Istanbul Flights:

Flights to Istanbul

image of IstanbulSituated in north west Turkey, Istanbul is the country’s largest city. Straddling the famous Bosphorus, Istanbul connects Asia and Europe, and offers a great deal of history and culture, making this a popular destination for either a short or a long break.

Istanbul has 2 international airports. The Ataturk International Airport (airport code: IST) is the main one for international flights to Istanbul. The Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (code: SAW) is also a large airport but tends to serve mainly European traffic. When coming from Johannesburg, you can get a direct non-stop flight to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. That’s the shortest option at 10 hours. South African Airways and Egyptair both have one stop flights to Istanbul, stopping once in Cairo. Those flights are around 16 hours long.

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The Tourist Attractions of Istanbul:

In past times Istanbul was known as Constantinople and it’s been the capital city for many different cultures over the thousands of years since it was established. Though not the capital of Turkey (Ankara is), Istanbul is the economic and cultural centre of Turkey and one of its top tourist attractions. It is also the only city in the world to span two continents, giving visitors the chance to visit both Europe and Asia.

The Historic Peninsula

The Historic Peninsula of Istanbul (known also as Sultanahmet) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and this is where many visitors spend most of their time in Istanbul. This part of Istanbul is the best known and its skyline featuring Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque is one of the most famous in the world.

Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque are two of the top attractions here. Aya Sofya (also spelt Hagia Sophia) has seen a substantial amount of change take place around it since it was completed in the year 537. It’s been a church and a mosque throughout its life, but is now preserved in time as a museum, so that all religions and cultures can experience this huge building.

Close by is the Blue Mosque, officially named the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. This was completed in 1616 and although you can visit this beautiful mosque, it is still a working mosque so should be avoided during prayer times.

The other big attraction on this historic peninsula is Topkapi Palace. This huge palace was the home of Ottoman emperors and you can see all its lavish decorations and rooms such as the Haram when you visit here. Elsewhere in Istanbul are other ornate palaces too including Dolmabahce Palace.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar should not be missed. Reputed to be the world’s first shopping mall, this historic shopping centre is not only a step back in time but an opportunity to buy typical Turkish souvenirs, crafts and more, but remember to haggle!

The historic peninsula is full of attractions. In addition to those above you should see the ancient Hippodrome, the underground cistern (called Yerebatan Seray), and several other museums.


Funnily enough the historic peninsula is not the oldest part of Istanbul, this lies in Beyoglu, across the Golden Horn. The main attraction here is the Galata Tower, completed in 1348. This tower offers some excellent Istanbul city views including many of the major landmarks.

Istiklal Avenue

Just inland from the Galata Tower is the famous Istiklal Avenue that’s full of shops, entertainment, restaurants and bars and it’s a hub for both locals and tourists.

When Should You Visit?:

Istanbul’s temperate climate means it doesn’t suffer extremes, and can really be visited at most times of the year. Summers are hot and humid, so spring and autumn are perhaps better times to visit. Winters are mild to cool, and snowfall is common most years.

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