DAY 1: (SUN) ARRIVAL
Arrival in Istanbul and transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Istanbul.
DAY 2: (MON) ISTANBUL – TRABZON – ERZURUM
Meet your guide and briefing on the tour. Transfer to the airport for morning flight to Trabzon. Our journey will start with a visit to the magnificent Sumela Monastery located high on the cliffs in the Altindere National Park. The church is covered inside and out with brilliant frescos and some very different scenes from the Bible. You can also see the kitchens and rooms from the monastery. We will then drive to Erzurum and overnight. B. L.
DAY 3: (TUE) ERZURUM – ANI – KARS
Today we visit Erzurum. Erzurum is known for copper crafting and its Oltu stone, which is a unique black stone used to make jewelry and beads. We will visit fine Seljuk monuments such as the Ulu (Great) Mosque with its unique wooden dome, the Cifte Minareli Medreseand see the richly decorated portal and tiled minaret of the 13th centuryYakutiye Medrese from outside. We continue to the ancient and seemingly forgotten city of Ani with its picturesque ruined churches. Ani was the capital of the medieval (Bagratuni) Armenian Kingdom that covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey between 961 and 1045. You will enjoy the view of the valley and Arpa River, which forms the border with Armenia. Overnight in Kars. B.L.D.
DAY 4: (WED) KARS – DOGUBAYAZIT – ISHAK PASA PALACE – VAN
Today we will drive to Dogubayazit, which is a small town situated by Mount Agri (Mount Ararat). We will have views of the majestic mountain along our way. We visit Ishak Pasa Palace, which was built between the 17th and 18th centuries by a local lord. It is a mixture of Ottoman, Persian and Armenian architectural styles and has some of the most beautiful stonework reliefs in the area. We will continue to the city of Van and overnight. B.L.D.
DAY 5: (THU) VAN – CAVUSTEPE – AKDAMAR CHURCH – TATVAN
Van was the ancient Urartian capital. An imposing 9th c B.C. citadel overlooks the town. Visit the ancient Urartian site of Cavustepe and the famous Citadel Van. We will then drive along Lake Van, which is ringed by mountains, and deep blue in color. It is the largest lake in Turkey and lies at an altitude of 1720 meters. We enjoy lunch by the lake. After this, we take a small ferry to visit the Akdamar Church (Church of the Holy Cross), which is built on an island in the lake. This church, from the 10th century, is carved with impressive Old Testament scenes and figures on the outside. We will also see a carpet weaving demonstration to see the techniques of making Turkish carpets and we will have a chance to see Van cats which are a special breed with one blue and one yellow eye from the region of Van. We continue to Tatvan and overnight. B.L.D.
DAY 6: (FRI) TATVAN – NEMRUT VOLCANO CRATER – AHLAT – TATVAN
We depart after breakfast along the southern shore of Lake Van where you will have wonderful views. We continue to the northwest of the lake and visit the Volcano Crater of Nemrut. After this, we continue to see the ancient cemetery of Ahlat. The eerie lichen covered tombstones left by the Ahlatshah dynasty and others are each one of a kind with intricately carved inscriptions. These impressive stelae all face in the same direction and make for an unforgettable photo with the background of the mountains and lake Van. We continue to Tatvan and overnight. B.L.D.
DAY 7: (SAT) TATVAN – MALABADI – HASANKEYF – ANITLI – MIDYAT – MARDIN
We depart after breakfast and make a stop at the unique Malabadi Bridge which spans the Batman River. The bridge was built during the Artuk period in the 12th century by Timurtas or Mardin. The bridge has tolls booths and rooms for the traveler and was used until the 1950’s. We continue to Hasankeyf, which is an ancient city located on the Tigris River. We will get a view of the Mausoleum of Zeynel Bey who was the son of Uzun Hassan ruler of the Akkoyunlu Dynasty who had control of Hasankeyf in the 15th century, the old Tigris Bridge built in the 12th century by the Artukid Sultan Fehrettin Karaaslan, the ancient citadel, and the mint. You will view rock cut stairwells and dwellings in the huge rock face. Hasankeyf is threatened by the Ilisu Dam project. On our way to Midyat, we will make a stop in Anitli village where there is an ancient church. The Syriac name of the church is Yoldath (Aloho) and according to the local Syriac community, the 6th-century church was originally established by the three Kings of the Orient. The church considered the most beautiful example of church architecture in Tur Abdin. We continue to Midyat and see the old town with its sandstone houses and the steeples of nine Syrian Orthodox churches. Midyat is famous for its silver filigree jewelry and local wine. Continue to Mardin and overnight. B.L.D.
DAY 8: (SUN) MARDIN – DEYRULZAFERAN – DARA
Today we visit the city of Mardin, with its golden stone houses that blend into the hills. The houses are often decorated with intricate carvings. This is a very lively trading center with people coming from surrounding villages to buy and sell and you can still see coppersmiths working in the market. We will have a fantastic view of the Plain of Mesopotamia from Mardin which is up on a hill. Visit the Syriac-Jacobite Monastery of Deyrulzaferan, which is a beautiful structure made of the native stone. We continue to Dara, which is an amazing village hosting a Necropolis which was dug into Roman quarries, a roman water purification system, and the underground cistern. Return to Mardin and Overnight in Mardin. B.L.D
DAY 9: (MON) MARDIN – GOBEKLITEPE – HARRAN – SANLIURFA
From Mardin, we drive to Gobekli Tepe, which is one of the most incredible archeological finds ever as the remains are those of the earliest religious structures yet to be discovered. With its T-shaped megaliths carved with strange and delicate images, mostly of animals. Gobeklitepe is at least 12,000 years old and is still being excavated. Some theories claim that Gobeklitepe is in the area of the Garden of Eden mentioned in the bible. After this visit, we continue to Harran - the city of the prophet Abraham. See the Islamic school and curious beehive-shaped adobe houses with a restored Harran house complex. Overnight in Sanli Urfa. B.L.D
DAY 10: (TUE) SANLIURFA – MT NEMRUT – KAHTA
We visit the Mevlid Halil Mosque, then the Cave of Prophet Abraham and the sacred fish pool. You will have a chance to wander in the Old Bazaar. We drive to Kahta and will first check into the hotel and prepare for the ascent to the summit of Mount Nemrut, which is the highest mountain (2150 m) in Northern Mesopotamia. Our first stop isKarakus, a tumulus of the royal Commagene women. See the Cendere Roman Bridge - built by Septimus Severus in the 2nd century AD and also Arsemia with its old castle and remains of the bridge made during the time of Alexander the Great. We then continue to Mt Nemrut and visit the East and West terraces, fire altar, statues of Apollo, Zeus, Hercules, Tyche and Antiochus Epiphanes I, tumulus, reliefs and the world's first horoscope. From the West Terrace, we will view the sunset. We then descend down the mountain through small villages and beautiful scenery. Overnight in Kahta. B.L.D.
DAY 11: (WED) KAHTA – GAZIANTEP – ADANA
After breakfast, we drive to Gaziantep. The artisans of Gaziantep are specialists in making copperware and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The city has a fortress with 36 towers originally constructed in the Justinian era and later rebuilt by the Seljuks. We will visit theZeugma Mosaic Museum which is the second largest mosaic museum in the world containing 1700 m2 of mosaics. The collections are focused on finds from Zeugma. See the Old town of Gaziantep with beautifully carved stonework of doors and windows in the old parts of town. We will continue to Adana and overnight. B.L.D.
DAY 12: (THU) ADANA – TARSUS – ISTANBUL
We will drive to Tarsus and discover the rich religious heritage of this town which is the birthplace of St Paul. We will visit the Ancient road of Tarsus and then St Paul’s Welland the foundations of the house where he is believed to have lived. We will take a walk in the old district of with its beautiful stone houses and continue to the ruins of the Roman baths. We see the church-mosque which is one of the oldest places of worship in Tarsus and may have been the original cathedral of St Paul. Although converted into a mosque this church still has Christian religious frescoes. We also visit the Church of St Paul which was built in the 5th century A.D and then the Kirkkasik Bedesten (40 Spoons Bazaar) which was built in 1579 and is now a center of handiwork by local women artisans. After the visit, we continue to the Adana airport and flight to Istanbul. Upon arrival transfer to your hotel and overnight. B.L. *For those wishing to visit Cappadocia you will be transferred by minibus to Cappadocia where you may extend your stay with private or small group Cappadocia tours and accommodation.
DAY 13: (FRI) DEPARTURE
Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)
All airport transfers
Accommodation in hotels as mentioned
Meals as mentioned only (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Water during meals
Main museum entry fees
Transportation in non-smoking minibus with professional English speaking guide, fuel, road tolls and parking fees
Domestic Flights Istanbul-Adana/Trabzon – Istanbul (Listed separately above, price is approximate)
NOT INCLUDED: International flights, drinks, porterage, tips to guide and driver and items of a personal nature. **Domestic flight price, listed separately, is approximate.
OPTIONAL: We can arrange for pre- or post-tours or hotel accommodation for those of you who want to see more of Turkey.
Almina Hotel, Amber Hotel, Dersaadet Hotel, Dosso Dossi Old City, Hotellino Hotel, Recital Hotel, Zeynep Sultan Hotel
Xanadu Snow White Hotel, Dedeman Palandoken, Polat Renaissance or similar
Buyuk Kale Hotel, Sim Er Hotel or similar
Tamara Hotel, Buyuk Urartu Hotel or similar
Izala Hotel, Yay Grand Hotel, Artuklu Kervansaray or similar
Manici Hotel or similar
Zeus Hotel or similar
Senbayrak Hotel, Kaya Premium Hotel or similar