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Colorful Culinary Holiday in Turkey

For millennia, Istanbul has been the connection point for a vast web of places with distinct cultural identities, landscapes, and, of course, cuisines. These disparate influences form the great mosaic that is modern-day Istanbul cuisine, which is so much more than simply “Turkish food.” On this weeklong culinary experience, you will be studying Istanbul through its myriad kitchens. It will be a week of constant collision and natural synthesis between the many cultural currents that make Istanbul so special - and so deserving of the title, “City of the World’s Desire.” Time for you to pack up and join!


  • Expertly guided visits through Istanbul's backstreets
  • Enjoy a cooking lesson followed by an evening meal at a local home
  • Visit outdoor markets, a family-run candy shop, and the most exciting restaurants
  • Meet up for mezze and drinks with a trusted international journalist to discuss Turkey
  • Enjoy a ferry ride to the Princes’ Islands and take in the houses of worship there
  • Private boat rides on the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus
  • Daily breakfast, 6 lunches, and 5 dinners
  • 7 nights accommodation


7 days with instruction
Group size: 6-12 participants
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Check-in Time:

You will stay at a hotel during this holiday.

For flights in and out of Istanbul International Airport (IST), it is suggested that you arrive anytime before 3 p.m. on Day 1 and depart anytime on Day 8. You will be provided with the option of booking extra nights at an Istanbul hotel before and/or after the tour. Your host will also be more than happy to provide suggestions for things to do and see in the city on your own.


Question the origin of any dish in a typical neighborhood restaurant in Istanbul and you will find yourself falling down a rabbit hole that may lead out to Albania or maybe over the peaks of the Caucasus to Chechnya.

As they have for centuries, people come to this city with their own tastes from home; food in Istanbul these days often bears the fiery hallmark of the largely Kurdish southeast and the myriad of flavors of the Syrian kitchen, brought to the city by refugees who now call it home.

Filter this through the older urban traditions of Ottoman Turkish, Armenian, and Greek cooking, and something very uniquely Istanbul - bewildering, fascinating, in perpetual motion - comes into focus.

On this culinary experience, you will use the simple ritual of a tea break to access ancient crafts still alive throughout the city. You will meet and eat with chefs dedicated to documenting and preserving Anatolia’s rich and varied rural cuisines, endangered by the migrations that continue to this day.

You will cross the Bosphorus, visiting food bazaars on both continents and eating in private homes along the way. You will also witness cooking demonstrations in working restaurants and have a hands-on lesson in a private home. You will finish your trip with a taste of the “new Turkish kitchen” to see how Istanbul’s cuisine continues to evolve.

This trip is offered exclusively in partnership with Atlas Obscura, the definitive guide to world’s hidden wonders. A publisher of award-winning books and an online database of the world’s lesser-known treasures, Atlas Obscura offers trips and experiences in destinations around the world inspired by wonder and curiosity.

Sample daily itinerary

Day 1: Welcome dinner and Golden Horn cruise

You will begin this trip with a brief introduction to the city by boat, cruising the Golden Horn to your welcome dinner, where you will get to know each other in classic Istanbul style, around a table filled with meze and rakı. Here, the plan for the week will be laid out and the subjects you will be exploring will be inctroduced.

Day 2: Through the backstreets of the Old City

This day will be your first plunge into narrow alleys, bustling markets, and the hidden, living monuments of the Old City. You will be visiting food shops, restaurants, bakeries, and grill joints throughout the day, so bring your appetite and skip breakfast at the hotel.

At a fourth-generation family-run candy shop, you will sample some of the city’s finest lokum, Turkish delight. You will have pide in the style of the Black Sea region, an unforgettable döner kebab, and Turkish coffee among many more edible delights.

You will also witness the rituals at a Greek Orthodox shrine, where mostly Muslim women visit the priest and light candles in hopes of getting pregnant. After heading back to the hotel in the late afternoon, you will have the evening free to explore.

Day 3: Markets, mosques, and acrobatic pigeons

You will start with breakfast in a most unusual setting: a decommissioned Greek high school now cared for by an Arab Christian family from Hatay, a Turkish region neighboring Syria known for its superb cuisine.

You will get a quick crash course on the construction of Istanbul’s weekly outdoor neighborhood markets - which are, miraculously, set up and broken down each day like a traveling circus - before visiting one of the most elaborate and bustling ones, in the Fatih neighborhood. There, you will have a quick lunch of stewed white beans, a staple of the Black Sea region.

Finally, you will climb up to a rooftop to meet a pigeon trainer and witness his birds dance in the sky with the Old City skyline as their stage.

Return to the hotel for a rest before meeting up for mezze and drinks with an accomplished international journalist who will lead a discussion on present-day Turkey, how it got here, and field questions on everything in between.

Day 4: Escape to the Princes’ Islands

You will escape the city’s traffic and chaos for a relaxing day in the Princes’ Islands, the traditional retreat of Istanbul’s religious minorities.

On Heybeliada, long a center for the city’s Greek community, you will board horse-drawn carriages and work your way up to the top of the island to visit the historic Orthodox Seminary, caught in a legal limbo that threatens the future of the Patriarchy itself. Since the 1970s, this centuries-old institution has been closed to religious education by order of the government, as classrooms and dormitories remain moth-balled and a small cadre of monks tend to the grounds, waiting for the day that it is permitted to again accept students. You will meet those priests to learn about the controversy and visit the Seminary’s church, where rare Byzantine-era icons are kept.

On your way to lunch, you will stroll through a pine forest, passing fine examples of the gingerbread house-style architecture for which the island is known.

After ferrying back to the hotel, the rest of the evening is free.

Day 5: Ara Güler and home-cooked dinner

After a morning of free time, you will meet after lunch and head over to the former Bomonti Beer factory, now a cultural center and home to a collection of photographs by the recently deceased Ara Güler. His record of 20th-century backstreets Istanbul is second to none.

After a quick snack, you will make your way to Kurtuluş, one of Istanbul’s most diverse districts, where your host will show you the neighborhood’s specialty food shops. There, you will gather up some ingredients before returning to her home for a cooking lesson and your evening meal.

Day 7: New Istanbul cuisine and Bosphorus cruise

No trip to Istanbul is complete without a pleasure cruise on the Bosphorus, passing by the palaces and iconic wooden houses that line this historic waterway. You will get a dose of Ottoman history onboard as you cruise toward lunch at a no-frills waterfront fish restaurant, where you will enjoy the simple pleasures of life on the Bosphorus.

For the daring, there will be a chance for a quick dip in the water separating the two continents, so bring your swimsuit if you like.

You will have a few hours of free time before your farewell dinner at one of Istanbul’s contemporary restaurants, where you will get a taste of where this city’s cuisine is headed.

Day 8: Farewell and departure

Today, depart for home or onto your next destination - or, if you would like, spend a few more days exploring Istanbul. Your guides will be happy to provide additional recommendations.

Until the next adventure!


Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. Everything listed in the itinerary is expected to be covered, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.

Activity level

Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 3 to 5 miles each day and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get hands-on during a couple cooking workshops. Keep in mind that Istanbul is a bustling and crowded place!

Included excursions

A panoply of flavors

Sample the many flavors of Istanbul in a staggering variety of places - at vibrant bazaars and outdoor markets, in a local home, at a family-run candy shop, at an Alevi Muslim house of worship, and at some of the city’s most exciting restaurants.

Local perspectives

Sharing, tea, meals, and stories, you will get a range of perspectives on the city as you meet with chefs, home cooks, writers, religious and cultural figures, and many others along the way.

Delving deeper

In addition to eating well, you will delve deep into Istanbul’s cultural traditions by visiting churches and mosques with fascinating living histories, meeting a pigeon trainer on a rooftop in the bustling Fatih neighborhood, exploring a beer-factory-turned-contemporary-photography-gallery, and much more.



An adventurous palate is encouraged! All food and drink consumed on the activities will be included in the price already, for most people this will be enough to consume for the week. However, there will be some free time to do additional touring.

Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated, though in most cases ingredients cannot be substituted or omitted from particular dishes. Vegan options are challenging to come by, but if you are willing to be flexible and miss out on some of the tastings, then you are more than welcome to join. If you have a particular food allergy or intolerance, please contact your host to find out if this is the right trip for you.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Snacks
  • Drinks

The following drinks are included:

  • Water
  • Soda
  • Alcoholic beverages

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
  • Other dietary requirements on request
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • Services of Culinary Backstreets professional and licensed guides
  • Daily breakfast, 6 lunches, and 5 dinners
  • Private boat rides on the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus
  • Public ferry ride to the Princes’ Islands
  • Admission to all proposed activities, sites, workshops, and events
  • All ground transportation in licensed tourism vehicles
  • 7 nights accommodation

What's not included

  • Airfare to and from Istanbul
  • Travel insurance (recommended)
  • Visas

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 20% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 30 days before arrival.
8 days / 7 nights
from --
Minimum group size

This trip requires a minimum of 6 participants

Monday October 10, 2022
(8 days / 7 nights)

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For this organizer you can guarantee your booking through BookCulinaryVacations.com. All major credit cards supported.

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