The Complete 8-Day Turkey Travel Itinerary: From Rich History to Stunning Landscapes

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Advisor - Natasha L. Hardy
Curated By

Natasha L. Hardy

  • Türkiye

  • Adventure Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Local culture

  • Local food

  • Sightseeing

Advisor - The Complete 8-Day Turkey Travel Itinerary: From Rich History to Stunning Landscapes
Curator’s statement

Having visited Turkey on numerous different occasions in the past, I consistently find myself yearning for more time to explore this incredible country. The narrative that each city unfurls, complemented by the phenomenal cuisine and warm-hearted locals, is simply captivating. Despite the expansive terrains that one could take months to traverse, the beauty of Turkey lies in its diversity—ensuring that every day offers a unique experience distinct from the last.

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Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul

The Complete 8-Day Turkey Travel Itinerary: From Rich History to Stunning Landscapes - Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul

Enjoy a relaxing day in Turkey’s largest city and savour this restful period as you'll need to gather your strength for the exciting journey ahead.

Walk around the charming streets of Sultanahmet, a vibrant neighbourhood situated in the heart of the Old City where you will find many of Istanbul's significant historical landmarks.

Sultanahmet is a neighbourhood best experienced on foot, so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to get pleasantly lost in its historical charm.

Book a table at Seven Hills Rooftop Restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus for an unforgettable meal. As the sun dips below the horizon, the resonating call to prayer from the Blue Mosque creates a serene ambience, etching a memorable imprint on your Turkish experience.

Day 2: Discovering Istanbul's treasures

palace with high towers

Start your tour of Istanbul by visiting the impressive Hagia Sophia, a structure that has stood strong for more than 1400 years. Once a cathedral, later a mosque, and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia is a testament to Istanbul's rich and diverse history and exemplifies the epitome of Byzantine architecture.

Next up is Topkapı Palace. With its four lush courtyards and a spectacular view of the Bosphorus, Topkapı Palace offers an immersive experience of Ottoman history and culture. One unique feature of the Palace is its Ottoman Imperial Harem, which at one point housed over 1,000 women, children, and eunuchs.

Only a short walk from Topkapı Palace, you will then visit the Hippodrome and the Blue Mosque, Istanbul's most celebrated icon. Built in the early 17th century, the mosque boasts six minarets—a unique feature as most mosques traditionally have two or four.

Finish your day by visiting the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world and a shopping paradise. With over 4000 shops spread across 61 covered streets, it offers everything from ceramics, carpets, spices, antiques, and jewelry.

Day 3: Istanbul Bosphorus cruise and flight to Izmir

The Complete 8-Day Turkey Travel Itinerary: From Rich History to Stunning Landscapes - Day 3: Istanbul Bosphorus cruise and flight to Izmir

Today begins with a visit to the Spice Bazaar, filled with exotic fragrances and colourful spices.

Next on the itinerary, set sail on a memorable journey across Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait, which separates the continents of Europe and Asia. This cruise is a splendid opportunity to witness the city's exquisite blend of European and Asian influences, as you glide seamlessly between the two continents.

During the cruise you'll be treated to stunning views of historical marble palaces, wooden villas, impressive fortresses, and charming fishing villages that line the shoreline, making this a truly unforgettable experience.

End your day with a flight to Izmir and check in to your hotel upon arrival.

Day 4: Exploring the natural pools at Pamukkale

white sand dunes

Devote an entire day to discovering the natural wonders of Pamukkale. Renowned for its distinctive terraces sculpted by calcium-laden warm spring water over centuries, this site offers otherworldly landscapes that are truly a feast for the eyes.

But the journey doesn't end here. Explore the ancient city of Hierapolis, famed for its extensive Necropolis - a vast ancient cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments. Don't miss the opportunity to witness the Sacred Pool, a unique thermal bath still in use today, adorned with ancient Roman ruins resting beneath its warm, rippling waters.

Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit for a dip in the natural pools of Pamukkale.

Day 5: Ancient Ephesus and flight to Kayseri

monuments in gardens

Today you will be exploring the ancient city of Ephesus for the entire day. Employing the services of a knowledgeable guide is highly suggested.

Walk amongst the historic streets and buildings, and marvel at the Temple of Artemis, an awe-inspiring site that once stood as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Further down you will find the Library of Celsus, regarded as the most popular structure of Ephesus, celebrated for its grand architecture and once housing up to 12,000 scrolls.

Once you've experienced the ancient wonders of Ephesus, make your way to the airport to board a flight destined for Kayseri. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel where you can unwind and rest.

Day 6: Cappadocia and its fairy chimneys

rooftop restaurant at night set in a cave

Enjoy an al fresco breakfast at your accommodation basking in the sights of Cappadocia's ethereal fairy chimneys.

Start your day by visiting the Goreme Open-Air Museum, an impressive monastic complex, dating back to the 10th to 12th centuries.

The next stop is at Devrent Valley, an area presenting an incredible landscape of peculiar fairy chimneys and unique rock formations, shaped by millions of years of natural processes.

Nestled on the banks of the Red River, Avanos is a quaint town renowned for its pottery-making tradition that dates back thousands of years. Here, you can enjoy an authentic Turkish lunch in a local eatery, tasting mouth-watering regional delicacies.

Finish your day in Uchisar, famed for its mighty rock fortress and the tallest in Cappadocia, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding lunar landscape.

Get some rest as you will be waking up very early for tomorrow's incredible day.

Day 7: Morning air balloon ride, underground cities of Cappadocia & flight to Istanbul

hot air balloon over city

Embrace the prospect of an early rise today, as you are scheduled to awaken at around 4:30 am for an experience that promises to be worth every sacrificed minute of sleep. Today you will be viewing the mystical fairy chimneys of Cappadocia from a different perspective: aboard a hot air balloon!

Imagine being gently hoisted up into the sky, right above the maze of canyons and whimsical fairy chimneys, just as the sun begins to peek over the horizon. This unparalleled experience is further heightened by the spectacle of dozens of other balloons floating alongside, making the whole sunrise moment more magical and memorable - truly a sight for sore eyes!

After returning to your hotel for breakfast, you will visit the Rose and Red Valleys, known for their dramatic landscapes of various shades of red.

Moving on to the next destination, you will explore Pigeon Valley, recognized for its myriad of pigeon houses carved into cliffs and fairy chimneys.

On the last stop of the day, you will visit the Underground Cities, a vast network of subterranean dwellings which once sheltered thousands of Christians during times of siege and religious persecution.

Finally, catch your flight back to Istanbul and check into your hotel for some rest and relaxation.

Day 8: Leisurely day in Istanbul and flight Home

tip of a circular tower at night with full moon

Take a leisurely stroll through the alleyways of Ortaköy and stop for a coffee or a delicious Turkish meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants dotting the waterfront.

Visit the Galata Tower, once a prison and a watchtower now turned into a museum. Climb to the top for expansive views of the city.

Take a ferry to the tranquil island of Büyükada, a quaint summer getaway for many Istanbul locals. Rent a bicycle and explore this beautiful little piece of paradise on your own.

Finally, no visit to Turkey is complete without experiencing a hamam ritual. Head to Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, a traditional Turkish bath housed in a renovated 16th-century building.

Here guests can partake in a traditional Turkish bath atop a hexagonal heated marble bed, enjoy a soothing massage or exfoliating treatment, and indulge in some Turkish sorbet at the hamam's serene relaxation area.

As your journey through Turkey comes to an end, it is now time to return home feeling refreshed, invigorated and in awe of this marvellous country.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, The Best of Amsterdam: Guide to Canals, Museums & More.

Advisor - Natasha L. Hardy

Travel Advisor

Natasha L. Hardy

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Turkey (Turkiye).