Istanbul, Turkey – why go?

Looking across the Golden Horn.

It’s happened to all of us. You’ve sneaked a couple of days off, combined a weekend, maybe a public holiday and managed to get yourself a nice week long break. But where are you going to go? It’s too short to fly to Greece and too long to waste in Goa. Phuket is too sleazy and Paris is too posh. And really you want someplace new, exotic and ideally by the sea?
Look no further. We give you the perfect place for a week-long break, a place that checks all three boxes and we also tell you why it’s perfect for the Indian traveller!

Blue Mosque.

1) Istanbul is not really Europe and nor is it Asia. It’s a happy compromise of two cultures – one of which is familiar, the other foreign. You can expect towering minarets, magnificent mosques and Byzantine underground cisterns and yet all that history jostles alongside the most lively bars, jazz clubs and seaside café’s chock-a-block with hipsters, tourists and perpetually smoking locals! So if you love international destinations with a slightly familiar cultural feel, this is the place to be.

2) There’s nothing that signals ‘holiday’ to us like a big, sparkling expanse of brilliant blue water and in Istanbul you it follows you almost anywhere you go. The Bosphorous snakes through the city, infusing it with life, laughter, food and fun. Whether it’s timeless fish houses that look no more than distressed barges, hotspot nightclubs with extravagant decks or quaint café’s where you can linger over your Turkish coffee for hours, life in Istanbul plays out on the banks of the Bosphorous, making for one of the most unique city-sea escapes.

Cafes on Ortakoy waterfront.

3) Remember that time when you tried to buy focaccia in Italy and you signaled, pointed and play a whole game of dumb charades with the baker and came out with a baguette instead? Or that time in Paris when a snooty Parisian purposely pointed you in the direction opposite to the Eiffel Tower? That doesn’t happen here. Nearly everyone in Istanbul speaks English and they thankfully haven’t yet acquired the arrogance to be rude.

4) Let’s admit it – the Indian palette longs for bold flavors! We come back from Europe always mildly hungry, appetite effectively ruined by the mild, cheesy, creamy and frankly bland food that the continent is famous for. With a cultural heritage shaped by diverse influences like the Ottoman empire, Istanbul fuses east and west perfectly in its cuisine. Meals usually start with cold mezzes, followed by hot starters like mucver (zuchinni fritters), kofte and kebab and work themselves up to a wholly satisfying seafood crescendo.

5) You’d imagine that you can’t get all this unless you put yourself through a torturous travel experience of most European cities that consist of tedious flight connections and jet lag that goes on for days but Istanbul a short 6 hour direct flight away. You leave at 7 am in the morning and you’re there at 10 am local time! Think of it as a slightly long red eye from Mumbai to Calcutta for pretty much the same price. And the best news is that the visa is a simple online process that takes no more than a day!

So the next time you manage that nice unexpected week break, don’t waste time with research, Google, or questions. Pack your bags, grab your passport and just go!

AUTHOR'S BIO: Sharan spends her time writing and traveling, and when the stars align she gets paid to do both together. She has authored two Lonely Planet Guides and several features for Lonely Planet Magazine as well been a contributing writer on She had just finished writing her first novel and blogs on

  • Sameen

    I want to go to Istanbul this May/June. I have read so much about it, and my favourite living author is Turkish. I was hoping this article would also point me to a direction where I could plan my travel to Istanbul. I am scouting for company for the trip, meanwhile. I live in Mumbai.

    • Juhi

      Hi Sameen
      I live in Hyderabad and I am planning to travel to turkey as well and was looking for a company too :) you can reach me at if you havent planned the dates yet.