Eastern Turkey Tour
Eastern Turkey Tour: Discover a treasure-trove of castles and tombs, four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Göbekli Tepe, possibly the world’s oldest temple.
with Professor Jennifer Tobin
Why Take The Eastern Turkey Tour?
- Eastern Turkey Tour is led by Jennifer Tobin who excavated at Zeugma
- Tour the new museum housing the mosaics from Zeugma.
- Private tour of Ayanis by the director of the archaeological project
- Private tour of Göbeklitepe, possibly the world’s oldest temple
- Tour four UNESCO Heritage Sites: Ani, Diyarbakır, Nemrud Dağ and Divriği Great Mosque.
- Sunset overlooking the Tomb of Antiochus on Mount Nemrud.
Eastern Turkey Tour Daily Itinerary
Day 1: Depart USA
Day 2: Arrive Istanbul. Fly to Kars
Day 3: Ani
Day 4: Ishak Pasa Seray. Ayanis. Tuşpa. Van
Day 5: Lake Van. Aktamar. Çavuştepe
Day 6: Ahlat. Transfer to Diyarbakir with city tour
Day 7: Private tour of Göbekli Tepe
Day 8: Harran. Sogmatar. Urfa
Day 9: Mt. Nemrut
Day 10: Mithra. Transfer to Malatya
Day 11: Divriği Gok Medrese
Day 12: Antep. Gaziantep
Day 13: Antep Market. Antakya Museum, Medieval Citadel
Day 14: Yılankale, Toprakkale, Adana Archaeology Museum
Day 15: Karatepe, Anavarza, Kastabala
Day 16: Depart for USA
As the battlefront of eastern and western cultures for thousands of years, the East contains an astonishing abundance of ancient castles and majestic fortified cities. The long drives are through picturesque scenery where the people of each village wear distinctive traditional attire, and nomads in colorful dress still live in tents while tending their flocks of fat-tailed sheepand long-haired goats.
Join Far Horizons, and only 13 others, on a 16-day tour to this remote and rarely-visited region of Turkey. By special arrangement, enjoy a private tour of Göbekli Tepe, possibly the world’s oldest temple predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years. From the mountains of eastern Anatolia, to the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, to the Cilician plain, through visiting sites of great variety and interest, temples, monasteries, and mosques, cities and castles, and the bustling historic towns of the region, we will tour and explore the remarkable history and culture of Eastern Turkey, truly a crossroad of civilizations.
‘Two weeks later, and I am still dreaming about the trip every night – castles, old towns, ruins, stone carvings, ancient, ancient sites. I love seeing things far from the crowd. I love the historical context and how that enriches my appreciation of the entire region and world. I love when a trip is so intense, it will color the rest of my life.’ – Cathy Scofield
Jennifer Tobin received her BA in Classical Studies from Stanford University and her PhD in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. From 1992-97, she was Assistant Professor at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. In 1997, she returned to the United States and is now Associate Professor of History and Classics at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Professor Tobin has worked on archaeological projects in Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and Greece. Dr. Tobin speaks Modern Greek, German, French, Italian and Turkish, and has published widely on everything from Roman architecture in Syria to Alexander the Great. Her books include Black Cilicia: A Study of the Plain of Issus during the Roman and Late Roman Periods and Herodes Attikos and the City of Athens. She is currently working on a project entitled “The Domestic Architecture and Stratigraphy from Zeugma.” She has been a featured teacher for Learn Out Loud, recorded not-for-credit lecture courses taught by university professors, including the Glory that was Greece and The Grandeur that was Rome. Twice a recipient of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Silver Circle Teaching Award, Professor Tobin’s enthusiasm, marvelous teaching skills, and appreciation of the people and archaeology of Greece and Turkey is infectious.
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Fly to Istanbul.
Day 3: Just outside Kars is the ancient Armenian capital of Ani. Considered the greatest achievement of medieval architecture to be seen anywhere in Turkey, this 11th century metropolis once was home for 100,000 people. In 2016 was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the extraordinary walled city still contains spectacular frescos that proclaim the richness of the city’s inhabitants and the excellence of the designers. After walking through the city, drive on to Dogubeyazit, on the border with Armenia and with stunning views overlooking the sacred Mount Ararat. Overnight in the Ertur Boutique Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Begin the day with a visit to the İshak Paşa Sarayı, where a dazzling array of pointed domes and striped minaret invoke images from “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.” Built in the 17th century by a local feudal lord, this lovely palace is one of the most unusual monuments in Turkey and is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. The building is noteworthy not only for its beautiful classical style but also for its internal central heating system. After a brief stop at Muradiye Waterfall, continue through breathtaking scenery to Ayanis, the ancient capital of Urartu, where the director of archaeological excavations will give us a private tour. Then it’s on to the city of Van. Located on the edge of Turkey’s largest lake within a lush green oasis encircled by stunning mountain peaks, this city is also famous for the Van Cat, a pure white, longhair feline with one blue eye and the other green. Van is the site of the former Urartian capital of Tuşpa. We will climb to Van Fortress, created in the 8th century B.C. This impressive citadel with its royal tomb chambers and cuneiform inscriptions numbers among the world’s most magnificent architectural monuments, and is a superb example of Urartian skills as stone masons. Then it’s on to the Van Archaeological Museum to view remarkable artifacts found in the area. Overnight for two nights in the Hotel Elit in Van. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Lake Van is sprinkled with islands, several containing thousand-year-old monasteries and churches. This morning board a cruiser to cross the lake to Akdamar to view a breathtaking 10th-century church constructed by an Armenian king. Built of carved red stone blocks, the walls of the chapel are adorned with exquisite friezes depicting stories from the Old Testament. The Urartian civilization flourished from the ninth to the sixth century BC and stretched from modern Armenia in the north to the mountains of Hakkari in the south and from Iran’s Lake Urmia in the east to Malatya in the west. We will drive to Çavuştepe, a fortress that perches on a mountaintop with spectacular views of the surrounding area. A cuneiform inscription on a temple here proclaims King Sardui II, who ruled between 764 and 735 BC, as the builder of the stronghold. Then it’s on to nearby Hoşap Castle, built by a Kurdish warlord in 1643. According to local tradition, the hands of the architect who built this formidable stronghold were cut off so that he could never build another palace of this quality. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Traverse spectacular scenery today with a stop at Ahlat, an historic town located on the northwestern edge of Lake Van. Begin in the town’s small museum with its interesting selection of artifacts including beautifully glazed pots and fine Urartian bronze-work. Nearby is Ulu Kümbet, the appropriately named Great Tomb, built between 1273 and 1275 for a Mongol chieftain. Almost sixty feet high and topped by a conical stone roof, the 12-sided building is embellished with exquisitely carved decorations. Also see 10th century Malabadi Bridge, when built one of the longest spanned stone arch bridges in the world. It is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. But the town is primarily known for its cemeteries containing forests of still standing Seljuk tombstones from the 12th and 13th centuries, most seven or eight feet tall with rich, ornate carvings. Continue to Diyarbakır, at least 5,000 years old and one of the oldest cities in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diyarbakır is encircled by a massive parapet built of jet-black blocks of basalt more than three miles long that is a perfect example of medieval military architecture. This 4th century wall is covered with inscriptions and carved reliefs and from the top there are magnificent vistas overlooking the Tigris River valley including the Hevsel Gardens, a green link between the city and the Tigris that supplied the city with food and water. This evening’s walking tour will take us along the walls, and to Ulu Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Anatolia. Dinner and overnight in the Radison Blu Hotel in Diyarbakir. (B/L/D)
Day 7: This morning we drive from Diyarbikir to Urfa where we have lunch. Göbeklitepe has caused quite a stir in the international news in the last decade, and is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. According to the archaeologists working here, Göbeklitepe may be the world’s oldest temple dating back to 12,000 years ago and predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years. Excavations have uncovered several circles of standing stones and inside each are two 16-foot tall T-shaped pillars towering over the ring of shorter stones. Many of these are richly adorned with carvings of foxes, vultures, lions and other wild animals. We will meet with the director of excavations who will give us a private tour of the latest discoveries. After our tour, drive back to Urfa, or Şanlıurfa, with origins that are rooted in the Bronze Age. Renamed Edessa in the 4th century BC, it became a famous religious and intellectual center during the Byzantine period. Overnight for two nights in the Hilton Garden Inn in Urfa. (B/L/D)
Day 8: Numerous historical ruins are located in and around Urfa. Sited along the road that ran from Nineveh to Carchemish, Harran was of considerable importance to the Assyrian kings and was mentioned in the bible as the place where Abraham brought his family after they left Ur. Occupied for more than 5,000 years, it is now known for the curious beehive shaped homes scattered through the village. Soğmatar was a center for Septimism, derived from the Cult of Sin (the moon god) in Harran, and also for the cult of Marillaha, lord of the gods. Another temple, Pognon Cave, was hollowed out of the rock and the walls bear Syriac writing and reliefs depicting human figures that may represent the planets. After returning to Urfa, our walk through the old quarter takes us to Urfa Bazaar, with its interesting display of local goods. Then we will visit two museums – The Urfa Archaeology Museum and the Halepli Bahce Mozaic Museum, home to the famous “warrior Amazon queen” mosaics. We will see the city’s 10th century Great Mosque that was constructed on what was thought to be the birthplace of Abraham, and an ancient castle that crowns the citadel. The current walls were constructed by the Abbasids in 814AD. (B/L/D)
Day 9: The Kingdom of Commagene emerged as a Roman puppet state in the first century BC. The most renowned ruler was King Antiochus I, an Armenian king whose lineage connected him to the Seleucids, Ptolemies, and Macedonians. He ruled the territory in the 1st century B.C. and built his extraordinary mausoleum on the summit of Mt. Nemrut, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Certainly one of the most extraordinary tombs in the world, from the spectacular sanctuary we can see for almost fifty miles across the Mesopotamian Plain. Our climb takes us to both the East and West Terraces to see the huge statues of Hellenistic gods – Apollo, Zeus, Fortuna – with the king prominently seated among them. The western terrace contains a large slab with a lion, showing the arrangement of stars and the planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars, and due to the astronomical alignments, it is believed to have been a place for religious ceremonies. After watching the sunset, overnight at the Euphrat Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 10: This morning we visit several impressive sites. Dominated by a large relief of the Persian god, Mithra, Arsameia was the tomb that Antiochus built for his father. Seen here is a large stele depicting this god, also known as Apollo the sun god, wearing a cap with sunrays radiating from it. Behind the monument is a cave entrance leading to an underground room thought to have been built for Mithras-worshipping rites. The tumulus of Karakus was built to house the burials of Commagene queens and princesses. The monumental tomb, constructed by Commagene’s King Mithradates II, was dedicated to his mother Isas. To get there, we cross Cendere, the Roman bridge built to honor Septimus Severus that spans the Kahta River in one single arch. Continue to Malatya where we overnight for two nights in the Ramada Plaza Kaysi Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 11: Today’s long drive takes us to the rarely-visited Divriği Gok Medrese, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most elaborately decorated medieval monument in Anatolia. One of the trip’s highlights, it was constructed in 1227. The architect, Ahmed Shah, came from Ahlat and the style of the carvings is similar to the designs on the tombstones there. He created the mosque and hospital using a highly sophisticated technique of vault construction that is celebrated for the creative, exuberant decorative sculpture that adorns the doorways. (B/L/D)
Day 12: Malatya Museum houses incredible finds from the lower Euphrates area and we begin here today. As we drive to Gaziantep, stop to visit the Antep Museum and Castle, and the Roman frontier city of Zeugma, strategically located on the Euphrates River. Hidden for centuries under thick layers of dirt that almost completely obscured its former grandeur, the city has been remarkably well preserved. Here, high ranking Roman officials, army officers and wealthy merchants built great courtyard houses containing fine works of art including exquisite mosaic floors. It is not surprising that many have labeled Zeugma the “Turkish Pompeii.” The Birecik dam and hydroelectric plant is now complete, and the lake formed by the dam is beginning to inundate part of this important site. Then it’s on to Gaziantep, which traces its roots back to the Hittites. Dominating the city is the citadel where fortifications date back to the Roman times and perhaps earlier. Our final stop is at the city’s Archaeological Museum with collections from Neolithic and the Hittite ages as well as the Roman and Commagene times. Recently, the museum acquired the spectacular Roman mosaics discovered in Zeugma regarded as unparalleled masterpieces of Roman art. After visiting the museum, we will stroll through the market, famous for copperware and sweet pastries. Overnight in the Sirehan Boutique Hotel in Gaziantep. (B/L/D)
Day 13: Depart Gaziantep for Antakya, formerly known as Antioch. At the Hatay Archeological Museum view artifacts from the Paleolithic Age to Ottoman times and the incredible collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. Then drive and walk to the citadel overlooking the city. Originally fortified by the Romans, this was where the siege of Antioch lasted for seven and a half months as the army of the First Crusade battled with Muslim forces for control of the area. With the assistance of an Armenian traitor, the gates were opened and the army entered and conquered the city. Overnight in the Savon Hotel in Antakya. (B/L/D)
Day 14: Our drive today takes us from Antakya to Adana. Along the way we stop to view two important sites. Yılankale is a large medieval crusader castle crowning a high rocky hill overlooking the Ceyhan River. The home of the crusader knights of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, the fortress was strongly protected as it guarded the road to Antakya. Its curtain wall follows the contour of the natural escarpment and is strengthened by seven horseshoe-shaped towers almost 45 feet tall. Nearby Toprakkale may have originally been built in the 4th century B.C. In 786 it was rebuilt of imposing basalt stones by Harun al-Rashid, the fifth Abbasid caliph. Our last stop will be in the Adana Archaeology Museum, the repository of stunning artifacts from the Hittite Period to present day. Overnight in the Hilton Hotel in Adana for two nights. (B/L/D)
Day 15: We visit three spectacular sites today. The Hittite fortress of Karatepe was founded in the 8th century B.C. by Azatiwatis, ruler of the plain of Adana, as a frontier castle against the wild hordes lurking in the north. During excavations an important bilingual Phoenician and Hittite hieroglyphic inscription was found that enabled archaeologists to decipher Hittite hieroglyphics. The castle at Anavarza, known as Caesarea or Anazarbus during the Roman Empire, is sited on a steep outcrop overlooking the Cilician Plain. During the chaotic centuries which followed the rise of the Islam, Anazarbus remained as a buffer zone between the Arabs and the Byzantines and frequently changed hands between the two sides. In the 11th century, Crusaders took over and built a donjon, or keep, at the highest point. It was ultimately taken over by the Armenians and remained in their hands until destroyed by the Mamlukes. Today we can see the long city wall with 20 bastions, four entrances, a colonnaded street, and ruins of a bath house and of a church. Outside the fortifications are the remains of a stadium and theater. Dating back to at least the first century B.C., Kastabala has a long history. According to Strabon of Amasya, it was long a sacred center to Artemis Perasia. We know the city was called Hierapolis – Kastabala because inscriptions were discovered at the end of the 19th century that named the city. The remains of the Roman city are still visible including a colonnaded street that was built around 200 A.D. (B/L)
Day 16: An early departure from Adana Airport takes us to Istanbul and our international flight back to the USA. (B)
$9,695.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes round trip international flights from New York to Istanbul; two domestic flights in Turkey; all ground transportation; all hotels; all meals (except last dinner); gratuities to guides and drivers; and entry fees.
Cost Does Not Include: A tax-deductible check for $150.00 per person made out to the donation project; airport transfers for flights other than designated group flights; meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, alcoholic and other beverages not on set menus; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; laundry; personal tips; email, telephone, and fax charges; laundry or other items of a personal nature.
Single Supplement: $755.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
Donation Checks: The cost of the trip does not include the separate donation check for $150.00. As a tour company that benefits from the historical, cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to scholars, archaeological and cultural projects, and museums in each of our destinations. This has created a bond with the academic community that allows you to gain an ‘insider’s view’ of work being done in each country. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. The donation is required as part of your registration and a donation project for this trip will be assigned shortly.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
A deposit of $500.00 is required along with the separate check made out to the donation project and your completed and signed registration form. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Click here to download the Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 90 days before departure will result in an administrative fee of $300.00. Cancellations received less than 90 days prior to departure will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the tour, we will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to purchase travel insurance that includes trip cancellation upon registration.
If you do not fly on the group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased.
All tourists traveling to Turkey must acquire an e-visa online – www.evisa.gov.tr – as visas can no longer be obtained upon arrival into Turkey.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Travel in this Part of the World
Hotels and transportation in eastern Turkey may not be up to western standards. Changes in both accommodations and flight times may occur, and there may be times when no bellhops are available. At times we will be walking over uneven terrain for a mile or more. Please remember that most castles are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing stairs. This may mean one hundred steps or more, and these steps will frequently be uneven with risers at different heights. All participants are expected to be physically active and able to walk independently throughout our very full touring days. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility; please do not expect assistance from the other participants or staff. Several days will include long drives in the bus. A good book to read, a flexible attitude, team spirit and a good sense of humor will reward you with a wonderful and memorable experience! If you have questions or concerns about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
The Archaeological Tour of Eastern Turkey is Limited to a Maximum of 14 Participants