This 14 day tour, starts from Istanbul, Turkey, and ends at Gaziantep, Turkey. Fly to Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. Then travel south along the Georgian border to Erzurum, Ani, Mt Ararat, onto Lake Van, Mardin, Diyarbakir, Mt. Nemrut, Sanliurfa (Urfa), Göbekli Tepe and finally Gaziantep.
Welcome to Istanbul! You will be transferred to your hotel and the remainder of the day is yours, free to explore.
After breakfast, you enjoy a fully guided half day tour of the only city to span two continents, visiting the Blue Mosque, St Sophia Museum and the Hippodrome.
This afternoon we will fly to Trabzon, on the Black Sea coast.
Visit to the 14th century Byzantine church of Hagia Sofia overlooking the Black Sea before proceeding to the cliff side monastery of the Virgin Mary at Sumela in the Altindere National Park. From Sumela we drive along the coast of the Black Sea to Hopa near the Georgian border where we will spend the night.
We depart Hopa along spectacular Georgian Valleys for Erzurum via Artvin, Ishan.
We will stop to see the Borcka Dam and then visit the, once Armenian, mountain village of Ishan where stands the ruins of an 8-9th century cathedral and a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1006, Ishkhani monastery. After Ishan we visit The Osvank Monastery was constructed between the years 963 and 973 and was dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
After visiting, the Great Mosque, Yakutiye and the Bazaar, in Erzurum, we depart for Kars along the Aras River via the historical, 800 year old, Çobandede Stone Bridge. From Kars we continue on for Ani, the former 10th century, capital of the great medieval Armenian kingdom. The remains of the ruined city include several churches as well as the shell of the Cathedral of Ani, the citadel and a mosque along with an extensive and well preserved defensive wall. There are also some exciting remains of frescoes in the Church of St Gregory (Tigran Honentz).
We continue our journey south, on to Dogubayazıt, skirting around the western edge of the biblical Mt Ararat. In Dogubeayzit, we visit the spectacular Ishak Pasha Palace 1685 -1784 with architecture in Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian, and Armenian/Persian styles. From Dogubeyazit we leave for Van via Muradiye and the Bendimaahi Falls. Van is the provincial capital of Van and an important market town of this part of Turkey. Lake Van is home to unique flora and fauna. Our arrival in Van will be early evening.
Sightseeing in the Van region including a visit to the 17th century fortress at Hosap, sitting astride the ancient Silk Road into Persia and the Orient. In the afternoon we will visit the island of Akdamar on Lake Van, Turkey's largest lake, to visit the 10th century Church of the Holy Cross.
Depart Van along the southern shore of Lake Van for Tatvan and then to visit the great Volcano Crater Lake of Nemrut (not to be confused with Mt. Nemrut in Adiyaman). We will then visit the tombs of Seljuk Kings in Ahlat and return to Tatvan.
Via Bitlis we continue down the Bitlis Gorge, via the city of Batman, to the town Hasankeyf for lunch. In Hasankeyf (recently submerged under the lake of a new dam on the Tigris) we will visit some of the many caves and the ruins of the medieval Byzantine city. On our way west to Mardin we will stop in Midyat to see the Silver bazaar. Arrive to Mardin visit Kasimiye Medrese.
After breakfast visit Deir-Al-Zafaran (Saffron Monastery). The Saffron Monastery was once the ancient centre of the Syriac Christian Patriarchy. This site has been the centre of religious worship for many centuries, the monastery itself is built over an ancient temple, built in 1,000 BC and dedicated to the worship of the sun and which now provides the foundations to the main part of the monastery buildings.
From Mardin we will travel northwest to Diyarbakir to see the Ten Arches Bridge on the Tigris River.
After brief sightseeing in Diyarbakir, visiting the Ulu Cami (Mar Thoma - Mosque and Church) and then the Great wall. We will travel to the top of Mount Nemrut to the Tombs of the Commagene Kingdom and the Colossal Statues of Gods. Climbing up to Tumulus of Antiochos, the capital of Kommagene we will watch the sunset from the summit of Mt. Nemrut.
This morning we will see Karakus Tumulus, a burial sanctuary and the Cendere Bridge, before we head to Sanliurfa (Urfa) via the Ataturk Dam.
Then onto Göbekli Tepe, the most important archaeological dig currently being undertaken anywhere in the world – 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 to be discovered. At about 11,000-13,000 years old and pre-dating pottery, writing, Stonehenge and the Pyramids!.
In the afternoon we will return to Urfa where we will visit the Holy Pools of Abraham and the cave where, tradition tells us, the Prophet Abraham was born.
This morming we visit Urfa's Ottoman Bazaar and the Archaeology Museum and then travel to Gaziantep where we will visit the incredible Zeugma Mosaic Museum which houses the mosaics taken from the city of Zeugma which is now submerged. The mosaics are a superb example of the skill and artistry of these ancient craftsmen, not to mention the wealth and taste of the citizens who commissioned them.
From the museum we will leisure time visit the citadel district at the centre of the city and then to the old town to enjoy the sights and smells of old Gaziantep, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. In spite of all the history and in a country renowned for the excellence of its cuisine, what makes Gaziantep special is its food.
After breakfast our tour concludes and we say goodbye to our new friends before being transferred to the airport for your onward flight.