Dogu Express, Turkey’s Hidden Gem: A Journey on the Eastern Express

Dogu Express

The Eastern Express, also known as the Dogu Express, has become a hot commodity in the world of travel. While Turkey boasts the world-famous Orient Express route, the Eastern Express is carving its own niche, attracting travelers seeking a unique adventure through Turkey’s lesser-known eastern regions.

From Bustling Capital to Hidden History: Exploring Ankara

The journey begins in Ankara, Turkey’s capital city. Often overshadowed by the grandeur of Istanbul, Ankara offers its own distinct charm.

  • Ataturk Mausoleum: Pay homage to the founding father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, at his mausoleum. Explore the various sections, including the Peace Park and the Ceremonial Plaza leading to the Hall of Honor.

  • Ulus: A Peek into the Past: Delve into Ankara’s historical heart, Ulus. Explore Roman ruins, preserved passageways, and a captivating old castle perched on a hill, offering panoramic city views.

  • Sanat Sokağı (Art Street): Wander through Sanat Sokağı, a charming street lined with restored Ottoman houses transformed into cafes and courtyards brimming with handicraft stalls selling unique souvenirs.

  • CemModern: A Touch of Modernity: Immerse yourself in contemporary art at CemModern, a new art gallery showcasing global exhibitions housed in a restored railway depot.

Embarking on the Scenic Eastern Express Adventure

As twilight paints the sky, the Eastern Express departs from the art deco Ankara railway station. The cityscape swiftly transforms into breathtaking vistas as the train pulls away.

  • Cozy Sleeper Cabins: Settle into your comfortable sleeper cabin, equipped with bunk beds, a mini-fridge, and a sink. Travelers often personalize their cabins with string lights, scarves, and candles, creating a cozy haven for enjoying the unfolding scenery.

  • Ilic and the Stone Road: Greet the next morning in Ilic, a small village known for its proximity to the captivating Karanlik Canyon (Dark Canyon). Marvel at the awe-inspiring Stone Road, clinging precariously to the canyon walls, weaving through tunnels and navigating sharp turns, all while offering dramatic views of the Euphrates River flowing below.

Unveiling Anatolia’s Vast Beauty

The train continues its eastward journey, venturing deeper into the heart of Anatolia. Passengers are captivated by the region’s vastness, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of western Turkey.

  • Dramatic Landscapes: Gaze out the window at the seemingly endless plains, a testament to the sheer size of Anatolia. The landscape, though seemingly simple, holds a captivating beauty in its immensity.

Culinary Delights and Historical Treasures

As dusk approaches, the train pulls into Erzurum, a city brimming with rich history, culture, and delectable cuisine.

  • Erzurum’s Culinary Gems: Indulge in Erzurum’s renowned local cuisine, featuring dishes like Cag Kebab – marinated lamb cooked over an open fire and served with warm flatbread.

  • Final Stop: Kars – A City Steeped in History

The journey concludes in Kars, the train’s final destination. Famed for its snowy landscapes and named after the Turkish word for “snow,” Kars boasts unique architecture reflecting its days as part of the Russian Empire.

  • Medieval Marvels: Ani Explore the captivating ruins of Ani, a short drive from Kars. This medieval city, once the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia, offers a glimpse into the past with its well-preserved churches and vast walls overlooking a deep ravine.

Unveiling a Different Side of Turkey: Dogu Express

The Eastern Express unveils a side of Turkey often unseen by tourists.

  • A Cultural Mosaic: Eastern Turkey is a melting pot of cultures, with Kurdish, Armenian, and Assyrian influences enriching the region.

  • Warm Hospitality: Travelers are welcomed with open arms and traditional Turkish hospitality, creating a heartwarming experience.

A journey on the Eastern Express is more than just a scenic train ride; it’s a chance to connect with a lesser-known part of Turkey, steeped in history, cultural diversity, and the genuine warmth of its people.

Embracing the Unexpected: Tips and Challenges for Eastern Express Travelers

The allure of the Eastern Express lies in its unique experience, but venturing off the beaten path requires a bit of preparation. Here’s what you need to know to navigate your adventure:

Securing those Elusive Tickets:

The biggest hurdle for Eastern Express hopefuls is snagging tickets. With high demand and limited availability, it’s a battle of speed and strategy.

  • Ticketing Timeline: Individual tickets are released a month in advance. Mark your calendar and be ready to refresh the website the moment it goes live (usually midnight local time).

  • Alternative Options: Travel agencies often purchase tickets in bulk for organized tours. While this provides a more hands-on experience, it comes at a premium.

  • Consider Off-Season Travel: Although the winter scenery is captivating, the popularity explodes during this season. Consider a less crowded spring or fall journey for a more relaxed experience.

Packing for a Comfortable Journey:

The Eastern Express provides basic amenities, but packing strategically will enhance your comfort throughout the 30-hour journey.

  • Cozy Essentials: Pack warm layers, even in summer, as temperatures can dip at night. A sleeping bag or blanket adds to the comfort of your bunk bed.

  • Entertainment on the Go: Download movies, audiobooks, or games to keep yourself entertained during extended stretches of scenery.

  • Local Delights: While the train offers meals, consider packing snacks or bringing a refillable water bottle to cater to your specific preferences.

  • Embrace the Cultural Exchange: Learn a few basic Turkish phrases beforehand. A simple “Merhaba” (hello) or “Teşekkür ederim” (thank you) goes a long way in fostering connections with locals.

Beyond the Train: Exploring Eastern Turkey:

The charm of the Eastern Express extends beyond the train journey itself. Consider incorporating these destinations into your trip:

  • Kackar Mountains: Embark on a trekking adventure in the Kackar Mountains, a haven for nature lovers with breathtaking scenery and diverse flora and fauna.

  • Mount Ararat: For the more adventurous, a challenging yet rewarding hike to the legendary Mount Ararat, a dormant volcano considered the resting place of Noah’s Ark according to some traditions, awaits.

  • Ani Archaeological Site: Immerse yourself in history at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ani, a once-grand Armenian city boasting remnants of churches, palaces, and city walls.

  • Ishak Pasha Palace: Witness the architectural marvel of Ishak Pasha Palace, a 17th-century Ottoman palace renowned for its intricate tilework and impressive scale.

  • Lake Van: Relax on the shores of majestic Lake Van, the largest soda lake in the world. Explore nearby villages and soak in the stunning scenery.

A Word on Patience and Flexibility:

Traveling through eastern Turkey might require more patience compared to the more tourist-developed areas. Be prepared for adjustments in schedules, potential language barriers, and a slower pace of life. Embrace the unexpected as part of the adventure.

Connecting with the Locals:

The Eastern Express provides a unique opportunity to connect with the hospitable people of eastern Turkey. Here are some tips to bridge the gap:

  • Strike up Conversations: A smile and a friendly greeting can go a long way. Even with limited Turkish, gestures and basic phrases can open doors to warm interactions.

  • Support Local Businesses: Patronize local restaurants, cafes, and shops. Not only will you find unique souvenirs, but you’ll also contribute to the local economy.

  • Respect Local Customs: Be mindful of local traditions and dress modestly, especially in religious sites. A little respect goes a long way in fostering positive connections.

The Eastern Express: A Journey Beyond the Rails

A journey on the Eastern Express is more than just a scenic train ride; it’s an invitation to explore a lesser-known side of Turkey. With its captivating landscapes, rich history, diverse cultures, and warm hospitality, the Eastern Express offers an unforgettable experience for those who crave adventure and authenticity. So, pack your bags, embrace the unexpected, and embark on a journey that will leave you with memories to cherish for years to come.