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Turkey's Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations 2015

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Trip Extensions

Pre-trip: Istanbul, Turkey

Expand your understanding of Turkey when you travel in its largest, most vibrant city: exotic Istanbul. The only city in the world to straddle both Europe and Asia, it offers a wealth of influences and attractions. Included and optional tours, plus our centrally located accommodations, put the essence of the city easily within reach.

It's Included:
Accommodations for 3 nights in Istanbul
5 meals—3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
2 small group activities
Services of a resident, English-speaking OAT Trip Leader
All transfers
Porterage for 1 bag per traveler
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    Depart the U.S on your overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

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    We arrive this afternoon in Istanbul, a sprawling city of 13 million people, which lies partly in Europe and partly in Asia. Istanbul’s geography is defined by three famous waterways: The Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus Strait, and the Golden Horn. The Sea of Marmara lies to the south. The Bosporus Strait divides the European and Asian sections of the city and forms the route from the Marmara to the Black Sea. The Golden Horn divides European Istanbul into the modern Beyoglu section to the north and Old Stamboul (Eski Istanbul) to the south. The famous Galata Bridge spans the Golden Horn to link these two parts of the city.

    Upon arrival, get acquainted with your fellow travelers and Turkish Trip Leader during an orientation walk through the neighborhood around our hotel and an informational briefing. The balance of the afternoon is at leisure. Today might be the perfect opportunity to visit the imposing Mosque of Suleman, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a dome that rises more than 150 feet, it is Istanbul’s largest mosque. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    After breakfast, our guided tour of historic Istanbul begins with Topkapi Palace, built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1459 and the royal palace of the Ottoman sultans until 1853. Today, it is one of the world's richest museums, with a staggering collection of jewels, arms, porcelain, sculpture, manuscripts, and more. From there, we explore the classic Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camisi), so-called for the shimmering blue tiles that line its interior. Flanked by symmetrical soaring minarets, it is one of the defining elements of the Istanbul skyline. This classic of Ottoman architectural design was constructed under the patronage of Sultan Ahmet I, from 1609-1616.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we spend the afternoon strolling the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets on Earth. Here, we'll have plenty of time to browse in some of its 3,600 shops and wander along its 58 streets. Goods are grouped by category, so if you have a special gift in mind, be sure to ask your Trip Leader for directions so that you can find it easily. Afterward, we explore the Spice Market, which—with its 88 rooms—is the second-largest market in the city. A stroll through this market is a thrill to the senses, with many colors and scents to experience, and may whet our appetite for tonight's dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Today, you have many options for soaking up more of Istanbul’s unique mélange of sensations. Blend into the hustle and bustle on the streets, or contemplate three millennia of history in quieter corners as you enjoy lunch on your own.

    Or join us today for Crossing Between Continents, an optional tour that takes us across the Bosporus and back as we explore the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. The tour begins with a visit to the Dolmabahce Palace, the opulent residence of the Ottoman sultans. Other features include a ferry crossing to the Asian shores of the Bosporus in Kadikoy, where we’ll tour its market, enjoy an included lunch, and stop for tea at Camlica Hill, one of the city's highest spots. Then, back on the European shore, we’ll enjoy a walk around the Ortakoy, one of Istanbul’s most stylish areas.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, we meet our fellow travelers and begin our journey into Turkey's Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations.