three of the most notable are located in the “Block of Discord,” so named for the ways in which these buildings shattered artistic conventions of their day. The Casa Batllo is Gaudí’s eerily fascinating “House of Bones.” Next door, the gabled Casa Amatller features Renaissance touches; it was designed for a local chocolatier. And the Casa Lleó Morera is one of the city’s best examples of Modernism architecture for its seamless natural and organic motifs.
Ascension to a stunning mountain abbey
Leave the city behind today to visit the astonishing Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. This Benedictine monastery was founded in the 11th century and is still overseen by some 70 monks. Its setting is as inspiring as its basilica, nestled among the crags of a mountain slope in an otherworldly landscape of dome-like rock formations. You will see the revered Black Madonna in the basilica and have ample time to admire the sweeping views of the Catalonian countryside. Back in Barcelona, you might spend your free afternoon among the greenery of Parc de Montjuic, accessible via an aerial tram from the port. Tonight, convene with your expeditioners and toast your discoveries at a festive Farewell Dinner.
Head to the Barcelona airport for you flight back to the U.S.