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EasternTurkeyTours Anatolian Adventure Tour

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The Bosphorus and Haydarpasha Station

The Adventure begins The Anatolian Adventure Tour takes you from one side of this amazing and diverse country to the other in a spectacular 14 day tour. From the worldly, cosmopolitan and bustling city of Istanbul to the rugged and beautiful country around the mystical mountain of Ararat and then to Lake Van and the ancient frontier city of Van. The tour will take you back in time through early Christian settlement in Anatolia and then back to Old Testament times and a world peopled by the ancient Hittites, Urartians and the Old Testament Patriarchs such as Abraham and Noah. From Istanbul, in the luxury of air conditioned railway carriages and by coaches to the borderlands of the east with nomads and their flocks of sheep and goats this is not just a journey from one place to another, it really is a journey through time. Travel is by the new Turkish Rail sleeper service from Istanbul to Ankara then on by road in fully air-conditioned coaches. Return from Van to Istanbul is by scheduled airline. The tour is fully inclusive and the cost covers all domestic travel, guides, museum/ site entry, accommodation and all meals (some exceptions noted in tour itinerary in Istanbul). Not included are costs of visa, international travel, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

Railway sleeper carriage

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Days 1 & 2 Arrive in Istanbul - over two days sight seeing including the Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofia, the Archaeological Museum, the Yerebetan Saray, the Mosaic Museum, the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome as well as a cruise up the Bosphorus to Anadolu Kavagi, the last ferry stop on the Asian side just where the channel joins the Black Sea. At Anadolu Kavagi you may take the opportunity to enjoy a delicious sea food meal at one of the many fish restaurants. Journey back along the Asian side by coach to visit the Beylerbeyi Palace, the summer palace of the last Ottoman Sultans. (B)

The Egyptian Bazaar, Istanbul

Day 2 (evening) Istanbul- See the Bosphorus by night on the ferry travelling across to the Asian side to begin your Anatolian adventure. Dinner and then depart from Istanbul's Haydarpasha station in your own sleeper compartment on the night train to Ankara. (D) Rumeli Hisari, The Bosphorus

Anit Kabir, main building

Day 3 After an early breakfast on board your train you arrive in Ankara at 8 o'clock. In the morning we will visit the tomb of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Called Anit Kabir, Ataturk's mausoleum is one of Ankara's major landmarks. Completed in 1953 it is designed to capture the spirit of monumental architecture found in Anatolia from the Hittites and Romans through to the Seljuk Turks. The final effect is both ancient and modern; a stark memorial for an impressive man. In the afternoon the tour of Ankara takes in the Citadel and the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. Housed in a beautifully restored covered bazaar built in 1471 by the Grand Vizier Mahmut Pasha, and in an adjoining Han of the same period, this is one of the outstanding museums of Turkey. In a country that has such historical riches this museum will give you a rich taste of what you will see on your tour through Anatolia. (B, L, D)

Standing Guard

The Lion Gate, Hattusas

Day 4 After a leisurely breakfast we depart for Hattusas, the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire. We will be staying near the city so you will have plenty of time to explore and absorb the atmosphere of this important site. A walled city, Hattusas is a large site containing many temples (the Hittites had a pantheon of 1000 gods) and a great fortress that held a royal palace which housed the Hittite state archives. In these archives archaeologists discovered, in 1906, a cuneiform tablet on which was written a treaty between the Hittite King Hattusili III and the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. - one of the earliest peace treaties on record. (B, L, D)

Relief of Hittite God, Hattusas

The “Fairy Chimneys� of Cappadocia

Day 5 From Hattusas we continue to the UNESCO world heritage site at Goreme. This whole region was an early area of Christian settlement and is characterised by many underground cities, churches and by communities of troglodyte dwellings; houses carved out of the living rock. Overnight at Goreme. (B, L, D) (Balloon flights over the Goreme area are available at an additional cost)

The fortress of Uchisar, carved out of a natural rock pinnacle

Balloon flights over Goreme area

Ihlara Valley

Day 6 We spend the morning exploring the Ihlara valley- a deep gorge cut by a river through the dusty plains and providing a beautiful, cool and tranquil refuge from the heat above. From Ihlara we go to the fascinating underground city of Derinkoyu; a labyrinth of passages going down at least eight levels, Derinkoyu was a fully self sufficient refuge in times of conflict and, it is believed, connected by extensive tunnel systems to other underground cities many miles distant. Overnight at Goreme. (B, L, D)

Statues at the Tumulus on the summit of Nemrut

Day 7 Mid morning start for the journey to Mt. Nemrut in Adiyaman to see the summit and the magnificent funerary monument built by King Antiochus III. Lost for nearly 2000 years and only rediscovered by accident in the 1890s this monument is an enigmatic memorial to a long lost king. We will stay at the summit to witness the setting of the sun and to enjoy this unforgettable experience. Return to your hotel for dinner and refreshments. (B, L, D)

Sunset on Mt Nemrut

The Pool of Abraham

Day 8 Depart for Urfa. En route we will visit the Ataturk Dam, which is part of the South eastern Anatolia Project (GAP). An impressive, huge, hydro-electric and irrigation project on the upper reaches of the Euphrates River. Well worth a visit not only for it being an engineering masterpiece but also to see the unusual monument to those who lost their lives whilst building the dam. Taking Turkish tea will be part of the ritual! In Urfa, a spectacle to behold, from impressive stone masonry and ladies in beautiful head scarves, we will enjoy lunch at a hand picked restaurant where you will be able to relax whilst enjoying fresh local food once more.

The Gardens in Urfa

Urfa is called the City of Prophets for its biblical connections. Sightseeing again will be at a pace to enable you to fully appreciate this enchanting city, taking in the castle with huge Roman columns which dominate the top of the hill. Your guide will regale you with the story of old about how the “Pool of Sacred Carp� got its name. The Pool of Sacred Carp, surrounded by architecturally exquisite buildings and the large, green, and floral gardens are a sight to behold in the evening where the moonlight, and if you are lucky a lightening storm capture the romance of the moment. Families take in the sights and you will be welcomed as a visitor to their city. One more important place to visit in the gardens is the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham. This cave, where there are separate entrances for men and women, is a place of tranquillity in a peaceful and romantic setting. Hotel in Urfa (B, L, D).

Monument at the Ataturk Dam

Bee Hive house in Harran

Day 9 Comfortable coach ride to Harran. Harran is a famous city from ancient Mesopotamian times; a mystical and ancient place of “bee hive” houses built of mud and straw. Here camels roam free, and you will feel that a step back in time has been taken. You will be greeted by the guardian of the houses and invited to take tea or a cold drink under the Arabian tent! After pleasantries, which I am sure by now you will have realised is an important part of Turkish culture, you will be invited to roam through some of the houses, realising their worth at keeping cool throughout the day and warm during the night. A short walk from the “bee hive” houses is the ruined site of the first Islamic University of the world. The Bible speaks of this town as the place where Abraham and his family lived.

Standing stones at Gobekli Tepe

Day 10 After breakfast we will visit the on going archaeological dig at Gobekli Tepe. This extraordinary site is the oldest religious structure built by man yet discovered; at 10 - 11 thousand years BC these structures pre date not only Stonehenge and the Pyramids but also writing and the discovery of the skills of pottery. From Gobekli Tepe we carry on to Mardin and a little bit of luxury from olden times staying in beautifully restored Caravansary, an old inn where many years ago traders would travel with their wares to do business, selling silks and spices.

Artuklu Kervanserai

This old inn has been transformed into a beautiful and quirky hotel, with roof top restaurants with views over the plains of northern Syria.

A friendly welcome at the Artuklu Kervanserai

The Saffron Monastery

Day 11 After a sumptuous breakfast we will visit Deir-Al-Zafaran (the Saffron Monastery), once centre of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchy and still an active monastery. Here you will learn the history of the people, their life's work, and how the monastery manages to “float� on a 3000 year old Sun Temple? Take rich Syrian coffee on the lovely terrace and enjoy the views. After lunch we will drive to Hasankeyf, situated by the Tigris River. Hasankeyf has hundreds of caves, hidden waterways, tombs, a larger and smaller Palace, as well as ruins of the Great Mosque. People lived in the caves up until the early 1970s and you will be able to go inside some of the homes and to visit the small mosque at the top of the hill. We will then take tea or soft drinks whilst dangling our feet in the Tigris, protected from the sun by grass canopies. Depart for Tatvan on Lake Van along the Bitlis river gorge. Overnight in Tatvan. (B, L, D)

Hasankeyf on the River Tigris

The Hot Lake in Nemrut Crater

Day 12 On the south eastern shore of Lake Van we find Nemrut Mountain (not to be confused with the Nemrut in Adiyaman) rising above Tatvan. This huge volcanic mountain is one of the largest intact calderas in the world and it will take your breath away with its sheer size. The highest peak of the mountain stands at 3050 metres. You may frequently see large tortoises here ambling across the road. The volcanic cone was believed to have originally been much higher, at 4450 metres before its eruption. The last time it was active was in 1440 BC. There are five lakes within the crater, and the larger two, which we will visit, are wonderfully different. The Cold Lake (13 sq. kms) has an average depth of 100 metres. The Hot Lake has a visible amount of steam rising from its thermal springs, great for a dip if you have your bathing costumes and towels? The water will make your skin feel soft and silky. The air temperature may reach up to 60 degree centigrade! We will picnic by the Crater Lake and stroll around the crater itself. For those who arrive between June and September we will see and visit the nomadic people who spend their summers around Nemrut Crater Lake, bringing their livestock to the rich pastureland. On to Van, stopping to visit Akdamar Island, with its ancient Armenian Church of the Holy Cross. Here you will have time to explore the small but beautifully carved church and enjoy the island, taking in the sights of Lake Van. Overnight in Van. (B, L, D)

Van Castle Walls

Day 13 The City of Van, a vibrant and colourful city, with plenty of shopping and bargains to be had in the small silver shops, clothes shops and the large market. Take time to visit the museum, where there are many fascinating artefacts including carvings, Roman jewellery, arms and armour and ancient head dresses. The city is dominated by its 3000 year old Urartian citadel, almost a mile long. We will take time to explore these rich ruins and watch the extraordinary sunset over Lake Van.

Sunset at Lake Van

Muradiye Falls

Day 14 Travel to Dogubeyazit, via the waterfall at Muradiye, with its rope bridge. The road to Dogubeyazit takes in many sights of Mount Ararat, believed to be the final resting place of Noah's Ark and the setting place for the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, with its permanently snow covered summit, rising above fertile plains. If visiting between spring and early summer you will be amazed at the flora and fauna; fields and meadows carpeted with yellows, reds, purples, whites. Dogubeyazit, a frontier town, is the place to buy textiles and lovely Iranian sweets. It is a very traditional eastern town, where you will be expected to dress conservatively, but again the welcome will be very warm. We will travel just past the town to Ishak Pasha's Pleasure Palace, where the Governor lived in splendour! Again you will see fabulous stone work, beautiful views and learn the history of those who have lived here.

The cliff side Church of St. Etienne, Muradiye

From Dogubeyazit we return to Van in time for the sunset over the citadel on Van's castle rock. (B, L, D)

Day 15 Depart from Van airport for Istanbul and home.

Ishak Pasha Palace

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Anatolian Adventure Tour