Around Black Sea: North Turkey and Georgia Black Sea Coast Tour

About Tour

1 st Day

Arrival in Istanbul

May 12 st , 2020

Included highlights:

Arrival in Istanbul

Included meals:

No included meals

2 nd Day

Discover Istanbul

May 13 nd , 2020

Included highlights:

Istanbul - Day to visit: 

  • Hagia Sophia (one of the historical architectural wonders that still remains standing today is the biggest church constructed by the East Roman Empire in 526)
  • Topkapi Palace (UNESCO) was not only the residence of the Ottoman sultans, but also the administrative and educational centre of the state. 
  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque due to the because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design)
  • The Basilica Cistern (UNESCO), one of Istanbul’s splendid historical buildings ,
  • Grand Bazar constructed under the command of Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Mehmed the Conqueror), is a historical shopping arcade surrounded by shops covered with roofs and domes. Overnight in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia (/ˈhɑːɡiə soʊˈfiːə/; from the Greek `Αγία Σοφία, pronounced [haˈʝia soˈfia], “Holy Wisdom”; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya) is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. Built in AD 360 at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it was famous in particular for its massive dome. It was the world’s largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture”. 

The Topkapı Palace (Turkish: Topkapı Sarayı or in Ottoman Turkish:  upaḳpoṬ ,‎ىيارس وپقپوط Sarāyı), or the Seraglio, is a large museum in Istanbul, Turkey. In the 15th century, it served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. Construction began in 1459, ordered by Mehmed the Conqueror, six years after the conquest of Constantinople. Topkapı was originally called the “New Palace” to distinguish it from the Old Palace [tr] in Beyazıt Square. It was given the name Topkapı, meaning Cannon Gate, in the 19th century. The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. Female members of the Sultan’s family lived in the harem, and leading state officials, including the Grand vizier, held meetings in the Imperial Council building.

Blue Mosque in Istanbul Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque by many tourists because of its bluish interior decoration, is the most important mosque of Istanbul standing next to the Byzantine Hippodrome in the old city center. It was built by the Ottoman sultan Ahmed I between 1609-1616 facing Hagia Sophia, in order to compete with it. Its architect was Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, a poet and inlayer as well, and a student of the greatest architect Sinan. When Ahmed I died in 1617, he was buried near the mosque and a mausoleum was built over his tomb.

One of the magnificent ancient buildings of İstanbul is the Basilica Cistern located in the southwest of Hagia Sofia. Constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), this big underground water reservoir is called as “Yerebatan Cistern” among the public because of the underground marble columns. As there used to be a basilica in the place of the cistern, it is also called Basilica Cistern.

Medusa Heads: Except couple of the edged and grooved columns of the cistern, majority of them are shaped as a cylinder. Two Medusa heads, which are used as supports under the two columns at the northwest edge of the cistern, are the great work of art from the Roman period. What attracts most attention from the visitors is that the structure from which the Medusa heads have been taken is unknown. The researchers often consider that it has been brought for being used as supports to the column at the time of construction of the cistern.  However, this has not prevented myths for the heads of Medusa.

As the legend has it, Medusa is one of the three Gorgonas that are female monsters in the underground world in Greek mythology.  The snake-head Medusa, one of the three sisters, has the power of gorgonising the ones that happen to look at her. Accordingly, Gorgone paintings and sculptures were being used for protecting big structures and special venues in that time. And putting the head of medusa in the cistern was for protecting purposes. According to another rumour, Medusa was a girl who boasted for her black eyes, long hair and beautiful body. She loved Perseus, the son of Zeus. Athena was also in love with Perseus and this made Medusa jealous. Therefore, Athena converted medusa’s hairs into snakes. Now, everybody that happened to look at Medusa was gorgonised. Afterwards, Perseus headed off medusa and beat many enemies by using her power. Therefore, the head of Medusa was engraved on the handles of the swords in Byzantium, and applied onto supports of the communes in reverse (so that the onlookers would not be gorgonised). According to another rumour, Medusa gorgonised herself by looking sideways. For this reason, the sculptor that made it generated Medusa in three different positions depending on the reflection angles of the light. The Basilica Cistern has been renovated repeatedly until today. It was repaired by the Architect Kayserili Mehmet Ağa during the reign of Ahmad III (M.1723) in the Ottoman Empire, followed by Sultan Abdulhamid II (18761909) in the 19th century. There are 8 columns in front of the northeast wall towards the middle of the cistern, and they were exposed to the risk of breaking during the construction works in 1955-1960, thus each of them were surrounded by a thick layer of cement, so they lost their previous feature though.

 

3 rd Day

Drive To Safranbolu (UNESCO) with stop at Sapanca Lake (410 km)

May 14 rd , 2020

Included highlights:

Lake Sapanca (Turkish: Sapanca Gölü) is a fresh water lake in Turkey, between the Gulf of İzmit and the Adapazarı Meadow. The lake has a catchment area of 251 km², surface area is 45 km², a length 16 km east-west / 5 km north-south, and a maximum depth of 52 m. Sapanca Lake is located on a tectonic hole, which is situated between Izmit Bay and Adapazari Meadow and runs parallel to Iznik Lake.

The catchment area of Lake Sapanca - about 251 km² - is surrounded by mountains in the south and small hills in the north. Water is taken from the Lake for domestic and industrial needs. The region around Sapanca has become a destination for day trips and weekend vacations. 

Overnight in Safranbolu.

 

4 th Day

Safranbolu - Amasra (90 km)

May 15 th , 2020

Included highlights:

  • City tour in Safranbolu. From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East-West trade route. Today the city is famous with the architecture of its houses.
  • Drive to Amasra (90 km).
  • City tour in Amasra: visit old city and walk on the Kemerdere Bridge.
  • Visit popular Cakraz Beach.

The City of Safranbolu is a typical Ottoman city, with typical buildings and streets, and played a key role in the caravan trade over many centuries. From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East-West trade route. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese were built in 1322. During its apogee in the 17th century, Safranbolu’s architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire.

Safranbolu consists of three distinct historic districts; the market place area of the inner city, known as Çukur, the area of Kıranköy, and Bağlar (the Vineyards). Çukur lies in the lower part of the town and has a triangular shape defined by two rivers. Its centre is the market place, surrounded by the houses and workshops of craftsmen. The segregation of the city centre is very typical for Anatolian cities. Kıranköy was formerly a non-Muslim district, with a socio-architectural pattern similar to that in contemporary European towns, with the artisans and tradesmen living above their shops. The houses in this district are built of stone, in contrast to the wooden houses in Çukur, which illustrates how the separation of Muslim and non-Muslim quarters during the Ottoman Period enabled each community to establish settlements according to their own traditions. Amasra is located 17 kilometers north of Bartin province. Amasra, built on the Black Sea shoreline and scattered peaks, where every ton of green comes together, is a charming port city of historical tourism. It is a small intermediate port between Zonguldak province and Cide district of Kastamonu. The vast majority of settlements are concentrated in the city center. Historical houses have created another date with the buildings inside the castle. The number of wooden structures in the city is decreasing day by day. When new buildings are built, necessary licenses are given considering the surrounding archeological and natural site area. The history of Amasra is very ancient. And this increases the importance of old structures even more. With this feature, this city is the city of nostalgia for those who want to live in the full sense of history. History and natural beauties are intertwined. Amasra harbor has been brought to a state where passenger ships and yachts can comfortably stay with the new environmental regulations made in recent years.

Transportation situation, the distance to the center of Bartin province is 17km. Amasra Bartın is 10 nautical miles by sea. Bartın highway and inner areas are connected to the shore by sea. It is possible to find means at any time to go to the desired place. Due to all these historical and natural features, Amasra is an ideal holiday destination and it is a quiet and peaceful holiday destination. Overnight in Amasra.

 

5 th Day

Cakraz Beach - Sinop (300 km)

May 16 th , 2020

Included highlights:

  • Visit popular Cakraz Beach and free time for swimming.
  • In the afternoon drive to Sinop (300 km).
  • Sinop Castle and the historic Sinop prison.

Sinop Fortress - Located direct at the coast of Black Sea on the northwest part of Cape Sinop, the Sinop Fortress was constructed initially in the 7th century BC when the city was re-founded as a Greek colony from the city of Miletus. It was extended and repaired several times in its history by Persians, Kingdom of Pontus, Romans and Byzantines. The fortress took its main form during the reign of Pontus King Mithradates Eupator in 72 BC. Following the capture of the city on October 3, 1214, Izz ad-Din Kaykaus II, sultan of Seljuk Turks of Rûm divided the fortress in two parts by erecting a wall in northsouth direction. The inner fortress of today was formed by adding another wall in the west-east direction. Since then, the inner fortress was used also as shipyard and dungeon. The oldest document that shows the fortress was used as dungeon dates back to 1568.

The walls of the fortress are 18 m high and 3 m wide. There are eleven watchtowers of 22 m height, five of them added during the construction of the inner fortress. Fortress prison - Designed in U-shape, a stonemasonry prison building with 28 halls on two floors was erected in 1887 in the inside of the southern inner fortress. For use by the prisoners, a Turkish bath (Turkish: hamam) with a single dome was built also next to the prison building. İn 1939, an extension building with 9 halls on two floors, architectural conform with the main building, was added for use as juvenile prison. The inner fortress holding the prison facilities covers an area of 10,247 m2.

The prison was considered as a high-security penitentiary with no escape possibility due to its position within a fortress. The top of the walls of the inner fortress served to the patrolling prison guard as walkway. The living conditions at the prison, where it was difficult even to light a match, were very harsh due to the moisture caused by the location of the prison very close to the sea. In the beginning of the 20th century, a rehabilitation program was set up for the prisoners. The inmates were given the opportunity to learn and practice handicraft such as woodworking and jewelry that enabled them to potter and to earn money from the items they produced and sold. The prison was abandoned on December 6, 1997 after the inmates were transferred to a newly built prison in Sinop. Overnight in Sinop.

 

6 th Day

Sinop - Trabzon - Cape Yason – Ordu

May 18 th , 2020

Included highlights:

  • Drive to Trabzon (325 km).
  • On the way stop at Cape Yason and the Jason Church near by Ordu.
  • Visit also Bolaman Castle and Cable Car ride in Ordu.
  • Overnight in Trabzon.

Cape Jason harkens back to ancient times when a temple of Jason stood at the edge of the sea, protecting the sailors of Black Sea’s treacherous waters. A church later replaced the temple with a similar mission. It now sits in total solitude in an overgrown cornfield next to a lighthouse overlooking the roaring waves of the Pontus. Cape Jason Natural and Archeological Sit Area is on the borders of Çaytepe village in Perşembe county, on a small peninsula facing the sea. This area is currently a governmental environmental protection area, classified as second degree. The church still stands here, with the ruins of its garden wall. Parts of these ruins can be found all over the coast of the sea as well. Ancient ports and fish breeding pools can also still be seen today. A church is located on Cape Jason. It was built in 1868 by Georgians and by some Greeks who were living in the region.

Bolaman Castle is located on the scenic highway between the City of Fatsa and the City of Perşembe in the little town of Bolaman. It sits on the rock at a pointed peninsula overlooking the sea. Its construction date is unknown. However, it is believed that the castle was built by the Kingdom of Pontus as a fortress to serve the purpose of a watchtower.

The castle consist of inner and the outer walls made of ashlar. There are watchowers on the outer walls around the courtyard. Inside the castle, there is a chapel in the form of a basilica. In the 18th century, a wooden mansion with two huge bay windows at two ends was built by a native family on the inner castle. Known as the “Kademoğlu Mansion”, this typical Ottoman architectural house is a landmark of Fatsa. After its originally restoration by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2009, the mansion is used as an ethnographic museum and a restaurant for regional cuisine under the name “Haznedaroğlu Mansion”.  

 

7 th Day

Ordu - Sumela Monastery – Ayder

May 19 th , 2020

Included highlights:

  • Visit of the extensive ruins of Sumela Monastery, founded by Greeks in the 4th century, cling improbably to a sheer cliff, high above evergreen forests.
  • Drive to Ayder (160 km) and walk in the Yayla.
  • Overnight in Ayder.

The ruins of Sumela Monastry can be seen on the slopes of the Zigana Mountains to  the south of Trabzon and at the foot of the mountain at the bottom of a wooded valley flows one of the tributaries of Değirmen Creek, which terminates at Trabzon. This place is known as “Meryem Ana”, or “the Virgin Mary” by the local people. Its old name is “Sumela Monastery”. Many people consider its origins to be extremely old, and this opinion is widely held among the Byzantine Greek community of the Black Sea coast. According to legends about the foundation of the monastery in books about Trabzon printed in Greek, the monastery was originally founded in the reign of Theodosius and rebuilt in the sixth century in the reign of Justinian by Belisarios, one of his commanders. However, foreign experts who have conducted on-site investigations consider that there is nothing to substantiate this hypothesis. The Monastery’s main source of income is an icon of the Virgin Mary, which is reputed to be of great age and believed by many to possess miraculous properties. The principal elements of the Monastery complex are the Rock Church, several chapels, kitchens, student rooms, a guesthouse, a library, and a sacred spring revered by Eastern Orthodox Christians. The large aqueduct at the entrance, which supplied water to the Monastery, is constructed against the side of the cliff. The aqueduct has many arches which have mostly been restored. The entrance to the Monastery leads up a long and narrow stairway. There is a guardroom next to the entrance. The stairs lead down from there to the inner courtyard. On the left, in front of a cave, there are several monastery buildings. The cave, which was converted into a church, constitutes the center of the monastery. The library is to the right.

The large building with a balcony on the front part of the cliff was used for the monks’ cells and for housing guests. It dates from 1840. The inner and outer walls of the Rock Church and the walls of the adjacent chapel are decorated with frescoes. Frescoes dating from the era of Alexios III of Trebizond line the inner wall of the Rock Church facing the courtyard. The frescoes of the chapel which were painted on three levels in three different periods are dated to the beginning of the 18th century. The frescoes of the bottom band are of superior quality. The frescoes of the monastery are seriously damaged due to vandalism. The main subject of the frescoes are biblical scenes telling the story of Christ and the Virgin Mary. During the 2015-2017 restoration works, a secret tunnel was discovered which lead to a place which is believed to have served as a temple or chapel for Christians. Also, unseen frescoes were discovered depicting heaven and hell as well as life and death.

Ayder is a yayla (summer resort) in Rize Province, Turkey. (The word yayla may also means Alpine pasture.) Ayder is a typical yayla with no settled population; it hosts visitors during summers. The average altitude is 1,350 metres (4,430 ft). It is a part of Çamlıhemşin district of Rize Province. The distance to Çamlıhemşin is 17 km (11 mi) and to Rize is 88 km (55 mi). Although well known locally, the first mention of Ayder in official papers was in 1871 when the hot springs in Ayder were noted. The temperature of the water is 550C (1310F); however, the most attractive feature of Ayder is its dense forestry and a number of waterfalls nearby. In 1987 the location was declared a tourist center by the government. Ayder is famous for its rhododendron honey, which is produced in beehives hung on trees. It is also famous for its trout, which is farmed in abundance between Ayder and Çamlıhemşin.  

 

8 th Day

Sinop - Hamsilos Beach - Samsun (155 km)

May 17 th , 2020

Included highlights:

Hamsilos Bay (also called Hamsalos) is a Black Sea bay in Sinop Province, Turkey. Hamsilos Bay is to the west of Sinop and to the east of İnceburun Lighthouse. The highway distance to Sinop is 11 kilometres (6.8 mi). It is situated at the west end of Akliman, a long beach which is a popular excursion spot for the Sinop citizens. The width of the bay is about 250 metres (820 ft) facing to east. Hamsilos Bay is popularly called “the only fjord of Turkey”. However in fact there are no fjords in Turkey and Hamsilos is only a cove with a peculiar shape. 

On a map, it resembles an elephant head. It is famed to be a beautiful spot where the forests meet the sea. In the past it was considered as natural harbor for the marine vessels. Samsun is a city in the Central Karadeniz region of Turkey. It is the largest city on the Turkish Black Sea coast. Samsun has a special place in the republican history of Turkey, as this is where the republic’s founder, Kemal Atatürk, set foot to start the War of Independence in 1919. Samsun is a long sprawling city which extends along the coast between the Kızılırmak (“Red River”) delta to the west and the east the Yeşilırmak (“Green River”) delta. In the city center and close to the seashore is the city’s main square, Cumhuriyet Meydanı, north and south of which are Kazımpaşa Caddesi and Cumhuriyet 

Caddesi. The city is growing fast: land has been reclaimed from the sea and many more apartment blocks and shopping malls are being built. Industry is tending to move (or be moved) east, further away from the city center and towards the airport. Little is left of that quaint early 20th-century Black Sea port town. A booming economy has covered old Samsun with modern high-rise buildings. The Archeological and Ethnographic Museum and, right next door, the Atatürk Museum, are worth a look. The parks and promenades along the Black Sea shores of this long spread-out city are also pleasant. Samsun has numerous decent hotels and restaurants. Overnight in Samsun.

 

9 th Day

Palovit Falls - Georgian border – Batumi

May 20 th , 2020

Included highlights:

  • After beakfast visit Palovit waterfall (and/or Zilkale castle), walk on evergreen mountain Yaylas.
  • The Palovit Falls can be found in Kaçkar Mountains National Park, in one of Turkey’s most beautiful valleys, the Firtina (Storm) Valley. Palovit Falls are 10-15m-high in height and have the highest flow rate of the water falls in Rize province.
  • Zilkale is a medieval castle located in the Fırtına Valley (literally: “Stormy Valley”), and is one of the most important historical structures in Çamlıhemşin district of Rize Province in the Black Sea Region of Turkey. The castle is built at an altitude of 1,130 m (3,710 ft), and sits at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Fırtına Creek (Turkish: Fırtına Deresi approximately 380 m (1,250 ft) below running at an elevation of 750 m (2,460 ft) southeast of it. The castle consists of outer walls, middle walls and inner castle. There are garrison quarters, and a possible chapel and head tower. It is believed that the castle was built in the 14th-15th century.
  • In the afternoon drive to the Georgian border (95 km). 
  • Visit Batumi, free time and overnight in Batumi.  

10 th Day

Batumi - Kutaisi - Gori – Tbilisi

May 21 th , 2020

Included highlights:

  • Batumi
  • Kutaisi visit
  • Gori stop for visit Stalin birth city and its museum built by the communist, arrival in Tbilisi.
  • Overnight in Tbilisi.

Batumi is the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara and the third-largest city of Georgia, located on the coast of the Black Sea in the country’s southwest. It is situated in a Subtropical Zone at the foot of Caucasus. Much of Batumi’s economy revolves around tourism and gambling (It is nicknamed “The Las Vegas of the Black Sea”), but the city is also an important sea port and includes industries like shipbuilding, food processing and light manufacturing. Since 2010, Batumi has been transformed by the construction of modern high-rise buildings, as well as the restoration of classical 19th-century edifices lining its historic Old Town. Kutaisi is the third-most populous city in Georgia, traditionally, second in importance, after the capital city of Tbilisi. Situated 221 kilometres (137 miles) west of Tbilisi, on the Rioni River, it is the capital of the western region of Imereti. Historically one of the major cities of Georgia, it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Georgia in the Middle Ages and later as the capital of the Kingdom of Imereti. 

From October 2012 to December 2018, Kutaisi briefly was the seat of the Parliament of Georgia as an effort to decentralise the Georgian government. Gori is a city in eastern Georgia, also known as a fashion capital of Georgia, which serves as the regional capital of Shida Kartli and the centre of the homonymous administrative district. The name is from Georgian gora (გორა), that is, “heap”, or “hill”. A settlement known here from the Hellenistic period, with the fortress built at least in 7th century, it received a town status in the 12th century. Gori was an important military stronghold in the Middle Ages and maintains a strategic importance due to its location on the principal highway connecting eastern and western parts of Georgia. In the course of its history, Gori has been invaded by the armies of regional powers several times. The city was occupied by Russian troops during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Gori is also known as the birthplace of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, ballistic missile designer Alexander Nadiradze and philosopher Merab Mamardashvili. Arrivall in Tbilisi and overnight.

 

11 th Day

Tbilisi

May 22 th , 2020

Included highlights:

  • City tour Tbilisi, 
  • afternoon free time to enjoy the city. 
  • A dinner wine tasting will be organised as farewwell dinner.

Tbilisi (literally “Warm Spring”) is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt’k’vari River, founded in the 5th century by Vakhtang Gorgasali. Tbilisi is a significant industrial, social and cultural centre of Georgia. Located strategically at the crossroads between Europe and Asia and lying along the historic Silk Road routes, Tbilisi has often been a point of contention between various rival powers and empires. The history of the city can be seen by its architecture. Tbilisi sightseeing tour includes: Old town: Metechi church and the statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali (founder of Tbilisi -5th century); Sharden street and Mshrali Khidi (dry bridge). Visit to Trinity Cathedral, Metekhi Church. Ride by cable way from Rike Park to Narilaka fortress, walk down from Narikala fortress to Abanotubani, the ancient district of Tbilisi, known for its sulfuric baths. Walking tour along the Rustaveli Avenue – the main street in Tbilisi. 

Overnight in Tbilisi.   

 

What People Say

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Dear Natalia, we want to thank you sincerely for your expert and skillful guiding during our trip to Moldova. Our experience in Dumbraveni – as we told you – will prove unforgettable for us always. You have a wonderful way with people which will take you far.

Dear Victoria,

I personally want to thank you for such a great trip through these beautiful places. I enjoyed seeing the changes and modernization of Romania but I found that Moldova has a special charm and I enjoyed the atmosphere and the people. I was very happy with the way you introduced the tour to us and everything was wonderful the food, wine, accommodation.

Thanks again for everything you did to make our trip so nice.

Dear Sirs! Upon a recent visit to Chisinau in Moldova, i required the assistance of a local guide, as my knowledge of the country was very limited. My guide was a young lady by the name of Ms. Natalia Cojuhari, i wish to place on record that her skills as a guide were quite unparalleled. 

The qualities that i look for in a guide, local knowledge, helpfulness, and a person’s overall ability to ensure the group they are responsible for, find out as much about the area they are visiting as possible. I believe that Ms. Cojuhari fulfilled all these requirements, along with her overall friendly demeanor, i believe makes her a first class tour guide.