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How to Spend 2 Weeks in Turkey

No amount of time ever feels long enough when visiting such a vast country like Turkey. However, if you’re like me and want to see as much of the world as you can with limited vacation time in your 9-5 job, then it’s entirely possible to cover a lot of ground with just 2 weeks in Turkey. This itinerary is not for the slow traveler. You can easily extend this itinerary to 3 weeks or longer if you rather move slower through the country, but with some planning, you can do all this in just 2 weeks.

Istanbul, Turkey

Day 1-3: Istanbul

Any trip to Turkey will likely start in Istanbul, the largest city in the country. Istanbul is such a vibrant city with so much to do. If you live in Europe, it can even be a great long weekend trip. I’d start your trip off with at least three days in Istanbul. You can also add a day or two at the beginning then end with a day or two in Istanbul before you fly home. You can cater your time here to whatever you’re interested in – food, cultural sites, religious sites, shopping, or a bit of everything. Here are some recommendations of things to do:

Baklava in Istanbul


  • Food Tour: A great way to cover a lot of ground in a few days in any city is a food tour and Istanbul has such a vibrant food scene. I picked the Taste of Two Continents tour with Yummy Istanbul which was a full-day affair that covered both the European and Asian sides or Istanbul. They also offer night and half-day tours if you are trying to squeeze other things into your day
  • Turkish Breakfast: If you don’t want to do a full food tour there is one thing you should do while in the city of Istanbul is have a traditional Turkish breakfast. There are so many places that offer this but here are a few I recommend: Bazlama Kahvaltı, Cafe Privato, Arada Cafe, or Van Kahvaltı Evi
  • Street Food: There are fantastic street food vendors across the city and you would be missing out if you didn’t try some of them. You can find different kebabs, roasted chestnuts, fish sandwiches or wraps, freshly squeezed juices, kumpir (which is a massive baked potato with your choice of toppings), and the list goes on
Istanbul skyline


  • Hagia Sophia: Hagia Sophia is open from around 10 am to 10 pm each day but is closed during scheduled prayer times since it is a working mosque. To visit Hagia Sophia it’s completely free but you will likely need to wait in a long line that often wraps all around the square in front. I didn’t have time to wait, but I heard that it can move quite quickly. Try going first thing in the morning or late afternoon for the best lines
  • Topkapi Palace: Topkapi Palace has beautiful grounds you can walk around for free, but you can also visit the inside for around 500 Lira. The palace is the residence of the Ottoman sultans and the administrative and educational centre of the state, and you will want to allocate at least a couple of hours to give yourself enough time to see it
  • Blue Mosque: The Blue Mosque is free to enter and is open around 9 am until 1 hour before dusk. The mosque is an operating mosque so it closes during scheduled prayer times that vary day-to-day. Often you’ll find these times posted outside of the mosque. It’s important to note that, like any mosque, there is a strict dress code. You need to remove your shoes, cover your shoulders, and knees, and for women, cover your head. They will provide scarves at the door for those who don’t have one, but I always just carry around stuff in a purse or bag just in case
  • Basilica Cistern: Visit the Basilica Cistern from 9 am to 10 pm, 7 days a week. This is the largest of many cisterns that lay below the city of Istanbul and is truly beautiful. You won’t need too much time to spend here, but you may need to wait in line for a bit to get in depending on what time you go.
Olives in the bazaar in Turkey

Other Activities

  • Hammam Spa: This can be a great activity to do in the evening before you call it quits for the day. A must-do activity in Turkey is the traditional Turkish bath (hammam). The city has around 230 hammams that range from more local to luxurious. Here you’ll find a list of the top ten. I selected Çukurcuma Hamamı because it was close to my hotel. This one specifically was co-ed so it is great if you are traveling as a couple, but I went solo, and it was also fantastic, and professional, and I felt great after
  • Cool Neighbourhoods to Explore: Cukurcuma is a great neighborhood centrally located that is lined with antique shops. It’s super cool to just walk around and is loaded with adorable cafes to stop and have a Turkish coffee or tea in. Balat is one I didn’t make it to but is a colourful area that is known for its Instagrammable houses, diverse culture, and rich history. It’s full of narrow streets, cute cafes to people-watch in, street art, and galleries. Historically, it was the centre of the Jewish community
  • Spice Bazaar: Another stop that, in my opinion, is a must-do is the Spice Bazaar or the Egyptian Bazaar. It was the centre of the spice trade in the city and has 85 shops selling every kind of spice, tea, nut, and Turkish delight you can imagine
  • Grand Bazaar: A must-do when visiting Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world boasting over 4000 shops and 61 “streets”. The Grand Bazaar is often referred to as the first shopping mall in the world, built in 1455. Go early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds

For a more detailed itinerary for Istanbul, visit my guide on how to spend two days in Istanbul

Selcuk, Turkey

Day 4-5: Selcuk

From Istanbul, you are going to head to Selcuk. if you are driving yourself you can make a stop in Troy to walk the ancient city walls. The drive from Istanbul is about 6.5 hours. You can also get to Selcuk via domestic flight to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport or take a bus from Istanbul.

Day One: Selcuk is a great base for exploring the ruins of Ephesus. When you arrive in the town, you can visit the fortress of Basilica of St John which was built in the 6th century, or visit the Temple of Artemis which is one of the ancient world’s Seven Wonders, despite there only being a single-column left standing. The town has some great restaurants to hang out in as well. We stayed at Hotel Akay which had a pool and was really cute.

Emphasis in Selcuk

Day Two: On day two in Selcuk, head to the ancient ruins of Ephesus. You can choose to walk there which is about a 30-minute walk, hire a taxi, or take a mini-bus. Here are some details on how to get there. Ephesus is one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman cities in the world. You’ll likely want to hire a guide here to truly understand the extent of the city and its ruins. The theatre is the highlight and incredibly well-preserved. I recommend visiting Ephesus later in the day or first thing in the morning. There is no shade and it gets hot, especially during high season.

With the other part of your day, head to Sirince from Selcuk. Sirince is a cute village up in the hills that produces fruit wines. There are a lot of wine shops and cafes to sit in to try the local wine. It also is an adorable village to just poke around in, and shop for souvenirs or grab dinner at. The architecture nestled in the hills will give you picturesque views.

Day 6: Pamukkale

The next stop on your Turkey itinerary is Pamukkale. This is about a 2.5-hour drive from Selcuk. You can also take a train that will take around 3.5 hours. Turkish trains are nice and comfortable. Here is a full guide on using the train to get to Pamukkale. Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s most photographed sites. It translates to “Cotton Castle” and you’ll find natural hot springs with a high calcium content that cascade over the edge of the cliffs. This leaves the earth white like cotton. It truly is one of those remarkable places that just don’t even seem real.

Opt to walk up to the top of the Cotton Castle or drive. You can also hire a taxi. If you are walking it’ll take around 30 minutes. What we did was drive to the top and walked down. You will want to walk one way to be able to take in the beauty of the famous Cotton Castle and wade through the travertines. Plan to arrive for the opening to avoid the crowds if you can. It’s important to note that there are a few different entrances and some open earlier. During high season you can usually go as early as 6:00 am. However, some areas don’t open until a bit later like Cleopatra’s Antique Pool which you can pay to swim in – really cool and recommended, and the the museum. Take some time at the top to also explore the ruins of the city Heirapolis which is loaded with temples, structures, and an impressive amphitheater.

This is the main thing to do in this area so that’s why I’ve only left one day dedicated to Pamukkale.

Kayakoy, Turkey

Day 7-8: Kayakoy

Next on your two-week itinerary in Turkey is Kayakoy. Kayakoy is an abandoned village in southwest Turkey that sits very close to the city of Fethiye (where most people base themselves). The village can be accessed by taxi, car, or bus from Fethiye and is located near some great beach towns like Oludeniz Beach. To get there from Pamukkale it’s about a 3-hour drive, but you can also take a bus if you don’t have a car.

Kayakoy was abandoned in 1923 and is another place that truly feels out of this world. It was once home to over 10,000 people until the Greco-Turkish War and the population exchange. When I visited I stayed right within walking distance of the village, but although there are a few restaurants and it’s easily accessible to bigger cities/towns, there is not much to do around here other than visit the abandoned village. If you want to be more central, I’d stay in Fethiye instead.

Other things to do in the area are spend a day in the beach town of Oludeniz Beach, and/or do a hike on the Lycian Way. There is a trailhead right at the top of the ghost village. Note that you should wear proper footwear and be in good shape for this hike.

Kas, Turkey

Day 9-10: Kas

Next, we’re heading to the coast for some relaxation. From Fethiye, you can take a public bus to Kas or Kekova which have breathtaking views of the coast along the way. Kas is a beautiful picturesque village. It has whitewashed buildings, and cobble-stoned streets, and is lined with cute local shops and restaurants. You can swim from waterfront restaurants that have private water access (for a fee), and explore the handicraft markets.

From Kas, I recommend getting out on the water. We headed to Kekova to board a gulet for the day and night on board. The turquoise water is incredible and so breathtaking. Several tour companies are offering similar things in the area. Book in advance during the high season.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Day 11-14: Cappadocia (with a stop in Konya)

To round out your trip around Turkey, you need to get to Cappadocia at some point during your itinerary. Cappadocia is what many people probably think of when they think of Turkey because they are famous as a hot air balloon destination. Now this is going to be a long journey from Kas. It’s about a 10-hour drive or a 15-hour bus ride. You can fly from nearby Dalaman Airport to Nevsehir Airport but this is a long journey as well since there are no direct flight so what I would recommend is breaking up the journey.

Day One: First head from Kas to Konya. This drive is about 6.5 hours long (a bus will be closer to 9 hours). I know it’s long, but I promise the rewards at the end are worth it. Spend the night in Konya. Konya is a beautiful city in itself. It’s home to the famous whirling dervishes and you can visit the Tekke of Mevlana. This can be a great place to try some unique food to the region as well like Fırın Kebab (oven kebab), and Etliekmek which is like a large, flatbread pizza. Note that Konya is one of the more conservative, religious centres, so it’s important to dress modestly.

Day Two: Wake up early to get yourself to Cappadocia. From Konya, this is just over 3 hours and about 3.5 hours via bus. The long journey over the last 2 days will be worth it. Cappadocia is one of the most breathtaking places I’ve been in the world and one of my highlights from Turkey.

There are several little towns you can stay in in the Cappadocia region but I recommend Goreme. We stayed in Urgup and although it was cute, Goreme is more central and it wasn’t the most convenient to get around without a car. Cappadocia is honeycombed with caves scooped out to make churches and houses, and it truly is a photographer’s and hiker’s dream. In times of war, the people here lived underground which means there are multiple unique underground towns to visit and you can even stay in a cave hotel. Here is how you’re going to want to fill your time here:

Viewpoint in Cappadocia
  • Hot Air Balloon: If you are going to splurge on anything on your trip it should be this. It will 100% be worth it. Make sure, especially in high season, that you get a reservation for your balloon flight for the first morning you can. These can often be cancelled due to the weather conditions so if you can’t get out on your first day, you’ll want an extra day to potentially push it too. Expect to pay anywhere from $300-500 euros for this
  • Hiking: There are endless trails through the valleys here that truly feel like you’re hiking on a different planet. I recommend finding a trail that best suits your needs and fitness level on AllTrails there are also options to horseback ride, and go on a 4WD tour if you aren’t much of a hiker
  • Viewpoints: If you have a car another great option to take in the views if you are traveling with small kids or aren’t able to hike is the many viewpoints. there are a ton but to name a few: Red Valley (best spot to watch the sunset), Lovers Hill Viewpoint (best spot for sunrise), Pigeon Valley, and Monk’s Valley
  • Underground Cities: There are two main underground cities you can visit while in the Cappadocia region, Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. Of course, if you have the time, visit both since they are both spectacular and truly out-of-this-world. If you only have time for one (like I did), I’d choose Kaymakli over Derinkuyu
  • Open Air Museum: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Open Air Museum situated right in Göreme is a must-do on your itinerary in the region if you have an opportunity. For me, if I had to choose, I’d choose hiking and the Underground City over this, but if you have a chance to do all three, it’s worth it. It also entirely is dependent on your interests as well

For a full guide on Cappadocia, click here

To end your trip you’ll likely head back to Istanbul. The quickest option here is to fly directly from Nevsehir. I hope you enjoyed your trip. If you have any highlights or must-do’s for a trip to Turkey, please share below in the comments.

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