Turkey: 72 hours in ... Istanbul

Paul Oswell takes to the Turkish capital on a three-day itinerary.

DAY 1

09.00: Transfer from Ataturk Airport by deluxe Mercedes coach. As the group's luggage is taken to the hotel, they begin the 'Highlights of Istanbul' tour.

09.40: The tour starts at Hippodrome Square, which dates back to 203BC and was also the centre of cultural life in Byzantine times.

10.20: To the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Sultanahmet Mosque, also called the Blue Mosque (above), was designed and built in the early 17th century and since then has become an icon, with its six minarets. Hagia Sophia was originally a church converted into a mosque and is now a museum, famed for the splendour of its Byzantine artwork.

12.30: Lunch at Green House Restaurant.

14.00: 'Lonely Planet Istanbul' activity - the group is divided into teams and given maps, Polaroid cameras and landmarks to find. Accompanied by a passive guide, they must find their way around the city and take imaginative photos of each landmark that are then judged at dinner.

16.30: Meet at the Grand Bazaar - the group has free time to wander and haggle in the thousands of small shops and stalls before returning to the hotel.

19.00: The group transfers by coach for an evening tour of Kumkapi, still the largest and busiest fishing port in the city with its narrow streets and taverns. In the evenings, gipsy musicians wander playing traditional music.

21.00: Dinner at Mavi Balik Restaurant, a high-class seafood eaterie, complemented by a unique view of the Bosphorus. It can host groups of 300 in its garden and terrace.

23.30: Transfer to hotel for overnight at the Hilton Istanbul. Matt Herring, senior events manager for Eurofinance, says: "The Hilton is an excellent hotel, and works very well for our groups. Its location, next to the Bosphorus, is key, as getting around Istanbul can be brutal."

DAY 2

08.00: After breakfast at the hotel, the group is transferred by coach for ODS's Sailing Experience on the Bosphorus and Marmara.

09.00: The group is divided into teams of six and sets sail for the secret yachting hideaway right in the heart of Istanbul, Heybeli Island. On arrival at Heybeli, there's a short tour before an al fresco lunch and group photos. The sights on the island include a Byzantine church, Kamariotissa, and the 11th century Greek Orthodox Monastery.

14.00: Transfer by coach to the marina and on to the Land Rover Experience. This is an afternoon course using different models of Land Rover with professional instructors on a specially-designed, off-road track. There's the opportunity for team building and motivational tasks, as well as competitions, such as reverse driving and obstacle courses.

18.00: The group transfers to the Four Seasons Sultanahmet to change for dinner.

20.00: Cocktail reception and dinner at 360 Restaurant & Bar. 360 Istanbul is located on the top floor of the Misir Apartments, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The dining room and menu are contemporary Mediterranean, and the terrace has panoramic views over the city.

23.30: Transfer back to the hotel with drinks served in the hotel's bar.

DAY 3

09.00: After breakfast, the group are asked if they are finally "ready to be Turkish", and head out for a hammam at Cagaloglu (right). This is one of the finest hammams in the city, dating back to 1741.

11.30: Transfer by coach for the farewell lunch at Al Jamal Restaurant and Club (left). This is a Middle-Eastern style restaurant, with pillows for lounging and live belly dancers.

14.00: Transfer to Ataturk Airport for return flights.

With thanks to ODS Turkey

DIRECTORY TURKEY
Turkish Tourist Board
Contact: Sonay Ercakalli, 020 7839 7778
Email: sonay@gototurkey.co.uk
Web: www.gototurkey.co.uk

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