Discover the hidden heartland of Turkey
This spectacular journey showcases the hidden treasures well away from the popular highlights of the west. Scenically and historically captivating, the north western Black Sea coast is home to historic Safranbolu, where fascinating remnants from Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations await. The beautiful natural harbour of Sinop is a picturesque setting for ruins of the ancient citadel and, in Amasya, some of Turkey’s most impressive forms of Ottoman house lie in snug repose along the meandering Yesilirmak River. An insight into Seljuk history can be gained in Sivas with a visit to the city’s impressive architectural gems, the Gok Medrese and the Cifte Minareli Medrese. Further east, the immense statues devoted to Apollo, Fortuna, Zeus, Herakles and King Antiochus can be found on the slopes of Mt Nemrut -simply awe-inspiring, as their craftsman no doubt intended.
Central Turkey & the Black Sea
Moving on to the City of Prophets at Urfa, we visit the wonderful ancient bazaar and, in Harran, witness rural village life little changed since biblical times. Back in central Anatolia, we discover the astounding, mythic landscapes of Cappadocia, which have inspired writers and travellers for years. We end the fortnight in the city where east meets west, rewarded with a final look through one of the world’s great historic capitals.
If arriving at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport (IST), you will be met and transferred to your starting hotel. If arriving at Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) airport please make your own way to the hotel (unless you have booked a transfer). After checking into your hotel, please look out for the Peregrine notice board in the hotel lobby, which has a list of suggestions for things to see and do in your free time. As today is an arrival day, there is no formal sightseeing planned. Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, with a history spanning thousands of years. It has been through several incarnations, firstly as Byzantium, then Constantinople and finally Istanbul. The city today is bustling and its streets are crowded with locals busily going about their daily lives. If you arrive early enough, you can wander and absorb the vibrancy of this exciting city that links Europe and Asia. We highly recommend that during this free time today, you visit the Aya Sofya, one of Istanbul's most impressive sites. In the evening there will be a Welcome Meeting (please check notice board for exact time) held in the hotel, where you will meet your tour leader and fellow travel companions.
This morning we see some of Istanbul's most important sites. We start with a visit to the Topkapi Palace, which was the home of Ottoman sultans for four centuries. The palace is built in Islamic style and consists of a series of chambers, pavilions and kiosks surround garden courtyards. We then visit the Blue Mosque, built by the Sultan Ahmet I in the 17th century to outshine the Aya Sofya. We also visit the Basilica Cistern, built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian. This floodlit cistern is the largest and most impressive of the ancient cisterns that lay beneath the city of Istanbul. We then have the remainder of the day at leisure that enables us to explore the famous covered Grand Bazaar or Spice Market, armed with advice from our tour leader as to how to get the best bargains and become more savvy in the art of haggling! There is everything from clothing to jewellery, sweets to spices on offer in the bustling marketplaces. (B)
Istanbul - Amasra
After breakfast we drive to Amasra, arguably one of the prettiest of the coastal towns on the Black Sea with a fortified promontory that sits high overlooking the old harbours and a sandy beach. We explore the highlights of Kale (citadel) including the old bedesten (covered bazaar) and Byzantine church, which became a mosque known as Kilise Camii during the Ottoman period. After our sightseeing tour of the town, we adjourn to sit in one of the tea gardens or bars at the base of the castle walls and watch the sunset - a relaxing way to finish the day. (Driving time: 6 hours) (B)
Amasra - Safranbolu - Sinop
Today we drive to the northern most edge of Turkey's Black Sea coastline to the town of Sinop. On the way we visit Safranbolu,a world heritage site known for its traditional buildings. While walking through the town's quaint cobblestone streets and laneways we discover a culture reminiscent of yesteryear with traditional trades and crafts still being practised. It's then on to Sinop, located on a narrow peninsula and surrounded by sea on one side and mountains on the other, the town was used as an important port town for thousands of years with many rulers occupying the port city from Cimmerians, Phrygians, Persians, the Pontic Kings to the Romans and Byzantines and later the Seljuks. During November 1853, shortly after the commencement of the Crimean War, the Battle of Sinop erupted when the Russian armada attacked Sinop, destroying an Ottoman fleet and resulting in great loss of life. We visit the ancient Castle which was founded in 2000 B.C and later restored during the Ottoman, the Seljuk, Byzantium, Roman, Greek and Pontus periods. We also visit the old Fortress Prison, strategically situated inside the Sinop Fortress which made escape impossible. This prison, that covered 28 halls on two floors, was erected in 1887. It operated as a high security penitentiary until it's closure in 1997. Tonight we stay in Sinop.(Driving time: 6 hours) (B)
Sinop - Amasya
Today we journey to the town of Amasya, one of Turkey's most charming towns. It is set back in the mountains behind the Black Sea Coast, in a narrow valley on the banks of the Yeilrmak River, The half-timber Ottoman period houses that line the north bank of the river are some of Amasya's most endearing features. These side-by-side terraced houses were built in the 19th century and have all the features of traditional Ottoman houses. Amasya was the provincial capital of a once-great Pontic kingdom with the tombs of Pontus kings carved into the cliffs. This place is also famous for producing many types of fruit including apples, cherries and peaches. We venture out and explore the city including the 13th-century Seljuk Burmali Mosque, the fountain, Seljuk tombs (mausoleum) and the bedesten. Tonight we stay in Amasya. (Driving time: 4 hours) (B)
Amasya - Sivas
Our destination, Sivas, is the most mountainous city of the central Anatolian region and sits at an altitude of 1275 metres. Once an important commercial centre due to it location at the cross roads of the Persia and Baghdad caravan routes, the city later became an important centre for learning and culture during the rule of the Seljuks. In the afternoon, we visit some of the most famous monuments and sites of Sivas. The ifte Minare Medressa with its twin minarets and grand gateway was built in 1271 and was formerly a law faculty. The Ulu Cami or Great Mosque, built in 1197 by the Seldjoukids Sultan Klaslan II, is the oldest building in the city. The Gok Medressa (theological school) and the Buruciye Medressa, both built in 1271, display the best examples of Seljuk art work. The city of Sivas is also famous for its nomadic Kangal dogs, a unique sheep dog which has become the national dog of Turkey and a designated 'national treasure'. This afternoon there is an opportunity to visit a breeding centre to learn more about these renowned dogs. (Driving time: 3 hours) (B)
Sivas - Darende
This morning we farewell Sivas and continue to Darende, en route we take a walk to the waterfalls of Gunpinar, a picturesque and tranquil place. A pleasant riverside eatery is a good spot to sample some local fish. After lunch we enjoy a leisurely walk in the surrounds before we head into the town centre of Darende. Here we enjoy an orientation walk of the town and can see its 300 year old covered bazaar; there's also the possibility to sample the Turkish dried apricot (famous in the area) in one of the local shops. Tonight we can settle in for a relaxing night in Darende. (Driving time: 3.5 hours) (B)
Darende - Mt Nemrut - Kahta
After breakfast we drive to Kahta, the base for our visit to Mount Nemrut National Park - one of the most impressive in Turkey. The peak of Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dai) reaches 2150 metres and is the site of a collection of colossal statues adorning the temple and tomb of King Antiochus. The 10-metre high stone heads were first discovered in 1881 during engineering work and in 1953 archaeological work began to uncover the history of the site, which also includes relics from the Commagene civilisation. We sit and watch the sunset over the site - the perfect time to capture great photos of the stones in their best possible light. After our visit, we drive back to the town of Kahta for the night. (Driving time: 4.5 hours) (B)
Kahta - Harran - Sanliurfa
Today we drive to Sanliurfa (also known as Urfa). En route we visit the village of Harran, famous for its traditional mud-brick beehive houses. The design of these conical shaped houses dates back thousands of years with many of the current structures built within the last two hundred years. The village also has biblical significance with the prophet Abraham having lived here with his family. We drive to Urfa, the City of Prophets, where we visit the ancient bazaar built in the mid 16th-century. The most interesting part of the bazaar is the old bedesten, where silk products have been sold for hundreds of years. We explore the ruined Crusader castle of Urfa (known as Urfa Kalesi), which sits high above the city and from where we enjoy magnificent views. Tonight we stay in Urfa. (Driving time: 3 hours) (B)
Sanliurfa - Gaziantep
Today we travel to the town of Gaziantep, known as Aintab during Ottoman rule. The city, Turkey's sixth largest, has a vast and interesting history spanning as far back as the Hittites. During Turkey's War of Independence, the bravery and heroism of the local people gained the city an honorific. Today Gaziantep is a modern sprawling city and one of the most important agricultural centres of Turkey. It is the hub of pistachio cultivation in the country and is renowned for its baklava production which many claim is the best in the world. Expansive olive groves and vineyards can also be found in the city's surrounds. We pay a visit Gaziantep's impressive mosaics museum which houses stunning mosaics from the nearby Roman site of Belkis-Zeugma. Many of these mosaics have been restored to their original state. This evening is free to explore the city. (Driving time: 2 hours) (B)
Gaziantep – Ni?de - Cappadocia
Today we journey into Central Anatolia to our next destination - Cappadocia. On the way we have a stop for a lunch break in Ni?de, a small rural province in the southern part of Central Anatolia. The province is surrounded on three sides by ranges of the Taurus Mountains, including Mount Hasan and the Melendiz mountains. The plain is covered with nutritious volcanic soil and Nigde is a successful agricultural region, particularly apples and potatoes. The area has been settled since the Neolithic period of 8000-5500 BC. The area was later settled by the Hittites, who lived here for a thousand years up until 800BC. Then came Assyrians and Phrygians, Greeks, Persians, Alexander the Great, Romans, who built the city of Tyana with its palaces and waterworks. Roman rule persisted from the Eastern capital of Byzantium until the area was occupied by the Seljuk Turks from 1166 onwards. By the early 13th century Ni?de was one of the largest cities in Anatolia and a number of impressive mosques and tombs date from this period. The area was brought within the Ottoman Empire in 1471 and thus passed into the territory of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s. We then drive to the incredible underground city of Derinkuyu, with some dwellings containing rooms expanding seven levels beneath ground level! Late in the afternoon we will arrive at Cappadocia. We will be based here for the next three nights to explore the wonders of Turkey's most surreal region. Don't forget to pack sturdy, well worn in, walking shoes or boots and a comfy day pack, to explore the valley's of Cappadocia. (6 hours driving). (B)
After a relaxing breakfast we take a walk through Love Valley, where its magnificently sculptured, phallic rock formations have created one of the most surreal valleys of Cappadocia. Small valleys, cones, peaks and fairy chimneys blend harmoniously with fascinating caves. In the afternoon we drive to the unique Pasabaglari Valley, where multiple fairy chimneys hewn from the earth and shaped by centuries of erosion lend a moon-like landscape and atmosphere to the valley. A chapel dedicated to St. Simeon and a hermit's shelter are built into one of the fairy chimneys, which appears to have three heads! We walk today for a total of about three hours. In the afternoon we will take the opportunity to discover the local handcraft of the region and visit a carpet workshop were we will be fascinated by the beauty of the carpets, a tradition that reveals the nomadic origins of the Turkish people. Returning to Goreme, we have a night at leisure. We may have an opportunity to attend a folk dance show or witness an original Whirling Dervish 'Sema' performance. (B)
For early birds, there is the possibility of rising before dawn to take an awe-inspiring optional hot-air balloon ride over the 'otherworldly Cappadocia landscape and witness an amazing sunrise in the process. This morning we visit the Greme Open Air museum a fascination complex of medieval painted cave churches carved out by rock. The people of Greme, at the heart of the Cappadocia region, realised that the soft rocks of the area could be easily carved out to form houses, churches, monasteries. This Christian sanctuary contains many examples of Byzantine art from the post-iconoclastic period. These frescoes are a unique artistic achievement from the 10th - 12th centuries. There are several fascinating Byzantine cave chapels to explore, most of them decorated with exquisite and colourful biblical frescoes. (B)
End Istanbul airport
Our group arrangements end this morning in Cappadocia. You will be transferred to one of Cappadocia's airports for a flight back to Istanbul (unescorted) and the tour ends upon arrival at Istanbul airport at approximately 12pm. If booking onward air travel on this day please note this arrival time and any possible delays. Istanbul has so much to explore that we recommend booking some extra accommodation at the end of your tour. For those wishing to spend extra time in Istanbul, we can book a transfer into the city and additional nights' accommodation - Please enquire at time of booking. (B)
While the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
Key: (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner