In a different world to Turkey’s bustling seaside resorts, the exciting lands of eastern Turkey offer adventure, rich cultural experiences and breathtaking scenery. Beginning in the lush mountains of the Black Sea region, travel across arid plains, past crumbled villages and deep blue lakes.
The tangle of ancient and current cultures will intrigue you as you visit evocative, historical sites such as the ancient Armenian capital of Ani, the Byzantine masterpiece that is Sumela Monastery, the Ishak Pasa Palace, the architecture of Mardin and many seldom visited spots such as Lake Çildir and the remote Georgian churches and fortresses in the northeast. Mount Ararat at 5137m dominates the Iranian border and Lake Van, vast and mountain encircled, feeds the plains near the Iraqi frontier.
With its broad vistas and dramatic scenery, its ubiquitous borders, and a fascinating history and culture, this trip gives a truly varied insight into a part of Turkey rarely seen by foreign visitors.
Day 1 – Arrive in Istanbul
Welcome to the fascinating city of Istanbul. Split across two continents with a rich swirl of European elegance and an exotic Asian flair, it is a city sure to impress even the worldliest traveller. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure before meeting with your fellow travellers at 6pm followed by a delicious ‘Welcome Dinner’. (D)
Overnight Sirkeci Mansion or similar
Day 2 – Istanbul to Trazbon
After a hearty breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for a short flight to Trazbon, a town nestled on the Black Sea boasting a dizzying and ever-evolving mixture of religions, languages and cultures. Upon arrival in Trazbon, you will be met and begin your exploration of this fascinating city. You will visit Ataturk’s Pavilion and the 13th Century Hagia Sophia Museum (with its extraordinary collection of Byzanitine-era frescoes). You will also visit Gulbahar Hatun and Ortahisar Mosques as well as a Comneni Cathedral in the Old Town before visiting the charming Girl’s Monastery (a 13th century nunnery). You will then enjoy a scenic ride along the Black Sea coast, pausing here for great photo opportunities. (B)
2 nights Zorlu Grand Hotel or similar
Day 3 – Trazbon, Macka, Sumela Monastery, Zigana
Today’s journey begins with a visit to the confounding Sumela Monastery (4th century Greek Orthodox), impossibly clinging to the sheer cliff-face 1200m in altitude and nestled amid the natural beauty of the deep forest of Macka. Lunch today will be in a rustic village setting and feature tasty traditional dishes which comprise of the culinary delights of Trazbon. Succulent preparations of Hamsi (steamed or fried fish) (subject to seasonality) will be served both in pide (Turkish pizza) and pilaf (rice), as well as sides of Kuymak (corn meal mash). After lunch, on the banks of the fast flowing stream in Altindere Valley National Park, you will travel along the Old Silk Road – through the Zigana Pass, beautifully bathed in a myriad colours and geoformations – before returning to Trazbon. (B,L,)
Day 4 – Trazbon, Meydancik, Savsat
Your adventure continues today as you travel through Meydancik, where you will witness the stunning view of the city from Boztepe. Departing from here, you will then head for scenic Uzungol, to visit the Botany Garden, and to enjoy a panoramic view of Rize. You then continue on to Camlihemsin, through the beautiful Firtina Valley, enjoying the many waterfalls, stone bridges and lush green forests which skirt the magnificent Kackar Mountains. (Driving distance 263km). (B)
2 nights Villa De Peli or similar
Day 5 – Savsat, Sahara National Park
After having arrived in Savsa, drive to Karagol Sahara National Park through picturesque villages and visit to the Georgian Tibeti Church and Savsat Castle. (Driving distance 46km). (B)
Day 6 – Ayder, Savsat, Sahara National Park
Departing early this morning, you head towards Cildir Lake. From Yildirimtepe hike to the infamous and foreboding Devil’s Castle. Drive through the village of Akcakale and continue to Kars for overnight. (Driving distance 226km). (B)
Overnight Kar’s Hotel or similar
Day 7 – Kars, Ani, Doubayazt
This mornings departure leads towards the ruins of the ancient ghost town of Ani, once the capital city of the Armenian Empire. You continue to Doubayazt, located at the foot of Mount Ararat, the highest mountain in Anatolia, and where Noah’s Ark is believed to have come to rest. (Driving distance 239km). (B)
Overnight Tehran Boutique Hotel or similar
Day 8 – Doubayazt, Van
Today you will tour the semi ruined complex of Ishak Pasa Palace before driving through a barren volcanic landscape and arriving at Muradiye Waterfall for lunch. You continue on to Van, and gaze at the enormous lake – Turkey’s largest. You will also visit the Castle of Van, a massive stone fortification built by the ancient Armenian kingdom of Urartu during the 9th to 7th centuries BC. (Driving distance 187km). (B)
2 nights Elite World Van or similar
Day 9 – Çavutepe, Van, Akdamar
A lavish breakfast awaits you this morning. A traditional Turkish ‘Van Breakfast’ which consists of at least 20 different dishes, such as herbal cheese (made with a mixture of various herbs unique to the region), martuga (a delicious pastry made with flour, butter and egg), and kavut (a sweet porridge made from pan-roasted barley flour and ground wheat).
After the feast, you will take a ride to Çavutepe Castle (an impressive Armenian fortress) to explore the ancient Urartian citadel before continuing on to the Village of Hosap. After lunch in Gevas, you take a boat excursion to Akhtamar Island and Holy Cross Church, a 10th century Armenian-Apostolic cathedral. (Driving distance 178km). (B)
Day 10 – Van, Hasankeyf
Begin the day with a morning drive to Hasankeyf, to visit the cliff top Roman ruins of ancient Cephe and the old town of Midyat, an ancient architectural treasure. You then explore Anitli and visit the Church of the Virgin Mary, before continuing to Mardin, which overlooks the vast plains of Mesopotamia. (Driving distance 502km). (B)
Overnight Artuklu Kervansaray or similar
Day 11 – Mardin, Gobekli Tepe, Sanliurfa
In the morning we will spend some time in the center of Mardin for sightseeing and then head to Gobekli Tepe (Turkish for ‘Hill with a Tummy’), a hilltop sanctuary which is the location of the world’s oldest known temple (dating back to the 10th millennium BC) and the planet’s oldest known example of monumental architecture (together with the site of Nevali Cori, Gobekli Tepe has revolutionised the understanding of our ancient past). Continue towards Urfa to discover the ‘City of the Prophets’ as you visit Abraham’s Caves, the Pool of Sacred Carp and the colourful bustling bazaar.
After your visit, a special treat awaits you this evening, as you will experience the festive and millennial tradition of Urfa nightlife, featuring folk singers, musicians, poetry readings, dancing, all accompanied by delicious dishes and a seemingly endless supply of Turkey’s traditional spirit, Raki! (Driving distance 219km). (B,D)
Overnight Garden Inn Adiyaman or similar
Day 12 – Sanliurfa, Harran, Kahta
In the morning drive to visit the famous ‘beehive’ village houses of Harran. Then proceed to have a brief look at Ataturk Dam (built on the Euphrtes River), and check-in to the hotel in Kahta before exploring the Eski Kahta Castle and then climb Mount Nemrut to see the mountain top sanctuary of Antiochus I. at sunset. (Driving distance 350km). (B)
Overnight Sirehan Hotel or similar
Day 13 – Kahta Gaziantep
A two hour drive in the morning leads us to Halfeti, where we take a boat ride on the life-sourcing Euphrates River to explore Rumkale Fortress. For your midday meal, you will enjoy a menu of the two most recognised dishes from Turkey – Kebab and baklava, a rich sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. Yum! After the feast, you will visit the Roman city of Zeugma and tour Gaziantep (the birthplace of baklava) and its Archaeological Museum where the most superb Roman mosaics are displayed including the famed ‘Gypsy Girl of Zeugma’. (Driving distance 285km). (B,L)
Overnight Sirehan Hotel or similar
Day 14 – Departure
Following breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Istanbul to connect to your next destination. (B)
- Return airport transfers
- 13 nights hotel accommodation
- 13 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
- English speaking guide
- Air conditioned vehicle
- Entrance fees as specified in the itinerary
- Boat tour in Halfeti and Akdamar Island
- Cultural night at Urfa
- Domestic flight Istanbul to Trabzon & and Gaziantep to Istanbul
- International and domestic flights not mentioned above
- Travel and medical insurance
- All services, meals other than those indicated above
- Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program
- All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place plus the cost of internal airfares. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.