The Ultimate Istanbul, Cappadocia & Pamukkale Itinerary For 2024!

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Written By Louisa Smith

Co-Founder of The Turkey Traveler. Globetrotter, Adventurer, and Frequent Traveler to Turkey!

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If you’re looking to discover Turkey’s rich history, unique landscapes, and geological natural wonders, then it makes sense you need an Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale itinerary.

These three iconic destinations in Turkey showcase the best of what this country has to offer; from bustling city life to quaint and relaxing desert dwelling, there is so much to see and discover.

If it’s your first time in Turkey, then you’re in for a treat. Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale were our favorite destinations in Turkey and we’re so excited to reveal to you our favorite attractions, best places to eat, where to stay, and so much more – so you can have the best possible trip, without the need to plan further.

So, without further adu, let’s get stuck in!

How Many Days To See Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale?


To fully experience the enchanting beauty of Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Pamukkale, we recommend you plan for a minimum of 10 days to see these destinations.

This is the minimum amount of time you should spend to explore the historical sites, natural wonders, and cultural treasures each destination has to offer.

It’s also worth noting that Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale are a fair distance from each other, so you will need to set aside travel days between each destination. Even if you fly, you need to calculate time getting to and from the airport.

To make planning easier for you, we recommend you spend 3 days in Istanbul, 3 days in Cappadocia, 2 days in Pamukkale, and a travel day between each destination. In total, you will need to set aside 10 – 11 days in Turkey for this itinerary for Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale.

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Topkapi Palace Istanbul Turkey

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At A Glance: Istanbul, Cappadocia & Pamukkale Itinerary


If you’re short on time and need a quick itinerary for Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale, then here is a brief overview of what to expect.

Continue reading for a more detailed insight into each destination, including what there is to see and do, where to stay, where to eat, and how to get around.

Since Istanbul is a major transit hub, we will begin our itinerary the day after you arrive in Istanbul. If you arrive in the morning, use your first day to get orientated; check in to your hotel, get a Turkey sim card, and go for a walk to release the jet lag.

  • Day One: Historic Istanbul. Check out the Sultanahmet district, including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar.
  • Day Two: Asian Side of Istanbul. Explore Moda, Camlica Mosque, Kadikoy, Maiden’s Tower and more.
  • Day Three: Explore Karakoy and Kabatas. Visit the Galata Tower, Istikal Street, Dolmabahçe Palace and end with a sunset Bosphorus Cruise
  • Day Four: Travel day from Istanbul to Cappadocia
  • Day Five: Early morning Hot Air Balloon Tour, followed by the Red Tour of Cappadocia; Uchisar Castle, Goreme Open Air Museum, Cavusin, Pasabag Valley, Avanos
  • Day Six: Green Tour of Cappadocia; Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley, Belisirma, Selime Monastery, Pigeon Valley
  • Day Seven: Hike Red and Rose Valley, shop at Galerie Ikman
  • Day Eight: Travel day from Cappadocia to Pamukkale
  • Day Nine: Earlier morning sunrise for Pamukkale, swim in the travertine terraces, explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hierapolis
  • Day Ten: Pamukkale back to Istanbul and depart

You can either fly from Denizli Airport (the closest airport to Pamukkale) after visiting Pamukkale or fly back to Istanbul and depart from there. There are direct flights between Denizli and Istanbul, which makes it easier to catch connections.

The Ultimate Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale Itinerary

Day 1-3: Istanbul

Day One: Historic Istanbul


On the first day in Istanbul, immerse yourself in the best of the city’s history and cultural landmarks. We’ll start in the historic and captivating Sultanahmet district, where you will find the iconic Hagia Sophia, a mosque that showcases the best of Byzantine architecture.

Across the park, you’ll find possibly the most stunning and important mosque in Istanbul, The Blue Mosque, known for its intricate design and its Ottoman Heritage. It’s the only mosque to have been built with six minarets instead of the usual four, and is also known for its bluish decoration and ornate tiling.

After visiting these mosques, descend into the ancient Basilica Cistern, a former Roman marvel of engineering and also the set of many Hollywood movies, including the James Bond movie “Skyfall” and the Dan Brown movie remake of “Inferno” starring Tom Hanks.

Head around to the Topkapi Palace to learn about the history of the Ottoman Empire and its Sultans. Marvel at the palace’s richness and grandeur, including the Sultan’s Treasury.

To really indulge in the vibrant atmosphere of Istanbul, you’ll want to check out the Grand Bazaar, the world’s largest covered market and oldest “shopping mall.” Shop for souvenirs, or simply kick back and relax with a Turkish coffee or Cai (Turkish Tea). Be sure to walk over to the nearby aromatic Spice Bazaar, where you can peruse an array of treasures and flavors.

Day Two: Asian Side of Istanbul

Camlica Mosque

Cross the Bosphorus to explore the dynamic Asian side of Istanbul. We recommend you take a ferry if you are staying in Sultanahmet or Kayakoy, but you can also reach the Asian side by Metro if you’re not keen on getting out on the water.

Wander through the charming streets of Moda, where you can get a taste of one of Istanbul’s artsy neighborhoods adorned with street art and lined with cozy cafes. Hike up Camlica Hill for amazing views of the city, before admiring the elegant architecture of the Camlica Mosque – the largest mosque in Turkey and also one of the newest, since it opened in 2019.

Afterwards, go for a meander through the bustling Kadikoy neighborhood where you can walk along the promenade, watch the locals fish, and grab some delicious street food to snack on.

Finish your day by capturing breathtaking views of the Maiden’s Tower at sunset.

Day Three: Explore Karakoy and Kabatas


The last neighborhood that’s worthy of exploring is the enchanting neighborhoods of Karakoy and Kabatas, where the past seamlessly blends with the present.

Start your day by ascending the iconic Galata Tower, one of the oldest towers in the world and the highest building in Istanbul, for panoramic vistas.

Afterwards, stroll along the vibrant Istiklal Street, the most famous street in Istanbul which is where you will find global highstreet brands and lots of restaurants.

Spend an afternoon at the opulent Dolmabahçe Palace, a former administrative center for the Ottoman Empire between 1856 – 1887 and 1909 – 1922, and now a museum containing some of the Ottoman Empire’s most luxurious items.

Conclude your day with a magical sunset Bosphorus Cruise, witnessing Istanbul’s skyline illuminated by the warm glow of the setting sun.

If You Have More Time in Istanbul

If you have more time in Istanbul and need more attractions to explore, then we recommend you take a day trip to the Prince’s Islands, a series of islands that are known for their relaxed lifestyle and nice beaches.

You can also take a day trip to visit some of the nearby cities or beach towns.

For more ideas of how to fill your time, check out our Istanbul itinerary guide.

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Below are three of our most recommended places to stay in Istanbul that cater to different budgets and travel styles:

Best Hostel in IstanbulCheers Hostel

Cheers Hostel is the best-located hostel in Istanbul, nestled behind the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. It offers comfortable, individually styled rooms and dorms, with spacious shared bathrooms. The terrace bar and restaurant serve up kebabs and international cuisine for those who don’t want to venture far for food and have wonderful views of Istanbul’s Old Town.

Best Mid-Range Hotel in IstanbulDream Bosphorus Hotel

If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel in a great neighborhood, then Dream Bosphorus hotel is the ideal choice. It’s located in the heart of Old Istanbul, in the Sirkeci area. Each room has been individually styled in traditional Turkish decor and comes with a private bathroom and 24-hour room service. Some rooms have views of the Golden Horn. Each morning a daily breakfast buffet is served and the Dream Café offers soft drinks and snacks throughout the day. Each afternoon, it’s worth returning for free cakes and cookies.

Best Luxury Hotel in IstanbulHotel DeCamondo Galata

Located on the riverfront in Kadikoy, the Hotel DeCamondo is the ideal place to stay for a luxury getaway. It has a stunning bar and terrace as well as an onsite restaurant and car rentals. Each morning, a continental or a la carte breakfast is offered, and when it comes to exploring, the hotel can help organize your tours and car rentals.

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Istanbul has so many great places to eat, we could be here all day telling you where to go! One thing you must make sure you do in Istanbul is try the stuffed mussels!

These delicious street food snacks can be found all over Istanbul and are absolutely delicious!

You can also find many great restaurants down the side streets off Istikal Street, and our favorite place to eat is the Fish Sandwich (Balik Ekmek) shop in Eminou which you will find quite easily, just look for the massive queue!

📚Read More: Best Rooftop Restaurants in Istanbul

Getting Around Istanbul

tram in istanbul

Navigating Istanbul is easy and convenient. There are many ways to get around, from ferries traversing the Bosphorus to the convenient tram that connects the main attractions on the European side.

One of the best ways to embrace the rhythm of the city is to get around on foot. The European side is pretty walkable, and although slightly hilly in places, it’s not too taxing. It’s also fun to weave through the labyrinthine alleys and see what you stumble upon.

If walking isn’t your thing, the tram system seamlessly connects key districts, and there is also an underground Metro that connects the main areas. Getting around is made easier by the fact all public transport can be paid for using your contactless payment card.

For more information about getting around Istanbul, read our complete guide here.

Day 4: Istanbul to Cappadocia

The fourth day will be a travel day, where you will need to either fly or take a bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia.

If you are on a budget, you can get a night bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia, which takes you from outside the city center of Istanbul and drops you off in the heart of Goreme, the main town in Cappadocia. The bus takes around 12-13 hours depending on traffic, and is reasonably comfortable.

If you prefer to travel more luxuriously, you can fly from Istanbul to Cappadocia directly.

📚Read More: How to Get from Istanbul to Cappadocia: 5 Easy Ways!

Day 5-7: Cappadocia

Day Five: Cappadocia – Hot Air Balloon Tour and Red Tour


Rise early for an unforgettable hot air balloon tour over the ethereal landscapes of Cappadocia, as the rising sun paints the sky with vibrant hues and hundreds of hot air balloons float in the sky at once.

This is one of the most unmissable things to do in Cappadocia, but it’s also one that can only run when the weather is optimal, so we recommend booking it for your first day, and if the weather isn’t right, then you can try again the next day.

Following this awe-inspiring experience, embark on the famous Red Tour of Cappadocia. You can either book onto a tour company (which is much easier) or hire a car and explore the attractions yourself.

The Red Tour takes you to explore the ancient Uchisar Castle, the captivating Goreme Open Air Museum, the historic villages of Cavusin and to see the fairy chimneys of Pasabag Valley, before finishing at the artisan center of Avanos where you can learn about the region’s pottery trade.

Don’t Miss Out on the BEST Experience in Cappadocia!


No trip to Cappadocia is complete without taking an epic hot air balloon flight at sunrise!

Make sure you reserve your tour well in advance to avoid missing out or paying any additional fees last minute!

Day Six: Cappadocia – Green Tour

The second tour route to do in Cappadocia is the Green Tour, which takes you into the subterranean world of the Derinkuyu Underground City, one of the many underground cities in the region that date back to the 7th Century BCE.

Afterwards, traverse the breathtaking Ihlara Valley with its lush flora and greenery, a contrast to Cappadocia’s mostly beige landscape. The hike is about 7km but it’s not too challenging, and finishes at the ancient rock-cut churches of Belisirma.

Afterwards, head to the remarkable Selime Monastery set amid stunning natural surroundings, followed by a leisurely exploration of the picturesque Pigeon Valley.

Day Seven: Red and Rose Valley Hike and Shopping

Red Valley Cappadocia
Red Valley, Capapdocia

No trip to Cappadocia would be complete without going on a scenic hike through the captivating landscapes of the Red and Rose Valleys, marveling at the surreal rock formations and vibrant hues. If you don’t want to hike, you can also explore these valleys by ATV tour of horseback riding.

Conclude your day with a delightful shopping excursion at Galerie Ikman, the most famous shop in Cappadocia where you can acquire unique, handmade Turkish carpets as a memento of your trip to Cappadocia.

If You Have More Time in Cappadocia

There is no shortage of valleys and hikes to do in Cappadocia, so if you have more time be sure to spend some time exploring those.

Some other valleys we loved visiting were Love Valley and White Valley. We also loved exploring the Zelve Open Air Museum, which is a former settlement that was inhabited up until the 1950s and is now a museum.

You can also opt to relax with a Turkish Bath experience, or simply sit on the hotel terrace and enjoy the views.

Where to Stay in Cappadocia

Below are three of our most recommended places to stay in Cappadocia that cater to different budgets and travel styles:

Best Luxury Hotel in GoremeHenna Hotel

The Henna Hotel is a luxury cave hotel in the heart of Goreme, Cappadocia. Its spacious rooms come with traditional furniture and modern amenities, such as ensuite bathrooms with corner tubs. The best feature of this hotel is the terrace, which offers unparalleled views of the town and surrounding landscape. This is the ideal hotel in Cappadocia to watch the hot air balloons in the morning or enjoy Turkish cuisine from the on-site restaurant in the evening.

Best Hostel in GoremeKamelya Cave Hostel

For budget travelers and backpackers, there’s no better hostel in Cappadocia than the Kamelya Cave Hostel. Not only is it centrally located near the best restaurants and the bus station, but it has also incredibly unique dorms made out of ancient caves. What’s more, is that a Turkish breakfast is provided each morning which can be enjoyed from the communal roof terrace.

Best Cave Hotel in GoremeCappadocia Cave Suites

One of the most authentic places to stay in Goreme is a cave hotel, and you won’t find anything as stylish or luxurious as Cappadocia Cave Suites. Each of the rooms comes with a comfy double bed and an ensuite bathroom. The hotel also has an onsite restaurant serving homemade breakfasts. They also organize cultural activities such as whirling dervish shows and Turkish nights.

Where to Eat in Cappadocia

If you base yourself in Goreme, which is the main town in Cappadocia, then you have plenty of amazing choices to choose from.

Our favorite place to eat is Nazar Borek & Cafe, which is a family-run restaurant just in front of Pigeon Valley. Nazar is an incredibly nice man who loves to chat to his customers and even shows you around his property. He grows all his vegetables in the garden and cooks everything fresh to order.

It does take a while for your food to come to you, but it’s worth waiting for.

📚 More: The Best Restaurants in Cappadocia

Getting Around Cappadocia


In Cappadocia, the best way to get around is by hiking. Since the landscape is mostly flat, you can walk several miles with ease.

When you want to get between towns or visiting destinations, we recommend you rent a car in Cappadocia.

There is a minibus (dolbus) service that connects the towns, but the buses are unreliable and often don’t come when expected. The drivers also rarely speak English and you will have to make changes, which eats into your adventure time.

Day 8: Cappadocia to Pamukkale

There is only one way to get from Cappadocia to Pamukkale, and that’s by bus. The journey takes about 8-9 hours, depending on traffic. There are several bus operators in the town of Goreme that sell regular bus tickets from Goreme to Denizli, the closest city to Pamukkale.

Once you arrive in Denizli, you will need to take a minibus (known locally as a dolbus) to the town of Pamukkale, which is about a 30 minute journey.

📚Read More: How to Get to Pamukkale from Cappadocia

Day 9: Pamukkale

Pamukkale Travertine Terraces

Wake up early on day 9 to witness the breathtaking sunrise over the otherworldly travertine terraces of Pamukkale, where you can also partake in a refreshing swim in the tranquil pools.

After enjoying a swim in the terraces, explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hierapolis, adorned with ancient ruins and steeped in historical significance.

When the midday sun comes around and it becomes too hot to explore any more, retreat to the Cleopatra Spa, a historic thermal pool which was once used by travelers to Hierapolis in ancient times and is said to have healing properties.

If you have children, there is also a water park in Pamukkale that you can visit in the afternoon to cool down.

📚Read More: A Complete Guide to Visiting Pamukkale

Where to Stay in Pamukkale

Below are three of our most recommended places to stay in Pamukkale that cater to different budgets and travel styles:

Best Budget Hotel in PamukkaleMustafa Hotel

We stayed at Mustafa Hotel when we visited Pamukkale and it was basic but comfortable. The location is great, only a five-minute walk from the Travertines and surrounded by restaurants. Actually, the hotel restaurant was the best food we ate in Pamukkale, so even if you don’t stay here, at least check out the restaurant downstairs. For anyone looking for a budget accommodation, it’s good for a couple of nights, but don’t expect anything fancy.

Best Mid-Range Hotel in PamukkaleHotel Sahin

If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel in Pamukkale then the Hotel Sahin is one of the best rated hotels in the town. It’s located directly across from the Travertines and you can even view them from the onsite restaurant. It has a refreshing outdoor pool, which you’ll definitely use as Pamukkale is HOT. Rooms come with air conditioning (phew) and some rooms even have a balcony looking at the Travertines.

Best Luxury Hotel in PamukkaleVenus Hotel

Located in a quiet area in Pamukkale is this luxurious hotel. Venus Hotel is a family-run four-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, open-air restaurant, and terrace. Rooms are spacious and decorated with modern furnishings. The best part about this hotel is that all meals are home-cooked and made in traditional style, so you get a really authentic experience when you stay here. It’s a five-minute walk to the Travertines.

Where to Eat in Pamukkale

Pamukkale doesn’t have many great restaurants, unfortunately. We spent many hours stumbling around trying to find somewhere decent to eat, and found that our hotel offered the best food (Mustafa Hotel)!

We also ate at White House Restaurant & Bar, which was decent though slightly expensive. Pamukkale has become quite touristy and so most restaurants offer international cuisine (think burgers and pizzas), but you can also find a few Turkish favorites on the menu too.

Getting Around Pamukkale

Pamukkale is a very small town and is easy to get around on foot. You can catch a minibus from Denizli bus station to the town of Pamukkale and walk from there.

Day 10: Pamukkale to Istanbul

On the last day, it’s time to bid farewell to the mesmerizing landscapes of Pamukkale as you journey back to Istanbul for your departure.

You can either fly direct from Denizli Airport back to Istanbul and home, or look for connections to other destinations.

📚Read More: How to Get to Pamukkale from Istanbul

Best Time to Visit Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale

busy pammukale
Pamukkale at 10.00am

The best time to visit Istanbul is during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October). The weather is mild, and the tourist crowds are less overwhelming, allowing for a more enjoyable exploration of the city’s iconic landmarks.

Spring and Fall are also the most favorable times to visit Cappadocia as the weather is pleasant and not too cold. The months of April to June and September to October are also when the wind conditions are ideal for hot air balloon rides and hiking.

Pamukkale is beautiful to visit all year round, but we recommend you avoid the summer months as it’s just unbearably hot this time of year. We made the mistake of visiting in August, and it was sweltering from the moment the sun came up. Like Istanbul and Cappadocia, April and May or September and October are great times to visit.

FAQs About Visiting Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale

How far is Pamukkale from Istanbul and Cappadocia?

Pamukkale is approximately 573.1 km from Istanbul and takes just over 1 hour to fly, or 7 hours in a car. From Cappadocia, Pamukkale is 614.0 km and takes about 8 hours to drive. There is no direct flight between Cappadocia and Denizli Airport.

Which is better Cappadocia or Pamukkale?

In our opinion, Cappadocia is a better place to visit since there is much more to see and do. There isn’t enough attractions in Pamukkale to make a visit last longer than a day, since it’s really only the Travertine Terraces and Hierapolis to see. Pamukkale is still cool, but if you had to cut one destination out, this would be it for us.

Can you do a day trip from Istanbul to Pamukkale?

Technically, you can take a flight from Istanbul to Denizli and take a day trip from Istanbul to Pamukkale, but we wouldn’t recommend this option. For one thing, Pamukkale is best seen as early as possible (we recommend before 8.00am), since it becomes crowded by 10.00am. It will also be a long day catching flights and rushing between the airports.

Final Thoughts

Do there you have it, this is our ultimate Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale itinerary. We hope that this was helpful to you and gave you everything you need to plan your trip!

If you are still unsure about which destinations to visit in Turkey, consider reading our 7-10 day Turkey itinerary guide which has some other options for places to visit.

And as always, feel free to reach out to us and ask questions in the comments.

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