Silk Road through Turkey


Silk Road | Culture

Ancient trading routes, historic battles and striking scenery

14 days Ask us for pricing This is the price per person for a private tour (based on 2 people travelling) excluding international flights. Contact us for pricing for other group sizes including individuals.
Intro, Dates & Prices


Journey along the ancient pathways of Turkey's Silk Road. Take a boat across the azure waters of Lake Van to admire the sublime Armenian carvings of Akdamer church on Akdamar Island. Marvel at the magnificent Ottoman architecture of Ishak Pasa Palace. Wend your way through the streets of UNESCO-listed Safranbolu and visit UNESCO-listed Divriği, famed for its beautiful architecture. Visit stunning Sumela Monastery, take in the striking views from Amasya Castle and experience the unique healing properties of Sivas' thermal springs. Finally explore Nicaea (modern Izmir), birthplace of a unified Christian doctrine before travelling onto Istanbul.

NOTE: This tour can continue on from Silk Road Through Persia by starting from Tabriz to Van instead. Ask us for details.


  • Visit Akdamer church on Akdamar island
  • The incredible Ishak Pasa Palace
  • Sublime Sumela monastery
  • Explore the rich history of Sivas
  • UNESCO-listed architecture in Divriği
  • Striking views of Amasya Castle
  • UNESCO-listed town of Safranbolu
  • Nicaea (modern Izmir), birthplace of a unified Christian doctrine

Places Visited

Istanbul - Van - ​Akdamar Island - Doğubayazit - Erzurum - Baksi museum - Bayburt - Trabzon - Gumushane - Sivas - Divriği - Tokat - Amasya - Kastamonu - Safranbolu - Iznik (a.k.a. Nicaea)

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks

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Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrive in Istanbul

Arrive into Istanbul airport, where you will be met by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Istanbul.

NOTE: ​Those joining this tour by continuing from the Silk Road Through Persia tour will today travel from Tabriz via the ​Kapıköy border post to Van and overnight in Van instead, then join the rest of the group the following day when they arrive into Van.

Overnight in Novotel Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul

Meal plan: Dinner

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Day 2 : Istanbul - Van

Depart Istanbul and fly to Van. On arrival, embark on a tour of Van and its surroundings. Highlights will include a visit to Akdamar Island and Hosap Castle. Overnight in Van.

Overnight in Elite World Van, Van

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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. 

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 its 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.

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 subject to 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 3 : Van - Ishak Pasha Palace - Erzurum

Depart Van and drive to Doğubayazit, where you will visit Ishak Pasa Palace. Later, continue on to Erzurum, stopping en route to see Erzurum Castle. Overnight in Erzurum.

Overnight in Dedeman Hotel , Erzurum

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Erzurum Castle, locally known as Eruzum Kalesi, lies in the centre of the city. The historic structure dates back to 415 AD, although the first fortification on this site is believed to have been built in Urartian times (1263–1234 BC). Built under the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, this castle served as a military fort for much of its history. The structure is connected to the former town walls, its function was primarily to protect the north east corner of the town's defenses. Today, the castle provides scenic views over the city of Erzurum.

The construction of Ishak Pasa Palace, a splendid 18th Century Ottoman complex, was started in 1685 by Colak Abdi Pasa, the bey of Beyazit province. A hundred years later, in 1784, his grandson Ishak Paşa completed the gargantuan task of its construction. The results are spectacular. It is one of the most distinguished and magnificent examples of 18th century Ottoman architecture and is very valuable in terms of art history. The beautiful stone complex contains a mosque, a library, a bath house, dining quarters and a harem, where the women used to live. Many of the stone carvings are simply exquisite, and the location, looking out over Mount Ararat (Turkey's highest peak, standing at 5,137m) and the Armenian plateau, is simply breathtaking.

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Day 4 : Erzurum - Bayburt

Spend the day touring Eruzum. Key sights will include the Double Minaret Theology School, Rüstem Paşa Bedesteni and the Lalapaşa Mosque. Later, travel on to Bayburt via the Baksi museum. Overnight in Bayburt.

Overnight in Local Boutique Hotel, Bayburt

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The Double Minaret Theology School was constructed by Seljukian Sultan in 1253. The striking twin minarets stand at the entrance to one of the biggest theology schools in the country. The architectural style is believed to be one of the most beautiful examples of the Seljukian era.

Rüstem Paşa Bedesteni, or Rüstem Paşa Caravanserai, is a 16th century structure that stands in the centre of the town. The historic building now serves as a place for the manufacturing and selling of oltu stone trades. 

The Lalapaşa Mosque was the first of its kind build during the Ottoman era. The iconic building has since formed the inspiration for other Ottoman mosques built in the country. An ornate dome is held by four pillars, whilst magnificent examples of calligraphy adorn the windows. Lower pediment windows were damaged by bullets from the Russian occupation. 

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Day 5 : Baybart - Gumushane - Trabzon

Spend the morning visiting the sights of Gumushane, including a little-visited underground city, before continuing to Trabzon, where you will enjoy a walking tour of the town including Aya Sophia and the ancient city walls. Overnight in Trabzon.

Overnight in Radisson Blu, Trabzon

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The city of Gumushane lies along the Harşit River, in the Black Sea region of Turkey. Gumushane is surrounded by beautiful mountains - with the Zigana-Trabzon range to the north, Çimen to the south, Giresun to the west and the Pulur, Soğanlı range to the east. The peaks make for great trekking, along with skiing and other winter sports during the winter months. 

The walls of Trabzon are a series of defensive walls that surround the old town of Trabzon. The foritications are also known as Trabzon Castle and date back to the Roman era. Most of the city's walls are still standing today and are among Trabzon's most historic buildings.

Trabzon Museum is an ornate, early 20th century mansion which has been converted into a museum. It houses displays ranging from local archeological to ethnographic and cultural exhibits.

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Day 6 : Sumela Monastery

Drive west to the stunning Sumela Monastery and visit this dramatically perched, photogenic monastery. Overnight in Trabzon.

Overnight in Radisson Blu, Trabzon

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Sumela Monastery, also known as the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, is a historic and iconic site situated in the Pontic Mountains of northeastern Turkey, near the town of Macka in Trabzon Province. Perched on a cliff-side overlooking a lush valley, this Greek Orthodox monastery is renowned for its stunning location, rich history, and religious significance. The origins of the monastery can be traced back to the 4th century AD, making it one of the oldest monastic sites in the region. It gained prominence during the Byzantine era and served as a spiritual retreat for monks seeking solitude and worship. The monastery complex, nestled against the rock face, consists of various buildings and chapels, the most notable being the main church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Inside, visitors can admire beautiful frescoes depicting biblical scenes and religious figures, showcasing the remarkable craftsmanship of the Byzantine era.

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Day 7 : Trabzon - Sivas

Depart Trabzon and drive to Sivas, stopping to visit the towns of Zara and Susehri. On arrival, check in to your hotel. Visit Büriciye and Gok Madrasa. Overnight in Sivas.

Overnight in Buruciye Hotel, Sivas

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Sivas is a city in central Turkey, which lies at an elevation of almost 1,300 metres in the valley of the Kızılırmak river. The region was first inhabited during the period of the Hittite civilization, in the beginning of 2000 BC. The city has a rich history ranging from tribal invasion to Frigian, Asurian, Roman and Ottoman rule. As such, it is home to many significant architectural sights including the Şifaiye Medresesi and Kurşunlu Hamamı. The foundations of the modern Turkish Republic was laid in the Sivas Congress, assembled in September of 1919, at the presidency of Great Leader Atatürk and therefore the province of Sivas became an important city for the history of the Turkish nation.

Gok Madrasa, also known as Sahibiye Medresesi, translates to 'Blue Madrasah' - after the beautifully sky blue tiles used to decorate the building. This 13th century madrasa was commissioned by Sahip Ata Fahrettin Ali following the death of Pervane in 1277. The ornate architecture of the Islamic education institution draws visitors from across the country.

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Day 8 : Sivas - Divriği - Sivas

Today you will visit the UNESCO-listed Great Mosque, the Hospital of Divriği and the "Thermal Springs with Fish". Later, return to Sivas for overnight.

Overnight in Buruciye Hotel, Sivas

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Divriği, historically known as Tephrike, is a quaint town that can be found beside the Çaltısuyu river. The town formed a historic stronghold during the Byzantine period (285-1453), which continued to be a site of contestation following this. Divriği is home to examples of UNESCO-listed architecture such as the Divriği Great Mosque.

The Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği was built between 1228 and 1229 by the local dynasty of the Mengujekids. The UNESCO-listed building comprises of an ornate mosque, which is connected to a hospital. The magnificent architecture, along with intricate carved designs, make this one of the most significant structures in Anatolia. 

The Thermal Springs with Fish are located at the Kangal Creek Valley, near to the city of Sivas. Since its discovery in the early 1800s the fishes of the thermal spring have become famous for their healing properties. The fishes of the spring are known to cure skin diseases including acne, eczema, psoriasis and nacre. 

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Day 9 : Sivas - Tokat - Amasya

Drive to Tokat, where you will see sights such as Mahperi Hutan Caravanserai and Tokat Museum. Later, continue on to Amasya where you will embark on a city tour. Overnight in Amasya.

Overnight in Uluhan Hotel, Amasya

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Tokat Museum houses historic pieces from the Tokat region, including ancient coins from the Anatolian Selijuks era. There is an archaeology section to the museum, which is home to iconic Hittiten clay tablets from Maşat Höyük, along with bronze sculptures from the Roman age and a handwritten Koran - dating back to 1191.

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Day 10 : Amasya

Spend a full day exploring Amasya. Key sights will include Sultan Bayezid Kulliye, Amasya ​Castle, The Haliliye Theology School and the Archaeological museum. Optional visit to Turhal Baliga Cave. Overnight in Amasya.

Overnight in Uluhan Hotel, Amasya

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Sultan Bayezid Kulliye can be found on the northern shore of the Tunca River in Edirne. The site is home to a mosque, guest houses, a madrasa, hospital, soup kitchen and pharmacy. The Kulliye was constructed between 1484 and 1488. Its primary function was as a hospital - the architectural layout and function of each element being designed in a way that lends itself to holistic medicine and nutrition. 

Amasya Castle is a fortress located in northern Turkey. The castle sits high in the hills of Mount Harşene and provides beautiful views across the Amasya region. The fort fell under attack throughout history including during the Persian, Roman, Pontic and Byzantine eras.

The Haliliye Theology School was built by Governor Halil Pasa of Celebi during the Sultan Mehmed period, in 1413. The building provides an example of traditional architecture, including an open courtyard and ornate red brickwork.

Amasya Museum, also known as the Archeological Museum of Amasya, exhibits artifacts and ethnographic items found in and around the city. The museum was first opened in 1958, and today owns nearly 24,000 items from 11 historic civilisations. 

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Day 11 : Amasya - Kastamonu

Depart Amasya and travel to Kastamonu. Spend the day taking a tour of the old town Kastamonu and some traditional wooden house. Overnight in Kastamonu.

Overnight in Kurşunluhan Hotel, Kastamonu

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The city of Kastamonu lies in central Turkey at an elevation of 904 metres above sea level. It is believed to have been founded in the 18th century, before it was better known as Timonion in the Roman era. Iconic historic sights include Kastamonu Castle and Nasrullah Mosque.

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Day 12 : Kastamonu - Safranbolu

Drive to Safranbolu where, on arrival, you will take a tour of the beautiful UNESCO-listed town. Overnight in Safranbolu. 

Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Safranbolu

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Safranbolu is a town in Turkey's Karabük Province. Its name comes from the word 'saffron', after its significance in saffron trading. The UNESCO-listed old town is home to many ancient buildings including traditional Turkish baths, a historic clock tower and historic tombs. 

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Day 13 : Sarfanbolu - Iznik (Nicaea) - Istanbul

Drive to Iznik (better known as Nicaea). Learn about the Christian council, which in 325 AD agreed on a unified set of beliefs for the Christian church. Take a tour of the town visiting Haghia Sofia, the Consule Palace, Haci Ozbek Mosque and Iznik Mosque. Later, continue to Istanbul, finally reaching Europe. Overnight in Istanbul.

Overnight in Novotel Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The remains of the Consule Palace in Iznik stand at the site of the Senatus, which was the first Consul meeting - making it an area of great significance for Christians. Some of these palace ruins now lie beneath the waters of Iznik lake. 

Haghia Sophia of Iznik can be found in the centre of Iznik. The building served as a Byzantium church, before later becoming a mosque during the reign of Orhan Gazi (1281 - 1362). It is now a museum where visitors can learn more about Iznik's rich history. 

The Haci Ozbek Mosque lies at the heart of Iznik's bazaar. The mosque was constructed in 1333 and stands as one of the oldest Ottoman mosques, which displays unique features including inscriptions.

Iznik Mosque is considered one of the most important monumental structures in the town of Iznik. It displays an example of Ottoman architecture, which was constructed by Candarli Hayrettin Pasa in 1378.

Iznik, historically known as Nicaea, is a town in the province of Bursa. The town lies to the east of Lake Iznik and is surrounded by hills to the north and the south. Iznik was established as a centre for the production of pottery and has since become famous for the unique blue and white ceramics. It is most famous for the Chritstian council that took place here in 325 AD, where a common set of beliefs was set out for all Christians in what became known as the Nicaean Creed.

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Day 14 : Departure

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast



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

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Novotel Bosphorus Hotel

Istanbul (2 nights)

Located in the trendy Karakoy harbour-side area of Istanbul, the contemporary Novotel Bosphorus Hotel provides an ideal base from which to explore the city - a stone's throw from the main sites of Sultanahmet but situtated in a more local area. Modern rooms offer flat-screen TVs, air conditioning and complimentary Wi-Fi. Facilities at the hotel include an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, Turkish bath and massage services, and the on-site restaurant - with superb views over the Bosphorus - is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serves excellent Turkish and international cuisine.

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Elite World Van

Van (1 night)

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.

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Dedeman Hotel

Erzurum (1 night)

Located below the summit of Mount Palandoken, the Dedeman is a popular property for those wishing to take advantage of nearby Erzurum or the ski slopes in winter. Rooms are furnished comfortably including en-suite bathrooms, minibar and WiFi (subject to availability). Guests are welcome to enjoy the sauna and fitness centre on site, as well as the restauraunt and cafe. 

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Local Boutique Hotel

Bayburt (1 night)

This hotel is still to be advised. The room will include en-suite bathroom and WiFi (subject to availability). We will keep clients updated as to when the hotel has been finalized. Photo is for reference only and is not indicitave of final property choice.

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Radisson Blu

Trabzon (2 nights)

The Radisson Blu is located in Trabzon on the Black Sea. Rooms are comfortably furnished with en-suite bathroom, basic tea/coffee facilities and a balcony. WiFi is included but subject to availability. There are 2 restaurants on site offering local and international dishes. Guests are welcome to use the gym in their spare time.

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Buruciye Hotel

Sivas (2 nights)

Buruciye Hotel is located just 200 meters from Sivas' historic city centre and Ulu Mosque.  Each room has basic tea/coffee facilities, en-suite bathroom and WiFi (subject to availability).  There is an indoor pool and gym area for guest use, as well as a restaurant serving international and local meals. 

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Uluhan Hotel

Amasya (2 nights)

This property is uniquely situated between the Yeşilırmak river and Amasya's rock tunnels & tombs. Rooms are simply furnished and come with air-conditioning, WiFi (subject to availability) and en-suite bathroom. Guests may enjoy snacks and meals at the cafe & restaurant located on site and relax in the private courtyard area. 

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Kurşunluhan Hotel

Kastamonu (1 night)

This 600 year old property has been transformed into a modern hotel with comfortable furnishings. All rooms come complete with air-conditioning, minibar, en-suite bathroom and WiFi (subject to availability). A restaurant is also available on site, where guests can dine in the beautiful courtyard. 

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Hilton Garden Inn

Safranbolu (1 night)

The Hilton Garden Inn is located within walking distance of Safranbolu's UNESCO-listed sights, and a short drive from Tokatli Canyon, Hidirlik Hill valley views, and Koprulu Mehmet Pasha Mosque.  Rooms are furnished in a contemporary style and include tea/coffee facilities, WiFi (subject to availability) and en-suite bathrooms. Guest are welcome to make use of the fitness centre and outdoor pool. A restaurant is also located on site, as well as a 24-hour sundries shop.

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Ancient Anatolia & Eastern Turkey (14 days)

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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 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

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

Andrea Selfridge , Tailormade 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

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

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

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
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