What is the Silk Road?
The Silk Road, or as the Turks referred to it, Uzun Yol (Long Road), is an ancient trade route connecting the occident and the orient; running between China and Europe it has been an important conduit of commerce and knowledge since Classical times. The expansion of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great probably provided the impetus that created the early Silk Road and it was further developed by the Roman and Byzantine Empires. The Byzantines in particular, treasured the luxuries that came from the east and improved the roads in the western reaches of the route. Under the Mongols, who unified most of the lands of central Asia traversed by the road and who developed a sophisticated mail service the road improved yet again. But it was under the Seljuk Turks that the Ancient Silk Road really came into its own and most of the Hans and Caravanserais to be found across Turkey date from Seljuk times. Nearly one hundred Seljuk caravanserais along the Silk Road still exist in lands once controlled by the Seljuks. Accommodation and provisions at the Seljuk caravanserais were provided free of charge to travellers for up to three days at a time; this practice was an integral part of the caravanserais charitable status as they were always connected to a religious establishment funded by the state or local rulers. In fact,
the Turkish language and its many regional variations can be heard all along the route from Western China, across central Asia and Anatolia, right into the Balkans even today.
In many respects, the Silk Road is an idea that has a romance, mystery and resonance today even for those who know little about it. We shall follow the principle from Constantinople, present day Istanbul, to Ankara, along Turkey’s Great Salt Lake to Cappadocia and then onto Kayseri, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Bitlis and Van, before finishing at the great border fortress and Silk Road toll of Hoşap near the Iranian border.
1Day 1 - Istanbul
Today we will visit the Egyptian Spice Bazaar before catching the Bosphorus ferry for an orientation cruise up the Bosphorus to Anadolu Kavagi at the opening of the channel to the Black Sea. This is the best way to get a good overview of this huge bustling city and the best way to view one of the world’s great city skylines. The trip will take you out of old Istanbul past the numerous docks and then past the great 15th century fortification of Rumelihisar and under the massive Sultan Fatih and Ataturk suspension bridges all the way to the Black Sea.
2Day 2 - Istanbul
We start our day with a visit to Aya Sofia, the great byzantine church that dominates this part of the old city. Dedicated in the year 536 by the Emperor Justinian this was the greatest of all Christian churches until the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 when it was converted into the principal imperial mosque of the Ottoman Empire. It was turned into a museum by the order of Ataturk at the start of the Republican period. From Aya Sofia we will go the Grand Bazaar, constructed in 1455. The Grand Bazaar is one of the great turminus points of the Silk Road from here we will visit the Imperial Suleymaniye Mosque before proceeding on foot through the busy commerical Fatih district down to the Golden Horn.
3Day 3 - Ankara (overnight Ankara)
Depart for Ankara and on arrival a visit to the tomb of Atatürk, Anitkabir, built on one of the hills overlooking Ankara. Completed in 1955, Anitkabir is a stunning architectural and political statement designed to encompass and represent the great Anatolian civilisations of the past. We will stay in a hotel on the Citadel of Ankara. The earliest parts of the Citadel dates back to the 7th Century nad has been variously controlled by Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Crusaders and Ottomans.
Overnight in Ankara.
4Day 4 - Cappadocia
From the hotel we will go to the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, which is housed in a beautifully renovated 15th Century market and Han. From here we will depart for Cappadocia along the Silk Road via the Great Sultan Han, one of the best preserved 13th Century Seljuk caravanserais.
5Day 5 - Cappadocia
In the morning we will visit the Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO site. Göreme was once a Christian community and has numerous rock cut churches and monasteries. From Göreme we go to Derinkuyu Underground City which is one of many subterranean refuges in the region. Then we will take in Gaziemir Rock Caravanserai .
6Day 6 - Kayseri
Depart for Kayseri via the Ihlara Valley. Kayseri is an important junction on the Silk Road and a centre of Islamic learning with a number of historic cultural buildings including the Cifte Medresse which was the first Seljuk school of anatomy and is today the Gevhir Nesibe Medical History Museum. It served the entire population of Kayseri regardless of race, religion and free of charge. At the centre of the city is the Hisar, or citadel, built by the Roman Emperor Justinian during the 6th Century AD.
7Day 7 - Nemrut
Depart Kayseri for Mount Nemrut in Adiyaman along the Silk Road via the 13th Century Karatay Han. We divert off the Silk Road route to visit the mountain top tomb of King Antiochus I. One of Turkey’s most iconic sites the tomb of Antiochus was lost for nearly 2,000 years and was only rediscovered in the 1890’s by a government railroad surveyor.
8Day 8 - Sanliurfa
Morning visit to the summit of Nemrut. At the very peak of the mountain is a tumulus of loose stones in which is believed lie the remains of Antiochus I. Flanking the monument to face the rising and the setting sun is a series of statues representing ancient deities and the king. From the summit we descend the mountain to visit Carakus, the burial monument of the Kommagene royal women and then onto Şanlıurfa via the Ataturk dam. Afternoon visit to Sanliurfa’s 16th Century covered bazaar and Gümrük Han.
9Day 9 - Gobekli Tepe
We start the day with a visit to the extraordinary site of Göbekli Tepe, a neolithic ritual centre dating back to 10,000 BC. In the afternoon we will visit Şanlıurfa Archaeological Museum. Leisure time around the gardens and the Pools of Abraham.
10Day 10 - Diyarbakir
Depart for Diyarbakir a predominantly Kurdish city which is located at the highest navigable point on the River Tigris. It is a richly endowed city with more historic mosques, churches and other significant buildings than any city in Turkey except Istanbul. It is surrounded by a massive defensive wall, more than 5km in length.
11Day 11 - Mardin
From Diyarbakir we continue onto the ancient city of Mardin, overlooking the plains of Syria and the Silk Road routes to the south. Because of its exceptional architecture, the entire city has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will visit the lively street market and some of the more significant monuments of the town including on the outskirts the Saffron Monastery which has an unbroken history of religious worship from the 5th Century AD to the present day.
12Day 12 - Van
We leave Mardin taking the northeast branch of the Silk Road to the eastern city of Van with stops at Hasankeyf and the Malabadi Bridge (1154) and the 16th Century El Aman Caravanserai in Bitlis.
13Day 13 - Van
From Van we take the last leg of the southern Silk Road in Turkey to Hoşap Castle, built in the 17th Century on 8th Century BC Urartian foundations. Hoşap was an important Kurdish fortress and a toll point on the Silk Road. On our return we will visit the 10th Century Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross on the Island of Akdamar in Lake Van. In the late afternoon we will visit the Citadel of Van overlooking Lake Van’s eastern most shore, once the capital of the Urartian Empire, this fortress has seen continuous occupation and use from its construction in the mid 8th Century BC right up until 1922.
14Day 14 - Depart
|Tour Price||$3445 per person|
Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, South Eastern Anatolia
|Fitness Level||Moderate - Able to walk 2 kms over possibly broken ground with incline.|
|What is included?||
All road transport (tolls etc) English speaking guide All state and local taxes All museum and site entries
|What is not included||
Lunch Personal expenses Beverages Insurance (unless otherwise stated)
|Terms & Conditions||
Please note that there is a 15% surcharge for single room occupancy.
Please note that it is essential that you have purchased travel insurance for all parts of Turkey. It is your responsibility to organise the correct cover but we are happy to advise.