It’s very straightforward. Simply purchase your card from the ticket office, make your seat reservation for the train you’re taking, and you’re on your way.

Let’s say, for instance, that you buy a Touring Card for Express Trains (Ekspres Tren-Tur Karti). You could leave from Haydarpasa railway station (the terminus in the Anatolian part of Istanbul) on the 07.10 express for Eskisehir, where you can visit the Odunpazari, Kursunlu and Alaaddin mosques, as well as the Museum of Military Aviation, the Museum of Archaeology and other historic sites. Eskisehir is a hub of the rail network, so from here you can proceed westwards to Izmir, southwards to Afyon, Konya and Adana, or head east towards Ankara, Kayseri, Sivas, Erzurum, Kars, Diyarbakir, Tatvan or Kurtalan.

Or let’s suppose you want to head for the ancient city of Kars. The Anadolu Express will take you to Ankara, arriving as dawn is breaking over the city. It is worth spending a day or two in Ankara, to visit the Anitkabir (Mausoleum of Ataturk), as well as the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and the Museum of Ethnography. While in Ankara, it is worth making a detour to Beypazari, one of the towns on the Old Silk Road, and Kizilcahamam, renowned for its thermal spas and mineral-water springs.

At Ankara, you can always modify your itinerary, and travel north to Zonguldak and Karabuk, or south to Adana or to Malatya in the East. But let’s assume that your determination to continue east towards Kars remains fixed, and you take your place on one of the early-morning express trains, the ‘Guney’ (southern) or Vangolu Express, which will deposit you the same afternoon in Kayseri, where you will be greeted by the majestic sight of Mount Erciyes. You may want to linger a while in Kayseri: its 5,000-year history has endowed it with a wealth of architectural treasures and a divere cuisine.

If, however, you prefer to press on, you can catch the 4 Eylul Express at 01.56 and arrive in Sivas at 06.00. Sivas played an important role in the foundation of the Turkish Republic: the Sivas Congress was held here in 1919. There are many sights worth visiting, including the Ulu Camii, Kale Camii and Meydan Camii mosques, madrassas such as the two 13th century buildings Çifte Minare Medrese and the Gok Medrese, as well as the Museum of Congress, historical bridges, Turkish baths (bathhouses called hamam) and caravanserais.

From Sivas, you could travel north to Samsun, but let us postpone that for the return trip and take the Erzurum Express to Erzincan. In Erzincan you might like to visit the Kumbet Bey Bathhouse and the fortress of Erzincan. Alternatively, you could branch out and take in the nearby Kemah Fortress and Girlevik Waterfalls. You might also take the opportunity to sample the local cuisine, especially its melt-in-the-mouth pastries.

Next morning, at 06.20, the Erzurum Express will take you on to Erzurum, arriving at 10.20. Here you can trace the rich remains of 6,000 years of history, from the Neolithic Age to the War of Liberation. If you need a break from the study of times past, the cool green slopes of enchanting Mount Palandoken are only a stone’s throw away.

To travel on from Erzurum to the borderland of Kars, you can choose either the Erzurum Express or the Dogu Express, which leaves later in the afternoon. Once in Kars, you must be sure not to leave again until you have visited the ruins of the historic city of Ani, 42 kilometres from Kars, on the border between Turkey and Armenia.

Returning from Kars to Sivas on the Dogu or Erzurum express, you might then wish to visit Samsun on one of the regional express trains. Samsun is the ancient city of Amisos, founded on the shores of the Black Sea in the 7th century BC. Its archaeological sites, museums and horse-drawn carriage rides make it the perfect place for a stopover.

Returning to Sivas by regional express, you might like to break your journey at Amasya (the ancient Amaseia), a palimpsest of 3,000 years of history, sequestered in a narrow mountain valley of seductive beauty.

From Sivas you have the option of returning to your departure point or continuing your exploration of Turkey by taking the train to other destinations. There is still plenty of time left on your month-long railcard!

Train Touring Cards ensure that your journeys are not only safe and comfortable, but affordable. They can be purchased at any TCDD station. One further benefit worth noting: your one month’s unlimited travel begins not on the date of purchase, but from the departure date of your first journey. For details of the vendors of the Train Tour Cards, please click here.

Further information may be obtained from: www.tcdd.gov.tr


Download Railway Map

Meeting Point Istanbul

The new CHANEL N°5 film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet with Audrey Tautou and Travis Davenport in Istanbul

Great Eastern Lines – Times Online

Board a train in Istanbul and you can make bargain tracks all over a country that’s already one of the cheapest short-haul destinations