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Day by Day Itinerary

Travel to Turkey with OAT to find the heart of a land steeped in biblical history and scattered with relics of once-mighty civilizations. Witness the jeweled Byzantine palaces and soaring minarets of Istanbul, then journey to the shores of Lake Van—whose piercing blue waters are encircled by snow-capped peaks—to explore the bygone capital of the Urartu Empire. Wander among the ruins of an ancient walled Armenian capital in Kars. Walk in the footsteps of St. Paul in Tarsus and Antioch, the city where the apostle preached and mighty emperors reigned. And journey from the breathtaking mountaintop sanctuary of Nemrut Dagi to the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia, passing through the shadow of Mount Ararat, the legendary resting place of Noah’s Ark. In addition to exploring remnants of vanquished kingdoms, you’ll meet the modern inhabitants of these ancient lands—dining in the home of Kurdish villagers and visiting the workshops of traditional Turkish artisans. Join us to take the “Silk Roads” less traveled, and experience timeless beauty and unforgettable historic treasures of Turkey.

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    Depart the U.S. today on your overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

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    Discover Istanbul on a guided walking tour

    Arrive in Istanbul this afternoon, where an OAT representative will meet you at the airport and assist you to your hotel. There, you'll meet your fellow travelers, including those who took our pre-trip extension to Istanbul, Turkey or The Silk Route: Tashkent, Bukhara & Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    View the the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hagia Sophia

    Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, was first founded by Greek colonists in the sixth century BC as Byzantium. Since then, the city has had many lives and many names, serving as the literal and figurative intersection of the East and West. Here we’ll find historical Orthodox churches, colorful Islamic mosaics, and ruins dating back to the Iron Age. Time has not diminished the importance of the former Byzantine and Ottoman capital—it has grown into the world's fifth-largest city, with a metropolitan population that outranks London.

    After breakfast, we’ll discover a few of Istanbul’s ancient landmarks, including the Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A Christian church for almost 1,000 years, this magnificent structure served as a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottomans, who added minarets and fountains. In 1934, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk, designated it a museum to be shared with the world.

    We’ll also explore the nearby At Meydani, better known as the Hippodrome, with its famous Egyptian obelisk brought over by Constantine. The Hippodrome was the center of life in Byzantine Constantinople for more than 1,000 years, and then (once the city changed hands) of Ottoman Istanbul for 400 more. After lunch on our own, we’ll work off our meal with a delightful walk along Istiklal Caddesi, the main street leading through the heart of Art Nouveau Istanbul. This evening, we experience the delights of Turkish cuisine during a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Explore the surrounding countryside of Turkey's Lake Van

    Early today we fly to Van, the one-time capital of the ancient Urartu Empire—contemporaries (and frequently rivals) of the Hittites. This historic city is set along the southeastern shores of Turkey’s largest lake—Lake Van—a crystal-clear saline lake encircled by craggy, snowcapped mountains, six times bigger than Utah’s Great Salt Lake. In the center of the city stands a statue of one of Van’s most famous icons—the Van Kedisi, an unusual breed of cat that typically has white fur, mismatched eyes, and an affinity for swimming. They’ve been known to dive happily into Lake Van just for fun. Their numbers are dwindling and export is strictly forbidden, so Van cats are rarely seen anywhere else on Earth.

    Upon arrival, we’ll visit Cavustepe, a royal Urartian citadel consisting of temple buildings, a palace, sacrificial altar, and an extraordinarily advanced series of ancient cisterns. We’ll spend the morning exploring the site, then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before checking into our hotel.

    This afternoon, we embark on a walking tour of Van, including the Van Museum, and we'll stop by a local market. Dinner is at our hotel this evening.

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    Explore Akdamar Island located in Lake Van

    This morning we hop a ferry to Akdamar, a tiny island in Lake Van, to view its Armenian cathedral. The recently restored reliefs on the exterior of the tenth-century structure depict a variety of Old Testament stories, as well as more mundane scenes of life at the ancient palace. The church’s conversion into a museum stirred up controversy in the Armenian community, where the cathedral is still considered sacred. In 2010, the Van government allowed an Armenian worship service to take place here for the first time in more than 100 years. After exploring the cathedral, we'll take a walk through the surrounding meadows to admire the church's idyllic setting.

    After an included lunch, we’ll embark on a short hike back on the mainland to explore Van Kalesi (Castle), also known as the Rock of Van, an ancient Urartu fortress dating from the eighth century BC. The ruins of Van Kalesi make up the largest Urartu fortress in the world and the wall still contains an inscription from a later ruler, Xerxes the Great. Then, we’ll enjoy dinner back at our hotel.

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    Today, as we travel north through Eastern Anatolia, near the borders of Iran and Armenia, we enjoy views of green meadows carpeting a rugged landscape where trees are sparse and snowcapped volcanoes loom in the distance.

    We’ll pause along our journey at the Muradiye Waterfalls to observe their frothing falls from a wooden bridge. We then continue on through the rugged terrain surrounding nearby Mount Ararat—legendary resting place of Noah’s Ark. Then we visit the Ishak Pasha Palace. Rising magnificently from a dusty plain along the Silk Route close to the Iranian border, the palace is a magnificent example of 18th-century Ottoman architecture. Then we'll have lunch in the frontier town of Dogubayazit this afternoon.

    Early in the evening, we'll return to our hotel. Tonight, we'll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Kars.

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    Explore the ancient walled Armenian capital during a tour of Turkey

    This morning we visit Ani, the ancient walled Armenian capital that once rivaled Constantinople and Baghdad in size and magnificence. Known as the “city of 1,001 churches,” the ruins here still contain the same bright red, black and pale yellow hues as when they were originally built from colorful local volcanic basalt in the tenth century. Ani never fully recovered from a devastating 1319 earthquake and has been deserted for more than 300 years. An archaeological site of great significance to Armenia, the ruins were rarely seen by visitors in the 20th century due to Ani’s proximity to the Armenian and Soviet borders. Up until 2004, the Turkish government required a special permit and prohibited visitors from bringing cameras to this extraordinary ghost city.

    After hiking the ruins, we’ll visit nearby Bogazkoy village, for insights into local culture and a taste of traditional cuisine during a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family. Then we’ll discover some of the famous Kasar cheese and honey at a local market. Later, we’ll enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.

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    Behold the landscape of Erzurum during your exploration of Turkey

    Today we discover Erzurum, eastern Turkey’s largest city. Set high on a plateau and surrounded by mountains, the town is a winter sports mecca noted for the challenging ski trails of Mount Palandöken. Historically, Erzurum has hosted many important civilizations, including Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, and Ottomans. After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll explore Erzurum’s surviving medieval structures, including the citadel fortress and the 13th-century Madrasa with its twin minarets.

    And, during a visit to a handcrafts market, we’ll see the many ways locals carve jewelry out of jet—the local, coal-based stone that spawned the phrase “jet black.” Once popular for mourning jewelry, the delicate shiny black stone can only be carved into intricate designs by skilled artisans.

    Dinner is at our hotel tonight.

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    View a Medieval church in Trabzon

    After breakfast, we depart Erzurum for Trabzon, situated along Turkey's Black Sea coast, enjoying lunch en route. Upon arrival in Trabzon this afternoon, we discover one of the delights of this historic Silk Road city—and birthplace of Suleiman the Magnificent, the most influential and longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire—during a visit to the Aya Sofya mosque, a former Byzantine-era church adorned with spectacular frescoes.

    Leaving the Aya Sofya mosque, we discover more of Trabzon as we stroll from the Zagros Bridge to our hotel, where we'll enjoy dinner this evening.

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    Explore the Sumela monastery in Trabzon Turkey

    Following breakfast this morning, we explore the mountain monastery complex of Sumela, whose construction began in AD 385. Clinging perilously to the sheer face of a cliff overlooking a lush valley, the 72-room monastery complex is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. We'll ride up to the monastery aboard our coach. Following our explorations, hardier travelers may opt to tackle the trip down on foot.

    We have lunch on our own near Sumela, then return to Trabzon for an afternoon at leisure. Perhaps you’ll hike to nearby Boztepe, a hill and tea garden with four sacred fountains, including one known as the “milk fountain” at Kaymakli Monastery, which features well-preserved frescoes and ruins dating back to 1424. Or visit the Trabzon Museum, an impressive collection of archaeological and ethnographic materials located in a mansion that was once home to Turkey’s first president. And you can also explore Trabzon’s bazaar district, where narrow ancient streets twist and turn between shops and open-air markets. After our afternoon of independent exploration, we’ll meet up this evening for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    After an early breakfast, we’ll take a short flight west to Ankara, Turkey’s modern capital. The region of central Anatolia in which Ankara is situated is also the heartland of the long-vanished Hittite civilization. Upon arrival, we’ll head to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which is located in the Old City at the entrance to Ankara Castle and home to an excellent collection of Hittite and Urartian artifacts.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll continue our drive to Cappadocia, an extraordinary region of “fairy chimneys,” cave dwellings, and surreal volcanic landscapes like nowhere else in the world, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We arrive in Cappadocia in the early evening, and enjoy an included dinner at our hotel.

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    View ancient churches carved from the Turkey's soft tufa rock

    Our day begins with a visit to the renowned Goreme “open-air museum,” a group of ancient churches carved from the region’s soft tufa rock (the result of volcanic ash spewed some 30 million years ago). Most of the churches include interior chapels adorned by colorful frescoes. Then we enjoy an invigorating hike into the Soganli Valley, dotted with churches and curious rock formations, followed by a relaxing coffee break at a local café in Sinassos.

    After lunch on our own, we’ll explore one of the underground cities used by early Christians and others as refuges from invading hordes that regularly swept across the Anatolian Plain. These vast complexes could hide thousands of people, as well as their livestock. Then we’ll journey to the highest point in the region, Üchisar Castle. The summit of this natural fortress, honeycombed with rooms, stairs, and tunnels, offers a splendid panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

    Following our day of discoveries, we'll return to our hotel. After dinner at a local restaurant, you may choose to join our Whirling Dervishes optional excursion.

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    See Cappadocia during a hot air balloon ride

    If you wish, you can begin your day early with an optional hot-air balloon flight to watch the sun rise over the breathtaking landscapes of Cappadocia. Then, following breakfast, we’ll all enjoy an elective hike from the village of Üchisar to Goreme. If you choose to partake in this approximately two-hour hike, your efforts will be amply rewarded with some extraordinary views of the region’s unique landscapes—ribbons of pale yellow and orange rock, naturally carved fairy chimneys and man-made rock houses, punctuated by patches of green.

    When we return to the modern world, we’ll attend a craft demonstration by local artisans at a rug-weaving cooperative, followed by lunch on our own. Then we’ll have the opportunity to get acquainted with the 9,000-year-old pottery-making tradition of Anatolia, followed by another elective hike in one of the surrounding valleys. Dinner is on your own evening.

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    Explore Antakya during a tour of Turkey

    Today, we travel to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast to Antakya, a town close to the Syrian border. In ancient times, Antakya—then known as Antioch—was notorious for the perceived depravity of its inhabitants: Before suffering one of the most deadly earthquakes in recorded history, ancient Antioch enjoyed a decadent and luxurious lifestyle that prized arts and fashion over all else. Saint Peter chose this locale for his first mission to the Gentiles and his converts in Antioch were the first group to go by the name Christians. We'll have lunch during our drive today.

    Upon our arrival, we’ll enjoy a brief walk around the Old Town before checking in to our hotel. Then we'll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Discover the ancient city of Antioch

    After breakfast, we’ll set out to experience A Day in the Life of two Turkish villages. First, we visit Vakifli, an Armenian village perched on the slope of Musa Dagh (Mount Moses) overlooking the Mediterranean, which is known as the last Christian Armenian village in Turkey. We’ll have a chance to meet with locals here and learn about their way of life. Then, we travel to the nearby village of Kapisuyu, where we’ll begin our cultural discoveries with a visit to Kapisuyu Primary and Secondary School when in session—supported by Grand Circle Foundation, a part of the World Classroom initiative. We’ll meet the school principal for a tour of the grounds of the school and join some of the students in their classrooms. After a walking tour of Kapisuyu and its market area, we meet the head of the village in his office for a discussion about local history and culture. We then divide into smaller groups to join local families for a Home-Hosted Lunch. This is a great way to savor regional cuisine, share a little of ourselves, and experience the local culture.

    Then, before returning to our hotel, we'll hike to Titus Tunnel, a canal built by the Romans in the first century AD to divert rainwater from Antioch's harbor. We'll also discover the nearby Roman necropolis, which hosts a dozen tombs cut into the surrounding rock.

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we’ll travel overland to Urfa (also known as Sanliurfa). It is here that many Biblical figures—most notably Abraham—are said to have lived.

    En route, we’ll pause to visit the cave church of St. Peter, which the Vatican proclaimed as a holy place in 1983. Nestled in a hillside grotto with views of surrounding orchards and farms, this site’s original house of worship most likely dates back to the early 1st century A.D. A portion of the original chapel’s mosaic floor still exists today. It is here that Christians believe St. Peter held the first mass during his time in Antioch.

    Then we'll explore Urfa’s relationship with the mighty Euphrates River. In the riverside town of Halfeti, we'll take a boat ride on the Euphrates. As our boat makes its way upriver, we'll pass through a honey-colored stone gorge, as the ruined walls of Rumkale (a medieval fortress) come into view. The walls sit atop the site of the church where St. John is said to written his gospel, which he later smuggled out of the region by boat to thwart his persecutors.

    Upon returning to shore, enjoy lunch on your own in Halfeti, a town with a nearly 3,000-year-old history. Having existed since the Assyrian era, the original site of Halfeti was flooded during dam-building in 1999. Important Halfeti structures were moved closer to the river and, 15 years later, the town is thriving again.

    We return to Urfa this afternoon and settle into our hotel, with time to relax before dinner in a local restaurant.

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    View statue heads near the Royal Tomb on Mount Nemrut

    After breakfast at our hotel we'll set off to explore Gobekli Tepe, which researchers have newly designated as the oldest temple on earth. Just six miles away from Urfa, this site of stone structures—outlined by carved, t-shaped pillars (the tallest rising 16 feet)—dates back some 11,000 years, making it more than twice as old as Stonehenge. Mysterious and impressive, the stones were carved by a prehistoric people long before metal tools existed, and they were erected before animal husbandry made it easier to move large objects. The view alone—from 1,000 feet above the plains—is stunning, making for a most memorable experience.

    We stop for an included lunch on our way back to Urfa, where we'll explore the city, beginning with its intriguing lake of Sacred Fish—a pool in a serene courtyard where visitors can feed the fish and make wishes. According to legend, this is the place where Nimrod attempted to execute Abraham by burning him on a pyre, only to have the fire miraculously turn into a lake.

    We'll then tour the bazaars of Urfa. These bustling marketplaces uncover a slice of Turkish life that has, in many ways, remained unchanged for centuries. It is a fascinating way to connect with the culture of this city and to observe its people's everyday lives.

    You'll have the late afternoon and evening to explore and enjoy dinner on your own.

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    Explore the streets of Adana

    After breakfast, we'll travel overland to Gaziantep, via Mount Nemrut—one of Turkey’s most breathtaking destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll ascend the renowned mountaintop where Antiochus I of the Kingdom of Commagene erected a temple, along with a dozen gigantic statues of both himself and various ancient gods. Some speculate this was an attempt to unite his multi-faith kingdom, while others consider it an extremely narcissistic attempt at immortality. Surrounding the haunting peak of Mount Nemrut, the bodies of the colossal statues stand, somewhat deteriorated, with their beautifully carved heads laying scattered at their feet. This affords us a rare opportunity to see the details of these grand statues up-close. We'll then enjoy a picnic lunch before continuing on to Gaziantep.

    One of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, first known as "Antep," the city added “Gazi”—which means “victorious”—to its name in 1921 after the nation honored the city for its resistance to the French in the Turkish War of Independence. Renowned for its pistachios, olives, and urban vibrancy, it is a shining example of a place that has been evolving for thousands of years.

    We arrive in Gaziantep late this afternoon, and you'll enjoy dinner on your own this evening. Perhaps you'll choose to sample one of the local delicacies, such as icli köfte (lamb and bulgur wheat meatballs).

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    See St. Paul’s Church in Tarsus

    After breakfast, we'll visit the Mosaic Museum of Gaziantep. Open since 2011, this 90,000-square-foot museum hosts the world’s largest collection of mosaics, and features relics from the ancient villas of Zeugma, a nearby Roman city. Some of the mosaics were crafted as far back as 2,000 years ago, many of them having been discovered during excavations in preparation for flooding that would accompany the building of Birecik Dam on the Euphrates. A team of 50 preservationists used traditional methods to hand-clean and restore the mosaics, which now cover more than 20,000 square feet in area.

    Then we’ll tour Gaziantep’s Old Town, which is full of traditional soft stone houses and a citadel updated by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Here, we'll explore the bazaar, active since 1781. Perhaps you’ll catch sight of some of the city’s signature products like “Yemeni” slippers—the light, flat shoes once favored by Ottoman soldiers and now beloved by all.

    We'll have lunch together in the city before you enjoy an afternoon to explore on your own. Perhaps you’ll follow the cobbled lanes to visit some of the neighborhood mosques, many of which have signage in English, or step inside the local shops for baklava, pistachios, or copper goods.

    This evening we celebrate our journey with a Farewell Dinner in a local restaurant.

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    Depart for the airport to catch your early morning flight back to the U.S. via Istanbul, or begin your optional post-trip extension, Cruising the Turquoise Coast: Ephesus, Izmir & Turkey’s Hidden Coves.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 9 locations in 19 days with one 1-night stay
  • 2 early mornings for internal flights of 1-2 hours

Physical Requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • Should be able to walk 3 miles unassisted over the course of each day, exploring on foot for up to 3 hours at a time and participating in 6-8 hours of daily physical activities
  • Agility is required for boat rides and the optional post-trip gulet cruise
  • On Day 17, you'll travel for an extended period, followed by a lengthy hike over gravel

Altitude

  • Some days at altitudes of up to 9,000 feet

Climate

  • Eastern Turkey is mountainous, rugged, and often quite chilly
  • Snow is frequent in the winter, when temperatures average well below freezing
  • During July and August, temperatures in southeastern Turkey may reach 110°F

Terrain

  • Travel city streets, rugged paths, steep trails, and winding unpaved roads

Transportation

  • Travel overland in an air-conditioned bus and cruise on a small boat.

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Many accommodations located in remote areas are the best available in the region
  • Some hotels may feature more basic amenities than those in other parts of the country
  • Air conditioning may not be available in some accommodations

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Turkey: Visa required.
  • Uzbekistan (optional extension): Visa required.

Beginning April 10, 2014, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will no longer provide visas on arrival to foreign travelers. All foreigners must obtain their Turkish visas from Turkish missions abroad or from the e-visa application system, depending on eligibility. 

Please note: The e-visa system is only usable for travelers entering Turkey for tourism or commerce. For any other purpose of travel, the applicant must obtain a Turkish visa in advance from a Turkish diplomatic or consular post. 

Information regarding Turkish e-visas and the application process can be found at: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ 

General information on Turkish visas can be found at:
http://www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

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Pre-Trip

  • Gulet-style yacht

    We cruise aboard a privately chartered, traditional Turkish gulet-style yacht. It is about 82 feet long with a 21-foot beam, and is constructed mostly from fine teak and oak. Our yacht has both sails and a motor, and features indoor and outdoor dining verandas and cushions for relaxing on the observation decks, located both fore and aft. We’ll enjoy most meals outdoors on deck. Our gulet-style yacht has small cabins with private bath, limited public space, no air-conditioning, and no overnight electric power in cabins. We also carry a small boat with us equipped with an outboard motor for shore excursions along the coast.

Main Trip

  • Richmond Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey

    The Richmond Hotel is conveniently situated in the popular Beyoglu district of Istanbul, just a ten-minute stroll to Taksim Square. Along with a rooftop restaurant with views overlooking the Bosporus, there is a café and bar/lounge at the Richmond. The hotel features 103 air-conditioned rooms, each with minibar, safe, cable TV, radio, telephone, Internet access, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Elite World Van

    Van, Turkey

    Elite World Van is a newly opened hotel conveniently situated in Van’s city center. Hotel amenities include two restaurants, bar, café, fitness center, and indoor pool. There are 223 air-conditioned rooms at Elite World Van, each with safe, minibar, Internet access, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Sim Er

    Kars, Turkey

    Ideally located in the city center, this hotel features a garden oasis, two restaurants serving Turkish and vegetarian cuisine, and a nightclub. Each of its 146 rooms features a satellite TV, direct-dial telephone, minibar, and private bathroom with shower and hair dryer.

  • Xanadu Snow White

    Erzurum, Turkey

    Take in beautiful alpine views from this enchanting ski lodge in the foothills of Palandöken Mountain. Amenities at the hotel include a restaurant, sports bar, spa, and fitness center. Each of the 181 rooms has a flat-screen TV, telephone, minibar, and private bathroom with shower.

  • Zorlu Grand Hotel

    Trabzon, Turkey

    The striking internal architecture of this 160-room hotel complements the 2,500 years of history that surround it in Trabzon. Enjoy its setting in the center of the city, as well as a restaurant featuring Turkish and world cuisine, an English pub, patisserie, snack house, bar, TV/living room, fitness center, indoor pool, sauna, and Turkish bath. Your room offers satellite TV, direct-dial telephone, minibar, music system, and private bathroom with shower and hair dryer.

  • Lykia Lodge Kapadokya

    Cappadocia, Turkey

    An excellent base for our explorations in the Cappadocia region, this five-story hotel features unique design elements that harmonize with the environment, and includes two restaurants (indoor and outdoor), along with a bar, shops, and a swimming pool. There are 146 rooms, each with air-conditioning, minibar, satellite TV, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • Savon Hotel

    Antakya, Turkey

    A former soap and olive oil factory dating to the Ottoman Empire of the 1860s, the Savon has been restored as a 43-room boutique hotel. Escape into the tranquil courtyard, enjoy Turkish and international cuisine in the restaurant, or relax in the fireplace bar. In your air-conditioned room, enjoy the satellite TV, direct-dial telephone, minibar, and private bathroom with tub and hair dryer.

  • Manici Hotel

    Sanliurfa, Turkey

    The Manici Hotel is located next to Baliki Gol, the lake known as the "pool of prophet Abraham," and near Sanlifurfa Castle. Each of the 52 air-conditioned rooms features satellite TV, free wireless Internet access, a minibar, and a private bathroom with shower. Hotel amenities include an outdoor patio, an on-site restaurant, and a bar.
  • Sirehan Hotel

    Gaziantep, Turkey

    Located in a historic building dating from the late Ottoman period, the Sirehan Hotel was recently renovated and is centrally located in Gaziantep. Each of its 111 air-conditioned rooms features satellite TV, wired and wireless Internet access, a safe, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and a private bathroom with a hair dryer. The hotel has an on-site restaurant and a lobby bar.

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  • Richmond Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey

    The Richmond Hotel is conveniently situated in the popular Beyoglu district of Istanbul, just a ten-minute stroll to Taksim Square. Along with a rooftop restaurant with views overlooking the Bosporus, there is a café and bar/lounge at the Richmond. The hotel features 103 air-conditioned rooms, each with minibar, safe, cable TV, radio, telephone, Internet access, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace

    Tashkent, Uzbekistan

    The Tashkent Palace Hotel is situated near the center of Tashkent, close to the Amir Temur Square and the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Along with a rooftop restaurant, piano bar, and gym facilities, there are 232 air-conditioned rooms at the hotel, each with telephone, satellite TV, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • Sultan Boutique Hotel

    Samarkand, Uzbekistan

    The Sultan Boutique Hotel is conveniently located in the historic center of Samarkand, just a short walk from the Gur Emir (Tamerlane mausoleum). Each of the 17 rooms features a flat-screen TV and private bath.

  • Hotel Asia Bukhara

    Bukhara, Uzbekistan

    The Hotel Asia Bukhara is located in the heart of Bukhara, just a few minutes walk from the Lyab-I-Khauz complex of historic buildings. The hotel features a restaurant, rooftop bar, and sauna. Each of the 95 air-conditioned rooms includes a telephone, satellite TV, minibar, hair dryer, and private bath with shower.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $4195
w/ standard air $4595

Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Turkey's Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Turkey's Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizationsand save up to $930 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"We had a terrific time on A Day in the Life. We each had a Turkish word and had to find out what it meant, even though there was a language barrier. Much pantomime, drawing, and hilarity ensued. We toured the house and farm and had lunch. I think the family had as much fun as we did!"

Dorothy Martin, 6-time traveler, Lexington, Massachusetts

"I thought, as always, OAT and our guide did a really great job of finding sites in keeping with the title of this trip. There was never a dull moment, from meeting the Urartian expert near Van to Ataturk’s Tomb, to visiting the Anatolian Museum, to seeing the Mosaic Museums, to walks through several cities as a group. I constantly felt it couldn’t get any better, but then it did. I loved it all!"

Deana Fusco, 5-time traveler, Headlsburg, California

"Atilla, our Trip Leader, was a very professional person. Extraordinary knowledge in archaeology, history, anthropology of Turkey. His English language was flawless. He was very responsible and sensitive to the needs of travelers. We all enjoyed the trip because of his talents."

Myriam Borelli, 5-time traveler, Miami, Florida

"This was a most interesting and enjoyable trip to a very interesting part of Turkey. Kadir is a first class Trip Leader—probably the best of my six trips."

Robert Spath, 6-time traveler, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Partner since: 2004
Total donated: $365,595

Making a difference in Turkey

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel—which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Turkey, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Vakifli and Kapisuyu Villages

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the villages of Vakifli and Kapisuyu near Antakya. You’ll get to know the local people, be invited into their homes for tea and share conversation together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here.

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A Day in the Life of Vakifli and Kapisuyu Villages

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the villages of Vakifli and Kapisuyu near Antakya. You’ll get to know the local people, be invited into their homes for tea and share conversation together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here.

Meet the People of Vakifli and Kapisuyu Villages

Your Day in the Life experience in Antakya allows you to see how the past of a historically rich region shapes the lives of the people who currently reside here.  Many groups, including Persians, Romans, Greeks, Turks and Armenians, have made the area what it is today. As you visit the villages of Vakifli and Kapisuyu, you’ll gain insights into Turkish society and culture which remain hidden from most travelers.

You’ll start your day in Vakifli, the last Christian Armenian village in Turkey. From this village on Musa Dagh (Mount Moses), you’ll have a chance to meet with locals and chat about their way of life over tea. When it is in session, you’ll visit Kapisuyu Primary and Secondary School in the nearby village of Kapisuyu—supported by Grand Circle Foundation, a part of the World Classroom initiative. You can interact with the principal as he gives you a tour of the school grounds. Then you will join some of the students in their classrooms, participating in their lessons, talking with their teacher about their education, and maybe learning something new yourself.  After your school visit, strolling through Kapisuyu’s market will give you another opportunity to partake in the bustle of village life. You'll poke your head in the local café to observe people catching up about today’s news and local gossip. Later, you’ll meet with the leader of the village and will discuss the region’s history and culture with him. Next, you’ll find your way to a home nearby to enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch. Perhaps you’ll be able to recognize some of the fruits and vegetables from your walk in the market in the dishes prepared for you!

By the end of your Day in the Life experience, we hope you’ll come away with a real sense for what life is like in Turkey.  When you witness this side of Turkey, you’ll discover the country through the people of Vakifli and Kapisuyu.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Turkey

By funding improvements in local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Turkey, you’ll meet young students at a local school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Turkey

By funding improvements in local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Turkey, you’ll meet young students at a local school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation.

Kapisuyu Primary and Secondary School

Partner since: 2014

Currently, Grand Circle Foundation supports ten schools in Turkey. The Foundation recently began a partnership with Kapisuyu Primary and Secondary School. We are excited to see what impact this partnership will have on the school, which serves 186 students in the village of Kapisuyu.

School in session:

Mid-September to early June, with periodic closures for Muslim and public holidays

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Educational language books
  • Pens and pencils
  • Hair clips
  • Baseball caps
  • T-shirts
Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Private Departures

Explore Turkey in an Exclusive Group

Reserve a Private Departure of Turkey's Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations for your exclusive group of as few as 8 travelers, and enjoy a truly special adventure for just you and your family or friends—for an additional $1200 per person.

For more details—or to reserve your Private Departure—call your Group Sales Account Representative toll-free at 1-800-353-6262 and select Option #3.

Please note: Some restrictions apply. See our Private Departures page for details.

Istanbul Underground

Ancient treasures beneath modern streets

by David Valdes Greenwood

Some of the most fascinating evidences of its colorful past aren't reflected in its skyline, but instead require the intrepid traveler to head underground.

The Persians named it Dersaadet, the Door to Ultimate Happiness. Arabs called it Bab-I Ali, the Sublime Port. You probably know it as Istanbul. The city tells the stories of layers upon layers of cultures. Here, history literally runs deep: Some of the most fascinating evidences of its colorful past aren’t reflected in its skyline, but instead require the intrepid traveler to head underground.

You can thank the occupying Romans for your chance to see a city beneath a city. Bringing in their best engineers, they created underground aqueducts to deliver water from outside the city to cisterns within. Once they set the precedent, not only were there underground cisterns but stables, houses of worship, and even palace rooms. Some of these treasures have been lost to history, while others were preserved and more recently uncovered, allowing visitors to truly experience a hidden side of the city.

Splendor underfoot

Cisterns are not unique to Turkey, but Istanbul is home to the mother of them all. It boasts the largest cistern on Earth, the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici), which can hold 21 million gallons of water. Built in the sixth century and operable for hundreds of years, the cistern fell into disuse and disrepair, forgotten by city officials until a 16th-century French translator working in the city noticed that some of the locals dipped buckets through the floors of their homes to get water; tracing the pattern of these access points, he rediscovered the mouth of the cistern, which was then restored to the public.  Three hundred and thirty six columns support the domed arches of the interior, with water still flowing at base level. Keen eyes will note that not all the columns are the same—the head of Medusa upholds one column and another column is trimmed in carved peacock feathers.

Houses of worship

Some of the most evocative underground sites are intended for contemplation. Yeralti Camii, an underground mosque on Karantina Sokagi (in the Karakoy neighborhood), may be far less ornate than its above-ground peers like Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, but it impresses in its own quiet way. In what was once the cellar of a Byzantine castle, 54 vaulted chambers lead to a pair of tombs, bathed in emerald light, housing Arab saints who died trying to free the city in the seventh century. Their bodies were hidden here for a thousand years until a dervish had a dream that this is where they lay, and when the remains were found, a shrine was raised on the site. A hundred years later, the entire site was converted to a mosque, as it remains today.

Other religions in the region, such as the Greek Orthodox faith, have long histories of their own. One such church is the Monastery of the Mother of God at the Spring, also known as Balikli Kilise (“the Fish Church”). Built in 1835 atop the foundation of a shrine dedicated at the turn of the sixth century, the church itself is above ground. To see the waters that inspired such devotion, you must descend a staircase at the side of the church into the crypt. There, you’ll find the fish for which the church is named swimming freely in the marble basin. It’s the water—not the fish—that is sacred, but the fish represent a popular religious legend. Folklore has it that on the day that the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, a monk cooking fish for dinner told a peer that conquest was imminent; the listener scoffed, saying that the cooked fish would more likely come back to life than the city would fall. When the fish leaped out of the oil and into the water—and Constantinople did fall—the skeptic (only figuratively) ate his words. The fish have been part of the church ever since.

Feasting on history

One of the oldest restaurants in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, Albura Kathisma has been serving up hearty Turkish fare for centuries. Pass the tables where diners tuck into traditional lamb or eggplant specialties, then continue into the garden terrace, and you’ll gain entry to a subterranean walkway. Here you’ll find four vaulted chambers that led to the Magnaura Palace in the fourth century. Over on Istiklal Caddesi, between the flower stalls and fish market, Sarabi Wine House is a chic, modern vinoteca in its top floors, but if you dine in the cellar, you will be enclosed in the brick cavern of an aqueduct that once connected the British Embassy to the Bosporus.

Looking to the future from the past

Surprisingly, for a city with so many well-preserved icons of its past, new discoveries of ancient glory continue to be made—sometimes inadvertently. One of the biggest engineering endeavors in the city’s history is the Marmaray Project, a high-speed rail line that would, for the first time ever, connect Halkali, to the west of Istanbul on the European side, with Gebze, to its East on the Asian side, a feat made possible by building a tunnel beneath the Bosporus. But when the excavators reached the Yenikapi neighborhood, they found something they didn’t expect: the “lost” port of Theodosius.

Though ancient writings detailed the fourth-century port, no one had ever seen evidence of its existence and there was no agreement as to its location. But archaeologists affiliated with the Marmaray Project have now uncovered 36 Byzantine ships dating from the seventh to the eleventh centuries, including a 120-foot-long vessel they’ve nicknamed "the Titanic." At the base of the pit, jetties and docks line up in neat rows. With boats of all sizes having now been unearthed—from rowboats to cargo ships—a portrait of Constantinople in its heyday is taking shape.

The site sprawls across 625,000 square feet, making it the largest nautical archaeological site ever unearthed. In a few years, officials hope to unveil a museum that will introduce these boats to the very citizens who once walked above them, never knowing there was treasure beneath their feet.