The secret: upon arrival in Turkey, you fly directly to İzmir (for Ephesus), saving Istanbul until the end of your itinerary, and you also save time by taking an afternoon flight to Cappadocia on Day 2.
If you live in the Western Hemisphere or another place from which you must fly overnight to get to Turkey, this itinerary is actually eight days away from home (six days in Turkey and two flight days).
Top Sites in 6 Days
DAY 1 – Arrival & SELÇUK (EPHESUS)
You arrive in Turkey, probably flying into Istanbul, and change planes for your flight to izmir‘s Adnan Menderes Airport (ADB). From the airport you take a train, rent a car, hire a taxi, or arrange for a private transfer to get to Selçuk or Şirince and your hotel. (There are no direct buses to Selçuk, only to İzmir; the trains are a better bet).
Settle into your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day in this pleasant town near the Ephesus archeological site. If you arrive early enough, visit the fine little Ephesus Museum in the center of Selçuk, or the nearby Basilica of St. John, or take a taxi to Pamucak Beach. In the evening, have dinner at a pleasant restaurant, perhaps outdoors.
DAY 2 – EPHESUS & fly to Cappadocia
Get up early to walk (30 minutes) or ride (5 minutes) the 3 km (2 miles) from Selçuk to the Ephesus archeological site.
I think these are the most impressive classical ruins in the Mediterranean region, and the morning, before the crowds and the heat arrive, is the best time to see them. If you like, take a taxi to the Virgin Mary’s House afterwards.
Sun Express and Pegasus airlines offer nonstop flights between İzmir and Kayseri in the summer months, but only a few days a week. If there is no nonstop flight on the day you want to fly, you must fly via Istanbul.
DAY 3 – GÖREME VALLEY
If you wish, rise before dawn for a hot-air balloon flight over Cappadocia. Otherwise, explore the “moonscape” of Cappadocia starting with the painted churches in the Göreme Open-Air Museum. Get to the museum at 09:00 am when it opens to get a jump on the crowds and the heat.
Spend the rest of the day in the Zelve Valley, and the pottery-making center of Avanos. After the heat abates, consider a walk in the country, perhaps in the Rose Valley. For dinner, choose a restaurant in Ürgüp or Göreme, or take a taxi to Mustafapaşa.
DAY 4 — UNDERGROUND CITY & fly to Istanbul
If you didn’t get up in a balloon yesterday, today’s your second chance. After you land, drive or take a tour to Kaymaklı or Derinkuyu to visit either of these Underground Cities. In the evening, fly to Istanbul and settle in at your hotel.
DAY 5 – ISTANBUL
Get to Topkapı Palace when it opens at 09:00 am and go straight to the Harem. Spend the rest of the morning in the palace. Then visit Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) before or after lunch, followed by the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, and the Basilica Cistern. For dinner, choose one of Istanbul’s better restaurants. (Note that Topkapı Palace is closed Tuesday, and Hagia Sophia is closed Monday).
DAY 6 – ISTANBUL
You get to sleep in! Enjoy a late breakfast on the rooftop terrace of your hotel with a view of the sea (most hotels have them), but take the tram to the Eminönü ferry docks to hop aboard a Bosphorus cruise boat.
Spend the afternoon shopping in the Grand Bazaar(closed Sunday) or the Egyptian (Spice) Market (open every day). In the evening, enjoy a Turkish bath, or go to Beyoğlu for dinner and perhaps an evening in one of the small cafés or music clubs.
DAY 7 – DEPARTURE
Catch your onward or return flight.
If you have a few more days, here are two itineraries that give you a little more time seeing Ephesus, Pamukkale, Konya and Cappadocia:
—by Tom Brosnahan
|Excursions from Istanbul