TE2 The Land Beyond the Seas TOUR

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'The Land Beyond the Seas'

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Armenian, Christian, Kurdish and Arabic cultural legacies; Giant heads of Mt Nemrut; Mount Ararat, resting place of Noah's Ark; Spectacular Sumela Monastery; Trabzon: Walled city on Black Sea; Timeless Istanbul, guided tours

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Mon 14 Sep 2015Wed 30 Sep 2015 $4090
Mon 25 Apr 2016Wed 11 May 2016 $4090
Mon 12 Sep 2016Wed 28 Sep 2016 $4090

Optional Single Supplement: $520 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


Turkey is the perfect setting for culture and history enthusiasts because it is a nation ripe with heritage. For centuries, the preservation of the winding streets of Diyarbakir has been dependent on protection of the Taurus Mountains, along with the black basalt walls that encircle the city. There is a sense of having discovered one of the secluded wonders of the world when roaming the streets within this enclosed city. This sensation is not too far from the truth, because we will set foot into the capital of the ancient Uratian empire, Van, which is an area that had been inaccessible to visitors until the 1960s. Istanbul, the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, yields new and exciting discoveries for us around each corner.

Regions visited: Central And Eastern Europe
Countries visited: Turkey


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Istanbul
Today we arrive in Istanbul and transfer to our hotel.

"If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Constantinople," marveled Alphonse de Lamartine, the 19th century French writer and politician. New Rome, Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul; the legendary city has served as the capital of the legendary Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Though no longer a capital, Istanbul is the largest city and the cosmopolitan heart of Turkey, full of marvels and startling contrasts.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Istanbul - Hatay / Antakya
This morning we fly from Istanbul to Hatay and Antakya, ancient Antioch. On arrival we visit the Hatay Museum, which houses one of the finest collections of Roman mosaics in the world, and Church of St Peter Church. Composed of a cave carved into the mountainside on Mount Starius, this church wasn used by the first Christians in the Antakya region, and is one of Christianity's oldest.

Just outside Antakya, we will pay a visit to the Grotto of St Peter, erected in the 13th century by the Crusaders. It was here that Peter preached his first sermon and founded the first Christian community. Throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Antioch stood out as one of the most influential and enduring cities.

Overnight in Antakya.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Antakya: Samandag & Titus Tunnels
Today we visit Samandag, southwest of Antakya, to visit the St. Simeon Monastery, built in honour of the Christian ascetic monk Simeon Stylites. Simeon, seeking ever greater isolation, lived his life atop a pillar and preached his wisdom to his many visitors for 39 years. He started a fad of pillar-sitting, and his imitators were called Stylites (style means pillar in Greek). His remains are buried in Antakya, and a vast church was built on the site of his pillar outside of Aleppo, Syria, but this small monastery in Samandag was built to accommodate the many monks who followed in his footsteps.

We then drive to the Titus Tunnels, a canal built by the Romans to divert flood water from the Musa-Dagh massif to the antique harbour of Selukia. After that drive to Vakifli Village, a story-book Armenian village. In the middle of the village stands a church and other buildings distinctive from other villages in the region.

Overnight in Antakya.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Antakya - Mt Nemrut - Adiyaman
This afternoon we will visit an incredible site, the giant heads on top of Mount Nemrut, 2150 m (7,052 feet). This vast funeral monument, built by the dynastic ruler Antiochus, is unlike anything else in the world with a remote and isolated location at the top of the mountain. Virtually unknown until after the Second World War, the site was first excavated by the American school of Oriental Research in Connecticut some years after the war. Mount Nemrut is often called the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

Overnight in Adiyaman.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Adiyaman - Urfa
Today we drive via the huge southeast Anatolia irrigation scheme to Urfa, also known as Sanliurfa or "Glorious Urfa" for its role in defending the Turkish Republic. Urfa stands at the edge of the great Mesopotamian Plain. Legend says that it was here that God saved Abraham when an angry Nimrod, the Assyrian king, threw him on a funeral pyre for destroying the pagan idols. To save him, God created a lake known today as the Pool of Abraham which attracts many pilgrims, both Muslim and Christian. We also visit the village of Harran with its unusual beehive houses. The ancient city of Harran is famous for its Biblical association. It was here where Abraham stayed for several years on his way to Canaan.

While in the Urfa area, we will also visit the nearby site of Gobekli Tepe, a Neolithic (stone-age) hilltop sanctuary erected at the top of a mountain ridge. This is the oldest known human-made religious structure, most likely erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BCE (c. 12,000 years ago).

Overnight in Urfa.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Urfa - Diyarbakir - Mardin
We depart for the ancient walled city of Diyarbakir. This great old city is enclosed in and protected by black basalt walls, its back protected by the eastern Taurus mountains dominating both the northern Mesopotamian plains and the river Tigris. The protected city lies at the limit of navigability of this mighty river, and so acts as a convenient crossing point. The city has the confidence of a place that has been important for centuries and still the key city of the southeast.

We will take a guided tour of the markets and narrow streets of Diyarbakir. Together we wander, relax and soak up the atmosphere. The city is more Arabic in style than Turkish; it is special in the same way that Aleppo in Syria and Fez in Morocco are special -- they are all cities that have until recently existed within fortified city walls.

We continue to Mardin, perched at the edge of a plateau overlooking the Mesopotamian plain.

Overnight in Mardin.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Mardin Area
Today we explore the city of Mardin with its labyrinth of narrow streets, historical buildings and stunning scenery over the Mesopotamian plains into Syria. Mardin is the best preserved city in eastern Turkey. Built on steep slopes with a castle atop a hill, it looks like a fantastic medieval stronghold. Its typical stone-carved houses along alleys with long tunnels that stretch underneath houses and old city walls intensify the image even more. As well as being a fascinating setting, Mardin is also famous for the Syriac, i.e. Syrian Orthodox heritage. South and east of Mardin lies the Tur Abdin, the Holy Land in Syriac language. Here, a lot of churches and monasteries, some dating back more than a thousand years ago, are still used by dwindling groups of priests, monks and believers.

We visit the Saffron Monastery --Deyrul Zafaran -- probably named after the building stonework. Fifteen hundred years old, the monastery is still active. On the hilltop, carved in the rocks, is the ruined monastery of St. Mary's, dating to the beginnings of Christianity.

Overnight in Mardin.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Mardin - Hasankeyf - Van
Today we will be travelling to Van, the capital of the ancient Urartian empire and later, of an Armenian Kingdom. En route we stop at the ancient city of Hasankeyf. Hasankeyf and its surrounding limestone cliffs are home to thousands of human-made caves, 300 medieval monuments and a unique canyon ecosystem -- all combining to create a beguiling open-air museum. Despite widespread protests from local authorities, archaeologists, architects, preservationists and environmental groups, the massive hydroelectric Ilisu Dam is expected to be completed in 2013. The reservoir created by the dam will inundate the site's caves and flood most of its structures.

We continue toward Van, located in one of Turkey's most remote regions. Indeed, the whole Van area was inaccessible to visitors until 1960. We will take a ferry out to visit the picturesque Akdamar Island on turquoise Lake Van. It is on this island that the famous Armenian Church of the Holy Cross of Akdamar stands, with its impressive reliefs and carvings on the walls of the church. A favourite picnic spot for the locals, the island is a charming place to relax and take in the stunning scenery. From a shady spot under one of the numerous almond trees you can enjoy the view down over the church, with the blue shimmering Lake Van and the beautifully snow-topped mountains beyond.

Overnight in Van.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Van Area
This morning we will enjoy an excursion to the interesting Urartian hilltop fortress of Van Kalesi. The fortress sits 100m (328 ft) above the lake on a narrow rock outcrop. The Urartians favoured long thin spires for their fortress cities and scattered them all over their empire. Van Kalesi is one of the largest, built with colossal blocks of stone each weighing up to 27000 kg (59,670 lbs). We also visit the museum with its excellent collection of Urartian treasures. During our stay in Van, we hope to see one of the unique Van cats which have one blue and one green eye and are reputed to enjoy swimming!

We also visit the Urartian center of Cavustepe. Built in the 8th century BC, Cavustepe was once home of the kings of Urartu.

This afternoon is at your leisure to wander or to shop. Van is one of the best places in Turkey for hand-crafted Turkish carpets made by nomadic tribes.

Overnight in Van.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Van - Dogubeyazit
This afternoon we explore the pleasure palace of Ishak Pasha, often called the "Taj Mahal of Turkey". The palace is located in the wildly remote frontier town of Dogubeyazit on the border between Turkey, Armenia and Iran. Towering above is the magnificent, 5165 m (16,942 ft), snow-capped Mount Ararat, the legendary last resting place of Noah's Ark. The palace built circa 1800 is a mixture of architectural styles, with Seljuk, Persian, Georgian, Armenian and Ottoman elements. At one time the palace had a door plated in gold and studded with precious stones.

Overnight in Dogubeyazit.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Dogubeyazit - Mount Ararat - Kars
Before leaving our Dogubeyazit hotel we hope that the clouds will disperse allowing a clear view of the magnificent snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat towering above the plains.

Leaving Mount Ararat, we make our way to the frontier town of Kars. Here we visit the haunting "ghost town" ruins of the old Armenian capital, Ani. Entering Ani, the scene of a destroyed city stretching ahead and to the sides over green grassland is indeed eerie. By the middle of the 10th century, nothing in Europe could compare in size and magnificence to Ani and in the east only Constantinople, Cairo and Baghdad were its rivals. The Mongol raids, a severe earthquake in 1319, and the coup de grace of Tamerlane combined to destroy the city. Today the abandoned walls and dozens of churches in red and black sandstone stand eerily at the edge of a deep gorge right on Turkey's eastern border. Several of the churches have beautiful frescoes in the Armenian style.

Overnight in Kars.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Kars - Erzurum
Erzurum boasts many of Turkey's earliest Islamic buildings. On our tour of the city this afternoon we will see Ezurum's most famous building, the Cifte Minare Madrasa. It was founded in 1253 by the Seljuk Sultan Aleddin Keykubad II in honor of his daughter whose mausoleum is part of the madrasa. We will also see the Lala Pasha Mosque and the Ulu Cami.

Overnight in Erzurum.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Erzurum - Sumela Monastery - Trabzon
Today we descend from the high plateau through an area that was part of old Georgia, dramatically perched above the Coruh River. Our journey takes us through the spectacular scenery of the Pontic Mountains as we make our way to Trabzon, the birth place of Suleyman the Magnificent. In the 13th Century, Trabzon was the centre of a prosperous Christian empire and contains some beautiful churches, including the beautiful church of Hagia Sophia.

On the way we drive inland up a narrow valley to the Sumela Monastery, clinging high on a sheer rock face above steep and heavily wooded slopes. Founded in the 6th century to house the Icon of the Virgin painted by St. Luke, the monastery was inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks until 1923 when the Greeks were expelled from Turkey. The monks lived here in total isolation, perched high on this remote cliff-side. The monastery still contains many frescoes of biblical scenes painted in the Greek Orthodox style.

Overnight in Trabzon.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Trabzon: City Tour
We will have a morning tour of Trabzon. We include a visit to the Saint Sophia Cathedral, built in the mid 13th century as a monastery church and later converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of 1461. Later used by the Turks as a military storehouse and a fever hospital, it is now a museum with magnificent frescoes covering its walls. Outside the city we will visit Ataturk's beautiful summer mansion situated high on a hillside overlooking the Black Sea.

This afternoon we visit Rize, a city built in an area where bright green tea bushes cover entire mountainsides. From the city we will have a panoramic view of the area and be able to experience its unique beauty. In antiquity the town was called Rhizion (Rhizous, Rhition, Rhitium) and was a port for the territory of Kissioi. In medieval times it was known as Risso. In 1461 after Mehmet II captured Trebizond it became part of the Ottoman Empire.

This afternoon you will have free time to explore the old walled city.

Overnight in Trabzon.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Trabzon - Istanbul
Today we fly from Trabzon to Istanbul with the balance of the day at leisure in this magical city.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 16 Istanbul: Hippodrome & Agia Sophia
We start our day with a panoramic drive around the Golden Horn and the great walls of Constantinople. The first recorded bridge over the Golden Horn was built during the reign of Justinian the Great in the 6th century at the western end of the city, and today we will pass the famous Galata Bridge and the Ataturk Bridge. As we drive along the Byzantine city gates and walls we will view the towering minarets of Suleyman's Mosque and the Galata Tower before arriving in Sultanahmet Square.

We'll begin the walking component of today's tour at the legendary Blue Mosque, built between 1609 and 1616 by Mehmet Aga. The inside is covered by more than 20,000 Iznik tiles. At the adjacent Hippodrome you will see the remains of the great sports stadium where chariot races were held in Roman and Byzantine times. We will also see an Egyptian obelisk, a giant needle of stone carved for the Pharaoh Tutmoses III around 1500 BC and brought to Constantinople by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius in AD 390.

We continue to the church of Agia Sophia (St Sophia), built by the Emperor Justinian in 548 BC. It was the largest church in the Christian world for nearly 1,000 years. When the Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1435 one of the first things they did was to convert St Sophia into a mosque. Today it is a museum featuring many beautiful Christian mosaics.

Outside Agia Sophia we descend underground to the gigantic Basilica Cisterns. These are the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. Like most sites in Istanbul, the cistern has a colourful history. Constructed using columns, capitals and plinths from ruined buildings, the cistern's symmetry and sheer grandeur of conception are quite extraordinary. This immense underground water container was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in 532 to meet the water needs of the Great Palace. This marvelous piece of engineering only confirms yet again that those were the heydays of the Byzantine Empire.

At the end of our touring today your Tour Leader will lead you on a leisurely exploration of Istanbul's famous Grand Bazaar before setting you free for independent exploration.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 17 Departure
Departure from Istanbul.

IYI YOLCULUKLAR!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Citadel Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Istanbul
Country: Turkey

Best Western Citadel Hotel situated on the shores of the old city, leans against the historical city walls of Istanbul.
... its pleasant atmosphere, Citadel offers you a breathtaking view of Sea of Marmara. The stained glass enterance welcomes you with the traditional Turkish hospitality. You are assured to experience the mystical life and exotic culture of this city firsthand at our hotel, which is in walking distance to St. Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and other historical monuments. Youll have a pleasant stay in our authentic, yet well-equipped 25 rooms and 6 suites with satellite TV, radio, direct dial phone , hairdryer and minibar.
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Hotel Arcadia Blue

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Istanbul
Country: Turkey

Hotel Arcadia Blue, is located on a central but calm street at the district of Sultanahmet, that is the cultural
... commercial heart of Istanbul; In face of the previous Courthouse of Istanbul.
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Hotel Sultanhan

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Istanbul
Country: Turkey

A wonderful location has been opened in the historical peninsula of one of the most beautiful cities of the world
... Istanbul. We call this place a warm guest house with its traditional Turkish hospitality.The hotel is decorated with the authentic concept, reveals the best examples of the magnificent Ottoman Empire together with the original ethnographic segments of the oriental east culture.Only 200 metres from Cemberlitas Tram Station, the property is 550 metres from the historic Sultanahmet area with Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Kumkapi, the quarter famous for its many fish restaurants, is 1.3 km away.Airport shuttle services are provided at a surcharge
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Sultanahmet Palace Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Istanbul
Country: Turkey

Designed in the style of a garden villa, this hotel features Byzantine-style hand-carved moldings above Roman terra-cotta flooring, a grand
... central staircase below a half-cylinder stained-glass dome, courtyards and terrace fountains, and breathtaking views in summer of the Marmara Sea from the breakfast terrace.


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Liwan Hotel Antakya

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Antakya
Country: Turkey

Liwan Hotel is housed in a historical building, situated in a quite area in the centre of Antakya. It is
... cafés, archaeology museums, mosques, and churches.

The Liwan Hotel was first built as a home to Syrian’s first president. It features traditional décor and furnishings throughout the property.

Guests can enjoy rich Turkish dishes indoors or outdoors, in the hotel's central open-air courtyard. Liwan’s bar offers live music shows in the evenings.

Liwan Hotel is within walking distance to restaurants serving rich, traditional south-eastern cuisines and many shops selling locally made silks and soaps.

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Savon Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Antakya
Country: Turkey

Savon Hotel has been built as a soap and olive oil factory in 1860’s during the Ottoman period. The original
... was in U shape which had rooms at the sides and a courtryard in the middle. The structure of the building was made out of stone vaults and arcades. This type of architectural style was also common in cities like Gaziantep, Urfa and Aleppo. The factory was bought in 1930 and contunied its operations until early 1960’s. Since then the building was closed until 2001. In 2001, after going through a two year renovation, this historical building opened its doors to the public as a beautiful hotel.

Savon Hotel is located at the center of Antioch which is 185 km. to Adana airport, 90 km. to Aleppo, 350 km. to Damascus, and 300 km. to Beirut. It has 36 standart deluxe rooms, 4 super deluxe (2 with jacuzzi) and 3 suits. All rooms have,Free WI-FI, TV, air conditioning, mini bar and hairdryer. Our restaurant with 150 seating capacity serves delicious food from local and internationa cuisines. A bar with a fireplace, a game room, a meeting room with 250 seating capacity and a lobby with piano are at your service.


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Hotel el Ruha

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Urfa
Country: Turkey

A place partake of a palace, made of Urfa stone in accordance with historical architectural texture, in Şanlıurfa that bear
... of legends, marks of faith, past and future meets; Live the history in Hotel El-Ruha…

in a close embrace with the history…
In the center of historical Şanlıurfa city; view of Fish-Lake, recognized as soul of the city, the Castle, Aynzeliha Lake and its garden, Halepli Garden that unique around the world, where Mosaics of Amazon Queens are represented;
A historical and mystic atmosphere with natural caves and traditional architecture…
Have a comfort like home…

Standard and suit rooms, 200-bed capacity…
Authentic rooms with a view of Fish-Lake and the Castle where the faith and love become legend…

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Erdoba Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Mardin
Country: Turkey

The great courtyards of the historic city opening up to the south, high the great plains of Mesopatamiai doors and
...
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Hotel Ertur Butik

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Dogubeyazit
Country: Turkey

The hotel has a barbecue and views of the mountains, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. The
... is popular for skiing and hiking.
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Zorlu Grand Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Trabzon
Country: Turkey

Zorlu Grand Hotel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Zorlu Holding, a major Turkish corporate group ity whose roots reach back
... 1953 and production and trade activities supported by a few looms in the town of Babadağ in Denizli province in southwest Turkey and is today active in sectors ranging from electronics and white goods (Vestel) and textiles (Korteks, TAÇ, Linens) to energy (Zorlu Energy) and real estate (Zorlu Property Group).

It was in Trabzon that Ahmet Nazif Zorlu and Zeki Zorlu got their real start in business and it was because of their fondness for the town that they decided to invest here. Spotting the need for a genuinely world-class 5-star hotel in the city in the 1990s, they decided to build one. The project soon got underway and the result was Zorlu Grand Hotel, which opened its doors in 1997.

Zorlu Grand Hotel is the first and only 5-star hotel located along the Turkish Black Sea riviera. Aware of the responsibilities which this entails, we remain steadfastly bound by our commitment never to allow any lapse in quality or service. Hospitality is both the watchword and an ingrained way of life at our hotel. Ever since its inception, Zorlu Grand Hotel has been playing host to the most prestigious congresses, seminars, company meetings, and similar gatherings taking place not just in Trabzon but throughout the Turkish Black Sea region. The hotel will continue to do so in the future as well.

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Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (local restaurants and hotels) daily. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Domestic flight Trabzon-Istanbul. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international (if applicable) and domestic air taxes, visa fees, and excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and visas.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered in spring, summer, and fall, the most popular being spring and fall when temperatures are milder, crowds thinner, and airfares lower. Spring is popular for green landscapes and wildflowers; fall means harvest of local produce-melon, grapes, pomegranates. The region has a continental climate with mild springs, long hot and dry summers, and autumns that are bright and warm into mid-October. Showers are possible in spring, rare in summer, and possible in fall.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport by private air-conditioned motor coach, 36-40 seats depending on group size (see 'Group Size'). Turkish roads are generally good and travelling is not arduous though we do have several full yet scenic travelling days with stops of interest. Scheduled flight Trabzon-Istanbul. Several walking tours on uneven surfaces.

Accommodation

Well-located, air-conditioned, mid-range hotels (3 star) throughout. All hotels have en suite bath, though some have shower only. Hotel porter service is generally available (see 'Inclusions'). Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader and local guide throughout, driver (s), local step-on local guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)

TE2 TRIP DETAILS

DURATION17 days

TOUR STARTIstanbul

TOUR ENDIstanbul