Turkey Itinerary: The Ultimate Guide

by | Aug 27, 2018 | Latest Posts, Road Trips, Travel Itinerary, Turkey

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A fascinating mix of modern and ancient, where East meets West, Turkey is one of the most incredible countries in the world. After many visits and months of planning our Turkey itinerary, we settled on a route which led us through some of the country’s highlights: from the capital Istanbul to the otherworldly Cappadocia, to the ancient ruins of Ephesus and Troy to the beautiful turquoise coastline and beaches. We were blown away by the variety of sights and scenery on our journey. For any of you planning a Turkey trip we’ve shared our Turkey itinerary and self drive route below. Enjoy!

Turkey itinerary

 

Turkey Itinerary: The Route

Our Turkey itinerary took us on a loop of the most popular locations throughout western Turkey, starting and ending in Istanbul. The entire route can be completed in two weeks at a rush or three to four weeks to explore at a more relaxed pace. This Turkey itinerary can be extended or reduced depending on what sights you want to see and the time you have available. We did this route in 3 weeks which was around the right amount of time, however we had been to Istanbul previously so only spent 3 days there on this trip.

You can reduce the time by flying to Cappadocia or simple flying to Antalya and driving back to Istanbul via the coast road.

Route Summary: arrive by air to Istanbul (1) – Safranbolu (2) – Cappadocia/Goreme (3) – Konya (4) – Antalya (5) – Kas (6) – Feithye (7) –Pamukalle (8) – Ephesus/Selcuk (9) – Izmir (10) – Troy  (11) – Istanbul (1)

Turkey itinerary

Click here for a Google Maps version of the route

 

How to get around Turkey

Renting a Car

We rented a car to explore Turkey and it was a great way to see the country. Driving is relatively easy and having your own car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and see places that are simply not possible on group tours or public transport.

We’re huge fans of road trips and have driven rental cars in over 40 countries so we have a lot of experience renting cars in foreign countries. Book your car now with RentalCars.com, where you will find the best rental car prices

Click here for the best rental car prices

 

Public Transport

Much of this route is also possible by bus although it will likely take a little longer to allow for public transport schedules.

 

Travel Insurance

Hopefully, you’ll never need to make a claim, but if you do, it’s essential to have a travel insurance policy with a reliable and straightforward claims process. We personally use World Nomads insurance on our travels as it’s one of the best on the market

You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home.

Click here for a quote now

 

 Turkey Itinerary: The Daily Itinerary

We’ve listed our itinerary in a loop coming from and returning to the Istanbul. Feel free to reverse the order as it works just as well backward

Turkey itinerary tip: if you are planning on visiting a lot of the sights listed in our itinerary make sure to pick up a Turkey Museum Pass which provides one time access to over 300 museums and sites affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey. It costs around US $35 and covers most of the ancient sites and museums and also avoids queuing for tickets. We used ours everywhere from Ephesus to Aphrodisas to Hagia Sofia and the open air museums in Cappadocia.

 

Day 1: Arrive in Istanbul

Most visitors to Turkey arrive and depart via Istanbul airport. After a late flight, we picked up our rental car and opted to spend a night at an airport hotel before we started our Turkey road trip. We’ll return at the end of the trip for a few relaxing days in Istanbul.

Turkey itinerary tip: Istanbul can be explored at either end of this itinerary: we preferred to save it to the end of our trip and spend a few days in the city before we left Turkey.

 

Where to stay at Istanbul Ataturk 

  • Bricks Airport Hotel Istanbul – excellent reasonably priced option a short taxi ride from the airport – check prices now!
  • Rox Hotel Airport – well-appointed hotel a short taxi ride from the airport – check prices now!
  • WOW Airport Hotel: – spacious and comfortable rooms, free airport shuttle – check prices now!

Click here for the best Istanbul airport hotel prices!

 

Days 2 & 3: Safranbolu

The Ottoman City of Safranbolu is perfect for a one or two night stop. We opted for two nights as the drive to Cappadocia requires an early start and we wanted to have a day to explore Safranbolu.

Drive time: 5 hours from Istanbul Ataturk Airport to Safranbolu

Turkey itinerary

The rooftops of Safranbolu

 

Safranbolu

Safranbolu is almost frozen in time. It is a typical Ottoman city with well-preserved architecture: there are 2,000 traditional Safranbolu houses which are incredible examples of traditional Turkish housing. Safranbolu played a key part in the caravan trade as the main commercial link between the Orient and Europe.

 

Where to Stay in Safranbolu

  • Hilton Garden Inn Safronbolu – great modern option in Safranbolu. Rooms are clean and spacious – check prices now!
  • Gulevi Safranbolu Hotel – lovely hotel set in restored 220-year-old Ottoman mansions in the historic centre – check prices now!
  • Safranbolu Seyir Konak Otel – traditional hotel with great breakfast and wonderful views overlooking the historic centre of Safranbolu –  check prices now!

Click here for the best hotel prices in Safranbolu

 

 

Turkey itinerary

 

Things to do in Safranbolu

  • Explore Çarşı, the Old Town district, a maze of cobblestone alleyways winding up the hillside
  • Shop for local crafts and delicacies
  • Visit Cinci Hamam, a beautifully restored bathhouse

Turkey itinerary tip: we decided to drive from Istanbul to Cappadocia via Safranbolu and the archaeological site of Hattusha, both awesome historical sites. If you prefer to start your trip in Cappadocia it’s worth checking out connecting flight options to Cappadocia as it’s an 8 hour direct drive from Istanbul.

 

Turkey itinerary

 

Day 4: Safranbolu to Cappadocia via Hattusha

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hattusha is an interesting stop between Safranbolu and Cappadocia and, after spending the afternoon exploring the ancient site, we arrived in Cappadocia just in time for sunset.

Drive time: the total drive is 500km and takes around 7hours: 4hours from Safranbolu to Hattusha and 3hours from Hattusha to Cappadocia

Turkey itinerary

The ruins of the ancient of Hattusha

 

Hattusha

Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire, an ancient Anatolian people, in the late Bronze Age and the archaeological site consists of ruins of temples, a royal residence and fortifications. A second site close to Hattusha, Yazilikaya, contains a fascinating ensemble of rock art. The highlights are the Lions’ Gate and the Royal Gate, the rock art and the Great Temple, the best-preserved ruin of a Hittite Temple from the 13th century BC.

 

Where to stay in Cappadocia

After exploring Hattusha we spent the next few nights in Cappadocia. We stayed in three different hotels during our time in Cappadocia and recommend each of them!

  • Sultan Cave Suites – the ultimate spot to watch the balloons rise over the Cappadocia sky at sunrise, we loved waking up to a balloon filled sky. Guests have exclusive sunrise access to the rooftop terraces which over the best views. Plus the resident dog Izmir is a Cappadocia icon! – check prices here!

Click here for the best Goreme Hotel prices!

 

  • Rox Cappadocia – located right next to the highest point in Cappadocia at Uchisar Castle, the hotel has incredible views of Goreme and Guvercinlik Valley from its rooftop. We stayed in a beautiful cave room and breakfast was a real treat – check prices here!
  • Taskonaklar Hotel – we spent a few nights in a cave room at the luxury Taskonaklar Hotel. Awesome rooms, great food and fantastic views over the valley – check prices here
  • Museum Hotel – one for the bucket list, the Museum Hotel is based on the concept of a living museum. The view of the hot air balloons from the hotel’s Roman Pool is breathtaking.  This hotel offers the best views due to its location on the corner of Uchisar mountain – check prices here!

Click here for the best Uchisar hotel prices!

 

 

Things to do

  • Drive around the ancient site of Hattusha
  • Stop by Yazlilkaya for ancient rock art
  • Watch the sunset in Cappadocia

 

Turkey itinerary

 

 

Days 5 to 8: Cappadocia

With its whimsical landscape, ethereal beauty and balloon-filled sky Cappadocia is otherworldly. Magical valleys stretch as far as the eye can see and the sunrise hot air balloons are a once in a lifetime experience. Check out our guide to choosing where to stay in Cappadocia here.

Turkey itinerary tip: We recommend spending at least 3 nights as there are lots of things to do in Cappadocia. If a hot air balloon ride is on your must do list then make sure to leave a few extra days in case the balloon ride is cancelled due to weather. We visited in March and the balloons only flew on one of our three mornings in Cappadocia.

Turkey itinerary

Taking in the Cappadocia sunset

 

 

Where to stay in Cappadocia

We stayed in three different hotels during our time in Cappadocia and recommend each of them!

  • Sultan Cave Suites – the ultimate spot to watch the balloons rise over the Cappadocia sky at sunrise, we loved waking up to a balloon filled sky. Guests have exclusive sunrise access to the rooftop terraces which over the best views – check prices here!

Click here for the best Goreme Hotel prices!

 

  • Rox Cappadocia – located right next to the highest point in Cappadocia at Uchisar Castle, the hotel has incredible views of Goreme and Guvercinlik Valley from its rooftop. We stayed in a beautiful cave room and breakfast was a real treat – check prices here!
  • Taskonaklar Hotel – we spent a few nights in a cave room at the luxury Taskonaklar Hotel. Awesome rooms, great food and fantastic views over the valley – check prices here
  • Museum Hotel – one for the bucket list, the Museum Hotel is based on the concept of a living museum. The view of the hot air balloons from the hotel’s Roman Pool is breathtaking – check prices here!

Click here for the best Uchisar hotel prices!

 

 

You can read more about our stay at the Sultan Cave Suites and our guide to the Cappadocia hotels with the best view of the balloons.

Turkey itinerary

Sunrise at the Sultan Cave Suites

 

Things to do in Cappadocia

There are so many awesome things to see and do in Cappadocia that your three days will be packed! Our favourite things to do were:

Click here to reserve a hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia

 

  • Hunt for the best Instagram photo spots in Cappadocia
  • Watch the sunset over the red valley
  • Explore Imagination Valley
  • Stock up on rugs at a Turkish carpet shop
  • See the iconic Cappadocia fairy chimneys
  • Explore the underground city’s
  • Visit the open-air museums
  • Hang an evil eye charm on the evil eye trees

For all the photographers reading we’ve put together a list of our favourite photo locations in Cappadocia (hint: there are lots!)

Turkey itinerary

Can you imagine a prettier place to buy Turkish souvenirs?!


Turkey itinerary

Uchisar Castle

 

 

Day 9: Konya

After an incredible few days in Cappadocia, it’s time to head towards the stunning Turkish coast. Konya, a compelling mix of ancient and modern and the home of the whirling dervish orders, is the perfect overnight stop before Antalya. On the way check out the Sultanhanı Caravanserai, an ancient trading outpost with an incredible entrance gate. 

Drive time : 3 hours (235km)

Turkey itinerary

Sultanhanı Caravanserai (en route from Cappadocia)

 

Where to stay in Konya

Hotels in Konya were extremely affordable and you can stay in some very nice modern hotels for a reasonable rate.

  • Hilton Garden Inn Konya – clean, spacious and modern in an excellent location close to all the major Konya sights –  check prices here!
  • Novotel Konya – great facilities and clean, modern rooms with minibus access to sights – check prices here!
  • Ramada Plaza Konya – modern hotel with hammam and pool, located close to the tram stop –  check prices here!

Click here for the best Konya Hotel Prices

 

Things to Do in Konya

  • Çatalhöyük – located just outside Konya, this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site is an ancient city over 9,000 years old and one of the oldest Neolithic settlements in the world.

Turkey itinerary

The UNESCO Site of Çatalhöyük

  • Mevlana Museum – home to the tomb of Rumi, a philosopher, poet and Islamic scholar who founded the whirling dervish sect of Sufism.
  • Kyoto Park – a slice of Japan in the middle of Turkey!
  • Mevlana Whirling Dervishes: synonymous with Konya, the Turkish Dervishes perform a ceremony of worship, spinning in deep prayer.

 

 

Days 10 and 11: Antalya

Antalya is known as Turkey’s Turquoise Coast and offers a change of pace and scenery in addition to some of the best sunsets we’ve ever experienced. Antalya is packed with very affordable luxury beach resorts and has a stunning coastline, so we recommend spending a few days relaxing and recovering from the so far packed itinerary and long drives. 

Drive time: 4 hours (300km)

Turkey itinerary

Epic sunset at Antalya

 

Where to Stay in Antalya

Hotels in Antalya are very reasonably priced so we opted for some luxury during our stay!

  • Akra Hotel – a five-star hotel on the sea, we loved our ocean view room and the amazing facilities. One of our favourite hotels in Turkey! – check prices now!
  • Crown Plaza Antalya – set along the beautiful Konyaalti Beach, another great five-star option with great facilities – check prices now!
  • Rixos Downtown Antalya – overlooking the sea and the Taurus Mountains, Rixos Downtown is located close to Konyaalti Beach and has a host of dining options and great pools. – check prices now!

 

Click here for the best Antalya hotel prices!

 

Things to do in Antalya

  • Aspendos Theater: the theatre at Aspendos is one of the best preserved in Turkey and is still used for performances to this day

Turkey itinerary

The theatre at Aspendos

 

  • Termessos – located in the mountains just north of Antalya, Termessos is one of the best ancient sites we visited in Turkey. This mountaintop city is a must for anyone visiting Antalya and the views from the theatre are incredible. Check out our guide on visiting Termessos here

Turkey itinerary

The mountaintop theatre at Termessos

 

  • Perge – the UNESCO site of Perge is another must see in Antalya. This ancient city prospered during the bronze age.

Turkey itinerary

UNESCO Site at Perge

 

  • Hadrians Gate: iconic entrance gate to the Old Town Kaleiçi district which was erected in honour of a visit by Emperor Hadrian in AD 130.
  • Manavgat waterfall: beautiful waterfalls located just east of Antalya, these are very popular and busy.
  • Düden Waterfalls: a beautiful group of waterfalls in Antalya, be sure to stop at the source and by the sea. 

 

 

Day 12 –  Coast Drive between Antalya and Kas

After a few relaxing days in Antalya, it’s time to move west along the stunning Turkish coastline. There are so many stops along the coast that it’s worth making an overnight stay half-way in the seaside town of Kas.

Drive time: 3 hours (190 km)

 Where To Stay in Kas

  • Hotel Cachet – located on the peninsula outside Kas, Hotel Cachet is one of the best in the area. The hotel is secluded and quiet with stunning views of the ocean – check prices now!
  • Olea Nova Hotel – this beautiful hotel is located just outside Kas and has amazing ocean views and a beautiful outdoor pool. The local bus stops just outside the hotel every 30 minutes for a short trip into the town of Kas – check prices now!
  • Nur Hotel – one of the best hotel options in Kas town is the Nur Hotel.  With beautiful sea views and a 5 minute walk to the town centre, the location is perfect for relaxing and enjoying all Kas has to offer – check prices now!

 

Click here for the best hotel prices in Kas

 

 

Turkey itinerary

The coastal city of Phaselis

 

Things to do on the Coast Drive between Antalya and Kas

  • Butterfly Valley: only accessible by boat, Butterfly Valley is a large and picturesque canyon that is home to a diverse population of butterflies, beautiful scenery and a beautiful beach
  • Phaselis: take a step back in time at the ancient Lycian port of Phaselis where the contrast of ruins and turquoise water is mesmerising
  • Kaputas Beach: sheltered beach with huge waves and amazing viewpoints above
  • Theimussa ancient place: sunken ruins from 4BC of the ancient city of Theimussa
  • Ancient Myra ruins: incredible ruins with an amphitheater and Lycian rock tombs

Turkey itinerary