BLACK SEA TOUR TRACKING JASON & THE ARGONAUTS
LAND & AIR (from JFK or an add-on cost of $100 to $200 to fly from any other city such as LAX, D.C., Chicago, etc.)
COST (includes two domestic flights): $3,990 per person
(air cost is subject to change)
Day 1 - DEPART USA
Your international Turkish Airlines non-stop direct flight will depart the United States this evening, arriving in Istanbul where you will be transferred to your hotel.
Day 2 - ISTANBUL
Upon arriving in Istanbul's Atatürk airport, you will complete the passport and visa procedure. Afterwards, you will be met and taken to your 5-star Barcelo Eresin Topkapi hotel in the old city. There will be time to relax and rest before dinner at a fine local restaurant.
Day 3 – SAFRANBOLU (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Today, we will drive to the historic town of Safranbolu, which is graced with many traditional old houses and mansions. The friendly people of Safranbolu will welcome our interest in traditional Turkish culture as we wander through the town, admiring its charm and beauty. Our stay will be at a 350-year-old restored and modernized caravanserai. This town is full of unusual photo opportunities with thousands of Ottoman houses, all from the 18th and 19th century.
Day 4 – AMASRA (BARTIN)
Leaving Safranbolu, we will drive to the province of Bartin, which is located on the Black Sea coast. Here, we will visit Amasra, a beautiful town known for its beaches and surroundings. Among the places we will visit here is the Bird’s Rock Road Monument, a Roman resting place dating back to Emperor Claudius. Our stay will be at the best available tourist or 4-star hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 5 – SINOP (Jun 26/Sep 4)
On this day, we will drive along the Black Sea coast to Sinop. During the 7th century B.C., Sinop was re-founded by the Greeks from the city of Miletus and is the birthplace of 3rd century philosopher, Diogenes the Cynic. Here, we will visit the Sinop Fortress to see one of Turkey’s oldest historical prisons, established in 1887 and closed in 1997, and the Sinop Archeology museum, which features artifacts such as rugs, statues and mosaics from the Bronze Age, the Roman period, the Byzantine era and the Ottoman Empire. Our stay will be at the best available hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 6 - TRABZON (Black Sea)
Today is a driving day. We will travel from Sinop to the beautiful wooded coast of the Black Sea, following the coastline to Trabzon. The scenery on this drive is unbelievable. Trabzon is an ancient Silk Road Black Sea port with its recorded history dating back to 746 B.C.. With lush, green vegetation throughout the region, this area is a very unique part of Turkey. Hazelnut and tea plantations are the major contributors to this region's agricultural exports. Our stay will be at a 5-star hotel in Macka, which is a small town near the Sumela Monastery.
Day 7 – CAMLIHEMSIN
In the morning, we will visit the Sümela Monastery, which is from the Byzantine era and enjoy a lovely picnic by a rushing stream there. One of the remarkable features of this site is that it is carved into a cliff face! After lunch, we will drive to the little town of Çamlıhemşin where we will stay at a Swiss-chalet type hotel, which is surrounded by green mountains and valleys. This area is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the eastern Black Sea region. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 8 – ŞAVSAT
In the morning, we will visit a small fortress nearby before driving to Savsat. Along the way, we will explore the beautiful Yayla region around Ayder. This mountainous area, which resembles Switzerland, is adorned with ornate wooden houses and churches that are characteristic of the Caucasus. This region hosts over sixty types of fauna and over one hundred and thirty types of flora. We travel around this area and see the Turkish-Georgian villages, local life and churches in Kackar Mountains. The local women here often wear colorful head garments and bagpipe music can sometimes be heard upon entering the village. We will then continue to the lovely town of Şavşat to stay at the best available nice tourist class hotel. This region is so beautiful and green that it is unreal and is also known for its bagpipes and folklore. If time permits, we will visit a local fortress.
Day 9 – TURKGOZU-VALE BORDER/ TBILISI (GEORGIA)
After breakfast, we will drive to the Turkey-Georgia border of Vale. After crossing the border, we will meet our Georgia guide and then drive to Tbilisi. In Tbilisi, we will begin Day 10’s schedule. Dinner at Kopala restaurant with a nice view of Old Tbilisi. Overnight at a hotel in Tbilisi.
Day 10 - TBILISI (folk dance show)
We will wind through Tbilisi’s narrow streets and inner courtyards and stroll down Rustaveli Avenue, the main thoroughfare running east through the city. First, we will visit the Metekhi Church of the Virgin; this cross cupola church dates from the 12th and 13th centuries and replaced the original 6th century structure which was destroyed by the Mongols in 1235. Part of the Royal residential complex, it houses the grave of St. Shushanik, one of Georgia’s most beloved saints who was tortured by her husband for refusing to convert to Zoroastrianism in the 6th century. If we are lucky we may see a Church service. We will drive back to the town center to visit the Sioni Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the main cathedral of Tbilisi. Its claim to fame is the sacred cross of St. Nino which according to legend is made from vine branches bound with the saint’s own hair. It also serves as the seat of the Catholicos (Patriarch) of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In addition we’ll see the synagogue and the bath houses which have been a favorite place of Tbilisi residents and visitors for over a century. We will walk along the Glass Bridge and visit the History museum and its treasury hall. On one of the evenings, we will drive to visit Sameba Cathedral, the biggest one in the Caucasus. On another evening, we will attend a dance-and-song filled Georgian feast at a traditional Georgian restaurant. Our stay will be at a hotel in Tbilisi.
Day 11 - KUTAISI – BATUMI
After breakfast, we will drive to Kutaisi, the capital of ancient Colchis. Here, we will visit the Gelati Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage site) and take a small excursion of the old parts of Kutaisi. We will then have lunch at a local restaurant in Kutaisi and then drive to Batumi.
In Batumi, we will begin our tour of the city, starting with the seaside park and old-city district. Dinner will be at a nice restaurant in Batumi with traditional Adjarian dishes. We will stay at a hotel in Batumi.
DAY 12 - BATUMI / ISTANBUL
Depending on the air schedule, we will fly from Batumi to Istanbul and then take a connecting flight to Kayseri (Cappadocia). Upon arriving in Kayseri, an agent will pick us up and drive us to the spectacular Cappadocia Cave Suites, which was rated one of the most boutique hotels in the world by Abercrombie and Kent in 2005. Located in Göreme, a World Heritage site, this hotel’s thirty six spacious units almost all have windows with views to the outside and most feature a Jacuzzi. Some units have beautiful 200-year-old wooden ceilings and one unit is decorated in original 8th century painted frescoes showing the Maltese cross. The views are spectacular with the Fairy Chimneys in sight (www.cappadociacavesuites.com). Breakfast and dinner will be at the Cave Suites restaurant.
Please note that the itinerary is subject to change due to the flight schedule.
Day 13, 14 – CAPPADOCIA (Jul 4, 5/Sep 12, 13)
While in Cappadocia we will enjoy the unique landscapes of wind and rain-eroded volcanic rock formations and have opportunities for incredible hikes. Our hotel is just a few minutes walk from the starting point of five different hiking routes. During the hikes, you will see amazing formations, valleys, grapevines and orchards full of fruit trees and hot air balloons fill the sky early in the morning. Wild flowers also decorate the landscape from April through September and will be blooming most brilliantly from early April to late June. Cappadocia is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a World Heritage site. You will see why. It is the highlight of all of our Turkey tours regardless of the fact that we also go to places like Istanbul, Ephesus, Troy, Pamukkale and many other impressive locations, all of which are World Heritage sites.
Discovering the unknown Cappadocia, we will go off the "tourist track". One of these outings will be to the Ballidere Valley where many formations of rocks, carved by nature (similar to phallic symbols) 100 feet tall (or higher) and 10 to 15 feet wide, create otherworldly vistas. Because it isn’t easy to access this site, most people aren’t aware of it. Missed by 99% of visitors to this area, you will be able to take unbelievable pictures at this site. Also amazing is the incredible underground cities of Cappadocia, some of which were home to as many as 15,000 inhabitants. We will go to Derinkuyu where ancient civilizations from 3,000 to 4,000 years ago started carving layers of living quarters into the bedrock connected by catacombs. These floors are separated by huge wheels of stone that could be moved by a lever to close the passage, providing security. In the region of Cappadocia, a 10,000 square mile area, there are 1,000 churches carved into bedrock by early and later Christians. About 100 of the churches still have frescoes from the Old and the New Testament. We will visit these churches and living quarters at the Open Air Museum, which is less than a mile from our hotel. This is a very impressive site. We will also visit ancient handicraft shops and a caravanserai, an ancient caravan motel. Cappadocia is also famous for its rugs and kilims. We will have an excellent lecture-demonstration on Turkish kilims and carpets.
- Hot air balloon rides over Cappadocia at reduced rates. A balloon ride in Cappadocia (for people of all ages) is safe and nothing less than spectacular.
- Attend a Whirling Dervish ceremony at a 12th century caravanserai. There will also be an opportunity to take cooking lessons from the Cave Suites chef. A Cappadocia Cave Suites Turkish cookbook will also be available for sale. All proceeds from the Whirling Dervish ceremony, the cooking lessons and the cookbook’s sales will go toward scholarships for underprivileged girls from Yassical and Cappadocia to attend high school.
Day 15 – ISTANBUL (Jul 6/Sep 14)
Early in the morning, a driver will take us to the Kayseri airport for our flight back to Istanbul. In Istanbul, we will be taken to the Barcelo Eresin Topkapi hotel to check in. Afterwards, we will begin our tour of Istanbul. Istanbul, once called Byzantium in the 7th century B.C., was named Constantinople in 326 A.D. by Constantine the Great when he moved the capital of the Roman Empire to what is now Istanbul. The city received its current name from Mehmet II in 1453 and is the only city in the world that spans two continents. It was the capital to three major empires (Rome, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires). Here, we will visit several of Turkey's most famous museums and mosques. Topkapi Palace was first built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and was the home of the sultan until the 19th century. St. Sophia was built by Roman Emperor Justinian and was completed in 537 A.D. It was the greatest Christian church in the world for more than 1000 years. The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet in 1603 and was constructed with the deliberate intention of rivaling the St. Sophia. We will also visit the Rustem Pasha Mosque with its exceptional tiles. In the evening, we will have dinner with lots of live music and entertainment by a gypsy orchestra.
Please Note: The order of events may vary with each tour depending on the availability of various museums on certain days of the week.
Day 16 - DEPART FOR USA
Today, we will be taken from the hotel to the airport for our return flight, arriving in the United States the same day.
**Flight schedules and itinerary are subject to change**