Highlights of Eastern Anatolia

Tour Code : CUL 09

–    Sumela monastery; capital of Armenian kingdom Ani
–    Dogubeyazit & Ishak pasha palace
–    Akdamar Island & the holy cross church
–    Hasankeyf & Mor Gabriel monastery
–    Deyrulzafaran (Deir Az-Zafaran) & Sculptures of Nemrut
–    Gobeklitepe; ancient Harran & Zeugma mosaic museum


Best Season   
Jan / Feb / Mar / Apr / May / Jun / Jul / Aug / Sep / Oct / Nov / Dec


Duration of the Trip
14 Days / 13 Nights


Difficulty Level
= A (Easy) 


Hotel    :    13 Nights

Day 1 : Trabzon

Meet at the Trabzon airport with Demavend Travels representative and drive to the Hotel, located in the city centre.
Transfer time: 10/15 min.; transfer distance: 10 km (Trabzon airport –Hotel)
ON: in Trabzon at the Hotel
Meals: – / – / D

Day 2 : Trabzon to Erzurum via Sumela monastery

Trabzon; located on the historical Silk Road and is a melting pot of religions, languages and culture. Being open towards other cultures and religions plays a significant role in the lifestyle of the Trabzonites; Muslims and Christians have lived together in the past as well as today, making the city a proud heir to a rich cultural heritage. Here we take time to visit the Monastery of Sumela, a Greek Orthodox monastery at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altindere valley. Founded in the year 386 AD during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I., legend has it that two priests undertook the founding of the monastery on the site after having discovered a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain. After visiting Sumela we continue via Bayburt to Erzurum, where we spend the Night at the Hotel.
Transfer time: 5 h; tansfer distance: 340 km; (Trabzon – Erzurum via Sumela & Bayburt)
ON: in Erzurum at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 3 : Erzurum; Cifte Minareli Medrese & Erzurum castle (citadel) – Kars & Kars castle

In ancient times, Erzurum existed under the Armenian name of Karin and the Erzurum Congress of 1919 was one of the starting points of the Turkish War of Independence. Today we take time to explore the city centre of Erzurum with its most famous sights; visit Cifte Minareli Medrese and Erzurum Castle. Cifte Minareli Medrese is one of the most beautiful and largest Koran schools of the 13th Seljuk century in Asia Minor. It takes its name, Twin Minaret Madrasa, from the two fluted minarets that crown the monumental facade. The east entrance of the madrasa and the enormous stone facade of ornamental brick and tile masonry with two minarets are remarkable. Erzurum Castle (Citadel) stands guard on its hill in the centre of the old town. Originally constructed by the Emperor Theodosius, it was rebuilt by Suleyman the magnificent in 1555 and at various other times. Inside the castle is a 12th century mosque with a conical roof and a free standing minaret. In the 19th century the minaret acquired a Neo Baroque gallery with a clock presented by Queen Victoria. From the Citadel we have a beautiful view of the entire city. In the early afternoon we leave Erzurum and drive to Kars; appears in Roman historiography (Strabo) as part of ancient Armenia. Little is known of the early history of Kars beyond the fact that it had its own dynasty of Armenian rulers and was the capital of a region known as Vanand. At some point in the 9th Century Kars became part of the territory of the Armenian Bagratunis and for a short time became the capital of their kingdom. Depending on arrival time it is possible to visit Kars Castle, also known as the Citadel, sits at the top of a rocky hill overlooking the city. It is said in the Ottoman sources that the castle was rebuilt with the help of one hundred thousand soldiers and workers. Also below the castle it is possible to visit an Armenian church of the Holy Apostles and to see some neo-classical (Baltic) architecture style buildings known as Russian Houses, which cannot be seen anywhere else in Turkey. In the decades after Kars was ceded to the Russian Empire in 1878 an entirely new district of European-style buildings was built, these buildings are mostly one or two stories high and built of basalt stone.
Transfer time: 3 h; transfer distance: 220 km; (Erzurum – Kars)
ON: in Kars at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 4 : Kars; capital of Armenian kingdom Ani – Dogubeyazit & Kurdish village Topcatan at the skirts of Mt. Ararat

In the morning we visit the ancient city of Ani which was the capital of Armenian province in the 9th century. The ruins are 45km away on the eastern border of Armenia. A thousand years ago Ani was the capital of an Armenian kingdom that covered much of present day Armenia and eastern Turkey. Ani had a population of at least 100,000 and its wealth and renown was such that it was known as “the city of 1001 churches”. Built on a spectacular site – a plateau encircled by deep ravines – Ani’s many churches, palaces, and fortifications were amongst the most technically and artistically advanced structures in the world at that period. Afterwards we head towards Dogubeyazit, a settlement with a long history. It lies 15 km southwest of Mount Ararat and 35 km from the Iranian border. The area has had a rich history since it was settled during the times of the first Armenian Kingdom of Urartu. The Area was subsequently conquered by Persians, Romans, Arabs and Byzantines all of whom would have used the plain to rest and recoup during their passages across the mountains. In Dogubeyazit we visit the village of Topcatan at the skirts of Mt. Ararat and explore the area at altitudes around 1.800/2.000m. The villagers in this area are generally semi-nomads who ascend to high pastures with their flocks during summer to graze their animals and make cheese and butter. Semi nomadic life is the oldest life style of Turks and they still tend to carry on their ancient traditions. We will spend the day visiting a Kurdish family; it will be interesting to watch their daily routines. We spend the Night in Dogubeyazit at the Hotel.
Transfer time: 3/4 h; transfer distance: 230 km; (Kars – Dogubeyazit via Ani)
ON: in Dogubeyazit at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 5 : Dogubeyazit & Ishak pasha palace; via Muradiye waterfalls to Van; visit Van castle (citadel)

After having breakfast we visit Ishak Pasha Palace; built on a hill at the side of a mountain. It was the last large monumental structure in the Ottoman Empire from the “Lale Devri” period. It is one of the most distinguished and magnificent examples of the 18th century Ottoman architecture and is very valuable in terms of art history. Afterwards we leave Dogubeyazit and head to Van, on the way we take time to visit the Muradiye Waterfalls, the falls are around 10m tall, a bridge suspends over the river and it gives you a great view. After having a tea with the harmony of peaceful Water we carry on to Van, more known as “The Pearl of the East” because of the beauty of its surrounding landscapes. Archaeological excavations and surveys carried out in the Van province and environs prove that the history of the city itself goes back as far as 5000 B.C. Under the ancient name of Tushpa, Van was the capital of the Urartian kingdom in the 9th century BC. In Van we take time to visit Van Castle; constructed by Urartian king Sardur. One of the most remarkable structures around is the rock tomb of Argisti the first, outside which is a long inscription relating the events of his reign. It is a massive stone fortification built by the ancient kingdom of Urartu during the 9th to 7th centuries BC and is the largest example of its kind. It overlooks the ruins of Tushpa the ancient Urartian capital during the 9th C. which was centred upon the steep sided bluff where the fortress now sits. We spend the Night in Van at the Hotel.
Transfer time: 3 h; transfer distance: 180 km; (Dogubeyazit – Van)
ON: in Van at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 6 : Hosap Castle & ruins of Cavustepe; Akdamar Island & church – Tatvan

Today we take time to visit some important sights around Van; we visit Hosap Castle, Cavustepe and Akdamar Island. Hosap Castle; stands on a steep, rocky terrain, north of the Hosap Stream. The history of the Castle goes back to time of Urartians; most of the surviving structures were built by a local Kurdish lord named Mahmudi Suleyman in 1643. Fell into decay as a result of natural events, the castle has been renovated and is protected by three separate lines of wall; the castle also has two mosques, three baths, fountains and underground dungeons. Cavustepe; Armenian folklore tells that the fortress was founded in the 3rd millennium BC by Hayk, the Armenian progenitor, in close proximity to the site where he slew the invading Babylonian King Bel or possibly Nimrod. It was later used by the Urartian kings as a castle during the 8th century BC and to some extent by the medieval Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Via Cavustepe we drive to Gevas town and take a Ferryboat to visit Akdamar Island, a small island in Lake Van which is home to a 10th Century Armenian Church, known as the Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross and were the seat of an Armenian Catholics from 1116 to 1895. The unique importance of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross comes from the extensive array of bas-relief carving of mostly biblical scenes that adorn its external walls. After visiting Akdamar Island we continue to Tatvan where we spend the Night.
Transfer time: 3/4 h; transfer distance: 230 km (Van – Tatvan via Hosap Castle, Cavustepe & Gevas Akdamar Island)
Ferryboat transfer: 20/25 min. to Akdamar Island / one way
ON: in Tatvan at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 7 : Nemrut Mountain (Crater Lake) & Tombs of Ahlat

After breakfast we drive to the Nemrut Mountain (Crater Lake); a volcano named after King Nimrod who is said to have ruled this area in about 2100 BC. The mountain rises from the south-western shore of Lake Van and enters the district of Ahlat to the north. It is 3,050 m high and its elliptic caldera has a diameter of about 7 by 8 km. Mt. Nemrut is the most southern and youngest of the chain of volcanoes in eastern Anatolia. After visiting Mt. Nemrut we drive to Ahlat; where we take time to visit the Cifte Kumbet, Emir Bayindir Kumbet and Ulu Kumbet, famous mausoleums from the Seljuk period; notable for their ornamentation and architecture. The historic Seljuk cemetery has been seriously damaged over the years but is still standing, in spite of all it has been put through. With more than 8,000 gravestones, the cemetery sits on a large piece of land. Efforts are presently being made by local authorities with a view to including the tombstones on UNESCO’s World Heritage List; with its domes, mosques, castle and cemeteries, Ahlat is like an open-air museum. In the late afternoon we return to Tatvan where we spend the Night at the Hotel.
Transfer time: 1 h; transfer distance: 45 km; (Tatvan – Mount Nemrut & Ahlat / one way)
ON: in Tatvan at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 8 : Tatvan to Mardin via Hasankeyf & Mor Gabriel monastery

We leave Tatvan and drive to Mardin. On the way we visit the town of Hasankeyf and Mor Gabriel Monastery. Hasankeyf is an ancient town along the Tigris River. The city has been identified with the Ilansura of the Mari Tablets (c. 1800 BC). The Romans had built the fortress; the city became a bishopric under the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Arabs who renamed it to Hisn Kayf. Hasankeyf is rich in history; throughout the ages and aside from the sites below, thousands of caves exist in the cliffs that surround the city. Many of the caves are multi-storied and water-supplied. Churches and mosques were also carved into the cliffs and numerous ancient cemeteries exist throughout the area as well. Mor Gabriel Monastery is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. The monastery’s primary purpose is to keep Syriac Orthodox Christianity alive in the land of its birth by providing schooling, ordination of native-born monks. On occasions it has provided physical protection to the Christian population. Afterwards we continue to Mardin; located in a strategic position on a rocky spur overlooking the crossroads between east-west and north-south routes. The city is dominated by the fortress which has stood on this site since Roman times. The buildings of the town are terraced into the hillside and all have magnificent views over the Mesopotamian plain. From a distance, the golden stone of Mardin houses blend into the rock of the hills on which the city is built. On closer inspection, the stone carving and decoration of the houses and public buildings reveals the city as an architectural treasure-chest.
Transfer time: 5 h; transfer distance: 355 km; (Tatvan – Mardin via Hasankeyf & Mor Gabriel)
ON: in Mardin at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 9 : Mardin to Deyrulzafaran (Deir Az-Zafaran) monastery and Diyarbakir; exploring the city centre with Copper Bazaar

In the morning we visit Deyrulzafaran Monastery; an important Syriac Orthodox monastery; located in the area known as Tur Abdin, the motherland of the Assyrian/Syriacs. The monastery has 365 rooms – one for each day of the year and was formerly the seat of the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church from 1160 until 1932. Afterwards we leave Mardin and drive to Diyarbakir; known in ancient times as Amida, a cradle of 26 civilizations during its 5000 year history. The city is spread across a basalt plateau close to the banks of the Tigris River. After arrival we take time to explore the city centre of Diyarbakir. Diyarbakır is surrounded by an almost intact, dramatic set of high walls of black basalt forming a 5.5 km (3.4 mi) circle around the old city. There are four gates into the old city and 82 watch-towers on the walls, which were built in antiquity, restored and extended by the Roman emperor Constantius II. In the city centre it is possible to visit Ulu Camii (the Great Mosque), a piece of history, which was built in 1179; Virgin Mary Church, constructed as a pagan temple, restored many times and is still in use as a place of worship today; Keldani Church, a 17th Century Chaldean Catholic Church and Bakircilar Carsisi, a famous Copper Bazaar; the trade of coppersmiths in eastern Anatolia stretches back more than 500 years and is passed from father to son. Perhaps sensing that modern technology has destroyed this trade in other areas, but here in Diyarbakir they are making an effort to keep it alive. The Copper bazaar allows visitors to view Turkish coppersmiths at work and purchase traditional Turkish copper souvenirs.
Transfer time: 2 h; transfer distance: 120 km; (Mardin – Diyarbakir via Deyrulzafaran)
ON: in Diyarbakir at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 10 : Diyarbakır to Kahta & the statues (sculptures) of Nemrut

Today we drive to the village of Karadut, close to Nemrut Mountain and Sculptures. Via Siverek we first drive to the village of Mezra where we cross the Euphrates River via new Nissibi Bridge. Via Karadut village we drive to Nemrut National park to visit the sculptures of Nemrut, one of the most astounding sites in Turkey; a collection of colossal statues on a remote mountain 2.150m high, adorning the temple and tomb of King Antiochus. Funerary mound of stone chips are surrounded on three sides by terraces. Five giant seated limestone statues, identified by their inscriptions as deities, face outwards from the tumulus on the upper level of the east and west terraces. These are flanked by a pair of guardian animal statues, a lion and eagle, at each end. The heads of the statues have fallen off to the lower level, which accommodates two rows of sandstone steles (kind of a slab), mounted on pedestals with an altar in front of each stele. The sculptures of Mount Nemrut are one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period and the area was declared as a World heritage site by UNESCO. After visiting Nemrut National park we drive back to Karadut village or to Kahta, where we spend the Night.
Transfer time: 2/3 h; transfer distance: 145 km; (Diyarbakir – Karadut/Kahta village)
Transfer time: 30/40 min.; transfer distance: 30 km; (Karadut village – Nemrut Sculptures / two ways)
ON: in Kahta/or Karadut village at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 11 : Kahta/Karadut village to Sanliurfa (Urfa) & Gobeklitepe; one of the oldest known human made structures

We leave Kahta and Karadut village and drive towards Sanliurfa, better known as Urfa; a city with a mixed Arab, Kurdish and Turkish population. Modern Urfa presents contrasts between its old and new quarters and the old town is one of the most evocative and romantic in Turkey. A couple of minutes  outside the city we take time to visit Gobeklitepe, one of the oldest known human made structures and one of the most exciting discoveries in archaeology. What makes Gobeklitepe unique in its class is the date it was built, which is roughly twelve thousand years ago. Gobeklitepe is a series of mainly circular and oval shaped structures set on the top of a hill. There is archaeological proof that these installations were used for ritual or religious purposes. Subsequently it became apparent that Gobeklitepe consists of not only one, but many of such Stone Age temples. Furthermore, excavations and geo magnetic results revealed that there are at least 20 installations, which in archaeological terms can be called a temple. After visiting Gobeklitepe we return to Urfa where we spend the Night at the Hotel.
Transfer time: 3 h; transfer distance: 180 km; (Kahta/Karadut – Sanliurfa)
ON: in Sanliurfa at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 12 : Sanliurfa (Urfa) & the old city centre; ancient city Harran & Gaziantep

After breakfast we take time to explore the old city centre, with its old traditional courtyard houses, narrow streets and markets. Advisable highlight in the city centre is the legendary Pool of Sacred Fish (Balıklıgolu), where Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. The pool is in the courtyard of the Halil-ur-Rahman mosque, built by the Ayyubids in 1211 and now surrounded by the attractive garden. The courtyard is where the fishes thrive. A local legend says seeing a white fish will open the door to the heavens. In the early afternoon we drive to the south to visit ancient city of Harran, mentioned in the Old Testament. The legends surrounding the city go back to the beginning of man; it is said that Adam and Eve set foot here when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden and Genesis also connects it Jacob and Isaac. Nowadays it is famous for “beehive houses”. Afterwards we drive to Gaziantep where we spend the next two Nighta at the Hotel.
Transfer time: 4 h; transfer distance: 245 km; (Sanliurfa – Gaziantep via Harran)
ON: in Gaziantep at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 13 : Gaziantep; the historical city centre & Zeugma Mosaic Museum

Gaziantep’s history goes back to the Hittites and among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Being the centre of pistachio cultivation in Turkey and with its extensive olive groves and vineyards, Gaziantep is one of the important agricultural and industrial centres of Turkey. Gaziantep Citadel, located in the centre of the city displays the historic past and architectural style of the city. We take time to discover the historical city centre and visit Zeugma Mosaic Museum, the biggest mosaic museum in the world, covering an area of 30,000 square meters, a building complex consisting of 3 units. The Museum houses Mosaics known as the Bath (Hamam), mosaics found in the villas located on the banks of the Euphrates, mosaics from the Poseidon and Euphrates villas and those from the Dionysus villas. There is also a section housing Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Period Church Mosaics discovered in the neighbourhood of Gaziantep and in a separate section, the world-renowned Gypsy Girl mosaic is displayed. Also Mosaics originating from the Roman and Late Antique periods, 140 square meters of frescoes, 4 Roman fountains, 20 columns, 4 limestone sculptures, the bronze statue of Mars, grave steles, sarcophagi and architectural pieces belonging to the collection of the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, have been restored and put on display.
ON: in Gaziantep at the Hotel
Meals: B / L / D

Day 14 : Gaziantep – Home

Transfer to Gaziantep airport where the Trip concludes.
Transfer time: 30 min.; transfer distance: 30 km (Hotel – Gaziantep airport)
Meals: B / – / –

ON = Overnight accommodation / B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner

Price Includes
–    All transfers and transportations with private vehicles to the places mentioned in the Itinerary
      Day 1: One (one way) arrival transfer from/to Trabzon airport/Hotel
      Day 14: One (one way) departure transfer from/to Hotel/Gaziantep airport
–    Demavend Travel English speaking Tour Leader
–    Hotel accommodations, rooms on double/twin share base;
      Bed & Breakfast (BB) and Half Board (HB) service; Important: HB Dinner Service available until 20:30/21:00 h
–    13 x Breakfast, 12 x Lunch, 13 x Dinner


Price Excludes
–    All International and Domestic Flights
–    Travel insurance
–    Extra Transports and transfers other than stated in the Itinerary
–    All kind of Soft and Alcoholic drinks, Bottled Water, Tea & Coffee
–    Meals other than stated in the Itinerary
–    All kind of personal expenses
–    All kind of Entrance fees for historical and natural sites
–    Day 6: Ferryboat from Gevas to Akdamar Island & church
–    All kind of optional activities
–    Extra Nights
–    Single supplements
–    Personal Equipment
–    Tips