We begin our tour of the Sultanahmet district, the heart of old Istanbul, at Saint Sophia*. Built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD, this church is one of the marvels of world architecture. Its massive dome dominates the skyline of old Istanbul. It is famed for its mosaics, including glittering portraits of emperors and empresses. Next we visit the Blue Mosque, which owes its name to the exquisite tiles adorning its interior. Dating from the 17th century, it is the only imperial mosque with six minarets.The Hippodrome, the stadium of ancient Byzantium, held 100,000 spectators and featured objects from all corners of the empire. Of these, an Egyptian obelisk and a bronze sculpture of three entwined serpents from Delphi survive. The Grand Bazaar, was the commercial heart of the old city and its 4,000 shops are full of treasures – including carpets and kilims, silks, jewelry, ceramics, icons, and leather goods. Wandering through the Grand Bazaar, indulge in some shopping, Ottoman style. (also available on Tuesday afternoons)

We begin our tour at Topkapı Palace, which, from the 15th to the 19th century, was the principle residence of the Ottoman Sultans. We will visit the fabolous Imperial Treasury and the Baghdad Kiosk. Topkapı Palace is now a museum and has unrivalled collections of jewelry, including the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, the 3rd largest in the world, Ottoman court costumes and ceramics, notably one of the world’s finest collection of early Chinese ceramics, much of it gifts from other rulers. Interestingly, some of the ceramics have a special glaze that was said to change color in the presence of poison. We also visit the Imperial Armory, displaying centuries of Ottoman weaponry. But perhaps the loveliest features of Topkapı Palace are its courtyards with their ancient trees, and it is easy to imagine the sultan strolling here far from the cares of state and empire. Last but by no means least, we visit the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, completed in 1563. A masterpiece designed by Sinan the Magnificent, it has the most exquisite and extensive Iznik tile decoration of any mosque in Istanbul. The large quantities of exquisite Iznik tiles, arranged in a wide variety of beautiful floral and geometric designs, as well as the spacious central courtyard, make this mosque a must-see Istanbul attraction.

We begin with a brief visit to the 17 th century  Spice Bazaar one of  Istanbul’s most colorful and bustling attractions. Next, we take an unforgettable cruise along the Bosphorus, the majestıc strait that runs through Istanbul, linking Europe and Asia.From our cruise boat, we view the dramatıc sights lining the Bosphorus’ wooded shores: mosques, a bridge that for a time was the world’s longest and the massive Rumeli Hisarı , a fortress built by Fatih the Conqueror in just three months as he prepared to take Istanbul. Also noteworthy are the 19th century mansions of the Ottoman elite and the Sultan’s fanciful gingerbread palaces and hunting lodges.

We cruise the Bosphorus and from the deck of our cruise boat take in the sights and sounds of this legendary waterway, that is lined with historic villages , grand wooden mansions, imposing fortresses, like Anadolu Hisarı and the Baroque palaces of the late Ottoman sultans.After our cruise,we visit the Spice Bazaar, a thrilling riot of colors, sounds and the rich smells of exotic spices.

 *The Spice Bazaar is closed Sundays

We begin by driving across the first Bosphorus Bridge and head for the summit of Çamlıca Hill, which affords panoramic views of Istanbul, the Sea of Marmara and the Princes’ Islands. From here a short brings us to the Palace of Beylerbeyi on the shore of the Bosphorus. Perhaps the most elegant of the late Ottoman palaces, Beylerbeyi boasts six sumptuously furnished reception halls.(every day execpt Monday and Thursday)

We visit an exclusive nightclub where we will enjoy authentic Turkish cuisine, including the delicious array of appetizers known as meze. The Turks are justly proud of their food. They are equally proud of their traditional music, and after dinner folk musicians from different regions of Anatolia will perform for us. And of course no night out in Istanbul would be complete without Turkish belly-dancers. We will be entertained by some of the city’s finest.

If you feel the need to escape from the bustle of Istanbul for a day, nothing could be easier. You simply join us aboard a ferry bound for the charming Princes’ Islands. Our destination is Büyükada, the largest of the island chain, but we will pass by four other islands on the way. All are famous for their mild climates, lush vegetation and ornate Ottoman houses, and on all of them cars are banned. The preferred means of transportation is the charming horse-drawn carriage known as the phaeton, which we will use on our circular tour of Büyükada, passing elegant mansions draped in brilliant purple bougainvillea. You will feel as though you have stepped back into a more leisured and gracious age, almost expecting grand 19th century ladies and gentlemen to come strolling down to the waterfront on an afternoon promenade. Lunch will be at one of the many excellent traditional fish-restaurants on the waterfront, gazing across the water at the Asian shore of Istanbul, so close though it feels worlds away.

We travel by ferry to Yalova, then by luxury coach to Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and one of the great treasure houses of Islamic architecture. We will visit the Green Mosque and the neighbouring Green Mausoleum, both world-renowned for their superb tile decoration, as well as the late 14th century Great Mosque and the Koza Han, which for centuries was the center of the silk trade. After enjoying a cable car ride up the slopes of Mount Olympus ( Turkish Uludağ ), Lunch is at one of Bursa’s finest Turkish restaurants, the Darüzziyafe, where we will enjoy the finest Ottoman cuisine in a historic setting where Sultan Murat the Second once dined. ( available Monday, Thursday & Saturdays.In the event the cable car isclosed due to weather conditions.Çınaraltı is substituted for Uludağ. )

* A minimum of eight(8) participants are required for this tour.

On our way to Cappadocia, we fly to Ankara or Kayseri and drive south to Üçhisar in the midst of Cappadocian heartland, where we will be staying at one of Cappadocia’s unişque boutique Cave Hotels. Cappadocia is a region unlike any other. Its extraordinary landscape is composed of soft volcanic stone that wind and rain have sculpted into fantastic clusters of multicolored spires and pinnacles. What is more, the softness of the stone encouraged the medieval Christian inhabitants of the region to carve out of the living rock literally hundreds of churches, monasteries towns and villages. A trip to Cappadocia is a magical experince you will never forget. On our way to Üçhisar we will stop off at the magnificent 13th century Selçuk Caravanserai known as Ağzıkarahan, at one of the region’s famous ‘ underground cities’. These go down many storeys into the earth and are among the marvels of medieval engineering. Once in Üçhisar, we will visit the great rock-hewn citadel that looms over the town. On our second day we will visit the open-air museum of the Göreme Valley, which contains the region’s highest concentration of painted churches. The frescoes are among the

masterpieces of Byzantine art. A short distance beyond Göreme lie the villages of Avcılar and Çavuşin, both of which have many cave-dwellings, and the dramatic Zelve Valley.

We catch an early flight to the city of İzmir on the Aegean coast, then drive south to the antique city of Ephesus. This is one of the world’s richest and most rewarding archaeological sites with impressive ruins dating from the Classical Greek, Hellenistic, Roman and early Byzantine period. It is also closely associated with the beginnings of the Christian faith. In addition to being the city to which the Letters to the Ephesians were written, St. John and St. Paul both visited the city and the Virgin Mary herself is said to have spent her last days nearby. Among the highlights of our tour of Ephesus will be the antique theatre, the famed Library of Celcius, the brothel, the vast Basilica of St. John, the Mosque of İsabey, the Temple of Artemis ( one of the Seven Wonders of Ancient World ) and a group of recently excavated early Byzantine mansions that feature incredibly well-preserved floor mosaics and frescoes. At Ephesus, the past comes to life in a pageantry of architectural and artistic marvels the like of which can be found almost nowhere else in the world. Finally we will make a short pilgrimage to the House of the Virgin Mary, which stands high on a mountainside overlooking the Aegean Sea the Greek island of Samos

Our tour starts with an early departure for Çanakkale, scene of  the epic First World War amphibious landing. After touring Çanakkale, we cross the Hellespont to the battlefields of the Gallipoli peninsula, the crucible where the national consciousnesses of Australia and New Zealand were forged in steel and blood. Planned by Winston Churchill, the Gallipoli invasion was the first modern amphibious landing, and one of Turkey’s greatest military victories of modern times, but it was won at the cost of enormous losses on both sides, particularly among the heroic ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops. They landed at what is known as Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915, and fought there eight months in a courageous but doomed struggle. Over 300,000 men from all sides were killed or wounded in the battle’s eight furious months, making it one of the bloodiest campaigns in history. In the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkish commander at the battle and founder of the modern Republic, “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side in this country of ours… Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

For a truly VIP experience, or to enjoy a customized, in-depth look at the city, ask your hotel’s concierge about our exclusive private and special interest tours. Private and special interest tours are available on land and on sea and feature Mercedes Vito chauffeured vehicles and luxury motor yachts for your comfort and enjoyment. Your professional guide will be a specialist and fluent in the language of your choice.

Whether you are interested in Jewish Heritage, Christian Heritage, the Byzantines, Antiques, Numismatics, Horticulture, or any one of dozens of other special interests, ITS Tourism offers professional guides who are as passionate and informed about the subject as you are, and can provide you with unrivalled insight into a unique aspect of Istanbul.

We can also work with you and your concierge to design custom tours as well as tours to nearby destinations including Gallipoli, Turkish Thrace, Bursa and more. We are also happy to arrange day-tours of Ephesus and Cappadocia by private plane.

Please consult your concierge for more information and full arrangements. 

–          HISTORIC OTTOMAN TURKISH HAMMAMS & MASSAGE

–          SUFI WHIRLING DERVISHES CERENOMY

–          ISTANBUL AQUARIUM

–          VIALAND THEME PARK

–          ART WALKS

–          GALATA TOWER & PERA

–          TURKISH COFFEE TRAIL

–          PRINCES’ ISLANDS

–          DINING OUT IN A TURKISH WAY

–          JEWISH HERITAGE

–          PRIVATE YACHTS & HELICOPTER TOURS

–          SAPPHIRE OBSERVATION DECK

–          GRAND BAZAAR & SPICE MARKET

Thursday Jan 1 New Year’s Day National holiday
Thursday Apr 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day National holiday
Friday May 1 Labor and Solidarity Day National holiday
Tuesday May 19 Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day National holiday
Thursday Jul 16 Ramadan Feast Eve Half Day
Friday Jul 17 Ramadan Feast National holiday
Saturday Jul 18 Ramadan Feast Day 2 Extra Public Holiday
Sunday Jul 19 Ramadan Feast Day 3 Extra Public Holiday
Sunday Aug 30 Victory Day National holiday
Wednesday Sep 23 Sacrifice Feast Eve Half Day
Thursday Sep 24 Sacrifice Feast National holiday
Friday Sep 25 Sacrifice Feast Day 2 Extra Public Holiday
Saturday Sep 26 Sacrifice Feast Day 3 Extra Public Holiday
Sunday Sep 27 Sacrifice Feast Day 4 Extra Public Holiday
Wednesday Oct 28 Republic Day Eve Half Day
Thursday Oct 29 Republic Day National holiday
Thursday Dec 31 New Year’s Eve Observance