Among the most popular and famous tourist attractions of Istanbul, a place of honor should certainly be attributed to “Bosphorus Tour”. But, it would be wrong to consider these tours as something simply touristic.
The Bosphorus is always attractive, even for the inhabitants of Istanbul. While living here is really hard, it is always easy to get used to this wonderful show here on Bosphorus. A famous Turkish saying reads: “Life may not be so bad if I can still walk on the shore of the Bosphorus in the end.”
Every now and then, in the hot summer days, we would love to spend a few hours feeding our eyes with the beauty of the palaces and mansion houses (called “yalı” in Turkish) accompanied by the intense blue color surrounding us, the scent of the sea, dolphins and seagulls, and everything.
As you can understand, it is an experience that we highly recommend. However, we would like to give you some advice.
Avoid all the private tours organized by various travel agencies around Sultanahmet. They are generally over-charged and don’t offer anything more than the tours organized by the best-known companies listed below in the article.
That being said, let’s move to the various options available. We have summarized these options into 3 categories for convenience:
1) Short Bosphorus Tours lasting around 2 hours:
It is a certainly preferable option for those coming to Istanbul for the first time in their lives and have only 3-4 days in the city. It lasts 2 hours at the maximum with no stops included. The boats go all the way to the second bridge over the Bosphrous along the European side and turn back along the Asian side. There are many companies organize this kind of short tours. Here they are:
– Şehir Hatları, the ferry company of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, has been organizing Short Bosphorus Cruise starting from 1 April 2013. The tours depart from Eminönü every day at 14.30 with a stopover in Ortaköy at 14.50, returning to Eminönü at 16.30. In the winter time, the tour is done only on weekends. It costs 10 lira, but you can also rent audio guides in Italian by paying 7.50 lira extra.
– Turyol, is another famous ferry company that also operates ferries and therefore they have an agreement with the municipality. You can take a short Bosphorus tour from Eminönü every hour of everday from 10 am until 19 pm with a stopover in Üsküdar. During the winter, departures are only up to 17.00. It costs 12 lira. Great option to take a relaxing tour in the late afternoon after having spent the day discovering the city especially in summer time.
– Dentur Avrasya, is another known company that also operates ferries. Try starting with a short Bosphorus tour every day from Kabataş at 10:30 to 12:45 – 14:45 to 16:45, with a stopover in Beşiktaş. Departures are limited during the winter (there are only two guaranteed tours at 10.30 and 14.45). Costs 12.50 lira.
– Ortur/Kumsal, is a small private company that performs short Bosphorus tours departing from Ortaköy daily every hour starting at 14:20 until 19:20. The tours last just over an hour and are suitable for those who have little time or desire to visit this pleasant and characteristic neighborhood of Ortaköy. Just like Dentur Avrasya tours, departures have a limited number during the winter (guaranteed only until 17:20, but also depends on the weather conditions).
2) Long Bosphorus Tours lasting around 6 hours:
This option is more challenging and it’s recommended only for those who have more days available or for those who are coming to Istanbul for the second or third time. This type of tours arrive at Black Sea entrance up to Anadolu Kavagi (on the Asian side) after 90 minutes. They stop there for about 3 hours and then ride back to the opposite direction. The total duration of the tour is about 6 hours which means you are pretty much spending your day on board. To tell you the truth, there is only a few fish restaurants and a little to see in Anadolu Kavagi. If you like, you can go on a hike to the hills to get an incredible view of Black Sea and Bosphorus. There are two companies running this kind of tours:
– Şehir Hatları performs the Full Bosphorus Tour with two daily departures from Eminönü at 10:35 and at 13:35. The tour lasts around six hours including three hours of stay at Anadolu Kavagi. You can choose to get a one-way ticket for 15 lira or a return ticket for 25 lira, or you can always get off at any stops in between. In the winter period, there is only one guaranteed departure at 10.35.
– Dentur Avrasya runs a long Bosphorus tour along with a departure at 11.15 every day from Kabataş, returning at 16.00 from Anadolu Kavagi. It costs 25 lira.
3) Bosphorus Night Tour
– By 2010 summer, Şehir Hatları started a Bosphorus night tour (Osmanli Gezisi) which is held on Saturdays. It costs 20 lira and departs from Eminönü at 18:25 and arrives at Anadolu Kavagi at 20.00 after 4 intermediate stops on the way. The departure from Anadolu Kavagi is at 22:30 and the return to Eminönü is scheduled for midnight. This tour is highly recommended especially during the nights of the full moon. It is usually functional from the first week of June until mid-September.