The Caucasus & Eastern Turkey

Our  thoughts and prayers are with the people of Eastern Turkey & Syria who have lost their homes and families.  We look forward to supporting this region through tourism in the near future.  We have tentatively re-scheduled this tour for the spring of 2025

Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia ( Caucasus) AND Eastern Turkey ( 23 Days)


it is also possible to take this tour in sections:
The Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia & Georgia) Only: May 1st – 14th 2024 (14 Days)

Eastern Turkey Only: May 13th – 23rd 2024 (11 Days)


lLmited to 16 people + Norman & Julie Bruce

(updated Feb 25 2023) Please let us know if you  are interested to join us and we shall send the full itinerary as soon as it is available.

BC reg 3379

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About the Caucasus ( Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia)
Details & day-by-day itinerary coming soon

About Eastern Turkey:
In Western Turkey one mainly sees monuments from the Greek, Roman and Ottoman periods. By contrast, the monuments we see in Eastern Turkey are mainly from completely different civilizations – those from Central Asia, the Caucasus and Mesopotamia. The Turkish cities and monuments are mainly from the Selchuks, who preceded the Ottomans. Distances are long and these far-flung lands are sparsely populated but the scenery is vast and green in the Spring. The monuments tell of ancient struggles between peoples and with this harsh but stunningly-beautiful land. Remote sites such as Sumela Monastery and Mount Nemrut are hidden in inaccessible spots, even for this empty land. We really feel that we are discovering them, rather than just visiting! Our Eastern Turkey tour is the perfect compliment for those who have previously visited Western Turkey and can be combined with our Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia) tour.


Day 1: Arrive in Trabzon

Upon arrival at Trabzon Airport we transfer to our hotel. Rest of the day is free to relax and explore Turkey’s major Black Sea city.

First of 2 nights in Trabzon. 4-Star Quantum Hotel or similar. No meals.

Day 2: Trabzon City + Sumela Monastery

This morning we explore Trabzon, which has traditionally been the main town on the Turkish side of the Black Sea and formed one end of the Silk Route. After 1204, when the Crusaders sacked Constantinople, the Byzantine court fled here and established what became known as the Trapezuntine Empire – essentially the Byzantine Empire in exile. Many of the important buildings in the town date from that period. Longing for the grandeur of Constantinople, they imitated the churches of their beloved city on a smaller scale. The Aya Sofia is a church modelled after its namesake in Istanbul and featuring excellent frescoes. On a hillside above the town looking out over the Black Sea is Ataturk’s Villa. This elegant white mansion is built in the Crimean style from the north side of the Black Sea.

This afternoon, in a secluded valley south of Trabzon, we visit Sumela Monastery – also known as the Monastery of the Virgin Mary. Dating from the 6th Century, this was one of the holiest centres of the

Byzantine church for many centuries – despite its remote and inaccessible location. The monastery clings high on a vertical cliff face above a pine-clad valley with a rushing river far below. It has been said that it is neither on earth nor in heaven. It looks like a nine-story-high building hanging down from the clouds and sitting on top of the forest. The monastery was occupied by Greek Orthodox monks right up until the 1920’s.

Second of 2 nights in Trabzon. 4-Star Quantum Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 3: Trabzon – Erzurum

From the Black Sea coast we head up onto the Anatolian Plateau, winding along rivers with several photo stops and a stop at the Karaca Cave along the way. Up on the plateau we see villages of stone houses almost submerged in the ground to protect them against the ferocious winter weather in these exposed flatlands. By contrast, in the spring, we see black sheep wandering on vast green meadows.

Erzurum is the highest city in Turkey and has been conquered by a succession of invaders who have entered Turkey from the east. The 12th-Century Cifte Minareli Medrese (a Selchuk Turkish religious school), with its impressive facade and twin minarets, is an excellent example of early Turkish muslim architecture. We also visit the Ethnographic Museum and see how local artists mount the local black obsidian volcanic stone in silver and gold to make unique jewellery.

Overnight in Erzurum. 4-Star Polat Palandoken Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 4 : Erzurum – Ani – Kars

This morning, we make our way across the Anatolian Plateau to Turkey’s eastern border and the ruins of the capital of the Armenian kingdom, Ani. This “ghost city” is set on the edge of a gorge which separates Turkey from the Present-day Republic of Armenia. At the height of medieval Armenia’s golden age at the end of the 10th Century Ani had a population of 100,000 and is said to have had 1,000 churches. Its power and wealth came from being a major junction on the Great Silk Road. In the mid-10th Century, nothing in Europe could compete with this city in terms of either size or magnificence. In the East, Ani rivalled Bagdad. Over the centuries this city has experienced the cultures of the Urartians, Armenians, Georgians, Mongols, Russians and finally the Turks. The remains of the ruined ‘shadow’ city include several churches as well as the shell of the Cathedral of Ani, the citadel and a mosque. There are also some wall frescoes inside the Church of St. Gregory (Tigran Honents). Despite having been exposed to elements for centuries, the effect that these frescoes produce on visitors is far beyond expectation. We also see the city’s extensive and well-preserved defensive wall. We visit the ruins of several churches including the Church of Our Saviour and the Cathedral of the Apostles.

Overnight in Kars. 3-Star Winter City Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 5: Dogubayazit – Mount Ararat – Van

Before leaving Kars, we visit the imposing Kars Castle and the Holy Apostles Church (12 Havari Kilisesi.) Built in the mid-10th Century by the Armenian Bagratid King Abas I, it was converted into a mosque in 1579. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries it was converted into a Russian Orthodox church and back to an Armenian cathedral. In 1993 it was again converted into a mosque!


As we travel south from Kars we skirt the Armenian border and the town of Igdir to arrive at Dogubayazit. If the weather is clear, we will have wonderful views of the snow-covered peak of Mount Ararat (5,165 m/ 16,946 ft) towering above the plains. This mountain is the legendary last resting-place of Noah’s Ark. From Dogubayazit we visit one of Turkey’s most beautiful buildings – the spectacularly-located Ishak Pasha Palace, with its unique fusion of Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian, Armenian and Persian architectural styles. This complex is a combination of a mosque, a fortress, and a palace and originally had one room for every day of the year! Below the palace we see the remains of Eski Beyazit, a Urartian city which flourished around 1,000 BC.


As we continue driving south, on a branch of the “Silk Road”,  we pass Muradiye and Bendimaahi waterfalls and skirt the eastern shore of Turkey’s largest natural lake, Lake Van, on our way to the city of Van, which was established in the 13th Century BC. With its mineral-rich water, turquoise Lake Van is home to unique flora and fauna. It’s simply called “the Sea” by locals.

First of 2 nights in Van. 4-Star Elite World Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 6: Akdamar Island + Van

Today we take a relaxing excursion by ferry across the azure Lake Van (the largest soda lake in the world) to the tiny island of Akdamar. The island’s location is jaw-dropping, with the surrounding snow-capped mountains reflected in the blue waters of the lake – all surrounded by endless green fields dotted with scarlet poppies. In the 10th Century Armenian King Gagik constructed a palace on this island, including the exquisite Church of the Holy Cross. The carvings on the walls of the church are in a distinctive flat, high-relief style showing Biblical scenes such as the whale swallowing Jonah and David about to slay Goliath. On our way back to Van we stop at Gevas to admire the intricately carved 14th-Century tomb of a Turkish princess. This afternoon you can either enjoy free time to explore the town of Van yourself at your own pace or join us on a guided visit to Van Museum with its many beautiful gold artifacts and the Rock of Van to learn more about the ancient Urartian period. On this large rock outcrop are the remains of many fortifications from different periods including the 3,000-year-old Urartian castle where you can see cuneiform writing. This was once the centre of Tushpa, the Urartian capital, and provides commanding panoramic views of the city of Van, Lake Van and Mt. Suphan to the north-west.

This evening after dinner we have the chance to admire the many styles of carpets indigenous to this region and the surrounding cross-border areas. The town of Van is the centre of an area which is home to many present-day nomadic tribes.  Maybe we will see one of the famous Van cats. They have one blue eye and one green eye and are reputed to enjoy swimming! Second of 2 nights in Van. 4-Star Elite World Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 7: Drive Van - Adiyaman

Today we drive from Turkey’s far eastern border into the centre of this vast land in order to see one of the wonders of the world.

Overnight in Adiyaman. 4-Star White Star Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 8: Adiyaman – Mount Nemrut – Sanliurfa

VERY early this morning we witness one of the most extraordinary sights in the world – the sunrise at the UNESCO world cultural heritage site of Mount Nemrut. Crowning one of the highest peaks of the Eastern Taurus mountain range at 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) in the middle of nowhere King Antiochus, of a little-known people called the Commagenes, built his massive funeral monument. We see giant figures of animal- and human-form gods from many religions and local traditions. Their heads alone are 2 metres (6.5 ft) high! This site is so remote that we have to transfer to small minibuses (in the dark!) for our final ascent to the top.

Surrounded on three sides by terraces, two processional routes radiate to the east and to the west. Five giant seated limestone statues face outwards from the central burial mound (tumulus) of crushed rock on the upper level of the east and west terraces. King Antiochus built the entire complex approximately 2,000 years ago as a monument to his divine ancestry, believing himself descended from Persian gods on his father’s side and Greek gods on his mother’s side.

After viewing this extraordinary sight, we drive back to our hotel for breakfast and a rest before driving south from Adiyaman, stopping at the enormous Ataturk Dam (the third-largest dam in the world), which channels the waters of the upper Euphrates River. Further south, we see the site of Gobeklitepe, a hilltop sanctuary erected on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge northeast of the town of Urfa. What makes Gobeklitepe unique in its class is the date it was built – which is roughly twelve thousand years ago (circa 10,000 BC.) It is considered to be the world’s oldest temple.

We make our way to the city of Urfa (called Sanliurfa for its heroic struggles to repel invading British and French troops after World War I.) The city is believed to be where Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden and where the Armenian alphabet was invented.

Overnight in Sanliurfa. 4-Star Hilton Garden Inn or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 9: Urfa & Harran – Adana

Urfa is located where the foothills of the Taurus Mountains meet the great Mesopotamian Plain. This is one of the places where humans first practiced organised agriculture. The area has been occupied since the Babylonians by the Hurrites, Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks and Turks. We visit Urfa Archaeological Museum, with its huge collection of artifacts from the Harran and Gobeklitepe areas.

The city is sacred to the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions and is known as “the City of Prophets.” The Cave of Abraham, where legend says the prophet was born, is one of the most important pilgrimage places in the Islamic world. King Nimrod of Assyria built an immense pyre to have Abraham burnt at the stake but God intervened and turned the fire into what is today called the Pool of Abraham. The pieces of wood on the pyre were turned into the fish that still inhabit the pool.

If we have time, we walk through the local covered bazaar of Sanliurfa.

South of Urfa, we visit the ruins of Harran. According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham and his family lived here for several years before moving on to Israel – the Promised Land. We explore the ruins of this once-great city and see the mud-brick beehive houses of the local people.

Later today we journey from Urfa to Gaziantep and explore one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. The highlight is our visit to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, which beautifully displays mosaics from the nearby Roman site of Belkis-Zeugma. Gaziantep is famous for the pistachios that grow in the area and the baklava which is made with them.


First of 2 nights in Adana. 4-Star Riva Resatbey Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day 10: Adana & Tarsus

With 2.5 million people, Adana is one of Turkey’s major cities and its main city in the eastern Mediterranean. Having been the gateway from the Mediterranean through the Taurus Mountains to the Anatolian Plateau since ancient times, Adana has monuments from many historical periods and civilisations. The superb Adana Museum (Turkey’s largest) displays finds from as far back as the Palaeolithic Age. Particularly beautiful are the Roman mosaics and glass. We acquaint ourselves with the Hittite Empire, which was centred to the east of present-day Ankara and fought for control of the eastern Mediterranean with the ancient Egyptians under Ramses the Great. The modern six-minareted Sabanci Central Mosque can accommodate 30,000 people and is the largest mosque between Istanbul and Saudi Arabia.

This afternoon we travel the short distance to Tarsus. Founded by the Hittites, the city became an important administrative centre of the Persian Empire in 400 BC. Alexander the Great came here in 333 BC during his fight with the Persians. Later in Antiquity the schools of Tarsus rivalled those of Athens and Alexandria and the Library of Tarsus is said to have held more than 200,000 manuscripts. In Roman times Tarsus was a great city on the banks of the Cydnus River with palaces, marketplaces, roads, bridges, baths, fountains, waterworks, a gymnasium and a stadium. Most people come here today as it is recognised as the birthplace of the apostle St Paul. We see the remains of the house where he was born. We explore the Old City and see Cleopatra’s Gate, on the site where the Egyptian queen first met Mark Anthony.


Second of 2 nights in Adana. 4-Star Riva Resatbey Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Day 11: Departure

Today we fly from Adana via Istanbul to North America, arriving home the same day. Breakfast, if not leaving too early.

More Information


EASTERN TURKEY ONLY: Most travellers taking just our Eastern Turkey tour will fly direct from their home city to Istanbul (IST) with Turkish Airlines and stop over in Istanbul for one or more nights before flying Istanbul – Trabzon .  On their return, most travellers will fly Adana to Istanbul (IST)  and connect that afternoon to a direct flight with Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to their home city.

This price does NOT include your flights Istanbul – Trabzon or Adana – Istanbul.

You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour. Our flights specialist can quote you from any city.

Alternatively, our flights specialist can quote you flying through Europe and enjoying a break there either going or coming home or both. You are also welcome to book your own flights. Please let us know your preference.


Each full day of the tour we include breakfast and dinner together as a group.  Wherever possible, we eat out at good-quality local restaurants. However, in remoter places, the best restaurants are often in hotels. Whether we eat at the hotel or at a local restaurant will also depend on how much driving we have been doing that day.


  • Accommodation mainly in local 4-Star hotels. Turkey use a grading system which doesn’t directly correspond with North American standards, especially in Eastern Turkey. Where 4-Star hotels are not available, we stay at the best available 3-Star hotels.  All our hotels have en-suite bathrooms and air-conditioning/heating.
  • Land transport, mainly by our own coach. Boat on Lake VanSightseeing and entrance fees as mentioned in the itinerary. Please note: many of our excursions are weather dependent. If we have to cancel a particular excursion, we will substitute another activity – where possible.
  • Tipping for drivers and local guides.
  • Breakfast & dinner daily. 10 breakfasts + 9 dinners.
  • Guiding by Royal Heights’ tour leaders Norman and Julie Bruce with assistance of expert local guides.


  • Visa fees.  TURKEY: Canadian passport holders must obtain a visa to enter Turkey as a tourist. This 90-day visa can be obtained on the Turkish government’s web site in advance or upon arrival at Istanbul Airport. Your Canadian passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the expiry of your visa.
  • Lunches
  • We do NOT include Porterage.  Porters   MAY be available to help you with your suitcase and you should be prepared to tip them if you use their services. Please only bring one piece of luggage per person and make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move your own luggage when necessary
  • Trip Cancellation / Interruption and Medical Insurance. This insurance is strongly recommended. We can put you in touch with our insurance expert for a quote.
  • Single Supplement charge, if requested.
  • Personal Expenses such as souvenirs, laundry, and drinks are not included with meals
  • Arrival & departure transfers. We can arrange individual or group transfers when you have confirmed the arrival & departure times of your flights. Please contact us for a quote.
  • Flights Istanbul – Trabzon and Adana – Istanbul


Our published price is based on 2 people sharing a room. If you would like to share, we will do our best to find you a roommate. The EARLIER you pay your deposit, the more likely we are to be able to find you a roommate. If you wish to be guaranteed a single room, there is a Single Supplement charge .  Those people traveling alone but wishing to share will be informed 3 months prior to departure if a roommate is not currently available. At that point, you will be invoiced for the Single Supplement. If a roommate subsequently joins the tour, your single supplement will be refunded with the final documentation.


When we are spending more than one night in a place, if you don’t wish to join our included excursions on the intervening day, you MAY be able to enjoy a free half day or full day exploring the area or just relaxing. Of course, the timing and length of much of our sightseeing depends on the weather! Please discuss your options with Norman and Julie.


Land portion of the tour must be booked directly with Royal Heights Tours. You can secure your place on the tour with a $400 per person non-refundable deposit. We take payment by cheque, Visa or Mastercard for the $400 /person deposit. Your invoice for your Land tour will be e-mailed to you three months before the tour departs  Payment will be due two month prior to departure date. Price quoted is for FINAL PAYMENT by cheque. Should you wish to pay the outstanding amount for the LAND tour by credit card there will be an administration fee of 1.5% on the outstanding amount.


  • Turkey does NOT have any restrictions for entry related to COVID 19.
  • Please make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move it easily.


This tour is NOT suitable if you need walking assistance in the form of walking sticks or canes. You must be in reasonably good shape to enjoy this tour – there is a lot of walking and exploring of archaeological sites and old historic towns. Please ensure you wear comfortable walking shoes as some of our walking tours can take up to 3 hours and we will walk on cobblestone and uneven surfaces.


No one expects to have a medical emergency away from home or to have to cancel or cut short a trip due to an accident. However, these unexpected events happen and they can be disruptive and expensive – so it’s critical to have travel insurance which protects you against being forced to cancel prior to or during travel due to unforeseen circumstances. We strongly recommend comprehensive insurance coverage that includes emergency medical, trip cancellation and interruption, accident, and baggage insurance.

Travel Insurance should be purchased at time of paying your Non- Refundable $400 Tour Deposit/person.

The Caucasus & Eastern Turkey

Our  thoughts and prayers are with the people of Eastern Turkey & Syria who have lost their homes and families.  We look forward to supporting this region through tourism in the near future.  We have tentatively re-scheduled this tour for the spring of 2025

Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia ( Caucasus) AND Eastern Turkey ( 23 Days)


it is also possible to take this tour in sections:
The Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia & Georgia) Only: May 1st – 14th 2024 (14 Days)

Eastern Turkey Only: May 13th – 23rd 2024 (11 Days)


lLmited to 16 people + Norman & Julie Bruce

(updated Feb 25 2023) Please let us know if you  are interested to join us and we shall send the full itinerary as soon as it is available.

BC reg 3379


What we liked most about this tour [was] it’s diversity – we saw a good cross-section of the Cuban way of life combined with its history. We also liked the fact that it was well planned with enough free time.

P.W. – Kelowna to Cuba