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Best Tours and Day Trips from Istanbul

Turkey has breathtaking landscapes that are worth visiting at least once in a lifetime: here are the best excursions from Istanbul

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

8 min read

Best Tours and Day Trips from Istanbul

Istanbul and its beautiful views of the Bosphorus | ©Edgardo W. Olivera

The capital of Turkey will seduce you from the moment you set foot in it; everything will be new to you and everything will attract your attention, but you have to start your visit somewhere. I recommend you to do it with this selection of tours and excursions in and around Istanbul.

1. Afternoon tour of the old city of Istanbul

Blue Mosque | ©Hans-Jürgen Weinhardt
Blue Mosque | ©Hans-Jürgen Weinhardt

Getting your bearings in Istanbul is not always easy; the city is a convergence of Eastern and Western culture and is also divided into several zones. If you are going to hire guided tours to get to know Istanbul, these are probably delimited by neighborhoods. One of the first that you have to consider is the visit to the old city of Istanbul.

This afternoon tour is also known as the classic tour of Istanbul, includes pick-up from your hotel, lasts 3 hours, is designed for a maximum of 15 travelers, and is available in English, German, Spanish and French.

Itinerary

The tour focuses on the Sultanahmet area and covers points of interest such as:

  • The Blue Mosque, famous for its blue tiles and six minarets.
  • Hagia Sophia, an impressive basilica-turned-mosque.
  • The city's hippodrome, where the political and sporting activities of the old city take place.
  • The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul's largest souk where you can lose yourself for hours bargaining with the merchants.

Take note of this

It's important to note that many of Istanbul's temples must be entered with a covered head and no shoes; you'll be given a headscarf at the entrance and you can also bring your own as well as an extra pair of socks.

Details like these are common in a city with such a particular culture, so it is especially advisable to make this type of visit in the company of a specialized guide, who will also provide historical data and information about the customs to which you must adapt during your stay in the Turkish capital.

2. Byzantine Empire Tour of Istanbul

Ancient Walls of Byzantium | ©TripMapGuide.com
Ancient Walls of Byzantium | ©TripMapGuide.com

When you hear about Constantinople, you should know that this is the name that the city of Istanbul once received. Constantinople was marked for centuries by the presence of the Byzantine Empire and in this three-hour guided tour of the Byzantine Empire you will discover the vestiges of this civilization that remain today in modern Istanbul.

Itinerary

The tour intersperses walking sections (always accompanied by the guide) with sections in a private vehicle that will pick you up at your hotel (when booking online, do not forget to provide your accommodation details). The main monuments and places of interest you will see are:

  • What was the naval port of the Byzantines, known as the "Golden Horn" because of its shape.
  • The St George's Cathedral, the seat of Orthodox Christianity.
  • The Walls that once surrounded the Acropolis of Byzantium.
  • The Patriarchate of Fener, where Constantine the Great declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire
  • The Tekfur Palace, from the 12th century.
  • The church of St. Savior of Cora, one of the best-preserved examples of a Byzantine church.

Useful information about this tour

This tour is available in English, Spanish, French, and German. If you are looking to avoid crowds (something you will find difficult in Istanbul, especially in the peak summer season) this is one of the best options as groups are no more than 10 travelers.

Throughout the tour, an expert guide will introduce you to both the monuments of the city and its history, so it is ideal for those interested in the culture behind this city.

3. Istanbul Bosphorus River Cruise

Bosphorus River Cruise | ©David Leo Veksler
Bosphorus River Cruise | ©David Leo Veksler

The city of Istanbul is bathed and divided by the Bosphorus River and from the Bosphorus, you can see some of the most important mosques and monuments of the city. This Bosphorus cruise is combined with a bus tour of the city; the experience includes hotel pick-up and the presence of a specialized guide during the 3-hour tour.

Itinerary

  • First, a private vehicle picks you up at your hotel in the center of Istanbul.
  • Aboard an air-conditioned bus, your guide will take you and the rest of your group to sites such as the Jewish district of Balat, St. Stephen's Church, the Byzantine Walls, the Greek quarter of Fener, or the Egyptian Bazaar.
  • Then it's time to embark on the Bosphorus cruise to comfortably observe the wonderful architecture of the city while continuing to enjoy the explanations of your guide.
  • The tour ends with a walk from the pier to Taksim Square.

Useful information about this tour

Tours depart daily from approximately 9:00 am; when booking your place online select the day and time of your choice. You have up to 24 hours before departure to cancel your reservation free of charge.

4. Half-Day Istanbul Coastal Tour

Entrance to the Grand Bazaar | ©JD Lasica
Entrance to the Grand Bazaar | ©JD Lasica

The most popular area of Istanbul is that near the Bosphorus port. It is there where the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, or the Blue Mosque are located. In this half day private tour of Istanbul you will see all these monuments while learning about the history of the city and its customs thanks to the explanations of an expert guide who will accompany you throughout the tour.

This is a private tour, which means that it is open to a maximum of eight travelers. The total duration will be about 4 hours and the tour is available in the language of your choice.

Itinerary

  • The Hippodrome Square
  • The interior of the Blue Mosque
  • The architecture of Hagia Sophia
  • The ins and outs of the Grand Bazaar

Ana's Traveller Tip

You're going to have a lot of alone time with a guide who, in addition to knowing historical and cultural facts about the city, knows its customs and way of life; don't hesitate to ask him and ask for recommendations.

5. A gastronomic tour of Istanbul

Turkish delicacies | ©Brian Suda
Turkish delicacies | ©Brian Suda

Turkish cuisine has delicious dishes that go far beyond the typical Kebap that has been imported to other parts of the world. The aromas that you will perceive walking through the streets of Istanbul will give you an idea of the delicacies that you can eat in the city; in this gastronomic tour of Istanbul a local guide will take you to the most authentic places in the city and will give you a taste of its main dishes.

Once you know the monuments of a city, it's time to enjoy it and that's what this tour is designed for. About five hours touring the different bars and restaurants of Istanbul while you stroll through its streets in no particular rush, in a relaxed atmosphere, and with the best advice.

What this tour consists of

The experience starts with the pick-up at your hotel. You will make a tour in your language around the Galata district and surroundings so you can taste local specialties such as Turkish pizza, simit, dolma, or baklava. If right now these names sound Turkish to you, don't worry; the guide will explain everything you need to know about these dishes as well as giving you valuable facts about the city of Istanbul.

You can book your place online and ask any questions via email.

6. Day trip to Cappadocia from Istanbul

Balloons flying over breathtaking landscapes in Cappadocia | ©Michael Day
Balloons flying over breathtaking landscapes in Cappadocia | ©Michael Day

The colorful mountains of Cappadocia are sure to be familiar to you; you've seen dozens of times those photos of air balloons flying over landscapes that look computer-generated. Visiting this Turkish region from Istanbul is possible with this all-inclusive day trip to Cappadocia.

The first thing you need to know is that this region is located quite a distance from the Turkish capital, so the way to get there is by plane.

What is included in this tour

  • Pick up and drop off from your hotel in Istanbul
  • Airline tickets
  • The services of an expert guide for the entire day
  • A guided tour of Cappadocia
  • Lunch
  • Entrance fees to the sights are included in the tour

Useful information about this tour

The tour is available in Portuguese, English, Japanese, and Spanish. If you don't want to be left wanting to see the Underground City of Cappadocia, the fairy chimneys, or the rock-cut castles, this tour is a convenient option that frees you from planning such a trip on your own and also gives you the possibility to do it in one day.

7. Two-day trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale from Istanbul

The ruins of Ephesus | ©Mert Kahveci
The ruins of Ephesus | ©Mert Kahveci

Other places in Turkey worth seeing during your visit to the country are the regions of Ephesus and Pamukkale. This time you don't need a flight from Istanbul; you can arrive by overnight bus with this two-day organized tour.

Itinerary

  • The temple of Artemis
  • The house of the Virgin Mary
  • The temple of Isa Bey
  • The ruins of Ephesus
  • Hierapolis
  • The national park of Pamukkale
  • The cathedral and museum of Pamukkale
  • Domitian's Gate

8. Four-day luxury tour to Cappadocia, Ephesus, Pamukkale from Istanbul

Pamukkale hot springs | ©Vladyslav Cherkasenko
Pamukkale hot springs | ©Vladyslav Cherkasenko

Istanbul is a fascinating city in which you could spend days and days without stopping to discover things, but don't forget that it is only a small part of Turkey and that the country has much more to offer you. Unfortunately, organizing a trip in Turkey is not as easy as in other countries, that's why there are organized tours of several days with all-inclusive.

What this tour consists of

This four-day excursion to Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Pamukkale from Istanbul is one of the most comprehensive. Not only is it all-inclusive, but it is also a private tour with which you will stay in four-star hotels. You can book your place online with a free cancellation guarantee up to 24 hours before your flight departure.

A guide in your language will be available only for you, will organize your transfers and visits to places of interest, and will take care of all meals and airline tickets also included in the price of the tour. Allowing yourself this luxury excursion during your visit to Istanbul guarantees you to return from your trip with a complete picture of a great country like Turkey.

9. You may also be interested in...

Atatürk Havalimani International Airport | ©Mitch Altman
Atatürk Havalimani International Airport | ©Mitch Altman

If you are traveling soon to the city of Istanbul don't forget to check out this article on Istanbul Airport Transfers. Arriving in the city can be a bit chaotic and hiring a transfer service from the airport to your hotel can help you until you are more settled and familiar with Istanbul.