Our Black Sea expedition features all of the countries rimming this infamous sea—Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. In the company of our expert leaders, explore lands with centuries upon centuries of history, rich architecture, contemporary cultures, and stunning landscapes. As we venture forth from Istanbul for our Black Sea tour, we 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.
Circumnavigation of the Black Sea Adventure Travel Highlights:
- Archaeological sites, including the Greek site of Chersonesus in Ukraine, a cliffside monastery in Turkey, and the fabled site of Histria in Romania.
- Turkey tour, including Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the 17th-century Blue Mosque.
- Sochi, Russia, a mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate and site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
- The largest Roman ruins in Bulgaria, the 2nd-century Roman thermae, or public baths.
- Accommodations aboard the nimble, 110-passenger Clipper Odyssey, enabling us to visit remote ports and hidden gems during our Black Sea tour.
What to Expect:
Black Sea adventure travel, including your Turkey tour, requires a relatively moderate level of exertion. You should be able to walk distances of one to two miles, unaided, sometimes over uneven surfaces and climb steps that may not have handrails. More active hikes will also be available. Average daily temperatures during our Black Sea tour will be quite comfortable, ranging from mid 50°sF to the high 70°sF. Participants will most enjoy the remarkable opportunities of this Black Sea expedition if they are in good health and travel with a spirit of adventure.
Depart on your overnight flight to Istanbul.
Independent arrival and check-in at our hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before our welcome dinner and briefing.
Istanbul / Embark Clipper Odyssey
This morning we visit exquisite Dolmabahce Palace which reveals the opulent lifestyle of the last sultans of the Ottoman Empire. After lunch set out to explore the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visit the 17th-century Blue Mosque and continue to the beautiful Aya Sofya; this famed 6th-century symbol of the Byzantine Empire was for thousands of years the largest interior space in the world. Alternatively, visit the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior of Chora, the beautiful Rustem Pasha Mosque, and the colorful Spice Bazaar.
Bartin / Amasra
Today we dock in Bartin and drive to the harbor town of Amasra. Our tour on foot reveals panoramic views of the Black Sea coastline and rugged nearby islands. We walk the cobblestone streets, where local houses are interspersed with archaeological remnants of Byzantine churches and Genoese castles. Visit the local market or museum, or enjoy a hike to cliffs overlooking the Black Sea.
Samsun / Amasya
From the port of Samsun we drive inland to Amasya, former capital of the kingdom of Pontus during its golden age in 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. We explore photogenic winding alleyways, the ethnographic museum, and a medrese, or Islamic seminary. For lunch we enjoy a feast of regional Turkish cuisine in a local restaurant high on a mountainside with commanding views of the town and the Pontic Tombs.
Trabzon / Sumela Monastery
Ancient Greeks settled Trabzon along a branch of the Silk Road from Asia. A highlight of our visit is a morning drive in the countryside to see the 13th- and 14th-century Byzantine Sumela Monastery, perched precariously 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 we explore the 13th-century Aya Sofya, a Byzantine church with exquisite frescoes, and spend some free time wandering through the modern city of Trabzon.
Poti, Georgia / Kutaisi
We dock at the port of Poti in the republic of Georgia. Situated in the southern Caucasus Mountains region, the country possesses a scenic beauty that is legendary; snowcapped mountains sweep down to lush forests and pastoral vineyards and plains.
Enjoy a full-day excursion inland to Kutaisi, a World Heritage Site. The city offers splendid monuments surrounded by sweeping mountain views. We visit the Gelati Monastery complex, one of Georgia’s most famed sites, founded by King David IV in the 12th century. During lunch we are entertained with a performance of energetic traditional dances. Afterwards, stroll the cobblestone streets to visit Bagrati Cathedral, an imposing 11th-century church overlooking the river.
This Russian mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate is sometimes called the Russian Riviera. We spend the morning exploring the town with a special visit to Stalin’s dacha. Well hidden among trees on the outskirts of town, the imposing building became a favorite summer retreat for the infamous leader.
Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine
Yalta is a seaside resort on the Crimean Peninsula, long a favored spot for Russian and Ukrainian elite who constructed palatial homes here. We visit the magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its intricate Byzantine adornment. A scenic coastal drive brings us to the elegant Renaissance-style Livadia Palace, summer home of Tsar Nicholas II and location of the 1945 Yalta Conference.
This morning we disembark in the military port of Sevastopol for a tour of the submarine tunnels at Balaklava and to view a panoramic painting depicting a scene from the Crimean War. After lunch we visit the nearby World Heritage Site of ancient Chersonesus, once a splendid Greek seaside colony.
Odessa’s European-Russian heritage is evident as we 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. We 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. Among the exhibits are antiquities fashioned of precious metals, including Scythian jewelry and ancient coins.
Danube River Delta, Romania
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river as well as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. The delta is an intricate maze of waterways, lakes, and rivulets that fan out as the mighty river meets its alluvial saltwater terminus.
From Crisan, we board a local day boat to wind our way through this wetland habitat of 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 our Romanian chef. Later, we rejoin the Clipper Odyssey and sail downriver on the main Sulina channel.
Histria / Constanta
Histria was Romania’s earliest-founded city and flourished as an extraordinary trading city, later to be abandoned and swallowed by alluvial deposits and sand. The site has been under excavation since its rediscovery in 1914. We walk through fascinating seaside ruins, tour the new museum, and spot birds in this wetland environment. Next we explore Constanta where we tour the archaeological museum and view one of the largest Roman mosaic floors in Europe. In the late afternoon, we enjoy wine tasting and a performance on board.
The modern port city of Varna was once the Greek seaside colony known as Odessos. We 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. We also explore the extensive remains of the 2nd-century Roman thermae, or public baths, which make up the largest Roman ruins in Bulgaria. We reboard the ship and sail toward Turkey in the afternoon.
Istanbul, Turkey / Disembark Clipper Odyssey / USA
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for homeward flights.
One of the finest adventure ships afloat, the Clipper Odyssey is a 110-passenger luxury expedition vessel, ideally suited for cruising in off-the-beaten-path locales. On all Clipper Odyssey expeditions, guests have access to a fleet of Zodiacs, which allows remote landings anywhere nature or curiosity dictates. All cabins on a Clipper Odyssey cruise have an ocean view, safe, minibar, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, in-room music system, and sitting area with sofa. Beds can be configured for twin or queen-size sleeping arrangements, and all cabins have an en suite bathroom complete with shower and small bathtub. In the comfort of their cabin, passengers can track the progress of their expedition on the Global Positioning System broadcast—a highlight of a Clipper Odyssey voyage for adventure-minded guests. Additional facilities include a gourmet kitchen featuring American and international cuisine, dining room, lounge, small library and gym, outdoor pool, and gift shop. An elevator services all passenger cabin decks. Ship registry: Bahamas.
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Options and Extras
Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.