After visiting Turkey more than 10 times over the last couple years this summer I decided to go wild on my Turkey trip and travel to off the beaten path places on top of the standard top sights in Turkey and created the ultimate itinerary. With this Turkey itinerary you can easily plan your Turkey trip yourself.
Trust me, traveling to Turkey does not need to be done in a group trip or with a tour operator. Let me convince you that you can do this on your own.
I called this blog the ultimate Turkey itinerary for 2 weeks because I squeezed in all the best places to visit in Turkey, but I would suggest to pick your favorites from this itinerary and skip some places if you only have 7 or 10 days for your Turkey trip.
Travel to Turkey during Covid
This travel blog is based on my Turkey trip in August and September 2020 during the Corona Pandemic. For the most part of my trip I did NOT experience anything different than on all my other trips to Turkey, but one thing did change... the amount of tourists. If you ask me now is the best time to travel to Turkey! Was it safe? Hell yeah! I have NEVER felt unsafe at Turkey ever.
For my complete guide on traveling to Turkey during the Corona pandemic, read my latest Turkey blog in the link.
Turkey road trip
I would highly recommend you to rent a car upon arrival and take a Turkey road trip. Afraid of driving in Turkey? Don’t you worry, I drove almost 4,500km (2,800 miles) through the country and not a single time I got stuck in traffic. As soon as you leave Istanbul, the days on the road are very relaxed and road conditions are extremely good. Actually impressively good, like unexpected good! :)
Fuelling up your car is very cheap in Turkey as 1L of gas costs around 6 TL, less than $1 depending on the exchange rate. Car rental cost for 14 days? Less than $250! So what are you waiting for? A Turkey road trip is the best way to visit Turkey!
In total I drove more than 4,500 kilometer around Turkey! An absolutely amazing trip. Save this Pin on Pinterest!
Turkey Itinerary Map
Below you can find a map of the ultimate Turkey itinerary for 14 days with all the stops included. There are more than 14 stops, but you can do some of them in 1 day.
Places to see in Turkey:
- Amasra, Safranbulo
- Sumela Monastery
- Mount Nemrut
- Egirdir LAke
- Lake Salda
- Sirince, Ephesus
- Pergamon, Bergama
For any Turkey road trip I strongly recommend you to buy a prepaid sim card for Turkey. It is cheap and super useful to be connected and there is 4G almost everywhere, check out the link to find the best network and best mobile operator. You can also buy a sim card at Istanbul Airport or SAW Airport, although the exact same prepaid sim cards for Turkey are more expensive at the airports.
Turkey Itinerary for 14 days
If you let me help you plan your Turkey trip you see that I am sending you all over the country. From East to West and from North to South. For a reason of course, because there are so many more cool things to do in Turkey than just Cappadocia, Istanbul, Bodrum and Pamukkale.
It is best to plan your Turkey trip counter clockwise around the country. That way you do most of the long driving days in the beginning and they get shorter day by day. Plus you have the beaches towards the end of your Turkey trip.
Day 1: Amasra and Safranbolu - Charming Fishing Village on the Black Sea
Let’s not start with Istanbul, but straight away jump in your rental car when arriving at Istanbul Airport and drive Northeast towards Amasra. This is also where you are going to spend your first night.
Amasra once was a sleeping fishing village, but now turned into a popular Turkey tourist destination. The narrow streets, an abundance of restaurants, ice cream shops and souvenir stalls will make you feel like on a holiday on your first day. Roaming the lively streets at night is the perfect way to experience Amasra to its fullest.
Try to reach Amasra, which is a 4 hour drive from Istanbul, before sunset. If you won’t make that get up early in the morning for sunrise. They are magical, a short hike up will get you to an amazing viewpoint.
Click on the link to find out the Google Maps location of the best sunset spot in Amasra.
If you have enough time stop on day 1 stop in Safranbolu, a village listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. This old traditional village is worth a stop, as you drive past it anyway, either on day 1 or on day 2 of this Turkey itinerary.
Where to stay in Amasra
The Northdoor Amasra Hotel is a great Amasra hotel with the best reviews in town and costs only around $50 per night.
Day 2: Uzungol - Switzerland of Turkey
Be prepared for a long drive of more than 10 hours, but the next morning you will wake up in the Switzerland of Turkey: Uzungol. On day 2 you basically drive all day long along the Black Sea coast. You will also pass Trabzon, the biggest city on the Black Sea, but I recommend you to continue to Uzungol and you will thank me for mentioning this amazing Turkey tourist destination in this itinerary.
The reason I recommend you to tour this Turkey itinerary counterclockwise around the country is that the first couple days are long days on the road. Better to have them in the beginning than in the end. Don't see this as a wasted day! You are driving along the Black Sea. Take a break in the city of Samsun.
Where to stay in Uzungol
The Nova Uzungol has great reviews, a good view and is only $40 per night.
Day 3: Sumela Monastery - a Hidden Gem in Turkey
Wake up breathing in the fresh air of the mountains in Uzungol and sip a Turkish tea overlooking the fabulous Valley with the Uzungol Lake. No need to tell you that hiking around the Uzungol Lake is the best thing to do here. Spend the morning surrounded by mountain peaks and green landscapes.
Get back on the road and drive back to Trabzon, if you have time you can check out the city, but it wasn’t my favorite. I suggest you continue onwards to the next Turkey tourist destination: Sumela Monastery. From Uzungol to Sumela Monastery takes about 2 hours.
The Sumela Monastery was under construction when I visited and it was raining. At first I wasn’t convinced, but when I saw the paintings of the rock church I realized this should be included in every Turkey itinerary.
It is easy to get to the Sumela Monastery, which is hidden deep into the forest of the Altindere National Park. From the main parking lot you have to a shuttle up a steep mountain road that brings you to the entrance of the monastery. Sumela monastery entrance fee is 20 TL.
After you visited the Sumela Monastery and get back on the road, driving south to the next place to visit in Turkey: Mount Nemrut. Break the long trip by staying overnight in the city of Erzincan (3h drive) or Elazig (6h drive).
Day 4: Mount Nemrut - surprisingly fabulous UNESCO site on 2,100m
To me Mount Nemrut turned out to be on of the most surprising places to visit in Turkey. It is located off hte beaten path in Turkey and you won’t find many tourists here. Also because this UNESCO World Heritage site is located on 2,134 meter (7,000 ft) altitude.
Mount Nemrut are actually two tombs dating back to 70 BC with on top statues that used to be 8-9 meters (29 ft) high. Unfortunately the heads are broken off, but they placed them in front of the statues. An absolutely must see in Turkey! Mount Nemrut entrance fee is 20 TL.
To get to Mount Nemrut is fairly easy as you drive up to the parking lot and from there it is only a 10 minute hike. My secret Turkey travel tip would be to visit Mount Nemrut for either sunset or sunrise, but you gotta play a little around with your Turkey itinerary to make this happen.
Where to stay in Mount Nemrut
Continue the drive for today until you reach Gaziantep (3 hours drive). This big city in the South of Turkey is renowned for its outstanding gastronomy. In Gaziantep you can find 5-star hotels for as less as $50 per night. I stayed in the Sirehan Hotel which I would totally recommend you to stay as well.
Day 5: Gaziantep and Adana
One of the must visit places in Turkey if you are a food lover is Gaziantep. Indulge on the local delicacies here a city that is UNESCO listed for its gastronomy. More than 50% of all business are directly related to gastronomy.
You have to try the Alinazik Kebab as it is Gaziantep’s specialty dish: pieces of kebab on top of bed of yoghurt with eggplant topped with a bit of buttery oil. Very rich and filling, but I was a fan! After dinner you of course have to try the famous pistachio Baklava. According to people from Gaziantep this is where the pistachio baklava originates.
After you indulged yourself on the great tastes of Gaziantep you could walk around the bazaar which is rather small but authentic and check out the Gaziantep castle, but that is about it.
Next on your Turkey itinerary is Adana, famous for its amazing mosque. Until lately it was the biggest mosque in Turkey and from the outside it looks absolutely majestic, but don’t forget to check it out from the inside, you will be stunned a second time. The Adana Sabanci Merkez Mosque is totally worth it adding to your Turkey itinerary.
Where to stay in Adana
Stay overnight in Adana where you can easily find a 5-star hotel for under $50 per night. Check out the Sheraton Grand Adana which has actually great views over the river and the Sabanci Merkez mosque.
Day 6: Cappadocia - Hiking in Moonlike Landscapes
The only tourist destination in Turkey where I advice you to stay more than 1 night on this itinerary. Not just because of the hot-air balloons but so far it has been an intense trip and Cappadocia is the perfect place to unwind and chill for a day or go hiking.
The day you arrive you will miss the hot air balloons as they start at sunrise around 6.00 am. But don’t worry if weather permits they rise every morning en mass, up to 150 at the same time. From Adana to Cappadocia is a 3 hour drive, so enough time to go hiking in the afternoon.
If you don’t feel like hiking you can arrange a taxi for about $25 for a couple hours. The best places to visit in Cappadocia are: Love Valley, Pigeon Valley and Rose Valley. Other cool things to do in Cappadocia are Uchisar Castle, the Goreme Open Air Museum, the Fairy Chimneys.
Where to stay in Cappadocia
My Cappadocia hotel tip is the Koza Cave Hotel. It has the highest rooftop terrace in town and balloons fly just a couple meters above the terrace. I have seen the videos on Instagram and it looks almost unreal. Click here to find the best rates for your dates in Cappadocia.
Day 7: Cappadocia - Magical Hot Air Balloon ride
On this day it is time for one of the best things to do in Turkey: a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. I sincerely hope the weather is nice and there will be dozens of balloons taking off. It simply is a magical moment and one of those once in a lifetime experiences.
I have been a bit unlucky on the two times I visited Goreme. The first time in December 2014 it was snowing and ice cold, still I did a freezing balloon ride in cloudy skies. The second time in August 2020, there were no balloons flights because of Covid-19. No problem, I happily visit Cappadocia over and over.
Enjoy the rest of your day by checking out the remaining places to visit in Cappadocia. Staying for 2 nights in this magical town gives you the chance to find a viewpoint for the other morning. Sit back and stare at the morning sky seeing all the balloons rise.
Day 8 : Konya, Egirdir and Fethiye - History, Lake and Sea side
After another amazing hot air balloon sunrise in Cappadocia drive east towards Konya (3h drive). Consider a detour via Meke Crater Lake, an absolutely breathtaking volcano popping out of a lake. Go off the beaten path to this very unknown place to visit in Turkey!
Konya is one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Obviously history can be found all around and some cool places to visit in Konya are: the green tiled mausoleum of Mevlana, the Alaeddin Mosque, the striking facade of the İnce Minareli Madrasah dating back to 1264 and the Selimiye Mosque on the big main square in the city center.
Don’t spend too long in Konya though because lunch is waiting for you in Egirdir (2,5h drive). Right on the shores of Egirdir Lake you will find a little peninsula called Kale.
Life at Egirdir Lake is very much slow paced and not many international tourists find their way to this amazing Turkey tourist destination.
It is the perfect place for lunch. Head to the Melodi Restaurant for great views over the lake.
After lunch continue your way to Fethiye (3,5h drive), one of the most famous tourist destinations in Turkey and enjoy the beautiful beaches. For my Fethiye hotel recommendation see below.
Day 9: Fethiye & Ölüdeniz - Butterfly Valley, Blue Lagoon & Paragliding
One of the best places to visit in Fethiye is the Butterfly Valley. It can only be reached by boat, so hop on one of the shuttle boats for 40 TL one way to get away from the tourists. A beutiful stretch of white sand beach perched between two high mountains is waiting for you.
In the afternoon go to Ölüdeniz where you will find the famous Blue Lagoon in Turkey. The beach is so white that without sunglasses you won’t survive and the sea has the deepest blue color. Absolutely spectacular.
Ölüdeniz is also popular for paragliding. Undoubtedly you will see loads of paragliders high above the Blue Lagoon. They take off from Mount Babadag, which is another cool place to visit in Fethiye. There is the Zirve restaurant on top so even if you are not one of those adventurers that wants to go paragliding in Ölüdeniz then order a drink and watch these daredevils taking off one by one.
My secret Turkey travel tip is the tiny little Greek island of Kastellorizo, only 3 kilometers from the Turkish mainland away. It is an absolutely gorgeous and picturesque island that is really high on my bucketlist of places to visit in Turkey. I know it belongs to Greece, but it is best to be visit by a 10 minute boat ride from Kas, Turkey 1,5 hour drive from Fethiye.
I know I am stuffing this Turkey itinerary with too many cool things to do right? But I am just giving you all the options. You decide which tourist destinations and activities you pick. :)
Where to stay in Fethiye
If budget allows you I would recommend you to stay in Beyaz Yunus Hotel, a charming boutique hotel, one of my favorite Fethiye hotels.
Day 10: Pamukkale & Lake Salda - A Natural World Wonder & Maldives of Turkey
On day 10 of this Turkey itinerary it is time for another Turkey top sight which is mentioned in every Turkey travel guide: Pamukkale. It was only my first time visiting lately and I encourage you to add this destination to your trip. Entrance fee 50 TL
The drive from Fethiye to Pamukkale take less than 3 hours, but first make a detour (1 hour extra) to the Maldives of Turkey: Lake Salda.
Lake Salda is an absolutely breathtaking beach destination in Turkey that is NOT on the sea. This extraordinary lakeside beach is just wow, see the picture below and decide yourself.
Pamukkale is a very unique site where carbonated minerals from thermal spring formed beautiful white terraces that are filled with water. Nowadays you are able to swim in these stunning little pools, well…
First off let me tell you that there is a shortage of water at Pamukkale so most of the pools are dry nowadays. Second, visiting Pamukkale is a very popular thing to do in Turkey so tourism is taken its toll. Therefore man-made pools are created for tourists to swim in to protect the original ones.
Completely understandable, let’s preserve this natural world wonder before we humans destroy another master piece created by mother Earth.
At first I wasn’t convinced by visiting Pamukkale, but towards sunset it was suddenly magical. My Turkey travel tip for Pamukkale is to visit this site a couple hours before sunset. First roam around the ancient Greek city of, which is connected to Pamukkale. The theater is the most amazing and best preserved theater I have visited in Turkey.
Then towards sunset pick your pool to relax and you will see that as soon as the sun is almost down, 95% of the tourists are gone and you will have this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site all for yourself.
Where to stay in Pamukkale
An affordable place to stay in Pamukkale is the Bellamaritimo for just $30 a night you already have a room with a big swimming pool. An affordable 5-star hotel is the Doga Thermal Health & Spa hotel for less than $150 per night.
Day 11: Bodrum - Exclusive Beach Clubs and Charming Villages
It is finally time to party on your Turkey itinerary as you are reaching one of the most popular beach destinations in Turkey. Bodrum is often called the Ibiza of Turkey. Here you will find a bustling boulevard, endless beaches, but also exclusive beach clubs.
The drive from Pamukkale to Bodrum takes 3,5 hours.
Get yourself a cabana in one of the popular beach clubs like for example Buddha Bar & Beach. A more quiet, but utterly stunning beach club is Kai Beach & Restaurant. Sit back, relax and enjoy people watching. This is where the rich and famous Turks hang out.
On top of that the Bodrum peninsula has more to offer. Some really cool places to visit in Bodrum are the charming villages of Mugla, Akyaka and Eski Doganbey.
Where to stay in Bodrum
If you feel like spoiling yourself then look up the exclusive Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, Allium Villas Resort, Caresse a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa or the Bodrum EDITION. All of them absolutely stunning Bodrum Hotels, but also expensive.
A cute little boutique hotel and much more affordable ($50 per night) is the Petra Butik Otel.
Day 12: Sirince & Ephesus - Ancient Greek city and wine tasting
Relax a little more in Bodrum as you have a chilled day ahead. Your next destination in Turkey is a quaint mountain village with traditional houses called Sirince, famous for its wines and laid-back atmosphere. The drive from Bodrum to Sirince takes only 2,5 hours.
You can either decide to first check in to your hotel in Sirince first and then go to Ephesus or the other way around. Ephesus is one of the most amazing places to visit in Turkey and just a 10 minute drive from Sirince.
The Ephesus entrance fee is 100 TL but that is a fair price as you will enter a whole ancient Greek city dating back to 1,000 BC. There is a big theater, but its main attraction is the impressive facade of the Library of Celsus. The Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World was also part of Ephesus, but as you know, only ruins remain.
When in Sirince definitely do a wine tasting in one of the wineries. For more things to do in Sirince and restaurant tips, click on the link to read my Sirince blog.
Where to stay in Sirince
A great place to stay in Sriince is the Gullu Konaklari Boutique Hotel centrally located at the end of the main street. As you enter it feels like a peaceful oasis with small fountains, ponds and hotel rooms located in traditional houses.
Day 13: Pergamon & Bursa - Ancient Greece & Ottoman Empire History
The day after visiting Ephesus another ancient Greek city will be on Turkey itinerary: Pergamon. Located on a 335 meter (1,000 ft) hill next to the city of Bergama you will find the UNESCO World Heritage Site Pergamon, former capital of the Pergamon Kingdom around 300 BC.
The drive from Sirince to Bergama take around 2 hours.
Much smaller than Ephesus and within an hour you have seen most of this top sight in Turkey. A little off the beaten path and therefore much less crowded. On my latest Turkey trip I had Pergamon all for myself.
The Acropolis and the theater have amazing views over and are the highlights of this site. You are free to walk around wherever you want.
After visiting Pergamon you continue your Turkey road trip towards Bursa, the old Ottoman capital to see a different era in Turkish history. From Bergama to Bursa is a a 2,5 hour drive.
The main tourist attraction and place to visit in Bursa is: the Grand Mosque, once the biggest mosque in Turkey and one of the rare mosques around the world with a fountain inside.
Other cool things to do in Bursa are the Green Mosque and Mausoleum, the cable car up the Uludag Mountain (2,500 m/8,200 ft) and the 700 year old UNESCO World Heritage village of Cumalikizik. Click on the link for my blog with 25 things to do in Bursa.
Where to stay in Bursa
One of the best Bursa hotel locations is the Crown Plaza Bursa and this 5-star hotel is with $60 per night very affordable as well. Great place to stay.
Day 14: Istanbul
Welcome to Istanbul! You have reach the end of this ultimate Turkey itinerary for 14 days. Im sure by now you are pretty exhausted, but one of the world’s most bustling cities is waiting for you to explore.
There are a couple places to visit in Istanbul for first timers: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, Taksim Square, Istiklal Street and the Galata Tower are the standard things to do in Istanbul.
If you still have energy on the lasts days of your Turkey trip explore the colorful houses in Balat, watch the sunset from the Maiden Tower on the Asian side, take a boat trip on the Bosporus, see the Ortaköy mosque underneath the Bosporus bridge, find a fancy rooftop bar in Bebek or roam the cost and bustling streets at night in Besiktas.
Where to stay in Istanbul
Istanbul sightseeing will take its toll for sure so I recommend you to take a nice hotel. Some Istanbul hotels I can highly recommend you are the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, Shangri-La or the brand new JW Marriott right on the Bosporus. Expensive but worth it!
I hope all the above tips for planning your Turkey trip were useful for your upcoming adventure. It was a pleasure helping you. But here are some last Turkey travel tips...
Additional things to do in Turkey
In case you still have time left on your Turkey trip I can highly suggest you to visit the following places.
Edirne - Wines & Great Mosque
About 3 hours drive from Istanbul to the West and therefore a little off the beaten path. Edirne can easily be done on a day trip from Istanbul, but it take an extra day and therefore I didn’t include it in the itinerary above.
Most of the wine culture in Turkey can be found in the European side towards the border with Greece and Bulgaria. Edirne is the biggest city west from Istanbul, just a stone’s throw away from the European border. It once was the capital of the Ottoman Empire and holds a lot of history.
A must visit place is the majestic Edirne Mosque. Make sure to also check out the interior. When you are done sightseeing in Edirne head out to one of the wineries in the region around Edirne and try wine tasting and delicious food. I can recommend you to check out the Bakucha Vineyard Hotel & Spa. You can also spend the night here and wake up overlooking the wine fields.
Mount Ararat - Resting Place of Noah’s Ark
Unfortunately I still haven’t visit Mount Ararat myself but it is now topping my list of places to visit in Turkey. However I actually have, but different story, I didn’t climb Mt. Ararat.
This Turkey activity is only for the adventurers among us, because Mount Ararat is the highest mountain in Turkey with an elevation of 5,137 meters (16,854 ft). I was on the foot of Mount Ararat, but on the Armenian side and I can tell you this mountain peak looks damn impressive.
Haven’t even mentioned that Mount Ararat is also considered to be the resting place of the Noah’s Ark and therefore alone already a must visit place in Turkey.
Turkey’s highest peak is located on the Armenian border, far from all the other Turkey tourist attractions and therefore I also excluded Mount Ararat from my Turkey itinerary. In case you would drive there it would take you at least 8 hours from Trabzon, one way. Not recommended.
In case you want to climb Mount Ararat, then I suggest you to fly to IGD Airport and organize a climbing tour from there.
I hope all the tips for planning your Turkey trip were helpful for your upcoming journey. May you have any more questions about this Turkey itinerary please leave me a comment or head to my Instagram and send me a DM, I will happily help you out.