We depart Cappadocia, the Land of Beautiful Horses and weird rock formations, and head out across Turkey's hinterland, along the ancient Silk Road via Kayseri and stopping at the great Karatay Han before proceeding to Adiyaman.
Today we visit the magnificent funerary monument at the peak of Mt Nemrut which stands as a testament to an ancient king's ambition. From Nemrut we continue to the massive Ataturk Dam straddling the mighty river Euphrates, and on to Urfa, the ancient city of prophets.
From Urfa and proceed to the on-going archaeological dig at Gobekli Tepe. Although not widely known amongst the general public Gobekli Tepe is probably one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. We continue to Diyarbakir and another ancient settlement; at 5000 years old is one of the oldest cities in the world. An overwhelmingly Kurdish city Diyarbakir is famed for its ancient city walls; constructed by the Romans, the current walls, built of massive black basalt blocks is, after the great wall of China, the longest continuous defensive wall in the world.
From Diyarbakir we continue to Mardin, located on a high hill overlooking the plains of southern Turkey. After breakfast, we will visit Deir-Al-Zafaran (the Saffron Monastery),centre of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchy and still an active monastery. The site of the Saffron monastery has been a sacred place for thousands of years. After lunch we will drive to Hasankeyf, situated by the Tigris River; soon to be submerged under the flood waters of a new dam on the Tigris. From Hasankeyf we continue to Tatvan on the western shore of Lake Van.
After breakfast drive to Van via Akdamar Island where we visit the beautifully restored 10th C Armenian Church of the Holy Cross, or Sourp Khach, before continuing to the eastern city of Van.
From Van we travel south along a branch of the Silk Road (Ipek Yol) to visit Hosap Castle. The main castle structure of Hosap, built straddling the Silk Road it served as both a means of protecting the road and as a point of charging tolls on travellers. From Hosap we return to Van for lunch, before ending the day with a visit to the 3000 year old Citadel of Van to watch the sun set over Lake Van.
We leave Van for Dogubeyazit via Muradiye and the pretty Bendimaahi Falls. In Dogubeyazit, we visit the spectacular Ishak Pasha Palace before continuing our journey north skirting around the western edge of Mt Ararat. Mt. Ararat is one of the great natural spectacles of the world, known in Turkish as 'the Mountain of Pain' and in Kurdish as the 'Mountain of Fire'. Armenians know it at as Masis. The name Ararat derives from the Bible (Jeremiah 51:27) and is a transliteration of 'Urartu' the name foreigners gave to this region and its inhabitants in Biblical times. We will spend the night in Kars.
Using Kars as our base we will continue to Ani to spend the morning at the former capital of the great medieval Armenian Kingdom. The remains of the ruined city include several churches as well as the shell of the Cathedral of Ani, the citadel and a mosque along with an extensive and well preserved defensive wall.
(People will depart to Armenia and Georgia today).
We now follow the Aras river west through the First World War battlefield site of Sar?kam??, and along the gorge of the river Aras via magical scenery of fields of gorse and fern, pristine river beds and deep ravines by the beautiful six-arched Cobandede bridge and into Erzurum.
From Erzurum to Trabzon. We drive north through the Pontic Alps, in the steps of Xenophon's Ten Thousand with spectacular views, along the Karasu, the northernmost branch of the Euphrates, to Askale, with its ruined Byzantine fortress. We continue over the 2390m Kopdagi Pass, the Black Sea watershed, into the Coruh valley, passing the huge fortress of Bayburt. We continue down to the spectacular cliff hanging monastery of Sumela; dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this has been a monastic site since the 4th century AD. Perched high in a gorge of the Altindere Vadisi National Park, the present buildings date from 12th century on.