Superbly situated on the banks of the continent-dividing Bosphorus strait, and, like Rome, built on seven hills, the vibrant metropolis of Istanbul has been around for over two and half millenia. Two great empires have made it their capital, the Christian Byzantines and the Muslim Ottoman Turks, and it is their spectacular legacy that makes the city so appealing to those of us with a passion for archaeology and history.
The Topkapi Palace and its mysterious harem, the gloriously Iznik-tiled Blue Mosque, and the gorgeous mosaics and frescoes of the Church of Saviour in Chora are some of the highlights.
- Special out-of-hours access to one of the worlds truly great buildings - Hagia Sophia
- Be one of the first to return to Istanbul, travelling with Terry Richardson who literally wrote the book on this amazing city
- Enjoy free time to soak up the atmosphere and culture
- Ply the blue waters of the continent-dividing Bosphorus strait on a private boat
- Sample the local cuisine, including baklava and köfte
- Historic Churches
- Great Cities
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We fly from London to Istanbul and upon arrival, transfer to our hotel
We begin at the sixth-century Haghia Eirene (Church of the Holy Peace), sister church to the nearby Haghia Sophia, before strolling down to the excellent Archaeological Museum. A short uphill walk brings us to the atmospherically-lit and cavernous Basilica Cistern. After lunch we continue on foot to the lovely Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome and the little-visited Church of St Sergius and Bacchus, now a mosque.
The day ends with a special private visit to the glorious Haghia Sofia, one of the most influential buildings of the Byzantine and Ottoman period.
We spend the morning exploring the nerve-centre of the mighty Ottoman Empire, the Topkapı Palace complex, and lunch in the grounds in an historic pavilion with views over the Bosphorus to Asia. In the afternoon we explore the wonders of the Süleymaniye Mosque and its ancillary buildings before walking down to a bustling market area radiating out from the Ottoman-era Spice Bazaar.
A free day for those who want to take a Turkish bath, shop in the Grand Bazaar or otherwise explore independently. Alternatively, and depending on the weather, your guide-lecturer will take you on foot through the backstreets of one of the most traditional parts of Istanbul, taking in assorted churches and mosques (and a tea-house or two) before ending on the banks of the Golden Horn.
We take our own privately-hired boat up one of the most dramatic waterways in the world, the Bosphorus, with views to Europe and Asia of Ottoman-era waterfront mansions, the fortification of Rumeli Hisar and much more – maybe even a flight of shearwaters or a school of dolphins. The focus of the day is the Sadberk Hanim Museum, home to top-quality artefacts from around Turkey.
In the morning we head out to the Church of Saviour in Chora and its lovely mosaics, followed by a look at the mighty Walls of Theodosius and nearby Byzantine Palace of the Porphyrogenitus. In the afternoon we cross the Golden Horn and enjoy sublime views of the city from the Genoese Galata Tower, and explore the Galata Mevlevi Lodge, a museum once the meeting-place of the ‘Whirling Dervish’ Mevlevi order.
We have the chance to view some superb quality Turkish carpets and kilims in a restored Byzantine-era cistern before lunch and our afternoon flight home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - Most meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes