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The Ultimate 2 Week Turkey Itinerary in 2024

The Ultimate 2 Week Turkey Itinerary in 2024

Turkey is an incredible country packed with breathtaking scenery, ancient ruins, tasty food and a unique culture. It is also huge and working out all the logistics of your own Turkey itinerary can be complicated and just about impossible.

We found budgeting difficult thanks to the extremely high inflation and navigating the transport system was terrifying (until we worked it out). That’s why we decided to put together this extremely detailed itinerary, which when complemented by our Turkey travel guide, should give you everything you absolutely need to plan the perfect trip to Turkey.

Below we’ve outlined our perfect itinerary which ensures you hit all the essential, most impressive sights across Turkey, including Istanbul, Cappadocia, Antalya, Pamukkale and Ephesus.

The itinerary is extremely detailed, including prices (in US dollars due to the inflation in Turkey), timings, accommodation picks and our top tips. You should be able to plan your trip completely right here without needing to look anywhere else, however, we always encourage additional research prior to arriving at each of the sights – especially if you aren’t booking guides along the way.

The Perfect Itinerary

We spent weeks travelling around Turkey to come up with what we consider to be the perfect itinerary for first timers. It is designed around a fast-paced, whirlwind 14 day trip, however, you can easily adjust it for shorter trips by removing any destinations below.

Similarly, if you have extra time, I’d highly recommend adding extra time to either Istanbul or the coastal towns of Antalya, Kas and Fethiye. Istanbul has so much culture and history to soak up whilst the coastal towns perfectly combine beachside relaxation with ancient ruins.

If you prefer a slower pace of travel, then you could easily cut out the coastal towns of Antalya, Kas and Fethiye and add some days to the other destinations. I guarantee you won’t regret spending more time in Istanbul or Cappadocia.

Taking into account geographic proximity and the number of things to do in each location, here is our recommended guide:

3 days: Istanbul (must-do)

+3 days: Cappadocia (must-do)

+2 days: Antalya

+1 day: Kas

+1 day: Fethiye

+0.5 day: Pamukkale

+2 days: Selcuk (Ephesus)

+2 days: Cannakale (Gallipoli)

This route is what we recommend as the ‘standard’ Turkish holiday route and it really is perfect for first-timers. It ticks off all the must-dos and for this reason we consider it the perfect two weeks.

If you only have a week in Turkey, go with 4 days in Istanbul and 3 days in Cappadocia, or maybe squish in Selcuk for Ephesus.


What is Missing From the Perfect Itinerary?

Well, we’ve had to leave out a lot. Turkey is a huge country and it is packed with incredible tourist attractions. We’ve made the call to only include the essentials in the Turkey itinerary above, but we’ve left out about half the country.

If you have extra time and enjoy exploring further off the typical tourist track, then consider visiting Ankara (the capital), Uzungol, Lake Van, Trabzon, Karz, Gaziantep, Adana and Mount Nemrut.

Although we’ve left a lot out, don’t worry, we’ve also included a lot. We’ve made sure that you’ll tick off the best of Turkey in just two weeks with this itinerary.

Two Weeks in Turkey

With the outline above, we’re ready to dive into a day by day breakdown of how your trip will look. Remember, it’s generally pretty easy to remove any of the destinations below if you have less time.

Day 1 – Istanbul

Sim Cards & Cash

Firstly, you’re going to need to sort a few admin things before you get your trip started. I recommend reading our entire Turkey travel guide for everything you need to know before visiting Turkey. 

To get set up with a sim card, head straight to Airalo and purchase a Turkish esim online here for around $12 or $18 USD. You can do this from your hotel’s wifi or with the free airport wifi. The tourist sims in Turkey are essentially scams at roughly $41 USD each. They don’t deserve to have customers which is why we wrote an entire guide to purchasing a tourist sim card in Turkey. You can also read more about buying Turkey sim cards here.

Next, make sure to withdraw a few thousand Turkish Liras from an ATM. Locating your nearest Ziraat Bankasi ATM will enable you to save ATM withdrawal fees, but pretty much any ATM is safe to use in Turkey.

Top Travel Tip!

We’ve been using Wise travel card to pay for EVERYTHING while we travel all around the world! Trust me, it’s better than your bank card and it costs less than $10 then it’s free forever.

If your phone doesn’t support esims then you’ll need to seek out a Turkcell or Vodafone shop and pay the extortionate prices.

Turkey sim cards


Now you’re ready to get your day started. Today we will be exploring the touristic centre of Istanbul, Sultanahmet. If you’re staying in Karakoy (which we highly recommend) you’ll want to catch the T1 Tram. If you’re staying in Sultanahmet then you’ll be able to walk everywhere today.

To use the tram (or any public transport in Istanbul) then buy an Istanbulkart from a ‘Biletmatik’ machine and load some cash onto the card.

To help you navigate Sultanahmet, you can save the Google Maps Route for today here.

Turkey transport.

Hagia Sophia – 8:30am

Head straight to the Hagia Sophia mosque in the heart of Sultanahmet. It is only a few minutes walk from the Sultanahmet tram stop. If you are running early, I recommend walking to the Fountain Sultan Ahmed III located here. This location offers a lovely view of the mosque.

At 8:30am, join the queue which will begin forming around the courtyard. At 9:00am sharp the mosque will open and the queue will begin moving into the mosque fairly quickly. If you arrive later than 8:30am then you may be waiting a lot longer to get in. I would ignore the ‘tour guides’ offering to skip the line as it moves fast once it opens.

Hagia Sophia.

Women will need to remember to wear a headscarf out of respect for the muslim religion. If you have something already, by all means, wear it. If you do not, then you should purchase it at the Hagia Sophia from the kiosk right after the security checkpoint. Nicer ones cost around $3 USD.

Hagia Sophia interior.

At almost 1,500 years old, the Hagia Sophia is a magnificent sight to behold, both internally and externally. It was originally built as a church, interestingly on a paganistic ritual site, and was later converted into a mosque, then a museum and then into a mosque again. I highly recommend reading more about the history before visiting here.

Inside the Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Price: Free

Time Required: About an hour

Food Suggestion: When queuing you can buy ‘simit’ from the vendors in the red carts. They cost around $0.40 USD.

Blue Mosque – 10:30am

Take your time at Hagia Sophia before wandering over to the nearby Blue Mosque. Fortunately, the lines at the Blue Mosque tend to be a lot shorter due to the fact that people spend less time here. 

The Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a much newer mosque which was built during the Ottoman Era around 1609 to 1616. Although lighter on the history, it still rivals Hagia Sophia’s beauty thanks to its more than 20,000 handmade tiles.

You’ll be fine to spend around half an hour looking around and sitting down on the carpet.

Price: Free

Time Required: 30 minutes

Inside the Blue mosque in Istanbul.

Arasta Bazaar – 11:15am

You’ll be visiting the Grand Bazaar tomorrow, but the much smaller Arasta Bazaar is still a nice shopping street to head on a stroll along. It is conveniently located next to the Blue Mosque and worth checking out briefly.

Arasta Bazaar.

After this, find a spot to eat lunch. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in this area are overly touristy and overpriced. We opted to eat snacks but you can pick from any of the restaurants nearby.

Price: Free

TIme Required: 30 minutes

Basilica Cistern – 12:45pm

After lunch, make your way over to the Basilica Cistern. There will most likely be a short queue of around 15-20 minutes. The location of the Basilica Cistern on Google Maps is actually the exit, which is a bit silly if you ask us. If you’re having a tough time finding it you can look around here.

The interesting thing about Istanbul is that despite being surrounded by two seas and a strait, there is actually no drinkable water. This means that providing water for the population in the city has been a significant priority for centuries. 

Basilica Cistern.

Around 150 cisterns such as this were built in the city, with Basilica Cistern, built in the 6th Century, being the largest. These cisterns were used to store and distribute water for the needs of the city’s populace.

It is clear a lot of restoration work has gone into restoring this attraction and it is well worth visiting. The changing coloured lights and somewhat irrelevant artworks dotted throughout make it feel a bit more like an attraction than an important part of the city’s history.

Price: $16 USD

Time Required: Up to 45 minutes

Topkapi Palace – 2:00pm

Located just on the other side of Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace was home to the Sultans and their families and servants from the 1460s until 1856. The scale of this palace is breathtaking and the amount of history packed into it now that it’s a museum is impressive. 

We were a bit hesitant at first given the exorbitant ticket prices but we can assure you this attraction is very much one of the best things to do in Istanbul. 

When you arrive at the gate to the palace grounds you’ll continue through until you arrive at some ticket machines. You can skip the queue by purchasing here. Definitely purchase the ticket combined with access to the harem. 

With your tickets, continue up to collect your audioguide. You will require an ID to deposit in exchange for the device so please make sure to bring something like a drivers’ license. Never leave your passport with someone else. The guide doesn’t say anything that isn’t written on the boards already, but it’s nice to have.

The palace museum is surprisingly large so make sure you have a few hours to explore. The harem section, which you hopefully bought tickets for, is the most interesting part of the entire museum. Here you learn all about the lives of the Eunuchs, the Sultans’ wives and the Sultans’ mothers.

Price: $33 USD

Time Required: 3 hours

Topkapi Palace Harem.

Optional: Galata Bridge – Sunset

If you are staying near Karakoy, our favourite evening activity is to wander along the waterfront and along the Karakoy bridge. This is one of the best spots to enjoy the sunset in Istanbul.

Sunset from Galata Bridge.

Food Suggestion: Balik Durum, or fish wrap, from the men at the other end of Karakoy. They’re located on the path around the fishermen here. It’s really delicious and costs about $4 USD.

Balik Durum in Karakoy.

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Our favourite part of Istanbul to stay in is Karakoy. This suburb is just across the Galata Bridge and a short tram ride from Sultanahmet. The waterfront here is a beautiful spot to stroll along in the evenings and the food here is much less touristy and overpriced then what you’ll find in Sultanahmet.

Budget & Mid-Range: Archeo – they have a fantastic cafe downstairs to chill in and nice rooms, perfectly located in Karakoy near the tram to Sultanahmet. We can’t recommend Archeo enough.

Luxury: Wings Hotel – an upper mid-range to luxury hotel located right in the heart of Karakoy with all the best amenities you’d expect.

The Wings Hotel.

Day 2 – Istanbul

Alright, today is going to be another busy day exploring Istanbul. This time make your way over to the Beyazit Square where we’ll be starting the day. As with Hagia Sophia, you can get here either by walking if you stay nearby, or with the same T1 tram from Karakoy.

Grab a Simit and a couple of pastries, then walk around Beyazit Square until 8:30am. 


Here is your Google Maps walking route for the morning section of today.

Grand Bazaar – 8:30am

The Grand Bazaar opens at 8:30am so make your way through the gate around this time to beat most of the crowds. 

The Grand Bazaar is deceivingly large. The structure spans an area of 31,000 m2 and contains around 4,000 shops. The key here is to allow yourself to get lost as you wander the lanes and browse all the stores.

Grand Bazaar.

For the most part, the stores are tailored for tourists so you can expect higher prices than more local stores for a lot of the same things, however, it is still a good experience.

There are, however, two things that can be worth looking into when you’re here. Firstly, the money changers in the Grand Bazaar have some of the more competitive rates in the city so if you need to change money then consider doing it at the Grand Bazaar.

Secondly, we’ve heard that this can be a good place to purchase jewellery. We’re not experts in buying jewellery or precious stones and metals so we just looked.

Price: Free

Time Required: Up to an hour, unless you plan to buy lots.

Büyük Valide Han – 10:00am

Buyuk Valide Han is a popular rooftop made famous by Instagram. The unfortunate side effect of this is the man who lets you in now charges an exorbitant price to visit. We last visited in April 2023 and he was charging 600 Turkish Lira, which was around $30 USD – outrageous!

Buyuk Valide Han.

It is quite a pity because we weren’t just interested in taking photos of the view. It is the largest historic han, or caravanserai, in Istanbul. For this reason, we’d recommend visiting to take a look around either before or after visiting the Grand Bazaar. But don’t pay the fee to go on the roof, we’ve got another rooftop later.

Price: Free

Time Required: 10 minutes

Buyuk Valide Han entrance.

Spice Market – 10:30am

The Spice Market, or Egyptian Bazaar, is a sensory explosion with vendors selling spices, teas, dried fruit, coffee, Turkish delights and more, all stacked up brilliantly outside and throughout their stores.

As with the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market is largely a tourist attraction and as such the prices and quality won’t be quite as good as other places. 

Istanbul spice market.

If you are looking to take a bag of Turkish coffee home with you then you should head right outside the Spice Market to Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. This shop is usually hectic as it is such a popular local spot to buy coffee. They roast some of the best in Turkey.

For Turkish delights, it would be easy to buy a box at the Grand Bazaar or Spice Market, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. But if you want the best then you should head outside to Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Lokumları. 

We’ve tried lokum, or Turkish delights, all around Turkey and the prices and quality absolutely do vary. Haci Bakir is the most expensive but it is by far the best. If you’re only in Turkey for a holiday then we think it’s worth seeking out the best in this case.

Price: Free

Time Required: 30 minutes

Suleymaniye Mosque – 11:30am

Lalezar Teras Cafe is a hidden gem that can be reached on the walk from the Spice Market up to Suleymaniye Mosque. Stop here for an apple tea or Turkish coffee and enjoy one of the most impressive views of Istanbul. The owner doesn’t speak English but he is an exceptionally kind and genuine human. We highly recommend visiting.

Lalezar rooftop cafe in Istanbul.

After your quick break here, carry on up to Suleymaniye Mosque. This mosque was designed and built for Sultan Suleyman in 1557 and for 462 years was the largest mosque in Istanbul. 

Suleymaniye Mosque.

It is a popular tourist stop for visitors, typically the third mosque after Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Suleymaniye Mosque is particularly popular for its commanding views over Istanbul and the Bosphorous.

After visiting the mosque you’ll want to have lunch. Lokantasi is a sort of local restaurant with a variety of very Turkish dishes to choose from. The food is all homemade and hearty. We found a fantastic one near Suleymaniye Mosque called Suleymaniye Lokantasi located here. We recommend trying the chicken (tavuk), meatballs (kofte) and rice (pilav). 

Lokantasi food in Turkey.

Price: Free

Time Required: 30 minutes for mosque, 1.5 hours including lunch

Balat Walking Tour – 1:30pm

After visiting Suleymaniye Mosque, you can either head back to your hotel and explore around there, or make the short journey to Balat where we can go on a short walking tour around the neighbourhood.

Walk down to Eminonu bus stop then catch any of the 48E, 99, 99Y, 99A, 36CE and 44B buses which all head past Balat and Fener. Get off at the Fener stop which should take around 10 minutes. You can top up your bus card or purchase tickets at the ‘biletmatik’ machines.

Balat colourful houses.

Here is a Google Map for your walking tour this afternoon. Here are the stops:

Saint George’s Church – the main orthodox cathedral in Istanbul. It is a small church due to the restrictions imposed by the Ottoman Empire’s Islamic laws. 

Private Fener Greek High School – Built between 1881 and 1883, this school poses dauntingly on the hill overlooking the Bosphorus. The architecture is unique and worth checking out.

Fener Greek High School.

Saint Stephen’s Orthodox Church – An ornately decorated church with a gorgeous interior.

Saint Stephen's Orthodox Church

Merdivenli Yks – A series of brightly coloured houses lining a short, but steep, street near Balat Town. Very picturesque and Instagram-y. 

Merdeivenli Yks.

We’d also recommend allowing yourself some time to browse the shops and to sit down for a drink or a meal.

Price: All free

Time Required: A few hours

How to Get From Istanbul to Cappadocia

The best way to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia is by night bus, and for the purposes of this relatively fast-paced itinerary it’s important that you choose the bus. 

Cappadocia is a 10-hour bus ride from Istanbul so doing this during the day, twice, would mean you will need to remove two days from this itinerary. For this reason, we recommend taking the night buses.

Flying is also an option, but with travel time to the airport, customs and check-in times it can easily take 8+ hours to fly and it’s much less comfortable than the bus in Turkey.

Kamil Koc is the largest and most reputable bus company in Turkey. It was recently bought by Flix Bus and you can now book buses in English directly on the Flix Bus website here. 

You will probably want to book the bus from Istanbul Esenler Otogar (otogar means station) to Goreme Otogar. You can order an Uber to take you from your accommodation to Istanbul Esenler Otogar in under half an hour.

The bus takes 10 hours and costs around $30 USD equivalent in Turkish Lira.

Day 3 – Cappadocia

We’re going to assume you took the night bus to Cappadocia, in which case there’s a good chance you will have had limited sleep. The first thing you should do is head straight to your cave hotel and drop your bags. Most hotels are within walking distance but you can also catch a taxi.

If you’re exhausted, you can take today to rest a bit and go for a wander around the shops in Goreme. However, if you are full of energy we’d recommend heading out on a hike to Uchisar Castle.

Here’s a badly drawn map:

Hike from Goreme to Uchisar.

Uchisar Castle – Leave before 1pm

The track begins in town and continues for about 50 minutes to the base of Uchisar Castle. I’ll include a photo of a map illustrating the walk, but I’d highly recommend asking your accommodation for advice as it’s quite easy to miss. 

From there, it is a short, steep walk up the hill to the top of the castle. The entrance fee will be the lira equivalent of around 5 USD. The views from the top are awesome – if you can make it during sunset then it would be even better! 

Uchisar Castle.

The castle is also really cool as you can explore all the different caves and stairways through the structure. On the top you will find holes, some of which were used for storage whilst a few were likely to be graves.

Price: $5 USD

Time Required:  Spend around 30 minutes at the castle


Love Valley – 3pm

After Uchisar Castle you will head back down the hill to the Onyx shop. Feel free to head inside if you’re interested, but bear in mind a few things:

  • The prices listed are typically double what they will sell the items for.
  • They will try to sell you Zultanite and convince you it is real, but it’s actually made in their lab. Same with their American Diamond jewellery.
  • Their certificate of authenticity is not real, you can read more here.

Real Zultanite is actually quite rare and very expensive.

Next to the Onyx shop you should see an obvious trail, begin following this. At the end, there was a man selling fruit last time we visited, you will need to descend a steep, rocky slope down into the valley.

Love Valley Cappadocia.

It is then an easy 2-hour walk through the valley. The views are spectacular and were definitely a highlight for us during our time in Cappadocia. 

Love Valley hike.

Where to Stay in Cappadocia

Budget & Mid-Range: Arch Palace Cappadocia – If you’re on a budget, this is the best place you can stay in Cappadocia. Although not as ‘cavey’ as the more expensive options, the rooms here are really cool and the rooftop has an incredible view.

View from cave hotel in Cappadocia.

Day 4 – Cappadocia

Okay, days 4 and 5 are going to be the big ones and they’re going to be some of the best days on your entire Turkey itinerary. The first thing you’re going to do is get picked up early for your hot air balloon ride. Yup, you’re going to watch the sunrise over Cappadocia from the sky.

Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia – 4:30am – 7am

How early your day will start depends on the time of year and how early sunrise is in Cappadocia. This will usually be around 5am – 6am but can be earlier or later at certain times. 

It is crucial that you book your hot air balloon ride for today as it is very common for poor weather to cause the flight to be rescheduled. Having it planned for today means you can head out tomorrow instead in the case of any difficulties.

The entire tour usually takes around 2 hours with 1 hour spent up in the air watching the sunrise. The feeling of being in the sky as you drift along with the wind is truly magical and is certainly one of the best things to do in Cappadocia.

We’ve heard all sorts of experiences from different travellers, ranging from good to bad, and we have to say that booking with a good tour operator is essential to having an amazing (and safe) experience.

Royal Balloon are our preferred choice and who we’ll go with next time we’re in Cappadocia. We recommend booking with them immediately if they’re available on your dates, however, you will need to book well in advance. You can check their availability and book here if they’re free.

How to Get Around Cappadocia

There’s really two ways to get around Cappadocia:

  1. By rental car
  2. With a tour

Both options are fantastic and have their own pros and cons. A rental car works out cheaper if you have a group of 3 or more, whilst a tour is cheaper if you’re travelling solo. Couples will find both options fairly similarly priced.

With a rental car you gain freedom. The freedom to go where you want, when you want, without having to rush through the best places. However, with the tour you gain an experienced guide who can tell you about the places you are visiting. 

We reckon having a tour guide is invaluable and for this reason we recommend this ‘green tour’ and this ‘red tour’ for most travellers. 

That said, a rental car is also a great option. For this we recommend using Discover Cars to book in advance (to avoid missing out). It’s also a fantastic platform as you can check the reviews of each rental company to avoid any of the dodgier places.

Green Tour – 11am

It doesn’t really matter which day you do which tour, but for the sake of this itinerary you’re going to be picked up from your accommodation at 11am to head out to explore the Southern part of Cappadocia.

We highly recommend booking this Green Tour to tick off all the sights. Your driver will get you from attraction to attraction without any stress and your guide will tell you all about the locations. 

If you’ve decided to rent a car instead, you of course won’t have your own tour guide. We’ve decided to jot down the stops here to help you know where to go! You’ll still be able to appreciate the beauty of Cappadocia without a guide but I’d recommend Googling each of the stops along the way to learn about what you’re seeing.

Uchisar Castle

Green tour Cappadocia.

Kaymakli and / or Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City.

Love Valley Panorama

Selime Monastery

Ihlara Valley

Rose Valley

Day 5 – Cappadocia

Sunrise at Lover’s Hill Sunrise Lookout

Hopefully yesterday you made it up into the sky for sunrise, but if you really want some great photos or an epic view, we reckon it’s just as impressive seeing the hot air balloons as it is to be in them.

If you have a rooftop with a great view then make your way here to watch the balloons take to the skies. Alternatively, the best viewpoint in Goreme for sunrise is at Lover’s Hill, the entrance for which is located precisely here on Google Maps. 

There is an entrance fee of around $1 USD, then from the entrance marked on the map it is another 5 – 10 minutes to reach the view looking out to the sunrise. It’s a very popular spot but there is plenty of space.

Cappadocia Sunrise.

Red Tour – 11am

The Red Tour is very similar to the Green Tour, however, this time you will be exploring the Northern part of Cappadocia. This part of Cappadocia is equally as beautiful and interesting as the South and is absolutely an essential part of this Turkey itinerary.

As above, we recommend booking this Red Tour. You’ll have a driver and a tour guide to take you all around and to teach you about the sights.

Here is a list of the sights and attractions for those of you who have opted to self-drive.

Goreme Panorama

The Three Beauties

Imagination Valley

Pasabag Valley

Red River in Avanos

Ceramic Workshop in Avanos Town

Avanos ceramic workshop.

Zelve Open Air Museum

How to Get to Antalya

Again, flying here is an option but we recommend taking the night bus. Kamil Koc is the most reliable and reputable bus company in Turkey and can be booked online in English via Flixbus.

The bus takes about 9 hours and costs around $18 USD per person.

Day 6 – Antalya

As you’ll arrive first thing in the morning, drop your bags off at your accommodation and take some time to sit down and rest. We always find buses quite exhausting so it’s good to reset with a cup of coffee and something to eat.

The first thing I want to point out is 2 days isn’t really enough time in Antalya. Ideally, you’d be able to allocate a week to this part of Turkey, so if you have extra time to spare then we reckon this is a great place to put it. But even if you only have two days you can still enjoy this city so it’s 100% worth including in your itinerary.

Antalya Old City / Kaleici

After resting, head out to explore the Old City, or Kaleici. There are a handful of stops around here with the most impressive being Hadrian’s Gate. We’ve put together a quick map of the route we’d take but it’s a good idea to also allow yourself to get lost a bit. 

Along the way make sure to grab lunch.

Antalya Archeological Museum

The Antalya Archeological Museum is one of Turkey’s most impressive and important museums so we felt like it deserved a place in this Turkey itinerary. The museum contains over 5,000 artefacts across 7,000m2 of space. 

Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to see artefacts, sculptures and remnants from numerous civilizations across thousands of years. It’s simply not possible to explain everything you’ll see here but if you can go to only one museum in the whole of Turkey, this would be the one to go to.

Price: $10 USD

Time Required: 3 hours, longer if you are enthusiastic about history.

Day 7- Antalya

I mentioned earlier that two days isn’t enough to do everything in Antalya, so I’m going to give you the choice between two days. By now you’ve done a lot of travelling and walking, so if you’re feeling like spending a day relaxing then take the day to relax on the beaches.

If you still have energy and enjoy seeing ancient ruins, then spend the day exploring some of Turkey’s best restored and most impressive ancient ruins.

Beach Day

Your beach day is really up to you how you wish to spend it! The best beach in Antalya, in our opinion, is Lara Beach which can be easily reached by public transport or car. Lara Beach is much less busy and has far more pleasant white sand.

If you wish to visit two beaches, or just want to keep the day as a rest day then Konyaalti Beach is a beautiful and clean beach located right in Antalya town. It’s easy to reach by bus or you can walk here from almost anywhere. Konyaalti Beach can be pretty crowded during Summer due to its location, and instead of sand it has pebbles.

Both beaches are gorgeous, great for relaxation and, most importantly, safe for swimming.

We’d also recommend making your way to Lower Duden Waterfall to see the unique and picturesque landscape where the water flows off a cliff into the Mediterranean Sea.

Price: Free

Ancient Ruins Day

Antalya is conveniently located near a lot of incredible ruins and we can’t easily tell you which ones are the best to visit. For today we’ve chosen to go with the popular day trip to Apollo Temple Side, Perge, Aspendos & Kursunlu waterfall.

Again, you’ll need to choose between either renting a car or booking a day tour. We recommend this tour that covers all the sights throughout a packed day, includes lunch, all transport and entrance fees to the sights.

You’ll learn all about these ancient ruins on the tour (which is the benefit of booking day tours for sights like this), but in case you opt to rent a car and drive, here is the order of attractions (and a Google map in case it’s helpful):

Temple of Apollo



Kursunlu Waterfall

Price: $82 USD for the tour

How to Get to Kas

It’s quite easy to get to Kas, however, you won’t be able to use FlixBus for this route. Head to Antalya Main Bus Station first thing tomorrow and ask at the counter for a bus to Kas. They run regularly throughout the day and you won’t be able to book in advance.

Day 8 – Kas

Kas is one of the most beautiful places in the entire country. It is a seaside village that is growing in popularity, but is still quiet enough to not be as overly touristy as its neighbouring towns.

Kas is another example of somewhere that would benefit from a few extra days – there’s a surprising amount of things to do here! Exploring the old town, beach hopping and even heading over to Greece (it takes just 20 minutes).

Within one day you can get a taste of this gorgeous village by starting your day off by exploring the old town, one of the cutest destinations on the Turquoise Coast. 

Once you’re tired of exploring the town, head to ruins of Antiphellos’ amphitheater before wandering to the beach. 

Kucuk Cakil is a picturesque beach right in town and as such is the most popular beach in Kas, however, with just a day it is likely your only option so make sure to visit!

How to Get to Fethiye

Again, this is a deceptively easy route to take. Head to the same bus station you were dropped off in and look for a bus heading to Fethiye. They will run regularly throughout the entire day, roughly once an hour. The bus should cost around $7 USD.

Note: This itinerary has focussed on bus transport so far, but if you are driving a car then make sure to visit the Saklikent Gorge on the way to Fethiye. If you’re busing then it is going to be a bit hard.

Day 9 – Fethiye

Fethiye is another beautiful, beachside town located along the coast of the Aegean sea, known as the Turquoise Coast because of the incredible colour of the water.

Explore Fethiye Town

Go for a walk around the town, the shops and the bazaars and make sure to grab some lunch at Yeşil Asma Yapraği, a popular Lokanta, or restaurant, for the locals.

The Old Orient Carpet Bazaar is also a unique and interesting place to check out if you have time.

Food Recommendation: Yeşil Asma Yapraği

Calis Beach

Calis Beach is one of the most popular beaches to visit in Fethiye, and definitely the most convenient. Technically within walking distance, you will probably want to either taxi or catch a bus from the main bus station in Fethiye. It will only take about 15 minutes.

Once you’re here simply relax on the beach, soak up some sun (or rent an umbrella and sun lounger and avoid the sun) and go swimming.

Day 10 – Fethiye

The main reason we wanted to include Fethiye in this itinerary is to easily connect Kas with Pamukkale, but while you’re here you should really take the opportunity to see one of the most picturesque beaches in Turkey: Oludeniz Beach.


Oludeniz is just 14km from Fethiye so getting there is pretty easy. You’ll need to catch either a taxi or a dolmus (minibus) from the centre of town (near the big mosque) to Oludeniz.  

On arrival to Oludeniz, head directly to the Blue Lagoon which is the most famous part of Oludeniz. This is a very beautiful spot, but ensure you manage your expectations – the crowds that flock here in Summer can ruin the experience a bit.

If you get sick of the crowds, you can also head to a similarly beautiful spot, Oludeniz Beach. This is not quite as postcard-perfect, but there is more space to relax.


Alright, this is not for everyone (definitely not us!), but a lot of people head to Fethiye specifically to go skydiving – it’s famous for it! We felt we had to mention it. If you want to go paragliding then make sure to do your research and pick a safe provider.

Alternative: Boat Tours

Oludeniz and the Blue Lagoon get super crowded, so if your budget can allow it we’d recommend checking out this boat tour of Butterfly Valley and St Nicholas Island  instead. It’ll be a lot less crowded out on the water plus the boat will head to quieter bays such as St Nicholas Island. We’ll definitely be doing this when we head back.

Price: $43 USD

Time Required: 7 hours.

How to Get to Pamukkale

You won’t want to take the Kamil Koc bus for this route as it runs in the middle of the night. Take a bus from Fethiye to Denizli. You can check out Obilet for the best bus to catch that fits with your schedule, and you can book it through the platform. Fethiye Seyahat would be our recommendation.

The bus should cost around 8 USD and take 3-4 hours.

Once you arrive in Denizli, head to ‘Emanet’ to store your bags for the day, then you can descend to the lower level (down the escalator) below the Intercity Departures. Walk to Gate 76, if you get lost just ask any bus attendant for ‘peron 76’ or ‘Pamukkale’, they’ll understand and point you in the right direction.

The bus departs frequently from Gate 76 to Pamukkale and takes about 20 minutes and costs about $1 USD.

Day 11 – Pamukkale & Selcuk

Today is quite a big day as you’ll need to make your way from Fethiye to Denizli to Pamukkale then back to Denizli and on to Selcuk. Try to catch the bus from Fethiye at 8am to allow enough time.

When you get dropped off in Pamukkale town make your way to Tikir Grill House for a delicious and cheap lunch, but don’t take too long. Then walk over to the entrance to the Pamukkale Travertines here. For this itinerary, you can ignore the other two entrances.


Pamukkale Travertines – 8:30am

Pamukkale is an incredible sight and it’s well worth visiting. Visually, it looks like a large, white mountain. The white colour is a result of calcite-laden water being pushed up from hot springs under the surface. Once the water reaches the surface, it degasses and the calcium carbonate is deposited on the ground before crystallising into the surface you see today.

As cool as this sounds, it’s important to lower your expectations. The photos you’ve seen on the internet are not what it looks like today. The entire place is almost dry now, with only a few man-made pools remaining along the walk up. It is still a very interesting place to visit but it just isn’t as beautiful as it once was.

No water in the terraces at Pamukkale.

When you reach the gates you’ll pay a fee of around 25 USD to enter the park. It is then a short hike up the travertines to the pools. To preserve the calcium formations you will need to remove your shoes. The calcium can be quite rigid and sharp which makes it uncomfortable to walk on. If you have sensitive feet then consider wearing some old socks for the hike up.

Pamukkale terraces.

At the top you can swim (sort of, they are about knee-deep) in the few pools available and take photos. Then continue on to explore Hierapolis. 

Price: $25 USD a (tour is more convenient but will cost a lot more)

Time Required: Up to an hour for the travertines

Pamukkale terraces.


Hierapolis is an ancient city located right next to the Pamukkale hot springs. Thanks to the theoretically therapeutic properties of the waters, the site was a popular location for over a thousand years with various civilizations settling there.

The ruins there today are from the Roman reconstruction of Hierapolis in approximately AD 14 – 37 and are in some places very well restored. They are a unique example of a Greco-Roman spa retreat.


Allow a couple of hours to explore the ruins, making sure to walk to the end of the trail heading North until you reach the Necropolis as well as up the hill to the amphitheatre.

Hierapolis theatre.

Once you’re finished, head back down and make your way to Selcuk before the evening.

Alternative Tour: This entire day is quite a challenge. We like it because it reduces travel time and allows you to visit Pamukkale on the way to your next destination. If it seems like too much for you, then consider taking this day tour from Fethiye instead.

Price: Included

Time Required: 1 – 2 hours

Where to Stay in Pamukkale

Budget: Hotel Pamukkale – Perfect location and really nice rooms for cheap, you can’t fault it. Tikir Grill House is just down the road which is our favourite restaurant in Pamukkale.

How to Get to Selcuk

Generally the best way to reach Selcuk is by bus from Denizli. If you’re in Pamukkale, you can head to this exact spot and wait for a dolmus, or minivan, to arrive to take you to Denizli. Of course, mention your destination to the driver just in case. This bus should cost under 1 USD in Lira.

This will drop you off at the bus terminal in Denizli. You can pick up your bags here if you need to then head across the road to the train station, it’s very easy to find. Ask here for tickets to Denizli and ask for the platform and directions. 

The train takes 3 hours and costs about $5 USD. 

Day 12 – Selcuk

The reason we’re visiting Selcuk is to have easy access to the ancient city of Ephesus. In addition to Ephesus, the town of Selcuk is quite nice with plenty of good spots to eat as well as a few additional sights. 

Ephesus Ancient City – 8:00am

During much of the reign of the Roman Empire, Ephesus, or Efes, was the second largest city with an estimated 250,000 citizens. Construction of Ephesus began around 1,000 BC, 3,000 years ago, but was rediscovered by an archeologist during the 19th Century and restoration has continued through the late 20th Century.

It’s hard to describe how incredible this place is and we consider it an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Turkey. It is one of the best restored examples of an ancient city anywhere in the world.

After your breakfast, head straight to the main road at this location and wait for a van heading to Epehesus to stop. The bus will cost about $1 USD and will drop you off directly at Ephesus. Alternatively, you can catch a taxi from the same spot but head to the North Gate instead.

We’d advise getting here when they open at 8:30am to beat at least some of the crowds. When you arrive, grab your ticket for around $35 USD. This is for the combined ticket which includes the Terraced Houses, St John’s Basilica and Ephesus Museum, but you can skip the audio tour.

Walk directly through the park until you reach the Library of Celsus. If you are lucky, you’ll beat the tour groups and have the chance to enjoy this incredible ruin by yourself for a bit. Then carry on to the end of the path as you will begin your the tour of Ephesus from the other end.

Library of Celsus.

For your tour we recommend downloading the Rick Steve’s Ephesus Audio Tour (I also recommend his app). He will walk you through all the sights, we found it really amazing. The information panels weren’t amazing so a tour guide (either audio or in person) is a fantastic idea.


Price: $37 USD (including transport)

Time Required: 2 – 3 hours at a slow pace

Isa Bey Mosque, St John’s Basilica & Ayasuluk Hill Fortress – 1:00pm

After Ephesus, head back into town for lunch and a short rest before making your way to Isa Bey Mosque. Your walking route will look like this.

The mosque was closed when we visited due to some sort of construction or restoration work. It looks pretty cool so we still recommend making your way here to check if it’s open now.

Isa Bey Mosque.

It is then a short walk up the hill to the ruins of St John’s Basilica. These are the ruins of an ancient church that existed in Selcuk 1,500 years ago. Little is known about the church apart from the theory that it was built upon the resting place of Apostle John. 

St John's Basilica.

If you head further up the hill you will reach Ayasuluk Fortress. This fortress has been used for millennia, from the indigenous Anatolian people through to most recently the military. Now it is mainly visited for the view as it looks out over Selcuk. 

Ayasuluk Fortress.

Price: Included

Time Required: 2 hours

Ephesus Museum

Entrance to the Ephesus Museum is included in your Ephesus ticket so it’s a good idea to stop off here for a quick browse. It’s a small museum but the artefacts on display are worth checking out. 

Ephesus Museum.

The museum is worth visiting before the Temple of Artemis as it has a scale version of what the temple would have looked like 1500 years ago.

Temple of Artemis.

Price: Included

Time Required: About 30 minutes

The Temple of Artemis

Your last stop for today is the somewhat underwhelming, but surprisingly important, Temple of Artemis. This is the location of one of the world’s greatest wonders, the Temple of Artemis. Unfortunately, it had a pretty rocky history over the centuries, including being subjected to arson in 356 BC and a flood around 700 BC.

In Antipater of Sidon’s list of the world’s natural wonders, he stated:

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand”.”

Which I think beautifully sums up how miraculous this wonder would have once been. It is quite devastating to see it today. There is not much to see with just a few pieces of it scattered around.

Price: Free

Time Required: 10 minutes

Food Recommendations

Kural Doner – amazing donors made with a pide wrap.

Pinar Pide – tasty, cheap pide and lahmacun, as well as other dishes which we didn’t try but looked good.


Ali Baba & Mehmet Kebab House – lovely owner and really delicious food, still reasonable prices for a big plate of food.

Where to Stay in Selcuk

Budget & Mid-Range: ANZ Guesthouse – Owned by an Aussie named Harry, ANZ Guesthouse is the most homely and wholesome place you can stay in Selcuk – plus it has free breakfast.

ANZ Guesthouse.

How to Get to Istanbul

Your best option is to catch a Flix Bus / Kamil Koc bus again for around 30 USD. There are a few times throughout the day but for this route I would recommend another night bus as it takes around 8 hours. If you’re sick of night buses then there is the option to depart tomorrow and spend the day on the bus and missing out on a day in Karakoy, Istanbul.

How to Get to Cannakale

If you’re planning to stop at Canakkale you can book a Kamil Koc bus via Flix Bus for $22 USD which takes 7 hours. There is no night bus option so you’ll need to spend tonight in Selcuk. 

Important to note that this bus arrives at the Canakkale Otogar (bus station) which is located outside of the main town. You can book a tax or jump on the bus into town from here.

Optional Extra Day 1 – Canakkale

As mentioned above, today will need to be a travel day. You’ll depart at 12pm arriving in Canakkale at 7pm. This is a good time to check in and head to bed, but you can explore the city as well and get a bite to eat or enjoy a drink by the waterfront.

Where to Stay in Canakkale

Optional Extra Day 2 – Canakkale

Visiting Canakkale is all about heading to Gallipoli and optionally Troy. Troy can be reached by bus but there’s not really much point as you’ll want to be booking a Gallipoli Tour anyway. Gallipoli is the kind of place you really need to have a tour guide to be able to visit properly.

As New Zealanders, this area holds a lot of significance for us. Gallipoli was the landing site of the ANZAC soldiers during WWI. For us, a lot of our ancestors were lost fighting for our freedom. 

Travel to Gallipoli.

For the Turkish people, this location is the key to conquering Istanbul and their successful defense of this small piece of land meant the survival of Turkey as we know it today. Although the Ottoman Empire collapsed shortly after, it is possible that ‘Turkey’ would never have existed.

The Gallipoli tour offered by Crowded House can be booked here. It is the exact tour we took and we can genuinely say it was worth it. Our tour guide was fantastic, he was so passionate about Gallipoli and the war, explained everything, ensuring to explain the history and the locations in a thorough and accurate way. 

Fortunately, they also offer a tour that includes Troy in the morning, and although we only visited Gallipoli, it makes more sense to combine them as you will have the morning free. The Troy + Gallipoli tour can be booked here

If you’re short on time and are really passionate about Gallipoli (ie. if you’re a New Zealander or Australian) then you could also book a tour from Istanbul. We met someone doing it and, although it was a long day, he said it was absolutely worth doing.

Price: About $110 USD including Troy

Time Required: Whole day.

Food Recommendation: ULUDAĞOĞULLARI HELVACILIK FIRINLANMIŞ PEYNİR HELVASI (yeah, long name, check it out here).


How to Get to Istanbul

From Canakkale Otogar you can easily catch another FlixBus to Istanbul’s Esenler Otogar. The bus takes 4.5 hours and costs $23 USD.

Day 13 – Istanbul

You’ve finally completed your loop of Turkey. You’re probably entirely sick of buses (I know we were). If you’ve run out of time you could definitely depart Istanbul today, but we still have a couple of days worth of exploring to do in this incredible city.

Taksim Square

From wherever you are staying, make your way to Taksim Square. This may be a walk or a combination of buses and trains. This is the starting point for today and is a bustling area worth a wander. Food here is cheap and delicious and it is a great spot for some shopping.

If you need to change money then you will easily find a handful of money changers near Taksim Square as well. This is the best spot in Istanbul to change money apart from the Grand Bazaar.

Istiklal Street, Galata and Galata Tower

Open up your map here for today. If you don’t mind walking we recommend walking from Taksim all the way down through Galata and ending in Karakoy. Along the way you will get to walk down a popular shopping street where you will see the Istiklal tram.

Istiklal Street.

You should also stop to check out any of the shops, cafes or eateries along the way that interest you. 

As you reach the end of the street, make your way down to Galata Tower. You can climb the tower for around $20 USD to get some nice views of Istanbul. We reckon this is a waste of money and would instead encourage you to wait until you reach Galata Bridge in Karakoy later today.

Galata Tower.

The best photos can be taken from a side street next to the tower. You’ll find the spot easily as you’ll see the crowds. If you want the best photo you’ll want to head here for sunrise, otherwise you can still get some cool photos with a few people in them.

Continue along your walking route and you will reach the Kamondo Stairs, which you will descend and continue on down to Karakoy. 

Price: Free ($20 USD to go up the tower)

Time Required: A couple of hours


Karakoy is our favourite part of Istanbul and we reckon it’s the most beautiful area to stay. If you’re hungry, then make sure to seek out a fish wrap (balik durum). They’re everywhere but our favourite is located here. They cost around $4 USD. 

Balik durum.

You’ll start near Karakoy Bridge, take some time to wander along the waterfront. Feel free to take some photos and sit down at any of the restaurants. This is a good chance to lose some time by sipping a tea (or cay).

Try Baklava

As you continue along, keep going through the streets until you reach Gulluoglu. This is where you can try some of the best baklava in Istanbul. It is mind blowingly good so don’t skip this. 


If you’re like us and you love baklava, then you can also head to Koskeroglu afterwards to try some more.

Make sure to try the standard pistachio and walnut baklava as well as the cold baklava.

Price: Free (but you’ll want to buy some food)

Time Required: A couple of hours

Galata Bridge

Wander back along Karakoy’ waterfront until you reach Galata Bridge. The views both on and beneath the bridge are some of the best in Istanbul. This is our favourite spot to watch the sunset so see if you can time this around sunset.

View of Galata from Galata Bridge.

Day 14 – Istanbul

For your final day in Istanbul you should head over to see the Asian side of the city, Kadikoy. This will only take a few hours so it’s perfect if you have an afternoon or evening flight or bus to catch.

Kadikoy – Morning

Catch the ferry from either Karakoy or Eminonu to Kadikoy. You’ll want to use your Istanbulkart and it will cost less than $1 USD each way. 

You might have noticed that we’ve intentionally omitted a Bosphorus Cruise from this itinerary. By all means, book one in for one of your evenings in Istanbul. However, if your goal is to just see Istanbul from the water then your best and cheapest option is to jump on this exact ferry.

Kadikoy ferry.

Your walking route for today should look something like this. You’ll disembark the ferry, check out Kadikoy Square then walk along the waterfront to Moda. Walk through Moda then back to Kadikoy Square for lunch. 


We don’t have any specific attractions to reach this morning, instead spend your time wandering and exploring. Kadikoy is known for its food and we tried a few nice spots which we’ll suggest below. However, we did realise once we were there that knowing the best places to try was a bit challenging. Booking a food tour such as this one would have been a much better idea, but unfortunately outside of our budget.

Food Suggestions

Fazil Bey’s Turkish Coffee – One of the best places in Turkey to try Turkish Coffee.

Fazil Bey's Turkish Coffee.

Kadikoy Merkes Borekcisi – Good, cheap borek. Have a tea and start your day here if you like.


Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir – Probably the best Turkish Delights in Istanbul, if not Turkey (though a bit pricey)

Haci Bekir Turkish Delight.

Halil Lahmacun – closed when we visited, however it has a reputation for one of the best lahmacuns in Istanbul, and we love lahmacun. To eat lahmacun, squeeze some lemon on it, throw in some greens then roll it up.

Ciya Sofrasi – Known for its local food, but it looks a bit overpriced these days due to its reputation. We didn’t eat here but it could be worth checking out as a lot of the food tours stop here.

Getting Around Turkey

Getting around Turkey is easy! The public transport is effective all over the country. Istanbul’s public transport works efficiently as long as you have the Istanbulkart which gives you access to MRT, buses, trams and ferries. The T1 tram will be your main way of getting around. 

M1 Tram Istanbul.

To get between cities we highly recommend the buses. Flying is an option, but with all the customs and security processes combined with the location of the airports it doesn’t usually work out quicker than busing, just more expensive.

Kamil Koc is the largest operator in Turkey and was recently bought out by FlixBus, the largest bus company in Europe. You will want to book directly with FlixBus as their website is in English. The buses are all luxury coaches.

Everything you need to know is in our Turkey Travel Guide.

Buses in Turkey.

How Long Should You Spend in Turkey?

The perfect amount of time to spend in Turkey is around 17 days. This will allow you to see everything along the standard tourist route without having to rush. However, with smart planning, a two week itinerary will be absolutely amazing! It’s entirely up to you how much time you have.

To explore the entire country we’d set aside at least a month to enable you to head to some of the more remote locations such as Trabzon and Mount Nemrut.

How Much Does it Cost to Visit Turkey?

Turkey is a very affordable country to visit if you’re coming from a wealthy country such as the United States, Australia or Western Europe. On the cheap end, two weeks should cost around $50 USD a day including food, activities and accommodation for a single person. Double it for a couple.

Where to Stay in Turkey

There’s heaps of fantastic places to stay in Turkey. These are a few of our favourites, either places we’ve stayed or places we’ve heard great things about along the way. We’ll update these as we stay in more places or hear from other travellers.


Budget & Mid-Range: Archeo – they have a fantastic cafe downstairs to chill in and nice rooms, perfectly located in Karakoy near the tram to Sultanahmet.

Luxury: Wings Hotel – an upper mid-range to luxury hotel located right in the heart of Karakoy with all the best amenities you’d expect.

Istanbul accommodation.


Budget & Mid-Range: ANZ Guesthouse – Owned by an Aussie named Harry, ANZ Guesthouse is the most homely and wholesome place you can stay in Selcuk – plus it has free breakfast.

ANZ Guest House Selcuk.


Budget: Hotel Pamukkale – Perfect location and really nice rooms for cheap, you can’t fault it. Tikir Grill House is just down the road which is our favourite restaurant in Pamukkale.

Cappadocia / Goreme

Budget & Mid-Range: Arch Palace Cappadocia – If you’re on a budget, this is the best place you can stay in Cappadocia. Although not as ‘cavey’ as the more expensive options, the rooms here are really cool and the rooftop has an incredible view.

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