Turkey & Georgia Overland Trip Notes

Turkey & Georgia Overland

Last Modified: 30 Oct 2012
Turkey & Georgia Overland
Trip code: EDOG
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2012
Experience an adventure tour of Turkey and Georgia that explores the best of both countries, from Istanbul to Tbilisi, visiting Gallipoli, Selcuk, Goreme, Mestia, Gori, Kazbegi and the Tevali Wine Region. The exquisite architecture and rich tapestry of culture and history will dazzle travellers looking to explore the past. Travel through the beautiful landscapes, past snow-capped peaks and fairytale villages, walk through tranquil countryside, explore unique historical ruins, and discover the magic and mysteries of Turkey and Georgia. Discover why the landscape of Cappadocia cuts such a peculiar silhouette, and share a feast with a family in a traditional homestay. From start to finish, this Overland Adventure from Istanbul to Tbilisi is a treat for all the senses.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
StylePhysical preparationAccommodation
ThemesIncluded activitiesMeals
ItineraryOptional activitiesJoining point
Itinerary disclaimerMoney ExchangeFinish point
Culture shock rating Important notesCarbon offset
Physical ratingGroup size
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Turkey & Georgia Overland
Day 1 Istanbul
Hosgeldinz! Welcome to Istanbul.
The trip begins with a group meeting at 10am.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your kitty, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.
As there is a great deal to do in Istanbul we recommend allowing a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be able to assist.
Optional Activities
  • Istanbul - Leader-led walking tour - Free
  • Istanbul - Basilica Cistern - TRY10
  • Istanbul - Topkapi Palace (incl. harem) - TRY35
  • Istanbul - Aya Sofya - TRY25
  • Istanbul - Bosphorus boat cruise - TRY10
  • Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Free
Hostel (1 nt)
Day 2 Eceabat/Gallipoli
Today we leave Istanbul behind and head to Eceabat near Gallipoli (approx. 400 km). We visit Gallipoli in the afternoon. Tonight we will stay in a comfortable hostel
On the eastern shore of the Gelibolu peninsula is the town of Eceabat. A traditional fishing village with loads of character, Eceabat is the closest town to the battefields of Gallipoli. You can catch the public ferry across the Dardanelles to the town of Canakkale for a greater variety of dining and night-life options if you choose.
Gallipoli was the site of the Anzac landings in the 1914-18 war and one of the Allies great disasters in World War One. Gallipoli was the plan created by Winston Churchill to end the war early by creating a new war front that the Central Powers could not cope with. The stark memorial at Lone Pine is inscribed with the names of the many fallen Anzacs. The nearby museum with its memorabilia is well worth a visit.
Included Activities
  • Guided Tour of Gallipoli Peninsula
Hostel (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Selcuk
A very early start today. After breakfast and we make our way to Selcuk (approx. 500 km) visiting Troy en route.  Tonight we will camp.
The Iliad and the Odyssey have made Troy one of the most recognisable mythological sites in the world. Few can resist the chance to wander among its remains.
Selcuk is steeped in culture and retains many Turkish traditions. The town itself is usually undisturbed, which gives the opportunity to experience the 'real' Turkey. On the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill lie several historical buildings, including the Isa Bey Mosque and the Grand Fortress. Selcuk is also home to one of the ancient world's Seven Wonders – the Temple of Artemis – although, sadly, only a single pylon remains.
Selcuk is our base for discovering Ephesus, former capital of the Eastern Roman empire and the best-preserved ancient city in Turkey.
The next day we will visit Ephesus and spend our second night at the campsite in Selcuk.
Included Activities
  • Pergamum (Bergama)
  • Troy guided tour
  • Guided tour of Ephesus
Optional Activities
  • Selcuk - Archaeological Museum - TRY8
  • Selcuk - Meryemana (Mary's House) - TRY12
  • Selcuk - Basilica of St John - TRY5
  • Selcuk - Ephesus Terrace houses - TRY15
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 5 Pamukkale
After breakfast we set off for Pamukkale. We will arrive in time for lunch. There will be free time this afternoon to wander around the gleaming white travertine terraces of Pamukkale.
Visible for miles, the gleaming calcium terraces of Pamukkale are a spectacular sight. Created from limestone deposits formed when water from the hot springs loses carbon dioxide, these layers of white calcium carbonate have earned Pamukkale the nickname 'Cotton Castle' and the pools, now off-limits, have been famed for their medicinal qualities since Roman times.
Though we are not able to bathe in the world-famous Travertines, take a walk through them (no shoes please!) and bathe in healing thermal springs at the nearby Roman site of Hierapolis. Home to an oracle at one time, a well-preserved Roman theatre still remains here. Wander the colonnaded streets and discover the necropolis with its many unique tombs, looking every bit like a scene from judgement day.
Included Activities
  • Pamukkale - Hierapolis & Travertines National Park
Optional Activities
  • Pamukkale - Hierapolis Cleopatra pool - TRY25
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 6 Konya
After a relaxing morning we leave for the traditional Turkish city of Konya. We will set up our camp on the outskirts of the city before heading into town.
Konya is the perfect opportunity to sample a traditional Turkish city where mainstream tourism is yet to arrive. The city is closely linked with the whirling dervish sect of Islam developed by Celaleddin Rumi (or Mevlana) in the 13th century. Rumi is considered one of Islam's greatest Sufi mystics.
Celaleddin developed a philosophy of spiritual union, captured in his poetic writings, the greatest of which - 'Mathnawi' - is still revered today. Mevlana (our master) as he came to be known, believed that music and dance represented a means to induce an ecstatic state of universal love and divine union, and devised the whirling sema ritual. You can visit the original Tekke of Mevlana which holds many dervish religious relics and is also the final resting place for the master himself. There's also an exhibit which explains the lifestyle of the Mevlevis.
Included Activities
  • Konya - Mevlana Museum
Optional Activities
  • Konya - Karatay Museum - TRY3
  • Whirling Dervish Performance - Free
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Goreme
Today we will drive to Goreme where we will base ourselves for 2 nights. 
In the heart of Cappadocia, the town of Goreme lies in a fantastic region of cones, needles and columns, fashioned by nature from the soft volcanic tuff rock. It's honeycombed with caves scooped out to make churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles. In times of peace, the people in this region lived on the land but in times of war or persecution they took to living underground.
The next morning we set off in the truck for a guided tour of Cappadocia. The rest of the day is free to explore Goreme and the surrounding area.
Included Activities
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
  • Goreme - Underground city
Optional Activities
  • Goreme - Anatolian folklore night - TRY47
  • Hot Air Ballooning - EUR120
Hostel (2 nts)
Day 9 Bush camp
We leave Goreme behind and as we drive north. We will stop in Zara en route to shop for supplies then continue on towards our bush camp for the night.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 10 Sumela/Trabzon
Today we reach Sumela (or in colder conditions we will make our way to a hotel in Trabzon). The afternoon is free to explore the area.
Optional Activities
  • Hikes around Kackar Mountains - Free
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 11 Batumi
This morning we will visit Sumela Monastery.
Set in the cliffs is the beautiful monastery of Sumela. The monastery clings to a sheer rock wall high about evergreen forests and a rushing mountain stream.
We then continue to the border crossing into Georgia. Our first night will be spent in the port town of Batumi in a comfortable hotel.
Situated on the Black Sea coast, Batumi has the feel of a resort town, nicely positioned between the sea and the green hills. It is a great place to relax and there are plenty of cafes where you can enjoy a Turkish coffee, sitting outside watching the people and the ships.
Included Activities
  • Sumela - Monastery
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 12-13 Mestia
After breakfast we leave Batumi behind us as we make our way to Mestia passing through uniquely picturesque villages and snow-covered peaks. We will arrive in the late afternoon. Tonight we stay with a local family in a homestay.
The next day is free for optional activities including an optional hike to Chalato Glacier. Tonight we set up our wildcamp and enjoy the stunning views.
Optional Activities
  • Hike to Chalato Glacier - Free
  • Museum of History and Ethnography - Free
Homestay (1 nt), Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 14 Kutaisi
An early start today as we drive back down through the mountains and continue our journey towards Kutaisi. Tonight we will stay in a homestay near the city.
Kutaisi is one of the cradles of Georgian civilisation, and the peopled here are renowned for their hospitality. Kutaisi is also home to the Bagrati Cathedral which sits high on a hill overlooking the town. This immense building was started by Bagrat III in 1003. It is now in a state of ruin, but is still an impressive Christian monument.
While visiting Kutaisi we stay overnight at a either a local hotel or a homestay.
Included Activities
  • Kutaisi - Bagrati Cathedral
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 15 Gori/Bush camp
This morning we continue our drive to Gori, with time to visit the town in the afternoon. Tonight, if conditions allow, we will camp near the city.
With a name meaning 'heap' or 'hill', Gori was an important strategic post in the Middle Ages, but these days is most famous as being the birthplace of Joseph Stalin.
At Gori we will visit Stalin's House and Museum. The museum houses many photographs, as well as some documents, furniture and gifts presented to the dictator. It also houses Stalin's death mask. Outside the museum is the railway carriage which Stalin used for 12 years.
About 10 km outside of Gori is the cave town of Uplistsikhe, one of the oldest places of settlement in the Caucasus. Here we will find another ancient monastery and city, with a second century AD Roman theatre, and a ninth century church. The site was started as a trading centre of the famed Silk Road in the fifth century.
Included Activities
  • Gori - Stalin Museum
  • Uplistsikhe theatre and caves
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 16-17 Kazbegi
Early start as we drive to Kazbegi. Overnight in a homestay.
Located near the Russian border, Kazbegi is a small town in north-eastern Georgia, in an area famous for its natural beauty. Although its buildings are mainly Soviet in style, the setting of the town is spectacular with views of Mt Kazbek, and the hill-top Tsminda Sameba Church.
The next morning take a walk (approx 1.5 hours each way) and visit the 14th century Tsminda Sameba Church.
Included Activities
  • Kazbegi - Tsminda Sameba Church
Optional Activities
  • Walk up Gergeti Glacier - Free
Homestay (2 nts)
Days 18-19 Telavi Wine Region
Drive to the Telavi wine region, where we stay overnight at a homestay.
Telavi is the capital of the wine growing region of Kakheti, and is situated in the valley of Alazani, near the Gombori Mountains. There are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and each village has its own particular variety. We will hopefully get to see some of the local traditions, including grape harvest, wine making, and, most importantly, the keipi (banquet). We will also visit some of the local vineyards.
The next morning we visit the Tsinandali Winery. The afternoon is free.
Included Activities
  • Wine tasting at Tsinandali Winery
Optional Activities
  • Gremi Architectural Complex - Free
Homestay (2 nts)
Days 20-21 Tbilisi
After an early breakfast we begin our drive to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. In the afternoon we will have a guided tour of the old town.
By far the biggest city in Georgia, Tbilisi has been the capital since the fifth century AD. Set among hills along the Mtkvari River, it is one of the most attractive cities in the Caucasus. The architecture is a testament to Tbilisi's history - a mix of European, Byzantine, and Middle Eastern styles - with its winding alleys, art deco buildings, and caravanserais. There is plenty to see and do here with a good smattering of churches, museums, political buildings and parks. For great views over Tbilisi climb up to Narikala Fortress and the statue of Kartklis Deda.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
Included Activities
  • Tbilisi - Guided Old Town tour
Optional Activities
  • Tbilisi - Sioni Cathedral - Free
  • Anchiskhati Church - Free
  • Tbilisi - Metekhi Church - Free
  • Orbeliani Bath House - Free
  • Narikala Fortress - Free
Hotel (1 nt)
      Itinerary disclaimer
      We must emphasise that the routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only. We intend following the route detailed but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. Or it may be because we find a better, more interesting route. While actually en route, unexpected hospitality, a local festival or a great place to chill out can determine our exact route and itinerary on any given trip.
      Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group.
      Culture shock rating

      Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
      Physical rating

      This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
      Physical preparation
      In these parts of the world you'll need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate; from hot deserts through to the cold of high mountain areas.
      Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You'll need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up, and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step-up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high, can become tiring. You need to judge if you are physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day.
      Included activities
      Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
      On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and some included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases. Please check our website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
      Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
      You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
      If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
      Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
      Kitty does not cover food while staying in hotels and hostels.
      We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.
      As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
      Optional activities
      A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
      Money Exchange
      The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY, although prior to 2005 the currency code was TL).
      ATMs are common throughout the main cities and these are a safe and convenient way to withdraw money. Credit cards are also widely accepted. Cash in any of the major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) is easily changed. Travellers cheques in major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) can be changed at selected local banks but it can be time consuming and subject to high fees.
      Important notes
      Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
      The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
      In 2012 the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from the 20th July through till the 18th August, and the Eid ul-Fitr festival will be held directly at its conclusion for 3-4 days. Ramadan is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan business hours are shortened, including opening hours at some tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you should expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month is a fantastic opportunity to travel in a Muslim country and witness this unique period, particularly the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Please note that although the Eid ul-Fitr festival can also be a fascinating time to travel it is a period of National holiday. Most government offices and businesses will be closed and some tourist site opening hours may be impacted.
      Group size
      Maximum of 19 travellers per group.
      Homestay (6 nts), Camping (with facilities) (5 nts), Hostel (4 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nts), Hotel (2 nts)
      All meals when camping
      Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
      EUR 375.00
      Overland vehicle
      Joining point
      Orient Hostel
      Akbiyik Caddesi no:13
      Finish point
      GTM Hotel
      4 Metekhi
      Carbon offset
      Carbon Offset C02-e 609.00 kgs per pax.