Silk Road through Turkey

Turkey

Silk Road | Culture

Ancient trading routes, historic battles and striking scenery

17 days £2,995 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

Intro

NEW TOUR

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. Wend your way through the streets of UNESCO-listed Sarfanbolu and visit Edirne, one of the most fiercely and frequently contested cities in the world. Marvel at the magnificent Ottoman architecture of Ishak Pasa Palace, take in the striking views from Amasya Castle and experience the unique healing properties of Sivas' thermal springs.

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

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit Akdamer church on Akdamar island
  • The incredible Ishak Pasa Palace
  • Sublime Sumela monastery
  • Explore the rich history of Sivas
  • Striking views of Amasya Castle
  • UNESCO-listed town of Sarfanbolu
  • The ancient city of Sultan Ahmed
  • Basilica Cistern, the largest cistern in Istanbul

Places Visited

Istanbul - Van - ​Akdamar Island - Doğubayazit - Erzurum - Gumushane - Trabzon - Sivas - Amasya - Kastamonu - Sarfanbolu - Iznik - Yerebatan Basilica (Basilica Cistern) - Edirne

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary & Map
Image 3

Day 1 : Arrive in Istanbul

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

Meal plan: Dinner

Image 3

Day 2 : Istanbul - Van

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

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.

Read more
Image 3

Day 3 : Van - Doğubayazit - 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.

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.

Read more
Image 3

Day 4 : Erzurum - Gumushane

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 Gumushane. Overnight in Gumushane.

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 the bullets from the Russian occupation. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 5 : Gumushane - Trabzon

Spend the morning visiting the sights of Gumushane, before continuing to Trabzon, where you will enjoy a walking tour. Overnight in 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. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 6 : Trabzon

Spend the day touring the city of Trabzon. Key sights will include the walls of Trabzon, Sumela Monastery and Tabzon Museum. Overnight in Trabzon.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Sumela Monastery lies nestled in a steep cliff at Melá Mountain, facing the Altındere valley, at an altitude of 1,200 metres. The Greek Orthodox monastery was designed and built in dedication to the Virgin Mary and stands as one of the most important historic sites in Trabzon.
NOTE: The site is currently closed for restoration and scheduled to reopen in late 2018.


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.

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.

Read more
Image 3

Day 7 : Trabazon - Sivas

Depart Trabzon and drive to Sivas, passing the towns of Zara and Susehri. On arrival, check in to your hotel. Overnight in Sivas.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Image 3

Day 8 : Sivas - Divriği - Sivas

Spend the morning visiting the UNESCO-listed Great Mosque, Hospital of Divriği and the Thermal Springs with Fish. Later, return to Sivas, where you will see the Büriciye and Gok Madrasas. Overnight in Sivas.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

Read more
Image 3

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.

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.

Read more
Image 3

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. Overnight in 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 era. 

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. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 11 : Amasya - Kastamonu

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

Read more
Image 3

Day 12 : Kastamonu - Sarfanbolu

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

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Sarfanbolu 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. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 13 : Sarfanbolu - Iznik - Istanbul

Make the journey to Istanbul, stopping en route in Iznik. Take a tour of the Iznik, where key sights will include Ayasofya Museum, Consule Palace, Haci Ozbek Mosque and Iznik Mosque. Later, continue on to Istanbul. Overnight in 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. 

Ayasofya Museum can be found in the centre of Iznik. The building served as a Byzantium church, before later becoming a mosque during the 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.

Read more
Image 3

Day 14 : Istanbul

Enjoy a full day in Istanbul. Sights will include the Old City of Sultan Ahmed, Hadia Sophia and Topkapı Palace. Tour the Historical Cistern, and see the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. Overnight in Istanbul.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Yerebatan Basilica (Basilica Cistern) is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul . They're left from the days when Istanbul was Constantinople. Most large and important Byzantine buildings provided storage for water beneath them. Built by Justinian after 532, the Basilica Cistern stored water for the Great Palace and nearby buildings. Lost to memory, it was rediscovered by Petrus Gyllius, who came to Constantinople in search of Byzantine monuments. It was also the film set for a scene from the James Bond film "From Russia With Love". 

The Old City of Sultan Ahmed is the most ancient part of Istanbul and home to many of its most significant historic sights. One of the most iconic is that of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or the Blue Mosque as it is more popularly known. 

Topkapı Palace is a large museum in Istanbul. During the 15th century this structure served as the main residence of the Ottoman rulers, although later losing this status during the 17th century. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, the palace became a museum which houses Ottoman clothing, weapons and manuscripts. 

Sitting on the Bosphorus, Istanbul is one of the world’s truly great cities - overflowing with culture and historical sites. World class attractions such as the exquisite Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, excellent bars and restaurants, jaw-dropping architecture, vibrant markets and a history of epic proportions makes Istanbul a city par excellence.

Read more
Image 3

Day 15 : Istanbul

Spend another day touring the key sights of Istanbul. Highlights will include the spice market, Chora Church, the Bosphorus and Suleymaniye Mosque. Overnight in Istanbul. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Located outside the original boundaries of Constantinople, Chora Church possesses some of the finest examples of mosaic and fresco work from the late Byzantine period. In 1511, the church was converted into a mosque, and since 1945 has been serving as a museum. 

The fragrant Spice Market was completed in 1664 and served as the final stop for caravans that would travel the Silk Routes. This L-shaped Bazaar is part of the complex (or ‘kulliye’) of neighbouring New Mosque, who used to receive the rent paid from market stall owners.

Joining the Black Sea with the smaller south-western Sea of Mamara, the 20 mile-long Bosphorus has always been a site of great strategic and commercial importance. The desirable traits of providing access to Asia and being particularly narrow has meant that The Bosphorus has a long history of conflict that dates back to the 5th century BC with the Persians. The Bosphorus’ shoreline is densely populated and possesses a number of architectural features that demonstrate its rich historical past.

Read more
Image 3

Day 16 : Istanbul - Edirne

Drive to the city of Edirne. Take a tour of the famous Silk Road city, where sights will include Selimiye Mosque, the Medical Museum, Mecodonian Tower and the Balcan War Museum. Overnight in Edirne. 

Meal plan: n/a

The Medical Museum, also known as Sağlık Müzesi, was awarded European Museum of the Year in the early 2000s. It was formerly a mental institution during the Ottoman eta, when it was renowned for its progressive approach including meditative music and flower gardens. Today, many Ottoman minatures from medical schoolbooks, along with models of patients are displayed in the museum. 

The city of Edirne, formerly known as Adrianople, lies in northwestern Turkey, close to the Greek and Bulgarian border. Edirne served as the capital city of the Ottoman Empire from 1365 to 1453, before Contantinople became the emipire's new capital. The region has been the site for many historic battles, giving rise to Edirne's claim to being the most frequently contested spot on the globe. Some of the most iconic sights in the city include Selimiye Mosque and Meric Bridge. 

Selimiye Mosque, also known as Selimiye Camii, was built by architect Mimar Sinan between 1569 and 1575. The Ottoman imperial mosque dominates the skyline of the city and is considered as one of the highest achievements in Islamic architecture, built at the heights of Ottoman military and cultural power. The wealth of the empire is evident in the magnificent exterior, with the second highest minarets in the world, whilst the interior reflects a traditionally humble Islamic style. The mosque was given UNESCO world heritage status in 2011. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 17 : Edirne - Istanbul - Departure

Depart Edirne for Istanbul, where you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Sitting on the Bosphorus, Istanbul is one of the world’s truly great cities - overflowing with culture and historical sites. World class attractions such as the exquisite Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, excellent bars and restaurants, jaw-dropping architecture, vibrant markets and a history of epic proportions makes Istanbul a city par excellence.

Read more
Extensions

Istanbul Extensions (5 days)

Extend your trip from Istanbul

Archaeology of Eastern Turkey (11 days)

Discover the incredible history of Eastern Turkey

Archaeology of Western Turkey (11 days)

Uncover historical secrets in the west

Turkish Volcano Trek (10 days)

Stunning eastern peaks including Mount Ararat

Silk Road through Turkey (17 days)

Ancient trading routes, historic battles and striking scenery

The Magic of Cappadocia (4 days)

Unique history and fairytale landscapes

Eastern Turkey Snapshot (10 days)

A glimpse of Turkey's hidden charms

Eastern Turkey Explorer (14 days)

Discover Turkey's most hidden secrets

Classical Constantinople (4 days)

Discover the exotic charms of this eternal city

Classical Turkey (10 days)

Journey through Turkey's iconic sites

Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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
More reviews