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Turkey’s a huge country with a number of stand-out locations. While you can’t do the whole country in a week, but this Turkey 7-day itinerary will give you a good introduction to a number of the most popular spots.
If you’re more of a slow traveller you could easily spend seven days just in one place. I spent 6 nights in Cappadocia on my first visit there and I’ve just come back from 12+ days in Istanbul. If you need a beach holiday then you could also stick to somewhere along the Turquoise Coast for a week.
But this post is about showing you a Turkey 7-day itinerary that will give you a taste of several contrasting regions without leaving you exhausted.
First, let’s go through some of the logistics when it comes to travelling in Turkey.
Getting Around Turkey
The country’s pretty vast and there can be a lot of distance between some of the popular tourist locations. Because of that, it’s common to fly between the various parts of the country. Flights are generally quite short, relatively inexpensive and run regularly between the locations you want.
The two main carriers are Turkish Airlines and Pegasus. Turkish is recognised as a good airline and in my experience, they’re excellent for both domestic and international flights. As a nervous flyer, Pegasus’ safety rating doesn’t make the cut for me.
Other options for getting around are train, coach, tour or self-drive. If you have a bit longer than seven days to dedicate to your vacation then a road trip could be fun. The roads are generally good although I’d steer clear of Istanbul with a car due to traffic.
Getting the coach is a cheap option although the travel time is long. I’ve done 12+ hours, 8 hours and 3-hour journeys on coaches in Turkey when I had a panic attack about all the internal flights I was supposed to do.
Although I normally find this sort of thing horrendously tedious it was actually manageable. When I got to the 3-hour journey it felt like no time at all, haha.
The coaches were clean and many have a row of single seats so I had my own space. There are regular stopping points for toilet and food breaks throughout the journey. (There are no toilets on the bus but every stop had western toilets as well as squat toilets.)
If you join a tour there’ll probably be at least one coach journey involved. But it can be a nice way of seeing the country as you travel through it (when it’s not too dark).
For this particular 7-day Turkey itinerary the trains aren’t very useful.
If you go with one of the 7-day itinerary variations I’ve given at the bottom of this post then you could do the travel between Cappadocia and Istanbul by train. It’s a bit more possible but the journey still involves several legs.
You can bus/taxi from Goreme to Kayseri and then the train from Kayseri to Ankara. High-speed trains connect Ankara with Istanbul for the last part of the journey. If you’re interested in using the train then The Man In Seat 61 is the place to get all the details.
Booking Public Transport
During my trips, I’ve used 12GoAsia.com for booking bus journeys. You can book online until a couple of hours before the buses depart and you can use a non-Turkish bank card for payment.
If you get too close to the departure time before booking you’ll need to get a physical ticket from the bus station before you get on. (If there are still seats available.
Guided Tour Option for Your Turkey 7-Day Itinerary
Tours are a viable option if you want to sit back and relax on your trip. While travel is fun and exciting, the logistics can also be a stressful headache.
Choosing a tour might be the best way for you to get around the country when you haven’t got time to be flexible. Or at least for part of it. You could navigate Istanbul yourself and then join a group to travel beyond the city.
Tours sometimes get a bad name, but I think it’s about finding the right sort of tour for you. Some groups are aimed at older travellers, others for a younger crowd.
The focus can be on history and culture or beaches and partying. Some might be more active than others. Check what the focus is and which version you’d prefer.
The maximum number of people per group can vary quite a bit. And that’s a factor that can affect both cost and enjoyment level. Similarly, some tours move quickly from place to place. If you’d prefer to have a little longer in each location pick a guided tour that caters for you.
Make sure you look into these aspects thoroughly before deciding which route to go. Of course, for maximum flexibility, you can choose a tailored private tour.
Tour Operators for Organised Trips
I can signpost you to the operators below that come highly recommended although note that I haven’t used any of them personally:
- Guided Istanbul Tours 7 Day private Turkey Tour
- Smart Turkey Tours Express Turkey tour small group or private option
- Intrepid offers packages if you have a full 7-days for the trip and can travel on day 8
Other Things to Know About Travelling in Turkey
Voltage and Travel Converters
in Turkey is the same as in Greece so if you have a European adapter plug you’re all set. Have a read of Power In Greece: Adapter Plugs, Voltage Converter…What You Actually Need to check you have the right adapters and whether you need a converter too.
Wifi and Data
Wifi is widely available around Turkey in hotels, shopping centres and restaurants.
I generally prefer not to use insecure networks so I picked up a Turkish SIM card to use while there. You can get them at the airport (there’s direction signage to these shops in arrivals.) The SIMs have data-only options as well as packages that include calls and texts.
If you have a particularly up-to-date phone you can probably activate an e-sim so you don’t need to take a physical SIM card.
Having mobile data is useful so that you can access things like GoogleMaps for easy navigation and Whatsapp for communicating/booking tours and similar events.
The official currency is Turkish Lira. However, because the Lira is so weak at the moment prices for hotel and tour-related charges are often given in Euros.
Because the Euro is more stable it means the operators receive a more consistent price for the product or service. It’s fair and they aren’t trying to scam or confuse you.
When prices are in Euros you’ll be told whether you’ll pay the equivalent in Lira or whether you actually give Euros. For example, my airport transfer in Cappadocia was to be paid in Euros.
Make sure you have notes though as coins are difficult to do anything with. US dollars are even accepted in some places (like international hotel chains) although don’t assume so.
Some cashpoints/ATMs in touristy places like Taksim Square and Sultanahmet dispense Turkish Lira, Euro and US Dollars. You can choose which currency you want. I like to have a few Euro in my purse as well as Lira.
Credit cards are widely accepted, mainly Mastercard and Visa. More taxis than I expected take cards but a lot don’t so you’ll need cash to hand. It’s a good idea to change large notes from the ATM in a shop when you can so that you have plenty of smaller notes.
If you don’t have the right money sometimes taxi drivers or shopkeepers will say they don’t have change.
Plus it’s good to have smaller notes for tipping.
All of my visits to Turkey so far have been a solo woman traveller and I’ve felt safe travelling alone. As with any country, there are things I do to help myself stay while I’m away. You can read about those things in this post Is It Safe To Travel To Istanbul Turkey? which also covers general safety in Turkey.
Best Time to Visit Turkey
Turkey’s a year-round destination.
The Turquoise Coast is best enjoyed in April (although cold for swimming), May – June and September – early/mid- November. In those months you’ll get the good weather without the sweltering heat and massive crowds.
Cappadocia can also get quite hot in summer which is not ideal for hiking and traipsing around the exposed outdoor sites. I’d avoid the heat and crowds in July and August if possible.
If you go in autumn and winter the temperatures plummet so pack accordingly. What I like about winter here is that the sunrise is later so you can get up at a semi-reasonable time for the balloons.
Istanbul is similar again. Expect crowds over the summer peak season. The shoulder seasons in spring and autumn are better. But don’t discount Istanbul in winter or even over Christmas. Crowds are fewer, the weather can be changeable but still with sunny days.
7-Day Turkey Itinerary
Obviously, you’ll need to tweak things a little bit based on your arrival and departure times. And also whether you’re even entering or exiting the country via Istanbul or popping over on the ferry from Greece.
If it all gets too much, remember that the easiest way for you to plan everything could be by joining a private or group tour.
Day 1 and 2 – Istanbul
Istanbul is an absolute melting pot of a city. Infamously connecting east and west, old and new it’s one of the best places to visit for a unique experience. Although it’s not the capital Istanbul is the most famous city in Turkey.
However many days you choose to spend in Istanbul there will always be more to do. So be prepared to do what you can and happily plan a return visit.
I recommend spending at least your first and last day in Istanbul. It gives you a moment to catch your breath after an international flight. And when you leave it means you’re not panicking about making it back for your return flight.
Day 1 – Istanbul
You’ll need to see what you can fit into your first day. Hopefully, you’ll land early enough to spend the rest of the day catching some of the sights. I’d go straight to your hotel from the airport and drop off your luggage. Ideally, stay in the old town so you’re close to many of the historical sites.
On day one aim to visit The Blue Mosque/Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace. They’re all in the same area of Sultanahmet along with other spots like the Hippodrome.
The queues can be long so see what you can manage in the time you have. Remember that Hagia Sophia is open until 10pm.
If you have enough time pop along to the Grand Bazaar to experience the chaos there. If you still have some energy after travelling and a busy day you can choose something else from my list of Things To Do In Istanbul At Night.
Day 2 Istanbul
On your second day in the city, I’d recommend a Bosphorus Strait Cruise which is one of the best things you can do in Istanbul. Choose to go on the public ferry yourself or book a tour so you have a tour guide to point out the various landmarks.
Things to look out for are Dalmbahace Palace, Ciragan Palace (now a hotel), Ortakoy Mosque, the Bosphorus Bridge, Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asian side and Maiden’s Tower.
You get the ferry from Eminönü just beside the Spice Market and Galata Bridge. I’d stop in there to treat your senses before getting on the boat. Then get off a stop earlier on the way back, at Karaköy Pier. From there you can walk up to Galata Tower and onto Istiklal Street and Taksim Square.
There are lots of shops, restaurants, museums, churches and other places of interest in the Beyoğlu area around Galata tower as well as all along Istiklal Street.
Take as long as you want to savour everything in these areas. When you’ve had enough return to your hotel and enjoy a nearby hammam.
If you’d prefer to stay on the south side of the European side you can get the boat back to Eminönü where you started. Head over to Balat and see the narrow streets and colourful houses.
In the area, you can easily get to the churches of St George and the Ecumenical Patriarchate and St Stephen’s Orthodox Church (the Iron Church) beside Golden Horn. From there you could get a taxi to Pierre Loti Hill and go up the cable car to see the views.
Things to note when planning your time in Istanbul:
- On Fridays, The Blue Mosque is closed for prayers until 2pm and Hagia Sophia until 2:30pm.
- The Blue Mosque is closed entirely for renovations until April 2023.
- Dolmabahce Palace is closed on Mondays
- Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays
- The Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays (Spice Market is open 7-days)
- A number of museums close on Mondays
If you’d prefer to join a day tour for one or both of your days in Istanbul look for good reviews on Viator, Get Your Guide, or Airbnb Experiences.
Travelling to Your Next Destination
Depending on whether you’re a morning person or a night person you can stay the night in Istanbul or move on. Take either a night flight to Cappadocia or book one of the early morning options on day three.
If you travel to Cappadocia on the evening of day two there’s an extra chance at a balloon ride if that’s important to you. Although the balloon flights run all year round there are obviously some days when the weather isn’t suitable.
If you only stay a short time and your ride is cancelled you won’t have time to book it for another day.
Either way, the flight time from Istanbul to Cappadocia is around 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can fly to Nevsehir, a local airport close to the town of Goreme or go to Kayseri International Airport a little further out.
Both serve the area and you’ll get transfers to your hotel easily (booking in advance).
If you’d prefer not to fly or you’re on a tight budget you can get an overnight coach from Istanbul to Cappadocia. It takes 10 – 12 hours depending on what time you depart. Buses leave Istanbul between around 8pm – 1am and arrive in Cappadocia between about 6:30 – 11am.
Day 3 and 4 Cappadocia
The stunning Cappadocia region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of various sites and towns and is known for its distinctive volcanic rock formations. Over time, the rocks have been shaped by the weather into fairy chimneys giving the whole area a magical feel.
There’s a lot of culture associated with the area because of the traditional homes, underground cities and rock churches that were built into the stone.
The chimneys are fascinating to explore and have created a beautiful landscape. That combined with the lack of wind means that Cappadocia has become renowned for its hot air balloon rides. Flights set off all year round and are a real bucket list item.
You can read about my experience of a hot air balloon trip in Cappadocia where I’ve answered loads of questions too.
Day 3 Cappadocia
If you’re doing a hot air balloon flight today you’ll need to spend the night here. Goreme is probably the best location for easy access to everything. Uchisar is a good alternative. Avanos is another option but a little further out.
Top Tip: Your hotel will normally be able to keep your bags for you as soon as you arrive. Since you’re going to be out most of the day it doesn’t matter that your room won’t be available to check in until later.
If you’re not going on an organised day tour and think you might need to crash somewhere for a few hours after you arrive then consider booking a room from the night before.
Even if you won’t use it until 7am it might still be helpful to you. Just remember to let the hotel know. (They’re used to people arriving on the early morning buses .)
Going back to the balloons, make sure you book your hot air balloon ride well in advance because it’s a popular activity whichever month you visit.
Whichever hotel in the area you’ve booked, you’ll get picked up and taken to the hot air balloon launch site. If you’re not booked to do this today or you’re only arriving on the morning of day three then find a spot to see the balloons from the ground.
If you’ve booked a boutique hotel there may well be a beautifully laid out balcony where you can watch from. Alternatively, Love Valley is a good place to see them or the sunrise and sunset viewpoint here.
Do take the time for this breathtaking sight if the balloons are running that day. After the excitement of the hot air balloons grab yourself some breakfast before heading out again.
The best thing for your third day might be to book a full day tour to see the various tourist attractions. The Red Tour covers some of the most popular sites in the north like:
- Uchisar Castle
- Goreme Open Air Museum
- Love Valley
- Paşabağ Fairy / Chimneys Monks Valley
- Devrent Valley Imagination Valley
- Avanos town to see pottery
If you’d prefer not to join a group guided tour you can hire a rental car and make your way around the attractions yourself. Alternatively, it’s viable to book a taxi for the day. Prices are reasonable and drivers know about the local area and good attractions and viewpoints.
I used Goreme VIP Taxis but you can also ask your hotel for recommendations. They usually work with one or two companies for their guests. Decide what would make the best day trip for how you like to travel and explore.
Top Tip – there are two open-air museums in the area. The one close to the centre of Goreme can get quite overrun.
For a quieter experience look at going to Zelve Open Air Museum instead. Although it’s not as close to the town centre it’s very near the Paşabağ Fairy Chimneys site.
Also, try and catch the sunset at Red Valley then head out to dinner. (I love Pumpkin Restaurant but you’ll need reservations). Alternatively, there are other good restaurants where you can try the local speciality of clay pot kebabs and other gorgeous food.
Before you go back to your cave hotel for an early night you could fit in an evening hammam too.
Day 4 Cappadocia
I’d get up early again today to see the balloons if you’re not booked to go up in one. It’s so magical to watch the hot air balloons fly overhead, hundreds of them just everywhere you look. Good places to see the balloons are Love Valley and the sunrise/sunset spot here.
Once the balloons have completed their flights head back to your hotel to grab some breakfast. Then you’re ready to head out again for the day. It’s a good idea to explore the south of the region today.
Remember that you can let someone else do the organising if you prefer. Just book yourself on a small group tour and get taken from point to point. The tour that covers the south area is the Green Tour.
Most Green Tours will take you to places like:
- Göreme Panorama viewpoint
- Derinkuyu Underground City
- Ihlara Valley
- Selime Monastery
- Pigeon Valley
Ihlara Valley is absolutely worth going to but it’s a bit further out. If you’re tired and want to stay a bit closer you could just do one of the underground cities, Pigeon Valley and maybe a bit of walking in Rose Valley instead.
The other underground city to visit is Kaymakli. It’s a bit bigger than Derinkuyu but is only 5 levels deep versus Derinkuyu’s 8 levels. However, you’ll have a similar experience whichever one you visit.
Kaymakli Underground City
Tonight you’ll leave for Izmir. Take a direct flight from Kayseri airport. Note that there are only direct routes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
You can book a hotel in either Kusadasi, Selcuk or Izmir for when you arrive. Selcuk is ideal because it’s the closest to Ephesus for day six. Being there will be handy for getting back to the airport afterwards but all these options work.
If you’d prefer not to fly to Izmir or your dates don’t fit with the schedule then you can take an overnight coach.
Recommendation If Taking the Overnight Bus
If you’re taking the bus overnight from Cappadocia bus station then just go as far as Pamukkale. Ephesus is about 3 hours further on from Pamukkale so it’s silly to go all the way there just to come back again.
Somewhere towards the end of your journey, you’ll get off the coach and into a minibus. (Don’t worry, someone will check where you’re going and put you in the right place.)
The minibus will take you to a tour office in Pamukkale where you get information about the various tours and activities. It’s a bit tedious at 5 o’clock in the morning but it’s worthwhile because you can leave your luggage at the office for the day.
Day 5 Pamukkale and Hierapolis
You’re going to spend day five exploring the combined sites of Pamukkale and Hierapolis. If you’ve flown to Izmir, then you’ll wake up at your accommodation in the area and need a way to get to Pamukkale.
If you’re taking a guided tour they’ll pick you up from any of the three towns you’re staying in. Otherwise, you can get the bus there and back and explore on your own.
Pamukkale, meaning Cotton Palace, is a town in western Turkey with an other-worldly landscape. You’ll see the petrified waterfalls and terraced basins that have been created by the calcite-filled spring water that flows there.
People come here to walk in the travertine/limestone terraces that have been created by the thermal waters and to bathe in the Cleopatra antique natural pool.
A word on Pamukkale: it’s an Instagram favourite but if you have pictures on your bucket list vision board it might not look quite as you expect.
Some of the area has been degraded through tourism. And although the scenery is still quite breathtaking although the terraces aren’t as extensive as they used to be.
Top Tip: When I visited I started at the bottom of the travertines and walked up them to Cleopatra Pool and then onto Hierapolis beyond. It’s a nice way to do things because the coach trip people only seem to explore the very top pools. It was much quieter in the lower section.
As well as the thermal pools natural environment there are the remains of Hierapolis, a flourishing spa town that was part of the Roman Empire.
Together Pamukkale and Hierapolis archaeological site are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And they make for a good day of exploring. The remains are in good condition in some parts, particularly the theatre which is used again for events today.
Take your time wandering around. But if you go in the summer take a hat and sunscreen because it’s quite exposed. It reminds me of Delos, the sacred island next to Mykonos.
There are places you can get water, including up the hill by the theatre so you don’t need to take too much with you. But do restock when you need it.
You’ll see the paragliders sailing over you as you explore the waters and ancient ruins. If you fancy a go yourself you can make time to do that today.
Once you’re all done take the bus to your hotel in Selcuk/Kusadasi/Izmir. If you left your luggage at the tour office leave enough time to collect it.
Day 6 Ephesus Ancient City and Selçuk
The ancient city of Ephesus is close to the modern-day town of Selçuk. It was an important city during the Roman Empire when it was a busy commercial centre and second in size only to Rome.
It’s a big site that’s very well-preserved and feels quite grand to walk around (well, maybe not the latrines). When you visit you’ll see monuments that were revealed during excavations like the Great Theatre and the Library of Celsus.
Christianity was important in Ephesus during the Roman Empire. And the city became famous as a Christian pilgrimage site. Firstly for the Cave of the Seven Sleepers then for the House of the Virgin Mary. Both these sites will likely be included in a tour with Ephesus if you choose to join something organised with a guide.
The other place you’ll visit is the Temple of Artemis one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Don’t get your hopes up though since there’s very little left at the site. It’s still cool to say you’ve been there but there’s not much to see.
If you’re making your way around the site yourself there’s a nice walk from Ephesus to the Artemis Temple. After you’ve walked through the city carry on through the car park and head towards Aladdin’s Rug Warehouse (see it on GoogleMaps).
Cross over the road (carefully) and then you can walk along the pedestrian walkway next to the main road. The main road is officially called Dr Sabri Yayla Boulevard. But locally it’s known as Mulberry Road since it’s lined with Mulberry Trees.
The road is very pleasant and you’ll no doubt pass others walking and cycling along it with you.
As you get back to Selçuk you’ll be close to Ephesus Archaeological Museum. If you’ve still got some energy you can visit that and Ayasuluk Citadel Selçuk Castle.
After you’ve hit your step count ten times over and seen everything you want to see on this epic day trip it’s time to collect your luggage. Get a taxi from your hotel to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport for a late flight back to Istanbul.
Day 7 Istanbul
Ideally, your flight home will be late in the day so you can get a good chunk of time in Istanbul. Use this as a “mop up” day to go back and do some of the things you didn’t get to on days one and two.
Activity Options for Day 7
This is YOUR Turkey itinerary so fill the day with whatever else you want to do before you leave.
If you didn’t get to the modern city center last time then you could stay around the Taksim Square area to explore there.
Another option I can recommend is joining a food tour. There are various options available but all of them include an introduction to yummy Turkish food.
You could do a taste of two continents tour or something more centred around street food. The amount of time you have available might dictate which tour you can do.
Museum visits could fill your whole day so choose some of the special interests ones from this list of museums in Istanbul if you haven’t had your fill.
Alternatively, choose one of the best shopping malls in Istanbul for tourists and splash some cash.
Consider Your Accommodation Location
Because you’ll probably be somewhat short of time it makes sense to stay within walking distance of the places you want to see or the meeting point for a food tour.
Alternative 7-Day Turkey Itinerary Options
7-Day Turkey Itinerary 2: Istanbul – Izmir Ephesus – Pamukkale – Cappadocia – Istanbul
Day 1: Arrive at Istanbul Airport and connect to a domestic flight to Izmir.
Day 2: Visit Ephesus and overnight in Selcuk/Izmir
Day 3: Bus to Pamukkale in the morning. Spend the day exploring Pamukkale and Hierapolis. Overnight by road to Cappadocia
Day 4: See the hot air balloons then do the Green Tour (see main itinerary above)
Day 5: Take a hot air balloon ride then do the Red Tour (see main itinerary above)
Day 6: Spend another day in Cappadocia to maximise the chance of getting your hot air balloon ride in case it gets cancelled on day 5. Fill the rest of your day with ideas from my post on 35 Spectacular Things To Do In Cappadocia.
Day 6: Wake up in Istanbul after flying back from Cappadocia on day 5. Follow day one of the original Turkey itinerary above.
Day 7: Explore Istanbul until your flight departs. See day 2 of the main itinerary.
7-Day Turkey Itinerary Itinerary 3: Istanbul – Cappadocia
Days 1 – 3 in Istanbul. Fill your days with the same activities as the Istanbul days in the original itinerary above.
Spend two days in the city and on day 3 take a day trip to the Black Sea or one of the Princes’ islands (if you visit at a warm time of year).
With either option travel to Cappadocia on the evening of day 3.
Days 4 – 6 in Cappadocia. Choose the activities from the main itinerary for days 4 and 5. On day 6 choose from these other activities and then fly (or bus) back to Istanbul.
Day 7 – Spend the time until your flight exploring other parts of Istanbul that you didn’t get to.
7-Day Turkey Itinerary Itinerary 4: Oludeniz – Fethiye – Pamukkale – Ephesus Selcuk – Istanbul
Day 1: Fly into Dalaman Airport or come over on the ferry to Fethiye from the Greek island of Rhodes. Spend the day hiking part of the Lycian Way and/or chilling at Blue Lagoon beach in Oludeniz.
Day 2: Go paragliding and then take a half-day trip to Saklikent Gorge and Tlos. If you’re not paragliding head out early and then come back to a cable car ride and meal with a view.
Day 3: Full-day boat trip. Visit Butterfly Valley, St Stephen’s island and all the other little beaches along the way.
Day 4: Visit Fethiye market if you’re there on a Tuesday or walk around the old town. Discover the rock tombs and enjoy the panoramic view from above the town.
Day 5: Take the bus or a taxi to Pamukkale (3 hours) then follow day 5 of the original plan above.
Day 6: Ephesus and Selcuk follow day 6 on the initial itinerary above.
Day 7: Explore Istanbul until it’s time for your flight home.
7-Day Turkey Itinerary Itinerary 5: Istanbul
With this option, you can base yourself in Istanbul for the week and take selected day trips if you like.
Days 1 – 3: Istanbul (use the main itinerary as a guide)
Day 4: Day trip to Cappadocia. It’s a long day but it’s possible to do a Day Trip to Cappadocia from Istanbul
Day 5: Half-day trip to one of the Princes Islands. Spend the rest of the day exploring the Asian side of Istanbul
Day 6: Food Tour / Black Sea Day Trip / Gallipoli And Anzac Cove Tour Day Trip
Day 7: Mop up day visiting museums, churches, malls or anywhere else you like to go and didn’t yet get to.