On The Platinum list: 70 indulgent reasons to travel in 2014 – The Australian Financial Review’s Sophisticated Traveller
“Walking and Exploring Cappadocia and the Land of the Hittites”, combines two of the country’s most enchanting and historically significant regions with Turkey’s modern capital, Ankara. All three lie within the great Central Anatolian Plateau that defines the heart of Asia Minor today as it has done since time immemorial.
Due to its geographic position between seas and continents, Central Anatolia has served as a cultural bridge of immense importance from prehistory to the present, a point of movement and contact, conflict and amalgamation. The number of peoples and cultures that have passed through, settled and interacted here is beyond count, they range from Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and the first farmers of the Neolithic, via the fascinating Bronze Age civilization of the Hittites, the Phrygians, Persians and Romans of antiquity, to the Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottomans, Greeks and Turks. Each of them has left its own distinctive mark on the remarkably diverse history of Central Anatolia.
That fascinating diversity, reflected by landscapes and settlements, is especially tangible in the form of a great wealth of archaeological and historical sites. Ankara, the Hittite heartlands and Cappadocia form a triangle that is not vast, but they are extraordinarily different, each offering a unique and unforgettable experience.
The tour begins at Ankara, where it takes in the city’s important Roman and medieval remains and the vast collection of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, one of the world’s most important treasuries of prehistoric art. The journey then leads you to discover the Land of the Hittites, their citadels, shrines and cities, gaining a deep insight into the complex culture that arose from this country, but also veering off the beaten track to walk and explore many hidden paths through history.
In Cappadocia, you will admire an awe-inspiring geological wonderland of fantastic rock formations endlessly varied in shape and colour, formed over many millennia by volcanic activity and subsequent erosion. Walking through some of the region’s most beautiful valleys and canyons, you will also explore its unique cultural heritage, with countless man-made structures cut into the cliffs and rocks, from simple chambers and dovecotes, to elaborate chapels, entire monasteries and the famous and mysterious Underground Cities. Due to its many painted rock-cut churches, Cappadocia is a veritable treasury of Byzantine Art, which developed and thrived here for over 500 years and provides us with many fascinating details and stories.
With famed highlights like Hattusha, the enormous fortified Hittite Capital, and Göreme Open Air Museum, the very heart of Cappadocia, both UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites, this tour leads you to an intense and memorable encounter with a great and ancient city and with two famous regions, renowned for their history, archaeology and landscape.
Led by an expert archaeologist who is eager to share her knowledge of and vivid enthusiasm for the region and its heritage, this tour explores the long and complex history of Turkey’s capital, Ankara, the ancient Hittite empire of Bronze Age Anatolia, and the vibrant art of Byzantine Cappadocia. On top of all this, you’ll discover off the beaten track historical gems, mostly on foot, and savour some of the finest regional foods and wines.
Day 1: Arrival in Ankara. Transfer from airport, about 30 minutes away and a warm welcome at our lovely hotel, a beautifully restored Ottoman caravanserai.
Day 2: We visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. You’ll see some of Turkey’s finest ancient treasures, including exhibits from several of the sites we’ll be exploring during the tour. On to the temple of Augustus, the very first Roman Emperor. At the end of the day we watch the sun set over Turkey’s capital from its historic castle.
Day 3: East to the heartland of the Hittite kingdom and our hotel in Bogazcale, the modern village of Hattusha. We take our first walk on the Hittite Trail and visit Alaca Höyük, one of Turkey’s key prehistoric archaeological sites, a fortified citadel with royal tombs where a wealth of finds including jewellery, weapons and ritual objects were discovered dating back to the Bronze Age.
Day 4: We head out for a walk across the plains and rolling hills of central Anatolia. Today you’ll explore two of the most fascinating and important sites of the Hittites. At Hattusha, the capital, you’ll stroll through the celebrated Lion Gate and see the city’s ramparts, palaces and temples. A sacred way led to the Yazilkaya Sanctuary, where you can still see the chief gods and goddesses of the Hittites carved into the rock.
Day 5: South to Cappadocia and our lovely hotel in the old town of Uçhisar. A gentle afternoon for you to relax or explore before we climb to a local highpoint for a grand vista.
Day 6: We begin our exploration of Cappadocia with a walk through the unbelievably picturesque Red Valley with its colourful rock formations and impressive fairy chimneys. We stop by Çavuşin village to visit its richly frescoed church and later at a private wine tasting you’ll enjoy some of the region’s finest wines as the sun sets over the magnificent landscape.
Day 7: We walk through the delightful Gomeda Valley, crisscrossing the stream on small bridges, passing rock-cut dwellings, cave churches and the old village of Gomeda itself. You’ll then discover the excavations of Roman and Byzantine Sobessos and the rock cut Keslik Monastery with its beautiful frescoes and enormous dining hall.
Day 8: We visit the mysterious underground city of Kaymaklı and explore its tunnels, shafts, rooms, storage spaces and church. Next, we walk through the lush Ihlara Canyon, admiring its pure river, painted churches and lovely scenery. In the early evening, you’ll see dervishes whirling in a medieval caravanserai.
Day 9: A morning walk in pretty Pigeon Valley with its many rock-cut dovecotes, still inhabited by the descendants of the birds brought here centuries ago. In the late afternoon, you’ll discover the most famous site of Cappadocia, the Göreme Open Air Museum, a vast complex of painted cave monasteries. The 11th century frescoes in Karanlık Kilise (Dark Church) are among the finest examples of Byzantine art.
Day 10: Transfer to Nevşehir airport about 40 minutes away.