Turkish Railways (TCDD) is planning to put new tourist trains similar to the famous Eastern Express on four lines across the country, as these routes are attracting huge interest, while contributing to the region’s economy.
People’s growing demand for the Eastern Express, which connects Turkey’s capital Ankara to the snowy east, has led the TCDD to operate a new train on the same line purely for tourism, after it became so popular that people trying to reach eastern Turkey by train could no longer find tickets.
Hasan Pezük, general manager of TCDD, drew attention to the interest in the tourist Eastern Express and said he had received requests from citizens to use other “nostalgic” lines for tourist purposes only.
Peküz said he initiated a study on lines and express lines that can be used for tourism purposes, and met with travel agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and municipalities to discuss the topic.
The Eastern Express became hugely popular after people started sharing photos of the scenery on social media.
Before the express’s popularity, the average age of passengers was 50, but now university students, photographers and videographers are frequent passengers, as the experience offers a wealth of scenery and vistas, especially in winter.
After leaving Ankara, the Eastern Express makes brief stops in the eastern towns of Kırıkkale, Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan and Erzurum, before reaching Kars. The 1,300 kilometer (808 mile) journey takes nearly 32 hours.
The other four lines include Lake Van Express, Kurtalan Express, Karaelmas Express and Lakes Express.
Departing from Ankara, the Lake Van Express (Vangölü Ekspres) passes through Kırıkkale, Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, Elazığ, Bingöl, Muş and reaches the shores of Lake Van in Bitlis’ Tatvan district in eastern Turkey after about 26 hours of travel.
Besides the lush nature of Bitlis, using the express, travelers can also enjoy the unique view of Ararat and Nemrut mountains and Lake Van, an area with great tourism potential.
The Kurtalan Express, which started 74 years ago, meanwhile, has continued non-stop since its opening. The express that operates five days a week between Ankara and the Kurtalan district of Siirt province is today ‘one of the first choices of adventure seekers who want to take a cultural tour through Anatolia.
The Kurtalan Express makes over 70 stops including Kırıkkale, Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, Elazığ, Diyarbakır and Batman along the 1,212 kilometer route from the first to the last.
It is also the inspiration for the name of the group that the late singer Barış Manço founded in 1972.
The Karaelmas Express, also departing from Ankara, makes regular trips between Kalecik, Çankırı, Çerkeş, Eskipazar, Karabük (Safranbolu) and Zonguldak. An 11 hour journey is made on the 485 kilometer line.
The last of the four lines planned for tourist purposes is the Lakes Express (Göller Ekspresi).
It operates between the western provinces of Izmir and Isparta, in eight and a half hours.