There is a sense of timelessness when you visit Istanbul. The magical convergence of the East and West can be experienced here as you can see layers of history unfold in every nook and corner. There are many reasons to visit Istanbul – from its rich cultural diversity to its bustling markets, from the delicious culinary heritage to the vibrant local life, from traditional Turkish hospitality to the warm and cozy and pocket friendly airbnbs. The rich tapestry of history can be seen in the sights and sounds and in the many places to visit in Turkey.
I and my sister travelled to this beautiful destination in the Month of March for 5 nights and 6 days. It was cold and windy but thinking about the entire experience still gives me goosebumps. It was an impromptu trip and the expenditure per head was Rs.70,000/- inclusive of flights, visa, stay and food. Shocking! Isn’t it? It was a very offbeat travel but unfortunately, we could not cover Cappadoccia and Pamukkale, the most famous tourist destinations of Turkey. Never the less, it gives me a reason to go back to the beautiful country, so no regrets ☺
While there are many things to see in Turkey, it was the vibe that fascinated me. There is something special about the country and personally, it is unlike any other city that I have been to. You almost feel like you have experienced many cities in just a single visit. Having said that, I will try to take you through my journey in the best possible way I can.
The time difference between the India and Turkey is just about 2 hours and 30 minutes (Turkey is 2 and half hours behind India). We took a mid-night flight from Mumbai (Turkish Airlines – 9 hours flight) and reached there early morning so that we could get the entire day there. We had booked a beautiful Airbnb, which costed us 1000 INR per head per day, very close to Taksim Square, the most central point of the city. A beautiful street filled with restaurants, shops, and hotels, where you will truly experience modern Istanbul and the iconic red tram retaining the old vibe at the same time.
One of the many reasons to visit Turkey was to cruise on the Bosphorus and soak in the atmosphere where Asia meets Europe. The blend of the East and West can be seen in the art and architecture in there. Every empire has left its mark in the monuments, including the Romans and the Greeks but it’s the grandiose of the Byzantine Empire and the craftsmanship of the Ottomans that can be experienced even today in the churches and mosques. The monuments of Istanbul tell a story of the historic past – be it the iconic Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque, the Top Kapi Palace or the Dolmabahce Palace or the beautiful Galata Towers. These are some the places to visit in Istanbul. The colourful frescos and mosaics are priceless treasures. Museums and galleries are storehouses of stories. And you can literally become a time traveller by visiting these classical monuments.
It is not just about monuments and museums, but the living history can be captured in vibrant markets. The old-world charm can be experienced in the bustling lanes. Walking along the ageless Grand Bazaar, you are lost in the covered alleys which are home to over 5000 shops selling everything from ceramics to carpets. It is easy to lose your way around this maze with 22 ancient gateways taking you into a different world. The 17th century Egyptian Spice Bazaar is an assault on your senses, where besides spices, you can treat yourself to Turkish coffee as well. There are many more markets in Istanbul like the old market of books at Sahaflar or the culinary feast at the Sunday Inebolu market or the loud Carsamba market every Wednesday. You dont visit Istanbul and not head to these old markets, which are some of the things to see in Istanbul.
With its rich cultural heritage and the fascinating blend of East and West, Turkish cuisine is a delicious blend of the diversity. While Turkish coffee is an international favourite, they are also known for their teas. The cuisine caters to both vegetarians and meat-eaters with a variety of dishes. A speciality for breakfast is menemen, made with vegetables, eggs, cheese and olive oil. Turkish desserts and sweets are delicious and a trip is not complete if you do not try the varieties of baklava or indulge in some fun as you taste the elastic Turkish icecream called dondurma.
Since we skipped cover Cappadoccia and Pamukkale, we compensated it by travelling to this mesmerizing island which was a 2 hours cruise from the main city called the Princess Island. Straight out of a fairy tale and nothing short of a dreamland. This island has no vehicles. The only way to go around exploring the beautiful island was to either cycle or a horse hide. It all felt so unreal and just the experience is something still fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday (I travelled to Turkey in 2015). A highly recommended visit. Sharing a few pictures clicked, I am sure to allure each one of you’ll reading this blog to visit this stunning island at least once in your lifetime.
I am sure a lot has changed since the time I visited this enthralling country. However, it still continues to have the most special place in my heart.
Happy Travelling ☺