Daily Iznic Tour
Historically known as Nicaea, the town lies in a fertile basin at the eastern end of Lake İznik, bounded by ranges of hills to the north and south. It can be easly reached from Istanbul with a total of 1.5 hours drive and taking the ferry across the Izmit Bay. The city was surrounded on all sides by 5 km of walls about 10 m high. These were in turn surrounded by a double ditch on the land portions, and also included over 100 towers in various locations. Large gates on the three landbound sides of the walls provided the only entrance to the city. Today the walls are pierced in many places for roads, but much of the early work survives and as a result, it is a tourist destination.
Built during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasianus in the 3rd century, Istanbul Gate actually has 3 gates side by side. It features huge stone carvings of heads facing outwards.
Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) is a Byzantine-era church. It was built by Justinian I in the middle of the city in the 6th century, modelled after the larger Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It was in this building that the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787 to end the first period of Byzantine Iconoclasm. The building was converted to a mosque after the fall of the city to the Ottoman Turks in 1337, and functioned as such until it was converted into a museum in 1935. Since November 2011, it again functions as a mosque.
Lunch break along the Lakefront
One of the earliest examples of Ottoman architecture, Green Mosque has a single minaret in the northwestern corner of the building which is decorated with composed glazed terra-cotta green, yellow, turqouise and dark purple coloured tiles. The colourful tiles minaret gives the mosque its name.
Nilüfer Hatun Imareti
Nilüfer Hatun Imareti (Turkish for “Nilüfer Hatun Soup Kitchen”) is a convent annex hospice for dervishes. This elegant building was erected in 1388 for Murat I who dedicated it to his mother Nilüfer Hatun, a Greek noblewoman who became the favourite wife of Orhan Gazi. The building originally served as a hostel for the Ahi Brotherhood of Virtue. This was a religious and fraternal society formed by the craft guilds in Anatolia during the Seljuk period. Today it houses the Iznik Museum, with archaeological and ethnological collections, including an exhibition of the famous Iznik kilns.
This Gate to the east actually comprises three gateways dating from Byzantine times. The middle one bears a Greek inscription that says it was built by Proconsul Plancius Varus in AD 123. You can climb to the top of the walls here – a good vantage point for inspecting the lie of the land.