Spectacularly diversified in its landscape, Turkey is also abundant in its archeological wealth. Historically, civilizations succeeded civilizations, all attracted by the natural riches of the country. To name a few, the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottoman Turks all left their invaluable vestiges intertwined. Warriors, adventurers, merchants, travelers and migrants alike were constantly attracted by these extraordinary civilizations and it is to this Cradle of Civilisation, this country of magnificent historic treasures, that Somerset Tours & Travel invite you to join them on a 22 day fully escorted tour in June 2006.

Departing from Johannesburg on 30 May and traveling via Cairo, the tour commences in the Imperial City of Istanbul, the only city in the world to be built astride two continents.

From Istanbul the tour flies to Ankara in Central Anatolia and travels by coach to Cappadocia for two nights. This is a most fascinating place to visit and there is much to interest the traveler. Here, places such as Zelve, Goreme, Kaymakli and Urgup will be visited seeing troglodyte towns built into cliffs, underground cities, monasteries and chapels covered in frescoes dating back to the Byzantine and Seljuk periods.

En route to Adana for a night, the group will visit Tarsus, St Paul’s birthplace and continue on to Antakya, formerly Antioch. It is from Antioch that Peter, Paul and Barnabas started their journeys to convert the outside world to Christianity.

Travelling from Antakya to Kahta the massive diversion tunnels built by the Roman Emperors at Seleucia ad Peira and the ancient site of the Commagene kingdom in the Upper Euphrates with its colossal statues of the gods, will be visited.

The village of Harran with its beehive-like dwellings on the road between Kahta and Sanli Urfa has strong biblical links and is said to be the birthplace of the patriach, Abraham.

From Sanli Urfa the group travels on to Mardin, center of an important community of Syrian Orthodox Christians, the so called Jacobites, for two nights. Here, church services are still conducted in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.

The itinerary then travels through northern Mesopotamia towards Van visiting the ancient city of Diyarbakir built on the banks of the Tigris River. The kingdom of Urartu, known as Ararat, flourished from the 13th to the 7th centuries BC and its capital, Tushpa, was near present-day Van. Few mountains west of the Himalayas have as compelling a hold on western imagination as Mount Ararat purported resting place of the Noah’s Ark. Based in Van for 2 nights we will explore this compelling region before heading for Dogu Beyazit.

A night will be spent in each of Kars and Erzurum discovering the historical monuments of the Byzantine, Seljuki, Ottoman and Roman Empires.

Trabzon, on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, founded in the 8th century BC, was one of the most prominent active Byzantine Christian worship centers in Turkey. In Macka we will visit the Sumela monastery which is built clinging to the almost perpendicular cliff some 273m above the Altindere Valley.

At the end of the tour, four nights will be spent in glorious Istanbul and a full programme of sightseeing has been arranged. Istanbul has so many wonderful mosques, palaces, museums and other places of great interest. Our stay in Istanbul also includes a cruise on the Bosphorus and visits to the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market

On our return to Johannesburg, two nights will be spent in Cairo visiting the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum and the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. There is also an optional excursion to the Son et Lumiere Show and Cairo’s Famous Seafood Restaurant.