Ballons over ancient Cappadocia, Turkey

Itinerary: Turkey, Armenia & Georgia

14 September to 11 October 2020

Explore the coastal strip of western Anatolia which contains many of the most brilliant expressions of the Ancient World. It was the meeting place of two worlds, a maritime one of commerce, inter-cultural contact and innovatory ideas and an inland realm of agricultural wealth and imperial power. The legendary Midas, whose hand turned everything to gold, was King of Phrygia in Anatolia. Hittites, Assyrians, Persians and, following the conquests of Alexander the Great, Macedonian Greeks were successive ruling civilisations in these regions. Two thousand years after Alexander, the Ottoman Turks arrived to create an empire that lasted for five centuries until the birth of modern Turkey.

Then you encounter verdant hillsides and majestic snow-capped mountains as you travel westwards along the ancient Silk Road through Armenia and Georgia. Explore a land where the walls speak of centuries of rich history, where ancient traditions intersect with a modern way of life. Journey through forests and spectacular mountain peaks to find medieval monasteries, mosques and villages. It is little known that Armenia was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, and so there are magnificent Orthodox churches in abundance, many listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. You will encounter rare traces of cultural intersections with countries of the Ancient Near East, Egypt, the Hittite Kingdom, Assyria, Iran, the Seleucid state, Rome and the Byzantine Empire in the Armenian Highlands.

On this journey you will:

• See Roman remains; outstanding Byzantine buildings; Ottoman mosques and palaces
• Hunt for treasures in the glittering Grand Bazaar
• Immerse your senses in the mystical Whirling Dervishes of Konya
• Visit the finest group of Hellenistic and Roman city ruins to be found anywhere
• Enjoy a cooking class of central Anatolian food
• Choose to hike through Goreme’s ‘Red Valley’ and be amazed at the ‘Fairy Chimneys’
• Listen to an historian speak of ancient pottery traditions
• See the greatest Roman city ever uncovered at Ephesus
• Enjoy a leisurely day cruising the beautiful Turkish Mediterranean coast
• Pay homage to the ANZACs at the battlefields and memorials of Gallipoli
• Sip wine from earthenware pots in the world’s oldest vineyards in Georgia
• Visit the world’s most spectacularly situated 14th century Gergeti Holy Trinity Church
• Uncover medieval history at the Haghpat and Sanahin monastic complexes
• Trace Joanna Lumley’s journey through the historic heart of Tbilisi’s old town

You may wish to travel Turkey only, returning from Istanbul on 2 October 2020, or as a combined journey Turkey, Armenia & Georgia. Please contact us and we will provide you with price details.

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or always staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. Exploring the Silk Road, Turkey Armenia and Georgia is a tour for everyone wanting to see the meeting of continents on roads less travelled and explore new horizons rarely encountered. On this adventure, we use 4 and 4+ star hotels, but as no trip to this part of the world would be complete without a stay at some of the beautiful heritage and boutique hotels, well positioned for ease of exploration on your own, we have included several.

PLEASE NOTE: Hotels are 'indicative' at this stage and subject to change. They will be confirmed closer to departure.

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and craftspeople, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies.

Meals:

Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the itinerary as per B (breakfast), L (lunch), and D (dinner).

Traditional beef shish kebab with vegetables and spices, Turkey
Download detailed printable itinerary: Turkey, Georgia & Armenia - PDF format

Itinerary:

Day 1: 14 September 2020, Australia to Turkey

Depart your capital city today to begin your journey along the Western Silk Road.

Day 2: 15 September 2020, Arrive in Istanbul, D

Upon arrival meet our staff at the airport. During your transfer to the hotel see the amazing skyline dominated by Minarets and mosques, and catch glimpses of churches, temples, palaces and other pre-Ottoman buildings. Istanbul has evolved into a melting-pot of cultures, with a lively street life and colourful bazaars.

Rest of the day at leisure. Your hotel is in the heart of the Sultanahmet area. If you are recovered from the long flight, why not take an optional cruise in the evening along the Bosphorus?

Panorama of night skyline, Istanbul, Turkey

Overnight stay: Yasmak Sultan Hotel or similar, Istanbul

Day 3: 16 September 2020, Istanbul, B

Today you will visit the historical Sultanahmet neighborhood where many of the city’s finest architectural legacies are found. Visit the Underground Basilica Cistern, largest surviving Byzantium Cistern, (currently under renovation and may have limited water), the Blue Mosque whose interior walls are covered with twenty thousand blue Iznik tiles and the Topkapi Palace. The Topkapi Palace now exists as one of Istanbul’s premier museums, home to a collection of treasures that once belonged to the city’s 15th-century sultans and harems. The Palace is one of the most historically relevant landmarks, and today sits as one of Turkey’s great gems.

Cisterna Basilica, largest of several hundred ancient cisterns beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey

Blue Mosque at sunrise, Istanbul, Turkey

Domes of the Blue Mosque with thousands of Iznik tiles, Istanbul, Turkey

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

Then on to the Istanbul Hippodrome, originally constructed approx. AD 200 by Septimius Severus and completely rebuilt on a larger scale by Constantine, seeing the granite Egyptian obelisk that was gifted to the city, and hear how the site once represented the hub of the city’s sporting and political life. Thence to the dazzling Grand Bazaar. One of the world’s most famous souks, this complex comprises nearly 60 streets and thousands of shops. You will be seduced by its colorful (if chaotic) highlights, and shop for jewellery, leather, pottery, spices and more.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Old Constantinople once grappled with Rome to become the centre of Christianity. Explore its heritage by visiting the ancient Christian buildings epitomized by Hagia Sophia. Both a church and a mosque in its past life, the 6th-century, Hagia Sophia (pronounced Aya Sofya), the mother church of Orthodox Christianity is now a UNESCO-listed museum that showcases Ottoman- and Byzantine-era artifacts including its dazzling mosaics.

Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sofia, Ayasofya) at sunset, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sofia, Ayasofya) interior, Byzantine architecture, Istanbul, Turkey

Overnight stay: Yasmak Sultan Hotel or similar, Istanbul

Day 4: 17 September 2020, Fly from Istanbul to Cappadocia, B/D

See parts of the Byzantine city walls built by Constantine the Great en route to the nearby Kariye Museum (church of St Saviour in Chora), which contains the finest assemblage of Byzantine mosaics and frescoes to survive anywhere: one of my favorite places in Istanbul. Transfer to the airport for the flight to Cappadocia.

Chora museum, (Kariye Church), Istanbul, Turkey

Chora Church interior (Kariye Church), Byzantine Greek Orthodox church, Church of the Holy Saviour, Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

Chora Church interior, Christian Frescoes (Kariye Church), Byzantine Greek Orthodox church, Church of the Holy Saviour, Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

Overnight stay: Kapadokya Lodge Hotel or similar, Cappadocia

Day 5: 18 September 2020, Cappadocia, B/D

Spend the morning visiting of hidden monastic valley of Pasabagi. Here you will be amazed by the magnificent and striking ‘fairy chimneys’ with twin and even triple rock caps. The lunar-like landscape of this region is eerie, yet beautiful. Over thousands of years, the rain has eroded the land to give rise to these strange rock formations. You will also see a carpet making village. In the afternoon explore the fascinating Goreme Valley. This is an open-air museum, a vast monastic complex with scores of refectories and churches. These rock-cut churches contain beautiful frescoes with colours retaining their original freshness. One of Turkey’s first UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Then if you’d like to return to the hotel, you will be transferred by our vehicle, and others who wish to walk during the sunset can follow the paths of the Red Valley, an amazing landscape with richly coloured rock formations and one of the most popular hiking areas in Cappadocia.

Rocks looking like mushrooms dramatically lit by a sunset, Goreme Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

Love Valley, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Overnight stay: Kapadokya Lodge Hotel or similar, Cappadocia

Day 6: 19 September 2020, Cappadocia, B/L/D

After breakfast enjoy a lecture on ceramic art dating from 12th B.C. to 3rd B.C. in Avanos. Then a cooking class on Central Anatolian food, introducing famous specialties, such as keskek, manti (especially from Kayseri) and gozleme with local women. Then explore one of the Underground Cities of Cappadocia. Around the sixth century the Christian inhabitants of this region began to tunnel into the soft volcanic rock of large hill. As deep as two hundred and seventy-five feet with eight different levels, several thousand people lived in this subterranean city.

Overnight stay: Kapadokya Lodge Hotel or similar, Cappadocia

Day 7: 20 September 2020, Cappadocia - Beysehir (320 Km/4.5 hours), B/D

Drive west to Konya and the Mevlana Museum to learn about the mystical religious sect known as the ‘Whirling Dervishes’. For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the main reason to come to Konya is to visit this former lodge of the whirling dervishes and home to the tomb of the 13th-century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi (Mevlâna). One of the world’s great mystic philosophers, his poetry and religious writings are among the most beloved and respected in Islam and well beyond. We have included a special experience in Konya for you: You will attend the dervish ritual music and dancing. As the orchestra plays the sounds of ancient Islamic hymns, a group of men in long white ‘dresses’ silently appear. Soon after you'll witness a dance of continuous whirling, gentle and one-directional. The Mevlevi dervishes whirl in a mystical religious rite which you will find mesmerising, spellbinding and uplifting. The Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection. This is place of one of the biggest pilgrimage centres in Turkey, and the building's fluted dome of turquoise tiles is one of Turkey's most distinctive sights.

Mevlana Monastery, Konya, Turkey

Sema ceremony by the Mevlevi Dervishes (Whirling Dervishes), Konya, Turkey

Overnight stay: Ali Bilir Hotel or similar, Beysehir

Day 8: 21 September 2020, Beysehir - Antalya (250 Km/3.5 hours), B/D

Spend the morning visiting Eflatun Pinar, the Hittite Spring Sanctuary and 13th Century Esrefoglu Mosque before driving to Antalya.

Overnight stay: Best Western Khan or similar, Antalya

Day 9: 22 September 2020, Antalya, B/D

Founded by (and named after) Attalus II of Pergamum, Antalya was the principal port in Pamphylia in ancient and Byzantine times. You have a free day to explore Antalya at your leisure: walk the old town with its restored Ottoman period houses, visit the archaeological museum, one of the country’s finest, with exhibits from prehistory to Ottoman, or add on optional excursion (35 Euro per person) to the ancient ruins of Perge, the best example of a complete Roman city on the southern coast. Perge has substantial Hellenistic and Roman gates and colonnaded streets, and Aspendos, best preserved Roman Theater in the world. You will also visit the Duden Waterfall in this option.

Old Port of Antalya with Taurus Mountains and Mediterrainean Sea, Antalya, Turkey

Ottoman period houses, Antalya, Turkey

Ancient Roman City of Perga, Turkey

Day 10: 23 September 2020, Antalya - Kas (190 Km/3.5 hours), B/D

Drive along the shoreline of the Mediterranean Coast to Kas, stopping at Phaselis, set up by the Rhodians in 700 BC. The location of the city, on an isthmus that separates two harbours, ensured it became the most important harbour city of western Lycia. The Monumental Gate that was built of grey-white marble blocks and was erected in the II C AD in honour of Hadrian’s visit.

Overnight stay: Maki Hotel or similar, Kas

Day 11: 24 September 2020, Kas, B/L/D

We spend a delightful day sailing on the iridescent turquoise waters of the Mediterranean to reach Kekova, an ancient and mysterious sunken city. Once flourishing, it now lies completely underwater with only a few remnants on land to speak of its existence. From the boat you can swim and take a closer look at the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church, while Akvaryum Bay is also another perfect spot to take a dip in the clear waters.

Kekova, Turkey

Excursion ships and islands in azure waters of the Mediterranean sea, Oludeniz, Turkey

Kalekoy village, Kekova, Turkey

Kekova is also famous for its countless coves and bays as well as the Kaleköy village with its historic fortress. The waterfront restaurants adorned with flowers, the small houses with terracotta roofs, and narrow streets are also standouts in this idyllic village by the water.

Overnight stay: Maki Hotel or similar, Kas

Day 12: 25 September 2020, Kas - Pamukkale (295 Km/4.5 hours), B/D

Our touring continues to Hierapolis, a magnificent, unique natural formation. Over the last 14,000 years, calcium rich water from an underground thermal spring has flowed over the mountainside and slowly solidified, creating Shallow White Basins and Twisted Stalagmites.

Enchanting Pools, hot springs and travertine, terraces of solidified calcium, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pamukkale, Turkey

05:00 OPTIONAL: Hot air balloon flight over marvellous ruins of ancient Hierapolis. Hotel pickup, then a quick snack and safety briefing. Watching the balloon inflate, then you're off! Soaring over the beautiful landscape. This may be your favourite part of your Turkey trip - it will certainly be unforgettable. Celebrate a soft landing and return to your hotel for breakfast around 8.30am. Cost is 190 Euro per person.

Roman amphitheatre in Hierapolis, Pamukkale, Turkey

Overnight stay: Doga Thermal Hotel or similar, Pamukkale

Day 13: 26 September 2020, Pamukkale - Kusadasi (255 Km/4.5 hours), B/D

Drive into the interior of Anatolia. One of the most beautiful classical sites in Turkey, Aphrodisias was the centre of a Roman cult of Aphrodite, whose temple survives. An important school for the production of high-quality and widely exported sculpture, there are many fine examples at the site. Among the architectural remains is the largest and most complete stadium to have survived from the ancient world.

Ancient Roman Aphrodisias, Turkey

Ancient Roman marble sculptures in Aphrodisias, Turkey

Overnight stay: Charisma Hotel or similar, Kusadasi

Day 14: 27 September 2020, Kusadasi, B/D

Today’s excursion takes us to Ephesus, the largest ancient city ever uncovered. Once populated with 300,000 people, it has an enormous amphitheatre, scene of the protest against St Paul described in the New Testament, which can still hold 24,000 spectators. As you walk down the marble covered streets, see gymnasiums, bath houses, public latrines, the library of Celsius and the Temple of Artemis. The most popular pilgrimage destination in the Graeco-Roman world, the city was also key to the development of Christianity. Ruined by harbour sedimentation and finally sacked in the 7th century, Ephesus is the most extensively excavated site of the ancient world, and probably the one with the greatest range of standing remains. After visiting a leather factory, you are free for the afternoon.

Ancient Roman Celsus Library, Ephesus, Turkey

Roman amphitheatre in Ephesus, Turkey

Overnight stay: Charisma Hotel or similar, Kusadasi

Day 15: 28 September 2020, Kusadasi - Pergamum - Ayvalik (245 Km/3.5 hours), B/D

On the way to Canakkale, stop at the ancient city of Pergamum, which was once ruled by Alexander the Great, to visit Asclepion, a fourth century B.C. shrine to the healing God Asclepius. Of Ayvalik, Lonely Planet says:

“On first glance, Ayval?k may seem unremarkable, a port town similar to many others in this region. But wander a few streets back from the waterfront and you'll discover an old Greek village in spirited abandon. Colourful shuttered doors conceal boutique hotels in restored stone houses, mosques converted from Greek Orthodox churches welcome the faithful to prayer and historic cafes full of locals line hidden squares. Put simply, it's got Aegean ambience in spades”

Beautiful serene landscape, Ayvalik, Turkey

Marmaris Marina, Turkey

Street view of old town, Alacati, Turkey

A Goat and a cat on the bench, Turkey

Overnight stay: Bacacan Hotel or similar, Ayvalik

Day 16: 29 September 2020, Ayvalik - Troy - Canakkale (165 Km/3 hours), B/D

We continue to Troy, one of the oldest discovered sights in Asia Minor with its 9 different settlements and related 30 cities. While not the most dramatic of Turkey's ancient sites, Troy is testament to the importance of myth to the human experience. Some imagination is needed to reconstruct the city's former splendour, but our guide will quickly bring life to the place that set the scene for Homer’s Iliad Overnight in Canakkale.

Overnight stay: Kolin Hotel or similar, Canakkale

Day 17: 30 September 2020, Canakkale - Gallipoli - Istanbul (315 Km/4.5 hours), B

Today we depart on our journey to Istanbul, exploring the battlefields, including Anzac Cove, Lone Pine Australian Memorial, Johnston’s Jolly (Turkish and Allied trenches and tunnels), The Nek and Chunk Bair New Zealand Memorial of Gallipoli. Overnight in Istanbul.

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

Nek and Chunk Bair, Gallipoli, Turkey

ANZAC Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey

Overnight stay: Yasmak Sultan Hotel or similar, Istanbul

Day 18: 1 October 2020, Istanbul, B

Today we explore the Grand Covered Bazaar, built in 1457; and the Spice Bazaar, where the scent of hundreds of spices permeates the air and have a photographic walking tour in the neighbourhoods of Fener and Balat, once the focal point of the social and cultural lives of Greek, Jewish and Armenian minorities, now host a Muslim population, many of whom have migrated from other cities and rural areas. Free time or take an optional Cruise on the Bosphorus.

Oriental spices, Great Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Ornamental turkish plates, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower with colourful houses in the Old Town of Balat, Istanbul, Turkey

Nostalgic small Bosphorus cruise boat, Istanbul, Turkey

Overnight stay: Yasmak Sultan Hotel or similar, Istanbul

Day 19: 2 October 2020, Istanbul - Yerevan OR Istanbul - Australia, B

Enjoy a morning at leisure before transfer to Istanbul airport for flight. Depart Istanbul at 15:40. Arrive at Zvartnots International Airport at 23:50 and meet our guide and transfer to the hotel.

You may choose to fly to Armenia & Georgia or back home from Istanbul. Please contact us for price details.

Armenia & Georgia

Panoramic view of Armenian Holy Cross Cathedral surrounded by trees in blossom, Akdamr Adasi, Lake Van, Gevas, Eastern Turkey

Day 20: 3 October 2020, Yerevan City Tour, B/L

This morning we visit the Matenadaran Museum, a repository of one of the richest manuscript collections in the world. Indeed, Matenadaran is the pride of Armenian culture, the world's largest storage of ancient manuscripts with more than 17 thousand holdings and more than 100 thousand ancient archival documents in Russian, Hebrew, Latin, Arabian, Syrian, Greek, Japanese, and Persian.

After lunch, the History Museum of Armenia represents an integral picture of history and culture from one million years ago until today. You will see an enormous and exceptional collection of bronze artefacts from the 3rd - 2nd millennia BC. The Museum also displays the sumptuous historical-cultural heritage of Urartu, the powerful Armenian state in the Ancient Near East; magnificent cuneiform inscriptions, bronze statuettes, wall-paintings, ceramics, arms and weapons, unique specimens of gold, silver and bone.

Republic Square, Yerevan, Armenia

After this we visit the "Cascade", a monumental staircase interspersed with statues, flowerbeds, sculptures, ‘artistic installations’ and fountains rising on a hill. From the top you can see the city with the Biblical Mount Ararat in the background.

Yerevan, Armenia

Overnight stay: Tufenkian Heritage Hotel or similar

Day 21: 4 October 2020, Yerevan - Echmiadzin - Svarnots - Yerevan, B/L

After breakfast we depart for Echmiadzin (‘Descent of the Only Begotten’) and visit the ‘Holy Seat’ of the Armenian Christians and residence of the Catholicos, the highest religious authority. Here in AD301, Grigor Lusavorich saw a beam of light fall to the earth in a divine vision. He built the Mother Church of Armenia on the site and today it is a place of unparalleled importance as the birthplace of Christianity. In the ‘Holy Seat’, as it’s Sunday, you may witness or participate in the liturgy, then visit the Cathedral, the park and its numerous khachkars - stone slabs carved with the cross, typical of Armenia. On the outskirts of the city, visit the Church of St. Hripsime, one of the oldest churches in Armenia, known for its fine architecture. After lunch visit the ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral, the “most precious and the most beautiful of Armenia”.

Ruins of the Temple of Zvartnots with Mount Ararat in background, Yerevan, Armenia

Thence to the Tsitsernakaberd (Fortress of the Swallows), the Armenian Genocide Museum, a memorial dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished in the first genocide of the 20th century at the hands of the Turkish government. The austere outlines convey the spirit of the nation that survived a ruthless campaign of extermination.

Overnight stay: Tufenkian Heritage Hotel or similar

Day 22: 5 October 2020, Yerevan - Geghard - Gharni - Yerevan, B/L

After breakfast drive to the World Heritage Monastery of Geghard, named after the lance which is said to have pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion, and which was enshrined here for five centuries. This World Heritage–listed monastery is carved out of the rock face of the Azat River Gorge.

Geghardavank or Geghard monastery, Orthodox Christian monastery, Kotayk Province, Armenia

Visit Garni, a comprehensively rebuilt Hellenic temple dedicated to the heathen sun god, Mitra. The Armenian King Trdat I built it in the 1st century and later it became a summer house for Armenian royalty after the Christian conversion. The area around Garni has been inhabited since Neolithic times, with archaeologists finding Urartian cuneiform inscriptions dating back to the 8th century BC.

Garni, Armenia

In the afternoon return to Yerevan to visit the house and museum of Martiros Saryan, one of the most famous and admired Armenian painters, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century. ‘Poet of landscape and colour’, Saryan is considered the ‘Armenian Impressionist’ who embodies the artistic symbols of Armenia itself.

Overnight stay: Tufenkian Heritage Hotel or similar

Day 23: 6 October 2020, Yerevan - Khor - Virip - Noravank - Tanahat - Karhunj - Goris, B/L

Ancient accounts have long acknowledged Armenia as a cradle of winemaking. The eighth-century BC kings of Urartu referred to ancient Armenia as “the land of the vineyards” and Assyrian armies marvelled at its vast quantities of fruit trees and vines. According to Genesis, it is in the mountains of Ararat that Noah planted the first vineyard and makes wine. We will see the process at Areni Village.

Old wine barrels, casks and bottles in wine-cellar

Areni Wine, Areni, Armenia
Image Credit: Armineaghayan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

After our visit here we climb onto a high plateau before reaching the iconic location of Khor Virap Monastery. Situated on a hillock, and surrounded by pastures and vineyards, the monastery lies at the foot of the Biblical Mount Ararat. The vista of the snow-capped mountain and the monastery is simply awe-inspiring.

Sunrise over Ararat with Khor Virap Monastery, Armenia

Today’s journey continues to Noravank Monastery, where you will marvel at masterpieces of ancient Armenian stonemasonry.

Novarank Monastery, Armenia

We enter the beautiful region of Sisian to visit the ruins of the church of St. Stepanos Naxavka otherwise known as Tanahat. The small rectangular church with one aisle ending in a horseshoe apse is all that remains of a monastic complex.

Armenia is full of archaeological surprises. It is a country where mysterious stories appear at every corner and most of them still wait to be solved. However, one of the greatest stories of prehistoric Armenia relates to the ''Armenian Stonehenge''. According to several researchers, this site could be among the world's oldest and is at least 3,500 years before Britain’s Stonehenge.

Skirting the Tsav River we continue to the town of Meghri and enter beautiful mountain forests until we reach the town of Goris.

Overnight stay: Hotel Mirhav or similar

Day 24: 7 October 2020, Goris - Tatev - Selim - Noraduz - Sevananvank - Dilijan, B/L

After Breakfast drive to Tatev. Perched on a natural fortress of rock on the edge of the Vorotan River, the location of Tatev monastery is simply jaw-dropping. We take the longest aerial tramway in the world, 7.5km to the monastery. In medieval times, the monastery was one of the most famous universities of the East for human sciences, art and scientific disciplines.

Tatev Monastery, Armenia
Image Credit: Alexander Naumov [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Selim Caravanserai is the best-preserved caravanserai on Armenia’s Silk Road and indeed the world. Constructed of basalt and with a roof of flat tiles, the caravanserai is a long building with a single entrance at one end. To the left of the doorway is a griffin while to the right there is a lion. Above it is an inscription in Persian, while inside the vestibule there is one in Armenian, recording that the caravanserai was built in 1332 by Chesar Orbelian during the reign of Khan Abu Saeed II. Stone troughs were provided for feedlots for the animals and there is a basalt trough in one corner to supply them with water. Light and ventilation were provided by small openings in the roof, but the interior is dark and a torch is useful. Looking at all these arrangements it is possible to capture an image of the life of the 14th-century merchants who passed this way along this part of the Silk Road, to an extent which can rarely be experienced anywhere in Europe.

Thence to Lake Sevan, the “Pearl of Armenia”, which is surrounded by beautiful villages and picturesque mountains. The Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Transcaucasia and, at more than 2000 metres above sea level, one of the highest in the world.

Lake Sevan, the “Pearl of Armenia”, Armenia
Image Credit: Vigen Hakhverdyan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

On the shore of Lake Sevan is the settlement of Noraduz famous for its ancient cemetery featuring some 900 khachkars, some of the most unique creations of Armenian cultures. These memorial stones are richly sculpted with motifs of crosses, animals, birds, solar disks and vegetative patterns.

Khachkars in ancient cemetery, Noraduz, Lake Sevan, Armenia

We also visit the important and historic Sevanavank Monastery, recently restored to its former splendour. Enjoy breathtaking views from the religious complex. Travel through verdant forests to Dilijan.

Overnight stay: Hotel Dilijan Resort or similar

Day 25: 8 October 2020, Dilijan - Sanahin - Haghpat - Tbilisi, B/L

Our full day visiting the most beautiful and interesting monasteries of Armenia. Encounter Sanahin Monastery, (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Haghpat Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site), sheltering the church of St. Amenaprkitch and the church of St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), dating back to 951, one of the most vital cultural and religious centres of Armenia. Its construction is closely associated with the glory of the royal family of the Bagratuni and represents an extraordinary and superb example of medieval Armenian architecture. The oldest structure of the monastery, the Church of the Holy Cross, was built by Queen Khosrvanush in 977-991.

After customs formalities at the border, continue to Tbilisi.

Town of Dilijan, little Switzerland of Armenia

Interior of Haghpat Monastery, (UNESCO World Heritage), Armenia
Image Credit: Tiia Monto [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Overnight stay: Hotel Metekhi Line or similar

Day 26: 9 October 2020, Tbilisi - Mtskheta - Gori - Uplistsikhe - Tbilisi, B/L/D

Drive to Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia and "holy city", as it hosts the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox, Apostolic, Autocephalic Church, one of the oldest in the world, presided over by the Patriarch who bears the title of ‘Catholicos’.

Here are many very ancient buildings, which in 1994 became UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among these is the Cathedral of Svetiskhoveli (from the 11th century), where tradition has it that the tunic of Christ is buried; the Monastery of Jvari (VI century), located high on the hill, and from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city and the rivers that surround it. We continue towards Gori, an ancient city carved into the rock on a high rocky shore of the Mtkvari river. Gori’s most famous attraction is the "Josif Stalin Museum" as he was born here in 1878. Visit Uplistsikhe (literally "the Fortress of the Lord"), one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Return to Tbilisi, Farewell Dinner and overnight.

Panoramic View of the Georgian Capital Tblissi at night, Georgia

Overnight stay: Hotel Metekhi Line or similar

Day 27: 10 October 2020, Tbilisi, B

Follow in the footsteps of Joanna Lumley on a walking tour of the delightful Old Town, a labyrinth of winding streets and twisting alleys, a fusion of Asian and European influences, with doorways leading to hidden courtyards and buildings adorned with picturesque sagging balconies and carved pillars. Walking through these winding streets evokes a flavour of old Persia.
Transfer to the airport of Tbilisi and take the flight for your onward journey.

Panorama of the old town, located on Sololaki hill, crowned with brightly illuminated Narikala fortress, on Kura river, Tbilisi, Georgia

Colorful traditional houses with wooden carved balconies, Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia

Day 28: 11 October 2020, Arrive in Australia

Time to reflect in flight on your exploration of the Silk Road which continued westward to Venice and beyond. It shaped the modern world bringing silks, porcelain, spices, gunpowder, precious carpets and much more to the West. You have travelled through a breathtaking array of fabulous landscapes, meeting peoples and seeing places in the footsteps of merchants, conquerors, pilgrims and kings.

PRICING:

Turkey, Armenia & Georgia: 14 September to 11 October 2020

Price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 8890.00
Single Supplement: AUD 2250.00

Turkey only: 14 September to 2 October 2020

If you wish to travel Turkey only please contact us and we will provide you with price details.

Armenia & Georgia only: 2 October to 11 October 2020

If you wish to travel Armenia & Georgia only please contact us and we will provide you with price details.

Airfare: From Australia currently from AUD 1422.00 with QATAR Airways

COST INCLUSIONS:

• Fully escorted from Australia subject to 10 participants
• Services of an English-speaking local guide throughout each country
• Accommodation in double/twin share occupancy in quality hotels
• 25 Breakfasts, 8 lunches and 15 dinners
• Sightseeing in modern air-conditioned private vehicles (Mercedes Sprinter or Deluxe coach)
• Domestic flight in Turkey
• Entrance fees to places mentioned in the program
• Border crossing assistance

COST EXCLUSIONS:

• Air Fares from your capital city
• Flight between Istanbul and Yerevan (Approx $299)
• Tips (approx. $260 per person) to be disbursed by the tour leader
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)
• Visa costs
• Meals where not specified in the itinerary
• Personal expenditure such as drinks with meals

FLIGHTS:

Flights from Australia and return are not included in the price of the tour. We will send the recommended flight options when they are available to book, and ask that you make your own flight reservation. We work in partnership with helloworld Westfield Marion to provide tickets but you can use your preferred provider.

Sharon Evans
Owner/Manager
Helloworld, Marion Westfield Mall, Level 2
Westfield Marion
Oaklands Park SA 5046
Telephone: +61 (08) 8358 1949
Fax: +61 (08) 8358 1960
E-mail: Sharon

HOW STRENUOUS:

• There are several drives of 3.5 and 4.5 hours in duration with adequate stops for refreshment.
• Unlike other tours in Turkey we do not drive the 8 hours from Kusadasi to Canakkale (Troy): instead we break the journey in Ayvalik.
• On some days, there is a lot of walking between sights and around towns and cities. Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes with good support. Pam will let you know in advance when significant walking is required.
• Armenia and Georgia are two of the oldest Christian countries on earth which means that the greatest sights focus on churches and monasteries of which the people are extremely proud. If you find these a bit repetitive, you are always welcome to omit an included sight and explore on your own.
• Many of Zen ‘Journeyists’ are solo travellers, and with our small groups you may travel solo ‘but not alone’. Our tour directors will see to your every need. They are experts in understanding and valuing the uniqueness of individuals within a group situation. You will always have someone to take a photo of you…and the new friends you will have made.

TRAVEL ADVICE:

Before booking, please refer to the DFAT website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting:

Please visit http://www.smartraveller.gov.au or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government travel advice.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL:

As we take more travellers to more remote parts of the world, we recognize our obligation to plan and operate our Journeys in a responsible and sustainable fashion. We view this as an environmental, cultural, and social necessity. Above all, we are committed to the well-being of the communities, which are our hosts, the cultural and natural environment that we are there to experience. We also believe that by following these policies we can provide you with more rewarding and interesting experiences.

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline.

CANCELLATION POLICY:

On International Flight tickets

• Please refer to the Fare conditions on the fare class you have purchased

On land package cost

• Between 64-31 Days: 65 % of land cost
• Between 30-14 Days: 75 % of land cost
• Between 14-10 Days: 90 % of land cost
• Within 10 days-No show: 100% of land cost

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347

FINAL PAYMENT & CLOSE OF BOOKING: 14 JULY 2020

Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.

 
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