We can thank the Roman Emperor Constantine for many things -- firstly the legalization and legitimization of Christianity, military conscription, in-kind taxation, and the creation of his capital -- Constantinople, in what is the modern city of Istanbul.
Come and discover the historical melting pot that is Istanbul -- the gateway to Turkey, with its pagan roots, Christian heritage, Islamic past and relatively secular present. Fall and winter make exceptional seasons to visit this ancient land. Tourist numbers drop and so do the prices on everything from airfares to hotel accommodations.
Troy Tours (tel. 310/417 3460; www.troytours.com) has a special "Six-day Istanbul" package at a price that's hard to beat. For $499 plus taxes of approximately $170 per person, fly to exotic Istanbul between November 1, 2005 and March 27, 2006 from New York on Alitalia, stay four-nights at the four-star Orient Express Hotel with daily breakfast (including hotel taxes) and enjoy a half-day private old town Istanbul walking tour. Blackout period is from December 1, 2005 to January 5, 2006. Add $20 for weekend departures, $40 from Boston, $70 from Washington DC, $100 from Chicago, $120 from Miami or $220 from Los Angeles. Bookings must be completed by October 31, 2005.
Troy's "Winter Classic" tour is a 15-day fully escorted tour of Istanbul, Central and Western Turkey with departures on November 4 and 18, 2005, January 18, February 8 and March 1, 15 and 29, 2006. The tour includes transatlantic flights, 13-night accommodations at four and five-star hotels, airport transfers, an English speaking guide, comprehensive sightseeing, admission fees, a private air-conditioned bus, daily buffet breakfast and eight dinners. Visit Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Kusudasi, Ephesus and Canakkale. This tour is priced at $1,499 per person plus taxes from New York or Boston, $1,549 from Chicago or Miami, $1,599 from Los Angeles or San Francisco and $1,699 from Seattle or Portland.
Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) offers a number of Turkey options, from independent packages to escorted tours. Their 12-day "Affordable Turkey" tour takes you to Istanbul, Izmir, Pamukkale, Konya, Cappadocia and Ankara from $999 plus taxes of approximately $215 per person (based on double share) for a March 4, 2006 departure. Earlier trips in November 2005, February 2006 and on March 11, 2006 start from $1,059 per person. Included are round-trip airfares from New York (other cities available for additional cost), ten-night accommodations, all transfers, daily breakfast, three dinners, sightseeing per itinerary in a modern air-conditioned bus, an English-speaking tour escort/manager and all entrance fees.
Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.gotoday.com) also has some heavily discounted packages to Turkey, starting with their six-night "Istanbul Special". Travel between November 1 and December 15, 2005 or from January 6 to March 25, 2006 and for $549 plus taxes, Go Today will whisk you off to Istanbul with round-trip airfare from New York, plus six-night accommodations at the Ottoman Hotel, based on dual occupancy. You will also receive round-trip airport transfers and breakfast daily. Add $20 from Boston, $80 from Philadelphia or Washington DC, $120 from Miami, Tampa or Chicago, and $240 from Los Angeles or San Francisco. Bookings must be completed by August 25, 2005 to take advantage of this offer.
Turkey is Pacha Tours' (800/722-4288; www.pachatours.com) only destination so they know their product inside and out. Their 14-day "Turkish Delight" tour departs daily (except Fridays) from March to December inclusive. Prices start at $1,215 per person in November 2005 and go up to $1,765 in August and September. These prices include round-trip airfare from New York to Istanbul, 12-night accommodations in three and four-star hotels, three meals per day, and visits to Turkey's most historic cities and sites including Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Aspendos, Pege, Pamukkale, Goreme (Cappadocia), Aphrodisias, Heirapolis, Ephesus, Pergamum/Troy/Canakkale and Gallipoli. All transfers, entrance fees, English-speaking guides and sightseeing in air-conditioned luxury coaches are also included. Add $25 for weekend departures and $270 from Los Angeles.
The eight-day "Taste of History" tour includes four-night's in Istanbul visiting St Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace and taking a Bosphorus Cruise, one-night in Kusadasi visiting Ephesus (one of the best preserved ancient Roman cities in the world) and one-night in Canakkale visiting ancient Pergamum, the legendary city of Troy and Gallipoli. This tour is priced from $955 from November 16 to December 11, 2005 out of New York. The price goes up $20 for January 3 to March 31, 2006 tours or $30 from November 1 to 15 and December 25 to 30, 2005 trips. Departures are available daily throughout the year (except Thursdays). Round-trip airfare, six-night accommodations at three and four-star hotels, daily breakfasts, most lunches and dinners, airport transfers, admission fees and all ground transportation and sightseeing are included. Add $275 from Los Angeles.
Intrepid Travel's (www.intrepidtravel.com) "Turkey Basix" tour is a 22-day land-only adventure that will expose you to the best of Turkey in greater detail. The tour costs $990 per person with a maximum of 12 people in a group. It features 21-night's accommodations (19 in guest houses or hotels, one-night in a village home-stay and one aboard a train), sightseeing per itinerary and unforgettable visits to Istanbul, Cappadocia, Mount Nemrut, Pamukkale, the Byzantine castle at Silifke, Antalya, Kas, the islands off Fetiye, Selcuk, Ephesus, Canakkale, Troy and Gallipoli. Tours depart from Istanbul on October 10, October 24 and November 7, 2005 and spaces are extremely limited. Local payments of approximately $180 are additional, as is international airfare to Istanbul.
The cheapest fares to Istanbul that we could find were through 1800 Fly Europe (tel. 800/FLY-EUROPE; www.1800flyeurope.com). Book by August 31, 2005 and fly between November 1 and December 15 2005, or between December 25 and March 31, 2006) and a round-trip flight from New York to Istanbul is $387 plus taxes.
For more information about traveling in Turkey, visit www.frommers.com/destinations/turkey and www.tourismturkey.org. Share your travel ideas about visiting this ancient country at the Turkey Message Board.