By Bob Schulman
Last year you wowed the neighbors with your wonderful photos of the Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen-Itza, the monster pyramid at Coba and the Temple of the Descending God of the Bees at Tulum, all snapped on your tour of Mayan ruins around Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
So what are you going to do for an encore this year? Not to worry, tour operators are busy digging up – literally – a seemingly never-ending supply of new archaeo-tourism destinations. “(Vacationers) are genuinely curious about how people lived before, how they built, what they ate, how they worshipped,” says veteran tour guide Peter Sommer.
Sommer says the ruins of Greek, Roman and Byzantine cities on the Aegean Sea and particularly along the Turkish coast are attracting a big upturn in tourism. His company, Peter Sommer Travels (www.petersommer.com/contact/) is offering 19 different tours in that region this year, up from 15 in 2011.
Three of the new trips will be on small ships, one sailing May 19-June 2 to the Greek superstar island of Santorini and also to not-so-well-known spots such as Kos, Naxos and Anafi. The other two cruises (July 21-28 and Sept. 8-22 ) will anchor at ancient cities dotting the southwest coast of Turkey. The fourth trip (Sept. 3-8) will be to the Cappadocia region of inland Turkey.
When you get back you can be first on your block to show off an “I got kozy on Kos” tee-shirt from your trip. Or perhaps you'd like to pass around some pictures of yourself in a hot-air balloon soaring over hundreds of spiraling rock “fairy chimneys.” You could casually mention, “Oh, those shots are from the badlands of Cappadocia...you know, in Turkey.”
And if your friends still have any wows left, ask if they'd like to see your images of the hillside tombs of Kaunos or the marble-rich city of Knidos on the Gulf of Gokova. How about one of the Rhodian fortress of Loryma or the pillars of the mysterious goddess Hecate at Lagina?
Sommer's itineraries – guided by archaeologists and historians – are mostly cruises on gulets (traditional Turkish two-masted wooden ships) sleeping up to 18 passengers. Typical prices for the 8- to 15-day trips range from around $3,100 to $5,600 per person (two people per cabin).
The tab includes all meals and accommodations on the gulets, ground transfers, crew and guide services, entrance fees and tips on excursions. Airfare is not included.
Among popular land itineraries returning in 2012 is Sommer's signature 20-day tour through Turkey, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: The Conquest of Asia Minor. A British archaeologist, film-maker and long-term tour guide, Sommer created his tour company in 1996 having earlier taken a 2,000-mile walk across Turkey in which he retraced the route of Alexander the Great.
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