Turkey. Incredible. Diverse. Stunning. I would have to say Turkey was definitely in the top 3 destinations I’ve ever traveled to. We got to see so many amazing places with this incredible 12 day trip itinerary. I spent so much time researching and planning before the trip, but I still feel like I could return many times with hardly dipping into all that Turkey has to offer.
In case you’re like us, and you only have a short time to spend in Turkey here is the perfect itinerary to see so many amazing places in a relatively short amount of time.
Is this Turkey itinerary right for you?
This itinerary is probably not for everyone. Our trips tend to be EPIC, but also very busy. This itinerary is for you if you want….
- An epic trip that is very diverse
- Fully packed days in order to see as much as you can on a somewhat short schedule
- To have a couple days to relax and absorb the trip at the end
- A well rounded trip that is a combination of nature, hiking, historical sites, and cultural experiences
- Decent amount of traveling within the country
- LOTS of amazing memories
We did a bit of a loop around the Western/Central portion of Turkey. We were originally going to rent a car from Cappadocia/Goreme until Antalya, but opted for buses in the end (was much cheaper). I wouldn’t recommend reversing the order of the trip as it was very carefully planned to be the perfect combination of busy days and relaxing days 🙂
Things to Know Before You Travel to Turkey
Safety – Although safety conditions in Turkey can change in just a few days, Turkey is an overall safe country for tourists. The people are very welcoming, friendly, and open.
Clothing – Overall I would suggest dressing more modestly, but depending on where you are, the locals are very liberal. You will see a variety of levels of modesty among the locals.
Getting Around – Turkey has a wonderful transportation system. Whether it be bus, train, domestic flight, or car, there are many comfortable options.
Costs – Turkey is overall a very inexpensive country. Food, transportation, and hotel costs are very low in comparison to many other places.
Visa – Some countries (including the USA) need visas to enter Turkey. So be sure to check here before your travels to make sure you have the visa situation sorted out. Here is a link to apply for an e-Visa if you need to!
For more details about Turkey Travel Tips check out the full article here: ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TRAVEL IN TURKEY – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRIP
12 Day Turkey Itinerary
I always expected Turkey to be amazing, but it FAR exceeded my expectations. Turkey boasts archaeological ruins, unique nature, beautiful beaches, and fascinating history. So here is my itinerary that allowed me to see so many of the natural wonders Turkey has to offer.
Days 1-2: Istanbul (1 night)
Istanbul is a HUGE city with so much to do. I’m sure you could spend an entire trip just exploring in and around Istanbul. The European side, the Asian side, across the Bosphorous. We split our Istanbul explorations into two-at the beginning and the end of our trip.
We spent our first full day in Istanbul exploring a long list of places in the Sultanhamet area. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cisterns, Topkapi Palace, Balat, and more. The famous tourist destinations of Istanbul and also lesser known areas. It was a fully packed day, but we managed to see and enjoy everything, ending the day with a perfect sunset dinner overlooking Istanbul. Check out this post for a full list of amazing things to do in Istanbul.
We stayed at a cute boutique hotel a few minutes walk away from everything. The Sultanhamet neighborhood is flooded with cute hotel choices. Unfortunately we had to leave fairly early in the morning on Day 2. We had a flight to Cappadocia to catch around noon. But we still managed to explore the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market in the earlier hours as it was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.
Transportation: We then embarked on our journey to Cappadocia. The flight was leaving from Istanbul’s new airport, about an hour taxi ride away from the hotels. The flight itself was a little more than an hour, and we landed in Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) around 3:00 PM.
Days 2-5 : Cappadocia (3 nights)
Cappadocia is an INCREDIBLE place. Besides its magical hot air balloons filling the skies every morning, it also boasts amazing cave dwellings, underground cities, stunning hikes, and a plethora of things to do.
After landing in Kayseri Erkilet Airport we had to make our way to Goreme (about a 1 hour drive), the most famous of all the towns in the Cappadocia region, tourist hub, quaint village, and hot air balloon central. We stayed at an adorable cave hotel, Elite Cave Suites, where we would enjoy amazing views, wonderful staff, and an unmatched atmosphere.
The next few days consisted of sunset viewpoints, hiking, horse back riding, waking up at dawn to watch the hot air balloons take off, eating at the best restaurant in the world, taking day trips around the countryside, visiting a pink lake, and so much more. Click here to see the full list of amazing things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.
I would say the 3 nights that we spent there were perfect, giving us enough time to do everything on our LONG list of places to see.
Check out the full post here: 10 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
Transportation: After Cappadocia, we were debating renting a car to then drive towards Pamukkale, or just take the bus. After realizing the fee to drop off the car in another city was higher than the cost to rent the car, we decided to opt for the buses. Looking back, I may recommend just taking a flight from Cappadocia to Denizli (to get to Pamukkale), but if you want to see more of the country, and you’re not too rushed, the bus is a great option.
Instead of taking a 10-11 hour bus ride directly to Pamukkale, we decided to break up the journey by stopping in Konya (just a 4 hour bus ride away).
Days 5-6 : Konya (1 night)
Konya is a pretty big city in Turkey (all of Turkey’s cities seem big), but I will say that there really isn’t much to do. There are certainly a few places that could be visited, but it is not really a tourist destination-more of a business hub. No one spoke English there, but the people were all incredibly friendly and nice. Apparently known as the “City of Love”, we were happy to have a break from the long bus ride (despite how unexpectedly luxurious it was).
We used the time to relax and slowly explore after so many fully packed days. Most of the hotels are within walking distance of all the major sights to see in Konya.
If you are short on time, Konya can definitely be skipped! We spent most of our time there trying to buy a bus ticket to Denzili (in order to get to Pamukkale). We did stay at a cute hotel where the staff where incredibly friendly and even provided us with a FULL breakfast over an hour early.
Transportation: Leaving early in the morning, we made our way to the next stop for a bus to Denizli (6 hours)
Days 6-7 : Pamukkale (1 night)
After arriving in Denizli and taking a short (20 minutes) shuttle to Pamukkale, we arrived at a cute mom and pop hotel. Pamukkale is a very small town famous only for it’s STUNNING and unmatched thermal baths and snow like terraces of turquoise water. No trip to Turkey is complete within even a short visit.
On the first afternoon in Pamukkale, we checked into the hotel and then went directly to go visit the famous travertines. Check out the full blog post here.
I’m so grateful that we stayed overnight in Pamukkale as it allowed us to see the travertines in the evening for sunset and also in the morning, when no one was around. So I would definitely recommend at least one night here! Visiting that amazing place twice is very much worth it!
Check out the full post here: VISITING PAMUKKALE? HERE’S EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!
Transportation: We left Pamukkale late morning and went back to Denizli to take a bus to Antalya (about 4 hours)
Days 7-10 : Antalya (3 nights)
Antalya was our place to rest! It’s a beautiful beach city with so much to offer. After lots of traveling (regardless of how nice the buses were) and lots of busy days, we decided it was time to take it easy a bit, and have a small little vacation.
We spent two days relaxing at different beaches; Lara Beach (a sand beach with cute bungalows) and a cliff beach right next to our hotel. There were so many cute restaurants, fancy bars, and even an AMAZING restaurant/club right on the beach with authentic music, a wonderful vibe, and the most friendly and amazing Turkish people who taught us Turkish dance moves all night. It was the perfect way to relax after so many busy days.
Transportation: Sad to leave beach paradise, we left early morning for our flight back to Istanbul; about a 1 hour journey. FUN FACT! I had my best airline experience EVER here. We misread our luggage limits and combined we were over 12 kg! But Turkish Airlines was so kind and just let us board anyway!!!
Days 10-12 : Istanbul (1 night)
Our last few days in Turkey were spent in Istanbul. Only this time, instead of the Sultanhamet neighborhood, we went across the Bosphorous Strait to the Karakoy/Galata area.
The area of Karakoy and Galata brings to light a whole new side of Istanbul. Buzzing with people, cute coffee shops, boutique fashion, beautiful artwork, and more, this area feels like an entirely different city.
The famous Galata Tower, surrounded by cute and quaint restaurants, is only a few minutes walk away from fancy malls and fairy light lit streets. Check out all my Istanbul tips here.
To Be Continued…
Turkey was just incredible. We loved every moment of our trip. The people, the food, the diversity, and the amazing nature, it really couldn’t have been more perfect. The many bus rides we took allowed us to see more of Turkey and add places to our list of things to see for next time (the BEAUTIFUL lake region and the endless fields of sunflowers for example).
We honestly can’t wait to go back to Turkey one day and explore more that this amazing country has to offer!
Lots of love and safe travels,
Danielle and Brooke, Colorful Sisters