Ready to Get Mesmerized by Istanbul’s Strait?

Are you one of those who says “Not a day goes by that I can’t see the sea!”? If yes, then open your arms! Istanbul is waiting for you. Without a doubt, Strait of Istanbul or more commonly known as Bosphorus is going to be your lifetime lover.

What is The Strait of Istanbul?

Bosphorus is a natural and narrow strait located in northwestern Turkey. Besides its natural beauty, it also has national and international significance. For Turkey, it’s the most significant waterway thanks to its geopolitical location. Turkey is divided by Bosphorus as it’s separating Anatolia from Thrace. Internationally, Bosphorus is a bridge and boundary between Europe and Asia. The length of the Bosphorus is 18 miles. The average depth of the Bosphorus is 200 feet in total. On the other hand, the deepest areas of the Bosphorus are known as 393 feet. Also, it is known as the narrowest strait which is used for international voyages. Through the Bosphorus, almost all the naval traffic of the Black Sea passes. Moreover, it is inevitable to mention the other strait which is Dardanelles when it’s about popular straits of Turkey. It was formed by a collapse that occurred at the end of the 3rd geological time. Its length is 40 miles. The widest part of the strait is 19028 ft, the narrowest part is 4101 ft (Kilit Bahir Castle between Cimlik Castle) and the deepest part is 347 ft.

Is it Bosphorus or Bosporus?

You can see different variations of the name of the strait and you might get confused but no worries, because both are actually correct. It is known that the origin of the name of the strait comes from the word Βόσπορος (​Bosporos) in Ancient Greek. In Turkish, it is referred to as “Istanbul Bogazi” which simply means Istanbul Strait.

Why Is It Called Bosphorus?

According to some other sources, Bosphorus has its origins from a Thracian word that means the passage of the cows. It is known that this belief is related to an Ancient Greek myth of Zeus and his lover Io. According to the legend, Hera, angry wife of Zeus, sends a gadfly which is a type of fly that bites horses or cattle to take her revenge from Io. By doing so, she wants her to wander without having any rest. During this voyage, Io passes by Bosphorus and after that, it was started to be called  Bosphorus or “path of cattle.” One way or another, today it is widely known as and popular for its name Bosphorus or Istanbul Bogazı.

The Iconic Bridges of Istanbul

Istanbul is a big, old city with an Asian side and European side. Divided by a strait, Istanbul is in need to be connected with its two sides to each other. At this point, some famous structures come into the spotlight. So, here is the list of the bridges in Istanbul:

  • Bosphorus Bridge
  • Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge
  • Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge
  • Galata Bridge
  • Golden Horn Metro Bridge

How long are These Bridges?

Bosphorus Bridge: Bosphorus Bridge is known as the first constructed bridge to connect two, Asian and Anatolian sides. On the European side, the bridge starts in Ortakoy and on the Anatolian side, it ends in Beylerbeyi. It was opened on 30 October 1973, one day after 29 October which was the 50th anniversary of the Republic. It was officially called  Bosphorus Bridge till July 26, 2016. In 2016, after the coup attempt, it is started to be called as ​15 July Martyrs Bridge​ to honor those civilian victims. The bridge, which has a total length of 5118 ft, has a middle span of 1074, a width of 33.40 and a height of 209 feet from the sea. Besides its important function of connecting two sides to each other, it also becomes a tourist attraction and a landmark of Istanbul.

Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge: Due to heavy traffic, Bosphorus Bridge was inadequate for the highly increasing population of Istanbul. For this reason, there was a need for a new bridge. To fulfill this need, construction of the bridge was started in May 2013 and it was completed on October 24, 2014. Bridge legs are 1112 feet above sea level, 1056 and 1049 feet from the ground. The Bridge takes its name from the 7​th​ sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Fatih Sultan Mehmet.

Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge: The bridge is spanning over Istanbul Strait. The main aim of the bridge is to serve as a road for motor vehicles and trains to transit over the Bosphorus. The route of the bridge is located in Sariyer. It’s in Garipce neighborhood on the European Side and in Poyrazkoy district of Beykoz on the Anatolian Side. The bridge comes first for its many different features such as:

  • The bridge is the widest in the world with a width of 193 feet,
  • The tallest suspended bridge with a tower height of 1056 feet
  • World’s tallest suspension bridge with its second tallest tower in all bridge classes
  • The longest with all the main suspension bridges with its main span of 3428 feet,
  • The ninth among all the suspension bridges.
  • It is the longest middle span suspension bridge.

The construction was started in May 2013 and it lasted for 27 months. it was opened in August 2016. Just like Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge takes its name from a sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Selim I or also known as Yavuz Sultan Selim. He was the 9​th sultan of the Empire.

The Galata Bridge: History of the bridge dates back to ancient times. The fifth of the Galata Bridge, which has been built and destroyed 4 times throughout its history, was built in 1994 and is still in service today. What makes this bridge even more attractive is the activities that not only tourists but also locals can do. If you wonder which activities that this bridge serves, here’s a list that you’re looking for!

  • Eating Out: Along with many fish restaurants underneath, it’s a great option for a romantic dinner.
  • Fishing: Walking on the Galata Bridge is also the best stopping point for fishing lovers.
  • The Amazing View: When you come to the middle, watching Istanbul Bosphorus view, city lines ferries and live city life is one of the most beautiful activities in this region.

Golden Horn Bridge Metro Bridge: Golden Horn Bridge is one of the bridges that spanning over the Golden Horn in Istanbul. It lies between Ayvansaray and Halicioglu. It is 3264 feet long, also 6 feet high above sea level. Although it has a beautiful view, there is just one point that you need to be careful about. In the wintertime, due to icing that occurs on the bridge, many accidents take place. For this reason, we recommend you to be careful If you visit Istanbul in the wintertime.

How popular is The Strait of Istanbul?

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Bosphorus is on the top of the holiday list for foreign visitors but do not think that it is only limited to people from other countries because It also attracts Turkish people from different cities as well. On the other hand, the fact that almost every shore of the strait serves local people as their home leads us to the conclusion that Bosphorus is number one for locals too. Bosphorus with its two coasts gives a breath to metropolitan Istanbul with a population of 17 million.

Does Turkey control the Bosphorus?

The best answer to be given to this question is yes. According to a convention which is called Montreux Convention, Bosphorus Strait, and Dardanelles Strait have been controlled by Turkey since 1936. This convention also aims to make a regulation for the passage of warships between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Seas. Again, according to this convention, as long as it’s peacetime, Turkey has the main principle and this includes the freedom of the passage.

Can you swim in the Bosphorus?

Yes, you can swim in the Bosphorus but, there is a but there. It is not really advised. If you wonder the reason why, well it is all about your health and safety. As being one of the most famous straits of the World, Bosphorus Strait also has heavy maritime traffic. As a result of this, it is highly polluted. On the other hand, as the Bosphorus is highly deep, it might cause an unpleasant situation If you don’t take the necessary precautions before you swim. However, we have a piece of good news for you If you are really determined to enjoy the cold water of the Strait. Keep reading!

Have you ever heard of the Bosphorus Cross-continental Swimming Race?

If you can take your eyes off the beautiful the Strait and decide to make your life even more excited, just stop and think about Bosphorus Cross-continental Swimming Race. It’s a great opportunity to swim in Bosphorus and enjoy the precious feeling of rivalry.

What is the Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swimming Race?

It’s basically a competition for swimming lovers. It is held every year in July. Last year, in 2019 it was​ ​held for the 31st time on 21 July. Many visitors from inside and outside of Turkey pay great attention to this race. Reportedly, 4 thousand swimmers from 51 countries applied for the race last year. It’s clear that it has great importance for both Turkey and Bosphorus. Thanks to this race, Bosphorus which is already widely known by the whole world becomes much more popular.

What is the Age Range of the Competitors?

In this super exciting race, there are competitors from different nationalities, genders, and ages. Reportedly, the youngest competitor is 14 years old in the meantime the oldest one is 89 years old.

Which Countries Do Competitors Participate in the Race From?

The intense interest of countries such as Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom to the Bosphorus Intercontinental Swimming Race never stops nearly every year. In addition to these countries, ​for the first time, swimmers from Indonesia, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, and the Philippines have applied to paddle between the two continents.

How Can We Apply for the Race?

For auditions, candidates are able to make an appointment at which is ​the official website for the race. Generally, applications start in April. As the race catches a great deal of attention from all over the world, there is not always enough vacancy. For that reason, there is a limitation. Applications are limited to 1200 for Turkish people and 1200 for foreign people. Last year, the quota became filled in 28 minutes as soon as the applications started.

How Will You Get Elected for the Race?

Nearly 3 thousand candidates for the 1200 Turkish swimmer quota compete in the elections to be held in Istanbul, Samsun, Adana, Ankara, and Izmir. The first one is held in Istanbul and, the last one is held in Izmir. As a result of this preselection, out of 3000 applicants, only 1200 of them will be able to become a candidate for the race.

How to Spend Quality Time in Istanbul?

If you can’t decide what to do to spend a good time and enjoy your trip to Istanbul, Bosphorus offers you many options. The best one of them is the Bosphorus Cruise Tour. This tour includes a voyage starting from Eminönü Galata Bridge to Anatolian poplar.

What’s the Route of the Tour?

For the route, you have different options. First of all, you can choose a route that includes a tour that starts from Eminönü and goes on with Karakoy, Kadikoy, Uskudar, and Besiktas respectively.​ You can reach the necessary information about the Current City Lines Ferry Routes, Timeline, Fees at ​​.

Short Bosphorus Tour on a Ferry

To have a tour of Bosphorus, ferries are great options. Short Bosphorus tours with the City Lines Ferry start at Eminonu Pier at 2:30 p.m. and stop by Uskudar and Ortakoy piers, respectively. On the way back, stop by Ortakoy and Uskudar Piers and the tour ends at Eminönü Pier at 4.30 p.m. It lasts for 2 hours.

Long Bosphorus Tour on a Ferry

Long Bosphorus tours with the City Lines Ferry start at Eminönü Pier at 10.35 a.m and stop by Beşiktaş, Üsküdar, Kanlıca, Sarıyer, Rumelikavagi and Anadolu Kavagi Pier respectively. Anadolu Kavagi is reached at 12.25p.m, where a break is given until 3 p.m. On the way back, stop by Anadolu Kavagi, Rumelikavagi, Sariyer, Kanlica, Uskudar and Besiktas piers and the tour ends at Eminonu Pier at 4.40 p.m. It lasts for 6 hours.

If your path ever crosses with Istanbul, don’t forget to enjoy it as much as possible, participate in one of the most exciting swimming races, have a peaceful dinner by the Bosphorus and lastly, take a Bosphorus tour. It’s easy to get used to Istanbul but it’s hard to leave! Thankfully, Istanbul is always there to embrace its visitors.

Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I love Istanbul. I have been to 10 different countries. Istanbul is in the top 3 cities. I like to play soccer too :)

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