Eastern Turkey

With its broad vistas and dramatic, spare scenery, Eastern Turkey is like one vast national park.

Summer is the best time to visit, as the region is high and mountainous, and given to late thaws and early snows. When the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya is engulfed in sticky summer heat, in Erzurum the air is dry and pleasant. (If you come in winter, do it for skiing.)

Come for the sweeping scenery, for the many striking archeological sites, for the architecture of the region’s historic buildings, and for a look at life as it was lived in an earlier time.

Rock Valley Travel organizes both group and private tours of Eastern Turkey, or you can have them arrange this self-guided itineraryMore…

Eastern Turkey is less developed than West, and you may still see farmers in small villages winnow grain in the wind, the old-fashioned way.

Because of the distances in the East (maps), and its distance from the cities of the West, allow at least a week to tour the East. Have a look at my Recommended Itinerary(11 to 15 days, including the Black Sea coast and the Southeast).

Here’s where to go and what to see:

Doğubayazıt

In the shadow of Mount Ararat, this town four hours’ ride east of Erzurum is the jumping-off point for trips into Iran, and for visits to the dramatic İshak Pasha Palace 6 km (4 miles) east of town. More…

Erzurum

The “capital” and largest city in the East, it has a university, big army base, airport, Palandöken ski area, and several fine Seljuk and Ottoman buildings. It’s a good base for visits to the Kaçkar MountainsDoğubayazıt and Mount Ararat.More…

Kaçkar Mountains

The Kaçkar Range north of Erzurum is excellent for trekking and river rafting. Its small mountain towns (like Yusufeli) produce abundant crops of fruit, and often harbor interesting 1000-year-old churches left from the time when this was the medieval Kingdom of GeorgiaMore…

Kars & Ani

Held by the Russians for 42 years, Kars has the feeling of an outpost of empire. It’s about as different from Istanbul as you can get (in Turkey). It’s an interesting place, and serves delicious honey and butter for breakfast. Kars is your base for visits to the great medieval Armenian capital of Ani, 45 km (28 miles) to the east. You can also cross into Georgiaat Posof. More…

Lake Van

The only river outlet from this vast inland sea was blocked by volcanic eruption millennia ago, so the lake is highly alkaline, like the Dead Sea between Israel and Jordan. Around it are several historic towns including the city of Van and nearby archeological site of Çavuştepe, with cuneiform inscriptions dating back to the Kingdom of Urartu almost 3000 years ago. At Ahlat on the north shore there’s an eery Seljuk Turkish cemetery, the only one of its kind in Turkey. More…

Nemrut Dağı

“Mount Nimrod,” south of Malatya and north of Adıyaman and Kâhta, is one of Turkey’s most astounding sights: an artifical mountaintop framed by two great temples littered with colossal statues of gods—and one megalomaniac king. You gotta see it. More…

Southeastern Turkey

This is a separate climatic region which, unlike the East, is best visited anytime except summer. If you combine it with a tour of the East, be aware of the climate difference. More…

Click here for maps of Turkey, including Eastern Turkey.

—by Tom Brosnahan


11- to 15-Day Eastern Itinerary

Best Itineraries

Best Guided Tours

Eastern Turkey Tours

Black Sea Coast

Central Anatolia

Southeastern Turkey

Where to Go

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