Friday. Welcome to Turkey, the first country on our amazing adventure through Eurasia. Arrive Istanbul with included transfer to your hotel where the rest of the day is free to enjoy at leisure.
Today we explore the fascinating city of Istanbul, straddling the border between Europe and Asia. Our tour begins with the majestic Blue Mosque built by Sultan Ahmet I between 1603-17 and continues with the Hippodrome of Constantinople. St. Sophia Church is one of Istanbul’s most iconic monuments. Originally an Eastern Orthodox Church, it was converted to a mosque and is of great religious and architectural significance. We next visit the opulent Topkapi Palace, once the seat of the Ottoman Empire and subject of dozens of colourful stories.
Overnight: Istanbul | Breakfast
This morning we take an early flight to Van, the cultural centre of Eastern Turkey’s Kurdish majority. We head over to the stunning Akdamar Island where we visit the beautifully restored 10th century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross. Originally built as part of a religious palace complex between 915 and 921, the church features an extensive range of bas-relief carvings. From Akdamar we continue to the city of Van where we will spend the night.
Overnight: Van | Breakfast, Dinner
Following the old Silk Road south from Van we arrive at Hosap Castle, a large medieval structure that was built to straddle the Silk Road, protecting the thoroughfare and acting as a toll point for passing travellers. From Hosap we return to Van with time for lunch and some free time to explore this sophisticated city. We end the day with a visit to the Citadel of Van to enjoy a magical sunset. Once the centre of the Urartian capital, the 3,000 year-old castle stands tall on a large rock outcrop and commands stunning views of Van city and the lake, and the nearby mountains of Suphan and Nemrut
Overnight: Van | Breakfast, Dinner
After breakfast we depart Van and leave for Dogubeyazit, a settlement with a long history, surrounded by some of Turkey’s highest peaks. The drive takes us via Muradiye and the beautiful Bendimaahi Falls. In Dogubeyazit we visit the spectacular Ishak Pasha Palace, a unique fusion of architecture from Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian and Armenian-Persian styles. Completed in 1784, the palace complex stands on a hill to the south of town. Later we continue our journey south skirting the western edge of Mt. Ararat to arrive into Kars, an atmospheric city with stately, pastel-coloured stone buildings.
Overnight: Kars | Breakfast, Dinner
Today we spend the morning in Ani, an uninhabited medieval Armenian city that has fallen into ruin. Located near the Armenian border, the remains of the ruined city include several churches as well as the shell of the Cathedral of Ani, the citadel and a mosque. The extensive city walls once encircled the entire city and remain remarkably well-preserved. The Church of St. Gregory also contains the remains of some fascinating frescoes, despite their exposure to the elements over many centuries.
Overnight: Kars | Breakfast, Dinner
Today we make our way to Armenia, via Georgia. After border formalities at the Georgia/Armenian border we head to Gyumri, Armenia's second biggest city and still deeply rooted in local traditions. Gyumri seems to have been frozen in time as the voices of hammer smiths echo down the cobbled streets and carts appear around street corners.
Overnight: Gyumri. Hotel: Berlin | Breakfast
Our first stop of the day is the holy city of Echmiadzin, the Vatican of the Armenian Apostolic Church and home to the Ejmiatsin Cathedral. Built in 480 the cathedral is enclosed in a walled compound that features manicured gardens and various stone structures. Nearby is the Zvartnots Temple, a complex of temples and palaces built in the 7th century. The magnificent ruins are UNESCO-listed and considered of great architectural importance. We later continue to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia and one of the oldest cities in the world, stretching under the gaze of biblical Mt. Ararat
Overnight: Yerevan. Hotel: Ani | Breakfast
A short drive from Yerevan brings us to the Khor Virap Monastery, a place of pilgrimage for Armenians all over the world. Khor Virap affords stunning views of the biblical Mt. Ararat and photo opportunities abound. We next proceed to the region of Vayots Dzor to visit the Monastery of Noravank, one of the most splendid monuments of medieval Armenia. Built in a spot of tremendous natural beauty, the surrounding mountains often display a beautiful array of colours from the sun’s reflections. On our way back to Yerevan we visit a brandy factory offering the chance to sample three different types of cognac.
Overnight: Yerevan | Breakfast
The day begins with a visit to the 1st century Roman-built Garni Temple, once the summer residence of Armenian royalty after the country adopted Christianity. Our next stop is the unique architectural construction of Geghard, a cave monastery partially carved out of the flanking mountain. Founded in the 4th century it is listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then visit one of the world’s largest freshwater high-altitude lakes – Lake Sevan, and tour the remains of the St. Astvatsatsin and St. Arakelots churches located on the peninsula. Proceeding to the Bagratashen border we cross over into Georgia and make our way to the capital of Tbilisi.
Overnight: Tblisi. Hotel: Holiday Inn | Breakfast
Our touring of Georgia starts with a trip to Mtskheta, the ancient capital of the country that has been dated back to the 2nd millennium BC. Enjoying an attractive location at the confluence of two rivers, Mtskheta is the place where the people of Georgia accepted Christianity in the beginning of the 4th century. Architectural highlights include the Jvari Monastery, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the Samtavro Monastery. Return to Tbilisi for overnight.
Overnight: Tblisi. | Breakfast
Standing proud on the banks of the Kura River, Tbilisi contains a handsome old town and today we explore the 12th century Metekhi Temple and the famed Abanotubani bath houses, host to poets, writers, musicians and kings throughout the ages. Dominating the city’s skyline, the 4th century Narikala Fortress offers excellent views of the Kura River and stands as a symbol of Tbilisi’s defensive brilliance. Walking through narrow streets lined with carpet and souvenir stalls we reach the Sioni Cathedral and the Anchiskhati Church, the oldest surviving church in the country. Our day of touring concludes with a visit to the Georgian State Museum and Rustaveli Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare lined with elegant buildings.
Overnight: Tbilisi | Breakfast
Wednesday. Today marks the end of our exciting journey through Eurasia. After breakfast and hotel check out we transfer you to the airport for your onward departure journey.
For all our tours and tailor-made holidays we provide you with a clear categorisation of all hotels we use. The REGIONAL CATEGORY indicates the local rating of each hotel in each respective country. We have also rated each hotel using OUR CATEGORY, which will be in line with generally accepted western hotel grading standards.
Basic hotels and simple accommodation is a no frills option with an adventurous authentic feel.
Standard accommodation equates to a Western 3-star standard, always featuring en-suite rooms and usually a restaurant.
Superior accommodation equates to a Western 4-star standard, featuring en-suite rooms and usually a restaurant and often a swimming pool and/or a fitness centre.
Deluxe accommodation equates to a Western 5-star standard, usually featuring spacious, en-suite rooms, a restaurant, swimming pool and fitness centre and an array of amenities, excellent service and customer care.
Lavish accommodation equates to a Western 5-star plus standard - the creme de la creme. Featuring spacious, en-suite rooms, a restaurant, swimming pool and fitness centre and an array of amenities, this accommodation is a cut above the rest. Sheer opulence!
One of Istanbul’s most popular hotels, Titanic City offers modern accommodation in a central location. Rooms are bright and comfortable offering state of the art technology and luxurious walk in rain showers. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available and the views from the trendy Compass Bar and Restaurant are simply stunning. Sipping a refreshing beverage overlooking the mighty Bosphorus is a great way to unwind at the end of the day. Perfectly located in Taksim, the beating heart of Istanbul with lots of great shops, restaurants and bars.
Affording great views of Lake Van, the Rescate Hotel is a chic and luxurious hotel. Guestrooms are tastefully decorated with modern amenities and wonderful views of the lake, city or mountain. Ending the evening with a delightful Turkish Bath is the perfect way to relax after a busy day sightseeing. Perfectly located on the shores of Lake Van just south of the city and 5 minutes away from the airport.
Tipping is not a natural part of many Western cultures and many of us feel uncomfortable, or unsure, about when, or how much, to tip. However, in Turkey, tipping makes up a significant part of many people's wages so it's important that we get it right. For this reason we've developed a very simple system to take all the hassle out of tipping. With our 'tipping made easy' policy, a nominal pre-determined amount is collected from all group tour participants to cover tips en route. This then saves you the hassle of when and how much to tip bellhops, luggage handlers, local guides and other support staff through the tour. Our 'tipping made easy' doesn't include a tip to your group tour leader. Naturally, though, the amount is up to you as tipping is an entirely personal gesture.