We have visited Turkey a couple of times, the most recent was in Feb and
Mar when we passed through on our way to Iran. Before that we came to
Turkey from Jordan and Syria.
Turkey is a great place to visit and remains as one of the hidden secrets. The Turks are quite friendly to foreign guests, the cuisine is excellent, and the whole country is a historic site. Many of the sites from classical Greek culture are not in Greece but in Turkey. Among these are Troy, Ephesus and many others.
I think that you would enjoy Turkey much more if you were do it without a tour. It is an easy place to travel, the transportation system, buses and trains, is excellent. Cost are very reasonable.
Istanbul is a wonderful city with enough sites to keep you busy for days.
Many of the sites are located in Old Istanbul, (Sultanahmet), all within walking distance of each other. Here you will find the major sites of Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya, Blue Mosque, Hippodrone and Cistem Basilica. You will find many museums in this area, which are worth a visit. Among these are the Mosaic Museum, the Archaeological Museum, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, plus many others. Even the main road that runs up through Sultanahmet was laid out by Roman engineers, you will find many things of interest along its route, the tramway runs down its middle.
You can take the tram down the hill to the Eminonu area. Here you will find Sirkeci and the Golden Horn, Istanbul's historic harbour. The most famous landmark of Sirkeci is its railway station. It is this station that the Orient Express ended its run. You will find the ferry docks near the station, these ferries run make runs across the Bosphorus and to many places. A special excursion ferry, for tourists, makes runs up the Bosphorus almost up to the Black Sea, the fare is about $5US, with half price on Saturday and Sunday. You will find the entrance to the Spice Market near the Galata Bridge.
Across the Galata Bridge you will find many more places that are worth a visit. You can take Tunel, the underground railway to get up the hill, have a look for the Galata Tower. It is worth going to the top of the tower for a view of the city, you can take an elevator. Take a walk along the street that runs from Tunel Square to Taksim Square. It is a street with many smart shops, embassies, churches, impressive residential buildings and is closed to vehicle traffic, except for the tram. It is in this area that the Pers Palas Hotel is located, it is the hotel that Agatha Christie stayed in when she was in Istanbul.
You do not have to spend a fortune for hotels in Istanbul. We stayed at a very nice small hotel for $50US, it was the Ambassadore Hotel. They do a free airport pickup and breakfast is included. They are located in the heart of Sultanahmet. They have a web site and I did my booking using email, they also purchased rail tickets for us.
You will find many mosques around the city that are worth a visit and of course the markets. The most famous market being the Covered Market, it is not really a good place to shop as you will not be left alone as soon as you enter but it is worth a visit. You will have the chance to shop at other places.
Gary Saunders Victoria BC