Our 2-week Turkey itinerary took us to ancient ruins, mesmerising natural landscapes and a city that may just be the finest city destination in the world.


Turkey is an intoxicating destination.

The great empires that clashed here have left towering Roman and Greek ruins, frescoed Byzantine churches, Islamic Mosques, Middle Eastern palaces, and an exotic cultural DNA.

Our 2-week Turkey itinerary delves into east and west, but also old and new. Istanbul is not just a city with a mighty past but also with a modern present. Contemporary art, hipster cafes and rooftop bars fill its many neighbourhoods. And yet modernity is not everywhere. Drive into the backroads outside the major cities and you will find old rural villages still living a subsistence life.

Head further inland to the remarkable Pamukkale and Cappadocia, and you will find unique landscapes that have been sculpted by the elements over the aeons. Remarkably still retaining a rural feel, these quirky locations are a playground for some excellent hiking and – of course – unforgettable experiences.

2 WEEK TURKEY ITINERARY OVERVIEW

Day 1-5 / Ancient ruins, rural villages and Pamukkale

Day 6-9 / Magical scenery of beguiling Cappadocia

Day 10-14 / Exploring Istanbul’s pivotal past and captivating present


WHY GO TO TURKEY?

Exploring probably the greatest city destination in the world

Staring in awe at mighty Roman and Greek ruins

Strolling rural villages trapped in time

Capturing sunset reflected on sparkling blue and white terraces

Hiking rippling red canyons and phallic rock towers

Friendly chatty locals serving excellent food

Truly great value, everything is very cheap

2-week Turkey Itinerary: Ancient Ruins, Magical Scenery & Istanbul

DAY 1 / EPHESUS, THE ROMAN CAPITAL OF ASIA MINOR

AM / This morning is dedicated to the stunning ruins of Ephesus, but on the way, pull off on the little road to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders. In its day it was the largest temple in the world with over 120 columns rising from a massive platform. It’s now just a single column made up of debris from the site. A somewhat poignant reminder of how mighty empires die.

Ephesus was the capital of Roman Asia Minor and, packed with buildings reflecting its power and wealth, is possibly the best Roman ruin in the world. While undoubtedly the Library of Celsus is its iconic image, make sure you pay the extra ₺20 to go inside the covered terrace houses for the incredibly well-preserved frescoes. It takes about 2 hours to explore the entire site.

TIP | If you are following this itinerary and intend to see all the sites included, get the 15 day All Turkey Museum Pass for ₺210 which will save you money and allow you to skip the queues.

Grab lunch in Selçuk, a compact town with a few streets and a relaxing vibe. There are a few tourists in this area but most stay at Kudasai on the coast. This means Selçuk will be your first tastes of local Turkish value.

PM / After lunch head up to the Church of St. John and Ayasaluk Castle. The church itself far outdid our expectations. It’s built on the resting place of St. John who believers say spent his final days in Ephesus where he wrote his gospel and died aged 100 years old. He is buried here according to his last request.

In 350 CE a basilica with a wooden dome was built over the tomb and then in 6th century CE, Justinian and Theodora knocked down the basilica and built a 6-domed church that survived for almost 800 years. It was finally destroyed by a large earthquake around 1360. These are the ruins you see today.

Continue up to the Ayasaluk Castle, originally built by the Byzantines in the 6th century, it was largely reconstructed by the Ottomans. It has good views and an old cistern and mosque to explore. Finally check out the Ephesus museum, a remarkable collection of statues and reliefs found at Ephesus, before grabbing dinner in town.


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Saint John Boutique Hotel, Selçuk
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Detailed frescoes in the Terraced Houses at Ephesus

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Saint John Boutique Hotel, Selçuk

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Detailed frescoes in the Terraced Houses at Ephesus

DAY 2 / MASSIVE TEMPLE OF APOLLO AND VILLAGE LIFE IN KAPIKIRI

AM / Today is a meandering road trip across a number of good ruins before finishing in a rural village set amongst massive boulders, rising mountains and a shimmering blue lake.

First stop is Priene, 55 minutes’ drive from Selçuk. Priene is an ancient Hellenistic hill town with fantastic views overlooking the valley and bits of ancient rubble littering the ground. Check out the theatre, the basilica and the Temple of Athena.

Drive a further 20 minutes to the ancient site of Miletus. It’s a massive sprawling site and you could spend a long time looking around. However, most of the area is an unexciting pile of rubble so we recommend you pick of the well-preserved theatre, the massive Faustina Baths and, in spring, the Iconic Colonnade.

Next, head to the Temple of Apollo (another 25 minutes’ drive) in Didim. It may not look that great at first sight but as you enter the columned temple you are immediately overawed by the sheer size of it. The columns are like giant redwoods, towering into the sky. In ancient times it was second only to the Temple of Artemis, the lone columned building you saw near Ephesus.

We had lunch just outside the temple at Aşık (Hisar Mahallesi, Didim) risking the tourist location for the warm welcome of the owner, and it worked just fine.

PM / Take the 50-minute drive to Kapıkırı through the beautiful Bafa Gölü National Park. Kapikiri – a rural farming village that is slowly absorbing tourism – sits just past a very inviting lake. Park near the lake at Herakleia and take the walk up to Kapıkırı for an insight into people still carving out a subsistence living. Remarkably even the tiniest lanes are shown on Google maps.

There are some odd bits of ruins from the ancient sight of Herakleia which are worth exploring. Walking every lane and collecting the rock tombs on the headland south-east of town takes about 1 hour. After strolling around, have a swim in the lake, then enjoy a beer at one of the small cafes in Herakleia.

Head back to Selçuk for the evening.


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Saint John Boutique Hotel, Selçuk
4 hours driving
Exploring Village life in Kapıkırı

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Saint John Boutique Hotel, Selçuk

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4 hours driving

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Exploring Village life in Kapıkırı

DAY 3 / APHRODISIAS MARBLE RELIEFS & TRAVERTINES AT PAMUKKALE

AM / Today is a long day so grab an early start. Drive 2 hour 20 minutes to Aphrodisias, a Roman city set in the Anatolian wilderness. The excellent museum has a room dedicated to the marble reliefs that used to adorn the Sebasteion, a temple to deified Roman Emperors and their Gods. It’s very well done and tells the history of triumphal Roman Emperors, the legends and myths of their Gods. It’s a miracle these marble reliefs, like so many others, are not sitting in a foreign museum. The whole place takes about 2 hours to explore.

Returning to the car drive 1 hour 20 minutes to Pamukkale, through verdant green fields with trees dotted around, as if placed by artists.

PM / There are two excellent sites to explore in Pamukkale; the Roman city of Hierapolis and the white calcite travertine pools. The Roman ruins of Hierapolis sit windswept on the hill. The well-preserved theatre stands proudly amongst the swaying golden grasses and the Martyrium of St. Philip the Apostle is a tranquil resting place for the tomb that is believed to be that of the Apostle. It is a beautiful scene on a sunny day.

But the travertines, blue water set in smooth white calcite pools, are the iconic image of Pamukkale. It’s excellent for photos even if some of the natural pools have been replaced by artificially created ones. You can walk on the travertines (without shoes) and bathe in them if you wish, so bring your swimmers if that tickles your fancy. We recommend you head to the balcony west of the travertines for sunset. It’s the best place for photos.

The entrance ticket covers both sites, and you could spend 5 to 6 hours exploring everything. You can only enter during opening hours, but you can leave anytime you like. Take food or drink with you because, for the only time on this 2-week Turkey itinerary, prices were pure extortion.


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Venus Hotel, Pamukkale
3 hour, 40 minute driving time
Sun setting over the Travertines at Pamukkale

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Venus Hotel, Pamukkale

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3 hour, 40 minute driving time

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Sun setting over the Travertines at Pamukkale

DAY 4 / ACROPOLIS AT PERGAMON

AM / This morning take the 3 hour,  40-minute drive to Pergamon (modern-day Bergama) and grab lunch at Paksoy Pide (Turabey Mahallesi, İstiklal Meydanı, 39 Bergama) in the centre of town for a traditional Turkish bite.

Most tourists who come to Bergama, stay on the coast and make a day trip to Pergamon. But on the coast you’ll be dining on bowls of chips from overpriced tourist venues with laminated menus. Bergama, on the other hand, is a genuine Turkish town full of friendly engaging locals. If you don’t understand the menu, just point at something and you’ll be away.

PM / After lunch head to the Red Hall, a battered building whose bricks were once clad with marble and floors covered with intricate patterns. It was completed in 2nd century CE and was the largest complex of buildings in Pergamon. Even today its scale is impressive. It is believed the complex originally honoured Egyptian deities but in the 5th century the Christians built a church inside the large Red hall and you can still see its ruined walls today.

In the late afternoon, as the temperature eases and the light turns golden, walk to the Teleferik and take the cable car up to Pergamum Acropolis. The hillside is dotted with excellent ruins, but the unmissable highlights are the Trajan Temple with its remaining columns holding up a well-preserved pediment; the grand theatre built into the hillside; and the discarded ruins that lay in the overgrown weeds at the base of the temple of Dionysus. Sadly, the Pergamon Great Altar is just a heap of stones compared to what now stands in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Keep an eye out for tortoises as you stroll around this interesting complex.


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Acropolis Guest House, Bergama
3 hour 40 minutes driving time
Standing alone in the evening breeze at Pergamum Acropolis/div>

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Acropolis Guest House, Bergama

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3 hour 40 minutes driving time

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Standing alone in the evening breeze at Pergamum Acropolis

DAY 5 / PERGAMUM ASCLEPION AND MUSEUM OR AYVALIK

AM / Start today by making a quick stop at the Ascelpion in Bergama, an ancient medical school that was renowned throughout the world. The site is dwarfed a bit by previous ruins on this 2-week Turkey itinerary, but it offers an education in early physicians and their work. Next head to the Bergama Archaeological Museum, a small but fine collection of sculpture. Grab lunch at the excellent Sarmaşık Lokantası (Barbaros Mahallesi 1, Bergama/İzmir). The offerings are all laid out in front of you so just point at what looks good. At around ₺35 for two it’s both a bargain and a treat. If you are still hungry head a few doors down to find a smiling lady offering tasty homemade baklava.

If however you are feeling a bit ruined out, skip the museum and Asclepion and drive to Ayvalik. Ayvalik is a diving centre with an atmospheric old town a few lanes back from the front. Think crumbling facades, cute bohemian cafes and various flea markets. The best area is along Barbaros Caddesi near the Aivali Food and Art shop. Parking on the front or in a car park just off the front is very straightforward.

PM / This afternoon drive to Izmir, drop off the hire car and fly to Cappadocia. There are two airports in Cappadocia; Nevşehir and Kayser. However, at the time of writing only Kayseri had a direct flight from Izmir for around ₺225 with Pegasus airlines.

At the airport hire a car and drive 1 hour to Göreme to begin your next adventure.


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Artemis Cave Suites, Göreme
1 hour, 45 minute drive to Izmir, 1 hour 30 minute flight to Cappadocia, 1 hour drive to Göreme
Lunch at Samarsik Lokantasi or strolling the flea market streets of Ayvalik

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Artemis Cave Suites, Göreme

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1 hour, 45 minute drive to Izmir, 1 hour 30 minute flight to Cappadocia, 1 hour drive to Göreme

HIGHLIGHT

Lunch at Samarsik Lokantasi or strolling the flea market streets of Ayvalik

DAY 6 – 9 /  CAPPADOCIA

Days 6 to 9 of this 2-week Turkey itinerary is enjoying the otherworldly environment of Cappadocia. Drifting in a hot air balloon at sunrise, hiking beautiful and unique scenery, ambling rural villages and sleeping in quirky cave hotels. All the details are in our dedicated Cappadocia Itinerary article.

Towards the end of your last day in Cappadocia, when returning from Soganli head to Kayseri airport, drop the car, take a 1-hour 25-minute flight to Istanbul and grab a 40-minute taxi into the city.

DAY 10 – 14 / ISTANBUL

Days 10 to 14 of this 2-week Turkey itinerary is the east/west vibe of Istanbul. Tour historically significant mosques and churches, explore the background of two remarkable world empires and hang out in funky modern neighbourhoods. All the details are in our detailed Istanbul Itinerary post.

Towards the end of your last day in Istanbul, take a taxi to the airport and fly home, hopefully feeling rather satisfied with a truly excellent holiday.

All the information you need to help you plan your own incredible 2-week Turkey itinerary.


We are firm believers that a little pre-planning, research, and understanding what you are looking for in a destination, will help make your travels far more successful. Here’s some further information we think you might need to plan your own 2 week Turkey itinerary.

GETTING AROUND TURKEY

Istanbul public transport system is excellent. Metro, funiculars, and trams all interconnect providing cheap, easy and quick access across town. Buy an Istanbul Travel card and just keep topping it up as you go.

Outside of Istanbul the public transport system is set up for locals and not for tourists. We recommend you hire a car for the 5 days travelling around the ancient ruins and the 4 days in Cappadocia. Car rental with insurance is cheap and the driving is relatively straightforward.

There is currently one internal flight daily between Izmir and Kayseri for access to Cappadocia and numerous flights between Cappadocia and Istanbul.

BEST TIME TO GO TO TURKEY

Many official museums in Turkey have summer and winter opening times. In winter the sites shut 2 hours earlier, which significantly curtails how much you can see, so it is better to do this 2-week Turkey itinerary between late April and Oct.

Turkey gets very hot in summer, so the best time for this itinerary is in the shoulder seasons of April/May or Sep/Oct. If you like your landscape a little greener come in late April/May, or if you are a barren and desolate kind of person, October may be for you.

If you want the big sites to yourself, coincide your trip with Ramadan. Very few Turks travel during Ramadan, so everything is much less busy. Finally, the Turkish currency has been very weak recently, making Turkey a very cheap holiday destination. Our advice: go earlier rather than later if you plan to visit Turkey.

TIP | In 2019 Ramadan will be 06 May to 04 June and in 2020 it will be 23 Apr to 23 May, making it best time to go to Turkey over the next few years.

WHERE TO STAY IN TURKEY

During our 5 days around the Ancient Ruins of Turkey we stayed in two excellent hotels at great prices: Venus Hotel, Pamukkale and Saint John Boutique Hotel, Selçuk.

In Cappadocia we highly recommend staying in Göreme. Many of the best hiking trailheads are nearby, sunset and sunrise viewpoints are easily accessible, and the town has plenty of facilities and restaurants. It’s a unique place with many buildings carved into the rock and lots of rooftop terraces overlooking the fairy chimneys and valleys behind them. We stayed 5 nights in Artemis Cave Suites,which has atmospheric yet comfortable cave rooms, a great location just under sunset point, and views over the magical town.

In Istanbul we recommend using AirBnB. It is a large city with plenty of availability and choice at good prices. There is more atmosphere and evening activities in Beyoğlu, Karaköy and Taksim than the old town and the transport links are good. You probably want to stay slightly away from Galatasaray and the centre of Istiklal Cadessi, as they are both very busy late into the night. Being within walking distance is better than having party town right on your front door.

2-WEEK TURKEY ITINERARY COSTS

Turkey is cheap at the moment, so visiting is relatively affordable. The total cost of our 2-week Turkey itinerary, for two people, was ₺16,590. With May 2018 exchange rates of ₺6 to the British Pound; ₺4.5 to the US dollar; and ₺5.1 to the Euro, this equates to:

4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
US $3,700
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
GBP £2,800
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
EUR €3,250

Total Cost

For 2 people, 15 nights
₺16,590Turkish Lira
  • ₺4540 15 nights' accommodation
  • ₺900 2 internal flights for 2 people
  • ₺1980 10 days hire car with insurance at ₺198 a day
  • ₺420 2 All Turkey 15 day Museum Cards at ₺210 each
  • ₺5,300 Food and booze
  • ₺2000 Other entrance fees, petrol and bits

BOOKING THIS 2-WEEK TURKEY ITINERARY

Most travellers will need an entry visa for Turkey, which can easily be organised online here.

  1. To begin this 2-week Turkey Itinerary fly into Izmir, an international airport 1-hour drive from Selçuk, the day before you start day 1 of this itinerary.
  2. Hire a car from Izmir Airport for 5 days, returning it on day 5 of this itinerary.
  3. Fly from Izmir to Cappadocia in the evening of day 5 to start your 4 days enjoying the incredible sights of Cappadocia.
  4. Hire a car at the Cappadocia airport that you choose to fly in to for 4 days.
  5. Return the car to the airport at Cappadocia on day 10 of this itinerary and fly from Cappadocia to Istanbul
  6. Fly home from Istanbul on day 14 of this 2-week Turkey itinerary.
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WHAT WOULD WE DO DIFFERENTLY?

A glaring omission from our 2-week Turkey itinerary is the coast. During our 1 month travels researching this trip, we headed south to Dalyan and Oludeniz on the Turquoise coast. But we quickly realised these are not the type of places we like to visit and left. You can read all about our experience here.

We also drove east across the Anatolian planes from Selçuk to Cappadocia via Egirdir, Konya and Antalya but concluded that the sites on offer were not enough to justify the 12 hours of driving over a short flight. So this carefully crafted 2-week itinerary is our pick of the best Turkey has to offer.

2-WEEK TURKEY ITINERARY/ OPENING TIMES & DETAILS

All Turkey 15 day Museum Pass /Free entrance to many museums and archaeological sites; Price: ₺210

Ephesus /8:00 – 18:30 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:30 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺40 + ₺10 parking at south gate + ₺20 terraced houses (Terraced Houses close 30 minutes before closing time). Ephesus is free with the museum pass.

Ephesus Museum /8:00 – 18:30 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:30 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺10. Free with the museum pass.

St. John Church and Aysaluk Castle /8:00 – 18:30 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:30 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺10 (Aysaluk Castle shuts 1 hour before closing time). Free with the museum pass

Priene /8:30 – 18:30 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:30 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺5. Free with the museum pass.

Miletus /8:30 – 18:30 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:30 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺8. Free with the museum pass.

Temple of Apollo /8:30 – 18:30 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:30 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺10. Free with the museum pass.

Aphrodisias /8:00 – 18:30 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:30 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺15. Free with the museum pass.

Travertines & Hierapolis /8:00 – 19:00 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 17:00 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺35. Free with the museum pass.

Red Hall /8:00 – 19:00 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 17:00 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺5. Free with the museum pass

Pergamum Acropolis /8:00 – 18:45 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 16:45 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺20. Free with museum pass; ₺20 for the cable car

Pergamum Asclepion /8:00 – 19:00 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 17:00 Nov-Mar; Price: ₺20. Free with the museum pass

Pergamum Museum /8:00 – 19:00 Apr-Oct; 8:00 – 17:00 Nov-Mar (closed Mon); Price: ₺5. Free with the museum pass

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Our guide for an amazing 2 weeks in Turkey / Turkey itinerary 2 weeks / Turkey itinerary travel guide / #turkey

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