After pickup from Istanbul cruise port or your Sultanahmet or Taksim area hotel, travel with your guide to your first stop: Pierre Loti Hill.
Hear how the hill takes its name from the early 20th-century French writer and naval officer Pierre Loti, who wrote exotic fictional tales based on his experiences in Istanbul. Ride the cable car to soak up the awe-inspiring views over the Golden Horn and city from the café at the summit.
Next, board a sightseeing boat for a cruise on the Bosphorus, the strait that links the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea, and divides Istanbul’s European and Asian sides. Drink in the views of the passing waterfront palaces and Ottoman houses, and admire the 15th-century Rumeli Fortress, built by Sultan Mehmet II, as you sail.
Take a ride on the new Marmaray rail system beneath the Bosphorus — the first undersea link between Europe and Asia. Learn how the track opened in 2013 only after serious delays caused by the discovery of Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman ruins on the seabed.
Pay a visit to the Rustem Pasha Mosque, a stunning 16th-century mosque that's one of Istanbul's lesser-known gems, and savor lunch at a charming local restaurant before heading into the Sultanahmet district to see its UNESCO-listed highlights.
Descend into the underground Basilica Cistern, an early Byzantine water storage facility, to see its colossal subterranean pillars and mysterious Medusa heads.
Back on street level, view the mosaic-coated Hagia Sophia museum, a one-time mosque and Christian basilica built by the Emperor Justinia in the 6th century, and admire the blue Iznik tiles and six minarets of the beautiful Blue Mosque. Make a stop, too, to see the Hippodrome, once the center of Byzantine social life and scene of fiercely competitive chariot races.
Your tour then concludes with a hotel or port drop-off.