Eastern Turkey Tour
Eastern Turkey Tour: Discover a treasure-trove of castles and tombs, six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and both Karahantepe and Göbekli Tepe, possibly the world’s oldest temples.
with Professor Jennifer Tobin
May 13 – 28, 2024
Why Take The Eastern Turkey Tour?
- Eastern Turkey Tour is led by Professor 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 Göbekli Tepe, maybe the world’s oldest temple
- Visit Neolithic Karahantepe, possibly older than Göbekli Tepe
- Tour six UNESCO Heritage Sites: Ani, Diyarbakır & Hevsel Gardens, Göbekli Tepe, Nemrud Dağ, Arslantepe, and Divriği Great Mosque
- See the imposing religious sanctuary-tomb of Antiochus on Mt. Nemrud
- Limited to only 14 participants
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: Göbeklitepe.
Day 8: Urfa city tour.
Day 9: Karahantepe, Harran.
Day 10: Mt. Nemrud
Day 11: Arsameia. Transfer to Malatya.
Day 12: Divriği Gok Medrese. Arslantepe
Day 13: Antep Castle. Mosaic Museum.
Day 14: Zeugma.
Day 15: Samandag. Daphne. Antakya Museum.
Day 16: Depart for USA.
‘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
‘To be honest, this trip was my second choice after Iran, but I jumped at the chance when it was offered to me by Far Horizons. I’ve seldom made a better decision. Eastern Anatolia is far richer in antiquities than I had realized.’ – Don Swanson
‘This was a fantastic trip. Correctly priced for the level of expertise, information, and personal attention that was provided. Perfect quantity of new and interesting information delivered by guides. Will definitely be travelling with Far Horizons again once I recover from this one.’ – Daniel Massey
‘This trip was fabulous! Gobekli Tepe was as good as it gets. However, the other sites were well worth the trip. The guides were top rate and the food was enjoyable. Highly recommended for those who like to experience cultures.’ – Tamara Ferrari
‘This is clearly among the best tours I have ever taken, and I am delighted to have been able to participate.’ – Doug Grant
Eastern Turkey conjures up images of women in veils, mustached gentlemen in turbans with drawn sabers in hand and camel trains winding through the desolate wilderness. In fact, the huge mass of eastern Anatolia is a diverse land differing profoundly from the rest of the country. These remote provinces vary from formidable mountain peaks, lush forests with cascading waterfalls, verdant pastures, and in vivid contrast, arid deserts in the south. And as the battlefront of eastern and western cultures for thousands of years, the East contains an astonishing abundance of remains from the past.
Join Far Horizons, and only 13 others, on a 16-day tour to this remote and rarely visited region of Turkey. See six UNESCO Heritage Sites – Ani, Diyarbakır & Hevsel Gardens, Göbekli Tepe, Nemrud Dağ, Arslantepe, and Divriği Great Mosque. And by special arrangement, enjoy a private tour of Göbekli Tepe, possibly the world’s oldest temple predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, and Ayanis, the last capital of the Urartu. See Karahantepe, perhaps even older than Göbekli Tepe. Journey from the mountains of eastern Anatolia, to the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, to the Cilician plain. Along the way, visit Neolithic temples, medieval churches and mosques, formidable castles, and the historic towns of the region. And learn about the remarkable history and culture of Eastern Turkey, truly a crossroad of civilizations.
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. She is now Professor Emerita of History and Classics, University of Illinois, Chicago. Professor Tobin has worked on archaeological projects in Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and Greece. She 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 has been a featured teacher for The Modern Scholar series – 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 the Mediterranean World is infectious.
“Her explanations and hand-outs were excellent and she was always ready to discuss various topics and answer questions. In spite of being a ‘Roman’ expert, she knew a lot about every other culture and site we visited. Always patient, never seemed stressed. We would travel with her as a study leader any time.” – Suzy & Bill Fletcher
“Jennifer tabulated 23 different civilizations we saw evidence for on the trip. In just two weeks! Jennifer is the best—knowledgeable, sharing, open to questions, well prepared, and just a very nice person.” – Don Swanson
“Professor Tobin was excellent. Well prepared, great handouts for later reference, expansive and gracious with all our questions. Her experience in the region was useful on many fronts and I would like to travel with her again.” – Daniel Massey
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Fly to Istanbul.
Day 2: Arrive Istanbul. Transfer to our flight to Kars. Dinner and overnight in Kars at the Katerina Sarayi Hotel. (D)
Day 3: Just outside Kars is the ancient Armenian capital of Ani. Clearly the greatest achievement of medieval architecture to be seen anywhere in Turkey, this 11th century metropolis once was home for 100,000 people. Consequently, in 2016 Ani was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the extraordinary walled city still contains splendid frescos that proclaim the richness of the city’s inhabitants and the excellence of the designers. After exploring the site, drive on to Dogubeyazit. This town is on the border with Armenia. And from here we will witness stunning views of sacred Mount Ararat. Overnight in the Ertur Boutique Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 4: İshak Paşa Saray is a dazzling array of pointed domes and striped minaret invoking images from “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.” Notably, a local feudal lord built this citadel in the 17th century. This lovely palace is one of the most memorable monuments in Turkey. And, for this reason, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. The edifice 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 rarely visited Ayanis, the last castle complex of the Urartians. Here, we meet Professor Mehmet Isikli, the director of the archaeological project who will give us a private tour of excavations. Then it’s on to Van. This city is handsomely positioned on the edge of Turkey’s largest lake within a lush green oasis encircled by stunning mountain peaks. Interestingly, it is also famous for the Van Cat, a pure white, longhair feline with one blue eye and the other green. Van is the location of the 9th century BC former Urartian capital of Tuşpa. This 3,000-year-old citadel is among the world’s most magnificent architectural monuments as observed by its royal tomb chambers and cuneiform inscriptions. Additionally, it is a superb example of the skills of Urartian stone masons. Lastly, stop by 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: The Urartian fortress of Çavuştepe perches on a mountaintop with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Clearly a very old stronghold, a cuneiform inscription on a temple here proclaims King Sardui II, who ruled between 764 and 735 BC, as the builder. Nearby Lake Van is sprinkled with islands, several containing thousand-year-old monasteries and churches. We will 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. (B/L/D)
Day 6: As we traverse spectacular scenery, we will stop at Ahlat, an historic town located on the northwestern edge of Lake Van. Here, the town’s small museum contains an interesting selection of artifacts including beautifully glazed pots and fine Urartian bronze-work. Nearby is the Ulu Kümbet, or 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. Afterward, see the 10th century Malabadi Bridge. When built it was one of the longest spanned stone arch spans in the world. Thus, UNESCO has placed it on the World Heritage Tentative List. However, Ahlat is primarily known for its fascinating cemeteries. Forests of elaborately decorated Seljuk tombstones still stand. Created in the 12th and 13th centuries, most stand seven or eight feet tall adorned with rich, ornate carvings. Later continue to Diyarbakır, at least 5,000 years old and one of the oldest cities in the world. Diyarbakır is encircled by a massive parapet built of jet-black blocks of basalt more than three miles long. It is a perfect example of medieval military architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the top there are magnificent vistas overlooking the Tigris River valley including the Hevsel Gardens, also with UNESCO World Heritage status. Part of the Fertile Crescent, this landscape linked the city with the Tigris River. This huge green space has played a vital role in keeping the city provisioned and watered since the ninth century BC. 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 at the Dies Hotel in Diyarbakir. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Today’s destination is Göbekli Tepe, perhaps the world’s oldest temple dating back to 11,000 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. Furthermore, many of these are richly garnished with carvings of foxes, vultures, lions and other wild animals. Understandably, Göbekli Tepe has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If available, we will meet with the director of excavations who will give us a private tour of the latest discoveries. After our tour, drive to 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 three nights in the El Ruha in Şanlıurfa. (B/L/D)
Day 8: In Şanlıurfa, our walk through the old quarter takes us to the bazaar with its interesting display of local goods. Afterwards, we will visit two museums – The Şanlıurfa 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 814 AD. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Numerous historical ruins are located around Şanlıurfa. Karahantepe, along with world-famous Göbekli Tepe, is part of a cluster of Neolithic settlements. These are spread over 125 miles of southeastern Turkey between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The monumental structures carved out of the bedrock at Karahantepe contain T-shaped pillars and carved representations of animals, serpents, and other enigmatic figures similar to the ones in Göbekli Tepe. In addition, Karahantepe is believed to be considerably larger than Göbekli Tepe, covering an area of about 33 acres. The site was opened to the public on September 24, 2021 and we will be the first to see this important site. Sited along the road that ran from Nineveh to Carchemish, Harran was a major commercial, cultural, and religious center first inhabited in the 6th millennium BC. It was mentioned in the bible as the place where Abraham brought his family after they left Ur. Today, it is known for the curious beehive shaped homes scattered through the village. Return to Şanlıurfa with the rest of the afternoon and dinner on our own. (B/L)
Day 10: 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. Nemrud, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Certainly, it is one of the most extraordinary tombs in the world. From the imposing 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. Overnight at the nearby Euphrat Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 11: Our day is filled with several impressive sites. Dominated by a large relief of the Persian god, Mithra, Arsameia was the tomb that Antiochus built for his father. Behind the monument is a cave entrance leading to an underground room thought to have been built for rites worshipping Mithras. The tumulus of Karakus was erected 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. Nearby, Cendere is a Roman bridge built to honor Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (193-211). It spans the Kahta River in one single arch and is still in use today. Continue to Malatya where we overnight for two nights in the Ramada Plaza Kaysi Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 12: Our long drive takes us to the rarely visited Divriği Gok Medrese, the most elaborately decorated medieval monument in Anatolia. One of the trip’s highlights, it was constructed in 1227 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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. As we drive back to Malatya, stop to see Arslantepe, occupied from at least the 6th millennium BC up until the late Roman period. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site recently, on July 26, 2021. (B/L/D)
Day 13: Malatya Museum houses incredible finds from the lower Euphrates area, including Arslantepe, and we begin here today. 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. Visit the Antep Museum and Castle, and 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. And many of these unparalleled masterpieces of Roman art are on display. 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 14: The Roman frontier city of Zeugma was 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.” Nor is it surprising that Zeugma is on the UNESCO Tentative List. 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. Nevertheless, Dr. Tobin worked at Zeugma and will bring the city to life for you. Continue to Antakya, formerly known as Antioch. Overnight for two nights at the Savon Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 15: The Hatay Archeological Museum displays artifacts from the Paleolithic Age to Ottoman times. But the museum is famed for its incredible collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. In the afternoon stop by the Museum Hotel. During excavation for the building, the world’s largest intact mosaic was discovered. Covering 9,000 feet, this striking tile carpet is now on display in situ. Gather tonight for our festive farewell dinner. (B/L/D)
Day 16:Depart from Hatay Airport to Istanbul and our international flights home. (B) Or fly back to Istanbul to join Far Horizons’ Western Turkey tour.
CALL (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; necessary vaccines and tests; email, telephone, and fax charges; laundry or other items of a personal nature.
Single Supplement: CALL.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 $750 per person is required along with the separate check made out to the donation project and your completed and signed registration form. Final payment is due 120 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 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
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