Central Turkey & the Black Sea
Day 1: Istanbul
Welcome to Istanbul. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until an important meeting in the evening. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for the exact time of this meeting. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these to provide to your leader. 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 colourful streets are always brimming with busy locals. You may like to arrive a few days earlier to wander through the city, but you'll be returning to Istanbul at the end of the trip and will have the option of staying on your own then. Notes: if you arrive at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport (IST) you will be met and tr
Day 2: Istanbul
This morning you will visit the UNESCO heritage site of Aya Sofia. Now a museum it was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, consecrated a church, and then converted into a mosque. After visit the Ottoman inspired Suleymaniye Mosque. This mosque is one of the largest in the city and one of the must see highlights on this trip. For the remainder of the day, you'll be walked through the famous covered Grand Bazaar or the Spice Market. Your leader will give you some advice on how to get the best bargains by the fine art of haggling. You'll find from clothing and jewellery to sweets and spices at the frenetic marketplaces.
Day 3: Istanbul - Safronbolu
Head to Amasra today. This is arguably one of the prettiest of the coastal towns on the Black Sea: a fortified promontory overlooking harbours and sandy beaches. You'll go on a sightseeing tour of the town, including the Kale (citadel), the old bazaar and the Byzantine church which later became a mosque. Continue to Safranbolu where you'll stay for the evening. The time spent driving today is approximately six hours.
Day 4: Safranbolu
Spend the day in Safranbolu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town has a strong Ottoman heritage, with beautifully preserved timber houses and cobblestone streets. Here you'll get a feel for Turkish life and see the works of traditional artisans practicing their age-old crafts. In the evening you will continue on to the town of Kastamonu and spend the night there. Safranbolu; named after the elusive gold thread of the crocus flowers, was once a centre for growing the flowers and an important trading place during Ottoman times. As well as its well preserved konaks, the city is paradise for anyone with a sweet tooth. Taste the safron from which the city takes it name in a a golden brew of safron infused tea and try the specaility of safron turkish delight, watch a short video on the history of the area and learn about the famous soft candy - a favourite of many Ottoman Sultans
Day 5: Amasya
Make the 4-hour journey to the charming town of Amasya today, which sits in a valley on the banks of the Yepilyrmak River. Once the capital of the Pontic Kingdom, Amasya still has tombs of Pontic kings in the cliffs. Today, the town is famous for its attractive Ottoman-period timber houses and its lush orchards. Venture out to explore the 13th-century Seljuk Burmali Mosque, the fountain, Seljuk tombs and the bedesten (covered bazaar). Stay in Amasya for the night.
Day 6: Sivas
Enjoy some free time in Amasya this morning, perhaps by taking a stroll along the banks of the river or by sitting down to some lunch beside the water. In the afternoon you will head to Sivas, which should take around 3 hours. This is the most mountainous city of the central Anatolian region and sits at an altitude of 1,275 metres. Once an important commercial centre due to its location at the crossroads of the Persia and Baghdad caravan routes, the city later became an important centre for learning and culture during the rule of the Seljuks. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. You might take this opportunity to try some regional dishes.
Day 7: Sivas
Witness some of the most famous monuments and sites of Sivas. The Çifte 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 Seldjoukides Sultan Kýlýçaslan 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 dog, a unique breed of sheep dog which has become the national dog of Turkey and a designated 'national treasure'.
Day 8: Darende
Travel towards Darende. On the way, you'll go for a walk to the picturesque Gunpinar waterfalls. Perhaps stop at a riverside eatery and sample the local fish. After lunch, take another walk in the beautiful surrounds and get back in the bus to Darende. Today's drive will take a total of three and a half hours. Reach the Darende town centre and go on an orientation walk. During this tour you'll see the 300-year-old covered bazaar. If you're lucky, you'll come across the Turkish dried apricot which is famous in the area. Stay the night in Darende.
Day 9: Darende - Mt Nemrut
After breakfast you'll drive to Adiyaman, located in the Central Euphrates. The driving time today is approximately four and a half hours. Part of the Fertile Crescent, Adiyaman sits at the crossroads of major ancient routes and has been occupied by many civilisations. This town will be your base for visiting Mount Nemrut National Park. Mount Nemrut is thought to house the tomb of the ancient king, Antiochus. Here you will see archaeological relics from the Commagene civilisation, including enormous statues of human and animal heads. If it's clear today, you'll catch the spectacular sunset over the ruins before heading back to Adiyaman for the night.
Day 10: Kahta - Cappadocia
Today will be a long day of travel towards Cappadocia. You'll spend about seven and a half hours in the bus and reach the town of Goreme in the evening. Break up the long journey with a sweet stop at thehome of the most popular ice cream in Turkey. This is no ordinary icecream. The interesting texture and a resistance to melting, is brought about by inclusion of salep, a flour made from the root of the Early Purple Orchid. Some say you can tow your car by weaving the icecream into a thick rope! Travel on to Cappadocia where your first glimpse of a fairy chimney will make it all worth it. Enjoy an orientation walk of this enchanting town. You will be based here for the next three nights to explore the wonders of Turkey's most surreal region. Your hotel in Goreme is one of the first boutique hotels in Goreme, with spectacular views of the popular valleys in Cappadocia. Don't forget to pack sturdy, well worn-in walking shoes or boots and a comfortable day pack for exploring the valley
Day 11: Cappadocia
This morning you have the option of taking a very early hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia to see this otherworldly scene at sunrise. Those who are interested in this optional extra will have a truly awe-inspiring experience. The day officially starts with a tour of the Goreme Open Air Museum. Here you can explore houses, churches and monasteries carved out of the cliff. See colourful early Christian frescoes dating as far back as the 10th century. In the afternoon, you'll visit a carpet workshop and learn about the nomadic origins of the Turkish people. Finally, take a short walk through the unusual Love Valley, which is full of bizarre phallic rock formations. In the evening, you have the option of taking a traditional Turkish bath to unwind from the day's activities.
Day 12: Cappadocia
Enjoy a relaxing breakfast with the group and make your way to Kizilcukur or Red Valley. Widely considered the most beautiful valley in Cappadocia, the landscape is flecked with magical rock formations. You'll see small cones, peaks and fairy chimneys formed by sand and wind. There are also several early Christian chapels built into the rock. Enjoy a traditional lunch in a garden of apples and walnuts at the entry to this valley and then if you feel up to it hike the 3 km trail to the end of the valley. Lunch is likely to be fresh produce from the gardens of the village, home made bread, fresh churned butter, tomato's and peppers. In the afternoon you'll drive to Pasabaglari (Monk's Valley), another moon-like landscape. Here you'll see the famous three-headed fairy chimney which has a chapel and hermit's shelter built inside. Discover the local pottery tradition and learn more about it from the artisan villagers. Then head back to Goreme. Depending on the time of year, you may have th
Day 13: Cappadocia - Konya
Today you'll travel to Konya. It is approximately a three-hour drive in in total. Along the way, you'll make a stop to the underground city of Derinkuyu. This fascinating ancient labyrinth goes as deep as seven levels underground. After exploring the underground city, continue your drive to Konya where you will stay the night. Note that Konya is a very religious town, so please dress conservatively to show your respect.
Day 14: Konya - Antalya
Konya was known as Iconium in Roman times and later became the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries. It was also home of the famous Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi who founded the Whirling Dervishes. Today you'll visit Mevlana's mausoleum, and the museum devoted to his works. Take a five-hour drive to the coastal city of Antalya, one of the best-known classical sites in Turkey. You'll visit the old city, the old Roman harbour and the famous Hadrian's Gate. Perhaps enjoy an optional dinner of fresh local seafood.
Day 15: Antalya
Visit the Antalya Museum this morning. Ranked third in Turkey, it includes 13 exhibition halls and an open-air gallery, exhibiting an illuminating array of works relating to the history of the Mediterranean and Pamphylia regions of Anatolia. With your trip officially over from 1 pm, enjoy a free afternoon to explore Antalya. Perhaps head down to the harbour for an afternoon boat tour, or venture a bit further out to Konyaalti Beach to soak up some sun. To make the most of this wonderful coastal city, you may wish to book further accommodation.