is the 32 km (20-mile)-long
north-south strait that joins the Sea
of Marmara with the Black
Sea in Istanbul,
and separates the continents of Europe and Asia.
Today, the way to enjoy the Bosphorus
is to take a cruise by Dentur
Avrasya boat, TurYol
boat, or traditional
Şehir Hatları ferry,
tour of the European shore, or
to relax at a tea-house or restaurant along
its shores. You can enjoy a Bosphorus cruise north toward the Black Sea in less than 90 minutes, or in a few hours, or all day, as you wish. More...
About the Bosphorus
called Boğaziçi (boh-AHZ-ee-chee, "Within
the Strait"), more recently
it's been called the Istanbul
Boğazı, Istanbul Strait,
perhaps to differentiate it from
the Dardanelles (Hellespont),
called the Çanakkale Boğazı.
The width of
the Bosphorus varies from 500 meters
(1640 feet) to 3
km (2 miles), its depth from
50 to 120 meters (164 to 394 feet),
averaging about 60 meters (197 feet)
runs right through the heart of Istanbul,
past the Istanbul
Modern Art Museum, several Ottoman palaces,
at least two fortresses, forested
hills, and shore villages with Ottoman
architecture. (For self-guided
touring, I've divided it into the Southern
Bosphorus and Northern
It is crossed by three bridges and a rail tunnel: the southernmost Bosphorus Bridge (Boğaziçi Köprüsü), the central Mehmet the Conqueror Bridge (Fatih Köprüsü), by the Marmaray Railroad Tunnel, and by the Yavuz Selim Bridge at the Bosphorus's northern-end confluence with the Black Sea (2016).
The Bosphorus is one of the world's busiest commercial shipping channels, with some 140 cargo vessels making the 90-minute passage each day (at 7 or 8 knots), carefully navigating the seven precise turns necessary to follow the Bosphorus's narrow channels and avoid its treacherous currents.
Even though by law there are two highly experienced local pilots aboard each vessel during passage, and giant radar towers monitoring all maritime movements in the strait, accidents occasionally happen.
The Bosphorus in Legend
English name comes from a Greek
legend: Zeus had an affair with
a beautiful women named Io. When
Hera, his wife, discovered his infidelity,
she turned Io into a cow and created
a horsefly to sting her on the rump.
Io jumped clear across the strait.
Thus bous = cow, and poros
= crossing-place: Bosphorus = "crossing-place
of the cow."
Recent marine archeological research
in the chill, deep waters of the Black
Sea has revealed sunken cities on
the underwater slopes along the Turkish
Geological evidence supports the theory
that in ancient times the northern
end of the Bosphorus was
blocked by earth and rock. The Black
Sea had no outlet (like Lake
Van today), and its water level
was below that of the Aegean
Sea, the Sea
of Marmara, and the Bosphorus.
However, an earthquake destroyed
the Bosphorus blockage, releasing a deluge
of water from the Bosphorus
into the Black Sea, raising the water
level and flooding its coastal communities.
So it may well be that the Bosphorus
is the source of Noah's flood and
the legend of Noah's Ark!
Ararat is also in Turkey.)
The Bosphorus in History
Bosphorus has been a waterway of
the highest importance since ancient
times. Ulysses passed
who founded Byzantium (later Constantinople,
sailed up and down looking for the
perfect place to found his village.
1452, Mehmet the Conqueror ordered
the construction of the mighty fortresses
of Rumeli Hisarı (Fortress
of Europe) and Anadolu
Hisarı (Fortress of
Anatolia) so he could control the
strait and prevent reinforcements
from reaching the besieged Byzantine capital
To the Ottomans it
was mostly an obstacle: each spring
they had to ship their gigantic armies
across the strait from Istanbul for
campaigns in Anatolia,
Syria and Persia.
During World War I, the Bosphorus
was the key to the Black Sea and Russia.
The Sultan held the key. The Entente
powers wanted it. What they failed
to get in battle they got by treaty,
and British gunboats anchored outside Dolmabahçe
—by Tom Brosnahan