5-Day Drive Cappadocia-Ephesus

This itinerary is a good way to see lots of Turkey outside of IstanbulCappadocia, the Silk RoadKonya, BeyşehirLake EğirdirPamukkaleAphrodisias and Ephesusflying from Istanbul to Cappadocia, then driving from Cappadocia to Ephesus, and flying from İzmir back to Istanbul, all in five days.

You can also do this tour in the opposite direction, from Ephesus to Cappadocia. 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…)

It is a very full, tightly-packed itinerary, with some long days, but it’s possible. Also note that if you rent a car in Cappadocia and return it near Ephesus, your rental will be subject to a hefty return fee which may add a substantial amount to your car rental bill. More…

Add three full days in Istanbul to this 5-day drive itinerary and you’ll have an excellent first-visit-to-Turkey trip in the shortest practical amount of time. If you can afford 9 or 10 days, all the better.

(If you don’t want to make the 7-hour drive on Day 3, you can fly from Kayseri (Cappadocia) to İzmir, but then you miss Konya and the lake country. Here’s the alternate 5-day fly-drive itinerary.)

Your Itinerary

Day 1

Fly Istanbul—>Cappadocia, Tour Göreme, Zelve, Uçhisar

Take a morning flight from Istanbul to either of Cappadocia’s airports, Kayseri or Nevşehir, then an airline shuttle bus to your hotel in Cappadocia.

You could rent a car at the airport and drive to your Cappadocia hotel, saving yourself the small cost of the shuttle bus, but the expense of a rental car and especially the fuel cost will probably be more than the shuttle, and I don’t recommend driving from the airport. You’ll take the chance of getting lost (the route can be confusing), and have to deal with Turkish city trafficBetter to take the shuttle, believe me. You can arrange for a rental car to be brought to your hotel after you check in. More…

In the afternoon, visit the Göreme Open Air Museum (no guide necessary; 2 to 3 hours), the nearby Zelve ValleyUçhisar, and, if time allows, Avanos.

Day 2

Hot Air Balloon Flight, Underground City, Ihlara Valley, Silk Road & Konya

Rise before dawn for your hot-air balloon flight (if you’ve reserved this thrill-of-a-lifetime experience). You’ll be back at your hotel in time for breakfast.

Check out of your hotel after breakfast, drive to Nevşehir, then south to Kaymaklı or Derinkuyu to visit its Underground City. Cross the mountains via Güzelyurt to the Ihlara (Peristrema) Valley for a short visit, then continue through Aksaray and along the ancient Silk Road, stopping at the Sultanhanı and, if you wish, more of the Seljuk Turkish caravanserais along this route. Finally, arrive in Konya and settle in at your hotel. Here areKonya hotels.

If it’s still open, visit the whirling dervish Mevlana Museumtoday.

Day 3

Konya, Beyşehir, Lake Eğirdir & Pamukkale

Get an early start in the morning, visit the Mevlana Museum (if you have not already) and other Seljuk Turkish monuments (1200s) on and around Konya’s Alaettin Hill (2 to 3 hours).

The drive from Konya to Pamukkale is 450 km (280 miles), about 7 hours. Drive west to Beyşehir for a peek at the Eşrefoğlu Mosque, then continue to Eğirdir on the lake of the same name—a good place to stop for lunch or a snack.

From Eğirdir, drive west to Denizli and Pamukkale, settle in at your Pamukkale hotel, take a dip in the hotel’s warm mineral-water pool, and sleep soundly tonight.

Day 4

Pamukkale, Hierapolis, Aphrodisias & Ephesus

In the morning, explore the ruins of the Roman spa city of Hierapolis, swim in ancient Sacred Pool, then drive west along the Meander River valley, making the detour to Aphrodisias (123 km/76 miles, 1-1/2 hours) for a visit (1-1/2 to 2 hours) and lunch. Return to the main road and continue west to Selçuk (143 km/89 miles, 2 hours), to Kuşadası, or to Şirince, and your hotel.

Day 5

Ephesus & Fly to Istanbul

Visit the Ephesus archeological site (2 to 3 hours), and in the town of Selçuk the Ephesus MuseumSaint John Basilica and İsa Bey Mosque. In the afternoon, drive from Selçuk to İzmir’sAdnan Menderes Airport (ADB; 62 km/39 miles, 1 hour). Turn in your rental car and catch an evening flight to Istanbul.

If this seems like too much driving, look at my 5-Day Fly-Drive Itinerary.

Make reservations as early as possible for the services you’ll need for this itinerary. (Here are good Turkish travel agentswho can make all the arrangements for you if you’d rather not worry about them, and here’s my list of recommended private guides.)

Your Reservations

1. Flights on Day 1 from Istanbul to Kayseri or Nevşehir airports, and on Day 5 from İzmir to Istanbul.

2. Rental car from your hotel in Cappadocia on Day 1, to be returned at İzmir‘s Adnan Menderes Airport in late afternoon on Day 5.

3. Hotels for Days 1 through 4 (CappadociaPamukkaleEphesus area) and in Istanbul on Day 5.

4. Hot-air balloon flight reservation in Cappadocia (if you want this adventure). Reserve your places for the morning of Day 2More…

5. Airline shuttle bus reservation from Kayseri or Nevşehirairport to your hotel in CappadociaMore…

Travel Agencies

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:

—Efendi Travel, an all-around good travel agency for all services, based in Istanbul with connections throughout Turkey and abroad. More…

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 vansMore…

Turkish Heritage Travel, a full travel agency in Göreme with its own Cappadocia tours and hot-air balloon flights by Butterfly BalloonsMore…

—by Tom Brosnahan


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