Photo Explorer Tours 2014
Founded 1981


Eastern Turkey Explorer
Led by Mehmet Ozbalci of Fantastic Photo Tours
September 3 - 17, 2014

Featuring Istanbul, Trabzon, Erzurum, Uzungol, Erzurum, Kars, Ani, Lake Van, Mounts Ararat and Nemrut, Mardin, Harran, and Sanliurfa.

(NOTE: This tour can also be booked on other dates by self-organized groups in our Custom Tours for Photo Explorers program
with price based on size of the group and depending upon the availability of our photo guide.)

All photos above and below © Dennis Cox / Photo Explorer Tours

Western Turkey has been a favorite destination for Photo Explorer Tours since 1976. In 2008 we first turned our attention to Turkey's vast Far East, to the scenic Black Sea coast and to the beautiful plains, deserts, and black mountains of the southeast for this adventurous new itinerary. Ancient mosques, medieval ruins and citadels, gloriously sited fortresses, beehive houses and biblical sites, and a blend of Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish and other photogenic peoples are just a few of the myriad photo opportunities that await to be explored on this second Eastern Turkey photography tour.

PRICE FOR THIS TOUR is $4895* which will include all ground transportation in Turkey in comfortable air-conditioned van, airport transfers, two domestic flights, lodging (4-5 star or charming boutique hotels carefully selected for their location, view, charm and atmosphere), breakfast and dinner daily, all admission fees and boat ride on Lake Van, and the services of an outstanding English-speaking photo guide who will facilitate the special requirements of a photographic group completely. Information on international air for this tour, which is not included in the tour price, is available through Photo Explorer Tours. Additional days in Istanbul or other tour extensions may be arranged upon request. (* Single room supplement is $1025.) PRICES DO NOT INCLUDE: International air fare, lunches, drinks, visa fee upon arrival, tips to bell boys at hotels, gratuities to the guide and the driver, and personal travel insurance.

Eastern Turkey Explorer Tour Itinerary

SEPTEMBER 3, ISTANBUL Arrival in Istanbul and transfer to the hotel. Orientation tour ofs ights around the hotel and photography of the Byzantine Hippodrome and the Blue Mosque.

SEPTEMBER 4, ISTANBUL Early morning departure to photograph the skyline and boats along the Golden Horn and from the Galata Bridge before a visit to the Spice Market and the New Mosque. Then photograph the Underground Basilica Cistern. In the afternoon, visit and photograph the Aya Sofya Museum and the Topkapi Palace.

SEPTEMBER 5, UZUNGOL /TRABZON Transfer to the airport and fly to Trabzon which is the major town along the Black sea. Drive to Macka and photograph the Monastery of Holy Mary known as Sumela Monastery located at 1200 meters above sea level. The monastery was built in the Karadaglar Mountains in the 14th century. Drive back to Trabzon to visit the other church of Aya Sofya, a 13th century Byzantine church with beautiful frescos. In the afternoon, drive to Uzungol which is a small mountain village located in the Little Caucasus Mountains. Along the way, photograph the tea plantations with people picking tea leaves.

SEPTEMBER 6, ERZURUM In Uzungol, photograph the quaint mosque of the village with its reflexion over the mountain lake then drive to Erzurum via scenic mountains.

SEPTEMBER 7, KARS In Erzurum, photograph the Yakutiye Medrese and Cifte Minare Medrese built in the 13th century as Koranic schools, then drive to Kars. In theafternoon, we will photograph the old part of the city and its castle.

SEPTEMBER 8, DOGUBEYAZIT In the morning, drive to the ruins of the old Armenian city of Anilocated right on the border between Turkey and Armenia, where we will photograph the Armenian churches with their interesting architecture. In the afternoon, drive to Dogubeyazit near Mount Ararat. In Dogubeyazit, photograph not only the famous Mount Ararat but also the impressive Ishak Pasa Palace from the 18th century.

Mount Ararat, left,

Ishak Pasa Palace, right.

SEPTEMBER 9, VAN In the morning, we will go back to the Ishak Pasha Palace to photograph it, this time, in the morning light and also we will see the reputed site of Noah's Ark. In the afternoon, drive to Van with a stop at at Muradiye waterfalls and also make a short stop at the Van University where the famous Van cats with one blue eye one green eye reside. The cats are under protection in the farm of the university. In the late afternoon, we will photograph Van Castle, which is an old Urartian settlement from the 8th century BC.

SEPTEMBER 10, VAN In the morning drive to Hosap where we will photograph the 18th century Hosap Castle. In the afternoon, a boat ride to the Akdamar Island to photograph the famous Armenian Church which is unique for its reliefs.

SEPTEMBER 11, MARDIN Drive to Mardin with a short stop to take pictures in Hasankeyf with its old cave dwellings and an impressive castle near the River Tigris. Unfortunately this beautiful site will in the future be inundated by the reservoir of a dam which will soon be built on the Tigris. Drive to Mardin through the legendary Mesopotamian Plain.

SEPTEMBER 12, MARDIN The old part of Mardin is like an open air museum and offers a bounty of photo ops in its narrow streets and around its old stone houses. In the morning, visit the 4th century Syrian Orthodox Christian Monastery of Dayrulzefaran, which is still in activity and photograph the old bazaar area's people and vendors in its medieval like setting. In the afternoon, we will photograph the 13th century Zinciriye Medrese and the head stones in an old graveyard with a beautiful scene of the city in the background.

SEPTEMBER 13, SANLIURFA Drive to Sanliurfa, known as the city of prophets, as Abraham was born here and Job, Jethro, and Moses lived here. On the way to Sanliurfa, stop at Gobeklitepe, the greatest discovery for the archaeological world that goes back to 10.000 BC. The discovery of this site has changed everything known about the history of mankind. In Sanliurfa, first photograph the old bazaar with people playing chess and dominoes, and copper craftsmen, saddle makers etc., then we will visit the cave where Abraham was born, a holy place and great site to photograph the people, followed by Abraham's pond with its holy carp. The hotel here is a 4 star air conditioned first class hotel located in the old city.

SEPTEMBER 14, ADIYAMAN Early departure to Harran, old Canaan, to photograph the ruins of the oldest mosque in Anatolia and the ant hill like mud brick domed houses of Harran. In the afternoon, drive to Adiyaman and along the way stop at the Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates, 6th largest earthen dam in the world. A stop will also be made at the bridge on the Euphrates to photograph this historic holy river.

SEPTEMBER 15, ADIYAMAN Leave the hotel at 2:00 am and drive to Mount Nemrut to begin a hike of about half hour to get to the mountain top for a beautiful sunrise and to photograph the giant statue heads in the open air temple built in the 1st century BC by King Antiochus of Commagene. Breakfast will be in a mountain cafe and on the way back stop to photograph some of the great landscapes of mountains and villages. We take the afternoon to rest.

SEPTEMBER 16, ISTANBUL Flight back to Istanbul from Adiyaman area and transfer to the hotel. Farewell dinner in a lively fish restaurant.

SEPTEMBER 17, ISTANBUL Transfer to the airport for flights home.

This tour will begin and end with some of the best photo opportunities in Istanbul.

The Eastern Turkey Explorer Tour will be guided by the exceptional English-speaking guide Mehmet Ozbalci who is expert in Turkey's culture and history as well as a photo guide who is thoroughly knowledgeable about the best times and places to photograph.

What former tour members say about Turkey and guide Mehmet.....

RE: 2013 Western Turkey Tour ...I wanted to tell you that the tour was first class all the way. Much better than I expected. Mehmet was the best guide we could have asked for. He was very organized, personable, and extremely knowledgeable. There was not a question that we threw at him that stumped him - from the flora and fauna, the history, religion (both Islam and Christianity), local culture and photography. His photography tips were outstanding, much better than professional photographers that we have had on other tours. He always had our best interest in mind and steered us away from crowds, tour buses and bad weather. The hotels were outstanding, the food was great and Mehmet took us to local restaurants, not tourist traps, and fed us local specialties. He is a true treasure.

Bobbie Elder, Orono MN

I am delighted to tell you about OUR trip to Turkey. It was fabulous!!! Mehmet, the guide was terrific, knew all the places to go, times of day for the best light, etc. He is charming, funny and very personable--made it very easy for us to meet and photograph the locals. He is an excellent photographer himself and quite capable of giving you a great photo trip.

In one village, we noticed smoke from a chimney so he knocked on the door, spoke with the owner and we were invited in to see and photograph her baking bread which we also sampled. We spent time in the smaller markets and villages as well as Istanbul and all it has to offer. The hotel had great views, very nice accommodations, great food -- I especially recommend the dish known as Imam Biyildi with that wonderful Turkish yogurt.

This is one of our favorite trips ever.... Dennis Cox has designed this tour with Mehmet and it equals or exceeds any of the other six trips we've taken with Photo Explorer Tours.

Mary Bert Wolf, Louisville KY

 .....the trip and Mehmet were both terrific. I was amazed at the wonderful friendly people the Turks are. The concerns about being a single woman in a Muslim country were absolutely uncalled for. Even off walking on my own they could not have been more helpful. I loved the hotel in Antalya with its delightful patio dining and great location and also the one in the village of Yesilyurt. What a lovely place and what wonderful food. Mehmet took us to such interesting off the beaten path places such as Eyup on a Sunday in Istanbul. I got wonderful photos there and so many other places and villages with great color and wonderful people. One of the prettiest places I think was Aphrodesias. And of course I got one of my favorite shots there. I came to love the sound of the call to prayer and really miss it. It is so peaceful.

Carol Maillet, Laguna Niguel CA

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May all your journeys be care free,

And may all your days be filled with wonder. 

NOTICE: The photographs on this website are legally protected by United States and international copyright laws and may NOT be used for reproduction in any manner without the explicit authorization of Dennis Cox.