(NOTE: This program is available on ANY day of the week. Just ask!)
Let us know if you need any assistance with transfers from your own Istanbul hotel (arrival or departure).
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul
Welcome to Turkey! We'll meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. In the afternoon, we will continue on a fun, half-day orientation tour of Istanbul.
* The Spice Bazaar/Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) transports you back to the Silk Road days with its mystical aromas of various spices. Here, you'll also find other shops selling fruits, vegetables, teas, flowers, fish, and Turkish Delight (lokum).
* Bosphorus Cruise takes you though the waterway separating the two continents, Europe and Asia; along its shores, you can take photographs of marble palaces and antique wooden Ottoman-era villas that sit beside luxurious modern residences.You will also see Dolmabahce Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, and Ortakoy Mosque.
After your Bosphorus tour, you will be taken to the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) and given plenty of time to explore and shop. Overnight in Istanbul
Day 2: Istanbul - (B/L)
After breakfast, around 8:30 AM, we will pick you up from your hotel and take you on your full-day tour of Istanbul.
Sites you'll see today:
* Blue Mosque/Sultanahmet Mosque (Camii) built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I during 1609-1616. It is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets. Due to its magnificent hand-dyed blue, green and white Iznik tiles it has been named the "Blue Mosque" by Europeans. The central dome is 43 m in height and is 33.4 m in diameter; it also boasts 260 windows.
* Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya is a truly awe-inspiring, 1,400-year-old Byzantine cathedral which houses mosaics, relics and iron work. Hagia Sophia was, for nearly a thousand years, the largest enclosed space in the world, and still seen as one of the world's most important architectural monuments. It is one of Turkey's most popular attractions, drawn by the sheer spectacle of its size, architecture, mosaics and art. Built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD..
.* Hippodrome: the backdrop of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life. Of the ornaments which once decorated it, only three remain: The Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine.
The Obelisk is in the Egyptian style and was erected in 1547 BC and stood 60m tall. The German Fountain is also within the hippodrome area, constructed in Germany to mark German Emperor Wilhelm II's second visit to Istanbul; it was imported and officially opened on January 1 1901. The fountain's three domes are decorated with gold mosaics.
* Topkapi Palace, the residence and administrative center of the Sultans during the Ottoman Empire, was constructed in 1459-1465 shortly after the establishment of Constantinople. You'll see the Treasury that houses the Topkapi Dagger, the 86-carat Spoon Maker's Diamond, and the jewel-encrusted bones of St. John the Baptist.
Grand Bazaar (Kapali carsi - "covered market") began construction in 1455 and opened in 1461. It is well known for its jewelry, pottery, spices, and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather coats, gold jewely, textiles, etc.
The bazaar contains two bedestens (domed masonry structures built for storage and safe keeping), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly enlarged in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1894, underwent a major restoration following an earthquake.
Today, the grand bazaar houses two mosques, two hamams, four fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes. The sprawling complex consists of 12 major buildings and has 22 doors. After the tour, return to the hotel. Overnight in ISTANBUL
Day 3: Istanbul to Safranbolu
11:00 AM: departure from our office or your hotel; we will transfer you to the main bus terminal of Istanbul, leaving approximately 12:00 PM for 5-hour bus ride to Safranbolu. Once you arrive, the hotel manager will be at the bus terminal, holding a sign that displays your name(s) and he will transfer you to hotel (an old ottoman house that's restored recently and turned into a guest room style hotel, all of the old styles, ornaments has been kept in the building. After you check in , you can go and enjoy Safranbolu.
Safranbolu is a quaint and traditional Black Sea town with narrow cobblestone streets and shops; there are many restored Ottoman dwellings here, and, therefore, Safranbolu has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In Ottoman times, the town lay on a major trade route. Its many handsome three-story stone-and-timber konaks (mansions) were erected by wealthy merchants and craftsmen. In the summer, these people lived in the cooler Baglar district, and in winter, they moved to the more sheltered Carsi (bazaar) quarter around the Kazdagi Mosque.
Day 4: Safranbolu - (B)
After breakfast, you will depart from your hotel for a day trip to Amasra; we'll enjoy a beautiful 1-hour scenic drive through little mountain villages. Once in Amasra, you'll have free time to explore. If the weather permits, you may choose to hire a boat for 15 Euros (approximate cost) for a 40-minute trip through the old city and its castles. Later in the afternoon, the driver will transfer you from Amasra to Safranbolu.
Little about Amasra
In the 6 th century BC Amasra was called Sesamus, and it is inhabitants were known as megara. The town has a cute small harbour with its Roman bridge and watch tower, it is one of the cutest town of the black sea region. Interesting places to see in the town include the Fatih Mosque a former Byzantine church and 19 th century iskele mosque, Some portions of the Byzantine city walls are still standing, as is a Roman bridge in the Harbor. Overnight in Safranbolu
Day 5: Safranbolu to Amasya - (B)
After breakfast, you'll take a bus from Safranbolu to Ankara, which is about 3 hours. Once you arrive, you'll have a few hours of free time. (If you choose to stay in Ankara, we can extend your tour and provide a couple more nights' accommodation in Ankara.) You'll depart from the Ankara bus terminal for Amasya (5 hours). Once you arrive, you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel.
Overnight in Amasya
Day 6: Amasya - (B)
Today is a free day for you to discover Amasya on your own.
A little about Amasya:
In Amasya, one can see the remnants of the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ilhanli, and Ottoman civilizations, as well as many important buildings from the early days of the Republic of Turkey. Amasya's museums contain a wealth of cultural treasures, and the city itself is endowed with historical and cultural opulence. Amasya Yaliboyu Houses have two stories and are excellent examples of Ottoman architecture, and are now being restored by AKTAV (Foundation of Protecting Cultural and Natural Wealth).
Amasya is famous for its thermal springs, as well as its apples, cherries, peaches and okra. If you would like to experience natural beauty as well as deep-rooted cultural traditions, look no further than Amasya.
Day 7: Amasya to Trabzon - (B)
After breakfast, you will depart for Trabzon by bus, cutting through the Black Sea mountains the entire way. After your arrival in Trabzon, you'll check into your hotel and have the evening free at leisure. Overnight in Trabzon
Day 8 - Trabzon - (B)
After breakfast, you will depart from your hotel for a day trip to Sumela Monastery, and once we get there, you will have the free time to explore the site. We'll drive through the picturesque Pontic Mountains and continue with a full-day tour of Sumela Monastery, Gumushane and Karaca Cave.
* Sumela Monastery sits high up on the cliffs of Mela, southeast of Trabzon. It was founded in the 4th century by two Greek monks, Barnabas and Sophronius, who were guided to the site by an icon of a "black" image of the Virgin Mary, elegantly painted by St. Luke. After their deaths, Sumela became a place of pilgrimage. Decorated with frescoes, Sumela's treasures include priceless manuscripts and silver plates. Since the monastery was rebuilt several times, the ruins seen today date largely to the 19th century. During the Ottoman era, Sumela enjoyed the protection of the sultans, but it was ultimately abandoned and also badly-damaged during the War of Independence. In recent years, thankfully, extensive restoration has been carried out
A little about Trabzon:
The earliest evidence of civilization in Trabzon dates back to 7,000 BC. Established as a Greek colony (along with Amasra and Sinop), the town benefited from its position on the busy trade route running between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. It grew quickly and was a focal point for the Pontic kings. At the beginning of the 13 th century, the Commagene dynasty established its capital at Trabzon. During the Commagene era, the city gained a reputation as a beautiful abd sophisticated cultural center. The Genoese and the Venetians came here to trade as Trabzon was the terminus of a northern branch of the Silk Route. In 1461, Trabzon fell under Ottoman rule.
Then you will visit Hagia Sophia Church and Ataturk's Mansion. Overnight in Trabzon
Day 9: Trabzon to Ayder - (B/D)
After breakfast, we'll depart Uzungol and drive on to Ayder and visit tea and kiwi plantations on the way. We'll be driving through the Firtina Valley and visit Camlihemsin and Goksu Falls. Later, we'll arrive in Ayder and check into our Ottoman-era wooden hotel.
Overnight in Ayder
Day 10: Ayder to Kars - (B/D)
After breakfast, we'll depart Parhal and drive on to Kars, and check into our hotel.
In the afternoon, we'll visit the medieval city of Ani, a ruined and uninhabited medieval Armenian city-site in Kars province, which sits alongside the Armenian border. It was once the capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom which covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey. A fortress once encircled Ani, with its most powerful defenses along the northern side of the city (the only part not protected by rivers or ravines).
Overnight in Kars
Day 11: Kars to Dogubeyazit - (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we will depart from Kars for our scenic drive to Dogubeyazit.
Dogubeyazit is Turkey's most eastern district, and it shares a border crossing with Iran. The town of Dogubeyazit is a settlement with a long history. After arrival we will check in the hotel.
Overnight in Dogubeyazit
Day 12: Dogubeyazit to Van - (B/L/D)
After breakfast we will start the day exploring and visiting the Ishak Pasa Sarayi (Palace).
* Ishak Pasa Palace is an Ottoman-period palace whose construction began in 1685 by Colak Abdi Pasha, the bey of Beyazit province. According to the inscription on its door, the Harem section of the palace was completed by his grandson Ishak (Isaac) Pasha in 1784. The Palace is more of a complex than it is a palace; it was the second-most important administrative center after Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The palace, built on the side of a mountain 5 km (3 mi.) east of Dogubeyazit, is a rare and magnificent example of the architectural style from the 18th-century Ottoman "Lale Devri" period.
After our visit, we'll be on our way to Van; on the way, we'll stop at Muradiye Falls, and also make other stops at scenic points where you may take pictures of Mt. Ararat. We then arrive in Van, whereupon you'll check into your hotel.
Overnight in Van
Day 13 - Van - (B/D)
Today, we will go on a full day tour exploring Hosap Village and Akdamar Island in Lake Van.
* Hosap Castle is a large medieval castle in the village of Hosap. According to a local tradition, the hands of the architect who built this formidable stronghold were cut off so that he could not build another.
Akdamar Island is the second largest of the four islands in Lake Van, about 3 km from the shoreline. At the western end of this island, a hard, grey, limestone cliff rises 80 m above the lake's surface level. The island slopes to the east to where a spring provides ample water. In addition, Akdamar is home to a 10th-century Armenian church, known as the Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross (915-921); it also was the seat of the Armenian Catholic Church from 1116 to 1895.
Overnight in Van.
Day 14: Van to Istanbul - (B)
After breakfast, we will provide a transfer to Van Airport and put you on a 2-hour flight back to Istanbul. Arriving in Istanbul will be the end of this program.
* * * Program ends * * *
We look forward to serving you again on a future trip!
Prices are starting from $_______ per person in a double, contact us to get a price quote for your dates
* All transportation in comfortable vehicles
* Centrally located charming hotels with breakfasts & 3 lunches
* Meals mentioned on the itinerary (with B/L/D codes)
* Professional, English-speaking guides
* Entrance fees to sites
* Domestic flight tickets from Van to Istanbul
* All service charges and local taxes
* Drinks with meals