Summary : This Black Sea expedition features all of the countries rimming this infamous sea—Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. In the company of expert leaders, explore lands with centuries upon centuries of history, rich architecture, contemporary cultures, and stunning landscapes. As you venture forth from Istanbul for your Black Sea tour, discover four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Romania’s winding Danube Delta and several archaeological masterpieces. Enjoy a local Georgian dining tradition, visit busy bazaars, and sample regional wines. In the land where Jason and his Argonauts searched for the Golden Fleece, you’ll find much treasure of your own.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Photography
$999,999,999 to $0
Depart on your overnight flight to Istanbul.
Arrive in Istanbul and transfer to the spectacular Pera Palace Hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before your welcome dinner and briefing.
After breakfast explore opulent Topkapi Palace, which served as the chief residence of Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years. After lunch set out to explore the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the 17th-century Blue Mosque and continue to the beautiful Aya Sofya. Alternatively, visit the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior of Chora, the beautiful Rustem Pasha Mosque, and the colorful Spice Bazaar.
In the late afternoon board the Variety Voyager and cruise toward the Black Sea up the scenic Bosporus, a straight which runs through the center of Istanbul and forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.
Today dock in Bartin and drive to the harbor town of Amasra. Your tour on foot reveals panoramic views of the coastline and rugged nearby islands. Walk the cobblestone streets, where local houses are interspersed with remnants of Byzantine churches and Genoese castles. Visit the local market or museum, or enjoy a scenic hike.
From the port of Samsun drive inland to Amasya, former capital of the kingdom of Pontus during the third century B.C. The town of red-roofed dwellings and 19th-century Ottoman-era wooden houses is set along the dramatic Yesilirmak River Gorge. Explore photogenic winding alleyways, the ethnographic museum, and a medrese, or Islamic seminary. For lunch enjoy a feast of regional Turkish cuisine in a local restaurant with commanding views of the town and the Pontic Tombs.
Ancient Greeks settled in Trabzon along a branch of the Silk Road from Asia. A highlight of your visit is a morning drive in the countryside to see the 13th- and 14th-century Byzantine Sumela Monastery, perched dramatically on a cliff face in the monastic tradition of Greek Orthodox architecture. Detailed frescoes, etched in brilliant blues, reds, and golds cover the interior. This stunning alpine setting is also a national park. This afternoon explore the 13th-century Aya Sofya, a Byzantine church with exquisite frescoes, and spend some free time wandering through the modern city of Trabzon.
Today the ship docks in the charming port of Batumi. Visit the colorful farmers market and take a relaxing walk through the lovely Botanical Gardens. Savor regional delicacies and Georgian wines during lunch at a local restaurant, and enjoy a fantastic folk performance of traditional music accompanied by energetic dances. In the afternoon board coaches for the short drive to the ruins of ancient Gonio Fortress, which dates back to the first century A.D. Return to Batumi where you will have free time to explore on your own.
This Russian mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate is sometimes called the Russian Riviera. This morning explore the town with a special visit to Stalin’s dacha. Well-hidden among trees on the outskirts of town, this house was a favorite summer retreat for the infamous leader.
Yalta is a seaside resort on the Crimean Peninsula, long a favored spot for Russian and Ukrainian elite who constructed palatial homes here. Visit the magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its intricate Byzantine adornment. A scenic coastal drive brings you to the elegant Renaissance-style Livadia Palace, summer home of Tsar Nicholas II and location of the 1945 Yalta Conference.
This morning disembark in the military port of Sevastopol for a tour of the submarine tunnels at Balaklava and to visit the Panorama Museum depicting scenes from the Crimean War. After lunch you visit the nearby World Heritage Site of ancient Chersonesus, once a splendid Greek seaside colony.
Odessa’s European-Russian heritage is evident as you ascend the Potemkin Steps to explore cobblestone streets lined with shady plane trees. Explore the compact central district’s spectacular architecture, including monuments, statuary, parks, and ornate 19th-century gems such as the Opera House and Gagarin’s Palace. You can also visit one of the country’s oldest archaeological museums, housing an extensive collection of Ukrainian artifacts ranging from the Paleolithic age to the medieval period. Enjoy free time this afternoon to stroll the graceful boulevards, with the option to dine ashore on your own.
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river as well as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. Board a local boat to explore this wetland habitat looking for over 200 species of birds, including pygmy cormorants, purple herons, white-tailed eagles, and Dalmatian pelicans. On board, sample local vodka and snacks prepared by a Romanian chef.
Histria was Romania’s earliest-founded city and flourished as an extraordinary trading center, later to be abandoned and swallowed by alluvial deposits and sand. The site has been under excavation since its rediscovery in 1914. Walk through fascinating seaside ruins, tour the new museum, and spot birds in this wetland environment. Next explore Constanta where you tour the archaeological museum and view one of the largest Roman mosaic floors in Europe. In the late afternoon, enjoy wine tasting and a cultural performance on board.
The modern port city of Varna was once the Greek colony known as Odessos. Disembark in the morning and visit Varna’s archaeological museum that chronologically traces the progress of human society in the region over the course of millennia, and includes the oldest worked gold in the world. You can also explore the extensive remains of the 2nd-century Roman thermae, or public baths, which make up the largest Roman ruins in Bulgaria. Reboard the ship for lunch as you sail toward Turkey.
Disembark mid-morning and transfer to the airport for homeward flights.
Pre-Voyage Extension: Cappadocia & Istanbul
Turkey’s Cappadocia region is a land of striking volcanic terrain marked by thousands of pyramid-shaped rock spires. Throughout the centuries, Cappadocia’s inhabitants have carved their homes and churches in these columns and in caves, creating tunnels and chambers in the rock. This pre-voyage extension highlights the region’s cultural treasures, beautiful vistas, and fascinating history. You will also enjoy additional time to explore Istanbul, Turkey’s magnificent cultural, political, and commercial center. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for full itinerary, rates and details.
Accommodations in hotels and on board as outlined in the itinerary; all onboard meals and all group meals ashore, including soft drinks, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; services of expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; all group activities and excursions; landing and port fees; $25,000 medical expenses and $100,000 in emergency evacuation insurance; all gratuities; internal air fare on the pre-extension.
All air transportation, except as noted above; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages (other than listed above), e-mail/Internet/fax/telephone charges, pre-voyage extension.
*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.