Regular & Private Tours
1-) THE IMPERIAL TOUR
Daily Morning Tour 35 €
We begin our tour of the Sultanahmet district, the heart of old Istanbul, at Hagia Sophia. Built by the Emperor Justinian in the early 6th century AD and designed by Anthemius of Tralles and Isodore of Miletus, the church is one of the marvels of world architecture. Converted into a mosque in 1453, it is now a museum. Its massive dome still dominates the skyline of old Istanbul. It is also famed for its mosaics, including glittering portraits of emperors and empresses and a poignant Virgin and Child.
Next we visit the Blue Mosque* which takes its name from the exquisite tiles adorning its interior. Built by Sultan Ahmet I in the early 17th century and designed by a pupil of Sinan. the greatest of Ottoman architects, it is the only imperial mosque with six minarets. Its courtyard is especially grand.
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.
(Afternoon tour also available on Tuesdays)
*On Mondays, when Saint Sophia is closed, we visit the Chora Church. **The Blue Mosque is closed on Friday mornings.
2-) OTTOMAN SPLENDOURS
Daily Afternoon Tour 35 €
We begin at Topkapı Palace*, from the 15th to the 19th century, was the principal residence of the Ottoman Sultans.
We visit the fabulous 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. It also possesses numerous Ottoman court costumes and ceramics, notably including one of the world’s finest collections of Chinese celadon ceramics, many 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 feature of Topkapı Palace are its courtyards’ ancient trees; it is easy to imagine the sultan strolling here far from the cares of state and empire.
Our final stop, the New Mosque, or Yeni Cami, is new only in the extended timeframe of Turkish history. The New Mosque overlooks the harbor next to the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn. The beautiful exterior consists of a great courtyard, two slender minarets, and a cascade of domes tumbling down from a central dome. Hundreds of pigeons make their nests among the architecture.
*On Tuesdays, when Topkapı Palace is closed, this tour is not offered.
Tour 1+2 = Special Full Day Old City Tour
Full day tour (except Tuesdays) combines Imperial Tour and Ottoman tour and includes lunch. 70 €
3-) MORNING BOSPHORUS CRUISE
Daily Morning Tour 35 €
We begin with a brief visit to the 17th century Spice Bazaar*, one of Istanbul’s most colorful, bustling attractions.
Next, we travel the Golden Horn on our way to an unforgettable cruise along the Bosphorus, the majestic strait that runs through Istanbul, linking Europe and Asia.
From our cruise boat, we view the dramatic sights lining the Bosphorus’ wooded shores: mosques, a bridge that for a time was the world’s longest and Rumeli Hisarı, a massive fortress built by Mehmet the Conqueror in just three months as he prepared to take Istanbul.
Also noteworthy on this tour are the 19th century mansions of the Ottoman elite and the Sultans’ fanciful gingerbread palaces and hunting lodges.
4-) AFTERNOON BOSPHORUS CRUISE
Daily Afternoon Tour 35 €
We cruise the Bosphorus, and from the deck of our cruise boat, take in the sights and sounds of this legendary waterway, lined with historic villages, grandiose waterfront mansions, imposing fortresses, like Anadolu Hisarı, and the Baroque palaces of the late Ottoman sultans.
After our cruise we travel along the breathtaking Golden Horn to the Spice Bazaar**, a thrilling riot of colors, sounds and the smells of exotic spices.
*On the rare Sundays when the Spice Bazaar is closed, we offer an orientation session.
**The Spice Bazaar may be visited prior to the Bosphorus Cruise, depending on the number of tour participants.
5-) ASIA and BEYLERBEYI PALACE
Daily Afternoon Tour 35 €
We begin by driving across the first Bosphorus Bridge, which for a time was the world’s longest suspension 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 drive 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 with Bohemian crystal chandeliers and Sèvres and Chinese vases, including a main salon with an indoor fountain.
The sultans’ guests at the palace included Empress Eugénie of France, Shah Nasruddin of Persia and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia.
(Every day except Mondays and Thursdays.)
Tour 3+5 = Special Full Day Bosphorus Tour
Full day tour (except Mondays and Thursdays) combines Bosphorus tour and Asian tour and includes lunch 70 €
6-) ISTANBUL BY NIGHT
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 belly-dancers. We will be entertained by some of the city’s finest.
7-) PRINCESS ISLAND
Full Day Tour 70 €
There is no better way to escape the bustle of Istanbul for a day than with a visit to the idyllic Princes’ Islands.
Enjoy cool breezes and charming sights along the way to Büyükada, the largest Island in the chain. Famous for their mild climates, lush vegetation, and ornate Ottoman houses, all the islands are unspoiled by traffic. Instead of cars there are carriages, called phaetons, which we will use to tour the island and its beautiful scenery studded with elegant mansions draped with purple bougainvillea, reminiscent of a more leisured and graceful era.
We will enjoy our lunch at the best of one of the many excellent fresh fish restaurants that line the waterfront, gazing across the Asian shore of Istanbul, so close – though it feels worlds away.
Our Pera Tour begins at the top of Istiklal Avenue, in Taksim Square, with the French Cultural Institute, which brings French culture to Istanbul and is one of many reasons the area retains its fin de siècle feel.
Then we visit Aya Triada, Istanbul’s largest Eastern Orthodox Church. A short stroll brings us to Ağa Camii mosque, dating back to 1597.
Next, we visit Galatasaray High School, founded in 1868. Across the avenue is the 19th century Çiçek Pasajı.
We descend French Street and afterward stop at the Church of Saint Antoine, Istanbul’s largest Catholic church. Nearby is the Crimea Memorial Church.
From there we visit the Pera Palace Hotel, terminal hotel for the Orient Express, and then ride the Tünel finicular, built in 1875.
8- ) BURSA
Full Day Tour 90 €
We travel by ferry to Yalova, then by luxury coach to the city of Bursa*, which dates back to the 2nd century B.C. The first capital of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa is one of the greatest treasure houses of Islamic architecture.
We will first visit the Green Mosque and the neighbouring Green Mausoleum, both world-renowned for their superb tile decorations, as well as the late 14th century Great Mosque and the Koza Han, which for centuries was the center of Bursa’s flourishing silk trade.
As the capital of Turkey’s silk production and importation, Bursa was also the home of the skilled artisans who produced kaftans, pillows, embroidery and other silk products for the Ottoman palaces until the 17th century.
Afterwards, enjoy a leisurely cable car ride up the slopes of Mount Olympus, in Turkish, Uludağ, or if the cable car is not running, take in the panoramic views from beneath the more than 1,000 year-old plane tree that gives Çınaraltı its name.
Lunch is at one of Bursa’s most highly-regarded traditional Turkish restaurants, the Darüzziyafe, where we will enjoy the finest authentic Ottoman cuisine in a historic setting, where Sultan Murat the Second once dined.
(This tour is available on Mondays, Thursdays & Saturdays. In the event the cable car is closed due to weather conditions, Çınaraltı is substituted for Uludağ.)
*A minimum of eight (8) participants are required for this tour.
Two Day Tour 450 €
On our way to Cappadocia, we fly to Nevşehir or Kayseri and drive to Üçhisar in the midst of the Cappadocian heartland, where we will be staying at one of Cappadocia’s unique 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 experience you will never forget.
On our way to Üçhisar we will stop off at the magnificent 13th century Selçuk caravanserai known as Ağzıkarahan, and 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
Full Day Tour 350 €
We catch an early flight to the city of Izmir 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 periods. 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 Celsus, the brothel, the vast Basilica of St. John, the Mosque of Isabey, the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the 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 and the Greek island of Samos.
GALLIPOLI BATTELFIELD FULL DAY TOUR
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.”
We begin our tour of Istanbul’s Jewish heritage with a visit to the Galata District of Istanbul and the Ashkenazi Synagogue. Built in 1900 by Austrian Jews, it is the only active Ashkenazi Synagogue in the city.
From there we will take a short walk to the Neve Shalom Synagogue*, built by two young Turkish-Jewish architects to meet the demands of the growing Jewish population in the neighborhood in 1930.
Afterward, we will visit the Jewish Museum of Turkey, located in the former Zulfaris Synagogue, constructed by Italian Jews in the 15th century, during the Republic of Genoa’s rule of the Galata disctrict as a semi-autonomous precinct.
Next, we will take a stroll along the breathtaking Golden Horn to the neighborhood of Balat, once the most important Jewish neighborhood in Istanbul, as evidenced by the superb architecture of its Jewish houses and the Ahrida, Istanbul’s oldest synagogue. First built in the 1400s, the building has been extensively restored and reflects architectural styles from several periods. It houses an immaculate collection of carved wood furniture, including a pulpit that resembles a boat’s prow – possibly a reference to Noah’s Ark.
For lunch we’ll enjoy authentic Turkish cuisine in the charming Bosphorus village of Ortakoy. Lunch will be followed by a leisurely tour of the village which boasts an alluring combination of well-preserved historic wooden houses and charming local boutiques. Ortakoy’s Jewish roots will be explored with a visit to the Etz Ahayim Synagogue, rebuilt in 1941 following a fire, within view of the iconic Bosphorus bridge.
*This tour is not available on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays, when the synagogues are in use for services and weddings.
CHRISTIAN HERITAGE TOUR
The tour begins with a stroll alongside the beautiful Golden Horn, the perfect introduction to the splendours of Christendom that crown Istanbul’s cityscape.
One such splendour is the The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, once one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity.
Our tour of the Orothodox world will continue with a visit to Balat and the Bulgarian Iron Church, completed in 1898, brought in from Europe by rail.
From here we explore the wooden buildings at the base of the towering ramparts of the Old City, where the practitioners of three distinct religions lived together harmoniously in one single neighbourhood.
In addition to admiring the architecture of these wooden treasures, there will be ample opportunities to photograph the Walls of Constantinople, which stand strong to this day, as well as the still standing Golden Gate-the famed entrance to the Yedikule Fortress, gateway to the heart of Byzantium. Within those walls, one of the main attractions has always been the Little Hagia Sophia, an Eastern Othodox church, thus named because it may have served as a model for the Hagia Sophia.
After that visit, we will enjoy delicious Turkish cuisine before heading on to the Galata Tower, a 14th century medieval stone tower built by the Genoese that dominates the skyline of Beyoglu, affording sweeping views of the Old City, Golden Horn, Bosphorus, and the Sea of Mamara from its parapet, as well being one of the most striking landmarks in the city.
From the Galata Tower we will take a short walk up historic Istiklal Avenue to the Saint Antoine Catholic Church, the most beautiful Catholic church in Istanbul, built in 1912.