Vira Natura

Turkish Silk Road - Eastern Turkey

7-23 May 2024
From €3,900.00 per person

16 days tour with Chris Gardner 

Across the Anatolian heartland from Cappadocia to Van in search of beautiful spring flowers, fine landscapes and cultural treasure. We search for endemic fritillaries, irises and extraordinary steppe flora, tracing parts of the old Silk Road. Travelling from volcanic badlands and the wild mountains of Palandoken to the turquoise waters of Lake Van we also take in fabled cave-churches and impressive caravanserai as well as magnificent Ani. 

Day 1   To Nevsehir (7 May)

After arriving at Kayseri airport we’ll transfer to our hotel in the heart of Cappadocia extraordinary landscape. Overnight Göreme.

Day 2   Göreme and Aksaray

The famed towers, caves and dramatic eroded hills of Cappadocia will provide the fascinating backdrop to the morning tour, which includes visits to noteworthy churches as well as key geological features. In the afternoon we’ll drive out to look for the highly localised and beautiful Iris sprengeri, although much depends on the season for success with this lovely flower. Overnight Göreme.

Day 3   Göreme and Caravanserai

Around Göreme are a number of interesting valleys and hills with Astragalus tigridis, domes of pink Convolvulus assyricus, huge-flowered dwarf Salvia blepharochlaena, Arnebia densiflora and Gypsophila venusta and bushes of yellow Rosa hemisphaerica. To the north of Göreme lies the carefully restored caravanserai at Kayseri Sultanhani and no trip along the Silk Road would be complete without seeing the impressive design of these quintessential buildings. Overnight Göreme.

Day 4   To Malatya

We traverse the Anatolian Plateau with commanding views of towering Erciyes Volcano and then we climb to the Gezbeli Pass with good snow melt bulbs including Crocus biflorus subsp. tauri, Corydalis erdelii, Scilla sibirica, Eranthis hyemalis and Anemone blanda. Passing through areas of dwarf oak we find black-purple Verbascum phoeniceum, mats of pink Aethionema diatropis, the impressive thistle-like Gundelia tournefortii and red forms of Fritillaria acmopetala. Our final pass of the journey is the Karahan Pass with the delicate orange and white Asphodeline tenuior. Overnight Malatya.

Day 5  Dogansehir

The limestone ridges south of Malatya are a stronghold for the lovely golden bells of Fritillaria aurea, which grows with Erysimum thyrsoides, Corydalis wendelboi and with luck the stunning scarlet parasite Diphelypaea coccinea. Overnight Malatya.

Day 6  Kubbe Pass

The anti-taurus hold some fascinating and localised endemics. They are the only location for both lovely Iris peshmenii and the even more localised Bellevalia chrisii – the flower named after Chris Gardner in 2014. Alongside these are Tulipa armena and Fritillaria armena, lovely multicoloured Nonea stenosolen and Lotus gebbelia. We will continue onto Tunceli, seeing roadside displays of the wonderful Tchihatchewia isatidea on the way. Closer to the town, riverside woods have an array of orchids, including; Ophrys cilicicaO. scolopaxOrchis simiaO. punctulataCephalanthera longiflora and Dactylorhiza romana. Overnight Tunceli.

Day 7  Ovacik

The Munzur Valley is renowned for its rich flora and today we seek one of the most striking bulbous plants to be found here; Fritillaria imperialis. a large population of these can be found in the nearby mountains, with luck alongside flowering Iris aucheri. To reach it involves a walk of about one hour from the trailhead. The impressive Paeonia mascula is also common in the area and other nearby valleys have Iris sari and more Tschihatchewia isatidea. Overnight Tunceli.

Day 8   To Erzurum

We will drive north to Erzincan and spend time in nearby hills to see Muscari massayanum, the curious Phlomoides molucelloides and Linaria coriifolia before continuing towards Erzurum, turning off to visit Kop Dagi where the lovely Fritillaria alburyana should be in flower alongside Crocus biflorus subsp. tauri. Overnight Erzurum.

Day 9  Palandoken

The wilds of the Palandokens bristle with stands of poplars and multiple snow patches. Here there is the delightful pink Fritillaria alburyana, as well as its sultry cousin F. caucasica, Colchicum szovitsii and yellow mounds of Draba brunifolia. We'll descend to visit the ornate Cifte Minareli Medrasa and then onto water meadows near the city with stunning displays of thousands of blue Bellevalia forniculata. Overnight Erzurum.

Day 10   Cam Pass & Cildir Lake

Views of the fabulous Little Switzerland landscapes of the Yalnizcam mountains are enhanced with creamy Rhododendron caucasica. The broad pass has marshy flushes full of sky-blue Scilla rosenii and nearby slopes dance with the big, chocolate bells of Fritillaria latifolia. Growing with these are Corydalis nariana and drifts of Anemone narcissiflora. the wide open steppe landscapes beyond have rocky outcrops with Iris aphylla and there are fine landscapes around the big Cildir lake. Overnight Kars

Day 11   Sarikamis

The pine clad hills south of Kars harbour many brown bears and also support good populations of one of Turkey's loveliest bulbs, Fritillaria michailovskii. Other areas have Iris caucasica, screes brimming with pink Allium akaka, mauve Asperula arvensis and yellow fennels in a wonderful natural garden. We will also have our first look at the flamboyant Iris iberica subsp. elegantissima. Overnight Kars.

Day 12   Ani & Agri Dag

Right on the border with Armenia, separated by a deep ricer gorge, is the superb historical site of Ani, a complex of red tuff buildings from churches to mosques and caravanserai. The landscapes change frequently from colourful badlands to the looming snowcapped bulk of Agri Dag and it's surrounding lava fields. Overnight Dogubeyazit.

Day 13   Tendurek Dag

Depending on the season the lower slopes of this broad shield volcano have many lovely Iris iberica. Higher up are yellow Adonis wolgensis and rocky gulleys with Fritillaria kurdica, Tulipa julia and Draba rosularis. The stark black lava fields actually harbour some interesting plants with Fritillaria pinardii, F. caucasica and abundant Bellevalia paradoxa. Other greener lava flows are dissected by waterfalls with stunning stands of Iris iberica ssp. elegantissima. Water meadows have masses of pink Primula algida, Dactylorhiza umbrosa and creamy Pedicularis comosa, whilst steppe slopes near the city of Van have the silken purple flowers of Iris barnumiae. Overnight Van.

Day 14   Karabel Pass

A fabulous mountain pass to complete our trip. On the way the steppe will have the showy blue-veined white standards of Iris paradoxa and blue Moltkia caerulea. Snow patches are ringed by Puschkinia bilgeri, big Colchicum kurdicum and the dainty yellow bells of Fritillaria minima. Toffee-coloured F. minuta and F. kurdica also grow here with the delightful pink stars of Tulipa humilis. There are stunning mountain views, stands of yellow green Euphorbia macrocarpa mingled with Rindera albida, Iris caucasica and many more Tulipa humilis and Fritillaria kurdica in a wonderful natural rock garden. On our return we should find Iris sari in various colours and one of Turkey's finest the chasmophytes Psephellus karduchorum.  Overnight Van.

Day 15   Akdamar Island

The beautifully resorted Armenian church on Akdamar island is a must and we’ll take the short boat trip across in the morning. After lunch we can either explore the southern shoreline of Lake Van with various orchids and steppe flora or return to Van for time in the markets and city. Overnight Van.

Day 16  Return flights


7 - 23 May 2024


Per person: 3900 Euros

Single supplement: 475 Euros


  • 14 nights of accommodation
  • All food
  • All transport

Not included:

  • Flights
  • Travel/Medical Insurance
  • Alcoholic and soft drinks
  • Personal expenses


Minimum number of participants 8; maximum 14.  

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