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Journey through the hidden gems of southeastern Turkey, uncovering the beauty of this picturesque region as you learn its rich history. Explore ancient churches, museums, and archeological sites, and finish your tour with the most spectacular sunsets.
Hatay / Kahta
Antakya (Hatay, Antioch), Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Mt. Nemrut
As you explore southeastern Turkey, you will learn a lot about the region’s history, coupled with some stunning sights along the way. The museums and archeological sites give you incredible insight into the region’s ancient Byzantine and Ottoman occupiers while displaying mind-blowing treasures left behind from this golden age.
Like it has been here forever…
Arrive at the Hatay Airport in Antakya. Private transfer to your hotel and overnight in Antakya.
Officially start your tour of southeastern Turkey by exploring some of the historical treasures in Antakya. First off will be the St. Pierre Church, constructed in a cave where it is believed that St. Pierre first preached and was in use till the early 20th century. Today, the church serves as a museum vital to Christianity’s history in the region and displays some floor mosaics and traces of frescoes dating back to the 4th century.
From the church, your guide will lead you to the Hatay Archeological Museum, home to the finest collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics in the world. These stunning mosaics date back to between the 1st and the 5th century and are still intact. The most impressive pieces include Oceanus & Thetis, the Buffet Mosaic, Narcissus & Echo, Drunken Dionysus, Thalassa & the Nude Fishermen.
Proceed to the Seleucia ruins to glimpse the architectural marvel that is the 1st-century Vespasian & Titus tunnel. It was constructed to counter the threat of flooding posed by a stream flowing through the town. About 100m from the 1380m-long channel is the Besik Magarasi (Cradle Cave), where you will see 100 Roman rock tombs.
Overnight at Antakya | Meals: B, L
Early morning drive to Gaziantep and private transfer to your hotel. In the afternoon, you will explore the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, the world’s largest mosaic museum (30,000 square meters). Inside, the museum displays 2000-year-old mosaics from the ancient city of Zeugma. Famed for their unique design and colors matched to perfections, these stunning works of art attract thousands of tourists to the museum.
The museum has 1450 square meters of mosaics, which will soon be 2500 square meters when the additional restoration is completed. The most famous pieces include Gypsy Girl mosaic, Akratos, Euphrates, Fertility Goddess Demeter, and so many more. There are also some Roman fountains, columns, a bronze statue, sarcophagi, limestone sculptures, and 140 square meters of frescoes in the museum.
Next will be the historical bazaar of Gaziantep, where you can shop for quality local handicraft works.
Overnight at Gaziantep | Meals: B, L
Take a morning ride to Sanliurfa and explore the Sanliurfa Archeological Museum. Covering an impressive 34,000 square meters, it is one of Turkey’s most prominent museums with a library, market, restaurant, and even a playground for kids. Overall, it is one of the best places to explore the history of southeastern Turkey.
The museum displays the region’s history and cultural heritage across three levels, using an impressive artifact collection from as far back as the Neolithic era to the more recent Ottoman era. Spend some time marveling at the remarkable mosaics, sculptures, clothes, doors, tools, and even bronze and silver jewelry. However, the museum’s most significant artifact is a life-size human sculpture, 9500 years old.
From there, proceed to an archeological site in Gobeklitepe, home to a ritual complex dating back to 10.000 BCE in the Neolithic era. This is the oldest known religious site in the world and is believed to be the first place of worship in history. It contains a complex of circular buildings with megalithic T-shaped pillars.
Overnight at Sanliurfa | Meals: B, L
Drive to Kahta and visit the grand Ataturk Dam. It was completed in 1990 after seven years of construction and is the largest of all dams and hydroelectric power stations on the Tigris and Euphrates. The dam measures an impressive 1820 meters in length and 184 meters in height, making it the 5th largest in the world. Coupled with the sea-like reservoir (817 square kilometers) sitting behind the structure, Ataturk Dam is a dramatic sight that is worth your time.
After exploring the gigantic dam, proceed to Mt. Nemrut for a sunset tour of the area. With delicate constructions from the Hellenistic period, the UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts spectacular beauty and rich history. Explore the Karakus Tumulus, a royal memorial in honor of the mother and sister of King Mithridates II, and the idyllic Cendere Bridge (2nd century CE) built by the Romans.
Head over to the ruins of Arsemia (Old Castle) and its fortresses before exploring the historic 2nd century BCE Kahta Castle. In the evening, prepare for the crown highlight of the tour- a view of the sunset from the majestic Mt. Nemrut. Hike to a summit full of colossal statues of Greek and Persian gods at the fascinating mausoleum of Antiochus I, where you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the sunset.
Overnight at Adiyaman or Kahta | Meals: B, L
Private transfer to Kahta airport and departure for flight to Istanbul or next destination. We can combine this tour with other hidden gems of beautiful Turkey.
Southeastern Turkey is perfectly safe to travel to and just like many other destinations.