What To Expect From A Boat Tour In İstanbul
İstanbul is one of the most amazingly situated cities in the world. How many other major world cities can claim four major bodies of water to their names (the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn), not including the various lakes, rivers, streams and so on?! The Bosphorus Strait is the body of water connecting the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, and it’s been the center of the city for literally millennia.
As such, it’s no surprise that a tour of the Bosphorus is essentially a tour of İstanbul. While other cities force you to take a bus around to see all the sights, just take a tour of the Bosphorus in İstanbul and see it all set amidst the deep blue of the Bosphorus.
Here’s how they go:
The easy way – just take the commuter ferries!
There are organized Bosphorus tours of different varieties that we’ll get to later, but as the Bosphorus literally cuts the city (and continents!) in half, one of the easiest ways to take a Bosphorus tour is simply to take the commuter ferries that cross the Bosphorus using your "İstanbul Card," which is valid for all forms of public transportation in the city.
The primary ferry stops are Eminönü and Beşiktaş on the European side, and Üsküdar and Kadıköy on the European side, though there are ferry stops that leave less frequently all over the city. From these hubs, ferries leave just about every 15 minutes to cross the Bosphorus to another hub.
But there are special commuter ferries that go up almost the entire Bosphorus (and Golden Horn as well) during "rush hour" hours in the mornings and evenings, taking commuters home from what has to be the most pleasant commute in the world.
Long Bosphorus Tours:
These tours tend to leave from the Historic Peninsula in Eminönü and pass through many different stops along the Bosphorus on their way up to the point where you can see the point where the Bosphorus opens up to the Black Sea. The final stop on these tours is often Anadolu kavağı, a little fishing village on the Asian side of the city which now caters to people looking to get away from the hustle and bustle and sit at a nice café or restaurant and look out over the stunning views of the Bosphorus and Black Sea.
At the top of the hill, above the cafés sits the Ottoman fortress that forms the namesake for the district (Anadolu kavağı), built as part of the patrol of the strait centuries ago.
These tours tend to last all day, something like 5-7 hours and make a few stops including a lengthy stop for lunch and tea along the Black Sea.
Short Bosphorus Tours:
These tend to take off from Eminönü, Üsküdar, and Ortaköy and last only an hour or two. They more or less go between the first two bridges across the Bosphorus, and are a great way to get a sense of the grandeur of the Bosphorus without taking all day to do it.
Especially in the summer, night tours go from major ports and are often full of music, fun and merriment. The specific sights you see are less the point of these tours and it’s more about the pleasant experience of being on the Bosphorus with friends and family and enjoying the beautiful atmosphere around you.
What to do on your tours
Share your food with the seagulls who fly next to your boat!
Look at the sights
Some of the most iconic things you’ll see on your tour
This lovely little tower is set on an islet right in the middle of the Bosphorus. It can be seen from quite a lot of vantage points and is the scene of many different legends. Now it serves as a restaurant and an observation point, particularly stunning during sunsets.
The Bridges of İstanbul:
There are 3 cross-continental bridges in İstanbul, typically referred to as the first, second and third bridges (as you go from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea). The actual names of the bridges, in order, are the 15 July Martyrs Bridge, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, and the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge. The three bridges are all large suspension bridges that light up at night and are truly marvels of architecture each and every one of them. From your tour, the approach to the bridge, passing underneath it and passing from one to the next is a wonderful experience.
The Ottoman Palaces
Whew there are too many to mention here! (Keep an eye out for our blog on Ottoman palaces 😉 ) But as you go you’ll certainly see Dolmabahçe, Yıldız, Çırağan, and Beylerbeyi Palaces as you approach the first bridge. Dolmabahçe of course used to be the home of the Sultan, and after that of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The other palaces were mostly used as summer palaces and hunting palaces for the sultan, and you’ll see many of them all along the trip on either side of the Bosphorus.
The Homes, the sights, the city
Along the tour you’ll see lots of stately homes along the Bosphorus, called "Yalı"s, as well as get a sense of the city’s life. High rises in some districts, beachfront in others – this really is the best way to get a sense of what İstanbul is all about, as well as just enjoy the most pleasant way to spend a day or an afternoon. So get the tour that fits into your schedule and enjoy the Bosphorus!
Top 5 Places To Travel With Your Toddler(s) In Turkey
So you’ve had kids recently (maybe you want to travel before they turn 2-years-old and take advantage of the free air fare? 😉) and you love to travel… what should you do? While traveling with a toddler is definitely more challenging, it’s far from impossible and sometimes more rewarding than solo travel. When that smile lights up on their faces as you enjoy a new place together – well, there’s no other bonding experience quite like it!
But it’s still a different experience. Ephesus is one of the most incredible ancient cities on Earth, but it’s probably not the kind of place that’s going to capture the imagination of a 2-year-old. The best places if you’re traveling with a kid are destinations with decent facilities, high-quality markets nearby (for all those extra odds and ends you need to pick up – what if they get sick? How about when you run out of diapers? The only thing they’ll drink is apple juice, and you want to make sure it’s made from 100% concentrate… etc. etc.), close sleeping quarters for you to go back and forth from naps to the sights, and of course, most of all, awesome destinations that the whole family will enjoy, Mommy and Daddy included!
If you’re looking for your next holiday and you’re not leaving the kids with the babysitter, here’s the top 5 spots to consider when you come to Turkey.
When it comes to capturing a young kid’s imagination, there’s nowhere in the world quite like Cappadocia! The fairytale landscape is like nothing they’ve ever seen before, and even if you’re not sure they’ll love going up in a hot air balloon with you (most kids love it! But maybe you don’t want to be in one place for an hour, or you’re worried about them not climbing up when they shouldn’t), waking up with them at the crack of dawn to see the thousands of balloons all go up together is a sight they’ll certainly never forget.
Beyond that, Cappadocia has all the essentials. It’s a well-organized tourist destination with hotels of all class and doctors, hospitals, and major cities relatively nearby. In places like Göreme, the open-air museum is within a few feet of where you’re staying, so you can go out for a stroll with the little one and get right back home if you need to. Perfect!
You weren’t expecting Eskişehir to make this list, were you?! Well Eskişehir is another excellent city for toddlers. Transportation to the city is really easy with the relatively new high-speed railway that takes you there from Ankara or Istanbul (see a bit later 😊 ). The train ride itself is fun (what kid doesn’t love trains?) and once you get there there’s so much to do.
Again it’s a major city, so it has every variety of need and facility you can think of, as well as every kind of major market. But it’s also got a young, vibrant culture of its own where you can experience a different feel from the rest of Turkey. Strolling along the banks of the Porsuk River and sipping tea is fantastic, and as an added bonus there are playgrounds all the way up and down the river, many of them quite large with a section for toddlers and a separate section for older kids.
Of course the highlight for kids in Eskişehir is Sazova Park, whose fairytale castle is simply magical. The park has been intentionally designed to appeal both to kids and to adults, with an excellent café inside to take a break while the kids run around the castle.
Ok this was an easy one. İstanbul is a gorgeous city, and full of parks and playgrounds for kids. Obviously it has some of the highest quality facilities in all of Europe, with many of its top markets as well. Kids love the boat trips back and forth (the ferries that take a half hour… the full-day Bosphorus tours can be a little too long) and throwing “simit” bread to the seagulls (while cheekily eating some of it themselves as well! 😉).
Another highlight is what used to be called Vialand and has been renamed Isfanbul, a full theme park with tons of rides and attractions for all ages, located very near the center of the city.
Many restaurants in İstanbul cater specifically to families as well, with jungle gyms inside the restaurant and staff specifically on hand to play with the kids while you finish your meal. Istanbul is a wonderful place to bring the whole family, regardless of age or size of family, and there’s so much to do – your kids will be asking why they can’t come back every year!
Antalya - All Inclusive
Speaking of coming back every year, why not treat yourself to an all-inclusive beach holiday in Antalya. Many of the resorts cater specifically to families, with kids’ clubs that take in kids from different ages and have daily organized activities. For older kids, many of these activities are educational while for younger kids there are bouncy castles, ball pits, and of course the endless array of water slides and types of pools that kids just can’t get enough of.
While your kids are enjoying themselves, you can sit back and relax by the pool or the beach and watch them giggle while you enjoy those precious moments of R&R that’s so difficult to find back home.
Bodrum / Marmaris
Similar to Antalya, the beaches and pools in Bodrum and Marmaris are second to none. But the added appeal of Bodrum or Marmaris (the two are about 2 hours apart from one another) is the downtown area. Travel with another family and take turns watching the kids while the others go out and enjoy themselves on the town with a dinner and a night out. The nightlife scene, particularly in the summer, has something for everyone and the food is almost all locally sourced and delicious. Rather than the R&R of Antalya, head to Bodrum and blow off some steam after spending a wonderful day by the pool with your kids!
From Sagalassos To Salda: 2 Days In The History And Natural Beauty Of Burdur
Burdur province is one of the as-yet undiscovered gems of Turkey. It's located just off the sea, a bit north of Fethiye and a bit east of Marmaris in the southwest of Turkey. The region is known as a lake district, with dozens of lakes each prettier than the next. Surrounding the lakes are beautiful rolling hills and plateaus, with ancient cities dotting the province as well, including the magnificent ancient city of Sagalassos.
The city of Burdur is the capital of the province, and has a long history itself, known in ancient greek as Polydorion, though there are no remains from this ancient city. As it's located just above Antalya, it features a warm, Mediterranean climate and the Lake Burdur, upon which the city lies, is a great place to relax and get away from the crowds amidst natural beauty that is truly one of the most beautiful spots in Turkey.
The local cuisine is excellent as well, "Burdur Shish Kebabs" are famed and go great with the local walnut paste, both local to the region. You'll see trout farmed locally from the lakes and rivers, and many of the local products are even sold along the streets for passers-by who've rented cars and are seeing the lake district and the various sites.
So if you're up for taking in the sights and seeing what Burdur has to offer, follow along!
DAY 1; Burdur Lake, Burdur Museum, Sagalassos, İnsuyu Cave
Lake Burdur is one of the cleanest lakes in all of Turkey, and also one of its largest and deepest. It really is like a sea, and it's even salty with high alkaline levels that mean it never freezes over.
If you're into birding, Lake Burdur is a must-visit particularly in the winter as birds escape the cold climes of the north to settle here. The white-headed duck in particular is a globally threatened species that makes Burdur its protected home, though 10 other internationally important water species make this lake their home.
Because the lake is salty, there's relatively little plant or fish life, though there are two endemic species (Aphanius anatoliae sureyanus and A. burduricus) that you won't find elsewhere.
So take a packed lunch (there are picnic benches all around the lake) and your bathing suit and enjoy the lake before moving on to the rest of what Burdur has to offer.
Burdur was an ancient region, (the region was known as Pisidia in ancient Greece), and as a result there are over 50,000 artifacts housed in this amazing museum. Many of the artifacts predate ancient Greece, with the region dating back to at least 7,000 B.C. The museum is award-winning and is well organized into eras so you can literally walk from the Neolithic up through to the present and discover not just the history of Burdur, but the history of Anatolia and civilization itself.
While the stunning Marcus Aurelius and Emperor Hadrian sculptures from Sagalassos now stand in the Burdur museum, the city itself is huge and impressive and has been on the UNESCO World History Tentative list for almost a decade.
The ruins themselves city on Mount Akdağ in the Western Taurus mountains at an altitude of 1,450-1,700 meters. The city was known as "the first city of Pisidia" (ie the capital of the region) and one stroll through the ancient city center is enough to see just why. During Hadrian's era the city was at its peak, and it remains one of the best-preserved settlements in all of Asia Minor.
This wonderful show cave was the first cave opened to the public in Turkey. It's got a length of 600 meters and is located near the city of Burdur in the village of Mandıra. The cave is thousands of years old with clean, cool air inside and lakes whose water is said to be good for internal diseases and diabetes. Not all sections of the cave have been explored yet, but the parts you see are really striking with stalactites and stalagmites and carbonated mineral water right at the entrance.
DAY 2; Lake Salda, Kuruçay, Hacılar, Kibyra
Lake Salda is a natural wonder 4 kilometers away from Yeşilova town center in Burdur. Like Lake Burdur, it's salty and very clean and its white sand beaches are some of the most beautiful anywhere in Turkey. It's a crater lake and covers 4,370 hectares with a maximum depth of 196 meters, making it possibly the deepest lake in Turkey.
The lake is unique for a number of reasons. It's surrounded by wonderful wildlife, with quails, hares, foxes, boars and wild ducks all living in the dark black forests.
In addition to holiday-makers, academics flock to this lake, in particular to study the ancient stromatolite algae which still grows as a result of the alkaline nature of the lake.
Kuruçay Höyük (Kurucay Mound)
This mound has remnants from the Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic Age and sits overlooking Lake Burdur, surrounded by deep river beds on 3 sides. While the settlements are far apart in time period, it's believed to be a continued settlement at Kuruçay, though perhaps the late Chalcolithic settlement from a little under 5,000 years ago was separate from that of the Early Chalcolithic, which is closer to 7,000 years old.
Hacılar Höyük (Höyük meaning "mound”) is important for archaeology, located about 24 km west of the city of Burdur. The mound is one of the oldest known settlements in all of Western Anatolia, with 3 cultural periods dating back as far as 7,000 years ago.
Kibyra or Cibyra is an ancient city with some wonderful ruins. As you enter you'll pass through the monumental gate before you see one of ancient Anatolia's greatest stadiums before you, with a capacity of 11 thousand. The Odeion (House of Music) is nearby with a capacity of 3,600 people, giving you a sense of the size and importance of this great city. It truly is one of the greatest ancient cities you'll see and it's a bit off the beaten path, giving you the opportunity to have all of this marvelous city to yourself when you visit!
The Top 5 Unesco World Heritage Sites That You Haven’t Heard Of
Ok by now you know that Turkey has some of the world’s most incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Cappadocia’s been on your bucket list for ages (or maybe you’ve crossed it off already!), you’ve seen the pics of Mount Nemrut, you’ve dreamt of going back in time to Ephesus. And you don’t need another list telling you how amazing Istanbul is either. But did you know there are 18 world heritage sites in Turkey? It’s true! So here’s a list of 5 you might not have realized are places you need to add to your list!
Divriği Great Mosque and Hospital
Quick, where’s the Divriği Great Mosque and Hospital located? Who built it? Which Mengujekid ruler is your favorite? Do you have thoughts on the mosque and hospital’s found, Ahmadshāh b. Sulaymān?
The history of Anatolia is so vast and magnificent there are literally entire civilizations and empires that you’ve never heard of. But that doesn’t mean that their works aren’t amongst the most impressive you’ll ever see. The complex is massive, but it’s the intricate details of the 13th century building that is so impressive.
The House of Mengüjek of a ruling family over Eastern Anatolia and the Black Sea region in the 12thand 13th centuries, and the Great Mosque of Divriği is probably the greatest monument left over.
Aphrodisias was only inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017, which is why you might not have realized it. It’s also only recently drawn attention, despite being one of the largest and most intact ancient cities in the world. The city was the metropolis (provincial capital) of the region and Roman province of Caria, and it really shows what a capital it must have been. The temple of Aphrodite is magnificent, but what stands out most is how intact so much of the city is. From the sculptures to the inscriptions to the theaters, it’s an incredible experience to walk around and feel like you’ve stepped into the past.
It’s located almost right in between Ephesus and Pamukkale (themselves UNESCO World Heritage Sites!), so it’s easy to add to a long weekend tour of some of the most incredible sites you’ll see.
Hattusha: The Hittite Capital
If you think Aphrodisias is an ancient city, you’ll be REALLY impressed with Hattusha, which dates back almost 4,000 years! The Great Temple, which is stunningly well preserved, dates back to the 13th century B.C., though other temples, fortifications, residences and sculptures have all been preserved in a city that really traces back the roots of civilization and preserves them in a way that boggles the mind.
City of Safranbolu
As much as Hattusha is a trip into the past, what makes Safranbolu so incredible is how this city looks in almost every way exactly the same as it did centuries ago. The city itself dates back to the 13th century, and its current architectural style was formed in the 17th century and lasts right up until the present.
Today’s residents (and hotels as well) reflect this typical style, from their lush gardens to their wooden frames.
The Archaeological Site of Ani
The medieval “City of 1,001 Churches” is now an unbelievable abandoned city. The city was at its peak in the 10th and 11th centuries, when it was literally one of the largest cities in the whole world. It was sacked by Mongol hordes in the 13th century and devastated by earthquake in the 14th, and largely forgotten by the 17th century. Now you can walk through this ancient capital as it’s a ghost city unlike anywhere else on Earth. The beautiful churches and cathedrals as well the city’s walls are still largely intact, and the empty countryside surrounding all the ruins is both beautiful and haunting at once.