LAND & AIR (from JFK or an add-on cost of $100 to $200 to fly
from any other city such as LAX, D.C., Chicago, etc.) COST (includes one domestic flight): $3,450 per person
Day 1 - DEPART USA
Day 2 - ISTANBUL
When you arrive in Turkey, you will go through customs/immigration and the visa procedure. Afterwards, we will be taken to the 5-star Barcelo Eresin Topkapi hotel in the old city. There will be time to relax and rest before meeting your guide in the evening for dinner at a fine local restaurant.
Day 3 – SAFRANBOLU (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
The next morning we will drive to the historic town of Safranbolu, which is graced with many traditional old houses and mansions. The friendly people of Safranbolu will welcome our interest in traditional Turkish culture as we wander through the town, admiring its charm and beauty. Our stay will be at a 350-year-old restored and modernized caravanserai. This town is full of unusual photo opportunities with thousands of Ottoman houses, all from the 18th and 19th century.
Day 4, 5 – AMASYA (village visit)
We will drive to the Hittite ruins at Yazilikaya to see the private temple of Hittite kings and then to Hattusas, the capital city of the Hittite Empire. At this site we will follow the ancient city wall constructed nearly 3,400 years ago and see the ruins of the Great Temple of the Storm God, the Lion Gate, the King Gate (guarded by a relief of the Hittite War God) and the Great Fortress. Afterwards, we will depart Hattusas and continue to Amasya, the one time capital of the Pontic Empire. It is a lovely little town nestled in a small mountain valley formed by the Green River. Some of the most striking features of Amasya are the tombs of the kings of Pontus carved into the high cliffs surrounding the city. Here, we will explore the old streets of Amasya and attend a local bazaar. We will also have the opportunity to interact with the Turkish people and receive a welcoming performance in a nearby village (many of the girls in this village, who could not normally go to school, have been given scholarships to attend school by Cultural Folk Tours and its clients). In Amasya, we will stay at the Apple Palace, which is the best available 4-star hotel.
Day 6, 7 - TRABZON (Sumela Monastery/ Black Sea)
Today is a driving day. We will travel from Amasya to the beautiful wooded coast of the Black Sea, following the coastline to Trabzon. The scenery on this drive is unbelievable. Trabzon is an ancient Silk Road Black Sea port with its recorded history dating back to 746 B.C.. With lush, green vegetation throughout the region, this area is a very unique part of Turkey. Hazelnut and tea plantations are the major contributors to this region's agricultural exports. The following day, we will visit the Sümela Monastery, which is from the Byzantine era, and enjoy a lovely picnic by a rushing stream there. One of the remarkable features of this site is that it is carved into a cliff face! While in Trabzon we will stay at the Hotel Usta, a fine 4-star hotel.
Day 8 – SAVSAT
On the way to Savsat, we will drive along the beautiful Black Sea to the Caucasus mountains. This area, which resembles Switzerland, is adorned with ornate wooden houses and churches that characteristic of the Caucasus. The local women wear colorful head garments and locals used to communicate by whistling. Here, we will stay at a Swiss chalet-like hotel in Camlihemsin. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 9 - KARS (Ani)
An early morning departure from Savsat will take us on a beautiful drive to Kars. We will arrive in Kars to visit Ani at the Turkish-Armenian border. A 45-minute drive will take us to the medieval Armenian City of Ani, which lies mostly in ruins. Impressive fortified walls still encircle the ruins of numerous churches, mosques and caravansaries. Walking around the ruins, we will be able to see a beautiful view of Armenia across the Arpa River, which creates the border between Turkey and Armenia. We will check into the Sim-er Hotel, which is the best available 4-star hotel. Other attractions in the city of Kars are the immense citadel, its old bridges and an Armenian church (the Church of the Twelve Apostles).
Day 10 – ERZURUM
From Kars, we will drive to Erzurum, with many stops along the way. This is a very beautiful drive, which follows various rivers. Erzurum rests at a base altitude of 6,600 ft. and, although it is somewhat remote, it is one of the largest cities in eastern Turkey. Despite its size, the people maintain quite a conservative outlook. Here, one will frequently encounter more women wearing veils than in other cities. While in Erzurum we will have lunch in a restaurant converted from old Ottoman houses decorated with antiques everywhere. We will visit Ulu Cami (the Great Mosque) and an old Selcuk Medrese (schoolhouse) as well as see several Kurdish villages in the area. We will stay at the 5-star Renaissance Hotel, which is located at a ski resort at an elevation of 7,000 ft. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 11 – SIVAS
With many stops along the way, we will drive to Sivas. Sivas was originally built by the Romans and was then invaded by the Selcuks (ancient Turks) and Persians. For this reason, this town is characteristically Turkish. Here, we will visit Çifte Minare Ve Şifaye Medresesi, which is a mosque and a medical school. If time permits, we will also visit the Balıklı Kaplıca, a doctor fish spa where fish are used to clean bathers from all over the World to supposedly heal skin disorders. Our stay will be at the best available hotel, the Büyük Hotel.
Day 12 – ANKARA
In the morning, we will drive to the tomb of King Midas. Discovered in 1957, this royal burial chamber housed a wooden coffin with the skeletal remains of the 60 year old king, a funeral feast and one of the best collections of Iron-age drinking sets. We will then continue to Ankara where we will check into the 5-star Barcelo Altinel Hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel. If you have never been to the Anatolian Museum, you can visit the museum the next morning to see a King Midas exhibit and Hittite ruins.
Day 13, 14 – CAPPADOCIA
On the way to Cappadocia, we will stop at an ancient Hittite ruin. We will then continue to Cappadocia where we will check into the spectacular Cappadocia Cave Suites hotel, the newest and most “luxurious cave living” in Cappadocia. In 2005, Abercrombie and Kent rated the Cave Suites one of the most boutique hotels in the world. Located in Göreme, a World Heritage site, this hotel’s thirty six spacious units almost all have windows with views to the outside and most feature a Jacuzzi. Several rooms have fireplaces, some units have beautiful 200-year-old wooden ceilings and one unit is decorated in original 8th century painted frescoes showing the Maltese cross. The views are spectacular with the Fairy Chimneys in sight (www.cappadociacavesuites.com). Breakfast and dinner will be at the Cave Suites restaurant.
While in Cappadocia we will enjoy the unique landscapes of wind and rain-eroded volcanic rock formations and have opportunities for incredible hikes. Our hotel is just a few minutes walk from the starting point of five different hiking routes. During the hikes, you will see amazing formations, valleys, grapevines and orchards full of fruit trees and hot air balloons fill the sky early in the morning. Wild flowers also decorate the landscape from April through September and will be blooming most brilliantly from early April to late June. Cappadocia is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a World Heritage site. You will see why. It is the highlight of all of our Turkey tours regardless of the fact that we also go to places like Istanbul, Ephesus, Troy, Pamukkale and many other impressive locations, all of which are World Heritage sites. Discovering the unknown Cappadocia, we will go off the "tourist track". We will visit the incredible underground cities of Cappadocia, some of which were home to as many as 15,000 inhabitants. We will go to Derinkuyu where ancient civilizations from 3,000 to 4,000 years ago started carving layers of living quarters into the bedrock connected by catacombs. These floors are separated by huge wheels of stone that could be moved by a lever to close the passage, providing security. In the region of Cappadocia, a 10,000 square mile area, there are 1,000 churches carved into bedrock by early and later Christians. About 100 of the churches still have frescoes from the Old and the New Testament. We will visit these churches and living quarters at the Open Air Museum, which is less than a mile from our hotel. This is a very impressive site. We will also visit ancient handicraft shops and a caravanserai, an ancient caravan motel. Cappadocia is also famous for its rugs and kilims. We will have an excellent lecture-demonstration on Turkish kilims and carpets.
- Hot air balloon rides over Cappadocia at reduced rates. A balloon ride in Cappadocia (for people of all ages) is safe and nothing less than spectacular.
- Attend a Whirling Dervish ceremony at a 12th century caravanserai. There will also be an opportunity to take cooking lessons from the Cave Suites chef. A Cappadocia Cave Suites Turkish cookbook will also be available for sale. All proceeds from the Whirling Dervish ceremony, the cooking lessons and the cookbook’s sales will go toward scholarships for underprivileged girls from Yassical and Cappadocia to attend high school.
Day 15 – ISTANBUL
Early in the morning, a driver will take us to the Kayseri airport for our flight back to Istanbul. In Istanbul, we will be taken to the Barcelo Eresin Topkapi hotel to check in. Afterwards, we will begin our tour of Istanbul. Istanbul, once called Byzantium in the 7th century B.C., was named Constantinople in 326 A.D. by Constantine the Great when he moved the capital of the Roman Empire to what is now Istanbul. The city received its current name from Mehmet II in 1453 and is the only city in the world that spans two continents. It was the capital to three major empires (Rome, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires). Here, we will visit several of Turkey's most famous museums and mosques. Topkapi Palace was first built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and was the home of the sultan until the 19th century. St. Sophia was built by Roman Emperor Justinian and was completed in 537 A.D. It was the greatest Christian church in the world for more than 1000 years. The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet in 1603 and was constructed with the deliberate intention of rivaling the St. Sophia. We will also visit the Rustem Pasha Mosque with its exceptional tiles and the spice market. In the evening, we will have dinner with lots of live music and entertainment by a gypsy orchestra.
Please Note: The order of events may vary with each tour depending on the availability of various museums on certain days of the week.
Day 16 - DEPART FOR USA
**Flight schedules and itinerary are subject to change**
CFT AFFORDABLE EASTERN TURKEY ADD-ON TOUR
LAND COST (includes one domestic flight): $1,150 per person
Day 1 – MT. NEMRUT
Early in the morning, we will drive to Mt. Nemrut from Cappadocia; stopping frequently for rest breaks during the drive. One of the places we will stop in is Kanesh, a 4,500 year old city that was the capitol city of the Hattis and a trade city for the Assyrians. We will then continue to Mt. Nemrut. Resting at an elevation of 7700 ft., this extraordinary mountaintop features a funerary-temple complex composed of two flattened areas strewn with huge statues and fallen heads of Greco-Roman Gods. Each head measures six to nine feet high, belonging to the likes of Zeus, Hercules, Fortuna, Apollo and the King Antiouchus, who considered himself a God. There is also a mound of broken gravel that makes a perfect false peak of crushed rock. Antiouchus built the entire complex 2,050 years ago as a monument to his "divine ancestry". Our stay will be at the best available Grand Isias Hotel.
Please Note: The hike to Mt. Nemrut consists of 20 to 40 minutes of a 30% uphill hike, mostly with stairs. There is no time limit and most can do the hike. There are also donkeys or mules available for hire.
Day 2 – URFA (Göbekli Tepe)
Today, we will drive to Urfa, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. If time permits, we will stop at the Gaziantep mosaic museum to see the famous mosaic of a gypsy girl from the ancient city of Zeugma. This is the one of the two best mosaic museums in the World, displaying 2,000 year old Roman mosaics. If there is not enough time, we will instead visit Harran and see the incredible beehive houses. Harran, according to the Bible, was the site where the prophet Abraham lived with his family for several years before moving to Israel, the Promised Land. Afterwards, we will drive to the holy site at Ainzelha, a lake with domesticated fish. There are exceptional photo opportunities in this area. Arriving in Urfa, our stay will be at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel (Sanliurfa). Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 3 – MARDIN (Akdamar Armenian Church, Hasankeyf)
On the way to Mardin, we will drive to Göbekli Tepe, a recently discovered site where excavations have just begun. Built in 10,000 B.C., it is the oldest known temple in the World. This temple was mysteriously buried by the people who built it in 8,000 B.C. and it was not used again. This is another unique place we visit on our tours. We will then continue to Mardin where we will stay at the 13th century Artuklu caravanserai, a very boutique hotel. Mardin is a very unique and lovely city with many old Arabic style houses. It is a city that played an important role in the early development of Christianity.
We will take time to visit, walk in its busy streets and bazaars and take superb photographs. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 4 – VAN
On this day, we will drive to Van and stop, just outside of town, to visit the monks at the Monastery of Deyr-az-Zaferan, which was founded in 4th century A.D. It was the seat of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch for almost 800 years. This monastery is built on top of a 4,000-year-old temple originally used by sun worshippers. We will then continue to Van where we will first visit the 3,000-year-old fortress built by Urartians, who inhabited the region between the 9th and 6th century B.C. and called their capital city, Tushba. Here, a local school will present a lovely Kurdish folk dance performance. This will be followed by a lecture/demonstration on World-famous Van kilims. Afterwards, we will check into a 4-star hotel, the Merit Hotel, located on the lake front.
Day 5 – VAN / ISTANBUL
Early in the morning, a short ferry ride will take us to Akdamar Island. There is a wonderful 10th century Armenian Church here called the Church of the Holy Cross. The outside walls of the church are decorated with wall reliefs depicting various well-known tales from the Bible and the Old Testament. This church, recently restored to its former glory, is a true gem. In the afternoon, we will either be taken to the Van airport for our return flight to Istanbul or we will spend another night in Van and depart the next morning depending on the flight schedule. Before your departure, we will give you a late lunch/dinner. Upon arriving in Istanbul, we will be picked up and taken to the Barcelo Eresin Topkapi hotel to check in.
Please see the Day 15 schedule for details.
DEPART FOR USA
**Flight schedules and itinerary are subject to change**