Christian Travel to Turkey

Sponsored Content: Ya’lla Tours USA offers a 13-day program that retraces the footsteps of the Apostle Paul

Library of Celsus Ephesus // (c) 2008
Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Turkey is a country of enormous historical depth, a vast repository of world-shaping episodes. As a natural bridge between the continents of Europe and Asia, great tides of history have rolled across the land, leaving a vivid, tangible timeline of evolving Western culture.

Christianity was among the most powerful and enduring cultural forces to take shape in Turkey. In communities along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, Christianity developed into a religion distinct from Judaism. The apostle Paul traveled on a series of missionary journeys across the region. His letters to the Ephesians, Galatians and Colossians were addressed to three of the churches established in Turkey (then known as Asia Minor or Anatolia) and all of the Seven Churches of the Revelation are located in Turkey.

Ya’lla Tours USA offers a 13 day, privately escorted program, Footsteps of St. Paul, that traces Paul’s efforts. The tour includes visits of Antioch, where Peter, as well as Paul, spent time and where the term Christian was first used; Tarsus, the birthplace of Paul; Perge, the site of Paul’s first sermon; and several of the Seven Churches, most notably Pergamum and Ephesus. Ephesus thrived as a major port for centuries, with Persians, Greeks and Romans leaving their mark. Extensive excavation has revealed a splendid, sprawling city. Marble streets flow past temples, theaters, fountains, gates and the great Library of Celsus. It takes only a small effort of the imagination to see Ephesus as it was in its gleaming prime.

In the Anatolian interior, the region of Cappadocia sheltered early Christians fleeing persecution. Volcanic activity shaped a fairy-world of conical towers and soft sediment which concealed rock-cut churches and underground cities. The small stone chapels and dark tunnel towns tucked into the otherworldly wilderness still harbor a vague presence of those hushed communities. Three Ya’lla Tours programs feature Cappadocia – the 15-day Crown of Turkey, the 9-day Turkish Delight, and the 4-day Cappadocia Stopover.

In Constantinople (modern Istanbul), Christianity became a religion of kings. The city was founded in the 4th century by the Roman emperor Constantine who converted to Christianity as an adult. With the Edict of Milan, Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire and ended centuries of Christian persecution. In 380, Emperor Theodosius I, ruling from Constantinople, declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. One of the most famous buildings in the world, St. Sophia, was built in Constantinople by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. This building still dominates the skyline of Istanbul today and is a highlight of any tour of the city. No church surpassed St. Sophia in size for a thousand years. With its massive dome, red-orange exterior and cavernous interior, it’s an astounding place. Another jewel of Christian history in Istanbul is the 11th century St. Savior in Chora, where mosaics and frescos in good condition cover the walls and vaulted ceilings. Most Ya’lla Tours Turkish programs have at least two full days of touring in Istanbul, including a visit to St. Sophia. The privately escorted Footsteps of St. Paul includes both St. Sophia and St. Savior in Chora in its Istanbul touring.

After Israel, Turkey is the top destination for Christian based touring. While most standard, motor coach programs in Turkey cover some of the important Christian sites, they are operated as general interest tours, not as religious tours. For a pilgrimage experience in Turkey Ya’lla’s Footsteps of St. Paul is recommended. The tour is intentionally designed as a pilgrimage. Furthermore, as a privately escorted tour, it can be tailored to provide a very personal travel experience. Generally however, pilgrims to Turkey travel in groups with their own spiritual community and leader. This is certainly a more cost effective and, for many, a more spiritually fulfilling way to travel.

Christian tourism is an ever-growing market and the specialty of Ya’lla Tours USA since 1993. Ya’lla Tours does not solicit churches directly but provides a system of support for travel agents interested in organizing groups – advice on how to approach and communicate with potential group leaders, product and destination education for agents, marketing materials, co-op funds for advertising, and joint presentations with agents to potential travelers.

Ya’lla Tours USA

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