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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 07 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Dressed in long white robes with tall hats symbolising tombstones, members of the Mevlevi order (more popularly known as whirling dervishes) are followers of the 13th-century mystic Mevlana Rumi, who would spin into ecstatic circles overcome by his love for God.

The sema ceremony recalls Rumi’s spiritual journey as the dervishes whirl to the Sufi’s haunting, hypnotic music. UNESCO recently placed the dervishes on its Intangible Heritage of Humanity list.

The Hodjapasha Culture Center, an Istanbul cultural centre housed in a 15th-century bathhouse, stages a haunting sema of dervishes whirling to a classical Turkish orchestra, and other traditional dances from across Anatolia.

Dances of Colours perform traditional semas in an equally authentic setting: the 19th-century home of dervish Ismail Dede Efendi.

Recommended itineraries by our writers that include this experience

Price from: £10
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
Frequency: weekly
When: Tuesday - Sunday
Duration: 75 minutes

Getting there & doing it

Shows usually last about one hour and 15 minutes. You can just turn up and buy a ticket, but capacity is limited in venues, so it’s advisable to book.

When to do it

Sema ceremonies are usually held at the Hodjapasha Culture Center every Wednesday and Friday, and at Dances of Colours every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (check the venue’s websites for exact timings).

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Yasmak Sultan Hotel

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.2 miles]

Close to Istanbul’s top sights, this friendly hotel with a spa and rooftop restaurant is a dream for first-time visitors. And good value too.

Official star rating:

Sirkeci Mansion Hotel

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.3 miles]

Convenient for the major sights and plugged into Turkish culture, this charming, historic hotel is ideal for families and first-timers.  

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Hotel Ibrahim Pasha

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.8 miles]

This stylish, friendly and affordable boutique hotel is in sights-packed Sultanahmet, perfect for first-time visitors.

Official star rating:

Four Seasons Istanbul Sultanahmet

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.9 miles]

Superbly staffed, relaxing oasis in an unbeatable location – the luxury choice in central Sultanahmet.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


Marmara Region, Turkey

Exotic, inexhaustible and dynamic – East meets West head-on in this mesmerising city metropolis, famed for its extraordinarily rich history, superb food and shopping, and mind-blowingly magnificent, over-sized mosques.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Spice Bazaar

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.5 miles]

Istanbul’s second largest market is a sensory wonderland, full to bursting with fragrant spices and sweets.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Topkapi Palace

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.7 miles]

Built in 1459 to become the 15th and-16th century home of the Ottoman Sultans, this magnificently decadent palace is a perfectly preserved time capsule of life at the top in this most exotic of empires.

Best for ages: 8+ | £17

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

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Best for ages: 18+ | £5

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Great Palace Mosaic Museum

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Best for ages: 18+ | £2

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Istanbul Modern

Istanbul , Marmara Region, Turkey[1.8 miles]

A modern art museum housing the finest collection of modern and contemporary art in the country. The Modern’s temporary exhibits by Turkish and international artists – often organized in collaboration with MoMA (New York) and the Centre Pompidou (Paris) – are particularly exceptional.

Best for ages: 18+ | £4

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