Select your tour option when you book, and on the day, begin with a pickup from your central Istanbul hotel. Meet your private guide, receive a blue-and-white ‘evil eye’ token as a gift, and settle into your private, air-conditioned minivan.
If you’ve chosen to visit the Hagia Sophia during its regular opening hours, make your way first to this incredible UNESCO-protected building for a 1-hour guided tour. Step inside with your guide and marvel at the soaring dome and glittering mosaics as you hear about its tangled history. Constructed as a Christian basilica by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, this astonishing edifice was converted to a mosque by the Ottomans in 1453.
Continue to the exquisite Blue Mosque, whose six minarets are a famous fixture on Istanbul’s skyline. Head inside for a guided tour of the stunning interior — a vision of bright blue, delicately painted Iznik tiles. Next, stop by at the Hippodrome, the city's former Ottoman chariot-racing arena, and then pay a visit to the Topkapi Palace. This opulent palace was the power base of the Ottoman sultans for more than 400 years, and boasts ornamental courtyards, rich chambers and lavish treasures that bear witness to the sultans’ wealth and pampered lives.
After lunch at a local restaurant (see the Itinerary for a sample menu), dive into the Grand Bazaar. Delve into the chaotic corridors and browse the colorful stalls hawking carpets, lanterns, leather and other goodies. Refuel with a Turkish coffee along the way, and then finish with a waterfront stroll to admire stirring views over the Bosphorus Strait and city skyline.
Your tour then concludes with a hotel drop-off.
Optional Early Morning or Evening Visit to Hagia SophiaUpgrade to enjoy an early morning or evening visit to the Hagia Sophia and enjoy a 1-hour tour with your private guide, but without the crowds!
Choose to arrive before the official 9am opening time and be one of the first of the day to experience its glorious interior. Alternatively, select an evening visit as the last port of call on your private tour. Arrive after the official closing time of 6pm in winter (November to March), or 8pm in summer (April to October), and make the most of the interior free from the noise and bustle of the main daytime crowds.