Exploring the Tastes of Two Continents

İstanbul, Turkey

1 review
Oct 11 - 18, 2021
Group size: 6 - 12
Exploring the Tastes of Two Continents
İstanbul, Turkey

1 review

Oct 11 - 18, 2021
Group size: 6 - 12

About this trip

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.”

Question the origin of any dish in a typical neighborhood restaurant and you’ll 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 seven-day culinary experience, we’ll be studying the city of Istanbul through its kitchens. We’ll use the simple ritual of a tea break to access ancient crafts still alive throughout the city. We’ll 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. We’ll cross the Bosphorus, visiting food bazaars on both continents and eating in private homes along the way. We’ll also witness cooking demonstrations in working restaurants and have a hands-on lesson in a private home.  We will finish our trip with a taste of the “new Turkish kitchen” at one of the city’s most talked about restaurants to see how Istanbul’s cuisine continues to evolve.

There will be much more than food, though. Along one of our walks, we’ll stop by a Greek Orthodox Church that is a pilgrimage site for Muslim women praying to get pregnant, and stop again to visit a former Byzantine church now functioning as a mosque. We’ll also take a trip to a worship center of the Shiite Alevi minority to join the community’s weekly lokma lunch. We’ll have a chance, behind closed doors, to probe contemporary Turkish taboos—both political and otherwise—with an accomplished journalist. We’ll climb up to rooftops for spectacular views and have tea breaks among the workshops of craftsmen carrying on medieval traditions. After a few days of the chaos of the city, we’ll escape to the nearby Princes’ Islands, a traditional retreat for Istanbul’s religious minorities. There, we will board horse-drawn carriages for a tour of one of the island’s remote corners and visit a historic Greek Orthodox Seminary, embroiled in a long-standing political controversy. We’ll also have a leisurely stroll down the tree-lined lanes of the car-free island, passing examples of its unique architectural treasures and historic mansions.

From morning to evening, 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.”

What’s included

  • Accommodation
    All accommodation throughout the trip in stylish, boutique hotels.
  • Food & Drink
    All meals and drinks included in CB activities. A belt-popping experience.
  • Ground Transportation
    Private coach for visits outside the center city.
  • Admission
    Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
  • Guides
    Professional guides throughout the entire experience.
  • Hands-On Activities
    Hands-On Cooking Class
  • Private Boat Rides
    Exclusive Boat Rides and Visits
  • Air travel
    Transportation and flights to and from Mexico City.
  • Airport transfers
    Not included but can be arranged.
  • Travel Insurance
    Can recommend providers.
  • Visas
    If applicable

Available Packages

Shared Room
Available until September 24, 20214 left
Deposit: $500
Single Room
Available until September 24, 20214 left
Deposit: $500


Day 1:
Welcome Dinner & Golden Horn Cruise

We’ll begin this trip with a brief introduction to the city by boat, cruising the Golden Horn to our welcome dinner, where we will get to know each other in classic Istanbul style, around a table filled with meze and rakı. Here we will lay out the plan for the week and introduce the subjects we’ll be exploring.

Your Organizer

Culinary Backstreets
1 review
Culinary Backstreets, a global guide to local eats that publishes restaurant reviews and features on local culinary culture. They bring these stories to life on culinary tours and special events, offered in 12 cities around the world, and have extensive international experience with all things gastronomical.


One of the best trips of our lives, for sure. We rescheduled the trip from last year and were still a bit nervous about traveling during a pandemic. However, the team from Culinary Backstreets did an amazing job preparing us and protecting us while still offering adventure, fun, culture, food, everything. Our two guides, Kristo and Maka, were so knowledgeable and warm. They really went above and beyond to make sure we had a great experience. We had so many amazing meals, drank great (and some interesting) wine and saw many parts of Georgia that we never would have visited on our own. Can't recommend strongly enough for curious travelers and foodies!
By Amy W for Harvest Time in the Cradle of Wine: A Culinary Adventure (copy) on 23 Sep, 2021