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Best of Turkey, 8 days

created by fodors-partner on 2017-03-16

Best of Turkey, 8 days

A week in Turkey will only give you a taste of what the large and varied country has to offer, from the big-city buzz of Istanbul to the surreal natural landscape of Cappadocia. Regardless, this busy itinerary makes sure you hit the big sights and whets your appetite for a return visit.


Arrive in Istanbul and check into a hotel in Sultanahmet, the neighborhood close to most major sights. If you have time, visit the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern, all within a stone’s throw of each other. The Aya Sofya is one of the world's largest and most important religious monuments, as well as one of the most widely regarded examples of Byzantine architecture. The Blue Mosque and its 20,000 shimmering blue-green İznik tiles showcase the grandeur of Ottoman architecture while the Basilica Cistern is a stunning example of an ancient underground waterway and a quiet place to relax amid the chaos of the city above.

Start your second day with a visit to Topkapı Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, and explore the gorgeously tiled rooms of the Harem and the palace collections of weaponry, religious artifacts, and jaw-dropping jewels. In the afternoon, cross the Galata Bridge and head up to the waterfront art museum Istanbul Modern, where you can browse artwork from both local and international contemporary artists. Continue your journey into the city’s contemporary culture at the numerous art galleries and other exhibition spaces along İstiklal Caddesi, winding up at one of Beyoğlu’s many meyhanes for a dinner of meze and rakı.

On your last day, be sure to check out any of the major sites you missed on day one. Then make a stop at the famous Grand Bazaar to try your hand at haggling and pick up some classic Turkish souvenirs.


Take an early flight from Istanbul to İzmir (roughly one hour) and rent a car at the airport to drive the 84 km (52 miles) to Ephesus, a well-preserved ancient Roman city that is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey. Explore the marble-paved streets and partially reconstructed buildings and monuments. Depending on your forward travel schedule, you can either return to İzmir for the night or stay near Ephesus in the town of Selçuk or the attractive mountain village of Şirince, 10 km (6 miles) away from the ruins. Either way, if you have an extra day, detour to the Çeşme Peninsula on your way back to İzmir for some quality beach time.


Take an early flight from İzmir to Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, where you won’t want to miss the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, with its ancient treasures going back nearly 10 millennia, and Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the revered founder of the modern Turkish Republic.


Rent a car or buy a bus ticket for the approximately 4½-hour drive to Göreme, the most convenient base for a short visit in Cappadocia. Stay at one of the comfortable boutique hotels fashioned out of the area’s many old cave homes and spend the afternoon exploring the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a breathtaking complex of cave monasteries and rock-cut churches full of brightly colored frescoes.

Greet the sunrise on your second day in Cappadocia from an early morning hot-air balloon ride, one of the most popular ways to take in the area’s fantastical rock formations. In the afternoon, visit the Kaymaklı or Derinkuyu underground city, both mazes of rooms descending deep into the earth that once sheltered up to 20,000 people. Close out your trip with a meal and some local wine at one of the growing number of fine restaurants in nearby Ürgüp.

You can fly back to Istanbul from Nevşehir, about a 30-minute bus ride away. If your flight is later in the day, go for a morning hike in the Rose Valley before departing Göreme.
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