Duration: 20 Days / 19 Nights
Highlights: Istanbul, Trabzon, Sumela Monastery, Erzurum, Ani, Dogubeyazit, Van, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Pergamon, Troy, Gallipoli
Departure Dates: Subject to availability, advance booking required
Note: Operates between April to October, weather conditions permitting in Eastern Turkey. You can fine-tune the itinerary or change it as much as you like.
Day 01 : Istanbul
Welcome to Turkey. Airport transfers are available from Istanbul Ataturk International Airport around the clock.
Day 02 : Istanbul
We depart from the hotel to visit Topkapi Palace, palace of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Next on the list is the Sultanahmet Mosque built in the 16th century by the architect Mehmet, is known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior decoration of blue Iznik tiles. Nearby is the Hippodrome which was the scene of chariot races & entertainment. After lunch break we head to the Egyptian Bazaar, the air here is filled with the enticing aromas of cinnamon, saffron, mint, thyme & every other conceivable herb & spice. Finally we will take cruise on the Bosphorus Strait before heading back to our hotels.
Day 03 : Istanbul / Trabzon
After breakfast at we take a flight from Istanbul to Trabzon. Upon arrival & check in to hotel we depart for St. Sophia (Ayasofya) a 13th century church with extraordinary collection of Byzantine frescoes. From here we visit Gulbahar Hatun Mosque, Castle & Ataturk’s Mansion (a picturesque hillside retreat), visit Ortahisar Mosque (a Comneni cathedral in the old town). Lunch at a seaside restaurant in Akcaabat. Afternoon we explore the cobbled stone streets of Trabzon. Drive to Boztepe; enjoy our tea from samovar with the panoramic view of the city. Overnight in Trabzon.
Day 04 : Trabzon / Erzurum
Depart for Sumela Monastery, which clings to a sheer cliff face in a deep forest, relax beside a fast flowing stream at Altindere Valley National Park, lunch, traveling along the Silk Road through the Zigana Mountains (Pontic Alps) will take us to Karaca Cave, considered to be the most beautiful in Turkey for its colors & formations. Drive to Erzurum via Bayburt. Overnight stay in Erzurum.
Day 05 : Erzurum / Kars
An early morning departure from Erzurum will take us on a beautiful drive to Kars passing on the way Sarikamis, the coldest place in Turkey. We will take a 45-minute drive to the medieval Armenian City of Ani, which lies mostly in ruins. Impressive fortified walls still encircle the ruins of numerous churches, mosques & caravansaries. Enjoy a walk around the ruins & see the beautiful view to the Armenian border imagining it as a city with one million people rivaling Bagdad in its time! This city has experienced the cultures of Urartians, Armenians, Georgians, Mongols, Russians & finally the Turks.
Day 06 : Kars / Dogubeyazit
This morning we will drive for along the ‘Silk Road’ to Dogubeyazit. At the Iranian border we will see a site known as the Crater Hole. This is a beautiful, yet rugged area. We will have the opportunity to see Mt. Ararat from all sides. It is believed by some to be the resting-place of Noah’s Ark; but to date no one has found anything that has been verified as the Ark, yet the search is still on. In the afternoon we will stop & see the Ishak Pasa Palace. This complex is a combination of a mosque, a fortress, & a palace which originally had a room for every day of the year. Overnight in Dogubeyazit.
Day 07 : Dogubeyazit / Van
After visiting the Iranian border, we will depart for Van in the early morning. This city has been established 13th century BC, when the Hurrites arrived. Then the Hittites, Urartians, Persian, Armenians, Macedonians, Romans & finally in 11th century the Turks came here. From here, we will visit the finest Armenian architectural wonder of the Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island. We’ll also visit the wonderful Kurdish castle of Hosap very close to the Iranian border as well as the Urartian citadel. Overnight in Van
Day 08 : Van / Diyarbakir
After visiting the eerie 12th century Selcuk cemetery in Ahlat in the morning we will head to Bitlis for lunch & a good walk around, Bitlis otherwise known as Alexander’s town, is a unique medieval town. Then we will drive to Diyarbakir for the night.
Day 09 : Diyarbakir / Mardin / Urfa
Mardin is very unique with lovely old Arabic style houses. It is a city that played an important role in the early development of Christianity. We will take the time to visit, walk in its busy streets & bazaars & admire the stonework all around the town. We will also visit the Monastery of Deyr az Zaferan just outside of town, founded in 762 A.D. It was the seat of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch for almost 800 years. This monastery is built on top of a 4000 year old temple used by sun worshippers. Drive on to Urfa for overnight.
Day 10 : Urfa
Urfa, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. Urfa has been occupied since the Babylonians followed by the Hurrites, Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks. While in Urfa we will shop at the bustling covered bazaar as well. After lunch visit Abrahams Cave & the legendary Pool of Sacred Fish. Drive to Harran, a village of fascinating mud brick ‘beehive’ houses mentioned in the book of Genesis where Abraham spent last years of his life. Visit the ruins of Harran including city walls, oldest Islamic university & the castle dated to 18th century. Return to Urfa for overnight stay.
Day 11 : Urfa / Cappadocia
After an early breakfast, we drive to Cappadocia from Sanliurfa. Lunch en-route, on arrival we will check into a cave hotel the perfect place & environment to spend the afternoon relaxing. Cappadocia is unlike anything you will ever see in your life from the landscapes to the cave dwellings. Overnight in Goreme.
Day 12 : Cappadocia
We start our day with Uchisar, a natural rock citadel. Continue with Goreme Open Air Museum, where the best preserved frescoed rock cut churches & monasteries are located. After lunch, we visit the family fairy chimneys of Urgup. Wine taste in a local winery & visiting the wishing hill in Urgup. A short walk in Devrent Valley where the rock formations look like different figures. The Monk’s Valley will be our next stop where we see monk’s cells in multi-capped Fairy Chimneys. After a short walk in Rose valley we will return to Goreme for overnight stay.
Day 13 : Cappadocia
We’ll pick you after breakfast & drive to Ihlara Valley. There, we’ll walk nearly 4 km & visit the frescoed churches along the cliffs & remote areas of this 14 km gorge. Lunch is in Ihlara Valley, at banks of Melendiz River. After lunch, we’ll visit Selime Cathedral & return back to Derinkuyu Underground City. On the way, we’ll visit the Nar Crater Lake. Before returning to Goreme, en-route we’ll see the Pigeon Valley to see pigeon houses, which were made to collect guano in.
Day 14 : Cappadocia / Konya / Antalya
Today is a long drive day but is broken up with a lunch break in Konya. This morning we drive to Konya & see the impressive Mausoleum & Museum of Mevlana, the mystic founder of the Islamic Sufi sect (Sufism is less an Islamic sect than a mystical way of approaching the Islamic faith). After the brief Konya tour we continue on to Antalya. Check in to your hotel. Overnight in Antalya.
Day 15 : Antalya
After breakfast departure for Perge. St. Paul started his campaign from Perge in 46 AD. The people of Perge loved & respected their Artemis to such an extent that Christianity had to wait for another 400 years to enter here. Aspendos lies 47 km east of Antalya in the Pamphylian plain. The ruins of the ancient city are extensive & include a stadium, an agora & a basilica. After Aspendos we drive to Side & after free time here, we return to hotels. Overnight in Antalya.
Day 16 : Antalya / Pamukkale
After breakfast depart for Pamukkale. As we approach Pamukkale it looks like a glacier is spilling down the mountainside. The name translates to Cotton Castle. In truth these are glistening white travertine terraces formed over millennial by mineral deposits as water flowed out of natural springs. The water is credited with healing powers. Nearby are the ruins of the Roman resort, Hierapolis, & a large necropolis. At the end of the tour check in to hotel in Pamukkale town. Overnight in Pamukkale.
Day 17 : Pamukkale / Kusadasi (Ephesus)
Check out & heading west to the Aegean shore city of Kusadasi. We visit the Ancient City of Ephesus which is among the best places in the world enabling one to genuinely ‘soak in’ the atmosphere of Roman times & one of the best preserved Greco-Roman Cities in the world. After lunch, we depart to visit the House of Virgin Mary where she is said to be brought here by St. John & have spent the last of her days. The tour also includes a visit to the remains of Artemis Temple which was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Overnight Kusadasi.
Day 18 : Bergama / Canakkale
Today we drive to Pergamum – see Asklepion, Zeus’s alter, the Red Bassilcia. Bergama is the site of the Hellenistic & later Roman city of Pergamon, ruled for several centuries by a powerful local dynasty. Its foremost attraction is the Kizil Avlu or ‘Red Basilica’, a huge edifice on the river not far from the acropolis, originally built as a temple to the Egyptian god Osiris & converted to a basilica by the early Christians, when it was one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor addressed by St. John in the book of Revelation. After Pergamon we continue to our hotel in Canakkale for overnight stay.
Day 19 : Canakkale / Troy / Gallipoli / Istanbul
After breakfast we drive to Troy where you can explore the site of the legendary town, made famous by Homer in his Iliad & visit the Temple of Athena & have lunches in Eceabat. After Lunch visit the sites that have made Gallipoli a landmark & the memorial for all those that fell during the Battle of Gallipoli during World War 1. Gallipoli also stands as the birth place for the foundation of Turkey as we know it today. The rise of Turkeys founder Ataturk as well as the friendships formed between several nations during the battle for the Dardanelles. Check out from hotel & drive to Istanbul, arriving in the evening & overnight stay in Istanbul.
Day 20 : Istanbul Departure
Depending on your flight time, check-out (12:00) from hotel & remainder of day will be at leisure till your transfer to Istanbul Ataturk Airport for your homebound flight.