Eastern Turkey is the focus of a spring itinerary

The Toronto Star
November 6, 2004 Saturday

Eastern Turkey is the focus of a spring itinerary

by Catherine George, Toronto Star

There is a well-trodden tourist path through the ancient towns and
cities of western Turkey, but eastern Turkey is relatively
undeveloped as far as tourism goes, obviously because the eastern
region of the country is closer to the conflicts of the Middle East.

Also, eastern Turkey isn’t developed enough to handle mass tourism –
hotels and restaurants are small and unable to accommodate the larger
groups that many tour operators cater to.

However, it is possible to join a group of 10 people on a 24-day
spring tour from Ankara, themed “Ancient Kingdoms.” Departure is May
26 and land cost is $6,000 per person, double, including 23 nights
accommodation, most meals, transportation by coach and ferry,
entrance fees and tolls. Airfare to Ankara costs extra. An extension
in Istanbul can be arranged.

Sightseeing in Ankara includes a visit to the mausoleum of Ataturk,
founder of modern Turkey and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
plus an optional tour to Gordion (700 BCE), the city of Midas. Next,
the Hittite capital of Hattusas and the old Ottoman town of Amasya on
the Yesilirmak River.

Day five includes a drive along the Black Sea coast to the legendary
city of Trabzon and village of Macka for an overnight stop.

Excursions take in Sumela Monastery, a major religious centre of the
Byzantines; the frescoes of Aya Sofia; Rize, tea capital of Turkey;
Aydir, famous for its hot springs.

Then it’s south through the mountains to Erzurum with its mosques and
monuments of the Selcuk Turks; the frontier town of Kars; the ruins
of Ani, ancient capital of Armenia, destroyed by the Mongols. The
tour continues along the eastern border of Turkey and Iran, around
Mount Ararat, site of Noah’s Ark.

Mid-journey, you arrive at the city of Van for a two-night stay where
you explore the Castle of Van, with its Urarturian tombs, and the
ancient city of Cavustepe (1000 BCE); the medieval Kurdish Castle of
Hosap with free time to explore the markets and bazaars of the major
carpet centre.

The next portion of the tour takes in the holy island of Akdamar, a
major Armenian religious centre; the valley of the Tigris River and
the ancient city of Diyarbakir, its walls built by Constantine; the
desert city of Mardin with its 5th-century monastery; the town of
Sanli Urfa in Mesopotamia, birthplace of Abraham; the Biblical city
of Harran near the Syrian border, one of the oldest settlements in
the world.

The final part of the tour takes you north to the Euphrates River and
the monuments at Nemut Dag, the modern city of Gaziantep, and Antioch
(Antakya), with its museum and the cave church of St. Peter, the
place where the term “Christian” was first coined. Participants then
continue to Adana, via the Hittite ruin of Karatepe, to catch a
flight to Istanbul with a day to explore the city known as “Gateway
to the East.”

The tour is being run by The Ald Partnership, 805 – 188 Spadina Ave.,
Toronto, Ont. M5T 3A4. Call 416-703-8800, e-mail aldpar @
sympatico.ca. You can also book with Toronto-based Clarke-Way Travel
at 416-364-0903, extension 299, or toll-free 1-800-282-1905. E-mail
Gloria @ cwtclarkeway.com.

GALAPAGOS 2005: The wildlife in the Galapagos islands off Ecuador,
the islands that Charles Darwin made famous, are the focus of a tour
May 5-22 next year. It also includes visits to the Ecuadorian
capital, Quito, the Andes region and the Ecuadorian Amazon. Cost is
$4,980 per person, double, including return airfare.

Another tour is being arranged to Machu Picchu June 8-23. It costs
$4,890 for each of two and includes sightseeing in Lima and Cuzco.

Information: 905-887-5055 or e-mail alohah @ idirect.com. Bookings:
Main Street Travel & Cruises, 43 Main St. N., Markham, Ont., phone

HOGWART’S EXPRESS: Alnwick Castle and Gardens, the magical castle of
Harry Potter fame and filming sites from both The Sorcerer’s Stone
and The Chamber of Secrets are among the highlights of a new Rail
Europe one-day unescorted tour.

The rail trip, from King’s Cross Station in London, to Alnmouth takes
just over an hour.

Alnwick Castle, the setting for the films based on J.K. Rowling’s
novels is a rebuilt Norman castle set in a rose and ornamental
garden. Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Mary Queen of Scots were
also filmed at the site.

Tours are offered at 8: 30 a.m. daily, except Sundays, now through
Dec. 31. It includes roundtrip rail fare, bus transfer from Alnmouth
rail station to Alnwick Castle and the film site.

Prices are for first and standard class and start at $206 for adults,
$103 for children aged 5-15, under 5 go free. Reservations are
required at least 24 hours prior to departure.

Contact travel agents or Rail Europe at 1-800-361-7245 or log on to

Catherine George is the Star’s associate travel editor. cgeorge @


GRAPHIC: Catherine George photo The mausoleum of Ataturk, founder of
modern Turkey, in Ankara, is among the first monuments visited on a
tour that includes the seldom-visited region of eastern Turkey.