Duration: 14 Day / 13 Night Region: Eastern Turkey Comments: Turkey’s eastern provinces offer a dramatic contrast to the south coast. On this tour we offer the best of our ‘Best of East & West’ trip and take you to the Black Sea coast via the Pontic Mountains. Don’t miss out on Kars, Mount Ararat, the Church of the Holy Cross, Mount Nemrut, Cappadocia and the ancient and modern cities of Antalya, Selcuk, Ephesus and Istanbul.
Day 1: Ankara
Arrive in Ankara by plane. Pick up and transfer to Hotel. Freetime. Overnight and dinner in Ankara.
AnkaraAlthough Istanbul is the historical capital of Turkey, Ankara is the thriving modern capital, carefully designed by European urban planners in the 1920s. It has wide boulevards, wooded parks and shaded avenues and is home to all the apparatus of government as well as embassies and universities. It is difficult to imagine that only 90 years ago, Ankara was a small dusty town of 30,000 people famous only for its production of the soft angora wool produced by its resident angora goats. Indeed the name of the town was Angora rather than Ankara. Now it is a pleasant place to explore and the area around the castle and museum retain a historical feel. There is also a small bazaar which was the traditional centre of the wool trade and still today the traders (who now sell much more than wool) call out their wares and try to attract the interest of passersby.
Day 2: Ankara – Hattusas – Amasya
Start you day with a guided tour of Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, before heading east to
the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusas. Overnight and dinner in Amasya. The historic capital of the Pontic Empire.AmasyaThrough history Amasya has always been described in the most glowing terms as one of the most beautiful Anatolian towns. Even today it is a lovely place to wander around, located as it is in the heart of the Pontic Mountains on the edge of the ‘Green River’. There are many pretty cafes along the edge of the river which are a great place to relax and admire the impressive rock tombs cut into the cliff face on the opposite bank. Those feeling more energetic can climb up to the tombs and are rewarded with great views back over the town. There are beautiful timbered houses with balconies overhanging the river dating back to the Ottoman period, many of which are in a bad state of repair but a few of which have been exquisitely restored and are interesting to visit. Otherwise you can sit back and chat with the many friendly locals who will readily introduce themselves.
Day 3: Amasya
Today we have a leisurely morning in Amasya then continue to Ordu Golkoy.Dinner and Overnight in Ordu.
Day 4: Trabzon
In the morning there will be time to explore the area. Later we drive to Trabzon on the Black Sea coast.Trabzon
Trabzon is the largest port on Turkey’s Black Sea Coast and has seen a boost since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting influx of traders and tourists. As you wander the streets you will hear Russian spoken and Cyrillic script is commonplace in shops and restaurants. Here you can enjoy exploring the myriad small bazaars and relaxing in a tea garden with a glass of hot sweet tea.
Black Sea Coast
Our route today takes us through the Pontic Mountains to the Black Sea Coast, and the change in scenery is dramatic. The climate, the landscape and the plants all change and the scenery is a lush green that is seldom seen elsewhere in Turkey. There are few sandy beaches but the coastline can be dramatic and the inland valleys are stunningly beautiful. Fishing is a key industry and the narrow coastal strip that stretches from Samsun to Trabzon is also home to Turkey’s hazel nut industry, providing the main source of income for most families. As we pass Samsun we arrive in the ancient land of the Amazons, the mystical female warriors of ancient times.
Day 5: Sumela – Erzurum
After breakfast depart to visit the striking Sumela Monastery. Later we drive to Erzurum, an important city from the Seljuk period. Dinner and overnight in Erzurum.Sumela
The Monastery of Sumela is 48km inland from Trabzon and is one of the highlights of Eastern Turkey. Clinging to a precipitous rock face, with densely forested slopes below and the sound of rushing mountain streams, the monastery is often shrouded in mist and takes on an almost haunting quality. A steep zigzag path takes you to the impressive façade and you can explore the ruins behind with their frescoes and the crumbling remains of the monks’ cells. Sadly the monastery has been badly vandalized over the years, with chunks of frescoes having been removed or defaced, but the spectacular setting and the still impressive remains make this a wonderful place to visit.
Day 6: Kars – Ani
We drive to the grasslands of Kars and visit the fabulous ruins of the 10th century
Armenian capital of Ani on the border with the modern Armenian Republic. Overnight and dinner in Kars.Kars and Ani
We will visit Kars in order to make an excursion to the incredible ghost city of Ani, not far away. But in fact the town of Kars can be interesting to explore in itself – most travelers find themselves getting disorientated in the streets which were once occupied by the Russians and still bear the mark of Soviet planning but occasionally you come across beautiful old Russian houses, 10th century Armenian churches and Ottoman Mosques. Ani itself is a haunting place to explore. It is entirely encircled by giant city walls over a kilometre in length and was the ancient capital of Armenia. It was an important spot on the Silk Road with a population of over 100,000 and a thousand years ago was the third largest city in the world, after Baghdad and Cairo. But in the 14th century an appalling earthquake destroyed much of the city with its famous churches and cathedrals and it was abandoned. Walking around today, it is not difficult to imagine the thriving city that once stood there and the awful impact that one of Turkey’s great earthquakes must have had.
Day 7: Mt Ararat – Ishak Pasa – Van
Deaprting Kars we drive via Igdir to visit Mt Ararat and the stunning Ishak Pasa Palace. Afternoon drive to Van. Mt Ararat
As we drive to Van we pass the biblical Mt Ararat, the highest mountain in Turkey at 5,122m and the legendary resting place of Noah’s Ark. It is an impressive sight rising from the plain in a near perfectly symmetrical snow-capped volcanic cone. Once viewed it is easy to see how such a dominant geographical feature has attracted myths, legends and mystic significance. It is an extinct volcano and is home to Kurdish nomads who take their herds there in summer time for pasture on Mt. Ararat. We may see their black goat hair tents dotted through the landscape as they graze their sheep. Ishak Pasa Palace
The Ishak Pasa Palace is one of the most evocative and photogenic sights in the Middle East. It lies in the hills above the ruins of Old Dogubayazit with dramatic views over the plains below. It was from here that Ishak Pasa surveyed the trade caravans which plied the old Silk Road and grew rich on the taxes that he charged for their safe passage. It is said that he asked an Armenian architect to build him the most beautiful residence in the world. The palace was thus constructed, with its fusion of Armenian, Georgian and Turkish styles, and the Pasa promptly ordered that the architect’s hands be cut off to prevent him from designing anything further in the future. Van
There has been a settlement on the lakeshore at Van since about 900 BC. In fact it was at the heart of the Uratian civilization, a little known kingdom, but one powerful and advanced in its day. Following fighting during World War I virtually nothing remains of the old city save the impressive rock citadel. Lake Van is an unusual place. It is home to a unique breed of swimming cat – attractive-looking animals with a white coat and frequently one yellow eye and one blue. There are many theories as to why Turkish Van cats should happily immerse themselves in water when most felines avoid the stuff if at all possible – one suggestion is that they like to cool off in a region where summer temperatures are fierce. Another unusual thing about Lake Van is that the lake, the largest in Turkey, contains a very high amount of sodium carbonate (the element used in washing liquids). This gives it an unreal, almost fluorescent blue-green colour and a unique property – on sunny days the locals can be found washing their clothes in the lake itself, without having to use any washing liquids or detergents. There is only one kind of fish that can live in the strange water and if you are feeling brave you can visit one of the local restaurants to try out its unique soapy flavour.
Day 8: Tatvan
An excursion by boat to Akdamar Island on Lake Van to visit the Church of the Holy Cross. Continue to Tatvan, a small town on the shores of Lake Van. Overnight and dinner in Van.Akdamar Island
From the lake’s southern shore a small motor boat takes less than 20 minutes to reach the tiny island of Akdamar, a wonderful excursion. You are free to enjoy the solitude of the island itself and also see its only building, the Armenian Church of the Holy Cross, adorned with delicate carvings of biblical scenes.
Day 9: Mardin
Drive to Mardin via Hasankeyf, where you can see the remains of old Artukids and a picturesque citadel.Hasankeyf
The chances are that you may not have heard of Hasankeyf but if this spectacular ancient city was located anywhere other than in a remote South Eastern corner of Turkey, it would be thronging with tourists. As you approach the city the remains of the 12th century Selcuk stone bridge can be seen marching across the Tigris and the mountains rise up sheer beyond the river, crowned with an ancient palace. There are tombs, bathhouses, water systems, mosques, temples and churches, stairs and passageways to explore and you can also visit the extensive caves many of which have been inhabited for over 4,000 years and some of which still are, the cave dwellers living without electricity or running water. Unfortunately this whole area will be submerged within a couple of years due to the building of a huge dam on the Tigris.
Mardin, with its old style houses and paved alleyways is one of the most enjoyable towns we visit on this tour. It retains an old fashioned way of life and atmosphere and has many narrow alleyways and hidden streets that spill down the side of the hill. There are lovely old Arab-style houses which, though somewhat decaying, still give an idea of how wealthy and splendid this town once was.
Day 10: Mt Nemrut
Free morning in the old quarter of Mardin, time to visit the magnificent castle. Afternoon drive to Kahta, near Mt Nemrut. Mt Nemrut
Once upon a time there was an egotistical ruler by the name of Antiochus I Commagenes. Although his was a small kingdom wedged between the superpower forces of the Parthians and Romans he decided to build a monument to his own greatness atop Mt Nemrut. Still evident today, this monument is now the most spectacular sight in South Eastern Turkey as the giant stone heads of Antiochus and an assortment of Hellenistic and Babylonian deities stare out at the dramatic landscape which used to be home to the Commagene kingdom.
Day 11: Mt Nemrut – Cappadocia
A short walk takes us to the summit where we see the massive Commagene stone heads, after wonderful sunrise excursion at Mt. Nemrut we head back to Hotel for breakfast. Then we leave for Cappadocia. Arrive in Cappadocia. Overnight and dinner in Cave Hotel.
Day 12: Cappadocia
Upon arrival start the day visiting -Devrent Valley-, also known as “Imagination Valley”, this is the most surreal-looking landscape. Your next stop will be –Pashabagi- called also the Monks Valley because Christian hermits chose to locate hermit cells and churches in these three-headed pinnacles symbolic of the Holy Trinity. Proceed to -Avanos (Venessa)- the pottery centre of Cappadocia, this village is set on the banks of the Red River. You can watch the potters at work using kick wheels. Continue to -Göreme Open Air Museum- the monastery settlement of early Christian monks. Here you can see the best preserved Byzantine cave wall paintings and frescos from the Iconoclastic period. The day will end with -Uchisar Castle-. Overnight in Cave Hotel. Optional:You could take a hot air balloon flight (150 Euro-180 Euro). Optional 2:In the evening you can join the Turkish Night Show in Cave (35 Euro), see a Whirling Dervish Ritual (20 Euro) or to take a Turkish bath with special soap massage(15 Euro).
Often talked about as the absolute highlight of a visit to Turkey, Cappadocia is one of the most surreal places you will ever see. Here repeated volcanic eruptions around 40-50 million years ago covered the area with layers of a light rock called tufa creating a natural ‘lunar like’ landscape. Over time the elements have eroded this surface rock to create unusual valleys and vast rock sculptures or ‘fairy chimneys’ which have been incorporated into the building of towns, villages and underground settlements. Wandering around Cappadocia, clambering in and out of the buildings and over the rippling tufa deposits you will almost certainly feel like you have just landed on another planet. But however you choose to spend your time here, whether you decide to wander on foot, on horseback or maybe even take to the air in a hot air balloon, the bizarreness of the rock formations and the amazing blend of nature and man will leave you astounded.
Day 13: Cappadocia – Istanbul
Start the day with a walk in -Red Valley-, famous for its rocks capes, local culture and historical sites. At the end of your walk you will reach -Cavusin Village-. Here a spectacular rock castle that once housed everyone in the village is awaiting you. Continue driving to -Kaymakli Underground City-, one of the best preserved and most visited Underground Cities in Cappadocia. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city (stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc.) Continue to -Pigeon Valley- a spectacular view of old abandoned pigeon cots hollowed out of the caves. At the end of your tour transfer Airport for your flight back to Istanbul.
Day 14: Istanbul
Free day to explore the exciting city of Istanbul. Possibility to visit the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and St Sophia or stroll through the Grand Covered Bazaar. Istanbul
Once the imperial capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Istanbul is both a city steeped in history and an exciting modern day hub of activity. Always described as a fusion of East and West, it is not difficult to understand why as you walk through narrow alleys flanked by wooden Ottoman houses to emerge in a funky restaurant and bar strip in the downtown area, the call to prayer mingling with modern Turkish pop. Bisected by the Bosporus, a strategically significant passage of water which links the Black Sea to the Aegean, the city has several distinct divisions. Across the Golden Horn, the inlet which branches off the Bosporus is Sultanahmet which boasts some of the city’s finest Byzantine and Ottoman monuments. After exploring the Blue Mosque, St Sophia Museum and Underground Basilica you may like to dine on seafood at one of the countless restaurants along the narrow alleys of downtown Taksim. Afterwards why not board a local ferry to observe the beautifully lit sprawl of Istanbul by night and then finish your evening with the timeless wind-down of smoking a nargileh (Ottoman water pipe). But if nargile doesn’t appeal, there is always a glass of apple-tea to be drunk at the friendly insistence of the locals.
Day 15: Istanbul
Tour ends after breakfast.
This is a Private Tour
A/C Vehicle throughout the Tour
Private Guide throughout the Tour
Entrance Fees to Museums
Lunch on Tours (Excluding drinks)