July 6: Smyrna, Sardis, and Philadelphia
Our day begins with a trip to ancient Smyrna, which is located in the modern city of Izmir. Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only churches in Revelation which received no criticism. Although persecuted, they remained faithful, as did Polycarp, a local Christian bishop, who was put to death in A.D. 156 for his faith in Jesus. In Smyrna we will see the remains of the Ancient Agora.
Next we travel to Sardis, which has some of the most stunning archaeological remains of the Seven Churches. We will see a temple dedicated to Artemis, a large gymnasium, several small shops along a colonnaded street, and what was once the largest Jewish synagogue in Asia Minor.
From Sardis we travel to Philadelphia. All that remains of ancient Philadelphia is a few columns from a Byzantine church, on which some frescoes are still visible.
Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale at the Colossae Thermal Hotel.
July 7: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae
In the morning we will visit Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient city was called Hierapolis. It is a city Paul mentions in Colossians (4:13). Hierapolis was known as a place of healing due to its hot springs which were thought to have medicinal properties. The high mineral content of its thermal springs has resulted in spectacular white-colored calcified cliffs that look like snow. We will walk in the shallow pools of water along these beautiful terraces and see the remains of the ancient city.
After lunch we will first stop at Laodicea, and one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. Laodicea, known in Revelation as the church that was lukewarm in its faith (Rev 14:22), is an exciting place to visit since it is quickly being rebuilt. We will see remains of two theaters, temples, an agora, churches, a stadium, and even walk on colonnaded streets. Close by is the smaller city Colossae, the town to which Paul wrote two letters, Colossians and Philemon. Paul asked the believers in Colossae to welcome back a runaway slave named Onesimus as a fellow brother in Christ and grant him his freedom.
Dinner and overnight at the Charisma Deluxe Hotel in Kusadasi.
July 8: Patmos, Greece
Our adventure continues as we board our private boat to the beautiful Island of Patmos. It was on Patmos that John was exiled for his faith (Rev 1:9, 19) and wrote the book of Revelation. While on Patmos, we will visit the grotto where, according to early tradition, John received his vision.
We will also visit the monastery of St. John the Theologian, which resembles a medieval fortress. The monastery, which offers an amazing view of the island, was built in 1088 over the remains of an early Christian basilica and an even earlier temple of Artemis. Among the interesting things we will see is a collection of priceless icons and ancient artifacts, including one of the oldest surviving copies of the Gospel of Mark, which is written in silver letters on purple vellum. Before returning, we will be watch an entertaining cultural show while we enjoy a delicious meal together.