Arriving to Istanbul: Beginning your Turkish Adventure

Arrival To Istanbul

As Istanbul hosts two international airports this is a good place to begin your Turkish Adventure. Both airports are located quite far from the Sultanahmet district where many of the city’s top attractions, hotels and hostels are located. Ataturk Airport is on the European side and it is possible to reach the city centre by a combination of Metro and Tram. However Istanbul is a crowded city and negotiating public transport with heavy luggage can be tricky therefore it’s better to take a taxi or pre book a Ataturk Airport Sabiha Gokcen Airport transfer direct to your accommodation.

Exploring Sultanahmet District

The centre of Istanbul is called the Sultanahmet district and the top sights include the iconic Blue Mosque, the converted Byzantine Church/Ottoman Mosque and now museum, Hagia Sophia and the Roman time underground Basilica Cistern. The three famous sites form a triangle with a pretty square of water fountains filling the space in between. A city tour will take you to these sites and more, or you can go solo and take on the sea of street food vendors, sale reps, and tourist touts alone. The early morning is the best time of day to wander through the narrow streets around the square and take pictures of the Blue Mosque before the crowds arrive, or visit in the evening to see the mosques minarets illuminated by the sunset and hear the air ringing with the Islamic call to prayer.

Discovering Grand Bazaar

A warren of narrow streets take up the space between the main boulevard and Eminonu port and it’s pretty easy to get lost among the vibrant textile stores, displays of fresh spices and hanging glass lamps. You’ll probably wonder into one or two of the hidden ‘Hans’ where you’ll see locals sharing black tea in hour shaped glasses and porters running back and forth between the crowds to carry trays of Cay to store owners. There are two indoor sections to the Grand Bazaar, where most of the stalls are selling brightly coloured souvenirs, gold and silver goods, fine silk scarfs and an array of knock off (and maybe some real) designer bags. Head outside and join Istanbulites shopping for anything from live pets to carpets to electrical, and grab a plate of homemade food in one of the busy restaurants.

Arriving to Istanbul: Beginning your Turkish Adventure

Across the Bosphorus Strait

The Bosphorus strait is what separates the European and Asian sides of Istanbul and while most touristic attractions are located on the European side, it’s worth taking a trip across the channel to visit the Anatolian side if you have an extra day. You can travel from Europe to Asia by road via the famous Bosphorus Bridge but a better option is to skip the city traffic by taking a Ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy. While the harbour hosts a busy market where you can try a local street food specialty, Ekmek Balik, a breaded and grilled fish fillet sandwiched between a white bread roll with salad, ketchup and mayonnaise. You can also browse the stalls of traditional Turkish sweets and pick up a few tasters. Behind the harbour the streets of Kadikoy are lined with unique clothing and artisan stores, modern quirky cafes and second hand and antique shops. The area has a distinctly calmer atmosphere than the European side and on a sunny day you can relax in the waterside park.

Sunset at Maiden’s Tower

The Maiden’s Tower has a few legends behind it, one says that lone tower was built at the entrance of the Marmara Sea by a father to protect his favorite daughter. Stories say that the maiden lived inside the tower and each night she would light a candle so her lover could see the tower and swim to her but one night a storm struck and the candle went out. The young girls lover was lost at sea and in her sorrow the maiden threw herself from her window. Other stories say that the maiden died from the bite of a poisonous snake hiding inside a fruit basket brought by her father. Whichever story is true, people gather on the banks of the Bosphorus every evening to watch the sunset behind the picturesque maiden’s tower.

Turkey Tours

If planning isn’t your best quality and you want to remove the hassle of searching for hotels in peak season, working out public transport and booking individual tours, then a package tour of Turkey could be the best way to make the most of your Turkish adventure. National travel agencies, like Alaturka, can provide personalised travel itineraries to top destinations across Turkey, reserving accommodations in locally run hotels, private or public transfers between cities and day tours or multi day Blue Cruises with knowledgeable guides. While package holidays can be more pricey than independent travel you will be able to visit a lot of places in a short space of time and enjoy stress free travel in Turkey.

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