Bora's Grand Turkey Tour 2013
ITINERARY (Click for Detailed Itinerary...) - View all details
Day 1 DEPART USA
Your international direct flight will depart the United States on this day and arrive in Istanbul on the following day.
Day 2 ISTANBUL
After passport and visa procedure at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, you will be met and taken to your 5-star Eresin Topkapi hotel in the old city. There will be time to relax and rest before meeting Bora in the evening for dinner at a fine local restaurant.
Day 3 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, the spice market and the mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent. In the late afternoon, we will visit the military Museum to enjoy a concert performed in traditional costumes by the world’s first established military marching ensemble.
In the evening, we will have dinner with lots of live music and entertainment by a gypsy orchestra. Bora and his staff will play and sing along. We will again stay at the Eresin Hotel.
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 4 SAFRANBOLU
The next morning 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 5, 6 AMASYA
We will drive to the Hittite ruins at Yazilikaya to see the private temple of Hittite kings and then to Hattusas, the capital city of the Hittite Empire. At this site we will follow the ancient city wall constructed nearly 3,400 years ago and see the ruins of the Great Temple of the Storm God, the Lion Gate, the King Gate (guarded by a relief of the Hittite War God) and the Great Fortress. Afterwards, we will depart Hattusas and continue to Amasya, the one time capital of the Pontic Empire. It is a lovely little town nestled in a small mountain valley formed by the Green River. Some of the most striking features of Amasya are the tombs of the kings of Pontus carved into the high cliffs surrounding the city. Here, we will explore the old streets of Amasya and attend a local bazaar. We will also have the opportunity to interact with the Turkish people and receive a welcoming performance in a nearby village (many of the girls in this village, who could not normally go to school, have been given scholarships to attend school by Cultural Folk Tours and its clients). In Amasya, we will stay at the Apple Palace, which is the best available 4-star hotel.
Day 7, 8 TRABZON (Sumela Monastery)
Today is a driving day. We will travel from Amasya 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. The following day, 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! While in Trabzon we will stay at the Hotel Usta, a fine 4-star hotel.
Day 9 ERZURUM
From Trabzon we will drive five hours to Erzurum, with many stops along the way. This is a very beautiful drive, which follows various rivers. Erzurum rests at a base altitude of 6,600 ft. and, although it is somewhat remote, it is one of the largest cities in eastern Turkey. Despite its size, the people maintain quite a conservative outlook. Here, one will frequently encounter more women wearing veils than in other cities. While in Erzurum we will have lunch in a restaurant converted from old Ottoman houses decorated with antiques everywhere. We will visit Ulu Cami (the Great Mosque) and an old Selcuk Medrese (schoolhouse) as well as see several Kurdish villages in the area. We will stay at the 5-star Renaissance Hotel, which is located at a ski resort at an elevation of 7,000 ft.
Day 10 KARS (Ani)
An early morning departure from Erzurum will take us on a beautiful drive to Kars. We will arrive in Kars to visit Ani at the Turkish-Armenian border. A 45-minute drive will take us to the medieval Armenian City of Ani, which lies mostly in ruins. Impressive fortified walls still encircle the ruins of numerous churches, mosques and caravansaries. Walking around the ruins, we will be able to see a beautiful view of Armenia across the Arpa River, which creates the border between Turkey and Armenia. We will check into the Sim-er Hotel, which is the best available 4-star hotel. Other attractions in the city of Kars are the immense citadel, its old bridges and an Armenian church (the Church of the Twelve Apostles).
Day 11 VAN (Mt. Ararat)
Early in the morning, we will drive along the beautiful yet rugged border between Turkey and Armenia and arrive in Dogubayazit. On the way, we will stop for photo opportunities, especially of the beautiful flowers in this region (depending on the season). We will also have the opportunity to see Mt. Ararat, where Noah’s Ark is believed to be, and visit the spectacular Ishak Pasa Palace. This complex is a combination of a mosque, fortress, and 17th century palace.
We will then drive two and half hours to Van, stopping again for various photo opportunities. One of the stops will be by a gorgeous waterfall. When we arrive in Van, we will first visit the 3,000-year-old fortress built by Urartians, who inhabited the region between the 9th and 6th century B.C. and called their capital city, Tushba. Here, a local school will present a lovely Kurdish folk dance performance. This will be followed by a lecture/demonstration on World-famous Van kilims. Afterwards, we will check into a 4-star hotel, the Merit Hotel, located on the lake front.
Day 12, 13 MARDIN (Akdamar Armenian Church, Hasankeyf)
Early in the morning, a short ferry ride will take us to Akdamar Island. There is a wonderful 10th century Armenian Church here called the Church of the Holy Cross. The outside walls of the church are decorated with wall reliefs depicting various well-known tales from the Bible and the Old Testament. This church, recently restored to its former glory, is a true gem. We then continue our drive to Batman where we will visit the incredible and ancient city of Hasankeyf nearby. Hasankeyf is on the banks of the Tigris River and is located in an area of the Fertile Crescent where animals were domesticated and grains were cultivated over twelve thousand years ago. Similar to Cappadocia with its many carved caves, this city offers spectacular photo opportunities.
After driving ninety minutes, we will arrive in Mardin, capping a long but spectacular day with many stops. Our stay will be at the 13th century Artuklu caravan-saray, a very boutique hotel. Mardin is a very unique and lovely city with many old Arabic style houses. It is a city that played an important role in the early development of Christianity. We will take time to visit, walk in its busy streets and bazaars and take superb photographs during our two day stop there. Just outside of town, we will visit the monks in the Monastery of Deyr-az-Zaferan, which was founded in 4th century A.D. It was the seat of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch for almost 800 years. This monastery is built on top of a 4,000-year-old temple originally used by sun worshippers.
Day 14 URFA
Today, we will drive to Urfa, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. We will visit nearby Harran and see the incredible beehive houses. Harran, according to the Bible, was the site where the prophet Abraham lived with his family for several years before moving to Israel, the promised land. We will also visit the holy sites at Ainzelha, a lake with domesticated fish. In addition, we will visit Göbekli Tepe, a recently discovered site where excavations have just begun. Built in 10,000 B.C., it may be the oldest temple in the World. Covered up in 8000 B.C., it was not used again. It is another unique place we visit on our tours. There are exceptional photo opportunities in this area. Our stay will be at a 5-star boutique hotel.
Day 15 MT. NEMRUT
From Urfa we will drive two hours to Adiyaman-Kahta. On the way, we will stop to see Ataturk dam, the fourth largest dam in the world built on the Euphrates River. We will drive through the Pistachio orchards and stop to pick them (depending on the season). We will check into our tourist class Zeus hotel by mid-day. Soon after, we will hire small mini-buses to drive up Mt. Nemrut. Resting at an elevation of 7700 ft., this extraordinary mountaintop features a funerary-temple complex composed of two flattened areas strewn with huge statues and fallen heads of Greco-Roman Gods. Each head measures six to nine feet high, belonging to the likes of Zeus, Hercules, Fortuna, Apollo and the King Antiouchus, who considered himself a God. There is also a mound of broken gravel that makes a perfect false peak of crushed rock. Antiouchus built the entire complex 2,050 years ago as a monument to his “divine ancestry”.
Please Note: The hike to Mt. Nemrut consists of 20 to 40 minutes of a 30% uphill hike, mostly with stairs. There is no time limit and most can do the hike. There are also donkeys or mules available for hire.
Day 16 GAZIANTEP / ANKARA
Early in the morning, we will drive to Gaziantep to visit a mosaic museum. Here, we will see the famous mosaic of a gypsy girl from the ancient city of Zeugma. In the afternoon, we will take a flight to Ankara, the capital of Turkey since 1923. In Ankara, we will be taken to a 5-star hotel to check in. The rest of the day will be free to rest. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 17, 18, 19 CAPPADOCIA (One of the Natural Wonders of the World)
In the morning, we will tour Ankara. We will visit the magnificent Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which features relics from Çatal Höyük, one of the earliest known human communities that existed through the Roman Classical period. We will also pay a visit to the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey. This beautiful landmark is perched atop a hill with a panoramic view of the city.
Afterwards, we will take a four-hour drive to Cappadocia where we will stay at the Cappadocia Cave Suites, which was rated the seventeenth most boutique hotel in the world by Abercrombie and Kent in 2005. This hotel’s thirty-six spacious units almost all have windows with views to the outside and most feature a Jacuzzi. Several rooms have fireplaces and eight units include two bedrooms. 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.
While in Cappadocia, we will enjoy the unique landscapes of wind and rain eroded volcanic formations. Carved directly into stone, Cappadocia’s amazing subterranean cities include ancient underground churches and cities hand-hewn from solid rock by early Christians. We will visit handicraft shops and a caravanserai (an ancient caravan motel) as well as attend a folk dance show with belly-dancing and a Whirling Dervish demonstration. off the tourist track, we will have wonderful strolls where we visit small villages and discover the unknown Turkey. While in Cappadocia there will be an excellent lecture and demonstration on Turkish carpets and kilims as well as a lecture/demonstration on pottery. A Soganli doll maker will also demonstrate how their world famous Cappadocia dolls are made.
OPTIONAL: 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.
Day 20, 21 MERSIN/OLBA
Today, we will take a 5-hour scenic drive where we will pass Adana and arrive at Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul. In Tarsus, we will visit St. Paul’s well and the foundations of his house. After Tarsus we will drive a half-hour more and stay at the 5-star Mersin Hilton Hotel, a lovely hotel overlooking the Mediterranean.
Our next day will start with areas of interest known only to Bora and his staff and will be for your eyes only. These include the underground cistern in Tirtar and the huge chasm in Kanlidivane (Neopolis) with the world’s first legally built churches from the 4th century around the chasm. There will be many superb photo opportunities in this little visited coast. We will then drive to Olba (Diocaesarea). Inland from the Mediterranean about 20 miles, we will drive through the beautiful Toros mountains. Known as “Diocaesarea” to the Romans, Olba, an ancient settlement first established by the Hittites, is home to a 2,300-year-old temple of Zeus, which is the oldest example of Corinthian order in Turkey. Here, we will visit the Temple of Tyche, a small Greek theatre, the monumental Gateway and the ancient Nymphium, a water fountain. All day this day, we will enjoy beautiful places without the presence of other tour groups.
Day 22, 23 ANTALYA
We will take a beautiful drive, following the virgin southern coast of the Mediterranean to Antalya. It is a beautiful and long drive with many stops for photo opportunities, a lunch break, a stop at a banana plantation for a banana treat, rest breaks, etc. It is said that this drive is at least as impressive as the Amalfi drive in Italy. No other company includes this wonderful drive in their itinerary of the Turkish Riviera. Antalya is a beautiful and historic city snuggled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Toros Mountains. During our stay in Antalya, we will tour the city as well as visit the ruined sites of Aspendos and Perge. Aspendos dates back to the time of the Hittites, yet the only visible remains are from the Roman Period. The restored theater at Aspendos is said to be the best in all of Turkey. Perge reached its height under the Romans and Alexander the Great. Today, what remain are the ruins of a great theater, a stadium, and the colonnaded main street. Our stay will be at a fine 5-star hotel, which is located on the Mediterranean. We guarantee that all of our rooms will have a sea view. This hotel offers a great opportunity to go down and swim in the clean waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Day 24 PAMUKKALE Hierapolis, (Aphrodisias)
We will depart Antalya early and drive to Aphrodisias, the city of art dedicated to the Goddess Aphrodite. Octavian once said that “of all the cities in the world, Aphrodisias is my favorite.” The marble theatre here is beautiful and the stadium that seats over 35,000 is immense. It is also the largest in the world and the best preserved. Aphrodisias was a center to cultivate the finest sculptors, whose works were found all over the Roman empire. After Aphrodisias we will continue to Pamukkale. Another Greco-Roman city “Hierapolis” is visited here. It has an incredible necropolis (city of the dead) and we will see many sarcophagi (burial monuments). We will visit the snow-like travertine of calcium for which Pamukkale is famous. Pamukkale is one of the natural wonders of the world with strikingly beautiful mineral springs clinging to the hillsides that will amaze you. We will stay at the 5-star Colossae Hotel, with a thermal mineral pool for your enjoyment. The Colossae is the best available hotel in the area.
Day 25, 26 KUSADASI (Sardis/Ephesus,Ephesus Museum)
Today we will drive to Sardis, where money was first minted. We will see one of the world’s oldest synagogues in Sardis as well as the excavations, the gymnasium, and the Artemis temple. Then we will drive two hours to Kusadasi where we will stay at the Korumar Hotel, which features a private beach on the coast. Again, all the rooms assigned to us will be guaranteed to have superb views of the Aegean Sea and the Greek Samos Island on the horizon.
The next day we will drive fifteen minutes to the incredible city of Ephesus and its colossal Greco-Roman Theater where St. Paul preached. This particular theater is still used for performances today. The Marble Road, the Celsus Library, and the Temple of Diana are just a few of the sites we will visit. We will also visit the house where St. Mary lived her final days (After the crucifixion of Jesus, St. John brought her to Ephesus).
Day 27 CANAKKALE (Troy)
During a scenic two-hour drive up the Aegean Coast, we will stop in Pergamon to see the Asklepion, an ancient hospital complex. We will then drive three-hours to Çanakkale, where we will visit the legendary city of Troy. Here, we will have the opportunity to see a replica of the Trojan Horse. To date nine different Troy’s have been discovered, all built one on top of the other. We will have a chance to see this site still in the process of excavation. While in Çanakkale we will stay at the 4-star Akol hotel, which is the best available. It overlooks the Dardanelles and Gallipoli across the Straits.
Day 28 ISTANBUL
We will leave the hotel early in the morning and take a ferryboat from Çanakkale (on the Asian continent) to the European side where we will visit Gallipoli to see World War I battle sites, cemeteries and memorials. Afterwards, we will drive to Istanbul. Arriving in Istanbul, we will take a late afternoon Bosphorus cruise on a private boat. Dinner will be at the Develi restaurant, which was established in 1912 and is one of the best kebob restaurants in Turkey.
Day 29 DEPART FOR USA
We will depart the hotel shortly after breakfast for our morning flight on Turkish Airlines, arriving in the United States the same day.
**Flight schedules and itinerary are subject to change**
***Please note that there are a number of places and sites that will be visited which are not mentioned in the above itinerary.
****During our drives in Turkey the beautiful landscape and scenery will be constantly changing. The drives will actually be among the highlights of the tour. The brand new Mercedes bus will be very comfortable with lots of extra space. We will have many stops for rest, photo opportunities and visits with the local Turkish people. While traveling, Bora and staff will give talks on all aspects of Turkish life, customs, traditions and much more.
NOTE: This is the day-to-day itinerary for what we are hoping and planning to do during Bora’s Grand Tours. There will be more events, spur of the moment activities, visits and interaction with the people. We always aim to give more then we promise with minimal regimentation. We may change the program slightly if deemed necessary for a better tour, which will be memorable for all Cultural Folk Tours clients. If you are a person who demands “exact” adherence to the written itinerary or if you expect American-style luxury 5-star hotels in Eastern Turkey these tours will not appeal to you. Eastern Turkey is wild, wonderful, remote and beautiful. It is a less-traveled destination and all we require is a bit of flexibility. If you are tolerant and flexible, you will have one of the best tours of your life.