Luxury Travel Blog

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September 15, 2011

Just Back: Istanbul & Ephesus in Turkey

We recently returned from a private tour of Istanbul, Izmir and Ephesus in Turkey.

We began in Istanbul, the beautiful and ancient city on the Bosphorus Strait.

The Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya in Turkish) is one of Istanbul’s most famous attractions. Built as a cathedral in the sixth century A.D., it was later converted into a mosque and is now a museum.

The immense structure is a feat of Byzantine architecture. The interiors are decorated with Arabic script…

…as well as Byzantine-era mosaics.

Street food is everywhere in Istanbul. Here, a vendor sells corn and chestnuts.

The somewhat austere exterior of the 17th-century Blue Mosque belies the spectacular interior.

Thousands of dazzling Iznik tiles cover the interior of the Blue Mosque.

Colorful Turkish shoes and hats make fun souvenirs.

Other great options are Turkish rugs…

…and Turkish glass.

The underground Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi) dates from the Byzantine era.

This enigmatic, ancient Medusa head was placed upside down at the base of a column holding up the cistern ceiling.

Riding the tram on Istiklal Street is a must when in Istanbul.

The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet is one of our preferred luxury hotels in Istanbul.

We loved the newly renovated suites inside the hotel.

Rustem Pasha Mosque is famous for its tiles.

Stalls in the Egyptian Bazaar sell teacups, henna, pistachios and so much more.

We enjoyed a casual vegetarian lunch of grilled feta and peppers, yogurt with watercress, and chickpea rice at the bazaar.

Topkapi Palace was the main residence of the Ottoman sultans.

The top-floor suites at the Park Hyatt Istanbul, another of our preferred hotels, have panoramic views

We love taking travelers to one of Istanbul’s oldest and most famous candy stores…

…for Turkish delight and other treats.

We also take travelers to Istanbul’s elegant residential neighborhoods and shopping districts.

This is one of our favorite design shops in Istanbul.

The Bosphorus is the waterway separating the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

Lunch on the Asia side of Istanbul at Ciya Sofrasi, a popular destination for foodies.

Our private Turkey tours include a visit to The Istanbul Modern, an art museum with an incredible collection of contemporary Turkish art.

For interested travelers, we can also include a visit to Santralistanbul, a former power plant converted into a science center and contemporary art museum. Kids love it, too.

Exquisite pomegranates were for sale at one of our favorite decorative arts shops in Istanbul.

These Turkish lanterns hung at one of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar.

The grounds, location and history of the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul hotel are truly spectacular.

We love the beautiful flowers and tiles in the lobby of Ciragan Palace.

Another of our preferred hotels in Istanbul is the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Bosphorus, a luxurious urban resort. A pre-dinner swim in the pool is a perfect way to end a busy day of touring.

We continued to Izmir, an ancient port city that’s also a great base for touring the nearby ruins of Ephesus.

We went straight to the historic bazaar to browse the stalls and sample donuts…

…and doner kebab at a famous vendor.

Souvenirs line this corridor in the Izmir Bazaar.

Swissotel Izmir is one of our preferred luxury hotels for touring Izmir, Ephesus and the surrounding region.

Ephesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and archaeological park known for its magnificent Roman ruins.

Details like this arch highlight the high level of craftsmanship at Ephesus.

The ancient toilets at Ephesus are still intact.

This bas-relief sculpture represents Nike, the winged goddess of victory.

Our Turkey tours include a private tour inside the Terrace Houses to see the restoration work being carried out. The well-preserved Roman houses offer a fascinating glimpse of aristocratic life in ancient Ephesus.

Talismans protecting against the evil eye are displayed throughout Turkey.

Contact Artisans of Leisure to begin planning a customized luxury tour of Turkey.

Destinations:  Europe, Turkey

Tags:  ancient ruins, archaeological tours, art and design tours, Blue Mosque, Byzantine mosaics, Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, decorative arts, Ephesus, Ephesus tours, Four Seasons Istanbul, Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, history, insider shopping, Istanbul, Istanbul tours, Izmir, Iznik tiles, Ottoman architecture, Roman ruins, ruins, shopping, tiles, Topkapi Palace, Turkey, Turkey tours