The Wonders of Eastern Turkey
October 01 to 16, 2019
Eastern Turkey is the true cradle of civilization, encompassing the earliest farmers, the great Hittite and Urartian empires of antiquity, the conquering Romans, early Christian churches, and medieval fortresses. Bordering Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, this seldom-visited region offers travelers simply incredible sights. See the earliest “temple” at Göbekli Tepe with its 12,000-year-old carvings. Visit Hittite sites with carved reliefs, and cuneiform inscriptions on the Urartian capital at Tushpa. Explore the Biblical connections of Urfa and Harran (where Abraham once lived), and Mount Ararat, claimed to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. Eastern Turkey is a fantastic repository of ancient Roman, biblical, Seljuk, Armenian and Crusader relics. See the magnificent carvings in the Armenian Church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, and an entire ghostly ruined Armenian city at Ani. And you will not forget the stunningly situated sculptured heads of Nemrut Dag, or Ishak Pasha Palace, the Taj Mahal of Turkey.
Can be added as post-tour to our scheduled South Caucasus trip (Sep 14 to Oct 02, 2019)
Eastern Turkey land only prices:
4-5 persons: $5,995.00 per person sharing in double occupancy
6-7 persons: $5,650.00 per person sharing in double occupancy
8-12 persons: $5,250.00 per person sharing in double occupancy
Single Supplement: $700.00
Price based on a group size of 4 to 12 participants
Escorted by STS Tour Manager
Your tour does not include
International air from USA.
Visa for Turkey – obtainable in advance on line (cost currently $20.00).
Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum participants.
Expenses of a personal nature: alcoholic beverages, camera fees, telephone, email, laundry bills, etc.
Dayroom or extra hotel nights necessitated by airline flight schedule changes.
Porterage at the hotels.
Travel Insurance (highly recommended).
Your tour includes
Accommodation at Superior Class (4*) hotels.
All meals as mentioned in the itinerary.
Transportation throughout in air conditioned minivan/bus.
STS Tour Manager throughout the trip
Local English speaking licensed guide during the entire tour
Entrance fees to all visited sites as per itinerary.
Domestic flights within Turkey.
Mineral Water during the tour.
Tips for the local guide and the driver.
Trip Grade: II Active - Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long rides.
Lodging Level: *** Superior - Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards. (4 stars)
Trip Grade: Moderately Vigorous Touring - You will be covering a lot during this journey. The roads are good and the bus very comfortable. Some driving days are long. There will be several restroom stops along the way. It is important to recognize the exhausting nature of some of the long sightseeing days as well as some of the site visits where you may have to climb on uneven terrain, steps, rocks and sand as well as up inclines and stairs. Some of the sites involve more strenuous walking (uphill on uneven ground) in order to view the sights. Not easily done if you are not in good physical condition. Be prepared with comfortable shoes. You do have the option of staying with the vehicle if some sites seem difficult for you.
View Tour Itinerary
Tue-Wed, Oct 01-02
USA – Istanbul
Depart your hometown for Istanbul arriving the next day. Upon arrival, meet and transfer to your hotel for check in and overnight. Remark: Check in to hotel on Oct 02 is 15:00 pm.
Thursday, Oct 03
Istanbul – Trabzon
Depart after breakfast on a full day tour of the old city beginning with the Archaeological Museum that houses the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, and the Museum of the Ancient Near East. Continue to Topkapi Palace overlooking the Golden Horn. Transfer to the airport for your evening flight to the Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon, upon arrival meet and transfer to the hotel for your overnight. (B,L,D)
Friday, Oct 04
Trabzon, the major city of the region, was founded in the 7th century BC. Visit the jewel of Trabzon the restored 13th century Byzantine church used for centuries as a mosque then converted to a museum since the revolution but recently re-converted into a mosque again! Wooden houses fill the old quarter nestled in the ancient fortifications, which still retain the spirit of a medieval town. Also visit Ataturk Villa, Gulbahar, Cami and have tea at Boztepe with its fine panoramic view of Trabzon. After visiting the sites in Trabzon, return to the hotel for your overnight. (B,L,D)
Saturday, Oct 05
Trabzon – Erzurum
After breakfast, head to Sumela Monastery nestled in a breathtaking setting as it is built on the face of a cliff. This splendid Christian school that dates back to the 4th century AD is decorated with Byzantine frescoes that reflect the three principles of Byzantine liturgical art. After lunch, drive to the hotel in Erzurum for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)
Sunday, Oct 06
Erzurum – Kars
Begin your day with a tour in the city of Erzurum, the largest city in eastern Anatolia, built on a high plateau at an altitude of approx.. 6,000 feet. As you enter the city, the large Aziziye monument commemorating the Turkish-Russian War will catch your eye. The city has an immensely rich past and a unique architectural style. The city walls and fortress are reminiscent of the period of Byzantine rule. Among the remaining Seljuk buildings, the madrasa is of particular importance. While wandering around the city, notice the local black stone (Erzurum Oltu Tasi) which is used in jewelry. After seeing some of the sites and on route to Kars we will stop at the 13th century Cobandede Bridge and then continue up the Arras river valley stopping briefly at the First World War memorial at Sarikamis. Upon arrival in Kars, transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Monday, Oct 07
Kars – Dogubeyazit
The city of Kars played an important role in Turkish history; it was at the center of the Turkish-Russian War. The Russian legacy can still be seen in much of the town's architecture. The lower city unfolds at the foot of an impressive Seljuk fortress from the 12th century. The Archaeological Museum houses beautiful wood carvings, an excellent collection of coins found in the surrounding region, as well as many ethnographic items relating to eastern Turkey. Visit the ghostly and picturesque remains of Ani, the capital of an Armenian kingdom taken over by the Byzantines and sacked by the Mongols in the 13th century. The majestic ruins of eight churches and a cathedral, poetically dominate a grassy plateau on the Armenian border. Travel to the hotel in Dogubeyazit for dinner & overnight. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, Oct 08
Dogubeyazit – Van
One of the most spectacular sites to visit is the Ishak Pasha Palace constructed in the 17th century with a mixture of architectural styles by Ishak Pasha, the Ottoman governor of the province. Catch glimpses (weather permitting) of Turkey's most scenic natural monument, Mt. Ararat rising to a height of approximately 16,695 feet. Along the route to Van, we will stop at the falls at Muradiye. Upon arrival at the beautiful city of Van on the lake, we end the day with a visit to the 3000 year old Citadel of Van to watch the sun set over Lake Van. Transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner (their famous local fish) and overnight. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, Oct 09
Van is an important city set in a verdant oasis at the foot of a rocky peak, and on the shores of Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey. Tushpa, an imposing 9th Cent. B.C. Urartian citadel overlooks the new and the old parts of town. From Van we travel south along a branch of the Silk Road (Ipek Yol) to visit Hosap Castle. The main castle structure of Hosap, built straddling the Silk Road it served as both a means of protecting the road and as a point of charging tolls on travellers. We will drive Gevas to visit Akdamar Island where we visit the beautifully restored 10th C Armenian Church of the Holy Cross, or Sourp Khach, before continuing to the eastern city of Van. Still very much part of a traditional lifestyle, the women of Van produce beautiful kilims woven in blue, red and white patterns. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Thursday, Oct 10
Van – Mardin
Leave the high eastern plateau and journey into Mesopotamia. Enjoy the simplicity of life in the many small towns along the way to Mardin. View Malabadi a splendid 11th century bridge built by Seljuk Artukids on one of the tributaries of the Tigris River. Tour Hasankeyf, the Greek Kiphas, a city located along the Tigris River in Batman province, densely inhabited by Kurds. It is an ancient city with roots going back 10,000 years. Drive to the hotel in Mardin for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Friday, Oct 11
Visit an old theological school, Sultan Isa Medrese, with spectacular views over the barren desert. Tour Kasimiye Medrese with its remarkable architecture and stonework. Visit some of the churches in the town and explore the shops along the main street. We can visit the Saffron Monastery just outside Mardin. Once the principle seat of the Syriac Patriarchy, Saffron Monastery is an active religious community that stands on the site of an ancient Sun Temple which is dated at about 1000 BC and can be visited as it is an integral part of the current building’s foundation. It boasts a unique ceiling that is, in effect, a flat arch. Then return to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Saturday, Oct 12
Mardin – Diyarbakir
Travel to Diyarbakir, located on the shores of the Tigris River. The basalt walls of Diyarbakir, Roman in origin, are more than 3 miles in length and have the distinction of being the longest city walls in the country. Some sites to visit include the Harput Gate; another fascinating sight in the city center is the Ulu Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Turkey. Transfer to the hotel for check in, dinner & overnight. (B,L,D)
Sunday, Oct 13
Diyarbakir – Nemrut Dag -Adiyaman
Depart and cross the mighty Euphrates, arriving in Nemrut National Park. We travel to the top of Mt. Nemrut to see the tumulus and colossal statue of Antiochus I of Commagene and his gods. The climb requires a steep hike or you can hire one of the locals with their donkey to take you up a big part of the Mount, after which you still need to walk the last stretch before being rewarded by this magnificent view. This ancient funerary monument at the peak of Mt Nemrut was forgotten and lost to memory for nearly 2000 years. Transfer to Adiyaman for your overnight. (B,L,D)
Monday, Oct 14
Drive to Urfa, thought by the locals for thousands of years to be the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham. Upon arrival we will visit the on-going archaeological dig at Gobekli Tepe. Although this site is not widely known it is one of the most important archaeological digs currently being undertaken anywhere - this site represents a major shift in our understanding of man's early history. Here lie the remains of the earliest religious structures built by man yet discovered. About 11000-13000 years old and pre-dating pottery, writing, Stonehenge and the Pyramids. In the Afternoon visit the on-going archaeological museum in Urfa and stunning Halebli Bahce Mosaics. Then visit the Abdurrahman Mosque, and the Pool of Abraham containing sacred carp fish. Dinner and overnight in Sanliurfa. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, Oct 15
Urfa – Gaziantep
After breakfast travel to Harran near the Syrian border, where Abraham spent a few years. Harran is also known for its beehive shaped mud-brick buildings. Then depart for Gaziantep where we will visit the stunning mosaic museum which houses a priceless collection of mosaics from the now sunken city of Zeugma. We will visit the citadel and the Old Town of Gaziantep. Transfer to the hotel in Gaziantep for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, Oct 16
Turkey – US
Transfer to Gaziantep airport for your flight back to Istanbul, connecting to your US-bound flight on Turkish Airlines to JFK, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Washington DC or Los Angeles, arriving the same day. (B)
We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants, sequence of sites or the order of activities if/as needed due to any unforeseen changes or conditions