Here’s an 11-day self-guided TripKit™ tour to the top sights of Turkey, including Ephesus, Kuşadası, Priene, Miletus, Didyma, Aphrodisias, Hierapolis, Pamukkale, Konya, Cappadocia and Istanbul.
Day 1 – Arrival & Fly to Ephesus
Arrive in Istanbul, and transfer to a flight to İzmir‘s Adnan Menderes Airport (ADM). Rent a car at the airport and drive to Selçuk, the town next to Ephesus (62 km/39 miles, 1 hour—here’s how), or to Şirince, or Kuşadası.
If jet lag is a challenge, have an early dinner when you arrive at your hotel, then a good long sleep, to prepare you for a full next day.
Day 2 – Ephesus
In the morning, explore the Artemision and the ruins of Ephesus (2 to 3 hours). In the afternoon, the Saint John basilica, İsabey Mosque, and the Ephesus Museum.
Day 3 – Priene, Miletus, Didyma
Take a full-day excursion to these three fine Hellenic and Hellenistic cities. More…
Day 4 – Aphrodisias & Pamukkale
Drive to Aphrodisias (143 km/89 miles, 2 hours), tour the ruins (1-1/2 to 2 hours), then drive to the ancient mineral-water spa of Pamukkale (123 km/76 miles, 1-1/2 hours), arriving in time for lunch. In the afternoon, tour the ruins of Roman Hierapolis, then relax and swim in the hot calcium-laden minearl waters of the Sacred Pool. Dinner and overnight at your hotel in nearby Karahayıt.
Day 5 – Eğirdir, Beyşehir & Konya
Leave Pamukkale after breakfast and drive through Turkey’s lake country to Eğirdir (140 miles, 3.5 hours) for a tea break and a look at the medieval caravansaray, then continue to Beyşehir (88 miles, 2.25 hours) for lunch and a visit to the historic Eşrefoğlu Mosque. Continue to Konya (48 miles, 1.25 hours), arriving in late afternoon for a visit to the whirling dervishMevlana Museum.
Day 6 – Konya, Silk Road, Ihlara, Ürgüp
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and visit the Seljuk Turkish monuments (1200s) on and around Konya’s Alaettin Hill during the morning (2 to 3 hours), then drive east along the ancient Silk Road to Sultanhanı(110 km, 68 miles) for a visit to the grandest of Seljuk Turkish caravanserais (built in 1229).
Continue through Aksaray (42 km, 26 miles, 40 minutes), then turn right (south) 11 km east of Aksaray for Selime, Belisırma and Ihlara (23 km). Visit the Ihlara (Peristrema) Valley, then head east via Güzelyurt to Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı to see its underground city. From the underground cities, drive north to Nevşehir, then east to Ürgüp, Göreme or Uçhisar and your hotel.
Day 7 – Göreme, Zelve, Avanos, Uçhisar
If you wish, get up and out before dawn to fly in a hot-air balloon over Cappadocia (optional). After you land, have breakfast, then explore more of Cappadocia.
Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum in the morning, then drive to Uçhisar, the highest point in Cappadocia, and ascend the natural volcanic rock “castle” for the panoramic view. Then head for the Zelve Valley for more cave-church explorations before heading to the riverside town of Avanos to see how local pottery is made.
Day 8 – Istanbul
Fly to Istanbul in the morning, settle in at your Istanbul hotel and explore the city as you wish. The Byzantine Hippodrome is nearby! If you wish, visit the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (9-5, closed Monday; stay to 2 hrs), right on the Hippodrome across from the Blue Mosque, or try a Turkish bath (1 to 3 hrs), amazingly refreshing after a long day.
Day 9 – Byzantine & Ottoman Istanbul
Start the day at Topkapı Palace, touring the palace, the Harem and the famous Treasury. Walk next door to Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) for a visit, then across the street to the Yerebatan Basilica Cistern, and on to the Byzantine Hippodrome.
Also visit the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, according to prayer times.
Day 10 – The Bosphorus
Arrive at the Eminönü ferry docks by 10 am to get a seat on the Nostalgic Bosphorus Tour ferryboat. Leave the boat at Sarıyer, have lunch, then go by taxi or bus south along the European shore of the Bosphorus stopping at Büyükdere to see the Sadberk Hanım Museum, and at Bebek to see the fortress of Rumelihisarı. Have afternoon tea in the shore village of Ortaköy, with its Ottoman-baroque waterside mosque and old Ottomanhouses.
Day 11 – Free Day in Istanbul
Lots of possibilities for your last day. It’s not a bad idea to leave most of your shopping until the last day so you won’t have to lug your purchases around with you. Spend most of the day in the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar, or in the boutiques and antique shops in Çukurcuma, off İstiklal Caddesi in Beyoğlu.
From Taksim Square, the hub of modern Istanbul, you can go downhill to Dolmabahçe Palace, north to the Military Museum, or you can wander southwest alongİstiklal Caddesi, the former Grande Rue de Péra, the main boulevard of 19th-century Istanbul: grand old embassy buildings, the Pera Palace Hotel, lots of boutiques, and even a whirling dervish hall. Plenty of restaurants for lunch. Walk downhill from Tünel Square at the southwestern end of İstiklal Caddesi to…
—Galata Tower (9-7; stay 1/2 to 1 hr) Best views of the city from this Genoese cone-topped stone tower. Continue downhill to Galata (Karaköy) Square and…
—Galata Bridge (stay 1/2 hr) Cross the bridge over the Golden Horn which links Old and New Istanbul, taking in the view. At the southern end in Eminönü, take the Bağcılar tram back to Sultanahmet.
Farther afield, you can visit the brilliant Byzantine mosaics in the Kariye Museum out by the gigantic city walls.
In the evening, take a taxi to Beyoğlu for dinner and perhaps an evening in one of the small cafés or music clubs.
Day 12 – Departure
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