The Adventurous East 14N/15D

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ORION TOUR has prepared this tour for the daring and adventurous. This itinerary involves some rough and rugged touring at times so please be prepared for such a challenge when you join us. The old Turkish proverb,  “More effort produces better results” is the motto here. After all… if our ancestor could do it, so can we! Good and sturdy pair of walking shoes is a must on this tour.

ORNHAE (14 Nights/ 15 Days)

Adana, Antakya, Urfa, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Van, Dogu Beyazit, Kars, Erzurum, Hopa, Trabzon, Istanbul

Day 1  Adana (D)
We will meet upon arrival at Istanbul airport and transfer you to the domestic terminal for our flight to Adana. Dinner and briefing at our hotel.
Day 2 Adana / Antakya (B,D)
Following an early breakfast at the hotel we will proceed to Antioch-on-the Orontes, a city thought to have been founded in 300 BC. Due to its geographical position, Antioch (or present day Antakya) became a meeting pot of Hellenistic and Oriental worlds. Its prosperity and mild climate turned the Antiochenese into people who welcomed all kinds of vanities, pleasures and excesses. Due to these conditions it was not difficult for a new religion to gather plenty of adherents among the Gentiles of Antioch. The word "Christians" was first coined here. St. Paul, St Peter and St. Barnabas were very effective in converting people to Christianity. The museum of Antioch has a superb collection of mosaics found in Antioch, Daphne and Seleucia Pieria. St Peter Grotto is a cave church known as the meeting place of the early Christians. Pope Paul VI held a service here and declared that a plenary indulgence might be gained at any time by pilgrimage to the church. Nearby Daphne has been claimed to be one of the places where Paris chose Aphrodite as the "most beautiful" among the goddesses. Daphne is also depicted in mythology as the sacred grove where Apollo tried to rape a nymph of the same name just as Eros struck her with one of lead tipped arrows; thus, turning her into a tree and making it incapable of loving either a god or a mortal. Dedicated to Apollo, Daphne became notorious for its morals and soldiers who were caught visiting the place were dismissed from service. Roman Emperors however never missed a visit when they were in the area! Not much is left and a lot needs to be excavated here. Our next stop, Seleucia Pieria, was the port city of Antioch. St. Paul and St. Barnabas sailed to Salamis from here. The rock tombs and the Tunnel of Titus will also be among our highlights. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Antakya
Day 3  Antakya / Urfa (B,D)
After an early breakfast, we proceed to Urfa that dates from very early times. An important stage on the "Fertile Crescent" route from the Mediterranean shore to Upper Mesopotamia, Urfa saw the rival armies pass beneath her walls. Tradition has it that Abraham stopped here on his way to Ur in the land of Canaan. The mosque of Halil Rahman with the sacred fish in the nearby pool will be one of the highlights. Dinner and overnight in Urfa.
Day 4  Urfa / Adiyaman or Kahta (B,D)
On our way to Adiyaman from Urfa this morning, we will stop by Harran, referred to in Genesis (XI, 31,32; XII, 4,5) as Charan. Among the ruins we shall visit are the Citadel, the Grand Mosque and the city walls. Dinner and overnight in Adiyaman or Kahta
Day 5  Adiyaman or Kahta / Diyarbakir (B,D)
We leave the hotel right after midnight for sunrise at the top of Mt. NEMRUT. This is where King Antiochus I of Commagene built a colossal funerary sanctuary, a temple dedicated to himself, to the Greco-Persian gods and to his Persian ancestors. The East and West terraces have a central courtyard surrounded with colossal statues of lions, eagles, etc. Colossal statues of seated figures are Apollo, Hermes, Zeus and Hercules. Sunrise from the top of Mount Nemrut will be incomparable to anything you have seen before. If an unexpected situation develops, we shall plan to be there for sunset, instead. Continue to Diyarbakir for dinner and overnight.
Day 6  Diyarbakir / Mardin (B,D)
We will have a city tour of Diyarbakir in the morning. This city's history stretches back to the Hurrian Kingdom of Mitanni (1500 BC).  In the course of history it was dominated by civilizations of Urartu, Assyria, Persia,
Alexander the Great of Macedon and Seleucids. Arabs conquered the city and renamed it "Diyar-ı Bakr" (land of copper). In1085 it was conquered by Seljuks and then the Ottomans took over in 1515. Highlights will be the old city walls and gates, the Grand Mosque and the Church of St. Mary (17th Century). In the afternoon we will visit Mardin, a city on the south slope of a mountain where we will see a 1500 years old Deyr ul Zaferan Monastery and do a walking tour in the city center among the labyrinth of narrow streets. Dinner and overnight in Mardin.
Day 7  Mardin / Van (B,D)
We leave early in the morning visiting the famous ancient site of Hasankeyf and having a stop by the Malabadi Bridge. We will drive through very scenic mountain passes and drive along the largest lake of Van in Turkey. Dinner and overnight in Van.
Day 8 Van (B,D)
We will have a city tour in the morning. Van was the capital of the Kingdom of Urartu and the castle dates back to the 9th cent. The museum in Van contains some very impressive Urartian jewelry, inscriptions, cylindrical seals, bronze belts. At Gevas, a small port on the south shore of Lake Van, we take a boat to Akdamar Island where we will visit the Armenian Church of the Holy Cross. We then drive to Cavustepe that is composed of two citadels on a hill with two summits connected by a saddle. This is also the place where we find a great variety of Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish kilims and carpets, a real deal! Dinner and overnight in Van.                
Day 9  Van / Dogu Beyazit (B,D)
We drive to Dogu Beyazit in the morning. Behind the city rises the spectacular Mount Ararat where the search for Noah's Arc still continues. We will visit the Ishak Pasa Palace that is an amalgamation of castle, palace and mosque, built in 17th cent. Privately chartered minibuses will take us to the site of Noah’s Ark. Dinner and overnight in Dogu Beyazit.
Day 10 Dogu Beyazit / Kars (B,D)
We start early in the morning for our trip to Kars which has got its name from Turco-Bulgarian tribe called Karsaks during the 1st cent. BC. Kars was held by the Russians between 1878-1920 that accounts for the 19th century Russian aspect of the town. We drive east to visit Ani that was the capital of, first an Urartian State, later, Capital City of the Armenian Kingdom of 10th century. Byzantines took it over in the 11th century. In 1239 the Mongols arrived and cleared everybody out and the place became a ghost city. The castle and the ruins of 8 churches date from the 10th and 11th centuries. Back to Kars. Dinner and overnight.
Day 11 Kars / Hopa (B,D)
We begin our extremely attractive drive to Artvin in the morning. We will hire minivans to visit the beautiful Georgian church of Ishan on top of the mountains in a small village. Further visits will include Osvank and Haho churches driving and viewing the Tortum lake. Follow the course of Coruh river where there are narrow yet very attractive gorges before going over the dam and the mountains of the Black Sea to reach the picturesque coastline. Dinner and overnight in Hopa   
Day 12 Hopa / Trabzon (B,D)
Leaving Hopa behind us we proceed westward to Trabzon along the coast of the Black Sea that will give us some magnificent views of the mountains on one side and the inviting Sea on the other. We will drive up to the Uzun Gol (Long Lake) where we have our lunch and some free time over 1100 meter elevation. Following this we arrive at Trabzon and visit the church of Haghia Sophia before check in at the hotel. Dinner and overnight.visit the famous Greek Sumela Monastery built on a steep and rocky slope in the 6th century and abandoned in 1923. The various chapels and rooms are mere shells but with a good deal of fine fresco paintings. It is mysterious and impressive. Dinner and overnight in Trabzon.
Day 13 Trabzon (B,D)
We drive to visit the famous Greek Sumela Monastery built on a steep and rocky slope in the 6th century and abandoned in 1923. The various chapels and rooms are mere shells but with a good deal of fine fresco paintings. It is mysterious and impressive. Lunch at a local restaurant. Some free time to explore the exciting city in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight in Trabzon.
Day 14 Trabzon / Istanbul (B)
We take the morning plane to Istanbul and take it easy on our last day of the adventurous tour of Eastern Turkey for packing and last minute arrangements or shopping. Overnight in Istanbul.
Day 15 Istanbul (B)
Free time until transfer to the airport for your flight back home.

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