If you’re planning for a week in Turkey, you’re in for a fantastic trip. In this 7 day Turkey itinerary, you’ll get to see some of the most fascinating historical landmarks, and unique and unspoiled natural landscapes and get familiar with the warm-hearted Turkish culture.
If you want to see all the highlights of the country, this itinerary will show you the best of the country. We’ll also show you how to travel from A to B and which order to see things in, to avoid spending too much time traveling and spend more time exploring.
Are 7 Days Enough for Turkey?
But first, the question we always get asked is; are 7 days in Turkey enough? The truth is, Turkey is a big country, 783,562 km² to be exact, and to really see all of it, you’re going to need more than 7 days.
Even to see the highlights, we recommend at least 10-14 days so you don’t have to rush around and exhaust yourself seeing everything.
However, if you only have 7 days in Turkey we totally understand that not everyone is blessed with time. You can see the highlights of Turkey in seven days, but you do need to sacrifice some landmarks unless you want to burn out with all the traveling.
This is why we have prepared two 7 day itinerary options. This is so you can decide which attractions to sacrifice and which side of Turkey you want to see most.
The Best Turkey Itinerary for 7 Days
Fitting everything into 7 days is no easy task. So to help you pick the right itinerary for you, we’ve given you two options.
The first option is a history and culture tour of Turkey, taking you to some of the oldest and most beautiful historical landmarks in the country.
The second option covers some history, natural landscapes, and the iconic Turkish Riviera for some beach days.
Whatever brings you to Turkey, you’ll find our 7 day Turkey itineraries will cover it all. Let’s take a look…
Option 1: Istanbul > Cappadocia > Izmir
Below you’ll find our first option for this 7 day Turkey itinerary. This is what we consider to be the best itinerary for seven days and covers the most iconic Turkey landmarks.
Day 1: Istanbul
Our itinerary begins in the enchanting city of Istanbul. This once capital of the Roman and Ottoman Empire, named then as Constantinople, is brimming with history and culture. It’s also the only city in the world to span two continents; Europe and Asia.
On the first day of your visit to Istanbul, you’re going to want to explore the neighborhood of Sultanahmet. This is where you’ll find the most iconic landmarks in the city, including the Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern.
This day will do a lot of walking but it’s all within the same area, so you won’t need to travel far today, but you’re going to see exactly why Istanbul is a city worth visiting.
Stop 1: The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is the most beautiful work of architecture in Istanbul, so it makes sense to visit this attraction first. It was built between 1609- 1616 by Sultan Ahmed I. It became famous for its hand-painted blue tiles that you can see inside.
The mosque features more than 200 stained glass windows, as well as a stunning carved marble mihrab that’s worth checking out. It’s also the resting place of Sultan Ahmed I.
The Blue Mosque has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and is one of Turkey’s most famous sites.
Stop 2: Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia is just across the park from the Blue Mosque and is another one of the most important mosques in Turkey. It was built in 537 by the Roman Emperor Justinian. It was originally used as a cathedral for Constantinople, where it remained the largest Christian church in the Eastern Roman Empire for over 1000 years ago.
After Constantinople was seized by the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque. It was a museum for a short time between 1935-2000 but was converted back into a mosque. It has some of the most stunning architecture, mosaics, and artistic coverings of all the mosques in the city.
Stop 3: Topkapi Palace
Around the corner from the Hagia Sophie is the Topkapi Palace. The palace was the former home of the Ottoman sultans in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Today, it is a large museum, showcasing artifacts from the Ottoman era. Not all rooms are open to the public, but the most beautiful ones are. The Ottoman Imperial Harem and the treasury are the main reasons to visit this palace in Istanbul.
The Topkapi Palace was also declared a UNESCO site in 1985 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.
Stop 4: Basilica Cistern
During the Roman Empire, the Romans built several cisterns under the city as a water filtration system for the city’s palaces. The largest and best-preserved cistern in the city is the Basilica Cistern.
It is just 150 meters away from the Hagia Sophia, so it makes sense to see this historical landmark on the same day.
Stop 5: Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar
Another one of the major landmarks in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar. It is the largest and oldest covered market in the world, with 61 streets and over 4,000 shops. It began operating in 1455 after the Ottomans captured Constantinople.
The vibrant Grand Bazaar is the best place to pick up Turkish souvenirs, from Turkish delights, Turkish lamps, rugs, towels, and clothes.
Around the corner from Grand Bazaar is the Spice Bazaar. This is another souk market where you can shop for various teas and spices. The spices are said to help with certain medical conditions, from diabetes control to weight loss, and mood enhancers.
Stop 6: Turkish Hamam
After all this walking around, you’re going to want to relax a little. We recommend finishing off the day in a Turkish Hamam, which is similar to a Roman Bath. It’s not just a public bathing space, but a spa where you can get massages and beauty treatments.
Located next to the Hagia Sophia is the Hurrem Sultan Hamam, which was built in the 16th century. It’s a little pricey, but if you’re going to enjoy a Turkish bath, you might as well go to an authentic one!
Day 2: Istanbul:
On the second day we’re going to cross the Galata Bridge and explore the Kabataş neighborhood. This is still part of Europe, but also features many iconic attractions that should not be missed.
Stop 1: Galata Bridge
We’ll begin at Galata Bridge, a 19th-century bridge that crosses Istanbul’s Golden Horn channel. The bridge is famous because of the fishermen who cast their lines here, attracting hundreds of seagulls.
The bridge has two parts, the top part is where the cars cross the bridge and also where you’ll find the fishermen, and along the bottom part you’ll find many restaurants serving fresh seafood meals.
Stop 2: Galata Tower
Next, we’ll visit the iconic Galata Tower. By now you have probably noticed the tower in the skyline, given that it is the city’s watch tower.
It was built as a part of the Walls of Galata in 1348 by Roman Empire. The Galata Tower has had a tumultuous past, having caught fire in 1794 and 1831. It was also badly damaged in a storm in 1875.
The tower was renovated in the 1960s to look like the original but using concrete instead of wood. You can climb to the top of the tower and witness 360-degree panoramic views of the city. There is also a museum and exhibition hall in the tower
Stop 3: Istiklal Street
Istiklal Street is the most famous street in Istanbul and is where you’ll find a blend of historic and modern. It was historically known as Grand Avenue of Pera, and is a pedestrian street made famous for its red tram that rides from one end to the other.
There are many high street brands setting up shops here in the old buildings that were once apartments for the Romans. It’s a great place to pick up some street food or find a traditional Turkish restaurant down one of the side streets. If you’re into nightlife, you’ll find vibrant bars in this area.
Stop 4: Bosphorus Cruise
If your legs are a little tired from all this walking, then a Bosphorus cruise is a great way to enjoy an afternoon or early evening.
The cruise takes you through Istanbul’s Golden Horn and out into the Bosphorus. It gives you a unique perspective of the city from the water, and it’s also the best way to see the palaces in Istanbul. Many of the palaces were built next to the water, and their beautiful decoration and architecture are best seen from the water.
You will see boats lined up on the waterfront in Eminönü, and there are plenty of cruises to choose from. They are all pretty much the same, but you do need to book your ticket in advance.
You can either head to the harbor early in the morning and book your ticket, or you can book your ticket online.
Stop 5: Whirling Dervishes Show
If you went for an afternoon Bosphorous cruise, then you’ve got plenty of time to enjoy a whirling dervishes show in the evening. This is a traditional Turkish dance where dancers look as though they are floating across the floor.
As well as being a dance, it’s an active meditation exercise, which originated from the Sufi tribes in the 13th century. This is one of our favorite things to do in Istanbul at night.
Day 3: Istanbul
On the third day in Istanbul, you’re going to explore the Asian side. We’ll be visiting the largest mosque in Istanbul, the hip and vibrant area of Moda, and tasting delicious Istanbul street food.
Stop 1: Çamlıca Mosque
The first stop is Çamlıca Mosque, located at the top of Çamlıca Hill. To get here, you must first take the metro to Üsküdar and then change onto the metro to Kısıklı. From here, you simply walk up the hill.
The Camlica Mosque is the largest mosque in Istanbul and measures at 72 m (236 ft). The six minarets measure even higher to 107.1 m (351 ft). This stunning mosque is a sprawling complex large enough to house 63,000 worshipers at one time.
There’s also an art gallery, library, and conference hall. It was designed by two female architects, Bahar Mızrak and Hayriye Gül Totu, and was said to have cost $110 million USD to make.
Stop 2: Kadikoy
After spending time admiring the mosque, head over to the area of Kadikoy. Here you’ll find bustling markets and fishermen on the waterfront. This is the perfect place to sample some street food. We highly recommend the balık ekmek (fish sandwich).
Stop 3: Moda
After wandering the neighborhood of Kadikoy, head further south to Moda. This is a hipster neighborhood with street art, boutique stores, cool coffee shops, and a relaxing park.
After exploring Istanbul for the third day, you’re going to need to get to Cappadocia. To do this, you’ll want to take an evening flight to Cappadocia as the bus is 12 hours overnight. Flights from Istanbul to Cappadocia take just over 1 hour and flights run regularly each day. The main airlines are Turkish Airlines and Pegasus.
Do bare in mind flights depart from Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) and land in Kayseri Airport (ASR) or Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV).
The Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) is 44km out from the city center. It will take you 45 minutes in the taxi or about 1 hour 45 minutes using public transport to get to the airport, so plan your time accordingly.
Once you arrive in Cappadocia, you’ll need to get a taxi or airport transfer to your hotel. We recommend booking this in advance so you don’t have to pay the higher price for a taxi at the airport.
Here’s where you can find airport transfers to make this part of the trip smooth:
Day 4: Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a vast desert landscape in the Anatolia region of Turkey. It’s set at 1,050m above sea level, so the temperature gets cold at night, even in the summer.
The entire region is famous for its fairy chimneys, which are ancient cave dwellings that people used to live in, as well as its unique rock formations that are unlike anything else in the world. You can stay in a cave hotel in Cappadocia, which is a unique experience in itself.
If you’re interested in staying in a cave hotel in Cappadocia, check out our complete guide on the best cave hotels in the region.
To get around Cappadocia, we recommend you either hire a car for two days, or you book yourself onto the red or green tour. This is the best way to see a lot of attractions in just a short time. Public transport in Cappadocia is unreliable, and it takes 2 hours on a bus to cover a distance that can take 30 minutes by car.
It’s also an iconic place to take a hot air balloon ride.
Related: Where to stay in Cappadocia
Stop 1: Hot Air Balloon Flight
The hot air balloons fly in the morning at sunrise, so you’re going to want to book this in advance so you can try and do this on your first day. The reason we recommend doing it on the first day is that the flights are weather dependent, so if the weather isn’t good for flying the trip can be moved to the following day.
You will only have two days in Cappadocia on this itinerary, so you do need to understand hot air balloon flights are really a stroke of luck.
Here is where you can book a hot air balloon ride.
Assuming you were able to have your hot air balloon flight in the morning, you’ll be back at your hotel by 9 am and ready to have breakfast. After breakfast, you can start exploring Cappadocia’s attractions.
Stop 2: Red and Rose Valley
There are many valleys in Cappadocia worth visiting, but if we had to choose just one (or two) then we would definitely say to visit the Red Valley and Rose Valley. These two valleys are located right next to each other, so it’s easy to visit both.
The valleys are easy to hike and take you through some of the most stunning landscapes. You’ll pass fairy chimneys, churches, cave dwellings, and impressive rock formations.
If you have more time, you can also visit Love Valley or Pigeon Valley, which are located just outside Goreme town center too.
Stop 3: One of the Underground Cities
There are several underground cities in Cappadocia, but the main ones are the Kaymakli Underground City and the Derinkuyu Underground City. These underground cities were built in the 7th and 8th centuries as a way for the local Christians to hide from the Arab invaders.
The Derinkuyu Underground City is the most popular one as it’s the largest underground city open to the public. It is eight levels deep and once houses 20,000 people. Only four levels are open to the public.
Kaymakli is the oldest underground city and also allows visitors to explore four levels, but it is much smaller than Derinkuyu.
The two cities are only a 15 minute drive from one another so it’s possible to see both, but they offer much of the same experience so we recommend you pick one. If you’re not sure which one to visit, we have a guide on which is better; Derinkuyu or Kaymalki.
Stop 4: Sunset Viewpoint
By now you’re probably feeling a little tired from all the exploring, so we recommend you take a trip to one of Cappadocia’s famous sunset viewpoints. There is one in the center of Goreme town, if you don’t feel like driving far. These sunset viewpoints give you the best views of the valleys, fairy chimneys and rock formations of the region.
If you don’t want to rent a car and drive, you could do one of the red tours or green tours of Cappadocia.
These are popular tours that allow you to see as much of the region as possible, from the underground cities to the vast valleys in Cappadocia. Both tours have different attractions, so it’s best to look up which one is best for you.
Luckily, we have a helpful guide on this; red tour vs green tour.
There’s also the blue tour, which is a small group tour that also visits some of the best sights in Cappadocia, but the itinerary for the blue tour differs depending on the company you book with.
Day 5: Cappadocia
On the second day in Cappadocia, you’re going to need to go slow as you’ll have a flight to catch later in the day.
We suggest you explore the Goreme Open Air Museum in the morning, followed by one of the valleys after lunch.
If you don’t have a long time to spend, then you can see Devrent Valley or Monks Valley, which take about 30 minutes to see.
Take an evening flight to Izmir. There are no direct flights from Cappadocia to Izmir. You’ll first need to catch a flight to Istanbul and change. Flights take around 4-5 hours with the change over in Istanbul but remember you need to get to and from the airport.
Day 6: Izmir (Ephesus)
One of the biggest reasons to visit Izmir is to visit the ancient ruins of Ephesus. This well preserved city dates back to the 10th century BC at the time of the Ancient Greeks. The city is huge, spanning an area of 6.6 square kilometers.
Visitors can still see the well-preserved Greco-Roman architecture from the remains of the city which gives you a glimpse of what life would have been like many years ago.
The most notable landmarks in Ephesus Turkey are the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World, as well as the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, the House of the Virgin Mary and the Roman Amphitheater that was once large enough for 24,000 spectators.
Related: How to Get from Izmir to Ephesus
You could easily spend a day exploring Ephesus, but if you have time to spare we recommend visiting the nearby village of Sirence, which is a quaint market village that only has 600 residents.
It’s located about 8 kilometers from Ephesus and features many small houses dating back to the Hellenistic period. It’s also a great place to pick up handmade crafts to take home as souvenirs.
Day 7: Izmir
On your final day in Izmir, you’ll want to explore Izmir before you head back home. We suggest visiting the ancient ruins of Smyrna Agora Ancient City in the morning, followed by one of the green parks in the city.
The Kültürpark İzmir park is a nice and relaxing area to wander around before getting a flight. Make sure to check out the stunning Izmir Clock Tower before you go, too.
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Option 2: Istanbul > Cappadocia > Antalya
For the second option of this 7 day Turkey itinerary, we have swapped out Izmir for Antalya. Izmir is definitely worth a visit if you love history, but another reason to visit Turkey is for the iconic Turkish Riviera.
If you would like some time by the beach, then you should make a stop by Antalya instead. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of history to explore here, you just will have to miss the famous Ephesus.
For this itinerary, we would recommend you spend two days in Istanbul, two days in Cappadocia, and three days in Antalya.
You can follow the same itinerary as option one up until Cappadocia, but instead, follow these three days at the end.
Day 5-7: Antalya
The great thing about Antalya is not only its beaches but its location. Nestled in the center of Turkey along the coast, it’s possible to take day trips from Antalya to other areas that you might want to visit, such as Pamukkale and Ephesus (though you do need to understand there’s still a lot of travel involved.
During these three days in Antalya, we’ll be exploring its incredible history, stunning surrounding nature, and beaches. We’ll also give you one day to pick a day trip of your choice.
Day 5: Antalya Beaches
After all the exploring you’ve done so far, you deserve a rest. We recommend you take the first day in Antalya to explore one (or two) of Antalya’s beaches.
The most famous and arguably most beautiful is Kaputaş Beach, which is located a three hour drive away from Antalya city center. You can also get a bus, but it’s a lot slower.
Sure, it’s a long distance, but you will find that it’s worth it when you get there.
If you want to stay closer to the city of Antalya, then Cleopatra Beach in Alanya is a good option, or Konyaalti Beach if you’re traveling as a family.
Day 6: Day trip
We mentioned earlier that Antalya is a great location for day trips. It’s possible to take a day trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale from Antalya, but there’s a lot of travel involved.
If you want to take a day trip to somewhere historic, then the Ancient City of Perge or the Lycian Rock Tombs are only a couple hours’ drive away.
Alternatively, you can take a boat tour from the historic Roman harbor. This is a great way to explore the turquoise blue waters of the Turquoise Coast.
Another popular day trip is to Antalya’s stunning nature spots. The Taurus Mountains and Koprulu Canyon are all a short distance from Antalya city center and provide excellent hiking, biking, and white water rafting facilities.
If you want to learn more about what day trips you can take from Antalya, we have a complete guide to Antalya day trips to help you out.
Day 7: Antalya Old Town
On the last day, you will need to fly back home, so you won’t want to travel too far that day. This is why exploring the Old Town of Antalya is best kept to the end. Antalya has a long and fascinating history, having been conquered by many tribes – from the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, and even Egyptians.
The Old Town is the best place to see all that history come to life. Make sure to check out the old Roman Harbor and Hadrian’s Gate.
Extend to 10 Days Turkey Itinerary
You might be realizing by now that 7 days is not a lot of time to see the whole of this massive and diverse country. If you would like to extend your trip from 7-10 days, here’s what we recommend you do.
For a 10 day Turkey itinerary, we recommend you combine our two options. We recommend you spend three days in Istanbul, two days in Cappadocia, two days in Antalya, and then fly to Izmir for the final three days, spending one of those days taking a day trip to Pamukkale.
Your 10 day Turkey itinerary would look something like this.
- Day 1-3: Istanbul
- Day 4-5: Cappadocia
- Day 6-7: Antalya
- Day 8: Izmir
- Day 9: Pamukkale
- Day 10: Izmir to home
Getting Around Turkey
Turkey has quite a decent transport system, especially for internal flights. You can fly direct from Istanbul to Cappadocia, Cappadocia to Antalya, Antalya to Izmir, and Izmir to Istanbul, which really reduces the amount of travel time you spend. Especially as you only have 7 days.
You can also take long-distance night buses. The advantage of this is that you don’t lose a day of traveling by traveling overnight. The downside is it’s exhausting. After trying to sleep on 12-hour bus journey, you’re going to feel very drained exploring all the attractions.
The same for if you are driving. It’s quite inexpensive to hire a car and drive, however, we don’t recommend this option for getting around Turkey for a 7 day itinerary. This is because you will be far too exhausted to see and do anything.
In Cappadocia, there is a minibus network that connects you to all the main attractions, and it’s also possible to hire a car in Cappadocia or take taxis from A to B. Most attractions are within a 30-minute drive from one another so if you hire a car in Cappadocia you can see more, and also won’t be too tired after driving.
To get around the cities – Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya have a great internal transport service, including a tram service that connects you to many of the main attractions.
For each city, you do need to get a separate transport card to use public transportation. These are the cards for each city:
- Istanbul: Istanbulkart
- Izmir: Izmirimkart
- Antalya: Antalyakart
These can be picked up from major metro stations or the airport. You cannot get the Izmir card from the bus station in Izmir, you will have no choice but to get a taxi to the city center. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way…
This is why internal flights are much better than buses. It relieves the headache and you can pick up the city transport cards from the airport.
Best Time to Visit Turkey
We know that we’re not all lucky enough to pack our bags and zip off at a moment’s notice, so if you’re planning a trip to Turkey in advance, then you’ll need to consider when is the best time to visit.
Fortunately, any time would be a good time to visit. Even in the winter! During the winter, temperatures in Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya are mild at a comfortable 15°C on average. Winter in Cappadocia is a sight that you’ll never forget.
Cappadocia is much higher than the other spots on our itineraries, so you can expect it to be much colder. In fact, it even snows here.
Imagine seeing a desert in the snow? Magical. If Cappadocia is one of the main reasons for your trip to Turkey, then check out our complete guide on the best time to visit Cappadocia.
The wettest months of the year are December – February. This is when Turkey receives most of its rainfall, with a 19% chance of rain most days.
The hottest months are July and August. The temperatures can reach as high as the low 40°C’s in August, so if you’re visiting this time of year then make sure to prepare for it to be hot and bring plenty of sun protection.
Perhaps the best time of year to visit is during the shoulder seasons (April, October, and November), as the weather is dry, a comfortable temperature, and nearly always sunny. Plus they are considered the quiet season so you can visit without the crowds. This is the best time to visit Bodrum and destinations on the coast.
Tips for Visiting Turkey
Before you start packing your suitcase and booking places to stay in Istanbul, Cappadocia, Izmir, or Antalya, we have just a few words of advice to help you make the most out of your trip to Turkey,…
- Get your Visa before you fly! Americans now need a visa to enter Turkey, and the days of visa on arrival have long gone. Make sure you are prepared and buy your visa beforehand. If you’re not from America, it’s a good idea to check the entry requirements from your country.
- Pick up a Turkish sim card. Make sure you are always connected and have plenty of data, as you’re going to need to use Google Maps to find your way to attractions.
- Get the Istanbulkart in Istanbul from the airport. This is the transport card you need to use for the tram and metro in Istanbul. You need to register your card with an HEC code given to you on arrival. It’s a bit of a faff to set up, so it’s best to pick this up from the airport or any major metro station and set it up as soon as possible.
- Get a museum pass if you want to see more than one museum. If you’re interested in seeing more than one museum, you can save money by using the city pass which allows you to enter multiple museums. There is a city pass for Istanbul and Antalya. However…
- Don’t get the museum pass for Cappadocia. We didn’t get the museum pass and we’re glad we didn’t as a lot of attractions didn’t accept them. The Kaymakli Underground City and Zelve Open Air museum didn’t accept them when we last visited (July 2021).
- Book internal flights early. You get cheaper deals on flights if you are prepared and book in advance.
- Be prepared for disappointment with hot air balloons in Cappadocia. The hot air balloons can only fly when weather conditions are optimal, which is not every day. As you only have a short time in Turkey, you would need to be lucky for the weather to be good on your trip. For hot air balloons, it’s best to visit Cappadocia in June – August.
- Drink plenty of water. Turkey is hot pretty much all year round, so be prepared for this and carry plenty of water with you.
- Wear appropriate clothing. You should cover your shoulders and knees when entering a mosque, and women need to cover their hair.
FAQs About This 7 Day Turkey Itinerary
Here’s what people usually ask us about this 7 day Turkey itinerary…
Is 7 days enough to visit Turkey?
Personally, we don’t think 7 days is enough to see all the highlights, you would need to spend at least 10-14 days to see it all comfortably. However, you can see many of the top landmarks in 7 days.
Where should I go in Turkey for a week?
You should go to Istanbul, Cappadocia and either Antalya or Izmir.
Which is better Bodrum or Antalya?
We personally prefer Antalya, but if you want to know more about this topic, see our complete guide to Bodrum vs Antalya.
Final Thoughts on Turkey Itinerary 7 days
So there you have it, this is how you can spend a week in Turkey. As you can see, there’s a lot to pack into a 7 day Turkey itinerary, which is why we have given you two options. We hope that this Turkey itinerary helps you plan your trip.
If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.
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