Riches of the Ottomans

Luxury Tour of Eastern Turkey

Join our sultans caravan as we journey the along road less travelled on this luxury tour of Eastern Turkey. Walk in the footsteps of the generals of Alexander the Great in in Antioch, visit the largest mosaic museum in the world and view stunning vistas of Mt. Ararat from the shores of Lake Van. Visit the enigmatic sites of Gobekli Tepe, a neolithic wonder of engineering, the beehive houses of Harran and the sunken city of Halfeti in the extreme southeast. Explore the caves and underground cities of Cappadocia and see a different side of this magical place in the old Greek village of Mustafapasa. Discover some of remote Turkey’s ancient past at the Roman castle of Zerzevan at which the mysterious religion of Mithraism was practiced.

Along the way stay in a beautiful cave hotel in Cappadocia, a traditional stone hotel in Gaziantep, a former mansion in Kars and in a museum hotel in Antakya. Eat in some of eastern Turkey’s best restaurants and take a tasting tour of the food capital of Turkey, Gaziantep.


TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

* Explore the province of Hatay, formerly the ancient land of Antioch⁠, established in ancient times by the generals of Alexander the Great, visit the Church of St Peter and stay overnight in an archaeological site turned hotel

* Visit a different side of Cappadocia with visits to the traditional Greek village of Mustafapasa, wine tasting in Urgup and the option to venture out to the ancient city of the Hittites at Bogazkale

* Stroll the picturesque shores of Lake Van overshadowed by Mt Ararat, visit the Armenian church of Akdamar Island, and learn all about the swimming cats of Van

* Take in the beehive houses of Harran, the enigmatic site of Gobekli Tepe and visit the spectacular Ishak Pasha Palace⁠

* Along the way, stay in a traditional cave hotel in Cappadocia, a former mansion in Kars and a stone hotel in Gaziantep, the food capital of Turkey where we will also eat our fill of amazing food on a food crawl of the city

The Basics

Start: Istanbul

Finish: Istanbul

Trip style: Luxe

Max group size: 15

21 Days

ISTANBUL – ISTANBUL

$12 750 AUD*

Departure date: 15 May 2023

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: ROII *from

ITINERARY

Arrive at the airport in Istanbul and meet your transfer who will be waiting to take you to the trip hotel. At 17.00 meet your trip leader and travel companions for a welcome meeting before heading out into Istanbul for a special dinner to begin your luxury tour of Eastern Turkey.

We will check out of our hotel in the morning and transfer to the airport for a short flight to the eastern city of Kars.

On arrival we will stop in a local café for lunch and then visit Kars Castle. The castle was originally built during the Armenia Bagratid dynasty and has subsequently been rebuilt and destroyed many times over since then. The castle was destroyed by Timur (Tamarlane) in 1386 and again in 1606 by Shah Abbas the Great of Persia, it was also damaged in the Ottoman-Russian War of 1877-1878.

Today the castle contains military lodgings, an ammunition depot and a small mosque that was built in the 1990’s.  Just inside the main entrance is a shrine containing the tomb of Jelal Baba who died during the invasion of the Mongols in 1239.

After we have explored the castle, we will check in to our hotel for the evening.

This morning we set sail from the shores of Lake Van for Akdamar Island. The island is home to the 10th century Armenia Holy Cross Cathedral to which we will pay a visit, as well as spectacular vistas of Mt Ararat on a clear day.

After lunch we will pay a visit the Van Cat House, to meet the rare swimming cats of Van. Usually white with two different coloured eyes, this naturally occurring breed of cat has been observed swimming in the waters of Lake Van for centuries.

This morning we set sail from the shores of Lake Van for Akdamar Island. The island is home to the 10th century Armenia Holy Cross Cathedral to which we will pay a visit, as well as spectacular vistas of Mt Ararat on a clear day.

After lunch we will pay a visit the Van Cat House, to meet the rare swimming cats of Van. Usually white with two different coloured eyes, this naturally occurring breed of cat has been observed swimming in the waters of Lake Van for centuries.

Today is a free day for you to explore the area of Lake Van on your own. You may wish to take a peaceful stroll by its shores, visit the Van Museum or citadel or just use this day to rest and relax at the hotel. The choice is yours!

This evening we will re-group for dinner at one of Van’s restaurants to exchange stories from the days exploring.

In the morning we will check out of the hotel and head for the city of Diyarbakir stopping en route for lunch in the city of Batman (nothing to do with the caped crusader; it is the name of the town.)

On arrival in Diyarbakir, we will visit the Artuklu Palace. Built around the 12th century, the palace sits within the city walls of Diyarbakir and was once surrounded by gardens. The palace is rich in amenities as well as decorative elements and is especially well-known for its symbolic door knockers. We will also visit the UNESCO listed Hevsel Gardens which are located close to the Tigris River.

In the late afternoon we will check in to our hotel.

This morning instead of breakfast at the hotel we will head out into the city for breakfast at the old caravanserai of Hasan Pasa Han. After breakfast we will take a stroll around the fascinating city of Diyarbakir. Inhabited since the stone age, the first historical civilisation to take route in this land was the Hurrian civilisation of the Mitanni – once the enemies of the pharaohs of Egypt. Over the centuries Diyarbakir has been ruled by the Assyrians, Armenians, Persians, Seleucids, and the Roman Republic. Syriac Christianity took root between the 1st and 4th centuries and in the Middle Ages the city fell during the Muslim Conquest of the Levant. All these cultures have left their imprint on this colourful city.

The afternoon is free for you to explore Diyarbakir on your own.

This morning we will check out of the hotel and transfer to Mardin, along the way we will stop to see the Roman Castle of Zersevan. The castle was an important military base and excavations have revealed the existence of underground structures, among them a temple to the mysterious religion of Mithraism.

On arrival in Mardin we will have lunch in one of city’s traditional restaurants before a visit to Kasimiye Madrasah and a walk through Mardin’s bazaar with time to shop and browse before checking in to our hotel for the next two nights.

Today we will travel to the outskirts of Mardin to visit the Mor Hananyo Syriac Orthodox monastery. The monastery, also known as the ‘saffron monastery’ owing to the colour of its stone, was built on the site of a temple dedicated to the Mesopotamian sun god Shamash and was subsequently converted into a citadel by the Romans. The citadel was converted into a monastery in 493 CE and renovated by the Bishop of Mardin, Mor Hananyo who gave the monastery its name. The monastery has 365 rooms, one for each day of the year.

After our visit to the monastery, we will return to Mardin for a free afternoon.

We will re-group in the evening for dinner at one of Mardin’s local restaurants.

We will check out of the hotel this morning and head for the village of Harran. Inhabited since the Chalcolithic Age, today Harran is well known for its strange ‘bee-hive’ shaped houses constructed entirely without wood. The design keeps the house cool inside, suiting it to this hot region of Turkey, the design has remained unchanged for thousands of years.

When we arrive in Sanliurfa we will have lunch in a local restaurant before visiting the Haleplibahce Mosaic Museum and Sacred Fishponds.

This morning we will head out of Sanliurfa to the enigmatic archaeological site of Gobekli Tepe. The site contains monumental architecture comprising of several stone pillars featuring depictions of animals, anthropomorphic details and clothes providing archaeologists with a rare insight into the religion of pre-historic peoples. The advent of monumental architecture happened prior to the invention of pottery or writing which is typically prior in the evolution of other civilisations, this fact makes Gobekli Tepe unique in the archaeological record.

After our visit to Gobekli Tepe, we will return to Sanliurfa for lunch and then a walk through the city’s colourful bazaar taking time to enjoy the time-honoured Turkish custom of the ‘tea stop’.

Mt Nemrut - Luxury Tour of Eastern Turkey

Featured Optional experience – Sunrise Ascent of Mt Nemrut

Depart Sanliurfa at mid-night and travel into the mountains to ascend Mt Nemrut in darkness, reaching the summit in time for a spectacular sunrise. The summit of Mt Nemrut is home to one of eastern Turkey’s most spectacular sights, the funerary mount of King Antiochus I of the Kingdom of Commagene. The spectacular terraces are littered with fallen down remains of giant stone statues that once surrounded the tomb built to celebrate Antiochus’ own glory and the glory of the gods. After watching the sunrise, descend the mountain and retire to a local guest house for breakfast and transfer back to Sanliurfa.

Today is a free day for you to rest and relax or to further explore Sanliurfa on your own.

This evening we will meet in the lobby of the hotel and proceed to dinner at a local restaurant.

We will depart Sanliurfa this morning and head to the town of Savasan to visit the partially sunken village of Halfeti. The village was mostly submerged by the rising waters of the Euphrates River caused by a dam in the 1990’s. A lone minaret can now be seen emerging from the reservoir waters.

After we have visited Halfeti we will continue to the archaeological site of Zeugma. Zeugma was a Greek city which then became Commagene under the Romans. The city was found by Seleucus, a successor and general of Alexander the Great, where one of the first bridges over the Euphrates had been built. Up to 70 000 people lived here during Roman times and it became a military and commercial centre.

On arrival in Gazaintep, the culinary capital of Turkey, we will have lunch in a local restaurant, before we visit the Zeugma Mosaic Museum to see some of the largest mosaics ever unearthed.

This morning we will pay a visit to the Culinary Museum of Gaziantep to explore all things food related in this foodie’s paradise. After we will take a short stroll through the city and the afternoon will be yours to explore Gaziantep on your own.

This evening we will re-group for a food walk through the city, to try all the wonderful local delicacies Gazaintep has to offer.

We will leave Gaziantep this morning and head for the city of Antakya in the province of Hatay. Prior to our arrival we will stop at the site of Seleucia Pieria or ancient Antioch, established by Seleucus one of the generals of Alexander the Great. The geographical location of Antioch benefited the city militarily and economically, particularly in regard to the spice trade and the Silk Road. The city eventually rivalled Alexandria as chief city of the Near East.

After we have visited ancient Antioch, we will stop at the town of Harbiye for lunch, to visit its market and see its pretty waterfall before checking in to our museum hotel in Antakya.

Tonight’s hotel is really special. Extensive mosaics were discovered during construction, after the site had been assessed over many years, it was decided that a museum would be built to preserve the site. This museum has the functionality of both a traditional museum and a hotel.

This morning we will begin our exploration of Antakya with a visit to the Church of St Peter. The church is carved into a mountainside on Mt Starius with a depth of thirteen metres, the cave church is one of Christianity’s oldest churches.

After visiting this amazing church, we will delve further into the ancient past of the region with a visit to the Hatay Archaeological Museum which is known for its extensive collection of Roman and Byzantine era mosaics.

After lunch, the remainder of the day is yours to explore Antakya on your own.

After breakfast we will check out of the hotel and head out to Urgup in the province of Cappadocia, famous for its cave houses. Our first stop along the way will be at a local patisserie to try some of the regions local sweets and maybe have a Turkish coffee.

Then we will head to the city of Tarsus once an important stop for traders and a focal point of many ancient civilisations. Tarsus was the scene of the first meeting of Mark Antony and Cleopatra and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

We will have some free time for lunch in Tarsus, before visiting St Paul’s Church and Cleopatra’s gate and then continuing to Urgup, Cappadocia where we will spend the next 3-nights.

After breakfast we will depart to begin our exploration of the area of Cappadocia, starting with the underground city of Ozkonak. The city of Ozkonak was discovered in 1972 and differs from other cities of this type in Cappadocia as it has holes above the tunnels which were used for dumping hot sand on the enemy.

We will take a stroll through a virtually unknown side of Cappadocia in the Greek village of Mustafapasa and have lunch at the Old Greek House.

In the afternoon we will visit the Goreme Open Air Museum to see the old cave churches and houses as well as try some local Cappadocia wines at Turasan and Imagination Valley; named because the rock formations take the shape of different animals.

Today is free for you to discover Cappadocia on your own. You may wish to get some shopping done, wander among the cave formations or just relax and marvel at the spectacular scenery.

Optional Experience: Hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia

Hattusa - Luxury Tour of Eastern Turkey

Featured Optional experience – Day trip to Hattusa

Venture to the north of Cappadocia in search of Hattusa, the ancient capital of the Hittites. The Hittites were a people once strong enough to challenge the might of Egypt during its golden age and who once battled the armies of Ramses the Great. The ruins of their ancient city now lie abandoned in a valley near the town of Bogazkale and are usually deserted except for the odd archaeology buff. Explore the buildings of these mysterious people including the escape tunnels of the citadel, the majestic lion gate and the ‘gates of the underworld’. The city was destroyed around 1200 BCE by a roving band of marauders known at the ‘Sea Peoples’ who were responsible for the systematic destruction of almost all civilisations at the time.

This morning we will transfer to Kayseri airport for our return flight to Istanbul.

On arrival we will check back in to our hotel and the remainder of the day will be yours to rest, pack for your onward journey or to explore Istanbul.

This evening we will head out into this cosmopolitan city for a special dinner to say farewell to your travel companions and trip leader.

Depart Istanbul at any time with an included transfer to the airport so you don’t miss your onward flight. Your luxury tour of Eastern Turkey will conclude on arrival at the airport.

Luxury Tour of Turkey - Riches of the Ottomans
Trip Map – Riches of the Ottomans

Details

Duration: 21 Days

Trip style: Unique

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: ROII

Cost: $12 750.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: $1685.00 AUD

Inclusions

  • 20-nights accommodation in traditional and unique hotels, cave hotel and museum
  • Flights from Istanbul to Kars and Kayseri to Istanbul in economy class
  • All transport as mentioned in itinerary
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Optional experiences (not included):

  • Sanliurfa: Mt Nemrut – Sunrise Climb
  • Urgup: Morning Hot Air Balloon Ride
  • Urgup: Day trip to Hattusa

* Please note some optional experiences must be booked prior to travel. You will be given the option to add these experiences at check out

Trip price does not include

  • International airfares
  • Visa for Turkey
  • Any expenses associated with COVID-19
  • Meals not included as per trip itinerary including drinks and mini bar
  • Additional accommodation before or after the tour
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to laundry, souvenirs, porterage etc.
  • Travel insurance – please note comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas

Journey Rating – Journey

Although this trip travels through Turkey which in the west is well accustomed to tourism; this is not the case in the east of the country. People may be curious about seeing new faces in their towns and cities, and infrastructure will not be of the same standard as it is at home, or as it is in the country’s west.

Turkey is an Islamic country and there is no compulsory dress code as such, however in the east, women should consider dressing a little more modestly so as not to cause offense culturally. Toilets you encounter in public restrooms or in remote unscheduled stops along the way may be of the eastern ‘squat’ variety. There are some long travel days, but rest assured on arrival we will always be checking in to accommodation that is of a high standard. Facilities such as pharmacies, banks and ATM’s can be found in large cities and towns but may be absent from smaller villages and remote places.

Any dietary requirements should not be an issue while traveling on this trip, provided they are disclosed to Inverted Atlas at the time of booking.

A note about fitness

This trip requires a good level of physical fitness. You should be able to walk up to 4km at times and manage uneven surfaces during sightseeing, which will sometimes be at an incline. In addition, you should be able to climb up to 100 stairs unassisted and use an eastern style squat toilet (beware if you have knee issues).

You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the coach and into the accommodation. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.)

In addition, you should be in good health, with no major chronic conditions requiring frequent medical attention. This trip occasionally travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is limited. While all our trip leaders are required to have a valid first aid certificate, they are far from doctors and any assistance they are able to provide will be limited to basic first aid. For more information please see our booking conditions.

Single supplement

Traveling by yourself? No problem, we love single travellers and don’t believe in penalising them by charging half the trip price again for our single supplement. With us you are only paying the actual cost to have a room all to yourself. If you’re up for making a new friend, you can elect to share with another single traveller of the same sex and only pay the twin-share price. The choice is yours!

Trip leader description

Accompanying you along your journey will be your Inverted Atlas trip leader. Your trip leader is a logistics extraordinaire, keeps the trip running smoothly and ensures you have the best time possible on your trip. It is important to know that while your trip leader has the best job in the world, they aren’t actually on holidays, but rather they are there to make sure you have the best time while you are on your holiday! Your trip leader may at times need some time out so that they can complete back of house tasks that ensure everyone continues to enjoy the trip. It is also your trip leaders’ job to handle any issues (heaven forbid!) that come up while you’re on your trip like:

  • If you lose your passport or other travel documents
  • If there is a problem with your room at the booked accommodation – seriously please tell your trip leader don’t wait until you leave
  • If you become unwell and need to find a pharmacy
  • Assisting with restaurant recommendations or additional sightseeing during free time
  • Questions regarding the itinerary

Your trip leader will have some good local knowledge about the destination in which you are traveling, however they are not a ‘local guide’. You’re welcome to ask your trip leader anything about the trip and if they don’t know they will find out and get back to you. Other people you will meet along the way are ‘local guides’ who are generally available to the group in specific towns or at specific sites like national parks, temples or archaeological sites. These people are the local experts and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the history and culture of a specific site.

Itinerary disclaimer

This itinerary is correct at the time of upload to our website and we have composed it in good faith. From time to time we may elect to make changes before departure, if we are making a big change we will of course notify you, however if it is a small change this will be reflected in the final trip notes. So, make sure you download these prior to departure. Small changes prior to departure are usually made with the groups best interests in mind and come about due to liaising with our best resources – our past travelers and of course our trip leaders! The ability to change and evolve depending on what our travelers enjoy is what makes us such a great trip operator.

While we strive to operate our trips exactly to the letter of the itinerary, sometimes we may need to make changes on the ground while the group is on the road. This is all part of the adventure of traveling and we would ask that you come on your trip with an open mind and a good sense of humour because as much as we want it to, everything doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, these impromptu situations often make the best stories that you can have a laugh with your friends about later.

Age requirements

Minimum Age: 16 years

There is no shared accommodation on this trip, and in this instance we would welcome everyone above the age of 16 years. Should you wish to bring younger children, please give us a call.

There is no upper age limit for this trip, but you should consider the above fitness requirements prior to booking. If you are 65 years or over, you will be asked to complete our Health Check Form and have your medical practitioner sign it to confirm you are in good health and able to participate safely on this trip.

Travel insurance

Please note that comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas. Insurance must include provision for medical situations, emergency medical repatriation to your home country and personal liability at a minimum. Proof of valid travel insurance will be requested by your trip leader on arrival at the pre-departure meeting. Please have this paperwork available for them. If you are unable to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance, you may not be allowed to join the trip and no refund will be payable.

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