East, say hello to the West. Living in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul has not let its continental identity prevent it from becoming one of the world's most vibrant and flourishing cities. Towering mosques, bustling markets and Turkish bath houses infused with European-inspired cobbled streets and restaurants would make Aladdin wish he was Istanbul's Prince of Thieves. Welcome to incredible Istanbul, the crossroad of the world.
Note: This tour meets at our accommodation on Thursday after 16:00. There are two airports in Istanbul, Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW). You can fly into either airport, but we recommend IST as it is closer to the city center. Your will receive directions from both airports to our accommodation in the days before your trip.
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This trip meets at the Hostel, Mavi Guesthouse, on Thursday evening. Your Bus2alps guide will be at the hostel to help check you in between the hours of 16:00 and 22:00. Luggage storage will be available for those of you arriving before 16:00. For those of you arriving after 22:00, you can check in at the reception desk and pick up your Bus2alps Welcome Package there. Detailed information regarding your trip, including directions from the airport to the accommodation, will be emailed to you in the days leading up to your departure.
For those of you arriving early in the evening, Bus2alps recommends checking out the Grand Bazaar before it closes at 19:00. One of the city’s must-see attractions, The Grand Bazzar has roughly 5,000 shops spread across 60 streets and is one of the largest covered markets in the world, attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. The night is then yours to settle into the city. You trip leader will assist you with local restaurants and nightlife options.
Friday morning, awake to the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s largest cities. After some time for breakfast, we will set out to explore with a local guide. Walk along Istanbul’s historic streets with awe as you discover architectural masterpieces of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Among the many sites our local guru will show us, are the Blue Mosque, Haggia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Spice Market. While it is free to enter the Blue Mosque, entrance into the Haggia Sophia and Topkapi Palace is optional and at your own expense.
On Friday night there will be an optional pub crawl for anyone looking to experience the wild side of Istanbul’s nightlife. The pub crawl begins at 20:30 at Sultanahmet where we will enjoy drinks and free Hookah before hitting up some of the best bars and clubs in the city.
Saturday is a free day. You can check out the hamams (Turkish bath houses), choose to take a boat cruise down the Bosphorus River which is 20 miles in length and is the physical divider between the continents of Europe and Asia or test your bargaining skills in the Grand Bazaar.
After a full day of exploring, you’ll be ready to feast on Turkey’s delicious food. Join your Bus2alps trip leader for a traditional Turkish dinner later in the evening. Turkish cuisine is often rich and savory, not particularly spicy, and consists of many vegetables. It is recognized as one of the three richest and oldest cooking traditions in the world, alongside French and Chinese cooking. For a real taste of Turkey, be sure to try a lamb sis kebab.
Sunday is a free day to explore a bit more of Istanbul. Check out is at 11:30am. If your flight departs later in the day you will be able to store your luggage in the hostel until you’re ready to leave. Your Bus2alps trip leader will be available after breakfast to lead the way to the Galata Tower, one of the city’s most striking landmarks. This high, cone-capped cylinder dominates the Istanbul skyline, a view that you certainly will not want to miss. After this, your leader will be able to suggest different activities and things to do for those of you with flights later in the day. Please note that a number of major sites are closed on Sunday, including the Grand Bazaar.