A Sacred Journey to Turkey with Phil Cousineau

Long Conversations in the Land of Troy, Rumi, and the Goddess October 10 - 22, 2014

Join us for an exciting sacred journey to Turkey, the true crossroad of Europe and Asia, the land where the ancient and the modern overlap and provide a glimpse at our future.

This journey takes us to historically important sites, relics that reveal ancient civilizations and cultures, and opens us up to deeply spiritual experiences, including an exploration of the work of Rumi, long considered the Shakespeare of the Islamic world. We will witness a whirling dervishes performance, hear talks from invited guest speakers, and enjoy daily discussions and “long conversations” with writer & TV host Phil Cousineau. Join us as we tour this incredible country, from the fascinating city of Istanbul to the sacred sites of Troy, Kusadasi, Pamukkale and more. READ MORE

Tour Leader Phil Cousineau

Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 40 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage, The Book of Roads, and Stoking the Creative Fires, winner of the Book of the Year Award from “Spirituality & Health Magazine.”


This trip through mythical Turkey helped us grow our own personal myths. An amazing growth experience with kindred spirits.Louise Gervais, Sudbury, ON


My soul is renewed, consciously breathing beauty again. Now I know why my soul led me to come on this journey. Marcia Monge-Lopez, Costa Rica


Tour Description

Join us for an exciting journey to Turkey, the true crossroad of Europe and Asia, the land where the ancient and the modern overlap and provide a glimpse at our future. This journey takes us to historically important sites, relics that reveal ancient civilizations and cultures, and opens us up to deeply spiritual experiences, including an exploration of the work of Rumi, long considered the Shakespeare of the Islamic world, and a visit to his shrine as well as an enchanting Whirling Dervishes performance.

ephesus in turkey
Ephesus, Turkey

Our group will be able to more profoundly understand our visits and experiences thanks to the wisdom, knowledge, and storytelling of our Tour Leader, the writer, presenter and scholar, Phil Cousineau. Phil is well acquainted with Turkey having visited the intriguing country some ten times since 1990, and this journey marks his fifth organized tour here.

Our journey will range from one of the oldest sites ever excavated, the nine thousand year old site of Catal Huyuk, to the “windy walls of Troy,” the magnificent mosques of Istanbul, and one of the most extensive archaeological sites in the world, the marble marvel of Ephesus. We will visit two of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the stone-glazed pools of Pamukkale, and the strange troglodyte caves of Cappadocia.

textiles in turkey
A local textiles maker

More than just a tour that connects the dots of one of the friendliest and archaeology site-rich countries in the world, our journey will feature our trusty leader, Phil Cousineau’s innovative style of "The Long Conversation." Each day will be highlighted by talks and group discussion that evoke the soul of the country. They range from talks on the "Seven Wonders of the World," to "The Origin of Libraries," when we are in Pergamum, "The Twelfth-Century Poet-Philosopher Mevlana Rumi: The Most Popular Poet in the World Today," and "Catal Hayk: Marija Gimbutas and the Birth of the Goddess Movement."

Special invited presenters include Jay Fikes, professor of history at the University of Istanbul, and Bedri Baykim, renowned Turkish artist, residing in Istanbul.

cappadocia caves in turkey
Caves at Cappadocia

With Phil as our guide, we will visit places and share experiences that are not on the typical tourist trails. We will gain a greater understanding of Sufism thanks to our readings of Rumi, our visit to his shrine and other spiritual sites, and our witnessing of a special Whirling Dervishes performance in Konya – the birthplace of Mevlana Rumi himself – with time afterwards to discuss this intriguing, mesmerizing event. We will also explore the Goddess and her role in antiquity, through illuminating Conversations with Phil and visits to sites such as Aphrodisias, a place of worship of the Mother Goddess of fertility since 5,800 B.C., and the Shrine city of Catalhoyuk, where we can see evidence of the worship of The Great Goddess of Anatolia. To help provide context to these profound visits, we will enjoy a special lecture at the University of Istanbul by Dr. Jay Fikes, and an excursion to the “The Mystic Tea and Smoking Garden,” in the heart of Istanbul, one of the great meeting places for travellers in the world.

Join us on this enlightening, culturally-rich tour of sacred Turkey and enjoy humbling sites, deliciously fresh local food, lively and insightful conversations and much more. 

You will be greeted by our guide at the Ataturk Airport and taken to the elegant Amethyst Hotel where we’ll be staying while in Istanbul. Our first dinner together this evening will be at Daruzziyafe, an enchanting courtyard restaurant within the Süleymaniye mosque complex. The restaurant dates back some 460 years and today serves delicious Ottoman-inspired dishes that we can enjoy while meeting our fellow travellers.
(Overnight in Istanbul at the Amethyst Hotel)

Istanbul in Turkey

After enjoying breakfast at our hotel, we prepare for a full day of sightseeing, conversation and storytelling. Our morning Long Conversation with Phil focuses on “The Longing”:

In the tradition of those who believe that conversation advances civilization, each morning and evening we will meet to discuss the day’s experiences and also the larger deeper meaning of our journey together. I have come to regard these discussions as the long conversation, a way to connect ourselves to all those who’ve gone before us. This morning’s topic follows the lead of The Art of Pilgrimage, which supports the ancient notion that all profound journeys begin with a sense of deep longing.

Inspired and motivated from our morning conversation, we embark on a very special sightseeing tour. We begin with a tour of the old town, including the Hippodrome, the Basilica of St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia), which has inspired architects and religious leaders for over fifteen hundred years, and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque), built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmed. The interior walls of this impressive building are covered with twenty thousand blue Iznik tiles, in more than fifty different tulip designs. Our sightseeing continues with the Archaeological Museum, which houses sculptures from the Ancient Age from the Archaic Era to the Roman Era, with unique artefacts such as the Alexander Sarcophagus as well as many portraits, medals, seals and coins. Next stop is the famous Spice Bazaar, one of the largest covered bazaars in the city, selling spices, jewellery, souvenirs, dried fruits, nuts and sweets. We then visit Chora Church, considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine church with its glorious mosaics and frescoes dating back to the fourteenth century. Every surface seems to bear painted images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saints and Emperors. The image of Christ raising the Old Testament patriarchs out of Hell is the highlight of this incredible work of art.

After a delicious dinner at our hotel tonight, we prepare for an evening of storytelling at the legendary traveller’s crossroad, The Mystic Tea and Smoking Garden.

Tonight we convene at one of the great crossroads of Europe and Asia, a venerable Sufi school that has been transformed into a tea house. Our theme for the evening is the second one in The Art of Pilgrimage, (Departure), in which we’ll discuss how we prepared for this journey, and what it feels like to begin on our journey. Is the journey what you were hoping for? Do you feel prepared? Have you left room open for serendipity to grace your travels?
(Overnight in Istanbul at the Amethyst Hotel)

Istanbul Blue Mosque in Turkey

This morning we fill up on a hearty breakfast ahead of our journey to Troy and our two Long Conversations with Phil. Our Morning Conversation is the aptly themed: “The Road to Troy”.

This morning’s talk will be brief because of our long journey to Troy. But it is always good for travellers to raise a few questions each morning before setting out. What does Homer and his two great books mean to you? What role have they played in history? Why has Troy and the Trojan War seized the cultural imagination of the world for the last twenty-five hundred years? And, for me, the most compelling question of all in connection with these two great books: What is the relationship between love and war?

After engaging with our long conversation topics, we set out for the archaeological site of Troy itself, one of the oldest discovered sights in Asia Minor with its nine different settlements and related thirty cities. The siege of Troy by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece in the 13th or 12th century B.C., immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, has inspired great creative artists throughout the world ever since. The first excavations at the site were undertaken by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1870, and after visiting this immensely significant site, we discuss Schliemann as well as Homer in our evening Long Conversation: “Homer: The Father of Ancient Greece, and Heinrich Schlieman, the First Starchaeologist”.

Homer is often regarded as the world’s first published author, the first sports writer, the first war correspondent, a wandering minstrel, and much more. In tonight’s conversation we’ll discuss the role of mythic storytellers, from the time of the Blind Bard to today’s novelists and filmmakers. And we will discuss the legend of Schliemann, who was determined to prove that everything Homer wrote was true.
(Overnight in Assos at the Assos Kervansaray Hotel)

Troy in Turkey

After our breakfast this morning we travel from Assos to Kusadasi, first driving south to the ancient city of Pergamum, now located close to Bergama. Before setting off on this adventure we learn a little about Pergamum’s relationship to book culture in our Morning Conversation with Phil: “The Origins of Libraries”.

One of the greatest contributions of Greek culture was the library, first at Alexandria, with its 700,000 scrolls, then Pergamum, which became the centre for parchment in old world publishing. In our time of rapidly changing reading habits and publishing practices it will be fascinating to have a conversation about the role of books in history.

Pergamum dates to the time of Eumenes II (197-159 BC) and, in the early Christian era, Pergamum’s church was a major centre of Christianity and one of the Seven Churches of Revelation (Rev. 2:12-17). The ancient city is composed of three main parts: the Acropolis, whose main function was social and cultural as much as it was sacred; the Lower City, realm of the lower classes; and the Asklepion, one of the earliest medical centres on record.

After marvelling at Pergamum we steep ourselves in authentic Turkish culture by indulging in a seaside picnic lunch (at own expense). We can find one of the many inexpensive, beautiful Turkish seaside tavernas to lunch at or stop by one of the smaller towns en route and pick up fresh, flavourful local foods for a true seaside lunch. We will let our mood and senses guide us! When we arrive at Kusadasi, replete with both good food and culture, we will engage in our evening Long Conversation: “The Dream Temple”.

The interpretation and cultivation of dreams were so central to the Greek experience that scores of dream temples, or Asklepions, were built around the classical world. This evening we will gather together in one of the wonderful outdoor tavernas in Pergamum and discuss the Greeks way of tapping their dream life, and share a few of our own
(Overnight in Kusadasi at the Kismet Hotel)

Pergamum in Turkey

Before our exploration of Ephesus today we start with a thought-provoking Morning Conversation: “The Origins of Museums”.

Like so much else, museums originated in ancient Greece. As the word suggests, a museum is a “house of the muses,” a place of inspiration, where culture is displayed and knowledge dispersed. What do you think of their significance? Are they temples of learning, as some would have it, or bastions of aristocratic power?

We then make the short trip to Ephesus, the largest ancient city ever uncovered. According to the old legends, Ephesus was founded by the female warriors known as the Amazons. Once populated with three hundred thousand people, it has an enormous amphitheatre in which, when Paul was accused of hurting Artemis and her temple, the mob gathered together (Acts 19:23-41). We will visit the Ephesus Museum where one of the most impressive and illuminating sections is dedicated to the mother goddess and dominated by two colossal statues of Artemis. One is called "Beautiful Artemis" and dates from the 1st century AD; the other is "Great Artemis" from the 2nd century AD. Both Artemis statues feature rows of intriguing protuberances, which most scholars now think are bull testicles, but were previously thought to be breasts or eggs – symbols related to fertility whatever the truth may be. At Ephesus we will enjoy an on-site Conversation: “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”.

Seven was a sacred number all over the ancient world. When Antipater, a first century writer, compiled one of the first travel books he used the number as a mnemonic or memory device so that the “tourists” of the time would know which sites were most important to visit. On our journey we will visit two of the seven Wonders, the Temple of Artemis, and the Mausoleum of Helicarnassus. We will discuss all seven and then explore what we as a group might regard as the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, from our own world travels.

In the afternoon we explore what remains of the Temple of Artemis, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and dedicated to the goddess of the hunt. We also visit the House of Virgin Mary, believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The spring that runs under the Virgin's House is believed to have healing properties, and many miracles have been reported. Inside the house are crutches and canes said to be left behind by those who were healed by the sacred spring. Our Evening Conversation is truly inspired by our unique surroundings: “The Art of Pilgrimage”.

Tonight we’ll take advantage of being in one of the greatest pilgrimage sites of antiquity, Ephesus, to explore what I think of as “the great round of pilgrimage,” the journey of self-discovery. What the pilgrims of classic pilgrimages practiced here on the edges of the Greek world we still practice today, including paying homage, seeing oracles, admiring art and architecture, taking home relics.
(Overnight in Kusadasi at the Kismet Hotel)

Ephesus in Turkey

Today we learn more about the oracle in classical antiquity both as a revered voice of god and place of pilgrimage when seeking advice, from our conversation with Phil and our visit to the oracle at Miletus. First, our Morning Conversation explores: “The Role of the Oracle in the Ancient World”.

Classical Greece was riddled (in every sense of the word) with oracles, who were revered and regarded as the very voice of various gods and goddesses. This morning we’ll discuss their role then and now.

On the way to Bodrum we will visit Priene, an ancient Greek holy city and the home of an important temple of Athena. We will then stop at Miletus, one of the most important cities in the ancient Greek world and a sacred site: St. Paul stopped at Miletus on his Third Missionary Journey, on his way back to Jerusalem and Didyma. Its famous oracle and Temple of Apollo attracted crowds of pilgrims and was second in importance only to Delphi. This evening we gather for our Conversation: “Pilgrimage Redux”.

An open conversation tonight about where you are, what you are feeling, what you are missing, and what you look forward to on our journey together.
(Overnight in Bodrum at the Manastir Hotel)

Temple of Apollo in Turkey

Today we stay close to Bodrum and, after our delicious breakfast, enjoy our Morning Conversation and Reading: “The Blue Museum”.

On the shores of the “wine-dark sea,” we will have an intriguing conversation about deep sea archaeology, an exciting practice that has revolutionized the way we think of Greek history. Recovering art and beauty from the invisible realm of Poseidon is also a marvellous metaphor for the invisible beauty of the world. What is hidden in our own lives? What should we be looking for in our own life?

Today we also have a chance to explore the Halicarnassos Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, built in 352 B.C. upon the death of the Persian governor Maussolos ad Bodrum by his wife Artemisia. We then visit the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, home of the remains of the oldest known sunken ship in the world. In the afternoon we visit Stratonikeia, the world’s largest marble city, expected to be included on the temporary list of UNESCO world heritage sites as city structures have survived as a whole since the ancient period.

After visiting this contender for the UNESCO temporary world heritage site list, it is fitting that our Evening Conversation focuses on: “The UNESCO List of 100 Sites to be Saved”.

A fascinating supplement to the traditional Seven Wonders lists is the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage, which is updated every year, and now totals over 980 sites. They include such cultural wonders as shadowpuppet performance in Bali, the Igorot dances, and three chord singing of Tibetan monks. What would be on your list?
(Overnight in Bodrum at the Manastir Hotel)

Bodrum Caves in Turkey

Today we journey metaphorically and physically into the embrace of Aphrodite. First through our Morning Conversation: “Who Stole the Arms of the Venus de Milo: Art, Beauty and the Cult of Love in the Ancient World”.

My most recent book provides the title for this morning’s Conversation. It is an exploration of the mythologies of love and romance, desire and happiness, jealousy and rage that inform an enormous amount of our inherited art and literature, including the most famous statue in the world, now located in the Louvre. Today, we’ll discuss the sway that Aphrodite still holds.

We then make the journey to Aphrodisias, a sacred site since as early as 5,800 B.C., when Neolithic farmers came here to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops. Dedicated to the ancient Mother Goddess, and then the Greek goddess Aphrodite, it was the site of a magnificent Temple of Aphrodite and the home of a renowned school of marble sculpture. The Temple of Aphrodite later became a Christian basilica through an impressive swapping of columns. After delighting in Aphrodite’s legacy, we join together for our Evening Long Conversation: “Pamakukale & Healing”.

 This conversation explores the ancient Greek and Turkish rituals around healing waters. In particular we will discuss healing in the broadest sense in Greek culture, which includes drama, athletics and philosophy.
(Overnight in Pamukkale at Colossae Termal Otel)

Pamakukale in Turkey

Today our exploration of love continues, transporting us to the sacred works of Rumi and the highly intriguing Whirling Dervishes.

In our morning conversation we will explore the history of the Whirling Dervishes, their role in Sufism, and their controversial role in Islam today. Together, we will read several of the great Sufi poets of ecstatic love, ranging from Lalla to Rumi and Hafiz. A highlight of our gathering will be a five minute screening of “Rumi: Poet of the Heart.”

After this fascinating conversation and screening, we spend the morning visiting Hierapolis, whose name means “sacred city,” and was believed by the ancients to have been founded by the god Apollo. It was famed for its sacred hot springs, whose vapours were associated with Pluto, god of the underworld. The city also had a significant Jewish community and was mentioned by Paul in his Letter to Colossians. Today we stop for Lunch in Konya before preparing for this evening’s entertainment.

 Tonight we are honoured to witness a sema, a whirling dervish performance. Time permitting we will meet in a local outdoor café afterwards to discuss the numinous blend of dance, poetry, and music, and enjoy an evening group reading of Rumi.

 The Whirling Dervishes performance is a truly memorable, sacred experience. We’ll watch as they use music and dance to induce themselves into a mystical state. As the ceremonial music plays, they begin to whirl, and their long skirts billow giving the impression that they are floating on air.
(Overnight in Konya at the Hilton Turkiye)

Konya Whirling Dervishes in Turkey

Today we delve further into Sufism and discover more about Rumi with our Morning Conversation: “Rumi, the Most Popular Poet in the World”.

To understand Turkish culture, a traveller must understand the mystical and historical significance of Sufism, especially as personified in the work of the twelfth-century poet, Mevlana Rumi. Besides being a world-class poet, the Shakespeare of the Islamic world, he was a philosopher and religious teacher. Due to the contributions of numerous translators around the world, Rumi is regarded as the world’s greatest selling poet. This morning we will read some of his work and discuss it as pertains to our journey, as Rumi wrote, “into the heart of things.”

Our conversation this morning also includes very special film clips from Rumi: Poet of the Heart. We then set out for our sightseeing tour which continues our understanding of Sufism. We begin with the Mevlana Museum, also known as the Green Mausoleum or Green Dome, the original lodge of the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes, a mystical Sufi Muslim group. This sacred site also contains the tomb and shrine of the Mevlana, Rumi, and is considered an important place of pilgrimage.

Our journey continues to Cappadocia, making a stop at the World Heritage Site of Catalhoyuk. Catalhoyuk is the largest and best preserved Neolithic site found to date, with a settlement that was thought to exist between 7400 B.C. and 6200 B.C., and includes wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. It appears to have been a City of Shrines and may have been the sacred centre for other settlements on the surrounding Anatolian plain. The oldest shrines show the transition from a gatherer-hunter to an agricultural society, with fascinating evidence of the worship of The Great Goddess of Anatolia throughout the site. We will also have the pleasure of hearing a guest speaker at this impressive site who will illuminate the importance of the settlement and provide extra context for us. After our day of sightseeing and a well-enjoyed dinner we will gather together in Cappadocia for our Evening Long Conversation.

The Mystical Life: The Monks of Cappadocia and the influence of Marija Gimbutas, the late Lithuanian archaeologist and “Grandmother of the Goddess Movement.” We will discuss the influence of the Goddess movement in modern times, and the current state of archaeological and historical explorations all over this beautiful land.
(Overnight in Cappadocia at the Lykia Lodge Kapadokya)

Turkish weaving in Turkey

We are based in and around Cappadocia today and start with a pertinent open discussion for our Morning Conversation with Phil about the monks of the caves of Cappadocia.

The caves of Cappadocia have been famous for many reasons, from their architectural wonder, to the intrigue about these “eremites of the spirit,” monks living in lifelong isolation. What are they retreating from? What did they find in their isolation? How can their life of informed isolation help those of us now who feel bombarded by modern life?

After our thought-provoking conversation we visit the hidden monastic valley of Pasabagi itself, with its large number of carved rock houses and churches to fully appreciate what a life in isolation might be. We then enjoy a visit to a local, municipal carpet cooperation, a sort of carpet farm, where we will get the chance to explore the district from a cultural perspective. Our sightseeing continues with the fascinating Goreme Valley. The lunar-like landscape of this region is eerie, yet beautiful. Over thousands of years, the rain has eroded this landscape to give rise to strange rock formations known as “Fairy Chimneys”. Many of these have homes and churches carved into them with some of the grottos magnificently decorated with colourful frescoes depicting biblical scenes.

Our Evening Conversation today is an “Open Discussion”.
(Overnight in Cappadocia at the Lykia Lodge Kapadokya)

Cappadocia in Turkey

As we reach the final, full day of our journey together we reflect on the incredible, sacred sites we have witnessed in our Morning Conversation: “You Can Go Home Again/The Boon”.

The last stage of any journey is the Return. In the classical hero’s journey, as outlined by my own mentor, the mythologist Joseph Campbell, it is regarded as Bringing Back the Boon, the return with the Gift. This archetype symbolizes wisdom, what has been learned along the journey, what can be taken home for the benefit of our communities. Together, we’ll ask: What was the most memorable moment of my journey? What did I learn about myself I never knew or acknowledged before? What gifts do I want to pass on to others?

Energized by our morning discussion, we enjoy an included half-day tour of the Ozkonak Underground City. Around the sixth century the Christian inhabitants of this region began to tunnel into the soft volcanic rock of a large hill. As deep as two hundred and seventy five feet with eight different levels, several thousand people lived in this subterranean city. We then explore the nearby typical Turkish village of Avanos, a meeting place for pottery artists of the world, to see the ancient techniques of ceramic art and maybe pick up a piece of two for the journey home. We then transfer to the airport for our flight to Istanbul.

Our farewell dinner this evening is at the Orient House in the heart of the old city, and we will relish our final feast together to a backdrop of traditional music and dancing as we let the fascinating, sacred sites of the past twelve days seep into us, guiding our journeys home. 
(Overnight in Istanbul at the Amethyst Hotel)

Cappadocia carved tunnels  in Turkey

Enjoy a morning at leisure before transferring to Istanbul airport for your flight home.

Turkish Pottery in Turkey

A Sacred Journey to Turkey with Phil Cousineau

October 10 - 22, 2014

Tour Includes:

  • 12 nights hotel accommodation
  • Arrival Transfers on Day 1 and Departure Transfers on Day 13
  • Transportation by Modern A/C Vehicle 
  • Baggage Handling at the hotels
  • 12 Breakfasts and 12 Dinners
  • English-speaking Professional Tour Guide (Specialist in Historical and Archaeological Tours)
  • All Entrances Fees
  • All Applicable Taxes
  • Tips at the Hotels
  • 1 Domestic Flight (Kayseri or Nevsehir – Istanbul)



Added Features:

  • Travel with author, presenter, and scholar Phil Cousineau
  • Daily engaging and enlightening Conversations with Phil
  • Special lecture by Dr. Jay Fikes at the University of Istanbul
  • Private Whirling Dervishes Ceremony in Konya
  • Guest talk by Bedri Baykim, renowned Turkish artist, residing in Istanbul
  • Exceptional visits to some of Turkey’s most famous and sacred sites
  • Guest speaker at the World Heritage Site of Catalhoyuk (speaker tbc)

Tour Does Not Include:

  • Airfare to Istanbul
  • Cancellation & Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote)
  • Meals and drinks not specified
  • Cost to obtain valid passport
  • Customary tips for guide and driver
  • Any items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks and telephone calls. Any item that is not specifically detailed on our website or in the final retreat itinerary.

Tour Price:

    • Double Room: USD $3,799 per person
    • Single Supplement: USD $795
Book this Journey
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1-877-874-7922 to help you make your reservation

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