Expert-Led Group Tour

Turkey Group Tour - Ancient civilisations of Eastern Turkey

Departing 27th June - 9th July 2020

13 days

from £2,895pp
  • Visit Göbekli Tepe, the world's first temple, and uncover the origins of civilisation
  • Watch the changing colours of Lake Van at sunset, the largest alkaline lake in the world
  • Discover Mount Nemrut, one the highest peaks of the Mesopotamia
  • Accompanied throughout by Turkey archaeology expert, Ian Colvin

Home to some of the most important and iconic archaeological sites found anywhere in the world, Eastern Turkey is a fascinating melting pot waiting for the intrepid traveller. Be lured by the ancient town of Ani, Mount Ararat and Noah’s Ark, the walled city of Diyarbakir, Mount Nemrut and Göbekli Tepe, the world’s first temple. Discover spectacular scenery, ancient civilisations and many Biblical sites of Eastern Turkey.

Starting in Trabzon, travel along the Black Sea coast, before heading into the mountainous Georgian Valley, the infamous region of which Mount Ararat is situated. Continue to Ishak Pasha’s palace at Dogabayazit and onto the ancient Armenian city of Ani, before continuing to Van, known for the largest alkaline lake on earth. From here, travel south along a branch of the Silk Road to Diyarbakır, the cradle of 26 different civilisations throughout its 5000-year history. Finish the tour in Şanlıurfa, known as the city, that changed human history, and predating Stonehenge by 6000 years. This underrated destination offers a wealth of history and tales waiting to be discovered.  

Why should I join this group tour?

For the expertise of Ian Colvin, whose vast knowledge and passion about this little-visited region, will bring history to life. In addition, this small group tour offers the opportunity to travel with like-minded individuals to a region of Turkey that offers a fascinating history.

"Ian Colvin knowledgeable, kind, diligent and most helpful.” Armenia and Georgia Group tour with Ian.

Is it safe to travel to Turkey?

Eastern Turkey is bordered by Georgia and Armenia, to the north and Syria, Iraq and Iran to the south, which has caused its colourful past. However, in recent years these borders have stabilised and allowed tourism to slowly restore in this region. We will continue to monitor this situation.

What are the roads like in Eastern Turkey?

The roads over the last decade have improved immeasurably and the region is very well serviced by a good choice of regional airports.

What is the accommodation like in Turkey?

Accommodation is varied in this region, where possible, we have carefully selected a range of small comfortable hotels and three to four-star guest houses for this group tour.

Is this tour suitable for solo travellers?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour Lecturer.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.

How fit do I need to be to enjoy this tour?

You need to be relatively fit to enjoy this tour. Although there are no substantial hikes involved, there will be days where moderate walks are required to access castles or churches.

Please make sure you bring a good comfortable pair of walking shoes as some of the cities and areas we visit will have uneven surfaces.

What is the food in Turkey like?

The food in this region is wonderful with Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic influences. Make sure you sample the wonderful Turkish breads in this area which are delicious.

What will the weather be like in Turkey in June?

Spring runs from April to June, offering the best time to visit Turkey. The weather is moderate throughout the country. During this tour, you will travel from the Black sea coast to the mountainous regions of Agri, so light layers are recommended.

Can I extend my stay in Turkey?

Yes, this can easily be arranged at the beginning or end of the tour. Private travel arrangements with a car and driver will be provided and a private guide arranged for sightseeing. Please speak to one of our Turkey travel experts for ideas and information.



Departing on:
  • 27th June 2020

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
27th Jun 2020 9th Jul 2020 £ 2,895 £ 400 £ 270 Ian Colvin Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accommodation as detailed
  • Accompanied by a local guide throughout
  • Accompanied by Ian Colvin throughout
  • Entrance to all sites mentioned
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and porters
  • Meals as indicated
  • Transportation throughout

what is excluded

  • Insurance
  • International Flights
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Visas

TO ALLOW FLEXIBILITY, OUR GROUP TOURS DO NOT INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AS STANDARD. WE CAN ARRANGE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS ON YOUR BEHALF AND THE ABOVE IS AN INDICATION OF COST, BASED ON RETURN FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM LONDON. ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM THE UK ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Tour note

Please note, to allow you to see as much of this beautiful region as possible, this itinerary will follow an active pace, with no more than one or two nights in each location. Most of the travel days will involve journeys of no longer than four hours, with stops en route.


If you would like to spend some relaxed time at leisure, we would suggest you extend your stay at the beginning or end of the tour, this can be arranged, just speak with one of our travel experts.




Trabzon arrival

You will be met on arrival by a Steppes Travel representative and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day will be at leisure. 


No meals included today.


You will be staying at Zorlu Grand, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Welcome meeting

In the morning, there will be a short welcome meeting introducing Ian Colvin, your tour expert for this group tour and your local guide, both of whom will travel with you throughout your time in Turkey.


Trabzon city tour
Depart your hotel to explore the highlights of Trabzon. The city played an important role in history due to its vital position on the legendary Silk Road.

Firstly, visit the 13th Century church of St. Sophia, known for its extraordinary collection of Byzantine frescoes. More than architecture, painting was the national art of the Byzantine Empire: Byzantine domes and walls were covered with mosaic decorations or with frescoes and paintings.

Continue to Ataturk's Mansion on Soguksu hill facing the Black Sea. Built for a wealthy Greek banking family in the Black Sea style popular in the Crimea, it was bequeathed to Atatürk in 1924, and it's believed he wrote part of his will here. Afterwards, drive down to the spectacular cliff hanging monastery of Sumela, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Perched high in a gorge of the Altindere Vadisi National Park, the present buildings date from 12th Century.


Trabzon to Artvin

In the afternoon, a winding drive along the Black Sea coast and then up a mountainside takes you to Artvin, one of the most important cities of the Black Sea region; a journey of around four hours. Artvin is a charming city with beautiful old Turkish houses, typical of the region.


On arrival into Artvin, transfer to your hotel where you will have time to settle in before dinner with the group.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Grand Artvin Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 3

Artvin to the Georgian Valley and onto Erzurum

After breakfast, depart Artvin and drive along the Coruh Valley. One of the most magnificent valleys of Turkey, it is formed by the Coruh River and characterised by beautiful wild landscapes, raging rivers and stunning valleys.


Continue to the mountain village of Ishan,where stand the ruins of an 8th to 9th Century cathedral and a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1006.


After lunch, visit the Osvank Monastery, which was constructed between the years 963 and 973 and was dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Continue through the Georgian Valleys and then drive to Erzurum, a total journey of around four hours.




Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Polat Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 4

Erzurum to Kars

In Erzurum, explore the modern city’s wide tree-lined boulevards. Visit the Ulu Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque, built in 1179. This interesting structure has many columns and seven wide naves. From here, walk to the Three Tombs complex, which comprises of four mausolea though the fourth one was left out of the toponym, as it was smaller than the others. Continue to the Medresse, also known as the theological school. Lastly, no Turkish city tour would be complete without a visit to the local bazaar, taking in the many smells and sights on display.


After lunch, depart for Kars, travelling along the gorge of the River Aras. Take in the stunning scenery en route, including fields of gorse and fern, pristine riverbeds and deep ravines. Travel past the beautiful six-arched historic Cobandede bridge, constructed during the era of the Ilkhanid Dynasty; the bridge has been standing for 720 years, despite natural disasters. Go past the First World War battlefield site of Sarakimis before arriving into Kars in the early evening. The journey from Erzurum to Kars is around three hours.




Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Hotel Cheltikov, bed and breakfast

Day 5

Exploration of Ani

After breakfast, travel to the site of Ani, the former capital of the Armenian kingdom. In the mid 10th Century, nothing in Europe could rival this capital of the Armenian kingdom in terms of either size or magnificence. Today, all that is left of this once great city are several church ruins as well as the shell of the Cathedral of Ani, the citadel and a mosque. There are also some remains of the colourful and lively frescoes inside the Church of St Gregory (Tigran Honentz), depicting scenes from the Bible and Armenian church history. After lunch visit Kars Castle and the 12 Apostles church, a name given to reflect its Armenian history and architecture, now a place of Islamic worship. 




Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Hotel Cheltikov, bed and breakfast

Day 6

Kars to Van via Dogubeyazit and Mount Ararat

Depart Kars for Dogubeyazit, via Igdir, the North-west skirt of Mount Ararat, one of the great natural spectacles of the world. The name Ararat derives from the Bible (Jeremiah 51:27) and is a transliteration of 'Urartu' the name foreigners gave to this region and its inhabitants in Biblical times. It is believed that Noah's Ark rested on its summit during the big flood, and the wide plain of Igdir at the foot of the mountain is the first place where Noah set foot after the disaster. Over the years, explorers, including Marco Polo, have searched Ararat in the hopes of finding remains of Noah's Ark. The journey from Kars to Dogubeyazit is around three hours.


On arrival into Dogubeyazit, visit the spectacular Ishak Pasha Palace, situated five kilometres outside the city. Built between 1685 – 1784, it has a unique fusion of architectural styles from Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian, Armenian and Persian traditions. Continue on to Van stopping in Muradiye to see the Muradiye waterfall, also known as the Waterfall of Berkri. On arrival into Van, visit the 3,000-year old Fortress of Van, also known as Van citadel, to watch the sunset over the lake.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Elite World Van Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 7

Day trip from Van to Hosap, Cavustepe and Akdamar

From Van, travel south along a branch of the Silk Road (Ipek Yol) to visit Hosap Castle. The main castle structure of Hosap, built straddling the Silk Road, it served as both a means of protecting the road and as a point of charging tolls on travellers.


From Hosap, return to Cavustepe to see another Urartian Castle. Continue onto Gevas where you will transfer by boat to Akdamar Island, the largest island in Lake Van. The island is a designated protected area due to its archaeological importance. Visit the beautifully restored Akdamar Cathedral, where the portrayal of David and Goliath is among the extensive array of bas relief carvings that adorn the external walls. Return back to Van late afternoon.



A relaxed lakeside town, Van is nestled in a tranquil setting. Looking out over the eponymous lake, snow-capped peaks are visible in the distance.

Having survived more than its fair share of earthquakes, Van's calm ambience belies its residents' steely resilience. One of these quakes was particularly devastating, but the most striking of Van's treasures has survived. This is the town's Urartian Fortress, set upon a steep-sided bluff.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Elite World Van Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 8

Van to Tatvan, Nemrut and Ahlat

Leaving Van behind, drive along the southern shore of Lake Van to Tatvan, a journey of around two hours. After stopping for refreshments in Tatvan, drive to Mount Nemrut crater for a picnic lunch by the Crater Lakes Nemrut Mountain (not to be confused with Nemrut Dagi in Adiyaman). The mountain rises above Tatvan on the southwestern edge of Lake Van and is one of the largest complete calderas in the world, with the highest peak of the mountain standing at 3,050 metres. The volcanic cone, last active in 1440 BC, was believed to have originally been higher, 4450 metres, before its eruption.

There are five lakes within the crater and the largest two, which you will visit, are very different. The Cold Lake has an average depth of 100 metres, where its deepest point is at 155 metres. The Hot Lake, which, may reach up to 60 degrees centigrade, has a visible amount of steam rising from its thermal springs. From here, travel to Ahlat, to explore the tombs of Seljuk Kings before continuing to your hotel in Tatvan.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Tasar Royal Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 9

Bitlis to Diyarbakir

After breakfast, drive to Bitlis, known as one of the most important cities in the Kingdom of Armenia. It was home to a great fortress that served as a connecting point for the historical Armenian region of Arzanene. The city was then conquered by the Kurds between 12th-13th century and became the capital of the medieval ‘Principality of Bitlis’. Travel through the city of Batman, named after shortening the words ‘Bati Raman’, a nearby mountain, to Diyarbakir, a journey of around three and a half hours. 

In the afternoon, explore Diyarbakir, a city that was the cradle of 26 different civilizations throughout its 5000-year history. It offers many breathtaking cultural landscapes on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, of which you will explore this afternoon. Visit the Ulu Cami, known also as The Great Mosque of Diyarbakir, it is the oldest and one of the most significant mosques in Anatolia. Several features of the mosque bear an unmistakable resemblance to the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, constructed in 715/97 AH. Continue to visit the Diyarbakir City Walls, one of the greatest and most well-maintained set of ancient walls in Kurdish region of Turkey. The walls are largely intact and form a ring around the old city that is over five kilometres in circumference.



Situated on the shores of Lake Van, Tatvan is a quiet town with not much in the way of history, notable for having been occupied by the Russians for a few months during the early 20th century. It mainly serves as a central point for sights in the area.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Radisson Blu, bed and breakfast

Day 10

Nemrut to Adiyaman

Morning drive towards Adiyaman and Mount Nemrut. Stop to visit Karakus Tumulus funerary monument constructed by Mithridates II of Commagene for Queen Isias and Princesses Antiochis and Aka I. As in the case of Mount Nemrut, the Karakus Tumulus is a more modest artificial mound, 35 meters high, located on the top of a natural hill. Its Turkish name means "Black Bird" and its origin is explained by the column standing at the tumulus, the top of which is decorated with the sculpture of an eagle.

From here, continue to visit the Cendere Bridge, erected by the XVI legion in honour of Emperor Septimus Severus before arriving at the top of Mount Nemrut. In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built on the mountain top a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues (8-9 metres high) of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek, Armenian, and Iranian gods. These statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them. The heads of the statues have at some stage been removed from their bodies, and they are now scattered throughout the site. Watch the sunset from the summit before continuing to your hotel. 




Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Hilton Garden Inn, bed and breakfast

Day 11

Adiyaman to Sanliurfa via Gobekli Tepe

After breakfast, drive for around two and a half hours to reach Urfa, a surprising mix of the old and new, with Turkish, Arab and Kurdish influences.


From here, drive for ten minutes to Gobekli Tepe, one of the most important archaeological digs currently being undertaken anywhere. Its discovery in the 1990s took the archaeological world by astonishment as the site represents a major shift in our understanding of man's early history. Some researchers even believe it to be the biblical site of the Garden of Eden. Here lie the remains of the earliest religious structures built by man yet to be discovered. At about 11,000-13,000 years old the site predates Stonehenge and the Pyramids.


After visiting Gobekli Tepe, return to Urfa and visit the Sanliurfa Archaeological Museum. Opened in 2014, this is a spectacular new Archaeology Museum that stretches over three floors, depicting the region's archaeological heritage including sculpture and art from Göbekli Tepe, and a stunning cavalcade of history from Palaeolithic times.



Found on the banks of the Tigris, Diyarbakir is a lively Kurdish-dominated city. The unofficial capital of Turkish Kurdistan, political feeling can run high here and locals are extremely proud of their city's culture. Despite this, a strong tradition of hospitality and openness to visitors makes for a friendly atmosphere.

Ringed by huge black basalt walls, the city's historic centre was once a major stopover for Silk Road traders. Mosques, caravanserais and markets pack its narrow streets.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Harran Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 12

Sanliurfa to Harran

Morning walk in the beautiful flower-filled gardens along the Sacred Pools of Abraham, which God reputedly created to save Abraham from the Pagan King Nimrod. According to the legend, Nimrod threw Abraham upon a funeral pyre as punishment for destroying idols, but God intervened and created a lake to extinguish the fire. Afterwards, head to the 13th century Halil Rahman Mosque, surrounded by beautiful flower-filled gardens, then continue to explore the colourful bazaar. 

This afternoon visit the ancient city of Harran, with its beehive-like dwellings, the design of which goes back to the 3rd century BC and are unique to Turkey and Syria. 
Harran is also a pivotal point in the history of the Hebrew people, where Biblical and archaeological materials converge. Explore the defensive walls and fortress before returning back to Sanliurfa. 

This evening meet with the group and Ian for a final farewell dinner, looking back through the highlights of this tour through this beautiful region.



The reputed birthplace of Abraham, Sanliurfa is said to contain the site where he was saved by God from the fearsome Assyrian King, Nimrod.

Now a place of pilgrimage for Muslims, the sacred Pool of Prophet Abraham is the town's highlight. Other popular sites include the neighbouring 13th century mosque and the town's thriving bazaar.

Located in south-eastern Anatolia, the town has a history dating back over five millennia. Previously known as 'Urfa', the town gained the honorific addition of 'Sanli' after its courageous resistance against an attempted French occupation during Ottoman times.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Harran Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 13

Sanliurfa departure

You will be transferred to Sanliurfa Airport for your onwards flight.

Destination Experts

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Katie Benden, Travel Expert

"Katie was brilliant and very helpful. Helped to put together the itinerary I was dreaming of for my honeymoon and she was excellent with communication."

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"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour expert

Ian Colvin

Ian Colvin
Ian Colvin is a historian and researcher at the University of Cambridge who works on the South Caucasus, Byzantium and Sasanian Iran. Alongside work for the School Classics Project, he is Director of the Anglo-Georgian Archaeological Expedition to the important site of Nokalakevi in Samegrelo, West Georgia--a project he established in 2001 in collaboration with the Georgian National Museum. He speaks and reads Georgian and has been known to supervise for the Near East in the Age of Justinian and Muhammad course (History Faculty).

Other tours by this lecturer:

Enquire about this Expert Led tour:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

Ian Colvin

Departure Date (S):

  • 27th June 2020

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