Discover Istanbul & Turkey with Serif Yenen & Team
“All travelers are tourists; not all tourists are travelers.” Be a traveler! Go beyond the ordinary. Mix with locals. Immerse yourself in the local culture. Go through the back streets and eat at local restaurants.
To discover Istanbul or Cappadocia or Ephesus; we have a variety of choices for all kinds of budgets, depending upon your preferred time and personal interests. You can either join one of our small group tours and enjoy the benefit of being in a small-size group with very reasonable prices or allow us to tailor a private tour for you. Daily rates start at $100 USD per person.
Apart from private tours, Serif Yenen Signature Tours are high-end tailor-made private tours by Serif or expert guides with almost everything planned and included.
We are eager to share our knowledge and experience with you in your selection of choices.
On our tours, in addition to showing you the highlights of the city, we are prepared to take you to places not on the tourist’s typical itinerary, where we can have local experiences and meet local people. If you wish, we can use public transportation, try various kinds of street food, and take any opportunity for a spontaneous detour.
As a tour guide, I have almost 30 years of field experience. I served in the Tour Guide Organization for 13 years, and was elected as President for four terms. I have authored many guidebooks and lectured on Turkish travel.
VIPs who have used my services include: Pope Benedict XVI, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. George Friedman, Matt Lauer, Lester Holt and many others…
We are a team of very competent guides with good command of English and a lot of knowledge to share with you. When I am unavailable on a particular travel date, I will handpick someone from our team specifically for you and your interests.
We look forward to hearing from you. Ask for a Quote!
My first name, Serif, has a tail at the bottom of the “S” (Şerif), that gives it a “sh” sound, so my name is pronounced “Sheriff”. I am married and have three children.
I was born into a middle-class family in Ödemis near Izmir in 1963. After completing middle school, I became a military student at the Kuleli Military High School in Istanbul, where instruction was mainly in English.
After earning degrees in Linguistics, English and American Literature, I taught English in the armed forces for four years. After reaching the rank of lieutenant, I left the army, and was selected from a large field of candidates to become a tour guide. I loved it, and have been working ever since with the same enthusiasm I had my first year, in 1989.
I’ve traveled extensively, to more than 35 countries, but Turkey is my home, the place I’ve studied and explored in depth.
Tour guide: 1989 to the present. Past president of Tour Guide Organization of Turkey.
Author: Turkish Odyssey, the first guidebook of Turkey to be written by a Turk; published in four languages; 4th edition currently sold out; several other books used as textbooks or on suggested reading lists at various universities; articles and columns published in international magazines and national newspapers.
Producer, director and writer: Istanbul Unveiled (www.istanbulunveiled.com), a travel documentary featuring interviews with people in occupations unique to Istanbul, as well as a tour of the city’s main attractions. The documentary has won nine international awards.
Lecturer: In the U. S. and Turkey, to academic communities, at museums, universities, travel clubs, and libraries, and for tour and cruise companies. Lecture sites in the U.S. have included The Smithsonian, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Advocate: Introduced legislation to recognize tour guiding as a regulated profession.
Personal Touch and Controversial Topics
I pride myself on adding personal touches to every tour. I want my guests to have memorable experiences, and return home with a great deal more than just having visited one more country. This is extremely important to me as a person and as a professional.
By the way, I have no trouble discussing controversial issues, which travelers love to bring up—whether it’s Turkey’s relationship with the European Union, or political or ethnic issues. Also, from years of doing tours, I know how my guests love to experience spontaneity. On every trip I lead, I try to introduce something new, or even, perhaps, a surprise!
Why Serif Yenen?
- * Experienced, yet still enthusiastic about what he does – giving you, the traveler, a personalized tour of the country he knows so well.
- * Private Tours with the author of one of the best cultural guidebooks of Turkey: Turkish Odyssey.
- * Orientation, with map overview.
- * Complimentary copies of some of Serif’s publications.
- * No crowds, no queues! Priority ticket booths for professional tour guides.
- * Open to all questions and discussions. Effective and entertaining communicator.
- * Individually designed itineraries, from a few hours in Istanbul to days or weeks around Turkey.
- * Families with children are welcome. This father of three children has ideas on how to engage them.
- * Senior citizens accommodated with pleasure.
- * A Serif Yenen Tour qualifies you for a 25% discount on any C.I.P. event or cultural activity in Istanbul
- * Because individual travel is our specialty, we do get to know our guests and see if they have special requests, off-the-beaten track quests, interests beyond the mainstream. We are uniquely qualified to make sure all expectations are met, and usually exceeded.
- * One of Serif’s greatest passions is shopping and gathering information about where to buy what. Therefore, if there is interest, he provides personal shopper services ensuring hassle-free purchasing and fair prices.
- * Local restaurant recommendations. (Turkish cuisine is among the best in the world.)
Depending on the location of your hotel or the place you are staying, we may need transportation. For transportation, we have three options:
a) Private air-conditioned van with a driver, which I can arrange separately
b) Taxi cab (they hold 4 passengers maximum, you need to count me in)
c) Public transportation, which may be fun depending on the location of your hotel.
Concierge ServicesWe have experience in planning highly personalized tours and providing VIP services. Do you want to celebrate a special occasion? Do you want a luxurious spa experience, a personalized adventure, a particular private tour? Just let us know. We can also arrange special luxury accommodations at hotels or resorts. We have the resources to customize your travel.
Visa Information for TurkeyFor visitors from many countries, a visa is required for entry into Turkey. I strongly suggest that you get an electronic visa before your arrival. This will make things much easier. You can get the visa and more information about the visa procedures at https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ When you get the electronic visa, I remind you that you must keep the visa together with your passport.
Ask Serif Yenen
Renata: “Dear Serif Yenen, I have for some time wanted to bring a group of about 16 – 20 people to Istanbul to explore the Byzantine and Ottoman legacies of the city such as Santa Sophia (Hagia Sophia), St. Saviour in Chora, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and all the other wonderful sights. I have been running art tours in Europe for a number of years and have a very nice clientele who likes good centrally located hotels, good but not necessarily very expensive food, classical music and if possible the odd private palace to visit over and above the sights that one just cannot miss.
My tours usually last no longer than about 5 nights. We all like travelling as much as possible out of season say from October to March early April. Do you think you could help me arrange such a trip with you as the guide? I need roughly one year to get these trips off the ground so am thinking of autumn next year.
I look forward to hearing from you,
With kind regards.”
Serif Yenen: “Hello Renata. Thank you so much for your interest in our travel services. We would be glad to tailor a tour just as you describe. We can arrange many art and music activities in Istanbul.”
Clement: “Hi Serif, I am planning a trip to Turkey with my family of 6 pax (2 baby boomers, 4 gen Y’s) for about 8-10 days sometime around March-April and would like to know more about an itinerary you can customize for us along with its rates. Many Thanks.”
Ryan: “Hello Serif, hope all is well. Just a reminder that I will be arriving in Istanbul on August 19. Will you still be available during this time for a photography tour? In case you have forgotten to tell you, I am a photographer from America and will be in Istanbul August 19-22. Please let me know your availability. Thank you.”
Serif Yenen: “Hi Ryan, one of my greatest hobbies is also photography. I will be delighted to take you on a photography tour. Thanks.”
Tony and Fiona: “Hi Serif, we are first time visitors to Turkey and do not know where to begin!
We will be arriving in Instanbul on 19th July and departing on 26th July.
Can you offer some advice? I would like to see more than just Istanbul if we have time, we are interested in history and culture as well as scenery – and beach time if at all possible.
We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.”
Şerif Yenen: “Dear Tony and Fiona, first of all I would like to thank you for contacting me with your travel inquiries.
It looks like you have 6 full days and another one or two depending on your arrival and departure times.
I would suggest that you visit İstanbul at least 2 full days. The other most interesting places to see in Turkey are Cappadocia and Ephesus. It can be possible to combine Ephesus with a coastal town as you would like to have some beach time. please kindly note that the domestic flights between Cappadocia (Kayseri) and Ephesus (İzmir) are not daily, therefore it’s better to define your international flight times preliminarily in order to advise you a more accurate travel plan.
At this stage, I am looking forward to getting your flight schedule. Kind regards.”
Craig H: “Dear Mr. Yenen, my wife and I will arrive in Istanbul on May 11, in anticipation of a cruise beginning on May 17.
We are interested in taking a tour of western Turkey tour during the week prior to the cruise, depending upon price, certain conditions, and availability.
First, we would want this to be a private tour for only the two of us, not part of a group of any size. This will be our first visit to Turkey.
We believe that the best itinerary for us would be as follows:
Day 1: Arrive Istanbul; transfer to hotel; remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 2: Full day touring Istanbul.
Days 3, 4 ,5, & 6: Depart Istanbul. Tour western Turkey on an itinerary to be devised by you.
Day 7: Return to Istanbul. Additional half-day of sightseeing, if possible, depending upon time of arrival.
There is no rush to board the ship on the 17th, as it remains berthed in Istanbul overnight as a floating hotel for its passengers. Departure is not until the following evening, the 18th.
Presumably, you would want to book our hotels. We do not want to stay in big, modern, touristy hotels. Are you locked into agreements with certain hotels, or can we choose? Are you able to arrange this?
All hotel rooms should be in a Superior or Deluxe category, never Standard, unless all rooms in a hotel are in the same category. If a particularly inviting hotel does not have television, air-conditioning, computer access or other modern features, that is okay. We don’t need TV; we won’t have our computers; and the weather in May should be pleasant.
Whenever possible, hotel rooms should be non-smoking.
If any meals are included in the tour price, please note the following: Hotel breakfasts are fine, but lunches should be in local restaurants noted for their cuisine, not in westernised places favoured by tourists. Additionally, we do not want standard hotel dinners unless the hotel in which we are staying has a reputation for its exceptional cuisine. Instead, we will want information from our guide as to the best places to eat in each of our destinations, as well as transportation to them. Perhaps the cost of transportation could be substituted for the cost of the “included” dinners.
If the above dates are available for this tour, and if the terms I outlined are acceptable and feasible, then will you please send an estimated tour cost — in US Dollars — via return e-mail? This estimate should specify exactly which services are included and which are not. Please provide the names of your proposed hotels so that I can research whether they will be acceptable. We understand that cost adjustments may be required as the tour date draws closer due to changes in hotel rates, fuel prices, etc., but we would like the estimate to be as accurate and complete as possible based on current information.
Also, please send information regarding any deposit required, as well as acceptable forms of payment.
Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your reply and to the possibility of touring with you during our first visit to your beautiful country.”
Serif Yenen: “Dear Craig, thanks for your very descriptive request. All what you say is fine and I will be happy to put them together. Please allow me some time and I will get back to you with a wonderful itinerary and quotation.”
Heidi H: “My parents and another couple will be in Istanbul Oct. 6-8 of this year, and would like a guide for at least one day. My parents have traveled through Turkey extensively, but their friends (also well-traveled) will be making their first visit. All are very interesting people (professor, interior designer, accountant–all business owners) with insatiable appetites for knowledge and experience.
I’m not sure whether this will be necessary, but I saw that you do airport transfers and wondered about the rates. Is it best to combine that with a tour, and have the tour begin/end at the airport, or do you have separate rates whereby you get them to their hotel and meet later/next day for a full-day tour? How much would that cost?
I’m not sure of their arrival time, nor where they will stay, but I’d like to check your availability for those dates (Oct. 6-8). If you have a suggestion for an amazing place and/or amazing rate, please advise–they appreciate great values and usually book through Priceline in the US. I looked via your website and found lots of nice boutique hotels in Sultanahmet.
I look forward to hearing back from you, and thanks in advance.
Michelle J: “My name is Michelle and I live in Cape Town, South Africa.
I am planning a tour to Turkey, in August but need some advise.
We are 2 women (aged 30 and 36) that would like to spend 7 nights in
Turkey. We are looking at tour itineraries from tour agencies, but we are completely lost and it is just too much information and different views from people where to go
to. Please assist.
Can you perhaps advise us on where to go. We know that we would like
to spend 2 / 3 nights in Istanbul but have no idea where to go after
that. We are also not sure whether 2 / 3 nights there might be too
We realise that 7 nights are not a lot and we would be looking at doing
2 regions? Please advise. We have received some advise to go to the
coast after Istanbul?
We are two adventurous people that want to experience true Turkey and
not just stick to the “tourist” stuff. Obviously we will want to do the
standard highlights but also be exposed to true culture and not the
very westernised side of it.
We are not looking at a typical tour operator which takes over your
entire holiday and forces you to be at specific times and places every
single day, we would like to retain some form of freedom. Having said
that we also realise that we would need some form of structure and
guidance. Day tours?
As you can see we are lost and need some advise on where to go in such
a limited time without exhausting yourself by getting from point A to
Your help would be much appreciated.
Serif Yenen: “Hello Michelle, thanks for your interest in our travel services. I will be glad to suggest you ideas and organise them for you. Before I make an itinerary for you, I will suggest that you visit Cappadocia for sure.
Cappadocia is such a beautiful and unusual place on earth. Think about a volcanic area, covered with tuff (volcanic ash) all around, underground cities just like ant houses, hundreds of rock-cut churches with beautiful frescoes made with natural dyes, hundreds of valleys some of which are great places for hiking, people living in caves, cave hotels, hot-air balloon flights, etc.