The Ultimate 7 to 10 Days in Turkey Itinerary

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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A 7 to 10-day Turkey itinerary is an exciting prospect as it’s located in one of the most diverse geographical areas, with a beautiful Mediterranean coastline, green valleys, snowy mountains and sparse volcanic areas spread out within its borders.

So for your trip to Turkey, we’ll try to encompass as much of the landscape as possible, while taking you through its most renowned historic sites and cities and sampling its excellent array of local cuisine.

How Many Days in Turkey?

In an area twice the size of Germany and a population of over 85 million people, Turkey is a huge country with a unique culture, blending cuisine and traditions from the Middle East and Greece, and boasting a long and intriguing history. From the Mediterranean coast to the Iranian border, Turkey has so much to offer tourists.

You can see a lot of the country in one go if you take a month-long road trip from Istanbul, down the west coast, across the centre and back via the green landscape of the Black Sea shore in the north.

But for a shorter trip, you can also stick to the west coast to see the remains of several Ancient Greek settlements and open-air museums as well as utilise the cool, clear Mediterranean Sea to cool off in the heat, by renting a car for your Turkey trip.

If you’ve only got 7 days in Turkey, you can still see a great amount of the major cities and beautiful Western coast, but it’s advisable to fly some distances such as Istanbul to Izmir to shorten your journey and make the most of the time you have.

If you’re more interested in city life and taking day trips from a city base, you can happily spend a few days in Istanbul, 2 days in Izmir and 2 days in Bodrum, Fethiye or Antalya to make up a short but diverse itinerary without having to rush around from place to place. You can also easily fly into each of these cities.

For those who would like to spend a bit longer exploring, then plan to spend at least 10 days. Though you’re still not going to be able to see everything, it will give you enough time to get a feel for Istanbul, spend some time along the beautiful coast and also enjoy the splendours to be found in the incredible Cappadocia region.

Stunning Cappadocia in Turkey
Stunning Cappadocia in Turkey

Getting To & Around Turkey

Istanbul is a huge transport hub, with two major airports, Istanbul IST and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen SAW, where you can enter the country or transfer on to other cities. You can also arrive by bus from Eastern Europe easily in Istanbul to start your trip to Turkey if you’re on a longer trip.

For our Turkey itinerary, it’s best to rent a car to get from place to place, although if you don’t drive or don’t want to risk driving in a foreign country where the road rules can be slightly different, you can also easily get around by aeroplane and bus.

There are very few trains in Turkey so it’s best not to rely on these for transportation, but stick to coaches. Kamil Koc and Pamukkale are very reputable coach services taking you throughout Turkey, serving water and snacks on board for free. You can view schedules here.

Within cities like Istanbul, Izmir or Bodrum it’s best to use public transport, especially the metro and tram system, as they are much quicker than trying to travel on the roads.

Istanbul is three times the size of London, straddling two continents with approximately 15 million people living there, so you can always guarantee the city will be busy, and not worth trying to drive in – especially from one side of the Bosphorus to the other.

You can arrange your rental car in the city for the day you leave Istanbul for Izmir, so you don’t waste any more and can travel down at your own pace. You can browse options here.

You can expect police stops all over the country, whether you’re in your own car, a public bus or walking in the street, so keep your passport on you at all times to avoid any difficulty identifying yourself.

In some cases, the police will also check the date of the entry stamp in your passport to ensure you haven’t overstayed your 90-day visa-free travel in the country.

Izmir Clock Tower
Izmir Clock Tower

7 to 10-Day Turkey Itinerary

Following the Western coastline from Istanbul to Antalya before heading inland to Cappadocia, our itinerary will show you some of the country’s highlights and best-kept secrets.

Day 1 – Istanbul

Istanbul is a spectacular city and one with international prestige among tourists, so you’ll want to spend at least 2 days in Istanbul while you’re in Turkey to be able to see the main highlights and soak in the chaos of city life in one of the world’s largest metropolises.

The most famous attractions are located on the European side of the city, with many concentrated in the Fatih (meaning conqueror) district, so this is where you’ll want to spend most of your first day.

Visit the enormous and beautifully decorated Blue Mosque built in the 17th century by order of Sultan Ahmet who is laid to rest with his family in a mausoleum within the gardens. Then a short walk away is Istanbul’s most famous and one of its oldest attractions, the Hagia Sophia.

Now a mosque, you will have to dress appropriately to enter and avoid prayer times, but the visit remains awe-inspiring as you can gaze up to the layers of history adorning the high ceilings, where large gold medallions decorated with the names of Allah, Prophet Muhammed, four caliphs and two grandsons of Muhammed are hung in front of 6th century Roman mosaics depicting Mary and Jesus.

Then move a short distance again to discover the amazing Cistern Basilica with its Roman medusa heads under pillars in the ancient underground reservoir and the historic bazaar where you can enjoy a kebab or Turkish coffee as well as browse the small shops selling everything from spices to carpets and gold jewellery.

If you have time, the Topkapi Palace is also located in the Fatih district and showcases life in the Ottoman Empire with its exhibits. This visit can take a few hours so make sure you have enough time to cover everything you want to see.

Thanks to the excellent metro system, you can stay wherever is most cost-effective in Istanbul; the European side can be more expensive than the Asian side, but it depends on your tastes.

Because you only have a short time in Istanbul, it can be worth taking a walking tour to ensure you’re able to see all of the top highlights of the city. If you plan to enter several attractions, then consider getting a Museum Pass.

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Kupeli Hotel – This 3-star hotel is situated in the central Fatih district within easy reach of sites such as the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. They have plenty of rooms and a very good breakfast.

Cronton Design Hotel – Also situated in the Fatih neighbourhood, this luxe hotel has several plush rooms, an inviting spa to relax in and a wonderful breakfast to enjoy each morning.

MySuite Istanbul Cihangir – Located in the cool and central Cihangir neighbourhood, these apartments are perfect for those after a self-catering option. There are plenty on offer and there is A/C in all of them.

Cheers Hostel – This hostel is great for backpackers and budget travellers. Located within a stone’s throw of attractions like the Blue Mosque, there are plenty of room types, social events and good common areas.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Istanbul hotels!

Day 2 – Istanbul

With still plenty to cover in Istanbul, your second day in the former capital of the Ottoman Empire should take you further around the city.

Still on the European side, you should visit the famous Galata Tower where the first unpowered flight took place from the tower across the Bosphorus and enjoy the wonderful views over the rooftops to the sea.

Then move along the coastline to the exquisite Dolmabahçe Palace, designed in the style of Western European palaces such as Versailles and later serving as First President of the Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s residence.

Crossing the Bosphorus in a small public ferry, you’ll get great views over the two sides of the city and usually a taste of more modern Turkish music thanks to a resident busker.

In Kadikoy, you’ll also see the more modern side of the city, with trendy cafes, bars and restaurants dotted around, frequented by the younger population. This is a great area of the city to stay in and enjoy some great traditional meals with a modern twist and a few Efes beers.

Galata Tower
Galata Tower

Day 3 – Izmir

Flying or driving down to Izmir for the 3rd day of your Turkish adventure, there’s plenty of history and culture waiting for you. If you choose to drive, plan to get as early a start as possible as it can take about 5 hours.

Once in Izmir, visit the centre of the city, Konak Square, with its iconic clock tower, before heading into Kemeralti, Izmir’s historic bazaar to browse the local products and enjoy a great kebab.

Besides the bazaar is the ancient site of Agora, which was previously the economic centre of Ancient Izmir known as Smyrna.

If you enjoy discovering the country’s history, head on to the Alsancak Tekel Factory which has been turned into the Archaeology and Art Museum of the city, located in the great neighbourhood of Alsancak.

In the museum, you can discover many ancient treasures that have been uncovered in the region, from Foca in the north to Ephesus in the south, making it a perfect introduction to what you can expect to find the following day in Ephesus.

Alsancak is also a great neighbourhood to stay in, with plenty of great places to eat from pizza to sushi, and many bars and pubs as well.

The public transport in Izmir is great, but for one day in the city it’s beneficial to stay more centrally. However, you can expect a lot of noise overnight, from the early morning calls to prayer to the bin collectors and people drinking in the nearby bars. 

View of Izmir from Mount Kadifekale
View of Izmir from Mount Kadifekale

Where to Stay in Izmir

Zeniva Hotel – Situated in the centre of Izmir close to Cumhuriyet Square, this hotel is perfect for mid-range visitors. They have an array of cool and modern rooms and a fab breakfast available daily.

Key Hotel – Those looking for a bit of luxury will love this intimate seaside hotel in a central area of Izmir. They have a great view of the sea, a wonderful restaurant and a delicious breakfast each morning.

Lotus Garden Hostel – Great for backpackers or for those looking to experience a great social atmosphere, this hostel has both dorms and private rooms and great common areas.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Izmir hotels!

Day 4 – Ephesus

Just an hour driving south from Izmir you’ll get to the incredible historic site that is the Ancient City of Ephesus. You can stay in nearby Sirince or Selcuk where you can also go wine tasting, or stay in Izmir and join an organised tour to Ephesus for a day trip.

This major archaeological site is still being uncovered, although what has already been discovered will surely impress you and it is a fascinating place to visit.

You can spend a whole day wandering amongst the ancient pillars and friezes, dating back to the 10th century BCE when the Greeks founded the city, and others from the Romans’ take over in the 2nd century CE.

Discover the fantastic 24,000-seater amphitheatre and the ornate facade of the Library of Celsus which was rebuilt in the 1970s.

If you have time you can also head to the nearby museum dedicated to the site, with many more artefacts and information explaining their significance. However long you have, a month or just 7 days when you visit Turkey, you can’t miss out on a trip to Ephesus.

Ruins in Ephesus
Ruins in Ephesus

Day 5 – Bodrum

A couple of hours further south or 3 and a half hours on the coach from Izmir, is the sweet seaside town of Bodrum. With its long coastline full of restaurants and bars, and shining white stone streets with shops open until the early hours of the morning, this is a lively summer town and a great place for daytime relaxation and nighttime action.

Although the overall atmosphere is of sunbathing, drinking cocktails and cooling off in the clear water, you can also discover the ancient history of Bodrum, from the amphitheatre and ruins of the mausoleum of Mausolus (a structure once so impressive it gave above-ground tombs their name) to Bodrum castle built by the Order of the Knights of Saint John.

Bodrum Castle uses many historic pieces of rubble from the ancient mausoleum and juts out from the coastline giving visitors amazing views over Bodrum marina and beach. It also houses the underwater archaeology museum, so there’s plenty to discover within the castle walls before heading off into the town for some sun, sea and sweet and savoury delights.

As a popular destination for tourists and cruise ships, you’ll find plenty of hotels and B&Bs across the town for all budgets.

Bodrum Castle
Bodrum Castle

Where to Stay in Bodrum

Hotel Centro Bodrum – This lovely hotel is a great mid-range option in Bodrum. They have a range of gorgeous rooms along with a fantastic swimming pool, on-site restaurant and daily breakfast.

Casa Nonna Bodrum – The perfect hotel for a romantic escape, this adults-only hotel has an excellent location in Bodrum. Situated on the beach, they have a spa and numerous restaurants along with lovely rooms to choose from.

La Luna Hostel – This hostel is great for those visiting on a budget or are after a great social atmosphere. They have lots of dorms and good common areas and self-catering facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Bodrum!

Day 6 – Day Trip to Kos

Staying in Bodrum, you should also make the most of the incredible coastline as well as your proximity to one of the most popular of the Dodecanese Islands. It may seem unusual or even sacrilegious to include a day trip to Greece in an itinerary for Turkey, however, the two countries share a great deal of culture and history.

A ferry (can be booked here) can take you out to the island of Kos in around one hour, making it perfect for a day trip, as you see the fortress in the harbour, built by the same Knights Hospitaller as Bodrum Castle, and the 2,500-year-old Plane Tree of Hippocrates.

Walk around the marina or take a little train or taxi to the other ancient Greek sites located on the island such as the 3rd century BCE medical centre, the Asklepieion.

Kos has plenty to see in a day, and some wonderful restaurants to enjoy as you look over the azure sea back to Turkey.

Ancient ruins in Kos
Ancient ruins in Kos

Day 7 – Kabak

For the end of 1 week in Turkey, you’ll want to set off early to reach the beautiful area of Kabak or the city of Fethiye.

Just north of Fethiye is Dalaman Airport, the main airport for the region, so if you’ve just got 7 days in Turkey, this is a great place to finish and take your flight back home or back up to Istanbul to transfer on further afield.

If you’re lucky enough to spend more time in Turkey, this is a beautiful location for either sunbathing or getting adventurous while en route to Antalya.

Kabak is located in a famous valley with a beautiful seafront; you can stay in one of the many hotels located in the area, each with fantastic views over the sea to the front and the green mountainsides behind.

Spend your day hiking through the valley to reach the pretty waterfall or swim around the coast to the cave. The trails are well marked and your hotel staff give you basic directions. If you do want to hike, the middle of summer may not be the best time to visit this area due to the intense heat.

Or, head to the nearby small town of Ölüdeniz where you can go paragliding for a very reasonable fee, or enjoy the long beaches while watching the paragliders land all around. There’s also a small inlet with shallow water, perfect for families with young children.

If you’re spending 10 days, continue for another few hours driving and plan to spend a couple of nights in Antalya.

Coastline in Ölüdeniz
Coastline in Ölüdeniz

Where to Stay in Antalya

Mai İnci Hotel – Located just 800 metres from the beach, this is an excellent mid-range option in Antalya. There is free parking, 2 on-site restaurants, a spa and wellness centre and much more.

Hotel Lykia – This luxe hotel located in the old town of Antalya is another perfect place to make as your base. They have plenty of classic rooms, a lovely swimming pool and countless other amenities available to guests.

City Moonlight Aparthotel – A great option for those after a self-catering accommodation. They have a range of flats to choose from and a great location for exploring Antalya.

Hostel Vague – This hostel is a good budget option for backpackers visiting Turkey. They have a great location in Antalya and lots of room and bed choices available.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Antalya hotels!

Day 8 – Antalya

Further south along the coast is the popular destination of Antalya. With its incredible coastline, historic communities dotted around the area, archaeology museums and sand sculpture open-air museum, there’s loads to see and do in a day in Antalya.

Lounge on the beaches, take a day trip out to the cable car in Kemer for fantastic views over the forests and coast or hike into the canyon, you won’t be short of activities in Antalya, whatever your interests.

Antalya is also the start (or end) point of the famous Lycian Way, a 520-mile trail connecting 18 ancient sites along the coast to Ölüdeniz, so a great day out would be to hike along part of the trail.

There are some fantastic hotels and villas in the area surrounding Antalya as well as in the city centre, so you can choose according to your tastes and budget.

Antalya is a walkable city and you can visit the beautiful old town, Kaleiçi, Hadrian’s Gate, the modern centre and the coastal fortress wall easily on foot if you’re staying centrally.

You can also take organised tours to see some of the epic Roman amphitheatres and ruins along the Lycian Way if you don’t have your own transport or enough time for hiking in your Turkey itinerary.

Hadrian's Gate in Antalya
Hadrian’s Gate in Antalya

Day 9 – Cappadocia

Quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey is the historic site and national park in the region of Cappadocia. In central Turkey, you’ll either need to spend 6 hours on the road or a couple of hours on a plane from Antalya via Istanbul to Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport.

Since it may take a while to reach if you’re on a Turkey road trip and there’s so much to see, you should definitely spend 2 to 3 days in Cappadocia if possible.

For your first full day, you’ve got to visit Göreme National Park. Wander around the open-air museum, seeing the caves built into the strange volcanic sculpture-like rock formations and visiting the chapels built by the post-iconoclastic former inhabitants, feasting your eyes on the colourful seccos adorning the walls and ceilings for the last 800 – 900 years.

There are many great hikes in this area so feel free to take off and discover the rock formations as a small group, or join a guided tour(such as a green tour or red tour) to learn about the history of the troglodyte communities that created the communities and why they were forced to do so.

You can stay nearby in the town of Nevşehir to easily get around the region by bus or private taxi if you don’t have a car.

Unique Landscape of Cappadocia
Unique Landscape of Cappadocia

Where to Stay in Cappadocia

Aysel Inn House – This guesthouse in Avcilar is a great base for exploring Cappadocia. They have breakfast, free parking and even provide bikes for guests who want them.

Divan Cave House – Located in Göreme, this hotel is perfect for those who want to stay in a fairy chimney while in Cappadocia. They have several classicly-decorated rooms and a great daily breakfast.

Diadem Cappadocia – Another cosy budget option in Göreme, they have great double rooms along with some dorm rooms to suit all kinds of guests.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cappadocia hotels!

Day 10 – Cappadocia

To put the cherry on the cake, or the final sprinkle of pistachio on the baklava, of your 10 days in Turkey, you have to finish it off with a magical hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia.

Taking off at sunset, these trips take a couple of hours and show you how vast the volcanic region is and how incredible it looks as the sun rises, before settling back down and providing you with a traditional Turkish breakfast and often a glass of champagne too.

You can either choose a group trip or splash the cash for a private trip you’re looking for a romantic trip.

If the winds are not in your favour and you’re not able to take flight, there’s a fantastic alternative; the Derinkuyu Underground City. 85 metres underground is the almost 3,000-year-old dwelling that can hold up to 20,000 people, with small rooms dotted around, joined by steep staircases.

The underground city is even more impressive with its air circulation system, its plumbing and its own chapel. If you have enough time on your final day in Turkey, check out this fantastic place before catching your flight back to Istanbul.

Derinkuyu Underground City
Derinkuyu Underground City

Have More Time?

If you’ve got more than 1 week in Turkey, there are plenty of other historical sites and beautiful parts of the country to discover. From Cappadocia, you can continue driving for 7 hours to the amazing site of Göbekli Tepe. You can also fly via Istanbul within 5 hours, but this is a great stop on a Turkey road trip.

This ancient site is still being uncovered, but from the statues and engravings of animals and people found so far, it’s possibly the oldest civilisation in the world, showing how prehistoric communities were farming animals and crops even over 11,000 years ago.

If you want to have a round trip from Istanbul, you should also come back via the northern Black Sea coast. This area is much greener than other parts of the country thanks to the sea and surrounding rivers and is a great place to go hiking and camping. Or, continue northeast to Erzurum or Sarıkamış for a ski trip!

Turkey is a huge country with a diverse range of attractions and activities, so it’s impossible to see everything in Turkey in 10 days. But taking a week-long road trip along the west coast or flying from Istanbul to Izmir, to Antalya and Cappadocia, are great ways of discovering the best of the beautiful country.

Are you planning to visit Turkey? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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