Walking Tour in Cappadocia, Eastern Turkey and the black sea
Three million years ago violent eruptions of Mount Erciyes (3,916m) and Mount Hasan (3,300m) covered the surrounding plateau of Cappadocia with tuff, a soft stone comprised of lava, ash and mud. The wind and rain have eroded this brittle rock and created a surrealist landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines, in colours that range from warm reds and golds to cool greens and greys.
Goreme is one of those rare regions in the world where the works of man blend into the natural surroundings.
During Byzantine times chapels and monasteries were hollowed out of the rock, their ochre-toned frescoes reflecting the hues of the surrounding landscape. Even today troglodyte dwellings in rock cones and village houses of volcanic tufa merge harmoniously into the landscape. Cappadocia is also a natural wonder and a unique area in the world, loaded with history.
We trek, exploring the surreal landforms of the Goreme valleys and enjoy the colourful blaze. Following ancient pathways, we visit the strange rock cut churches and monasteries carved from the soft volcanic tuff.
We continue to South-eastern Anatolia, which is rich in history and cultural heritage with many magnificent historical sites, dating back to 7,000 BC. Mount Nemrut is an impressive peak rising from a flat plain in Northern Mesopotamia and stretches to a height of 2150 metres. It is unrivalled in its historical treasures and the gigantic statues. The toppled heads of Apollo, Zeus and Hercules are just amazing.
We continue eastward to Sanliurfa, the birthplace of Abraham and once an important post on the ancient trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean coast. Today it hosts one of the best bazaars in Turkey. Our trail takes us through Harran, famous for the unusual and fanciful beehive-shaped houses and to Mardin, one of the oldest cities in Mesopotamia and well known for its delicious food.
Van is one of the most important cities of the old Vaspurakan region and located on the east coast of Lake Van. It is the largest lake in Turkey at an altitude of 1,720 metres and ringed by beautiful mountains. Here we also visit the island of Akdamar, just half an hour from the shore with a church from 921.
Dramatic Doğubayazıt, set on a stark treeless plain between ranges of craggy mountains, is the last Turkish town on the highway to Iran, just 35kms to the border. From the striking 18th century Ishak Pasha Palace we gaze upon legendary Mount Ararat (5137metres). According to the Bible it was in the Ararat Mountains where Noah's ark landed.
We journey on to Kars, famous for its cheese and goose meat. South-east towards the border with Armenia we visit the fascinating old site of Ani. Once a wealthy rival of Kars, it is now a ghost town. Ani lies close to a great ravine which demarcates the border. The ruined 1000-year-old churches contain remarkable wall paintings and sculptured decorations.
We drive east towards the Black Sea Mountains and walk in the Lake Cildir region. This huge and glorious lake is curiously unknown to tourists. The landscape reminds us of some remote Scottish lochs, and it is an intensely arable area. We walk on the plateaus of Artvin und Savsat, an attractive hilly area, surrounded by high mountains on all sides, including the 3,537 metres Karçkal Mountains to the west, watered by many mountain streams and pools. They are an extension of the Caucasus and separate the Black Sea from Anatolia.
The weather in Artvin is very wet, and the forest is every shade of green imaginable. This greenery runs from the top all the way down to the Black Sea coast where we finish our tour in Trabzon.
Our Hotels and Cuisine
Set in a landscape of fairy chimneys, the next 3 nights we stay in a unique cave hotel, which is carved into a mountain cliff. Situated in the heart of town, it has luxurious cave rooms. Located at the foot of the Ortahisar Castle, whose natural beauty has been preserved over time, traditional culture remains a way of life.
In Eastern Turkey we stay in "the best of both worlds" - the dramatic mountain scenery of Mount Nemrut and the Kaçkar Mountains or in charming lake side settings on the shores of Lake Van and Lake Çıldır. Here we have chosen a variety of beautiful hotels, full of ambience and history.
The Turkish cuisine is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. While influencing plenty of other cuisines in the countries the Ottoman Empire formerly occupied, the Turkish cuisine reflects the country's history. The varied climate allows for almost everything to be grown within the country.
Contrary to what you might have experienced, Turkish cuisine is not spicy, except for the Southern part of the country, which has a strong Middle Eastern influence. Lamb used to be the most important meat eaten, but now it's too expensive. The eggplant remains the most popular vegetable, enjoyed in various forms.
Turks don't eat pork, because of their religion. But we find beef, lamb, fish and poultry in a lot of dishes, although the vegetarian specialties are incredible! There are also many excellent local wines.
The cuisine of the Black Sea region uses fish extensively, especially the local anchovy.
Departure dates have been arranged to allow both, the "Treasures of Cappadocia and Eastern Turkey" and the "Mediterranean Odyssey" walks to be combined.
At long last I stepped inside the pages of my ancient history books to explore sites created and/or conquered by the Hittites, ancient Greeks, Persians, Romans and Ottomans. Glorious walks, some by the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas and through the unique Cappadocian landscape kept us well away from the hordes on board tourist buses and offered a variety of panoramic and scenic views. From cooking lessons in a village kitchen to sharing morning tea with our guide's family we sampled local hospitality as well as outstanding restaurants, simple local fare and different types of accommodation. A terrific itinerary delivered by guide Fatih and driver Umit for our little tour group of three. It was everything I had hoped for." Helen from Adelaide SA, Australia 
We have returned home to a very wet start to winter after nearly three weeks of warm and dry weather in Turkey. Both of us enjoyed the experience very much, but especially Kay who found the stay better than she could have imagined. Fatih was a genial and considerate guide with an encyclopedic knowledge of the places we visited. Both he and Umit were excellent company, as was our companion Helen. We feel that if Turkey is to be continued and expanded by WGA, then to have Fatih at the city promotions would give the country a big boost. It is really a very comfortable country to visit and suffers in Australia through ignorance of most Australians." Graeme & Kay from Melbourne VIC, Australia 
An excellent itinerary and interesting hotels. Fatih grew in stature as a guide during the tour and was excellent company along with our accomplished driver. Turkey is an interesting country to visit and walk in. There was no sense of security threat and I venture to suggest that going to Brazil would be a lot riskier." Jeff from Sydney, NSW, Australia 
What a great trip! It was loaded with history and beautiful scenery. A great start was the afternoon at Gallipoli, in particular setting the context of Australians in Turkey with the moving quote from Attaturk. Our wonderful guide Fatih took us to wonderful places of ancient, Greek and Roman history as well as places of 20th century significance. The walks were beautiful and the food and accommodation was extremely good. Fatih and our driver Ozkan made the trip particularly special. Fatih's commentary on Turkish history, current affairs and each locality were terrific. Meeting Fatih's family was a bonus, and typical of Turkish hospitality and generosity. Highly recommended!" Julie from Wollongong, NSW, Australia 
This trip covered a huge range of experiences - Istanbul (fantastic) / Gallipoli / splendid historical ruins / great geographical sights / reasonable to good food & wine / some good challenging walks & nature experiences. The accommodation was of good to very acceptable standard right throughout. The Turkish bus driver and guide were both fantastic and could not have been more helpful, they made the trip very relaxed for all guests. The midsized bus (~30 seats) was very ample for the number of people on board; air conditioning was very welcome as was the always available water. There were some great 'add-ons' - e.g. rural cooking class, boat trips, Istanbul 'must sees'. And the vast majority of the Roman ruins were particularly spectacular, especially Ephesus & Aphrodisiac. But not Troy. I anticipate this tour will be further fine-tuned and future versions will be improved even further. I am already recommending this tour to others now that I have returned home." Denis, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 
The warmth and friendliness of the Turkish people everywhere made this such a memorable walk. Knowledgeable guides, cooks providing hands on help, head-scarfed farmer's wives scurrying across the fields to sell us their handicrafts, gifts of home-made marmalade and even the iman's ever present calls to prayer were all welcomed as part of the enriching blend of rural Antolian culture. Dramatic olive covered rocky crags, intensively farmed fertile valleys, turquoise coloured seas with marble ruins everywhere, show how long these parts of Turkey have been settled by wealthy civilizations that have shaped both European and Western Asian history." Euan, Adelaide, SA, Australia