Byzantine treasures of the Black Sea coast are studded around this lush, mountainous region. The vast dome of Hagia Sophia dominates the landscape, whilst the imposing Sumela monastery, hewn out of the cliffside, keeps eternal watch over the Altindere Valley.
Step back in time at a wealth of museums dedicated to preserving the stories of Anatolian archaeology and culture. Temples, churches, castles and palaces abound on this 11 day tour. Trabzon (formerly known as Trebizond) traces the path of the ancient Silk Road. One of our last views of Turkey is a glimpse of snow-capped Mount Ararat - a fitting farewell.
- Historic Churches
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
This morning we land in Ankara via Istanbul, and transfer to our comfortable hotel in the bustling city centre.
Ankara has been Turkey’s capital since 1923, though its ancient roots lead back over millennia to the Hittite civilisation of around 1600 BC. A cradle of ancient culture.
Our travels through north-east Turkey begin at Ankara’s superb Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. The museum’s vast collection is housed in two Ottoman buildings near Ankara Castle, and covers all periods of Anatolia, from early Palaeolithic to Classical times. Exhibitions here feature masterful Urartian metalwork from the 9th century BC, majestic Hittite reliefs, and a Neolithic wall mural thought to be the earliest town map in existence.
This afternoon we journey to Amasya, a Black Sea city on the banks of the Yeşilırmak River, nestling between the Canik and Pontus mountains. A birthplace of sultans, the city is as famous for its splendid history as it is its delicious home-grown produce.
We spend a leisurely day in Amasya, beginning with an introductory walking tour of the old town, with its traditional wooden Ottoman houses, 19th-century clock tower, and views of the ruined citadel.
Next on the itinerary is a visit to the city’s Archaeological Museum, a national institution housing some 24,000 artefacts recovered from the local area. Spanning a total of 11 civilisations, highlights include the world’s only displayed Islamic mummy and ornamental Hellenistic tear-catchers.
This afternoon we journey to the rock-carved Tombs of the Kings of Pontus on the side of Mount Harşena. This handsome royal necropolis consists of five tombs from the 3rd to the 2nd century BC, all accessible to visitors – Turkey’s very own Valley of the Kings.
Following a filling breakfast we drive up to the coast of the Black Sea to Sinop. Once part of the ancient region of Paphlagonia – an Anatolian ally of the Trojans – this seaside city has enjoyed a flourishing history as a port used by Hittites, Greeks and Romans, among many others.
Upon arrival, we head for the remains of the old town. Here we find the excellent Archaeological Museum, with its illuminating exhibits including displays of early coins and some of the oldest Anatolian stelae in existence. Within the museum’s open-air section stands the 4th-century Temple of Serapis, unearthed on site in 1951.
Today we make our way to Trabzon, a city founded by Greek traders in the 8th century BC, which later became an important stopping-off point along the old Silk Road. It remains the busiest port in the Black Sea.
This afternoon we explore the city on a gentle walking tour, viewing sights such as the romantic ruins of nearby Trabzon Castle, as well as mosques, parks, and the vibrant centre, before sitting down for a chance to sample the regional cuisine.
We spend a whole day in and around Trabzon, beginning at the Hagia Sofia, a Medieval church which was converted to a mosque in 1584 and now houses an informative museum.
Later today we travel to the Sumela Monastery, a famous Greek Orthodox complex perched high on the slopes of the Altindere Valley. One of Turkey’s foremost historical attractions, the monastery was founded in 386 AD and was in use right up until 1923, when it was abandoned following the ejection of the local Greek population. From its frescoed chapels and courtyards we enjoy jaw-dropping views across the forest below. A real must-see destination.
This morning we head inland, travelling east through the mountains to the altitudinous city of Erzurum, situated some 2,000 metres above sea level. Once an Armenian capital, the city was transferred to the Eastern Roman Empire in 387 AD and became an important military base in the wars against the Persians.
Following lunch we explore the local Archaeological Museum, with its fascinating collection of semi-nomadic artefacts dating back as far as 4200 BC. We also enter the impressive Cifte Minareli Medrese. Established as a theological school in the late Seljuk period, the building became a gun foundry in the 17th century and, later still, an arsenal and armoury.
We drive further east to the high plateaus this morning, where we find the city of Kars on the closed Armenian border. Possession of Kars was hotly disputed in the 19th century, with the Russians eventually claiming it from the Ottoman Turks. It briefly returned to Turkish control during the First World War, before being reluctantly relinquished to the Armenians. It was recaptured in 1920 and has been a part of Turkey ever since.
This afternoon we enjoy an engaging walking tour of the city’s main sights, stopping at the rocky citadel, the early walls of which date back almost 2,000 years. We also visit a selection of the area’s historic mansions and mosques for a unique encounter with the Armenian Turks.
Today we take an excursion to Ani, to explore the atmospheric ruins of the medieval Armenian settlement. Known as “the City of 1001 Churches” this former capital of the Bagratid Armenian Empire was ransacked by Mongols in the 13th century, and subsequently reduced to rubble by a major earthquake. Its crumbling churches and castles rise majestically from the grassy plains, and offer a ghostly reminder of a once-great civilisation sadly destroyed.
In the afternoon we return to Kars, for the opportunity to explore this thrilling city at our own leisure.
On our final full day in Turkey we travel to Doğubeyazit. This is the last of the Turkish towns before Iran, and lies in sight of the magnificent Mount Ararat, on which legend states Noah’s Ark came to its final rest.
Doğubeyazit has a long and rich history, with monuments dating back to the Urartu period, almost three millennia ago. Here we enter the castle, as well as the glorious, semi-ruined Ishak Pasha Palace. Built in the Ottoman period, the palace is a rare surviving example of its type, and includes a harem section, as well as its own mosque and dungeons.
We return to Kars for a lavish last supper, enjoying our final dinner as a group.
We transfer to the airport and catch our return flights home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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