Decades ago, officials of Istanbul’s ferryboat system noticed a strange thing: foreign tourists were riding the ferryboats up the Bosphorus, all the way to the Black Sea at Sariyer and Anadolu Kavagi—and sometimes they rode them all the way back to the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn without getting off!
(The tourists may have gotten the idea from a guidebook.)
Of course, these smart travelers were getting a good cruise-tour of the Bosphorus, guidebook in hand, for a fraction of the price they’d have paid to a tour company to take them in a private boat.
So the ferry officials designated several Bosphorus ferry sailings as Bosphorus Tours, and reduced the number of dock stops so that the “tour” would not take so long.
The voyage from Eminönü to Sariyer, a northern Bosphorus town on theEuropean shore, takes just over one hour, but the entire round-trip voyage from Eminönü past Sariyer to Anadolu Kavagi on the Asian shore (with a 1-1/2-hour wait at Anadolu Kavagi), and return to the Eminönü ferryboat docks, takes 4-1/2 hours. Here’s the schedule (subject to change), applicable to all days of the week, including holidays:
|13:35 1:35pm||13:50 1:50pm||14:15 2:15pm||14:30 |
You can check for schedule updates and changes here.
Many people cruise for 1.5 hours, get off at Sariyer (23 km/14 miles north of Istanbul by road), have lunch (especially seafood), then take a bus, minibuses or taxis southward, stopping at various sights along the way. More…
The ferry continues beyond Sariyer to Anadolu Kavagi, on the Asian shore, where the route terminates.
The ferry then waits at Anadolu Kavagi for several hours, giving passengers time to have a picnic or a seafood restaurant lunchand/or to climb to the ruined fortress of seven towers on Yusa Tepesi(Joshua’s Hill), reconstructed by the Genoese in 1350, and repaired thereafter by Byzantines and Ottomans.
Frankly, if you’ve done the cruise from south to north, you needn’t do north to south. But if you end up at Anadolu Kavagi, there’s no good way to travel south except via the Bosphorus Tour ferry, when it departs for its return trip to the Eminönü ferryboat docks.
On weekdays, the most popular Bosphorus Tour departure is at 10:35 am, but in the warm months there are later ones at 12:35 pm, and 2:10 pm as well.
On Saturday, Sunday and holidays, departures are traditionally at 10 am, 11 am, noon, 1.30 pm, and 3 pm.
Get to the Eminönü ferryboat docks at least 30 minutes before departure if possible, buy your ticket and board the ferry in order to get a good seat. (In May 2009, I got to the dock 45 minutes before departure and there was already a crowd. By 20 minutes before departure all the choice seats were filled; and it wasn’t even a weekend.)
Ignore the guys asking “Bosphorus tour?” as you approach the docks. Buy your ticket from the clerk in the ticket booth.
The Bosphorus Tour ferries have been popular with Istanbullus and visitors ever since. Even though the Bosphorus bridges have reduced the need for ferries, and fast “sea bus” catamaran ferries now carry many of the commuter passengers, and the Turkish Maritime Lineshas followed its Ottoman predecessor, the Sirket-i Hayriye, into the pages of history, the most popular and useful Istanbul ferry routes are still in business, operated by IDO.
Thank goodness! I’ve always loved the short intra-city voyages on these great old boats. Sitting on the rear deck of a traditional Istanbul ferry on a fine summer’s day with a glass of Turkish tea at my lips is a living example of the title of my humorous travel memoir, Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea.