Marvels of the East Full Itinerary

(Current as at 15 May 2014)

Day 1: Arrive in Antakya

We start this tour in Antakya, the ancient biblical city of Antioch, which was a significant place for early Christianity. St Barnabas, St Paul and St Peter all visited the city in the ancient times. On arrival in Antakya (Flight TK2252 at 11:30#), we will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we visit the renowned Antakya Mosaic Museum, the Grotto of St. Peter and stroll along the maze of narrow streets in old Antakya. Dinner is at the hotel. (D)
Overnight at the Savon Hotel or similar.

Day 2: Antakya - Gaziantep – Sanliurfa

After breakfast, we set off to Karatepe Arslantas National Park near Kadirli to see its fine neo-Hittite stone carvings. Our journey continues on to the city of Gaziantep where we have lunch in a local restaurant. We then visit the local museum which holds the exquisite mosaics from the ancient Roman City of Zeugma, as well as artifacts from the area belonging to every period.

An exquisite mosaic tableau from Zeugma

We then drive to the Old Testament town of Sanliurfa (also known as Urfa and Ur in ancient times). On the way, time permitting; we visit Birecik on the Euphrates River which is ancient Bronze Age country where 400 limestone tombs with jewels, vases and other objects have been found.

On arrival, we check into our hotel in the town centre and dinner is at the hotel. (B/L/D)
Overnight at the Harran Hotel or similar.

Day 3: In Sanliurfa

Sanliurfa which is reputedly the birthplace of Prophet Abraham is also known as the city of prophets. The name Sanliurfa means “Glorious Urfa” commemorating the town’s heroic resistance against the French invasion and occupation of 1918-20. We shall stop three well deserved nights in Sanliurfa visiting the many attractions in and around this historic city. In the morning, we visit the beehive-style mud houses of Harran. This is one of the most ancient continuously inhabited sites on Earth and is where Abraham and his wife Sarah reputedly spent some years.

Beehive houses of Harran

We then return to Sanliurfa for lunch and after lunch at a local restaurant, we explore the fascinating sites of this Old Testament town, including the Sacred Carp Pools of Abraham, his birth cave and an ancient citadel, as well as the exquisite mosque complex and the traditional covered bazaar. Rest of the day is free. (B/L)

Overnight at the Harran Hotel

Sacred carp pool and Rizvaniye Mosque

Day 4: Sanliurfa – Mount Nemrut - Sanliurfa

This morning, we depart for Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dagi in Turkish), to see the spectacular stone heads and god statues built in honour of King Antiochus, a Commegene ruler. Erected in the first century BC, the engineering involved continues to baffle and amaze archeologists and visitors alike.

On the way to Mt Nemrut, we visit the mighty Ataturk Dam, which harnesses the waters of Euphrates River providing hydroelectric power and irrigation, as well as holiday and recreation facilities for the region. (B/L)
Overnight at the Harran Hotel 





Photo (above): Column with animal reliefs Gobekli Tepe.

Day 5: Sanliurfa - Mardin

Today we set off early to the charming town of Mardin. On the way, we visit the recentlly discovered archeological site of Gobekli Tepe near Urfa. Dating back 11,500 years, it is believed to be the oldest religious complex known to modern man. The site contains 20 round sub-terranean structures four of which have been excavated. Each building has a diameter of 10-30 meters and is decorated with massive limestone pillars that are the most striking feature of the site.

After Gobekli Tepe we continue our journey to Mardin in South Eastern Turkey. Crowned with an ancient citadel and with its unique stone buildings, Mardin is an architectural 'treasure chest'. From a distance, the golden stone of the houses blend into the rock on which the city is built.

After lunch at a traditional local restaurant, we explore Mardin’s quaint narrow streets and bazaars, see the12th Century Ulu Camii (Grand Mosque) and visit the nearby Syriac-Jacobite “saffron monastery”, which is still functioning.

From here, the views of the Mesopotamian Plain will entrance you. Rest of the day and evening are free. In Mardin we stay at a Karavansaray hotel for a well earned rest in the style of Old Silk Road traders. (B/L)
Overnight at Artuklu Karavansaray Hotel or similar.

Day 6: Mardin - Van

This morning we drive north-east to Hasankeyf which was an important staging post on the Silk Road in the medieval period. The historic structures include the Old Tigris Bridge built in 1116 by Artukid Fahrettin Karaaslan, the Citadel, two palaces and numerous mosques.

We then continue our journey through some picturesque terrain to the town of Tatvan situated on the shores of Lake Van (pronounced vun as in ‘run’). After lunch at Tatvan, we visit nearby Mt Nemrut and its Crater Lake with volcanic hot springs. We then drive along the southern shores of Lake Van to the city of Van, the ancient Urartian capital. Dinner is at the hotel. (B/L/D)

Overnight at the lake side hotel Merit Sahmaran

Day 7: In Van

A full day to explore the Van Region. Lake Van is Turkey's largest inland body of water, and at 1720 metres above sea level, it is also one of the world’s highest lakes.

Reliefs on the Armenian Church on Lake Van Island

Our first visit in the region is to the 10th Century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island in Lake Van. Its outer stonewalls, richly decorated with Old Testament scenes and characters are nothing short of amazing. We then drive to Van to have lunch and to visit the imposing ‘Rock of Van’ near the lake shore where Cuneiform Inscriptions are displayed documenting the life and work of Menua, an important Urartian king. If the group wishes, we may visit a carpet centre for a demonstration of traditional carpet making and to learn about the centuries old art of hand-made carpets and kilims on the way to Van. (B/L)

Overnight at the Merit Sahmaran Hotel.

Day 8: In Van

Today we take an excursion to the imposing 9th century Hosap citadel some 50km away. With a little luck, we may catch sight of the famous Van Cat (picture) during our stay in Van. These cats are pure white and have one blue and one yellow or green eye.

The rest of the day is free to spend as you please. You may discover the city at your own pace, visiting Van Museum, going shopping or just relaxing in many of the cafes and restaurants. (B/L)
Overnight at the Merit Sahmaran Hotel.

Day 9: Van - Kars

This morning we drive to the town of Dogubeyazit and, on arrival there; explore the spectacular Ishak Pasha Palace, once used to control the Silk Road. Built between 1685 and 1784, the palace incorporates a blend of Ottoman, Persian and Selcuk architectural styles and is a “must see” site. It is reputed to have contained 366 rooms, one for each day of a leap year.

The spectacular Ishak Pasa Palace

After lunch at a local restaurant, we continue on to the Eastern Turkey city of Kars, stopping on the way to take in views of magnificent Mt Ararat (Agri Dagi in Turkish). Mt Ararat which is Turkey's most famous natural landmark is an enormous volcano, rising 5,137 metres high, always capped with snow and often shrouded in clouds. According to legend Noah's Ark came to rest here after the biblical floods.

The mighty Mt Ararat

We then continue on along the Iranian and Armenian borders to the north-eastern city of Kars. Dinner is at the hotel. (B/L/D)
Overnight at a comfortable 4* hotel in Kars.

Day 10: In Kars

After breakfast, we set off to visit the nearby ruins of the 10th century Armenian capital of Ani close to the border. Even though earthquakes and Mongol invasions destroyed much of the city, fortified walls and well-preserved ruins of churches are well worth seeing.

The gate of the ancient city of Ani

We then return to Kars and after lunch at a local restaurant we visit the major city sites, including the 10th century Armenian Church of 12 Apostles, the 12th century Selçuk Citadel and the nearby Ottoman bridge from the 16th Century.

Rest of the day is free. You may stroll through the town where you will see many reminders of 40 years of Russian rule between 1878 and 1918. These include streets in a grid pattern and some old elegant buildings. Alternatively, you may relax in your hotel which offers facilities including a swimming pool, a Turkish Bath and a gym. (B/L).

Overnight in Kars

Day 11: Kars - Istanbul
After breakfast, we say farewell to those who are doing only the Marvels of the East tour. You will be transferred to Kars airport for your mid morning flight to Istanbul to connect with flights to Australia or other ongoing destinations. Your tour ends on arrival at Istanbul airport.

Those of us who are going on the Best of the Black Sea tour will follow the itinerary for that tour from here on. (B).


(This tour starts in Kars and finishes in Istanbul, Turkey)

  2014 2015 
Tour Dates: 
Tuesday 20 to Friday 30 May
Tour Code: ME140520
Tuesday 21 to Friday 31 May
Tour Code: ME150521
Tour Prices (AUD):
– Marvels of the East Tour
$3,030 for 15 – 16 persons
$3,130 # for 10 – 14 persons
$3,190 for 8 – 9 persons
Single Supplement: $450
$3,030 for 15 – 16 persons
$3,130 # for 10 – 14 persons
$3,190 for 8 – 9 persons
Single Supplement: $450
Tour Prices (AUD):
– Marvels of the East and Best of Black Sea Tours Combined
$5,750 for 15 – 16 persons
$5,950 # for 10 – 14 persons
$6,150 for 8 – 9 persons
Single Supplement: $895
$5,750 for 15 – 16 persons
$5,950 # for 10 – 14 persons
$6,150 for 8 – 9 persons
Single Supplement: $895
Tour duration: 10 days / 9 nights (Combined Tour 20 days / 19 nights)
Group Size: Minimum 8, Maximum 16  

 Tour price includes:
  • Accommodation in special category, boutique style or four-star hotels or the best available.
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Modern air-conditioned coach or minibus with spare seats.
  • Arrival transfers on Day 1 (in Antakya) and departure transfers on Day 11 (in Kars).
  • All entrance fees, all tips (including to hotels, restaurants, guide and driver) and other charges 
  • Services of bilingual Turkish-born Australian tour leader who is with the group 24/7.
  • Services of professional tour guide.
  • Drinking water on the coach and with meals.
Tour price does NOT include:
  • International and domestic flights in Turkey.
  • Departure taxes, levies and other charges 
  • Passport and visa fees 
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, minibar, phone calls, etc. 
  • Beverages at meal times.
  1. Deposit amount is 10% of the price marked #.
  2. Tour details including the itinerary, tour dates and prices may change without notice.
  3. Shorter “Add-on” tours and other travel packages are available within Turkey, to Central Asia, to Russia and Ukraine and to other countries in the region.
  4. The Marvels of the East tour finishes in Kars and is immediately followed by our 10-Day Best of the Black Sea tour. Hence these two tours may be combined. Visit our website or contact us for details 
  5. Where two or more tours are combined, there will be a discount of 4% on the lower priced tour (or tours).
  6. When combined, the Marvels of the East and Best of the Black Sea the tours are regarded as a single tour.
  7. We can make all your travel arrangements through our travel agent partners in Sydney, including flights with all airlines at competitive rates, travel insurance and third party tour packages.
  8. This itinerary, which is current as at 15 May 2014 is subject to change without notice.
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