Istanbul to Ankara – Day 02 Topdeck Turkey Explored Tour

Topdeck Turkey Explored / Turkey

This morning our newly formed tour group will embark on our first full day of the Topdeck Turkey Explored Tour beginning from the biggest and most well known city in Turkey, Istanbul. Today we are taken around this bustling city to check out the main attractions of the city situated close by our very central hotel. Later on in the afternoon we head on the coach and meet our driver for the first time and make our way to the capital city of Turkey Ankara, we will then spend one night here before continuing on our journey.


Istanbul to Ankara – 08 September, 2013

In the morning we were all up nice and early to take advantage of the breakfast buffet the hotel has provided all guests before we head out for our group tour taking in the main sights of Istanbul. Our group was split between two hotels in close proximity to each other with half staying in the And Hotel where I had spent the previous three nights already while the other half of the group stayed at the The Istanbul Hotel. The Istanbul Hotel is also a very good hotel and would probably rate higher than the And Hotel in terms of quality and has much larger rooms and bathrooms. This hotel also has a roof top restaurant which is also where breakfast is served offering stunning 360 degree views of Istanbul, but more on this hotel at the end of the trip.

The plan was for everyone in the group to meet outside the And Hotel in the lobby/breakfast area before heading off to our first stop the Blue Mosque and the surrounding areas. Firstly we checked out the Obelisk of Theodosius which is adjacent to the Blue Mosque and part of the greater hippodrome area which was used to stage ancient Roman chariot races. We were taught about the history of this Egyptian monument in the centre of the hippodrome and the greater Roman Empire and the importance of Istanbul to the empire. Back in those ancient times the city was then known as Constantinople part of the Byzantium Empire or Eastern Roman Empire, at one point becoming the new capital of the entire Roman Empire.

The group then continued to go inside the Blue Mosque which is a stunning building from just standing outside, but once you get inside the building you have a whole new appreciation on just how amazing this building is and the amount of work that has gone into it, especially given it was constructed back in 1609. Before entering the building it is important to respect the local customs, this is probably one of the more conservative times you will encounter on this tour, it is important that everyone is dressed appropriately, everyone must take their shoes off and woman must cover their hair, a piece of fabric will be provided on entry along with plastic bags to carry shoes. Your tour guide will emphasise these point on the night before and on the morning of the tour.

After learning about the history of the mosque we all waited outside and walked through the main square towards the Hagia Sophia our next destination. At this point we all had our first group photo together in front of the Hagia Sophia, we would continue to do this at many iconic points in the trip as a group.

Unlike the Blue Mosque entry to the Hagia Sophia is not free and will cost 25 Lira, this is payable to the tour guide who will then go and organisae tickets in bulk. It is well worth paying for the entry to see this stunning building/monument/museum and learn about the changing history from Christianity to Islamic traditions to finally becoming a museum for all to enjoy. You will need to go through a security check point to enter this building, I got caught out by having a camera tripod inside my bag which I had to give up and collect once leaving.

Once inside your guide will give you all the information needed to understand the importance of the Hagia Sophia and will allow you free time to then wonder around the building at your own pace. Make sure you check out the second level and appreciate all the marble used in the building from the support columns to the floor itself which would have been a mean feat to construct especially given this is one of the oldest standing buildings in the world.

On a side note any of these attractions that require payment are optional, you are able to not go inside but then you will be stuck outside waiting for the group while they go in. Even if you have already gone inside like I have previously, it is well worth the 25 Lira (AUD$12) to go back inside and hear another perspective about the building.

Next on our tour of Istanbul was Topkapi Palace which is located just around the corner from the Hagia Sophia, and this is the great thing about Istanbul, everything is within walking distance of each other. We entered through the main gate and you are greeted with the extensive palace gardens which are free for anyone to enter, to continue on into the palace itself you will need to pay an entrance fee of 25 Lira. At this point once tickets are purchased your guide will leave you to explore the palace on your own and sets the time we need to meet back at the hotel for our departure to Ankara. Plenty of time is given to explore the palace (although not enough to join the massive line to look at the main attraction The Spoonmaker’s Diamond) and to grab a bite to eat for lunch.

Within the palace you could spend hours exploring the many buildings and items placed on display from the years of Ottoman Empire rule including the Sultans bedroom and clothes to the jewels worn and beautifully present mosaic tiled rooms. Once we had finished looking around the palace a small group of us then went and had a bite to eat at a restaurant just opposite the Blue mosque, it was then time to slowly head back to the hotel lobby, collect our bags, wait for the rest of the group and head for the coach.

For the next couple of hours we would be on the coach heading towards Ankara where we will spend the night. We didn’t arrive in the capital until about 9:30pm and on arrival were told that it’s advisable to just stay in the hotel tonight and not go out and explore the town. Most people were probably too tired anyway to consider doing this, but it was a quite funny at the time to think that we had arrived somewhere that is possibly a little dodgy.

Our hotel wasn’t too bad, the location wasn’t fantastic as nothing was around in the area other than electrical shops on the street below but it did not matter as we would not have time to see anything around here anyway. In the morning we will get up early to go and check out the The Mausoleum of Atatürk before heading off to our next destination, the stunning Cappadocia.

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NEXT: Ankara to Cappadocia: Day 03 Topdeck Turkey Explored Tour

PREVIOUS: A Turkish Adventure Begins, Istanbul: Day 01 Topdeck Turkey Explored Tour

Just your average guy doing his 9 - 5 job as a Senior Payroll Officer by day, writing about his travel adventures and hopefully giving you inspiration and ideas for your next travel adventure here at loneXplorer...

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