Arrive directly in Istanbul. Pick up at the airport and shared transfer to the hotel. In the evening orientation by tour leaders.
After breakfast the group will depart for the Hippodrome, where the group will split into two: some can visit the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, and others can visit the Basilica Cistern and the Archaeological Museum complex, including the Oriental Museum. Lunch will be at a local restaurant.
After lunch visit Topkapi Palace including the Harem. Early evening you will depart for the Grand Bazaar, a fascinating place to see traders and do some shopping. Return to the hotel for dinner.
Situated on the Bosphorus, Istanbul is one of the world's truly great cities, spanning two continents - overflowing with culture and historical sites. World class attractions such as the exquisite Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, excellent bars and restaurants, ancient architecture, vibrant souks markets and a history of epic proportions makes Istanbul a worthy of its reputation.
After breakfast in Istanbul, transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Adiyaman (11:05-12:40). Proceed to visit Karakus Timulus, Cendere Bridge and Arsemia. Finally you will visit Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut). At the apex of this mountain (at over 2,000 meters) are the enigmatic statues of a pre-Roman king, Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, and the various gods he believed to be his ancestors. The views from the summit are sublime. (NOTE it is a 20-30 minute walk up steps to reach the summit). You will then descend and drive to your hotel in Adiyaman.
Note: a light lunch will be served on the flight
Cendere Bridge is one of the world's oldest bridges still in use, constructed during the empire of Septimus Severus (193-211). Composed of 92 stones, each weighing around 10 tons, it is thought to be the second largest Roman bridge still in existence, spanning an impressive 122 metres. The bridge today appears as a simple, unadorned arch, but was originally decorated by four Corinthian columns dedicated to Septimus Severus and his wife.
Arsemia was the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom and burial place of Mithridates. It is home to the largest rock inscription found in Anatolia, which describes the political and religious beliefs of the inhabitants.
King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene claimed himself a god, but there is no denying that his royal lineage was impressive. He was the creator of Mount Nemrut and the monumental pantheon of statues of himself and the gods on the mountain summit provide ring-side seats to history unfolding on the staged landscape before them. Gazing towards the east over centuries, the headstone of Antiochus would have seen the rise and fall of the Achaemenid Dynasty, as well as the Parthians; and gazing towards the west he would have seen the advance of Alexander the Great, the rivalry between the Seleucid and Orontid Dynasties for control of Armenia and finally the Roman legions marching into his land, swallowing his little Kingdom of Commagene. Behind the display of statues are some well-preserved slabs of stone which feature figures in relief carving and are originally thought to have formed a large frieze. Archaeologists interpret the figures as Antiochus' ancestors, which included Greeks and Persians. It is the perfect place to experience a sunset or sunrise as the views from the summit are sublime.
NOTE: it is a 20-30 minute walk up uneven steps to reach the summit.
Today we drive to Urfa, which is the starting point to visit Gōbekli Tepe and the Urfa Archaeological Museum. We will spend a couple of hours exploring Gōbekli Tepe, the world's oldest stone temple complex, constructed nearly 12,000 years ago, making it the oldest megalithic site on the planet. See its extraordinary circles of T-shaped standing stones with carved reliefs of birds, animals and other abstract forms. Learn its history and place in the origins of civilisation. Afterwards we will go to the museum to see artifacts excavated from Gōbekli Tepe. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Göbekli Tepe, the oldest place of worship in the world, is an archaeological site without equal. Prior to its discovery in 1994 and its subsequent excavation it was widely believed by anthropologists that religion evolved as a result of living in larger communities which was itself the result of the change from foraging to agriculture. However, Göbekli Tepe has turned our theories of our own evolution on their head. The vast religious site dates from the hunter gatherer period and there is no evidence of any agriculture or even human habitation, suggesting that it may have been the emergence of religion that lead us to civilisation and thus to agriculture. The site contains a vast array of circular structures and huge pillars, some with beautiful limestone carvings of lions, foxes, snakes and birds, believed to be gatekeepers of the entrance to the next world. To date, less than ten percent of the site has been excavated.
The Urfa Museum contains many of the archaeological finds from Göbekli Tepe including steles and sculptures. It also contains Hittite sculptures from Golpinar and pieces from Harran, Nevali Cori and Kabahaydar.
In the morning we will visit Harran and Karahan Tepe. In the afternoon you will visit the Pools of Abraham in Urfa and have the rest of the day free to explore Urfa's charming centre. Dinner at the hotel.
Urfa (a.k.a. Sanliurfa, "the prophet's city", or Edessa in ancient times) is the most spiritual city in Eastern Turkey. It is a major centre for pilgrimage and its traditions are very much alive and well. The "Sanli-" part of its name (meaning "great" or "dignified") was awarded by the Turkish legislature in 1984 in recognition of the city's pivotal role in the Turkish war of Independence. Of particular note for visitors are Urfa Castle (the current walls were constructed by the Abbasids in 814AD), the Pool of Sacred Fish where Abraham was thrown in to the fire by Nimrod, the park of mosques, the market area and the Urfa museum.
Visit the near by ancient city of Harran, once the centre of Egypt's Hermetic tradition. See its "Astrological Tower", citadel and local village and take in one of the most atmospheric sites anywhere in the world. Mentioned in the Book of Genesis, Harran is believed to have once been home to the Prophet Abraham. The site of the first Islamic university in Anatolia, Harran also boasts the remains of an 8th century mosque, a citadel and some 300 year- old beehive mud homes which enjoy a constant temperature throughout the year, winter or summer.
Not far from Göbekli Tepe is another Pre-Pottery Neolithic site called Karahan Tepe, which dates to a similar age as Göbekli Tepe. Stone rows, T-shaped stone pillars, and other standing stones cover a hill but they have not been excavated.
Take the morning flight to the capital Ankara. On arrival we will drive (approx 2.5 hours) to Gordion, followed by the Anatolian Civilisation Museum of Ankara and then Ankara Fort. In the museum you can expect to see artefacts and reconstructions from various Neolithic sites such as Catalhoyuk. Return to hotel in Ankara.
The Ankara Anatolian Civilisation Museum boasts many archaeological finds related to the excavations in Hattusa and Çatalhöyük, and will help you to gain a good understanding of these areas. The historical centre of Ankara sits overlooking the town on a hill and is littered with the remains of Hittite, Phrygian, Byzantine, Roman and Christian monuments and settlements. Of particular interest as a surviving example of ancient architecture is the Temple of Augustus. Often also referred to as 'Angora', Ankara is home to the Angora goat with its luxury wool and the unusual animal breeds of angora cats and rabbits.
Occupied since the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago, Gordion is one of the most important archaeological sites in the near east. The city enjoyed its golden age in the first millennium when it was the royal capital of the Iron Age Kingdom known as 'Phrygia' to the Greeks and 'Mushki' to the neighbouring Assyrian Empire. It is most famous for the story of the "Gordion Knot", where Alexander The Great solved the insoluble by slicing this particular knotty problem with his sword rather than unravel it - thus allowing him to conquer Asia.
After an early breakfast we will set off from Ankara to the Hittite capital of Hattusa (approx 3 hours drive). Spend 2-3 hours exploring the site and after lunch proceed by road to Cappadocia (3 hours). Dinner on arrival at hotel in Gōreme.
Note: this day will involve quite a lot of driving.
Hattusa was once the centre of the Hittite Empire, dating back to the late Bronze Age. Set in what were once rich agricultural fields and among scenic, rolling hills, the city has some fine examples of early ancient architecture. Originally the inner city was a vast array of temples and monuments, overlooked by the royal residence on the acropolis. An architectural masterpiece in its time, the city gateway was once adorned with reliefs of warriors, lions and sphinxes, framing four temples, each of which had their own courtyard. The city was destroyed, along with the Hittites themselves, in the 12th century BC. By the 20th century, the principal remains of Hittite inscriptions were found on over 10,000 tablets.
The archaeological site of Hattusa, former capital of the Hittite Empire, is notable for its urban organization, the types of construction that have been preserved (temples, royal residences, fortifications), the rich ornamentation of the Lions' Gate and the Royal Gate, and the ensemble of rock art reliefs of the gods at Yazilikaya. The city enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium B.C.
After breakfast spend the day exploring some of Cappadocia's famous sights and dramatic landscapes. Sites will include: Gōreme Open Air Museum, Devrent Valley, Pasabag and Monk's Valley. Time and energy-permitting, other sights can also be visited.
The Gōreme Open-Air Museum has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 and is a vast complex of monasteries, each of which has its own church. These churches are the finest of the rock-cut churches, boasting beautiful frescoes (wall paintings).
Devrent Valley is home to the famous Fairy Chimneys landscape near Gōreme and is known as the imaginary valley or animal valley due to the animal shapes of the rocks. The volcanic rock of this area has allowed erosion to form these rock structures as well as other landforms such as caves, clefts and folds in the rock, making this breathtaking landscape unique. A thick layer of tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) is covered by a thinner layer of basalt which is more resistant to erosion than the underlying rock. Cracks in the basalt enable erosion of the underlying rock. These fairy chimneys were formed where the resistant rock remains protecting the underlying rock directly beneath it from erosion. The mineral-rich volcanic soil is excellent for growing fruit and vegetables, making Cappadocia a rich agricultural region. It has always been one of Anatolia's prime grape-growing areas and still boasts many productive vineyards and wineries.
Spend the day visiting more of the fascinating sights around Cappadocia, including a gentle hike in the Red Valley passing through the village of Cavusin famous for its rock-cut churches. After lunch visit the impressive underground city of Kaymakli and then Pigeon Valley and Ortahisar chimney castle.
The Red Valley and Güllüdere Vadisi (Rose Valley) are two spectacular valleys in the Cappadocia region, each with varying types of rock formations and colour. The red valley shelters a series of intriguing rock-cut cave churches, with beautiful frescoes and paintings. Nearby is the Pigeon valley, named after the pigeon-cotes carved on its walls. The village of Old Cavusin was abandoned several decades ago due to avalanches. The current village of Cavusin is located on the road and is the typical authentic village. Old Cavusin, with its rock cut dwellings and stone houses is home to the oldest church in Cappadocia. Ortahisar is another Cappadocian village dominated by a fortress-like rock rising above winding roads.
There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia and the largest one is Kaymakli Underground City. These troglodyte cave-cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, and expanded over the centuries as various pillaging armies crossed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder. The Kaymakli Underground City has low, narrow and sloping passages and consists of eight floors below ground, although only four of them are open to the public today. The number of the storage rooms in such a small area supports the idea that a great number of people resided here, archaeologists estimate figures of up to 3,500 people. As well as chapels, stables and storage, an efficient man-made system of air shafts provided ventilation even at the deepest levels of the underground cities, meaning people could survive there for lengths of time when necessary. The people of Kaymakli village have constructed their houses above nearly 100 tunnels of the underground city. The inhabitants of the region still use the most convenient places in the tunnels as cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through their courtyards.
Amongst beautiful scenery, the Valley of Pigeons showcases some of the most interesting rock formations that Cappadocia has to offer. The soft rock of the valley allowed for farmers to carve numerous dovecotes into the rock cliffs, encouraging pigeons to nest and giving the area its name.
Drive towards Konya. On the way, we stop at Ashikli Hoyuk for a brief visit to this site, which is 10,000 years old. Stop for lunch. Visit Çatalhöyük, the world's oldest city, then return to Konya for a tour around its archaeological museum, with its spectacular Çatalhöyük exhibition. In the evening take in a Whirling Dervish show.
Konya is an affluent, mid-sized city in Central Turkey. It is the centre of all things Sufi and also strongly linked to Seljuk culture.
Çatalhöyük, widely believed to be the world's first town, is one of the best preserved examples of a Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement. Built around two hills of the Anatolian plateau, the settlement was inhabited for 2,000 years between 7500 BC and 5700 BC. Çatalhöyük began life as a village and, unusually, in a time when village settlements were abandoned and new land used to build cities, the buildings were adapted and urbanised to accommodate a growing population. With a particularly advanced culture for its time, Çatalhöyük boasts impressive early artworks: unusual artistic wall paintings, flint daggers with decorated bone handles and most notably, the clay and marble figurines found scattered around the site which archaeologists take as evidence of a female deity. The housing designs are perhaps the most striking – all the houses were clustered together in a maze-like manner, but instead of streets or footpaths the roofs functioned as paths between the houses which were accessed through steps and ladders leading through the ceiling. With no windows either, these 'doorways' in the ceiling were also the only means of ventilation. Çatalhöyük also had unusual burial customs, burying their dead under the floorboards, painting skulls with ochre.
Take the morning flight back to Istanbul. End your trip with a delightful sunset cruise on the famous Bosphorus river, and enjoy a farewell dinner with your group and tour leaders.
Joining the Black Sea with the smaller south-western Sea of Marmara, the 20 mile-long Bosphorus has always been a site of great strategic and commercial importance. The desirable traits of providing access to Asia and being particularly narrow has meant that The Bosphorus has a long history of conflict that dates back to the 5th century BC with the Persians. The Bosphorus' shoreline is densely populated and possesses a number of architectural features that demonstrate its rich historical past.
Depart from hotel to airport to catch flight back home or elsewhere.
** If you would like to extend your stay in Turkey or any of the neighbouring countries contact us for options. **