City by the Bosphorus
Sprawled across two continents and former capital of two great empires, Istanbul is arguably the heart of Turkey and the nexus of east and west. The same strait that runs through this dynamic city divides continental Europe from Asia, and the city’s duality can be seen in its traditional bazaars and modern shops, historically Christian churches and renovated Islamic mosques, and its ancient ruins and shiny new office buildings. On your private tour of Istanbul, enjoy an in-depth introduction of ancient and modern Istanbul, exploring the narrow streets of the historic Sultanahmet district, the bustling neighborhoods of Kuzguncuk and Karakoy, and the serene views of the Bosphorus.
Travels to: Turkey
Days 1-2: Istanbul (Turkey)
After arriving into Istanbul, spend the next day exploring the Sultanahmet area – Istanbul’s atmospheric Old Town where the city’s finest monuments including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome, and the Basilica Cistern are found.
- Exploring the historic Sultanahmet district with visits to UNESCO-listed Topkapi Palce, the Great Palace of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries; UNESCO-listed Hagia Sophia, originally built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian around 537; the UNESCO-listed Blue Mosque, with its towering minarets and layered domes; and the Basilica Cistern, an underground forest of columns under Istanbul.
- Stopping by the Hippodrome of Constantinople, once used for chariot races and public gatherings.
Day 3: Kuzguncuk & Karakoy Districts
Pay a visit to the Dolmabahce Palace on the shores of the Bosphorus this morning to learn more about the late Ottoman period, then drive over the Bosphorus Suspension Bridge to the Asian side of the city and the Kuzguncuk (“Little Raven”) area. After exploring this “hidden gem” of a neighborhood, with many opportunities to sample Turkish cuisine and sweets along the way, hop aboard a boat for a cruise on the Bosphorous and disembark on the European side of the city to stroll through the hip, historic harborside neighborhood of Karakoy.
- A visit to the mid-19th century Dolmabahce Palace, the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856-1922 and the largest palace in Turkey.
- Crossing the Bosphorus Suspension Bridge, which towers over the Bosphorus Strait and links European Turkey to Asian Turkey.
- Exploring the delightful Kuzguncuk neighborhood on the Asian side of the city.
- Cruising along the Bophorus by private boat for panoramic views of the city and surrounding area.
- Strolling through the hip, historic harborside neighborhood of Karakoy.
Days 4-5: More Istanbul Sights
On your last full day of your private tour in Istanbul, start off with a visit to the magnificent 16th century Suleymaniye Mosque, which dominates the Istanbul skyline along the west bank of the Golden Horn. Then stop by the Kariye Museum, originally named the Chora Church – a 4th century church first constructed by Constantine the Great and recently re-converted into a mosque (Kariye Camii). After an independent lunch, spend the afternoon strolling through Istanbul’s famous Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.
- Visit the 16th century Suleymaniye Mosque build by the most renowned Ottoman architect at the time, Mimar Sinan. The mosque is part of the UNESCO-listed Historic Areas of Isanbul.
- Pop into the Kariye Camii – recently known as the Kariye Museum and originally known as the Chora Church – world renowned for its priceless Byzantine mosaics and murals and recently re-instated as a working mosque.
- Wander Istanbul’s covered 17th century Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar.
- Wandering through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 15th century and is one of the largest covered markets in the world selling everything from fine silk carpets to jewelry and T-shirts.
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
Land tour price, per person, starting from:
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- Restaurant tips for included meals.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost.) MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle (Type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group).
- Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, as noted in the itinerary.
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Special events, excursions, and cultural performances, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
- Final document packet, including final updates and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel-related insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Visa fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
Level 2: Moderate, but Customizable
This ‘Essential’ itinerary designed for private travel in Istanbul features long days walking and standing, some stair climbing, cobblestones or unpaved sidewalks and streets, uneven surfaces and steps, absent handrails, and lack of elevators. While some of these challenges are inherent in the destinations and sites, as one of our Essential Series programs this trip can be modified as needed for those travelers who are looking for a less challenging (or more challenging) program.
There is a significant amount of touring on foot, and those travelers planning to take the program as written should be able to walk at least a mile a day comfortably. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases with tall, uneven steps, and handrails are not always in place. Interior staircases may involve steep steps inside narrow passageways with limited light. Touring will be over a variety of surfaces, such as cobblestones, bricks, packed or loose dirt, or gravel, including uphill or downhill sections.
Past travelers have also encountered challenges with bureaucratic service, plumbing in and out of hotels, and availability and quality of public restrooms.
Accommodations in the basic program are comfortable, four-star hotels. Upgrades may be available, please call for details.