Discover a surprising side to Turkey with this secrets-filled adventure from Trabzon to Van

Switzerland-esque valleys and mountainscapes, Sri Lankan-style tea-covered hills, crumbling churches on the desolate grassy landscape of high steppe – these are the unexpected sides of Turkey. Changing hands between Greeks, Hellenes and Byzantines over centuries, eastern Turkey is a treasure trove of architectural and cultural wonders that’s somehow slipped under the radar for years. Retrace the path of the historic Silk Road from Istanbul and explore the lesser-known areas surrounding the Black Sea to the ‘pearl of the east’ Van. Head to the spectacular Kackar Mountains, visit Turkey’s renowned dairy country in Kar, and travel to the very edge of Armenia to marvel at rugged Mount Ararat. Wild, vast and gloriously lonely – this is a side of Turkey few get to see.


Start
Istanbul, Turkey
Finish
Istanbul, Turkey
Destination
Turkey
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
ERSN
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Go beyond the classic images of Turkey and explore the country's north and eastern regions, places of unexpected landscapes, Silk Road past, and the mix of history and culture with nearby Georgia, Armenia and Iran

  • Discover a little piece of the alps in Trabzon, a Black Sea coastal city surrounded by lush green mountains and valleys, with a long Roman and Byzantine history

  • Get a taste of Turkish flavours when visiting a tea farm in the green hills of Rize and taste traditional gravyer cheese near Kars

  • Explore what was once the capital of an Armenian empire, an atmospheric ‘ghost town’ of crumbling ruins above the valley of the Arpa Cayi River

  • Look down over the plains of Dogubayzit from Ishak Pasha Palace with Mount Ararat soaring in the distance

Is this trip right for you?

  • We recommend packing light, as you’ll need to carry your own luggage on and off transport and to and from hotels and please refer to the luggage restrictions on internal flights.

  • You’ll need your walking shoes, a hat, some sunscreen, and a daypack to explore some of historical sites. All site tours are guided, but you can wander at your own pace if you prefer.

  • There are some long travel days but the scenery is mighty spectacular so put your head phones in and enjoy the ride.

  • It can get very cool in this part of the country, April, May, September and October you will need a sweater and we recommend a waterproof jacket just in case.

Itinerary

Merhaba! Welcome to Turkey's inspiring capital, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. This adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 1pm – make sure you have all your important documents and details for your leader. Double check with the hotel reception or the noticeboard for meeting confirmations. Following the meeting, explore the hidden laneways of Istanbul's Old Town on a guided walking tour, visiting hidden hans and mosques along the way. Perhaps get to know your fellow travellers better over a meze dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel before 1pm, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception.
Leave the hum of Istanbul behind and catch a morning flight to Trabzon, a charming port city found along the edge of the Black Sea's far eastern shore and surrounded by lush green valleys and mountains. The former Empire of Trebizond is today a busy city, harbouring a fascinating history as the place where the last Byzantine Empire held out after the fall of Constantinople. The city has also been influenced over the centuries by the Greeks, Cimmerians, Medes, Hellenes, Byzantines and more, leading to a fascinating blend of cultures. This afternoon you’ll explore the old walled quarter of the city, which can feel like a miniature Istanbul without the crowds. Stroll the pedestrianised Uzun Sokak and visit the Church of the Holy Wisdom (also known as Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya). This was most likely built by Emperor Alexius Comnenus in 1024 and is an important surviving example of late Byzantine architecture, filled with wonderful New Testament frescoes.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Trabzon - Sumela Monastery
  • Trabzon - Local tea at Boztepe
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
If you've heard the term “for all the tea in China”, then think again – Turkey consumes more tea than any other nation in the world! Gain a better understanding and appreciation for Turkish tea on a trip to Rize, the country's tea capital. Travel east along the coast, passing lush tea farms along the way, before sampling the local brew in Rize. Next, turn inland and travel to the foot of the Kackar Mountains to discover rolling fields fringed by craggy, frost-tipped mountains. Enjoy a late afternoon hike through alpine meadows, visiting a medieval castle and picturesque ancient stone bridges, before settling in for the night at the village of Camlihemsin.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ayder - Valley walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Head off to the west after breakfast this morning to the mountain-surrounded Erzurum, one of the oldest settlement centres in Anatolia. You’ll arrive in the afternoon and make a short visit to the symbol of the city – the striking twin towers of the Cifite Minarelli Medrese. Originally built as a theological school, this splendid building is now an architectural monument to the late Seljuk period. The last part of the day is spent at the ancient trading centre of Rustem Pasa Bedesten, a showcase for the region’s famous black amber Oltu stone, used in jewellery and tespihs (rosaries).

In the evening, maybe sample some authentic Cag Kebab, a juicy log of lamb roasted on a horizontal spit.

Travel time today: approximately 5.5 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Erzurum - Walking Tour
  • Erzurum - Cifte Minareli Madrasah
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning continue to Kars.  Another day of beautiful scenery, enjoy the spectacular mountains, rivers and villages before arriving in Kars there’s time for one more stop,  and it’s a delicious one – cheese tasting. The village of Bogatepe has become so famous for its cheeses that they’ve built a museum dedicated to it. Up on a high plateau of meadows, this is dairy country, and a lot of the local cheese here is still made using traditional methods.  Arriving in Kars in the late afternoon take a walking tour around town to see the castle and Kumbet Camii, a beautiful Armenian church now converted into a mosque. In the evening, perhaps enjoy some roasted goose, a local specialty, for dinner, and you may even be lucky enough to catch some local musicians playing the baglama.

Travel time today: approximately 4 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kars - Cheese Museum and Tasting
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Begin the day with a visit to the important site of Ani, the ruined capital of the medieval Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia. This kingdom originally had its capital in Kars, but in the 10th century King Ashot III decided to move it to this new location, which was closer to the main trade routes. Surrounded by rolling steppe on a headland above the valley of the Arpa Cayi River, and right on the border with Armenia, this atmospheric ‘ghost town’ of crumbling ruins makes for one of the most romantic sights in Turkey.

Grab some lunch before continuing to the town of Dogubayazit, colloquially known as the 'doggy biscuit'. The three-hour drive will take you through the plateau village of Agri, which shares a name with the nearby Mount Agri (Ararat), the highest peak in the country at 5,165 metres. The mountain has biblical ties, as its said to be where Noah’s Ark rested while the world flooded. You’ll stop here to capture some photos of the magnificent scenery. Continue east to Dogubayazit and spend the afternoon exploring Ishak Paşa Sarayı (Ishak Pasha Palace). This semi-ruined former palace and administrative centre sits among rugged mountains with a magnificent view overlooking the plains below and Mount Ararat in the distance. Take time to wander the restored rooms and take in the stunning scenery. The rest of the evening is spent in Dogubayzit, offering a great opportunity to mix and chat with the locals.

Todays travel time: aproximately 4 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Dogubayazit - Ishak Pasha Palace
  • Kars - Ani Ruins UNESCO Site
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Apart from gifting the world with exotic cats, Van has a deep-rooted history going back as far as 5,000 BC. The city has been moulded by different civilizations and kingdoms throughout history, including Urartian, Armenian, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman influences. You can find their fingerprints scatted throughout the city, such as the Urartian Van Fortress and Armenian Holy Cross Cathedral. Nature has also blessed Van with an idyllic location right next to the largest body of water in Turkey. Travel to Van before taking a boat trip across the lake to Akdamar Island and visiting the Holy Cross Cathedral. This 10th century Armenian construction houses impressive faded frescos, while the exterior stonework is carved with epic biblical scenes. Afterwards, make the most of free time to wander town, visit the bizarre Lake Monster statue, and spot the occasional Van cat.

Todays travel time: aproximately 2.5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Van - Akdamar Church
  • Van - Van Castle
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
It’s time to farewell eastern Turkey as you take a flight from Van back to Istanbul (approximately 2 hours).

After checking into your hotel you will take a public bus to the historical district of Balat and Fener. Located on the Golden Horn this area is listed on the Unesco World Heritage List due to its historical buildings. We will start our Tour at the Fethiye Museum which was the church of Pammakaristos built in the East-Roman period, from here we will stroll down to the Golden Horn taking in the local neighborhood and the colourful architecture. Have your camera well charged for this locality is a photographers dream.

The rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore the city or relax. Perhaps explore the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar – a haven for bargain hunters with more than 4,000 shops – soak up the aromas of the Spice Market, take in the view of the Blue Mosque, head underground to the subterranean Basilica Cistern, or walk along Istiklal Caddesi, arguably the city’s most popular strolling, shopping and snacking street. Maybe relax with a steam, sauna and massage at a traditional Turkish hamam, or just sit at a cafe and take in the unique atmosphere. Istanbul offers a plethora of great eating spots and lively night venues; your tour leader knows all the best places, so they can recommend some great options.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Istanbul - Balat Walking Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This Intrepid adventure comes to an end today. As there are no activities planned, you are free to depart your accommodation at any time. There is so much to see and do in and around Istanbul, so you may want to consider extending your stay here. Perhaps join one of our Urban Adventures and explore the city's thriving night markets. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking. 
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

8 breakfasts, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle, Plane

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nights)

Included activities

  • Trabzon - Sumela Monastery
  • Trabzon - Local tea at Boztepe
  • Ayder - Valley walk
  • Erzurum - Walking Tour
  • Erzurum - Cifte Minareli Madrasah
  • Kars - Cheese Museum and Tasting
  • Dogubayazit - Ishak Pasha Palace
  • Kars - Ani Ruins UNESCO Site
  • Van - Akdamar Church
  • Van - Van Castle
  • Istanbul - Balat Walking Tour

Dates & availability

Trip search is unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Turkey: Black Sea & Beyond trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Prices may change, so secure your trip today!
Jump to a departure month

Important notes

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights on your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.

INCLUDED FLIGHTS
This trip has two internal flight luggage restrictions of 15kg checked and 8kg cabin apply on most internal flights in Turkey.

TURKEY
We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information on travelling in Turkey before your departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas of your itinerary. We have links to prominent government travel advisories and regular updates on issues affecting this trip on our Travel Alerts page - www.intrepidtravel.com/au/travel-alerts

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

Reviews