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 Canakkale, 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.
While study tours are full of group activities, a reasonable degree of independence is also required. You will need to make trips to the neighbourhood laundromat, and there is a nearby supermarket and grocery stores for any “hotel picnics”. We also use local public transport and there is a significant amount of walking. However, your tour leader will of course show you around the neighbourhood and will provide full assistance if you encounter any difficulties.
Constantinople, including the Hippodrome, Underground Cistern and National Archaeological Museum
Spectacular Byzantine and Ottoman sites, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi and Dolmabahce 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 and cruise the Bosphorus. Early history at the Archaeological Museum.
Days 3–4: Hagia Sophia, Chora Church and the apotheosis of Ottoman culture at the Blue Mosque and the Military Museum.
Days 5–6: Islamic history at Topkapi Palace and the Turkish Museum of Islamic Art. Walk through Karakoy and climb Galata Tower.
Day 7: Dine by the water on the Princes’ Island of Heybeliada.
Days 8–10: Travel to Canakkale and Troy, with a full day exploring the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Days 11–13: Experience the Asian side’s cosmopolitan Kadikoy, and the Grand Bazaar.
Tour begins and ends at our hotel in Istanbul. Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways 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.
Monday 30 September: 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 Byzantium life for 1000 years, the sheer grandeur of the subterranean Basilica Cistern and the vibrant spice bazaar, followed by a welcome dinner in a local Turkish restaurant. Overnight Istanbul (D)
Tuesday 1 October: Early History
Istanbul has a long history dating back to Thracian tribes in 3000BCE and 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 include a collection of 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 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. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Wednesday 2 October: Byzantine Constantinople
This morning we visit 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 being 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)
Thursday 3 October: The Ottoman Period
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. 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)
Friday 4 October: Topkapi Palace and Museum of Turkish & Islamic Art
Topkapi Palace was home to the Ottoman sultans from the15th 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 abolishment 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 and now house important collections of precious objects and works of art including the Harem and the Treasury. 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)
Saturday 5 October : Later History of Istanbul
Today we explore Beyoğlu. Separated from the Old City by the Golden Horn and built around the major boulevard of Istiklal Caddesi, it comprises rich historical pockets such as Galata and Karaköy, a bohemian residential district and a bustling entertainment district. Walking down the elegant boulevard of Istiklal Caddesi we pass a mix of contemporary boutiques and 19th century buildings to Galata Tower. The nine-story medieval tower was built by the Genoese in 1348 during an expansion to the colony. The upper balcony affords spectacular 360-degree views of the city. We 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. The afternoon is free to relax, walk through Taksim Square or explore one of the many museums in the area. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Sunday 6 October: Prince’s Island Ferry to Heybeliada
A relaxed day as 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)
Monday 7 October: 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 a team of researchers used a combination of geology, literary refence and topography to identify the site. Overnight: Çanakkale (B, D)
Tuesday 8 October: 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)
Wednesday 9 October: Iznik
Departing Çanakkale we head to İznik, a small town surrounded by medieval walls on the shore of a large lake and famous for its Ottoman tile making tradition. We explore the ancient city walls and Roman ruins including the theatre. The museum houses many fine examples of the original İznik tiles of milky-bluish white and rich red hues that we reproduced here. This afternoon we cross the Sea of Marmara and return to Istanbul. Overnight Istanbul (B)
Thursday 10 October: 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). Visit the old railway station of Haydarpaşa built in 1908 as the main terminus for services from Asia. 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)
Friday 11 October: Grand Bazaar
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 26000 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. As tonight is our final evening in Istanbul we come together for a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Istanbul (B, D)
Saturday 12 October: 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.
Over ten nights in Istanbul during the tour we take up residence in the boutique Basileus Hotel. The hotel is ideally located in the Sultanahmet district, 300 metres from the shores of the Sea of Marmara and within strolling distance of many historic attractions. Freshly decorated spacious rooms feature French balconies with views of the old city, parquetry floors, Ottoman style furniture and modern bathrooms.
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 public transport is 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
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?
Open-age 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
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
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
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.