This 14-day 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 can find much treasure of your own.
Visit Istanbul’s 16th-c. Rustem Pasha Mosque and shop at the Spice Bazaar
Enjoy an energetic performance of traditional dances in Georgia
Explore the grand city of Odessa with elegant 18th- & 19th- c. architecture
Cruise through the winding canals of the Danube River Delta, a UNESCO Site
Tour Safranbolu, an important center of saffron production on the Silk Road
After breakfast, choose from one of three tours. Set out to explore the stunning Topkapi Palace complex, then peruse the impressive collection of Turkish, Hellenistic, and Roman artifacts at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Or, choose to visit the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior of Chora, followed by the Sabanci Museum. A third option includes a morning at leisure with lunch at the hotel. In the afternoon, all groups visit the Kiliç Ali Pasha Mosque, a lovely example of 16th-century Ottoman architecture. Afterwards, board the Island Sky and cruise toward the Black Sea up the scenic Bosporus, a strait which runs through the center of Istanbul.
From the port at Bartin, travel inland to Safranbolu, a World Heritage Site. Once an important center of saffron production and stopover for Silk Road caravans, Safranbolu boasts a wealth of well-preserved Ottoman architecture. A walking tour visits the marketplace as well as a mosque, traditional house, and Turkish hammam that date back to the 16th century. Enjoy lunch in a converted Ottoman caravanserai, with free time to explore on your own before returning to the ship in Bartin.
Sinop has been continuously occupied since the 7th century BCE. Tour the ancient fortress walls; the small archaeological museum, with fascinating artifacts spanning the centuries; and the 11th-century Alaaddin Mosque.
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 Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine church with exquisite frescoes, and spend some free time wandering through the modern city of Trabzon.
Dock in the charming port of Batumi and visit the colorful farmer's market. Take a relaxing walk through the lovely Botanical Gardens. After lunch on board, take a short drive to the ruins of ancient Gonio Fortress, which dates back to the first century CE. Return to Batumi for a dinner of regional delicacies and Georgian wines at a local restaurant, accompanied by a fantastic folk performance of traditional music and energetic dances.
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.
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. 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. During two full days, discover a wealth of natural and cultural wonders. Take a walking tour of the small port of Tulcea and visit the Danube Canal Museum and Danube Ecologic Museum. The next day, 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 Romanian snacks.
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. 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.
Day 14: Disembark in Istanbul, Turkey
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for homeward flights.
Kate was great to work with in the planning stage. She was prompt, helpful, and efficient. Our tour guide, Edwin, was knowledgeable and passionate. We were very happy to have traveled with Adventure Life, it made the trip easy and a true pleasure. We could concentrate on enjoying the experience rather than the details of travel.