The Isles of Greece: Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, St. Sophie and Topkapi Palace


While there are several options to choose from, including a  Bosphorus Cruise and a tour of the Chora Church and Suleymaniye Mosque, we opt for the general Istanbul highlights tour, which includes the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, St. Sophie and Topkapi Palace. For our option for the next day, we can’t resist signing up for a visit to the Grand Bazaar before boarding the Aegean Odyssey.

I am amazed at how flawlessly the tours are organized for hundreds of us staying at the Grand Hyatt.  Each bus has a knowledgeable tour guide and we are all equipped with a Quietvox, an audio device for stragglers like me at the back who can’t resist one more photo before catching up with the group.

lunch in Istanbul (2)The old city of Istanbul was built on seven hills and we walk through the Hippodrome of Constantine first where chariot races were once held. No chariots today, but we are greeted by masses of red and yellow tulips. The famous Blue Mosque with its 20,000 Iznik tiles and Hagia Sophia with its beautiful frescoes are both more magnificent in reality than I remember from history books. Our final visit is to Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman Empire with its rich collection of treasures including an 86-carat Spoonmaker Diamond.

After our tour returns to the hotel, Brenda and I set out to find some of the delicious coffee we’d had at breakfast and to try some of Istanbul’s famous street food for lunch. A vendor slices off chunks of moist chicken from a huge slab, stirs in some peppers and tzaziki, wraps it all in a fresh pita. It’s beyond delicious. We find a shop selling coffee beans and pick up some fresh Turkish Delight to take home to our families. What a perfect day of history, culture and good food!



DAY 1 – Istanbul
DAY 2 – Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, St. Sophie and Topkapi Palace
DAY 3 – The Grand Bazaar
DAY 4 – Birthday in  Lemnos
DAY 5 – Mamma Mia, Skiathos
DAY 6 – Izmir, the Birthplace of Homer
DAY 7 –  Pergamon
DAY 8 – Delos and Mykonos, Islands of the Cyclades
DAY 9 – Beautiful Santorini
DAY 10 – The Palace of Knossos, Crete
DAY 11 – 4 Castles in Nauplia
DAY 12 – Journey’s End in Athens

Bonnie Baker-Cowan travelled on a Voyages to Antiquity cruise called The Isles of Greece hosted by Exclusive Tours. Read all about her adventures on board the Aegean Odyssey, a modern, slimmed-down cruise ship (only 350 passengers) making its way from Istanbul to Athens by way of Lemnos, Skiathos, Izmir, Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Nauplia, and Piraeus.

Live your own adventure. Cruise to Classical Civilizations on a Voyages to Antiquity cruise and discover the art, history and cultures of the ancient world.
Book today: 1.866.341.1777 or

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