7 days around Istanbul

Enjoy Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. Sitting on the gateway of Asia and Europe, it is a melting pot of different cultural influences.

Day 1: Istanbul

Istanbul sits astride the Bosphorus, the narrow strait separating Europe from Asia. This fabled city has such a richness and diversity of art, antiquities and culture that it’s well worth taking several days to skim just the surface of its riches. It also lies in some fascinating cruising grounds – with the Black Sea to the North and the sheltered Sea of Marmara to the South, where the narrow strait of the Dardanelles allows passage into the Aegean, and hence Mediterranean, sea.

Day 2: Istanbul – towards the Black Sea – Princes’ Islands

Sitting on deck watching the minarets and palaces of Istanbul slip by is a real privilege as your yacht heads North towards the Black Sea. A cruise up the European coast, then down the opposite Asian coast is a fascinating way to pass the day. Bustling water traffic offers constant interest, as does the architecture on shore. Back in the Sea of Marmara, you can explore the Princes’ islands. Just 12 miles from the centre of Istanbul, the largest island is Büyükada – a traffic–free haven of peace, pleasant architecture and expensive restaurants. Nearby Heybeliada has a great sheltered anchorage. 

Day 3: Princes’ Islands to the Dardanelles

From Çanakkale, within the Dardanelles itself, it’s possible to go ashore and visit the battlefields of Gallipoli; where thousands of Australian, New Zealand, British, French and Turkish troops lost their lives. The lovely beaches and hills are littered with cemeteries. Not too far away you can visit the site of a much more ancient battle – the site of the city of Troy. The site’s jumble of rock and walls are probably easier to interpret if you’re an expert archaeologist but it’s a thrill to be able to stand on the site of such legendary stories. 

Day 4: Assos to Ayvalik

Assos was once home to Aristotle – and its ancient site, high on a rocky hill has breathtaking views over the bays below and across to the Greek island of Lesbos. The modern port is also charming, with a few hotels on the waterfront and restaurants serving freshly-caught fish. Sailing across the Bay of Edremit you’ll come to the sheltered anchorage and town of Ayvalik. This is a low-key destination favoured by the Turks (along with the nearby villages of Alibey and Camlik), with pine-clad hills it’s a centre of olive-oil production. This is the place to soak up the atmosphere of real Turkey. 

Day 5: Pergamon

Head ashore and take a 40-minute car journey to the town of Bergama and visit the wonderful market. A few miles up hill brings you to the hilltop acropolis of Pergamon – founded in around 320BC. The stunning ruins here are spectacular; there’s a 10,000 seat theatre and the Temple of Trajan is largely intact. 

Day 6: Çesme

Cruise down the Aegean coast of Turkey towards Çesme, perhaps stopping along the way at a small port such as Candarli to enjoy lunchtime stroll. Çesme’s impressive quay is guarded by a large fortress harking back to its origins as Genoese trading port. On shore you can explore these fortifications and local museum, and perhaps do some last minute shopping. 

Day 7: Choose your onwards travel

From Çesme you can either sail back to Istanbul, or catch an onward international flight from nearby Izmir. If you have more time, you could explore Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. (See Turquoise Coast Itinerary)