"We want to see Ephesus, Pamukkale and Cappadocia, but we only have five days (after attending a conference in Istanbul). What's the best way to do it?" asked two female travelers from California, one of them in her 70s.
"We're relatively adventurous travelers," they said. "We don't do dangerous things, but neither do we need hand-holding."
In a private consultation, I proposed a five-day driving itinerary: fly from Istanbul to İzmir, pick up a rental car, see Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Pamukkale, then drive east through Turkey's lake country to Konya and Cappadocia, then fly back to Istanbul.
(You can also do this tour in the opposite direction from Cappadocia via Pamukkale to Ephesus. More...)
(Want someone to do the driving and guiding for you? Here's a private tour by car with driver-guide from Cappadocia to Ephesus that follows the same route as the itinerary below and shows you everything in only 5 days. More...)
(If you don't want to make the long drive on Day 3, you can fly from İzmir to Kayseri (for Cappadocia), but then you miss the lake country and Konya. More....
If you want to do the drive, make reservations as early as possible for the rental car, hotels and other services you'll need. (Here are good Turkish travel agents who can make all the arrangements for you if you'd rather not worry about them, and here's my list of recommended licensed private guides.)
Day 1 - Monday
Fly Istanbul-İzmir, Drive to Selçuk/Ephesus
Morning flight from Istanbul to İzmir (ADB), arrive by noon or earlier; lunch snack at the airport, or carry a picnic lunch, or stave off hunger until you arrive in Selçuk. Pick up your reserved rental car at the airport and drive to Selçuk (62 km/39 miles, 1-1/4 hours), the town next to Ephesus, or Şirince, the beautiful hill village nearby. Here's how to do the drive.
Arrive in Selçuk or Şirince by 14:30 or 15:00 (2:30 or 3 pm), check in at your hotel (here are suggestions). Visit Ephesus Museum, Saint John Basilica, İsa Bey Mosque (all in the center of Selçuk). Dinner and overnight.
Day 2 - Tuesday
Ephesus, Drive to Aphrodisias & Pamukkale
In the morning, explore the ruins of Ephesus (2 to 3 hours), then drive to Aphrodisias (143 km/89 miles, 2 hours); lunch either before leaving Selçuk or at Aphrodisias. Tour the ruins of Aphrodisias (1-1/2 to 2 hours), drive to Pamukkale (123 km/76 miles, 1-1/2 hours), arriving before dark. Settle in at a hotel in Pamukkale Town or Karahayıt.
Day 3 - Wednesday
Pamukkale, Eğirdir, Beyşehir, Konya
After lunch, drive from Pamukkale through Turkey's lake country stopping at Eğirdir for lunch, and in Beyşehir to see the Eşrefoğlu Mosque, then arriving in Konya (450 km, 280 miles, 7 hours). Here are Konya hotels.
Day 4 - Thursday
Konya, Silk Road, Ihlara Valley, Underground Cities, Cappadocia
In the morning, visit the whirling dervish Mevlana Museum and other Seljuk Turkish monuments (1200s) on and around Konya's Alaettin Hill (2 to 3 hours), then drive east along the ancient Silk Road to Sultanhanı (110 km, 68 miles, 1-1/2 hours) for a brief look at the grandest of Seljuk Turkish caravanserais(built in 1229), and lunch.
Spend an hour or two at Ihlara, then head east to Derinkuyu to see its underground city, though if you don't watch your time carefully on this day you may arrive after it is closed for the day (17:00/5 pm).
Day 5 - Friday
Cappadocia, Fly Kayseri-Istanbul
You could drive to the Kayseri or Nevşehir airport and turn in your rental car there, saving yourself the cost of the airport shuttle bus, but I don't recommend driving to the airport. You'll have to leave earlier, take the chance of getting lost (the route can be confusing), and deal with Turkish city traffic in Kayseri, probably at rush hour, and maybe in the dark. Better to turn in your rental car at your hotel and take the shuttle, believe me.
Fly to Istanbul and settle in at your hotel there.
If this seems like too much driving, look at my 5-Day Fly-Drive Itinerary.
Using a good travel agency to make reservations offers important advantages. Read this.
If you'd like help for your reservations, these excellent travel agencies have partnered with TurkeyTravelPlanner.com to make them easily:
—Argeus Tourism & Travel, an official ticket agency for Turkish Airlines as well as for other airlines, and they operates the Turkish Airlines shuttle buses between Cappadocia and Kayseri's Erkilet Airport. More...
—Travel Atelier, specialists in Cappadocia weddings and honeymoons, as well as wine and culinary tours, not to mention all regular travel agency services such as hotels, rental/hire cars, guides, flights, etc. More...
—Rock Valley Travel, a full service agency with a good variety of guided tours of Cappadocia, as well as tours of Eastern and Southeastern Turkey. They're the official ticket agency for Turkish Statae Railways, also for Atlasjet, and they operate the AtlasJet airport shuttle vans. More...
—by Tom Brosnahan
|5-Day Drive Cappadocia—>Ephesus|