This 14-day itinerary takes you to Turkey’s top sights(Istanbul, Cappadocia, Konya & Ephesus) in two weeks, including the day of arrival in Turkey and your day of departure.
You travel by plane, car and overnight sleeper train.
The programs for some days can be moved around to allow for holidays, museum closings, and alternative activities.
Arrival in Turkey
Many travelers begin their trip to Turkey in Istanbul, but if the flight connections work, it’s more efficient to fly right through Istanbul and on to your next destination. If Istanbul is where you enter Turkey, you’ll probably have to return there to catch your homeward flight at the end of your trip.
So save Istanbul for the end of your trip! You’ll save yourself the cost and trouble of a transfer from and to the airport, and an unpacking and re-packing at your Istanbul hotel.
Also, if you plan to shop, Istanbul is the Big Bazaar, and by saving your shopping till the end of your trip, you won’t have to haul your purchases all over Turkey with you.
Day 1 – Fly Istanbul—>Cappadocia
Arrive at Istanbul‘s Atatürk Airport (IST) International Terminal, buy your visa (if you need one), go through passport control, retrieve your luggage (and buy duty-free stuff at good prices in the baggage claim area!), walk through the Green Channel of Customs (if you have nothing to declare) and exit the secure area.
If you have time to kill before your domestic flight, the International Terminal may be a nicer place to kill some of the time before walking to the Domestic Terminal. Start your walk (15 minutes) to the Domestic Terminal no later than one hour before your flight time.
The free checked-baggage weight allowance is less on domestic flights than on international flights. If your luggage is overweight you will be required to pay a surcharge.
Depending on the timing of your flights, you may have some of the day left for a bit of sightseeing.
Day 2 – Cappadocia
If you’ve come a long way, you may want to make this an easy day. If you’re not tired from travel, choose from the top sights in Cappadocia: Göreme Open Air Museum(2 to 3 hours), the Paşabağ and Dervent valleys, Zelve Valley, Uçhisar and Avanos.
Day 3 – Hot Air Balloon & Sightseeing
Rise before dawn for your hot-air balloon flight via Butterfly Balloons, then back to your hotel in time for breakfast. If you’re scheduled to take an organized tour, you will be back at your hotel in time for pick-up. If you’re touring on your own, choose your destinations.
Day 4 – Underground City, Güzelyurt, Ihlara Valley, Ağzıkarahan Caravansaray
After breakfast, drive south to Derinkuyu to visit its Underground City, then drive into the mountains to Güzelyurt for lunch and a look at the town. Then to the Ihlara (Peristrema) Valley for a walk along the creek and visits to the monks’ medieval fresco’d cave-churches. Finish with a visit to the Ağzıkarahan Seljuk Turkish caravansaray, then retun to your hotel.
Day 5 – Silk Road, Beyşehir & Konya
Drive west through Aksaray and along the ancient Silk Road, stopping at the Sultanhanı and perhaps more of the Seljuk Turkish caravansarays along this route. Driving time from Ürgüp to Konya is about 4 hours, plus the time for stops.
If you got an early start, you may want to drive past Konya to Beyşehir (1-1/2 hours) for a lunch of lakefish and a visit to the historic Eşrefoğlu Mosque, then return to Konya and settle in at your hotel.
Day 6 – Konya Sights & Konya Blue Train
In the evening at 8:40 pm (20:40), board the Konya Blue Train, settle into your sleeping-car compartments(two persons, upper & lower berths, washbasin, cooler). the train hauls a dining car, so you can have dinner on the train if you did not do so before boarding.
Day 7 – İzmir to Şirince & Ephesus
Breakfast on the train, arrive at İzmir‘s Alsancak Gar at 07:30 am (or thereafter), to pick up your rental car (or meet your car and driver). Drive south to Şirince (75 minutes), drop your luggage at your hotel, and head out for sightseeing:
Ephesus archeological site (2 to 3 hours), and in the town of Selçuk the Ephesus Museum, Saint John Basilica and İsa Bey Mosque. If you wish, visit the Virgin Mary’s House and forest park. Return to your hotel for a nap and a relaxing evening.
Day 8 – Şirince & Ephesus
Day 9 – Istanbul
Transfer from the airport to your hotel, then stroll around Old Istanbul, getting your bearings, for the remainder of the day.
Day 10 – Topkapı Palace & Hagia Sophia
Day 11 – Day-trip to Edirne
Take a bus, a tour, or drive the 2-1/2 hours westward from Istanbul to visit the mosques of Edirne (Adrianople) representing the great ages of Ottoman architecture: the Eski (1418), Muradiye (1436), Üçşerefeli (1447), Beyazıt II (1488) and the elegant Selimiye (1575), masterpiece of the greatest Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan.
Also wander through Edirne’s old Roman district admiring the picturesque wooden Edirnekâri (“Ottoman Victorian”) houses.
You may walk down to the Meriç (Maritza) River to see the graceful Ottoman stone bridges, returning to Istanbul in the later afternoon.
Ali has an international flight at 1:00pm (13:00). He should leave for the airport at least 2-1/2 hours before that (ie, by 10:30 am).
Day 12 – Bosphorus Cruise & European Shore
Visit the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, with some of the most beautiful faience, and the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar,before boarding a traditional ferryboat for a cruise up the Bosphorus to Sarıyer. Lunch in Sarıyer, then drive south along the European shore. Stop to see Rumelihisar fortress. Tea in Ortaköy.
Day 13 – Chora Church, Mihrimah Mosque & City Walls
The Church of the Holy Savior in the Country (Chora Church) has the best 13th-century Byzantine mosaics east of Ravenna. We visit it and the nearby Mihrimah Sultan Mosque and 4th-century Byzantine Theodosian Land Walls. We can continue to the Fortress of the Seven Towers, Eyüp Sultan Mosque (where the Ottoman sultans were girded with the Sword of Osman, equivalent to Western coronation), the Church of St George at the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and/or the Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars, made completely of cast iron.
Day 14 – Onward or Homeward Flight
Leave the hotel for the airport.
—by Tom Brosnahan
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