The Hittites were an ancient Anatolian people, who established an empire at Hattusas in north-central Anatolia around the 18th century BC.
This empire reached its height during the mid-14th century BC under Suppiluliuma I, when it encompassed an area that included most of Asia Minor as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia. After c. 1180 BC, the empire came to an end during the Bronze Age collapse, splintering into several independent "Neo-Hittite" city-states, some of which survived until the 8th century BC.
Natively, they referred to their land as Hatti. The conventional name "Hittites" is due to their initial identification with the Biblical Hittites in 19th century archaeology.
Despite the use of "Hatti", the Hittites should be distinguished from the Hattians, an earlier people who inhabited the same region (until the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC).
The Hittite military made successful use of chariots. Although belonging to the Bronze Age, they were the forerunners of the Iron Age, developing the manufacture of iron artifacts from as early as the 14th century BC, when letters to foreign rulers reveal the latter's demand for iron goods.
Day 1 : Istanbul
Arrival in Istanbul and transfer to your hotel. Time at leisure and overnight.
Day 2 : Ankara
As the subject of this program are the Hittites, we will concentrate on their cities, history and artifacts.
A visit to the Museum of Archaeology in Istanbul will be an interesting start.
The Museum consists of three main parts :
1. In the main building : the Archaeological Museum
The highlight of this Museum is the ornate Alexander Sarcophagus, once believed to be prepared for Alexander the Great.
Yet our favorite will be the Kadesh Peace Treaty (1258 BCE), signed between Ramses II of Egypt and Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire. It is the oldest known peace treaty in the world, and a giant poster of this tablet containing the treaty is on the wall of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
2. The Museum of Ancient Orient
3. The Museum of Islamic Art in the “Tile Kiosk”
In the later afternoon, transfer to the airport and flight to Ankara for overnight.
Day 3 : Çorum
In the morning, visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations near the Ankara Castle. It consists of the old Ottoman Mahmut Paşa bazaar storage building, and the Kursunlu Han. Because of Atatürk's desire to establish a Hittite museum, the buildings were bought from the Ministry of National Education. After the remodeling and repairs were completed (1938–1968), the building was opened to the public.
Today, the old bazaar building houses the exhibits. Within this Ottoman building, the museum has a number of exhibits of Anatolian archeology. They start with the Paleolithic era, and continue chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods.
There is also an extensive collection of artifacts from the excavations at Hittite sites such as Çatalhöyük, Alacahöyük, Kültepe.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations reaching the present time with its historical buildings and its deeply rooted history was elected as the first "European Museum of the Year" in Switzerland on April 19, 1997.
In the afternoon, we take delivery of the rental car and depart for Çorum for overnight.
Day 4 : Çorum
Çorum is inland in the central Black Sea Region of Turkey. Çorum is primarily known for its Phrygian and Hittite archaeological sites, its thermal springs, and its native dried chick-pea snacks known nationally as leblebi.
The history of the area around the present-day city is known to go as far back as the Paleolithic ages. The town also has been home to Assyrians, the Hittites (1650-1200 BC), the Phrygians, Medes, the Persians, Macedonians, Galatians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Seljuks, and ultimately the Ottomans in the fourteenth century.
Time has come to discover the Hittite sites… Let’s start with Alacahoyuk :
Alacahoyuk is an important archaeology site of a Neolithic and Hittite settlement.
The mound at Alacahoyuk was the center of a flourishing Hattian culture during the Early Bronze Age. The mound was a scene of settlement in a continuous sequence of development from the Chalcolithic Age, when earliest copper tools appeared alongside the use of stone tools. It has been continuously occupied ever since, until today's modern settlement in the form of a small village. The standing and distinguishing remains at Alacahöyük, however, such as the "Sphinx Gate", date from the Hittite period that followed the Hatti, from the fourteenth century BC.
Thirteen "Royal Tombs" (ca. 2350-2150 BC) in Alacahöyük contained the richly adorned dead in fetal position facing south. Many of the artifacts discovered at Alacahöyük, including magnificent Hattian gold and bronze objects found in the Royal Tombs, are housed today in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.
A dam, dating from 1240 BC, was ordered by King Tudhaliya IV in the name of the goddess Hebat. According to ancient Hittite tablets, a drought struck Anatolia in 1200 BC, prompting the King to import wheat from Egypt so that his land would avoid famine. Following this, the king ordered numerous dams to be built in central Anatolia, all but one of them becoming non-functional over time. The one in Alacahöyük has survived because the water source is located inside the dam's reservoir.
This small town (basically one street of shops) is best known as the site of Hattusa and Yazılıkaya and the area attracts visitors in the summer and there are restaurants near the historical sites, and stalls selling local handicrafts. Boğazkale is the site of the ancient Hittite city of Hattusa.
Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age.
Before 2000 BC, a settlement of the apparently indigenous Hatti people was established on sites that had been occupied even earlier, and referred to the site as Hattush. The earliest traces of settlement on the site are from the sixth millennium BC. In the 19th BC, Assyrian merchants established a trading post here, setting up in their own separate quarter of the city. Business dealings required record-keeping and cuneiform writing was introduced by the Assyrians.
A carbonized layer apparent in excavations attests to the burning and ruin of the city of Hattusa around 1700 BC.
Only a generation later, a Hittite-speaking king “Hattusili” had chosen the site as his residence and capital and so marked the beginning of a non-Hattic-speaking "Hittite" state, and of a royal line of 27 Hittite Great Kings.
The city was destroyed, together with the Hittite state itself, around 1200 BC, as part of the Bronze Age collapse. The site was subsequently abandoned until 800 BC, when a modest Phrygian settlement appeared in the area.
Yazilikaya was a holy site for the Hittites, located within walking distance of the gates of the city of Hattusa. It had two main chambers formed inside a group of rock outcrops. Most impressive today are the rock-cut reliefs portraying the gods of the Hittite pantheon. Most of the rock carvings date to the reign of the Hittite kings Tudhaliya IV and Suppiluliuma II in the late 13th century BCE, when the site underwent a significant restoration.
At the end of this day full of discoveries, we return to Çorum for a well deserved sleep !
Day 5 : Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a stunning area of lunar rock formations. The area is also famous for its carpet-weaving, wines and the distinctive red pottery of the Avanos area. Cappadocia was a refuge for the early Christians, who escaped persecution by living and worshipping underground. There are an estimated 3000 rock churches in this region, not all of which are open to the public.
The Hattis, followed by the Hittites, Phrygians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans were all enchanted by the allure of Cappadocia and left their marks. The famous Silk Road which traversed Cappadocia east, west, north and south created a heavy traffic. The region was a complex web of historical and cultural influences. Cappadocia was the place where different faiths and philosophies met and influenced one another. Frescoed churches and dwellings carved into the cliffs extend from Ihlara Valley, which is 40 km from Aksaray, and as far as 14 km to the town of Selime. Some of these structures can be dated back to as early as the 4th century A.D.
Though Cappadocia is not our main quest, the importance of the region – be it for its history or natural beauty – surely entitles a day’s visit before proceeding further with our itinerary.
Day 6 : Malatya
In the morning, after a delicious Turkish breakfast, we depart for Kultepe-Kanesh.
Kanesh, inhabited continuously from the Chalcolithic period to Roman times, flourished as an important Hattic/Hittite/Hurrian city, which contained a large merchant quarter (kârum). Kanesh is the site of discovery of the earliest traces of the Hittite language, and the earliest attestation of any Indo-European language.. The native term for the Hittite language was neshili "language of Nesha".
During excavations, the findings have included numerous baked-clay tablets, some of which were enclosed in clay envelopes stamped with cylinder seals. The documents record common activities such as trade between the Assyrian colony and the city state of Assur and between Assyrian merchants and local people. The trade was run by families rather than by the state. These “Kültepe texts” are the oldest documents from Anatolia.
We then take the road to Malatya – crossing the Central Anatolian desert - for overnight.
Day 7 : Adiyaman
A few miles from Malatya, you will visit the site of Aslantepe or the “Ancient Malatya”.
Arslantepe has been inhabited since the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, nearly 6,000 years ago. From the Bronze Age, the site became an administrative center of a larger region in the kingdom of Isuwa. The city was heavily fortified, probably due to the Hittite menace from the west. The Hittites conquered the city in the fourteenth century B.C. In Hittite, melid or milit means "honey," offering a possible etymology for the name “Malatya”.
After an hour driving we will arrive in Kahta, the ideal take-off place for an excursion to Mount Nemrut. It will up to you – but also the weather conditions – to decide whether you will visit at sunset or at sunrise.
Mount Nemrut :
In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built on the mountain top a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues (8–9 m/26–30 ft high) of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek, Armenian, and Iranian gods. These statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them. The pattern of damage to the heads (notably to noses) suggests that they were deliberately damaged because of belief in iconoclasm. The statues have not been restored to their original positions. The site also preserves stone slabs with bas-relief figures that are thought to have formed a large frieze
Possible uses for this site is thought to have included religious ceremonies, due to the astronomical and religious nature of the monument.
For those interested, some more attractions such as the Cendere Bridge (oldest bridge still in use) are also at hand reach from Kahta.
Overnight in Adiyaman.
Day 8 : Sanliurfa
Following the road along the Atatürk Dams of the Tigris and Euphrates streams, we reach the town of Sanliurfa also known as the “Town of the Prophets” (presumed place where the Prophet Abraham lived)
Not far from there, the site of Gobekli Tepe… Not a Hittite site yet a very new archaeological discovery that we would like to share with you.
Göbekli Tepe is located in southeastern Turkey. It was first noted in a survey conducted by Istanbul University and the University of Chicago in 1964, which recognized that the hill could not entirely be a natural feature and postulated that a Byzantine cemetery lay beneath.
Göbekli Tepe is the world's oldest known religious structure.The site, located on a hilltop, contains 20 round structures which had been buried, four of which have been excavated. Each round structure has a diameter of between 10 and 30 meters (30 and 100 ft) and all are decorated with massive, mostly T-shaped, limestone pillars that are the most striking feature of the site.
That neolithic people - using flint points to carve the bedrock - with such primitive flint tools quarried, carved, transported uphill, and erected these massive pillars has astonished the archaeological world, and must have required a staggering amount of labor.
More possible visits in the area are the typical village of Harran known for its “beehive houses” and housing the first university and the city of Sanliurfa itself.
Overnight in Sanliurfa.
Day 9 : Osmaniye or Gaziantep
On the way to Gaziantep, we should visit Karkemish, a well-know Hittite site which is being referenced to several times in the Bible.
Yet, currently access is restricted… so we continue our road…
As a consolation, what about visiting the site of Zeugma… saved in extremis from the waters of a dam built on the Euphrates.
In 1987 the Gaziantep Museum excavated two tomb chambers which had been broken into by antiquity smugglers in the necropolis southwest of Zeugma, revealing frescos on the walls and statues on the terraces in front of the chambers. These statues are now in the Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology. Excavations commenced by a team from Gaziantep Museum uncovered a Roman villa and magnificent mosaic pavements. The 1st century AD villa consisted of galleries around an atrium with eight columns and rooms behind the galleries. The mosaic which adorned the villa's gallery depicted the marriage of Dionysus, god of wine and grapes, to Ariadne.
In further excavations here, part of the central panel of the mosaic pavement belonging to the terrace of another villa turned out to have been stolen long since - probably around 1965 - so the two figures are missing from the knees upwards. The two figures seated side by side in this mosaic are the two legendary lovers, Metiokhos and Parthenope. At the request of the Turkish Ministry of Culture, the stolen fragment was returned, and the complete mosaic can now be seen in Gaziantep Museum.
When mosaic fragments were discovered during construction of the dam wall which commenced in 1996, excavations were carried out and revealed a Roman bath and gymnasium, and 36 mosaic panels which were added to the museum collection.
Ever since, excavations and salvage works have continued in Zeugma, today one of the foremost of Turkey's archaeological and historic sites, and the attention focused upon it from all over the world will undoubtedly continue over the years ahead.
The museum of Gaziantep is today housing this rich collection of mosaics.
We then proceed to Osmaniye or Gaziantep for overnight.
Day 10 : Konya
From Osmaniye, we will take the road to Konya… crossing the green valley of the Ceyhan stream. We will pass some more Hittite sites yet of much lesser importance such as “Yesemek” near Gaziantep, “Ivriz” near Eregli…
Today let’s just enjoy the road and – if you are interested and have time for it – upon arrival in Konya, visit the Mevlana Museum and Convent.
Overnight in Konya.
Day 11 : Konya
We will use this day to visit the Early Neolithic site on the program : Çatalhoyuk, center of the Mother Goddess tradition and worship.
Çatalhöyük overlooks the wheat fields in the Konya Plain, southeast of Konya (ancient Iconium). Çatalhöyük was composed entirely of domestic buildings, with no obvious public buildings. While some of the larger ones have rather ornate murals, these rooms' purpose remains unclear.
The 5000-8000 inhabitants lived in mud-brick houses that were clustered in a honeycomb-like maze. No footpaths or streets were used between the dwellings. Most were accessed by holes in the ceiling, with doors reached by ladders and stairs. The ceiling openings also served as the only source of ventilation, allowing smoke from the houses' open hearths and ovens to escape. Each main room served for cooking and daily activities.
Distinctive clay figurines of women, notably the Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük have been found in the upper levels of the site. Although no identifiable temples have been found, the graves, murals, and figurines suggest that the people of Çatalhöyük had a religion rich in symbols.
Free afternoon and overnight in Konya.
Day 12 : Istanbul
We will have to return to Ankara to turn in the rental car.
To drive from Konya to Ankara, you have two options :
1. The shortest way straight North
2. First follow the direct of Aksaray and visit en-route the caravanserai of Sultanhani. In Aksaray, tunr North to follow the “Tuz Golu” (salt lake), an impressive drying out lake.
What is a caravanserai ?
Cappadocia and the area was on the famous “Silk Road” and facilities for traders was to be organized.
Caravanserais have been used since the 10th century. Trade across Turkey in medieval Seljuk times was dependent on camel trains (=caravan), which stopped by night in inns known as kervansaray or caravanserai (“caravan palaces”). These buildings provided accommodation and other amenities for the merchants and stabling for their animals.
In Seljuk times, the construction of these buildings increased after the security of the trading roads was provided by the state. The loss of the trades would be met by the states, which is accepted to be the first insurance system. During that period, both domestic and foreign trades prospered. In this way, the Seljuks, who were already economically powerful, became politically strong, too.
Upon arrival turn-in the rental car at the airport, flight to Istanbul for overnight.
Day 13 : Home Sweet Home
Time at leisure till transfer to the airport for home flight.
1. Depending the seasonality or some international events (congress, fairs...) prices of the proposed hotels may vary.
2. Due to closure days of some sites and museums, tours may be swapped to ensure the best running of your program. We have endeavored to show these in the program.
Possible program alternatives :
1. Private excursions at any or all destinations (supplement to be added)
2. Higher or lower hotel category (price difference to be reflected)
3. Guide services in other language than English (supplement possible)
4. Possible connection with other tours you have booked with third parties
5. Chauffeur driven rental car (supplement to be added)
6. This is a program proposal. We are open to any additions or reductions you may require. These will be reflected in the new quotation.
The price quoted is based on a party of 2 adults in a double room