Bosphorus Strait: 10 Mind-Blowing Facts

Bosphorus Straits Map

The Bosphorus strait or also known as the Strait of Istanbul is located in the northwestern part of Turkey and connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea. It is a very narrow and natural strait but holds an international significance as it connects different seas making itself an important shipping route.

The strait is surrounded by the largest city and the financial center of Turkey, Istanbul. Turkey shares its land with both Europe and Asia and these two continents are divided by the Bosphorus strait along with the Strait of Gallipoli.

Turkey has two major straits namely The Bosphorus strait and the Dardanelles (or the Strait of Gallipoli ) which together form the Turkish Straits. They are of immense importance when it comes to trade and waterway travel.

Geographic Facts of the Bosphorus Strait

It has a length of 31km (19 miles) and the maximum depth of the strait is 110m (360ft). The width of the strait varies from 3.7km (2.3miles) maximum at the entrance to 700m (2297ft) minimum.

Bosphorus Straits Map
Bosphorus Straits Map

Also read: Strait of Magellan: 10 Interesting Facts

Interesting facts about the Bosphorus Strait

There are loads of things to know about this strait ranging from its strategic importance to the history and from its geography to sightseeing. Some of the interesting facts of the Bosphorus strait are, as listed below.

1) The name comes from Ancient Greek

The name of the strait, Bosphorus, comes from ancient greek ‘Bósporos’ which means “cattle strait”. The word ‘Bós’ means ox or cattle and the word ‘poros’ means passage, thus this becomes a “cattle passage”.

There is a mythological reference to the name. The story is of Io who was transformed into a cow and was convicted to wander the Earth and cross the Bosphorus if she wants to revive as a human. When she crosses the Bosphorus, where she will meet Prometheus who gives her the information that she will turn back to a human by Zeus and become the ancestors of the greatest hero Hercules. Hence, the name came to be “cattle strait”.

In history, Bosphorus was also known as the “Strait of Constantinople” to differentiate between the Cimmerian Bosphorus in Crimea.

2) Busy and difficult waterways

Bosphorus strait is a link between the Sea of Marmara and the Black sea. It further flows to the Mediterranean Sea via the Dardanelles and the Mediterranean sea connects to the Atlantic ocean through The Strait of Gibraltar.

This way The Bosphorus strait plays a major role in the interlinking of different countries by waterways. It also connects to The Indian Ocean through The Suez Canal which is located in Egypt by extension via The Dardanelles. Thus the strait is of immense importance as it provides ways for commercial trade. It is a very important route for the goods coming in from Russia.

The Bosphorus strait faces heavy traffic because of the regular ferries and yachts traveling across the strait as it links the European and the Asian side of the city, Istanbul. At times it becomes dangerous because of its narrowness and acute turns the ships have to take. Also, the strait has international commercial shipping traffic, as well as fishing ferries of both private and public organizations. Hence, The Bosphorus strait is of great significance.

Also read: Interesting facts about the Strait of Gibraltar

3) Newer exploration

In August 2010, it was discovered that there is a continuous ‘underwater channel’ of suspension composition which flows along the floor of the Bosphorus strait. If the strait was on the land then it would have been the sixth-largest river on Earth.

Many researchers and scientists have studied the deposits under the strait. A robotic “Yellow submarine” was used for the first time to study the flow of the undersea river which came to be known as the ‘Submarine channel’.

4) Strategic Importance

There are many reasons the strait has strategic importance. The Bosphorus is the only way to travel to the Mediterranean sea for some countries. Those countries are Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Georgia, and Ukraine. All these countries need to travel to the Mediterranean sea for trade and shipping and Bosphorus strait becomes the route for them.

The strait is mostly known for the fact that it is a natural boundary separating Europe and Asia, but along with that it has served as an appropriate area for human habitation as the climate and geographic conditions of the area are quite favorable.

The other main strategic importance of the strait is that Turkey’s military holds all the powers over the strait in consideration of the Montreux Convention. Montreux Convention is the agreement that gives Turkey the right over the Bosphorus strait and can have naval warship movements. Many military ships anchor in the Bosporus strait.

5) Sightseeing at Bosphorus

Tourist rides can be found at the coasts of the Bosphorus. They have different prices for different rides. Some rides let you experience loud music for the duration of the trip. The most beautiful and fascinating part is that the Bosphorus has 620 waterfront houses. They were built during the Ottoman period.

There are public ferries and they are a must to try because it travels through the Bosphorus giving the essence of the city. Along with the ferries, there are also catamaran sea buses that offer rides to ports. The catamaran is like a yacht. In comparison to ferries, sea buses halt at fewer ports.

6) Architecture

Egyptian Consulate
Egyptian Consulate

The standout points of Bosphorus architecture are the Mansions. They were built during the Ottoman period and some of them are still in their old style. The number of mansions built is around 360. The ones which are in their old form are one of the most expensive properties in Turkey as well as in Istanbul.

The architectural style in fishing villages that are present at the coast of the Bosphorus strait consists of simple houses. Some of the most popular places also include the palaces which too were built during the Ottoman period. They have notable and eye-catching architecture.

The most famous architectural examples in Bosphorus are the historical buildings such as the Egyptian consulate, Galatasaray University, and ‘Sakıp Sabancı Museum’. The architecture of all of these buildings is something to look out for in Bosphorus. They have great historical aspects and some of the buildings are still preserved the way they were to know the architectural achievements at that time. 7

7) World’s narrowest strait

One small but noticeable point of the Bosphorus strait is that it is the narrowest strait in the world for international navigation. The minimum width of the strait is 700m. It is of immense international significance even if it is the narrowest one. As mentioned above, this is because it the only route for some countries to have international trade

8) History of Bosphorus

In modern history, the Bosphorus strait has been the topic of conflict, especially the Russo-Turkish war in 1877-1878 to gain control over the strait due to its strategic importance.

It has the influence of ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, and Byzantine eras. The Byzantines even called Bosphorus “Stenon”. Ottoman era was the major historical part of The Bosphorus strait. The Ottomans fortified both sides of the strait to ensure their long-term control over the strait.

Various treaties were made and many conflicts rose while establishing power over the strait. Even a treaty was signed after the First World War to make the strait an international territory under the League of Nations.

Then in the Turkish republican era, another treaty came into the picture called the Treaty of Lausanne which brought the strait under Turkish territory. This shows the significance of the strait.

9) Tunnels of Bosphorus Strait

Two tunnels pass under the Bosphorus Strait.

Marmaray Station
Marmaray Station

is rail line running between the neighbourhoods of Uskudar and Yenikapi. It is 76.6 km long and is used by commuters to travel.


Eurasia Tunnel is the other tunnel between Kazlicesme and Goztepe in Asia and Europe respectively with a length of 14.6 km. It take cars and minibuses almost 5 minutes to commute between Europe and Asia. Open in December 2016, the tunnel allows the entry of cars and minibuses.

10) Bridges across the Bosphorus Strait

Martyrs Bridge
Martyrs Bridge

The first bridge was built in 1973, namely, Martyrs Bridge. It is a suspension bridge and it is 1074m long.

The second bridge was the Fatih Sultan Mehmat bridge built in 1988. It is also a suspension bridge.

The third bridge which was built was the Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge. It was built in 2016 and is located at the northern end of the strait. This is a hybrid cable-stayed suspension bridge. The suspension bridges made traveling from the European side to the Asian side and vice versa easy.

These were some of the interesting facts about the Bosphorus Strait. It is of great strategic importance, remarkable architecture, infrastructure, and overall a beautiful place.

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