Istanbul – capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires – has accumulated an astounding wealth of history, art and architecture. This 13-day study tour explores this metropolis in depth, from the archaeology of the early city through the successive civilisations that have ruled there, and on to its modern incarnation as a multicultural metropolis spanning Europe and Asia. The tour also includes two nights in Çanakkale, to spend a full day exploring Gallipoli with excursions to Troy and Iznik. A series of background lectures, guided visits and historical walking tours are balanced with time for independent exploration.
Constantinople, including the Hippodrome, Underground Cistern and National Archaeological Museum
Spectacular Byzantine and Ottoman sites, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi and Dolambahçe palaces
The superb collections of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art and the Ottoman Military Museum
Excursion to the little-known, car-free Princes’ Island of Heybeliada, and a Bosphorus cruise
A full day exploring Gallipoli and an excursion to Troy
Days 1–2: Orientation walk of Sultanahmet, cruise the Bosphorus, climb Galata Tower and visit the Spice Bazaar.
Days 3–4: History at the Archaeological Museum. Hagia Sophia, Chora Church and Ottoman culture at the Blue Mosque and Mosaic Museum.
Days 5–6: Islamic history at Topkapi Palace, Turkish Museum of Islamic Art and the Military Museum. Shop in the bustling Grand Bazaar.
Day 7: Dine by the water on the Princes’ Island of Heybeliada.
Days 8–10: Travel to Çanakkale and Troy, with a full day exploring the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Days 11–13: Experience the Asian side’s cosmopolitan Kadikoy and Dolambahçe Palace.
Tour begins and ends at our hotel in Istanbul. Qatar Airways and Emirates offer daily flights into Istanbul from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday 2 April: Arrival and Orientation
The tour commences at the hotel in Istanbul in the afternoon. Meet your tour leader and fellow travellers in the lobby of the hotel for an orientation walk through Sultanahmet, the area where our hotel is located. We explore the hippodrome, the centre of Byzantine life for 1000 years, before an introductory talk in our hotel, followed by a welcome dinner in a local Turkish restaurant. Overnight Istanbul (D)
Saturday 3 April: Around the Golden Horn
This morning we travel by the tram across the Bosphorus Galata Tower. The nine-story medieval tower was built by the Genoese in 1348 during an expansion of the colony. The upper balcony affords spectacular 360-degree views of the city. We then drop into the prestigious Pera Palace Hotel established in 1892 to accommodate passengers from the Orient Express staying in Istanbul. Enjoy tea and cake in the Art Nouveau style French patisserie or something stronger in the Orient bar frequented by guests such as Hemingway, Mata Hari and Agatha Christie who supposedly wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411. This afternoon we board a cruise on the Bosphorus and around the Golden Horn which provides a strategic viewpoint into Istanbul’s great monuments from a different perspective. We return to the old city where we wander through the vibrant spice bazaar. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Sunday 4 April: Early History
Istanbul has a long history dating back to Thracian tribes in 3000BC and is mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his historical accounts. This morning we explore its early history through a survey of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Its rich collection of antiquities housed over three buildings includes ancient pre-Islamic artefacts, classical statuary and the Istanbul Through the Ages exhibition which traces the city’s history through different periods from Archaic to Ottoman. This afternoon we visit the Great Palace Mosaic Museum housing Byzantine mosaics unearthed at the site of the Great Palace of Constantinople. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Monday 5 April: Byzantine Constantinople
Our day begins with a descent under the streets of Sultanahmet to witness the sheer grandeur of the subterranean Basilica Cistern followed by a visit to the beautiful Hagia Sophia, considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. Constructed as a church on the orders of Emperor Justinian, the Hagia Sophia was the religious focal point of the Eastern Church for nearly 1000 years before it was converted into a mosque following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is now a museum. In contrast, the Blue Mosque, built in the early 17th century and named for 20,000 handmade blue Iznik tiles decorating the interior, is an active mosque which boasts six minarets rather than the standard four. This afternoon takes us to the Church of St Saviour in Chora, originally a medieval Greek Orthodox church and now a museum preserving its glorious 14th-century mosaics and frescoes, evidence of a late flowering of Byzantine art. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Tuesday 6 April: The Ottoman Period
Topkapi Palace was home to the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the early 19th century when the court was moved to Dolambahçe Palace. Even after the move, the palace served as the reliquary for the Royal Treasure, Holy Relics of the Prophet as well as hosting some state ceremonies. Following the abolition of the monarchy, Kemal Attaturk had the palace converted into a museum. Today we are able to wander through the various courtyards, buildings and pavilions that served as the residence of the sovereign and court employees which now house important collections of precious objects and works of art including the Harem and the Treasury. This afternoon we head to the Military Museum, chronicling a long and distinguished history of Ottoman military tradition, to see their fine collection of weapons, uniforms and tools from the Ottoman era to World War I. During our visit we see the Janissary Band, wearing traditional military uniforms, perform a concert of marching music used extensively in Ottoman military campaigns. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Wednesday 7 April: Grand Bazaar and Museum of Turkish & Islamic Art
Today we immerse ourselves in the colour and chaos of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, initiated by the Sultan after the conquest of Constantinople to stimulate the economy through the trade of textiles and jewellery. Today, the vast covered market of over 60 lanes is home to over 4000 vendors employing 26,000 people. Haggling is compulsory as you explore the labyrinth of shops selling antiques, jewellery, textiles and carpets but there are also plenty of cafes to take a break from the sensory overload. The afternoon is spent at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic art, an impressive repository of Islamic religious art, illuminated Korans, and calligraphy from Ottoman periods. There is also an ethnographic section, hand-woven Anatolian carpets and wall tiles and intricate woodcarvings from the Selcuk era. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Thursday 8 April: Prince’s Island Ferry to Heybeliada
A relaxed day: we take a ferry across the Bosphorus to the Heybeliada in the Princes’ Islands. During the Byzantine and Ottoman eras, princes and other royalty were exiled here, hence the name. With no cars or motorised transport, the island offers a peaceful respite from busy Istanbul. We take a walking tour commencing at the Naval Cadet School through the pine groves and past the Victorian era cottages built by Istanbul’s wealthy as summer escapes. Relax over lunch on the waterfront before taking the ferry back to Istanbul in the afternoon. Overnight Istanbul (B, L)
Friday 9 April: Troy
We depart Istanbul today for Çanakkale on the Asian side of the Dardanelles, the legendary and strategically important strait connecting the Mediterranean with the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. We visit Troy, one of civilization’s most celebrated archaeological sites. Immortalised by Homer, the site was first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th century. While the site was generally accepted to be the city of Troy, this was not actually confirmed until 2011 when researchers used a combination of geology, literary refence and topography to identify the site. We also encounter 4000 years of history at the newly opened Troy Museum. Overnight Çanakkale (B, D)
Saturday 10 April: Gallipoli
We spend the day exploring Gallipoli in the company of local guide Kenan Celik OAM, a world expert on the Gallipoli Campaign and World War I. Our itinerary includes the moving sites of Anzac Cove, the remnants of trenches and the Battle of Gallipoli Museum, Lone Pine Memorial, the Nek, Quinns Post and the Cemetery. Overnight Çanakkale (B, PL)
Sunday 11 April: Return to Istanbul
The morning is at leisure to explore the town of Çanakkale before we return to Istanbul. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Monday 12 April: Kadiköy
This morning we cross the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul and explore the lively area of modern Kadiköy, on the site of ancient Chalcedon, seat of the fourth ecumenical council of the Christian Church in 451. The Kadiköy Pazari market is a showcase of fresh produce popular with locals. We explore the stalls teeming with fresh fish, fruits, vegetables and honey, sampling Anatolian specialities, Turkish coffee and tasting the dazzling array of lokum (Turkish delight). We visit the Commonwealth Military Cemetery, primarily with burials from the Crimean War. There are also graves of six Australians who served in World War I and a monument to Florence Nightingale. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Tuesday 13 April: Dolambahçe Palace
Today we visit the Dolambahçe Palace built by the 31st Ottoman Sultan, Abdülmecid, which served as the administrative centre of the Empire until 1922. The Palace is divided into three main sections: the State Apartments for the conduct of administrative affairs; the Ceremonial Hall; for greeting dignitaries and important state ceremonies, and the Harem, the private residence of the Sultan and his family. A blend of European architectural styles and Ottoman influences, the lavishly furnished rooms feature handmade parquetry floors carved from rosewood, ebony and mahogany. The piece de resistance is the world’s largest Bohemian Crystal chandelier, a gift from Queen Victoria. As tonight is our final evening in Istanbul we come together for a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Istanbul (B, D)
Wednesday 14 April: Depart
The tour concludes after breakfast in the hotel. Passengers who have booked their international flights through Academy Travel will be provided with a transfer to the airport. (B)
Dr Jennifer Lawless
Former Inspector of History for the NSW Board of Studies, with expertise spanning Modern and Ancient History.
Jennifer has led tours to Turkey, Greece, Crete and Iran. Her main interest in travel is history, both ancient and more recent history such as the experiences of Australians at Gallipoli. Other cultures – and in particular their food and wine – also rate!
Jennifer has co-authored over ten books on ancient History that are widely used in senior History classes and has been awarded a number of scholarships and awards for writing and research, including a Churchill Fellowship, an Endeavor Research Fellowship for Turkey, and a NSW Premiers Award for History. Jennifer has lectured in History teaching method at Sydney, Macquarie and Western Sydney universities and was the Board of Studies History Inspector for 13 years. Her PhD concerned the experiences of the Australians captured as POWs during the Gallipoli campaign. This involved almost ten years of research and travelling over 8,000 kilometres through Turkey, locating the main POW camp sites. Ottoman documents that had never been translated into English before formed a solid basis for the research.
In order to avoid unnecessary transfers and allow for individual exploration, we select comfortable, centrally-located hotels wherever possible. Designed to provide in-depth intellectual stimulation for the independent traveller. Study Tours feature: daily background lectures; guided site visits; longer walking tours of historical cities and use of public transport for short journeys; time for individual exploration; and, self-contained accommodation where possible, allowing you to live like a local.
Blue House Hotel, Sultanahmet Istanbul (10 nights)
Over ten nights in Istanbul during the tour we take up residence in the boutique Blue House Hotel. The hotel is ideally located in the Sultanahmet district, 400 metres from Sultanahmet Square and tram station and within strolling distance of many historic attractions. The Alfresco Terrace Restaurant offers panoramic views of the Blue Mosque, Bosphorus and the city. Breakfast is served in the garden. We have booked standard rooms which are 18m2 with city views for this tour.
Buyuk Truva, Çanakkale (2 nights)
Centrally located four-star mid size hotel overlooking the Sea of Marmara. Perfectly situated close to shops, cafes and restaurants the hotel has 66 comfortable rooms with modern bathrooms spread over four levels.
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity