Eastern Turkey Snapshot


Culture | Silk Road

A glimpse of Turkey's hidden charms

10 days £2,145 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices


Come discover Turkey’s magical East, a region of incredible natural beauty and legendary hospitality. Visit Gobekli Tepe, the birthplace of religion, experience a sunset by the monumental statues of Mount Nemrut and take a boat to the remarkable Akdamar Armenian church on an island on Lake Van. Wander the ancient Prophet’s city of Urfa (formerly Edessa) and the honey-coloured streets of Mardin, marvel at the beautiful mosaics of Gaziantep and explore endangered Hasankeyf and the dramatic castle at Hosap.


  • Taste Gaziantep’s culinary delights
  • Take a boat to stunning Rumkale
  • Spiritual Mardin and Urfa
  • Marvel at the stunning exhibits of Urfa museum
  • Ancient statues of Göbekli Tepe
  • Watch the sunset at Mount Nemrut
  • Climb the walls of Diyarbakir

Places Visited

Istanbul - Gaziantep - Zeugma - Halfeti - Rumkale - Urfa - Göbekli Tepe - Harran - Diyarbakir - Hasankeyf - Mor Gabriel Monastery - Mardin - ​Dara - Van - Hosap Castle

What's Included

Internal flights
Airport pick-up & drop-off
Ground transport
Entrance fees to sites
Breakfasts and some meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Drivers and guides
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Istanbul

Fly into Istanbul airport where a Travel The Unknown representative will meet you and take you to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Dinner with the group & guide (not included). Overnight in Istanbul.

Overnight in Turkoman Hotel, Istanbul

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Gaziantep

Fly from Istanbul to Gaziantep. Take a walking tour of Gaziantep including its Kale (fortress), colourful markets and its famous mosaic museum. Overnight in Gaziantep.

Overnight in Anadolu Evleri, Gaziantep

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

The culinary capital of Eastern Turkey, Gaziantep’s famous baklava (pistachio pastries) are shipped all over the country and beyond, and its renowned restaurants serve up mouth-watering dishes. Besides cuisine, Gaziantep boasts a fine Seljuk-era citadel, numerous impressive mosques and restored old buildings. Gaziantep’s chief draw however, is its mosaic museum, believed to be the best in the world. The mosaics were recovered from the ancient Roman town of Zeugma, now underwater. The town’s bustling city markets are also well worth a visit.

The Zeugma Museum houses many impressive artworks and sculptures which testify to the area’s magnificence in Greek and Roman times. Its highlight however is a series of mosaics, the most famous of which is a mosaic known as the “Gypsy Girl”.

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Day 3 : Zeugma - Rumkale - Urfa

First drive to the historical site of Zeugma before continuing on to the old town of Halfeti. Here change wheels for a small boat and approach Rumkale by boat through a stunning gorge. This gorgeous boat ride will take you past the enormous fort of Rumkale and some beautiful villages. Drive to Urfa and visit Urfa Archaeological museum followed by Mosaic Museum and Balikli Gol and a short tour of the city's historical sights. Overnight in Urfa.

Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

The Urfa Museum contains many of the archaeological finds from Göbekli Tepe including steles and sculptures. It also contains Hittite sculptures from Golpinar and pieces from Harran, Nevali Cori and Kabahaydar.

Zeugma, once at the forefront of ancient art and culture, boasts some of the most magnificent artworks and sculptures from ancient Turkey. Founded by one of the generals of Alexander the Great, the name ‘Zeugma’ means ‘bridge passage’ and refers to the city’s location on the river Euphrates and its former strategic importance in the silk trade route. When the site was excavated it turned up a number of beautiful mosaics, including the famous Gypsy girl mosaic now on display in the mosaics museum in Gaziantep alongside many others from Zeugma.

A small farming district situated on the East bank of the river Euphrates, Halfeti has been a home to the Assyrians (first established by Assyrian King, ShalmaneserII I in 885 BC), the Greeks, Romans, the Mameluks and the Ottomans. Despite being sieged by the Mameluks, parts of the old city walls still remain.

Rumkale translates to ‘Roman Castle’ and was once a powerful fortress, overlooking the river Euphrates. In ancient times a site of great strategic importance to Romans and Assyrians alike, the fortress is accessible by boat from the neighbouring Zeugma Region. Today, much of the lower-lying town area has been flooded, but the dramatically situated Rumkale helps you imagine the magnificence of the area in ancient times.

Urfa (a.k.a. Sanliurfa, “the prophet’s city”, or Edessa in ancient times) is the most spiritual city in Eastern Turkey. It is a major centre for pilgrimage and its traditions are very much alive and well. The “Sanli-“ part of its name (meaning “great” or “dignified”) was awarded by the Turkish legislature in 1984 in recognition of the city’s pivotal role in the Turkish war of Independence. Of particular note for visitors are Urfa Castle (the current walls were constructed by the Abbasids in 814AD), the Pool of Sacred Fish where Abraham was thrown in to the fire by Nimrod, the park of mosques, the market area and the Urfa museum.

The Great Mosque of Urfa meanwhile, was constructed in 1170 on the site of the old Christian church, which Arabs referred to as ‘the Red Church’.

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Day 4 : Göbekli Tepe - Harran - Kahta

After breakfast visit the unique archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe. Take time to visit the site and learn about its incredible history. Have lunch then drive to Harran and discover its ancient Islamic university, its fortress and its charming beehive houses. Have tea in a comfortable beehive mud hut, then drive to Kahta Mt. Nemrut. Visit both east and west terraces of the Commanege Kingdoms burial place and enjoy sunset on the mountain. Overnight in a comfortable hotel in Kahta.

Please note: The climb up Mount Nemrut is approximately 500 metres long, and uneven and steep in places. Mules are available to carry you if you prefer (not included, payable locally).

Overnight in Hotel Euphrat, Mount Nemrut

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Göbekli Tepe, the oldest place of worship in the world, is an archaeological site without equal. Prior to its discovery in 1994 and its subsequent excavation it was widely believed by anthropologists that religion evolved as a result of living in larger communities which was itself the result of the change from foraging to agriculture. However, Göbekli Tepe has turned our theories of our own evolution on their head. The vast religious site dates from the hunter gatherer period and there is no evidence of any agriculture or even human habitation, suggesting that it may have been the emergence of religion that lead us to civilisation and thus to agriculture.

The site contains a vast array of circular structures and huge pillars, some with beautiful limestone carvings of lions, foxes, snakes and birds, believed to be gatekeepers of the entrance to the next world. There are striking similarities to sites in Peru, Bolivia and Easter Island that were noted by Robert Schoch in the Megalithomania expedition in November 2012. To date, less than ten percent of the site has been excavated. You can read an article about this fascinating site in National Geographic magazine published in June 2011 here:  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text

Visit the ancient city of Harran, once the centre of Egypt's Hermetic tradition. See its ominous "Astrological Tower", citadel and local village and take in one of the most atmospheric sites anywhere in the world. Mentioned in the Book of Genesis, Harran is believed to have once been home to the Prophet Abraham. The site of the first Islamic university in Anatolia, Harran also boasts the remains of an 8th century mosque, a citadel and some 300 year old beehive mud homes which enjoy a constant temperature throughout the year, winter or summer. 

A mountain of around two thousand metres, Mount Nemrut is home to the tomb of the pre-Roman king, Antiochus I Theos of Commagene. Built by the king himself in about 62 BC as a shrine to his own remains, the site consists of two large statues of Antiochus which dwarf two statue pairs of eagles and lions, and various Iranian, Greek and Armenian Gods. The statues are now damaged and mostly appear beheaded. Scholars have largely attributed this to later attacks on iconoclasm, but the statues have since been returned to their original places. Behind the display of statues are some well-preserved slabs of stone which feature figures in relief carving and are originally thought to have formed a large frieze. Archaeologists interpret the figures as Antiochus’ ancestors, which allegedly included Greeks and Persians. It is the perfect place to experience a sunset or sunrise as the views from the summit are sublime.

NOTE: it is a 20-30 minute walk up uneven steps to reach the summit.

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Day 5 : Mount Nemrut - Diyarbakir

After breakfast visit Karakus Tumulus, followed by Cendere Bridge and Arsemia. Than continue to Diyarbakir. Take a short tour of Diyarbakir's historic centre including its marketplace, and take in the sunset on the city's famous walls, the world's largest wall after China's Great Wall. Overnight in a hotel in Diyarbakir.

Overnight in SV Business Hotel, Diyarbakir

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Arsemia was the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom and burial place of Mithridates. It is home to the largest rock inscription found in Anatolia, which describes the political and religious beliefs of the inhabitants.

Cendere Bridge is one of the world’s oldest bridges still in use, constructed during the empire of Septimus Severus (193-211). Composed of 92 stones, each weighing around 10 tons, it is thought to be the second largest Roman bridge still in existence, spanning an impressive 122 metres. The bridge today appears as a simple, unadorned arch, but was originally decorated by four Corinthian columns dedicated to Septimus Severus and his wife.

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Day 6 : Hasankeyf - Mardin

Take a short walk through Diyarbakir to visit an Armenian church, an Orthodox Syriac church and the Ulu Jamii mosque. Drive to Hasankeyf, a stunning historical site whose fate hangs in the balance. Stop at Mor Gabriel monastery for a short visit. Continue to the beautiful castle town of Mardin for a short visit.

Overnight in Reyhani Kasri Hotel, Mardin

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Diyarbakir (known as “Amed” to the Kurdish majority there) is the largest city in south eastern Turkey and was often the flashpoint for anti-Turkish rebellion in days gone by.  Indeed most Turkish Kurds consider it the capital of their would-be nation.  Under a less repressive government in Ankara the city today is experiencing a renaissance and is full of soul and character. Its city walls stretch almost 6 kilometres unbroken and inside those walls are a fascinating array of mosques, churches townhouses and an impressive architectural spectrum.

With a history stretching back almost four millennia, and beautiful honey-coloured buildings clinging to a cliffside overlooking the river Tigris, Hasankeyf is a beautiful and historic place. It boasts a castle, palaces, mosques and a lovely if crumbling bridge. Its future is precarious however due to the proposed Ilisu dam project which intends to flood the whole valley, displacing its inhabitants and losing forever the treasures and beauty of Hasankeyf. Foreign financial backers have pulled out after the World Monuments Fund listed the village but the Turkish government seem keen to push ahead nonetheless. See it while you can.

Mor Gabriel Monastery is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. Today it is a working community set amongst gardens and orchards, and is inhabited by around fifteen nuns and two monks, occupying separate wings. The monastery's primary purpose is to keep Syriac Orthodox Christianity alive in the land of its birth by providing schooling and ordination of native-born monks. On occasions in the past it has provided physical protection to the region’s Christian population.

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Day 7 : Mardin

Today will be a half day tour of Mardin including the nearby historical site of Dara and the monasteries of Deyrul and Zafaran and Kasimiye Medresesi. After lunch visit the Sakib Sabanci ethnographic museum before a free afternoon to relax in this beautiful castle town. Optional meal at Cercis Restaurant. Overnight in Mardin.

Overnight in Reyhani Kasri Hotel, Mardin

Meal plan: Breakfast

Dara was an important East Roman fortress city in northern Mesopotamia on the border with the Sassanid Empire. Because of its great strategic importance, it featured prominently in the Roman-Persian conflicts of the 6th century, with the famous Battle of Dara taking place before its walls in 530. Today the Turkish village of Oğuz occupies its location and there are many cave dwellings and other interesting archaeological and geographical features.

Mardin is a remarkable town full of beautiful mosques and churches and a setting that will take your breath away. With baked-brown alleyways, honey-coloured buildings, a maze of a market and stunning ancient buildings, you will quickly see why Mardin has become a favourite with Turkish travellers. 

Cercis Restaurant in Mardin is one of the best in the whole of Turkey. If you are interested in eating here speak to your guide early in your trip and we will try to arrange it.

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Day 8 : Akdamar Island - Van

Drive East to Van. Visit Akdamar island in Lake Van en route. We recommend visiting a local bar. Live music can be found on many nights. Overnight in Van.

Overnight in Elite World Van, Van

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Lake Van, Turkey's largest lake, is flanked by the snowy peaks of the volcanoes of Mount Suphan and Mount Nemrut. The beautiful azure waters of the lake are highly alkaline and drilling at the bottom of the lake by German palaeontologists has revealed climate data covering almost 15,000 years despite only penetrating the first few metres of sediment. It is believed the sediment may hold climate data from the last 800,000 years!

Akdamar Island is a small island 3km from the Shore of Lake Van, most famous for the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross (a.k.a. Akdamar Kilisesi). The unique importance of the building comes from the extensive array of bas-relief carvings, of biblical scenes predominantly, that adorn its external walls. Due to the contentious history between Turkey and Armenia the site has been the site of vandalism in the past and its restoration was never short on controversy. But the outcome is spectacular. Besides the marvellous views of the church, the island, the lake and the mountains beyond, there are ruins of an Armenian monastery which once served the church.

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Day 9 : Van - Hosap Castle

Visit the 17th Century Hosap castle. This stunning castle is perched on a hilltop and the views from it are beautiful. Drive to Cavustepe, take a short tour of this 12th Century site before visiting a traditional Kurdish weaving "village" where the famous Van cats can usually be found. Return to Van town for lunch. After lunch visit the sprawling site of Van castle. Overnight in comfortable hotel in Van.

Overnight in Elite World Van, Van

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Van today is a young vibrant university town but the history of the region goes back more than 7 millennia, and the town itself was the Urartian capital as early as the 9th Century BC. 

Van Castle, outside of the modern town, is a vast sprawling Urartian structure dating from the 9th to 7th Centuries BC that affords excellent views of the beautiful surrounding countryside. Don’t miss the perfectly-preserved 5th Century trilingual (Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite) inscription from Xerxes the Great, the only Achaemenid royal inscription located outside of Iran. The town of Van is also famous throughout Turkey for its kebabs.

Hosap Castle is a large medieval castle in the village of Hoşap (meaning "Good/Sweet Water" in Kurdish) near the border with Iran. It was built by a local Kurdish lord, Mahmudi Suleyman, in 1643. Legend has it that the hands of the architect who built this formidable stronghold were cut off so that he could not build another. Be sure to find it’s intricate lion carvings. A short distance from Hosap is the Urartian centre Cavustepe. Built in the 8th century B.C., Cavustepe was once home of the kings of Urartu.

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Day 10 : Departure

After breakfast transfer to Van airport. Fly to Istanbul (and onwards where applicable).

Meal plan: Breakfast



All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Turkoman Hotel

Istanbul (1 night)

Overlooking the ancient Roman Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque and the Sea of Marmara, Turkoman Hotel is situated in an ideal central location with an outdoor terrace to enjoy the views of Istanbul's famous sites. All rooms feature air conditioning, TV, minibar, and a safety boxe (available at reception). Wi-Fi access is available in public areas of the hotel. 

Visit hotel's site
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Anadolu Evleri

Gaziantep (1 night)

Located in the city centre of Gaziantep, Anadolu Evleri hotel features a restored, stone built structure with a courtyard and a wine cellar. The hotel offers unique rooms with authentic interiors and air conditioning. The restaurant serves regional cuisine so you can enjoy local delicacies with a relaxing glass of wine.

Visit hotel's site
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Hilton Garden Inn

Urfa (1 night)

Located in an area known as the ''Fertile Crescent'' where a great deal of traditional architecture has been preserved, the Hilton Garden Inn is within walking distance of the city center and Urfa's main historical sites. Comfortable en suite rooms feature AC, satellite TV, tea/coffee making facilities and a minibar.

Visit hotel's site
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Hotel Euphrat

Mount Nemrut (1 night)

A basic hotel located close to Mount Nemrut. All rooms are en-suite and come fitted with an LCD TV, minibar, air conditioning and free wireless Internet. The on-site restaurant serves a range of local delicacies. 

Visit hotel's site
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SV Business Hotel

Diyarbakir (1 night)

SV Hotel is located in the centre of Diyarbakir. The contemporary rooms include satellite TV and air conditioning. This design hotel has a gym and sauna.

The hotel has a bar and restaurant onsite. SV Hotel also offers free Wi-Fi and parking nearby.

Visit hotel's site
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Reyhani Kasri Hotel

Mardin (2 nights)

Situated in the Old Mardin city centre, this hotel offers amazing views of the winding streets and traditional stone houses of the city. It has spacious modern guestrooms with balconies and free Wi-Fi.

Visit hotel's site
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Elite World Van

Van (2 nights)

Located in Van, Elite World Van features neoclassical architecture combined with palace-like interiors. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and an on-site spa centre with hammam, sauna and an indoor pool. The elegant rooms are equipped with air conditioning, LCD TV,  a private hot tub and a minibar, and are soundproofed for your privacy and comfort.

Visit hotel's site

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Travel the Unknown were very responsive to my personal wishes, and flexible enough to make this a fantastic tour- we covered a lot in a limited time. Guides were pleasant and informative, and the transport was excellent.

John Colligan , Eastern Turkey Snapshot & archaeology extension

This was a very exciting itinerary including fantastic historic and prehistoric site visits, as well as visits to wonderful towns, restaurants and markets. The attentiveness of the guide ensured that everything went smoothly, even in very out-of-the way places. It was possible to fall in love with the drama of the landscape, the character of the architecture, the colour, sights and sounds of the towns, the friendliness and honesty of the people - and I did!

Jane Neild , Eastern Turkey Explorer, Turkey

Charming people organising the trip and acting as guides. An inspirational visit taking us to out of the way places we would never have had the chance to visit. The personal touch Travel the Unknown brings sets them apart.

Caroline & Peter , Eastern Turkey Snapshot, Turkey

A great way to travel to some of the more remote and interesting places in the world. It was a very interesting area and we saw a lot that we would never have managed on our own. I would recommend the holiday to others.

Marion McCallum , Eastern Turkey Snapshot, Turkey

I went on this trip rather than all the other interesting possibilities in the world because I wanted to go to Gobekli Tepe. Being there was all I could have hoped for. It was a stunning experience and I was moved to tears. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Regarding the food, the olives were the best I`ve ever tasted. And the yoghurt is fabulous. Also the cheese and pistachios and apricots. Oh yes, and the watermelon : ) Thanks to David too for being so patient with my endless questions

Cynthia Bishop , Eastern Turkey Explorer, Turkey

I would not hesitate in using Travel the Unknown for any future journeys to off the beaten track destinations.

Andrea Selfridge , Tailormade Turkey

I had a lovely time in Turkey. Both of the tours that were part of the package were fabulous, both tour guides were very knowledgeable and made the trips very interesting providing plenty of information, and the places where we went for lunches as part of the trip were superb. David McGuinness is a credit to Travel the Unknown, he goes that `extra mile` to keep customer happy. I`d like to say a huge `thank you` for all the help you gave me organising and planning my trip. I certainly will recommend anyone to use you for planning their `unknown` destination holiday. The emails, telephone calls were all spot on, well done :-) :-)

Jane Kimberley , The Magic of Cappadocia, Turkey

We covered many miles and saw some fantastic sites and sights. The special access that our tour leader provided really enhanced the experience for me - I`ll certainly never forget tracking down an inscription in Van with his help - and to see Gobekli Tepe and Nemrut Dag on the same day was marvelous. At the end of the trip, the Zeugma Mosaic Museum was a wonderful surprise - the best mosaics I`ve ever seen, in a truly world-class setting.

Jim Cleary , Eastern Turkey Explorer, Turkey

Travel the Unknown provide good friendly advice and information before travel. They are very approachable and helpful. The accommodation is of a high standard as are the meals. Local guides are knowledgeable and anxious to ensure that travellers have a good and rounded experience.

Anthony Twohig , Eastern Turkey Explorer, Turkey

This trip was an amazing and very exhilarating experience. We had high hopes of Gobekli Tepe, which were totally fulfilled- it is utterly amazing, but we had not anticipated some of the other gems to be so exceptional as well. We were a small group, which made the trip very personal. Altogether it was a marvellous week, helped by having a caring guide and an excellent driver.

Joy Lawley , Eastern Turkey Snapshot, Turkey

Arda, our local guide was absolutely the best. Always a smile, always running (literally) to fulfill every request, treating every member as his personal responsibility, and going way way above and beyond to assist and accommodate. He is a so remarkably knowledgeable, and seemingly found no question beyond his ability to answer & explain. And his English is impeccable. KEEP HIM!!! Very special individual. Andrew is an incredible guide, with such a wealth of information and passion for his subjects. He never tired and made the trip fascinating and exciting due to the perspectives and explanations he shared continuously based upon years of research. Felt very fortunate to be in his presence for 2 weeks in such places that we were able to visit. Same for Hugh. And Hugh`s constant humour was delightful. These two balance each other well, and make a great team

Peggy Roberts , Tailormade Turkey

We greatly enjoyed visiting the ancient sites of Western Turkey with an experienced guide and seeing the remains of so many different periods and cultures. The scenery was spectacular and we felt that the tour gave us a wonderful introduction to the country.

Michael Wilson , Archaeology of Western Turkey, Turkey
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