Cruising the Bosphorus

Kris gets her first look at the Bosphorus.

It may be a bit of an oversimplification, but you could probably say that Istanbul exists because of the Bosphorus. It was the first thing I wanted to see when we got there. We dropped our bags at the Empress Zoe hotel, and headed right out. We were only a few blocks away, and so our first impressions of Istanbul were those of the strong current flowing from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the ships lined up waiting for their pilots to take them through the strait, and the lines of fishermen with their lines in dark water.

So, we walked from the Old Town along the shore from south of the Hagia Sofia around the walls of the Topkapi Palace pretty much keeping our eyes on the sea instead of the man made attractions on our left. We made it all the way around to the docks where the tourist ferry leaves for the cruise north to the Black Sea. Of course, at this time of year, there's only one cruise per day, and we'd just missed it.

So we comforted ourselves with our land locked walking tour to The Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia and vowed to come back later for maritime adventures.

This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

 

The big boats make their way single file up the strait to the Black Sea.

Adventure is probably too strong a word for the Bosphorus cruise. Of course, you're never out of sight of land…and the land you can see is heavily populated. Also, there are a lot of other boats around to pick you up in case you fall overboard. I had to reassure myself of such things because, well, to put it succinctly, I pretty much hate boats.

But, I got over it for this cruise. It was calm, and as I said, what could happen?

The cruise, in the winter, leaves the dock at Bogaz Izkelesi at 10:35 a.m. It's near the mouth of the Golden Horn. To get there you can walk about 20 minutes from the Old Town, or you can take the tram to the Eminonu stop. When you get off the tram, face the sea and look to your right. You'll see the sign for Bogaz Izkelesi. The round trip takes around five hours, including lunch stop at the fishing village of Anadolu Kavagi and costs 25TL (about $14.) Get there half an hour early to get the best seats.

Fishing boats crowd the Bosphorus in front of the old city walls.

If the boat is not crowded, stake out a seat on the left side. (That's port, if you're into that nautical talk.) Because as you sail up the strait, that's the side that's looking at Europe, where most of the interesting stuff is. On the return trip, stay on the left side, because that's where most of the interesting stuff is that you missed on the way up.

There are lots of  buildings to look at along the shore. Many of them are fantastic mansions of very wealthy people. They will make you jealous of the one percent of Turks who are the targets of the Occupy Turkey movement, if there were such a thing there. Or, you can just sort of wistfully say, “Wow, those are really nice, but I wouldn't want to have to manage that big of a staff.”

There are also so many mosques visible that at one time I started to count them. In one small vista on the Asia side, I counted 16 sets of minarets. One Turk we'd met earlier had said to us, “I wish they'd build schools instead of mosques. We don't have enough of those.”

A fisherman at Anadolu Kavagi works on his net.

The best part of the trip, though, is the two-hour stop in Anadolu Kavagi. It really is a fishing village, as you can see from all the fishing boats at the docks and on the nearby water. It's also a fishing restaurant village, and as soon as you get off the boat, about ten or twelve Turks will rush at you with menus for their restaurant, most of which have a second floor view of the Bosphorus. Of course, since you just got off a boat with an even better view of the Bosphorus, that might not be that important to you. It wasn't to us.

We wandered the village for a while. It gets a little more interesting and real the further you get from the docks. You can see where people live and work and there's an abandoned castle at the top of the hill in the back. But we didn't feel like walking all the way up there, since we have seen so many ruins lately, we figured we could skip that one.

As we walked back down the hill, we ran into a restaurant who plied us with the oldest trick in the book: they had their actual fresh seafood on a tray in the window. We went in and sat down. Much to our delight, after serving us a carafe of wine, the waiter brought the very tray to our table, described and named what was on it, and let us point to the very fish we'd be eating shortly.

I chose a swordfish shish. The chunks were alternated with hot green peppers of the jalapeño family which gave a sharp taste to the fish and made it even more wonderful than I imagined. I honestly think it was the best fish I've ever had in my life. Kris had the small bluefish, and I think she'd give it an equivalent review. We also had an appetizer of mussels dipped in egg batter and quick fried. They were served with a yogurt and garlic sauce and were also excellent.

The name of the restaurant is Ismael'in Yeri. As I said, you'll have to pass up the restaurants right by the docks and walk back a bit to find it. It's worth it.

A visa is necessary for Americans to travel to Turkey. We use iVisa whenever we need a visa for any country. Great service, and a small price to pay for them to navigate the visa process for you.

You can click the link above, or use this widget below to start the process of getting a visa for any country.

When you’re thinking of traveling, your first stop should be our Travel Resources page, where we list all the essentials you need to make your travels easier, cheaper, safer, and more fun.

You can also help yourself get ready for your travels by reading our Get Started Planning Your Trip Now page.

We love traveling–with the right gear. We've gathered a lot of the stuff we use to make travel more pleasant and efficient all on one page. Shop our Travel Past 50 Amazon page to find our favorite gear. If you purchase something from the store, Travel Past 50, as an Amazon affiliate, may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thanks.

We never leave home without our travel insurance. Nor should you. Search for the travel insurance from Allianz that best meets your needs, whether it be an annual plan or a single trip.

You can see (and buy prints) of most of our travel photos in one place on this page.

Note: This post and other posts on TravelPast50.com may contain paid or affiliate advertising links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Up Your Travel Skills

Looking to book your next trip? Use these resources that are tried and tested by us.

First, to get our best travel tips, sign up for our email newsletter.

Then, be sure to start your reading with our Resources Page where we highlight all the great travel companies and products that we trust.

Travel Accessories: Check out our list of all the accessories we carry to make getting there and being there a lot easier.

Credit Cards: See our detailed post on how to choose the right travel rewards credit card for you.

Flights: Start finding the very best flight deals by subscribing to Thrifty Traveler.

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with Booking.com.

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. We recommend Allianz Travel Insurance.

See all of the gear and books we like in one place on our Amazon shop.

4 thoughts on “Cruising the Bosphorus”

  1. I was just in Istanbul a couple weeks ago and I too was very interested with the various waterways intersecting the city. I was shocked to see how really busy they were with tankers, row boats, dingys and every other form of sea-worthy vessel.

    Reply
  2. Yeah, crossing the Galata bridge, lined with fishermen, was a sight, too. When we went to Gallipoli, I also spent a lot of time staring at the Dardanelles and all the ships passing through there.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

If you liked this post, please share it.

Thanks.