The Great Anatolian Ride: 15 days, 4 nights hotel, 10 nights camping A a journey on horseback through northwest Turkey
The Great Anatolian Ride is a horseback itinerary through northwest Turkey that follows, as closely as possible, the early stages of the final journey of the adventurous seventeenth-century Ottoman Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi. After a lifetime spent wandering the world - from Vienna to Sudan, from the steppes of Muscovy to the deserts of north Africa - Evliya set out from Istanbul in 1671 to make the pilgrimage to Mecca that is required of all Muslims. He never returned to the city of his birth, but spent his last years in Egypt, composing and recomposing the 10-volume travelogue - the Book of Travels - that is the account of his farflung travels.
Day 1: Arrive in Istanbul. and take a taxi to the hotel.
Day 2: Hersek to Cobankalesi
After breakfast transfer by minibus and by ferry across the Sea of Marmara, to the outskirts of the village of Hersek where we meet the horses. From here we will ride past the hamlet of Soguksu to the medieval hill fort of Cobankalesi . We will take our horses through the clear, shallow waters of the Yalak River (the Dracon of antiquity), where we startle flocks of egrets and heron, and meet young shepherds herding their cattle along the riverbank. Our first night’s camp will be on the shores of the Yalak River.
( 3 hours riding)
Day 3: Cobankalesi to Mahmudiye
After breakfast we ride via Valideköprü, with its 17th-century bridge, along the Yalak River until we reach the formerly silk-producing village of Kizderbent, where we stop for lunch. After lunch we ride through a beautiful valley where shepards tend their sheep and cattle with the help of their magnificent Antolian Kangal dogs, until we reach the outskirts of Mahmudiye where we camp in a forest clearing . (5 hours riding)
Day 4: Mahmudiye to Iznik
After breakfast we set out from Mahmudiye, passing through magnificent orchards where pomegranate, walnut, quince, apple and plum trees abound. We will have beautiful views of Iznik Lake as we ride and enjoy a picnic lunch in Orhaniye before we reach the ancient, walled city of Iznik, passing by the Roman obelisk at Dikilita along the way. We will leave the horses for the night and transfer to a bed and breakfast on the shores of Iznik Lake. In Iznik we will visit the famous Green Mosque, the ancient city walls and the Tile museum. (5.5 hour riding)
Day 5: Iznik to Mecidiyeköy
After breakfast we will meet up with the horses again and ride for an hour south from Iznik, towards the mountains and up to the Dirazali summit where we catch our last panorama of Iznik Lake. After picnicking in Kizilhisar, we ride down from the summit, through fields of sunflowers to Mecidiyeköy where camp will be set up. In the afternoon we can visit the village of Mecidiyeköy . (4 hours riding)
Day 6: Mecidiyeköy to Karasil Çeltikçi
After breakfast we ride from Mecidiyeköy down the valley and across the richly agricultural Yenisehir plain . We ride through the old city of Yenisehir and have lunch in the outskirts of town. In the afternoon we ride to our campsite near the village of Karasil Çeltikçi. (6 hours)
Day 7: Karasil Çeltikçi to Babasultan
After breakfast, we continue across the plain, and then through rolling uplands via Sungurpasa and Çavusköy, where we stop for lunch. We pass other settlements nestling in the hills, and continue to reach our campsite near the village of Babasultan. Here we may enjoy a traditional Turkish meal prepared by the villagers as well as some traditional Turkish music. (5 hours riding)
Day 8: Bursa:
A day of sight-seeing in Bursa, once the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and for centuries the center of the silk trade. We will visit the mausoleums of the Sultans, stroll through the historic bazaars, visit the Ulujami (mosque), possibly visit the Bursa City Museum and lunch at the famous Iskender Restaurant. Overnight in hotel.
Day 9:Babasultan to Cerrah
From Babasultan we ride along the lower slopes of Mount Uludag, ancient Mount Olympus, where the country tracks are lined with walnut and other fruiting trees. We pass the tomb and shrine of a 13th-century saint, and continue through Yeniceköy and Edebey, lunching along the way. Our campsite will be on a wooded riverbank near the small town of Cerrah (4 hrs riding)
Day 10: Cerrah to Bahçekaya
We leave Cerrah and ride through orchards and along farm roads, via several villages on the slopes of Mount Uludag. In Ortaköy we see the restored 15th-century caravansary of Karaca Ahmet. Soon we start to follow a river to reach our picnic lunch stop on its banks. The remainder of the day we ride through oak forest and up into the hills to reach the village of Bahçekaya . (6.5 hrs riding)
Day 11: Bahçekaya to Domur
Leaving Bahçekaya early, we ride ever upwards through mixed forest, to reach summer pastures at the summit of the mountain. As we go we enjoy dramatic, extensive views in every direction, and descend to a pass where we will have a lunch. From here we follow a well- preserved, stone-paved Ottoman road—one of the few that still survive—to emerge where the landscape flattens out in smallholdings, before riding across grasslands scattered with juniper and pines, to reach our campsite above the village of Domur. (6.5 hrs riding)
Day 12: Domur to Elmalı
Today we first drop down to the town of Çukurca, with its nearby tomb of the saint Selim Baba and after crossing grassy uplands as far as Muratlı, ride crosscountry and then along forest roads to Seydiküzü. From here we go to Fındıcak, after which the route opens out, offering panoramic views on all sides. We will have a picnic lunch, and make our camp in the picturesque hamlet of Elmalı, with its wooden houses that are characteristic of the traditional architecture of this area.
(6,5 hrs riding)
Day 13: Elmalı to Isaköy
Above Elmalı we come to a cliff down which we must lead our horses to the valley below. Having safely negotiated the goat-track that indicates our path, we follow a river at first, then climb up and up on forest roads before descending to open country at Senlik where we have lunch. We continue across arable land and chalky uplands and bid farewell to the horses near the village of Isaköy. Transfer to the hotel in Küthaya. (5 hrs riding)
Day 14: Küthya
After breakfast we visit the historic city of Kütahya, ancestral home of Evliya Çelebi. We may visit, among Kütahya's many monuments, the nearby Balıklı hamami, built by an Ottoman Grand Vezir in the 16th century. It is the Turkish bath where Evliya himself was scrubbed clean after his travels. In the afternoon we visit the newly-built hippodrome in the suburbs. Here we will gain an insight into one of the most popular equestrian sports in Turkey when we meet some of the local rahvancıs/pacing racers who stable their horses here. You may want to try out one of their pacers on the track. That night we will enjoy a farewell dinner in old Küthaya with traditional Turkish music. Overnight in hotel in Küthaya.
After breakfast at the hotel we transfer by mini-bus or train to Istanbul or we can arrange travel to other parts of Turkey.