tripadvisor-reviews

Best Tour Ever, Heart Warming Real People Knowledgeable

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We really made a full circle around the diversify neighborhood, our guide has a genuine care for the people, every place we go, he is among friends, best Turkish breakfast by picking great delicacies through a local market, best Turkish coffee, steam hamburger, back alley hugging cats, gave a soccer ball to refugee kids and then play ball with them. We visited a local family in the run down area, yet their hospitality brighten the day. Our guide, Ozcan Davascan, is knowledgeable all around, politics, economics, religion, culture,.. Also friendly, courteous, kind, patient and genuine. The Turkish bath is top quality, dinner is very good. We rank this the best ever day tour, money well worth it.

Morley (TripAdvisor)
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Unbelievable, perfect, tremendous, magical, unique, random, lovely and special.

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‘Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.’ – The Grateful Dead

Unbelievable, perfect, tremendous, magical, unique, random, lovely and special. All of these words sum up the experience we had with Polat on the Circle Istanbul tour Dec 30.

From the food he introduces us to (authentic breakfast dishes and pastries to yogurt on the Asian side, freshly caught fish, tea tea and more tea and then to delicious meza and dinner) to the historical tidbits and knowledge he shared, and the hidden gems and streets of Istanbul (on both East and West sides) and yeah, to the random jam session he had with a few strangers in a tea house, and the stop at the hammani…I mean.. Remarkable doesn’t quite describe this tour!

This is not your average tour. This is for those with an adventurous spirit and a spirit that wants to see the expansiveness of Istanbul and feel the generosity of the people.

Which is why I must use the quote from the Grateful Dead.The customer service, our driver, Polat and the people of Istanbul gave us 15 hours of enormous delight! And, the price is beyond right.
We highly recommend Circle Istanbul. HIGHLY!

Thank you Polat!

Claude (TripAdvisor)
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The Amazing Oz!

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Oz, our guide, took us on a memorable all day adventure. Oz led our Merry Band of 7 adventurers as we cris-crossed the Bosphorus, visited local markets, saw extreme wealth and poverty, had a fun "feeding" every hour or so, interacted with Syrian refugee children he had befriended, and experienced about a jillion other sights, sounds and smells.

We spent 6 days in Istanbul and this was the best.no surprise when Oz confided to us ( with a twinkle in his eye) that some of his friends call him the amazing Oz...he is! Thanks for a great day.

Sally (TripAdvisor)
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Bravo Circle Istanbul!

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If you want to really discover and get to know Istanbul and then spend a day on the Circle Istanbul tour!

This tour was exactly what we were looking for - a way to explore and experience the "real" city beyond the tourist attractions. We interacted with locals in various culturally and ethnically distinct neighborhoods (places probably not found in official guidebooks) and tasted amazing and interesting foods. By the end of the day we felt like we had a "real feeling" for one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

My husband and I were part of a group of 10 on a Sunday tour. Our guide Polat was outstanding and I can't say enough about how great he is at his job, this guy wrote the book! Istanbul is his city and he knows it (and it seems everyone in it) like the back of his hand. He was friendly, had great communication skills and was very passionate about making sure everyone in the group was enjoying themselves and having amazing experience. If we stopped to sample a local food he watched each person's face to see if they were enjoying it. If you did, here's some more. If you weren't sure, he would give you something else to try. On one of our stops a member of our group asked the waiter for some milk for her tea and mentioned she really can't enjoy her tea without milk. When the waiter said they didn't have milk, Polat disappeared for a minute then reappeared with a little container of milk from a nearby store.
My recommendations:
1.Put on your nikes and just do it! After a couple of weeks to absorb our amazing 2 weeks in Europe I finally asked my husband what he felt was the highlight of our trip, he said this day was it.
2. Wear comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking (although you will be traveling by van also and there a tons of stops along the way)
3. Definitely take the full tour because the Turkish bath is an AWESOME experience, not to be missed! We were a little hesitant at first but it felt soo refreshed afterwards, and you skin was so soft it felt like a baby's behind!

Thank you Circle Istanbul, I'm pretty sure in years to come when we look back on our trip to Venice, Greece and Turkey we will think of what we saw, smelled, heard, felt, ate and drank on this day.

Trish (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

Best Day in Istanbul.

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We did the extended full day tour last month on Dec. 26th. We had a fabulous time and have been talking about our experience ever since. From the moment we were picked up, we felt like we'd known our guide, Ozcan, for years. He made us feel at home in Istabul everywhere we went and we were able to venture into little know neighborhoods we would never see anywhere else. We started the day by going to the Asian side of Istanbul where we shopped at a street marked for our breakfast and then went to a small cafe where they made us all traditional Turkish coffee on the brazier. We visited both poor and rich neighborhoods, conservative and arty. We never wanted for food either..we were able to enjoy a wonderful home-made meal for lunch at friends house that was a very special treat. The Turkish bath was an interesting experience, I'm not sure I would do it again, but it was something we will not forget. The only bad thing was the weather..it was rainy all day...but we forged ahead and still had a wonderful time. We would recommend this tour to anyone that wants to see a side of Istanbul that you would not see without living there or having locals as friends. There is simply not enough room to write about everything we did! Wonderful Day!

Michelle (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

14 hours that just flew by!

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I can't even describe how wonderful this tour is, just go! I highly recommend it if you want to get away from the Old City aka Sultanahmet and just see the other side of Istanbul from a local. The whole group did the full tour so The Turkish bath (hamam) was a great bonding experience and not for those who are shy. It was lovely meeting the group, and I have made friends that I hope to see soon as future traveling companions. Polat was an amazing tour guide and person to get to know. I know I would have never found these places on my own. It was 3 rides total on the boat, so we did cross over to Asia side. You won't regret this tour - go and keep an open mind and stomach!

Julian (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

Polat made the whole trip fantastically memorable.

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First off, if you are looking to visit famous sites, stand in line with hundreds of others to see the Istanbul of yesterday, this is not the tour for you. You need to book the sightseeing tour with their sister company.But, if you want to see Istanbul of today and how its past and present come together in its people, its food, and its day-to-day life, then this is absolutely where you want to be.

Polat took us all over Istanbul. I lost count at around the 22nd stop. That may seem like a lot, and believe me when I signed my wife and me up, she arched an eyebrow and quietly asked, "Really?" Believe me, the tour flew by and we saw so much, tasted so much, and talked so much. And it was more than 22 stops. Each as interesting, cool, and informative as the other.
This tour takes you to conservative and liberal Istanbul, rich and poor Istanbul, business and recreation Istanbul along with seeing landmarks. I've never felt so connected and comfortable with a city as I was with Istanbul at the end of this tour. It made our visit to the city so complete and made me miss it the moment I got into the taxi to airport.

Polat is an exceptional guide who interacts with the locals as well as you. At times you will be out of your comfort zone, which is a good thing or you'd miss some of what makes Istanbul so special. In the end, it's worth it.

Recommendations -
1. Eat it. Don't think about it it. You'll be glad you did and your friends back home will be impressed
2. Good shoes. You're going to walk your 15k daily steps.
3. Water. You'll need it.
4 Baklava. You'll be so risked how many different types and how god, and sweet, it all is.
5. Ask questions! There is so much that you will be amazed to learn about whether it's architecture, clothing style, how much sugar for your coffee and what you'd be doing for fun if you lived here.
& 6. Do the Turkish Bath. It's timing is perfect.

Renee (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

Wonderful introduction to Istanbul; beyond wonderful guide Polat.

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My husband and I went on this tour for our first day in Istanbul. We wanted an introduction to the sense of the city and got even more than we expected. The description of the tour is accurate--we went to "real" places: weekly markets where we saw almost exclusively people who lived in the neighborhood, varied communities where we were able to walk around and understand the differences in areas (and learn historical/cultural rasons for the differences), and tasted a variety of the many foods (from multiple kinds of baklava to regional fruits).We saw families returning from circomcisions, learned how to tell which food carts to eat at, gained an understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis, and more. Our guide, Polat, quickly grasped the kinds of questions we had (there was just one other couple and us!) and tailored his conversations to our interests. Different groups might have different discussions, depending on their interests.

The tour itself was great---and Istanbul is an amazing city in all ways--but I have to emphasize that the guide made the tour for us. He was the perfect travel companion and guide--personable, intelligent, funny, and kind. I have a few walking ddifficultiesat times (but I did walk 6 miles that day) that he kept in mind without imposing limitations on the others' interests. I especially liked the way he explained the routines of daily life as we saw it by putting these routines into larger contexts that helped us understand the complexities of the city. I also ate more good food that I thought possible!

I wish I had chosen to take the full day (with hammam) but I was hesitant. By the end of the day, I was comfortable enough to reconsider, but I still had jet lag. Still--we had about 10 hours of a perfect first day.

Mawr (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

What a fantastic experience ..........

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Don't even think about whether this tour is too expensive or not - just do it - you'll not regret it. It is the guides and the out of the way places that they take you that make this such a great tour and such great value for money. We were fortunate to have both Polat and Ozcan as guides - we had Ozcan on the Classic Old City Tour the previous day and Polat for the Full Day Circle tour on the following day. Incidentally I'd recommend the two tours on successive days - they complement each other very well. The Classic City tour shows you the traditional highlights [Blue Mosque, Topkai palace etc etc] while the Circe Tour takes you into the back streets of Istanbul away from the seething masses of tourists. Without doubt both Polat and Ozcan are in tune with what their clients are after. They are fun and engaging and make the experience not only an education but great FUN. These two guys are a laugh a minute - be prepared to keep up with them and give them back as much as they give you. They'll respond accordingly. Hard to fault either of these two trips or these two guys in any way and I'd have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone who wants to see the real side of Istanbul and have great fun with great people at the same time.

Taylor (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

Circle Istanbul tour takes you to the real Istanbul - incredable!

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I have experienced many guided tours - but nothing as fantastic as Circle Istanbul! Our guide, Ozcan was so informative, had great humor and is so connected to the city. At one point we were invited to have tea in a local family's home! The varied food Ozcan introduced us to was varied and delectable and from local vendors, tea rooms and restaurants. We walked through areas of town that we would probably never have access to on our own (or even found) and were made to feel welcome where ever we went. We laughed, learned and ate so much all day! This experience was worth every penny and so much more!

John (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

Extraordinary tour of Istanbul

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I love it when something unusual and amazing happens, and Circle Istanbul is that kind of tour. Booked through Medhills Travel (an exceptional travel agency - see my review) I thought I knew what to expect - a small group tour of how a local Turk lives, shops and worships in Istanbul - but I was delighted to find it was a gourmet experience as well as visiting some of very diverse neighborhoods of Istanbul. Our guide, Polat Korkmaz, wore a t-shirt that said "Follow Me" and we did - walking through farmer's markets, back streets and neighborhoods we would never have ventured into if not for this opportunity. Very well organized tour that included a ride up the Golden Horn on a ferry boat, short bus rides between locations in an air conditioned shuttle bus and walking, walking, walking. Wear comfortable shoes, take a sun block and bring your appetite; we sampled so many varieties of foods that I simply lost count. I highly recommend this tour to everyone visiting Istanbul for the first time, or the fifth time. It was extraordinary and we'll be talking about our Circle Istanbul experience for years to come.

Carol (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

Don't miss this!

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I had two free days in Istanbul and found this via reviews here. It was the best decision I could have made. The walking and bus tours took me and our fun group of 10 to places I did not see on my regular tour the next week. We walked in lovely neighborhoods, ate many fun local food choices, and walked around Taxim Square. Several of us had the Hamam Turkish bath- it is a cultural experiences for sure- and a fabulous dinner at the end of a long day and night. If you want to know more about this city and culture than a general tour can provide, this is the trip to book. Loved it!

Rev. (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

VERY glad we did this tour!

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We flew to Istanbul for a long weekend from Chicago, had very little time in Istanbul and found this tour with just two spots left. An earlier reviewer noted the higher price, but in comparison to other tours we have taken this was considerably less expensive and was so much more memorable.

This tour does NOT spend much, if any, time in heavily visited tourist areas. In fact, we never happened upon another tourist group. We saw all sides of Istanbul during our day - rich, poor, conservative Muslim areas and more. Truly unique and memorable.

Despite how much is crammed into a day (Europe and Asia side) the time was well paced with tons of breaks for food along the way. Our guide was Polat (Paul) - he was great - if you wanted to stop and try something we stopped. I'm pretty sure we stopped at least 6 times to "snack" - and we didn't do the full-day tour.

We were picked up at 8AM sharp at our hotel - nice 10 passenger Sprinter van, and had a couple of more stops to pick up the remainder of the group - this only took about 20-30 minutes. After we had everyone we found our way to a boat and headed to the Asia side - spend a couple of hours there, took a boat to a different area on the European side, and found our way through a slew of neighborhoods.....around mid-day we had a longer boat ride between both suspension bridges in Istanbul ---- it was just a boat ride but provided a break and great photo opportunities.

If you're a photographer this tour will present thousands of photo opportunities - and not just of mosques and other buildings. I'd come armed with a camera and an appetite. And don't be afraid to try the food -- the goat cheese was the only bad thing!

There is no real agenda - though I think the route is somewhat planned. I can assure you though, you would not have gone to these places on your own.Fair amount of walking --- if you are on crutches, in a wheelchair, walker --- I'd skip. I think the total distance walked was 7 miles --- felt like less though.

Lastly, this tour can thrive off of the group itself - the more you are open and into it, the better it will be.

Susan (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

See the human side of Istanbul

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Naturally every visitor to Istanbul is drawn to the famed attractions of Istanbul: the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace Museum, the Grand Bazaar, and more. But therein lies the problem. These sites are packed with tourists and tour guides. For a respite from the crowds and the opportunity to experience the real people and places of Istanbul, the Circle Istanbul proved to be an outstanding choice.
Starting at 9:00 am and continuing until 10:30 pm, our guide Polat led our group of six through bakeries, meat and produce markets, coffee shops and cafes, street vendors. a Bosporus cruise, a variety of intimate neighborhoods, a Turkish bath (a new experience!), and a concluding dinner at a traditional restaurant. Coordination with the driver of our van enabled us to visit widely scattered places on both sides of the Bosporus: we walked back streets, chatted with shop owners and vendors, watched men playing backgammon, and sampled foods (who knew there were so many varieties of Baklava?) and beverages as we went along. Our concluding dinner was a special treat, featuring yummy authentic Turkish cuisine and live music that grew ever more lively as the night wore on.

The big attractions of Istanbul were awesome, but the Circle Istanbul tour provided me with a deeper appreciation of the people and culture of Istanbul.

Dave (TripAdvisor)
tripadvisor-reviews

Not just a tour, but a real experience

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This tour offered me the opportunity to do things that I would not have otherwise even considered. It provided a great snapshot of this huge city and Ozcan was a wonderful guide and host. From early Sunday morning our small group was expertly guided through neighbourhood streets, onto boats, through fish markets and flea-markets, up-town and down-town, from coffee house to tea house, lunch at a local family home, tastings of local specialities ... so much thoughtfully packed into the day. We were transported in a comfortable mini-coach between the walks and boats. Ozcan did everything possible to ensure we were looked after with true Turkish hospitality. I would recommend Circle Istanbul to everyone who wants not just a tour, but a great experience. And the price includes everything.

Brendon (TripAdvisor)
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Flavour of Istanbul

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We did the classic and alternative tour with Circle and both guides, Emine and Ozcan were excellent with in-depth knowledge of the city and the culture. The small group worked very well and I enjoyed both days which passed very quickly. We also asked Circle to arrange our accommodation and transfers to and from the airport and once again this worked perfectly even when we gave the wrong details for our return flight !
This is a very professional company which is a good example of how it should be done, within the tourist industry, to promote a country.

Well done.

Ian S. (TripAdvisor)