Small Group Travel
From Istanbul to Assos by boat: an incredible journey through history
Author, travel writer and broadcaster, Jeremy Seal, and cazenove+loyd's Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell invite you to join them on an enthralling adventure, taking in Istanbul, Bursa, the Dardanelles Strait, Gallipoli, Troy and Assos.
For those interested in history, culture and food, Turkey is a treasure-trove waiting to be uncovered. This captivating country is known for its rich history, delicious food and diverse people. The 'Turks' are made up of an amazing ethnic mosaic whose forebears came from the Greek islands, Georgia, Circassia, Crimea, the Balkans, the Arab lands and elsewhere in the former Ottoman Empire.
We have carefully crafted this trip for a small group of like-minded individuals. Your hosts – Jeremy Seal, England’s leading travel writer on Turkey, and Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, Co-Owner + Director of cazenove+loyd – have honed every detail and ensured the top guides and the best experiences. This is an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of Turkey in the company of a true expert who will bring the country’s culture, religion and history to life.
The trip will begin with an inside-track exploration of Istanbul followed by a spectacular boat journey through a region richer than any other in history, where western history may be said to have begun. You will travel from Istanbul (imperial city of both the Byzantines and Ottomans) to Assos – taking in Bursa (capital of the early Ottomans), the famed Dardanelles Strait, the battlefields of Gallipoli and Troy. “This makes for such an alluring mix,” says Jeremy Seal, “covering as it does an amazing historical span. The echoes are compelling, not least between the British and Anzac forces’ attempt to take Gallipoli in 1915 and the fabled events of the Trojan Wars more than three millennia earlier. The Dardanelles have always controlled access to the great city on the Bosphorus – whether as Byzantium, Constantinople or Istanbul – and to the Black Sea. In terms of historic strategic importance, nowhere else on Earth compares.”
The trip is made particularly special because you are exploring by boat. Halas 71, your home for most of the trip, has a long and rich history that covers the final years of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the Turkish Republic. It is extremely comfortable and allows you to access several amazing places in this area of northern Turkey that are exceptionally rich in culture and history. Most people associate boating in Turkey with the Mediterranean and the Aegean, but this has a really different feel. By travelling on this specially chartered small ship, all these wonderful historical experiences are within reach on one short trip. What’s more, after each fascinating visit, you can then retreat to the comfort and luxury of your boat. This is a truly spoiling and relaxing way to see these incredible places.
There is no doubt that this will be an extraordinary experience in an enchanting destination. Get in touch to find out more.
While it is our intention to adhere to the route described below, some flexibility should be allowed to enable the ship’s captain and trip leaders to make any necessary minor adjustments where necessary. Please note, a reasonable level of fitness is required on this trip, as there is a certain amount of walking, particularly in Istanbul.
What makes this trip spectacular?
Travelling onboard this incredible small ship on a private charter is an exclusive and spoiling experience that is only possible if you’re travelling on a small group trip such as this. This boat has a long and rich history, which goes back to the final years of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the Turkish Republic. After each fascinating visit ashore, you can then retreat to the comfort and luxury of your boat.
This is an amazing opportunity to explore in complete comfort the rich history of a region where high-end hotels are scarce. It is wonderful to experience Turkey from the water, sailing the Bosphorus – the gateway between Europe and Asia – and along the Dardanelles Strait, stopping off at incredible historical spots along the way.
The trip will take you on a fascinating, all-encompassing journey through Turkey’s past. Jeremy Seal will weave all aspects of Turkish history together, including everything from the Trojan War to the Ottoman Empire to the First World War and Gallipoli.
You will be hosted by Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, our Co-Owner + Director, who will ensure everything runs smoothly, and Jeremy Seal, one of England’s leading travel writers on Turkey, who will share his knowledge of and passion for this captivating corner of the world.
Welcome to Turkey
On arrival in Istanbul International Airport, you will be met and transferred to the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet. Depending on the time of your flight, you will be able to relax, unpack and settle in before a special welcome drinks in the shadow of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Dinner can be enjoyed at the hotel in your own time.
Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet
This fabulous hotel is located just steps away from some of Istanbul’s most important historical sites, including Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, making it the perfect base for exploring the city. Formerly a century-old Ottoman prison, the hotel has an interesting history and is a beautiful example of well-preserved neoclassical architecture, with elegant arches, domes and towers. It is a wonderfully peaceful oasis in the bustling Old City, offering a relaxing place to retreat to and unwind. Our favourite rooms overlook the hotel’s stunning courtyard, Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque.
Getting under the skin of Istanbul
Today, you will set off to explore Istanbul, the fascinating capital of two world empires consecutively – the Byzantium (AD 330 to 1453) and the Ottoman (AD 1453 to 1923) – until the Ottoman Empire collapsed after the First World War. We know the best places to go at the best time, including many of the highlights as well as some lesser-known sites and hidden gems, and Jeremy will give you the inside track on the city.
After breakfast, you will walk through the grounds of the exquisite Blue Mosque to the nearby Hippodrome. From there, you will continue to the Mosaic Museum, which houses some amazing Byzantine and late-Roman mosaics uncovered in the grounds of the otherwise-lost imperial palace. This gives you a sense of the Byzantine buildings that were once all over the city but were mostly demolished by the Ottomans. Along with some of the great basilicas – since converted into mosques – this is one of the few survivors from Roman times, so it is a very special discovery and remarkable to witness. From there, you will be taken on a short walk to the magnificent Hagia Sophia basilica, the great ‘mother’ church of eastern Christendom. This fantastic building is now undergoing a partial, and controversial, transition back to a mosque and is splendid to see. Next, you will wander through the outer courts of the Topkapi Palace to Hagia Eirene, another early Byzantine basilica.
You will have lunch at Pandeli, a fabulous restaurant in the nearby Spice Bazaar, before meeting your transfer vehicle for the short drive to the waterfront, where you will take the ferry down the Golden Horn to Galata Bridge, where you will visit the adjacent Spice Market before returning to the hotel.
This evening, you will enjoy an amazing dinner at Mikla, Istanbul’s best restaurant, which was previously included on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It is located on the rooftop of the popular Marmara Pera hotel, so you can expect breathtaking views of the city and outstanding food.
Explore Istanbul + set sail for Bursa
After breakfast, you will walk to one of the smaller Byzantine cisterns before being driven to the Süleymaniye Mosque, a wonderful alternative to the better-known but often crowded Blue Mosque. Your guide will then accompany you on a 15-minute walk to the Grand Bazaar, which is a fun and thrilling place to explore, from where you’ll be transferred to Hamdi in Eminonu, on the southern side of the Golden Horn, for lunch. Hamdi is one of the city’s best-loved restaurants, serving excellent traditional dishes, such as tasty Urfa-style kebabs, yoğurtlu şakşuka (yogurt meze with fried eggplant, peppers and potato) and içli köfte (meatballs rolled in bulgur).
Afterwards, you will stroll through the modern Galata and Pera districts, home to many galleries and shops, before transferring to the wonderful Naval Museum, where you will see the Ottoman imperial caïques (rowing boats), among other historic treasures. Then you will continue to the dock to board Halas 71, your home for the next four nights.
Once aboard, you will begin your spectacular journey along the Bosphorus and out of Istanbul. Dinner will be served as you sail across the Sea of Marmara towards Bursa.
Built in 1914 as a passenger ferry in Glasgow, this fabulous motor yacht has a rich history. Formerly called Reshid Pasha, she saw action in the First World War, before serving at the British Allied Headquarters until 1923 when she was given to the newly established Republic of Turkey and her name was changed to Halas, meaning ‘deliverance’. She was then used as a passenger ferry on the Bosphorus for 65 years. In 1984, the Turkish publisher Haldun Simavi and his wife Çiğdem rescued her from the wreckers’ yard, restoring her to her former beauty and transforming her into a 15-cabin luxury cruiser. In 2008, Mustafa and Caroline Koç renovated her. Today, she is a very high-end coastal cruiser – with 12 elegant and tastefully decorated cabins, a sauna, excellent non-motorised watersports equipment and a crew of 16.
Visit Bursa + sail to Çanakkale
After breakfast, you will disembark and set off on an hour-long drive to Bursa, a relatively unvisited place that is both beautiful and fascinating. It was the capital of the Ottoman Empire from the 1300s until 1453 when they used it as their launchpad to eventually take Istanbul, which is just to the north across the Sea of Marmara. The architecture is splendid and the city has a very different feel to Istanbul. The old city, in particular, is full of wonderful treasures, such as the exquisite Green Mosque, a very early Ottoman mosque.
After exploring Bursa, you will be driven to the Muradiye Complex, a series of stunning mosques, shrines and tombs of old early Ottoman sultans in beautiful gardens, on the way to rejoin the boat further up the coast for lunch.
This afternoon, you will have time to relax, read and write on the boat as you cruise towards Çanakkale, and Jeremy will give a talk on the Gallipoli Campaign at tea-time. Dinner will be served onboard and, later, the boat will continue its journey to Çanakkale, where it will drop anchor at around midnight.
Sail through the Dardanelles Strait to Gallipoli
Today, you will wake up in Çanakkale and enjoy breakfast as the Halas sails through the Dardanelles Strait to Gallipoli. Çanakkale is located near where the Strait is at its narrowest, so the scenery is particularly dramatic here. In fact, the whole of the Gallipoli Peninsula, which played such an important part in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, is astonishingly beautiful and unspoilt as it was declared a national park after the campaign in tribute to the tens of thousands of Ottoman soldiers who died here and were buried where they fell.
After breakfast, you will disembark to explore Gallipoli. You will go to several key spots, such as the Cape Helles Memorial, V Beach, the Doughty-Wylie grave and other cemeteries maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The whole of the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula tells the story of the British campaign and, as you wander around, Jeremy will bring this enthralling chapter in history to life. We strongly recommend visiting the charming village museum at Buyukanafarta, which is run by local peasant farmers. It is a very simple display of the moving collections of artefacts that have been found in the fields, such as tins of bullied beef meat and crosses worn by soldiers.
After lunch at Doyuranlar, a simple place serving delicious gozleme, a local Turkish delicacy, you will be driven north up the west coast of the Gallipoli Peninsula to the so-called Anzac Region, which is where the Australian and New Zealand landings took place and there is another concentrated area of cemeteries. You will stop at Lone Pine and various other memorials along the main battlefront en route to Chunuk Bair, which has excellent views of the peninsula. From here, you will set out on a fabulous walk down to the landing beaches through delightfully green scenery, before returning to the boat at Morto Bay. You will have dinner onboard that evening.
Visit Troy + sail to the island of Bozcaada
This morning, while you sleep, the Halas will make her way towards Troy. After breakfast off the coast at Geyikli – opposite the idyllic Aegean island of Bozcaada, otherwise known as Tenedos – you will head ashore and be driven the short journey to Troy.
Troy’s preeminence in cultural history makes it a fascinating place to visit. Our specialist local guide, Mustafa Askin, will tell the story brilliantly, unravelling history and bringing these ancient stones to life. There is also an excellent museum here to explore.
You will then rejoin the boat and have lunch onboard during the short crossing to Bozcaada, home to a fine old town, Homeric associations, superb beaches and a flourishing wine scene. The island and its neighbour – the only inhabited Aegean islands owned by Turkey rather than Greece – guard the entrance to the Dardanelles, so are strategically important. In 1915, Bozcaada was a base for the allied troops during the Gallipoli campaign.
After lunch, you will wander around the pretty port town, enjoy some wine tasting and watch the sun set over the Aegean. Dinner will be served onboard and the Halas will continue towards Assos either overnight or early the following morning, depending on the weather conditions.
Discover Assos + return to Istanbul
After breakfast, you will say farewell to the Halas, head ashore by tender and be driven to the hilltop ruins of the Greek settlement of Assos. You will spend a couple of hours exploring the spectacular sites here, including the Temple of Athena, an ancient theatre and a necropolis.
After lunch, you will be driven to Istanbul, a journey of around five hours, and taken back to the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, a splendid hotel overlooking the Bosphorus. There will be a farewell dinner at Ulus 29, an excellent restaurant a short drive away from the hotel. One of the most sought-after places to eat in Istanbul, this restaurant has magnificent views and serves creative dishes cooked by Mert Şeran, one of the top chefs in Istanbul’s culinary scene.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus
This fabulous hotel – a beautiful restored, 19th-century Ottoman palace – lies on the banks of the Bosphorus, the famed river that links Europe and Asia. The rooms here are extremely comfortable, many with Bosphorus views, and there are plenty of excellent dining options, including Aqua, which serves fish and seafood dishes overlooking the water, and Ocakbasi, a pop-up restaurant on the roof terrace that dishes up delicious kebabs and mezze. There is also a lovely outdoor swimming pool and a fabulous spa, with a sauna, steam room and a serene indoor swimming pool, from where you can enjoy views of Istanbul’s striking cityscape.
Today, you will fly home from Istanbul or continue your journey in Turkey. Scroll along to read our suggestion on how to extend your trip in Turkey.
Six Senses Kaplankaya
We recommend extending your time in Turkey by spending a few nights or more at the beautiful and secluded Six Senses Kaplankaya. On a secluded stretch of coast, north of Bodrum, this wonderful beach retreat is surrounded by olive, oleander and cypress trees, and has stunning views across the sparkling Aegean Sea. The hotel is designed in the style of a Mediterranean village, with pathways connecting the buildings. All the stylish rooms and suites have private terraces to soak up the beautiful vistas. The three restaurants and three bars serve scrumptious Mediterranean- and Turkish-influenced dishes, mostly sourced from the hotel’s organic garden and the sea. There are three private sandy beaches, two outdoor pools and a fantastic spa and wellness centre, with an indoor pool, hydrothermal areas, hammams, gym and classes.
Author, travel writer, journalist, book reviewer and broadcaster, Jeremey Seal, has been travelling and writing over the past 20 years, in that time developing a particular enthusiasm for Turkey. He read English Literature at Exeter University before teaching English in Turkey. He returned to Britain for a spell in publishing before going full-time as a writer in 1989. Since then, he has written extensively for the travel pages of many newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and Condé Nast Traveller. His award-winning books include A Fez of the Heart and Meander, an account of a solo canoe journey he made down western Turkey’s Buyuk Menderes River. His latest book, A Coup in Turkey – A Tale of Democracy, Despotism and Vengeance in a Divided Land, was published in 2021.
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell is the Co-Owner + Director of cazenove+loyd. He is extremely well travelled and has led several very successful small group trips, including a private boat charter on the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and another private boat journey along the Mekong from Vietnam to Cambodia. His experience and knowledge of our destinations make him a wonderful, entertaining host and travel companion, full of inspiring stories and amusing anecdotes. Christopher meticulously refines every itinerary, ensuring that his guests are introduced to the country in the best way possible. He believes that every trip should form memories that last a lifetime, which means enjoying experiences that are truly unforgettable, meeting top specialist guides along the way and seeing a side of a place that others cannot usually access.
The Benefits of Small Group Travel
Our hand-picked specialists, guides and leaders ensure unrivalled insider access that you wouldn't normally be able to achieve unless you were travelling as a group, allowing guests to experience the destination in a very special way.
Small group travel gives you an amazing opportunity to spend time with true experts in their field. Each trip is accompanied by an owner – either Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell or Henrietta Loyd – as well as top specialists, guides and leaders.
Our small trips often form the beginning of life-long friendships. Much of the journey is spent as a group, but there is plenty of time to relax and enjoy your own space too. Henrietta and Christopher are brilliant at reading their guests and being proactive and reactive to the flow of the trip.
- From £9,525 (US$13,620) per person sharing
- Single supplement: £2,510 (US$3,589)
- Master Suite supplement: £500 (US$715)
- Upper Deck Suite supplement: £225 (US$322)
- Accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner, as specified, for seven nights with the group
- Premium wine, beer and soft drinks served with meals onboard Halas 71
- Specialist guiding and private access, as specified, with the group
- Tips onboard Halas 71
- All transfers within Turkey
- Return international flights
- Travel insurance
- Due to varying arrival times, dinner on the first evening is not included
- Optional extension to Six Senses Kaplankaya
- Spirits onboard Halas 71
- PCR tests