Turkey Itinerary 7 Days

The Ultimate 7 Day Turkey Itinerary

My Turkey fascination started years ago with my son’s school report on the Hagia Sophia Mosque. It took years to actually make the trip because every time we were ready, it felt like something happened politically. So, when things were peaceful, we jumped at the chance to go. This trip exceeded every expectation and we’re sharing our 7 Day Turkey Itinerary so you create your own incredible adventure.

Turkey has something thrilling for everyone – world class hot air ballooning, swoon worthy beaches, historic biblical sites, iconic Grand Bazaar shopping and the bustling metropolis of Istanbul. It’s one exciting globetrotting moment after the next! Turkey travel is surprisingly easy to navigate.

At the bottom of this 7 day Turkey itinerary, you will find travel tips and practical information like the best time to travel to Turkey, the top places to visit, safety information and how to get a Turkish visa.

7 Days in Turkey Itinerary

7 Day Turkey Itinerary Days 1-3: Istanbul

The first stop on our Turkey itinerary was 3 days in vibrant Istanbul. Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia and is a mesmerizing mix between ancient and modern. In the city center there are historic mosques and buildings right near hipster cafes and designer shops.

With a population of 15 million, Istanbul is the largest city in Europe. You will likely spend most of your time on the European side but you can take a Bosphorus cruise right down the middle to see both sides.

Even with its enormous size, if you like finding your way around the city, it’s very easy to walk or take an Uber to most of the sightseeing spots. If you prefer having a guide, this Istanbul private city tour comes highly recommended.

Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque are “Must Sees” on Your 7 Day Turkey Itinerary

To put this “historic” city into perspective, the oldest buildings in Istanbul are more than 600 years older than oldest buildings in Paris. Our first stop was the Hagia Sophia since I had been captivated years prior by it’s complex religious history. This 6th Century cathedral was transformed into mosque in the 15th century. You can take a Hagia Sophia Guided Tour to learn more about its fascinating history.

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Hagia Sofia

The photo above and indoor shot below are the Hagia Sophia. Below right is the Blue Mosque, the neighbor to the Hagia Sophia, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.

In case you’re thinking “a mosque is a mosque.” These two mosques could not be more different from the inside. The Hagia Sofia (above left) is very dark and dramatic in black and gold while the Blue Mosque is a stunning display of intricate tile work and windows as seen in the photo of the ceiling below. It’s an architectural masterpiece.

Blue Mosque

Topkapi Palace

In this same area, you can check out Topkapi Palace, a former royal residence that is now a museum. This UNESCO Heritage site is the oldest surviving palace in the world. Make sure to check out the harem rooms. Skip the line with a Topkapi Palace guided tour to learn about the history of the Ottoman Era.

Grand Bazaar & Spice Bazaar

Still in the old city, we headed to the Grand Bazaar and found this cute, colorful street. You can grab a quick bite to eat before you delve into the biggest shopping area you’ve ever seen. The Spice Bazaar was my favorite. It conjures up images of traders traveling the Silk Road to bring precious and exotic spices to market.

The Grand Bazaar is a great place to pick up souvenirs. Some souvenir ideas: ceramics • lamps • kilim Rugs • spices • Turkish Delight • Turkish coffee & tea • jewelry • Turkish towels

Add a Bosphorus Cruise to Your Turkey Itinerary to See the Best of Istanbul

You can take a Bosphoros Cruise through the middle of 2 continents. We hopped on from the area called Ortaköy. For $5 it’s a delightful, hour long cruise that gives a completely different view of Istanbul’s beautiful waterfront houses and palaces. Out of 7 days, this was one of our favorite activities on Istanbul part of our Turkey itinerary.

Galata Tower and Galata Bridge

Galata Bridge connects two major parts of the European side of Istanbul over the waterway known as the Golden Horn. There have been 5 iterations of this bridge dating back to the 6th century. If you walk across the bridge, you get a great view of both sides. Galata Tower, which was built in 500 A.D. as watchtower to help defend the city stands taller than everything else. This is the optimal place to get a 360 degree view of Istanbul. 

Istiklal Caddesi

Local Life – Istiklal Caddesi, Karaköy, Besiktas & Nisantasi

We love to ditch the travel guide and walk between tourist spots to see what cool local hangouts we can find. This is where Istanbul shines. The restaurant culture and plethora of awesome places to go is outstanding. I would opt for hanging out in trendy cafes and bars over a tourist show of whirling dervishes any day.

  • Istiklal Caddesi – On Sundays, the Grand Bazaar is closed so it’s the perfect day to check out this lively pedestrian shopping area by Taksim square with tons of restaurants and stores. We had the yummiest healthy lunch at EK BİÇ YE İÇ. For lunch or dinner with a view, check out 360 Istanbul.
  • Nisantasi – The posh area with designer stores. A fun place to people watch, shop and grab lunch. Check out the rooftop bar at Swisshotel for a killer sunset over the Bosphoros.
  • Besiktas – We accidentally ended up finding this super cool area on our way way from Ortakoy. Definitely a great place to go out for dinner and drinks. It was packed and so much fun at this bustling part of town. There are a zillion choices of restaurants and bars here.
  • Karakoy – A revitalized neighborhood, total hipster spot where you’ll find great galleries, charming coffeehouses like Karabatak. This area is really close to Galata Tower.

7 Day Turkey Itinerary Days 4-5: Cappadocia

Cappadocia (pron. Cap-uh-dokia) is a region in the middle of Turkey comprised of multiple towns and villages. We almost didn’t include Cappadocia in our 7 day itinerary because it seemed so inconvenient to everything else in Turkey. That would have been a huge mistake – it was definitely a trip highlight.

Getting from Istanbul to Cappadocia is easiest by plane. Take a 1 hour flight into Kayseri or Nevsehir airports and then an hour drive to your hotel. The least expensive, most direct route is the overnight bus that takes you right to Gorëme, the main downtown area.

You should plan at least 2 nights here so you have 2 chances to watch or take a hot air balloon flight in case there are weather issues. Cappadocia has some really interesting and fun things to see but it’s pretty touristy, which is why 2-3 days is plenty.

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Hot Air Ballooning 7 Day Turkey Itinerary

Hot Air Balloon Ride is a Highlight of a 7 Day Turkey Itinerary

Cappadocia is world famous for hot air ballooning. The experience was spectacular. There are 2 take off times so you are able to fly and enjoying watching them afterwards. Make sure you book in advance. There are 150 balloons a day that are regularly full. The prices vary between $180-250 per person for a Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Flight and champagne toast.

Visiting the Valleys

If you plan to take a hot air balloon flight, you will get a bird’s eye view of the Cappadocia valleys. You should also go visit them on foot. We did a Sunset ATV Tour to Love Valley, Red Valley and Rose Valley. It’s a great place to hike and experience the fascinating landscape.

One of the top things to do in Cappadocia is see all the different valleys. The landscape is otherworldly and there are interesting caves everywhere. We opted for a 2 hour sunset ATV tour with some local guides. Plan to get dirty and wear something that can cover your face.

Pasabag (Monk’s Valley) above right is a popular spot to visit. You’ll see excellent examples of fairy chimneys and you can walk into the caves where monks lived.

Underground Cities

There are 200 underground cities in Cappadocia. The most famous and largest is Derinkuyu. Going 200 feet underground, it could house 20,000 people including their livestock stables. If you are claustrophobic, skip this.

Kaymakli, an underground city that’s further away, was discovered in 1963 when a local found a room behind a wall in his house. I’ve had dreams where I find a hallway and realize that my house was so much bigger than I thought, but could you imagine finding a whole city!!

Downtown Goreme

Downtown Goreme is a great place to walk around and shop for souvenirs like Turkish rugs, beautiful lamps and more. You’ll also find delicious restaurants. We ate at Peking Chinese Restaurant and had an unexpected delicious Chinese meal in Turkey. Work off lunch by taking a 15 minute walk to Goreme Open Air Museum and see churches from the 10th-12th centuries.

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Cappadocia Red, Green & Blue Tours Are a Great Way to See the Area

There are 3 main tour routes in Cappadocia. They are full-day, small group tours in a minivan. The hardest part is deciding which tour to take.

The Red Tour stays the closest to Goreme and will take you to Dervent Valley, the Open Air Museum, Uçhisar Castle, Pasabag and more. Personally I wouldn’t choose the Red Tour because you can see all those places on your own with their close proximity to Goreme.

The Green Tour takes you to the underground cities, Selime Monastery, rock carved churches and cave houses among other sights. The Green Tour goes to places that are much harder to see on your own unless you have a car. The underground cities are the highlight.

Lastly, the Blue Tour is the furthest off the typical tourist track and visits Turkish villages and beautiful landscapes. For those that want the most authentic Turkish experience, the Blue tour is the best choice. You will see more locals and see what real life is like in Cappadocia.

Staying in a Cave Hotel is Must for your 7 Day Turkey Itinerary

Staying in a cave hotel is a prime attraction in the area. We stayed at Local Cave House because they had the coolest pool (see above) and we were only staying for a day so we wanted to be walking distance from shopping and restaurants in town. Here are some Cappadocia cave hotel tips and other great cave hotel choices that are a little more upscale:

  • Sultan Cave Suites is also centrally located and very popular because of the incredible view. They have a beautiful set up for you to get amazing balloon photos at the crack of dawn.
  • Museum Hotel – This is probably the most sought after upscale cave hotel because of the stunning balloon views and beautiful pool.
  • Our Blog Post on the Top 12 Cave Hotels in Cappadocia will help you pick the perfect hotel at your price point.

7 Day Turkey Itinerary Days 6-7: Bodrum & Ephesus

Resort Bodrum 7 Day Turkey Itinerary

Bodrum is known for its luxurious seaside hotels, and Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Bodrum is a total stand out! The private pool, turquoise coast villas have “to die for” unobstructed views of Torba Bay. Our first thought, and honestly every thought after was – we want to live here!

You can go totally low key and just enjoy the villa or the hotel’s infinity pool. If you have kids, there’s a nice family beach. OR, you can live it up at the next door Nikki Beach Club with live music and fun party scene.

Fun Things to Do in Bodrum

  • Spend an afternoon in Bodrum town. The charming harbor has restaurants and souvenir shopping.
  • Take a day cruise from Bodrum harbor on a wooden Gulet boat and spend a leisurely afternoon exploring the coastline and bays.
  • This is a great place to hop over to Greece. You can do a full day trip to the island of Kos. It’s only a 40 minute ferry ride to be in another country. Even though it’s so close, it really feels like Greece and different from Turkey. You can also start your journey to Santorini if you are planning a Turkey and Greece Itinerary.
  • Take a day trip to Ephesus or Pamukkale.

Related Post: 3 Days in Santorini Itinerary


Ancient City of Ephesus – 1/2 Day

From Istanbul or Cappadocia, fly into Izmir airport. Ephesus can also be visited as a day trip from Bodrum. This UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important ancient ruins in Turkey was the 4th largest city in the Roman Empire. A veritable who’s who of famous figures spent time in Ephesus including Paul the Apostle, Alexander the Great, Anthony and Cleopatra. Pretty mind blowing, right!

The thing that really struck me here with the grand size of everything. The theater that held 25,000 spectators, the Arcadian Way, a 500 meter marble road lined with 50 streetlights and shops that connected the theater to the sea and the ancient Library of Celsus that housed 12,000-15,000 scrolls shown above.

You should definitely use a tour guide here to learn all of the historical significance. Either find a guide at the gate or book a Small Group Tour of Ephesus with the House of the Virgin Mary Hours: 8am – 5pm (7pm April to October). Plan your visit to be at the opening or the late afternoon to avoid big tour groups and the heat.

Why We Left Pamukkale Off Our 7 Day Turkey Itinerary

7 days in Turkey is a whirlwind trip for a country with so many things to do, so you have to pick what to include and leave off of your itinerary. We opted not to go to Pamukkale because it’s a trek to get there and many of the pools that look beautiful in photos are dried up. Before you head to Pamukkale, check out Trip Advisor where people post current conditions and photos so you can decide if you want to visit.


How to Get a Turkish Visa

Getting a Turkish Visa was really easy. Just fill out the online application, make the payment and you will get your document emailed to you. At the airport, just show your passport and visa document to enter Turkey.

Transportation in Turkey

  • Air travel – the flight system within Turkey is very affordable and there are a surprising amount of flights The 2 main airlines that fly to almost every airport are Turkish Airlines and Pegasus.
  • Rental Car – Many people choose this option because the roads are good. One thing to keep in mind is that you will be looking at some long drives. Cappadocia to Istanbul is 10-12 hours. Cappadocia to Ephesus is 12-14 hours. If you don’t mind and you have time for a 7 to 10 day itinerary, then this would be a great way to see Turkey.
  • Bus – The distances are the same as the car rides but someone else is doing the driving and you can take the bus overnight. If you are looking for the budget option, this is it.
  • Train – The train doesn’t easily go everywhere in Turkey but it does go to some places. It seems too complicated to get around this way.
  • Turkey Tour – Some people opt for a 7 to 14 day Turkey tour so everything is planned out for them. It will definitely involve bus travel.
7 Day Turkey Itinerary Cappadocia

Is Turkey Safe to Travel?

The #1 question we were asked about traveling to Turkey – is it safe? The #2 question – did we feel safe? All of the areas we visited in 7 days on this Turkey itinerary were safe according to the Travel.State.Gov website. The area of Turkey near the Syrian border is and has been off limits for some time but we were no where near there.

Here are the links to the the current status of Turkey for American citizens and British citizens. My advice for anyone is to look up any country you plan to visit and follow the Government recommendations.

As things can change, it’s always a good idea to purchase travel insurance in case you need to change your trip due to some unfortunate change. World Nomads is a great travel insurance plan that will cover you for trip cancellation or emergency medical expenses and they have 24 hour assistance when you need help.

Best Time to Visit Turkey

We went to Turkey in May and the weather was perfect! The most comfortable months are April-May and September-October. Visiting during the shoulder season will allow you to avoid crowds and hot temperatures.

  • Istanbul is hot and swarming with tourists in June-August. The shoulder season of April/May and September/October is pleasant weather wise but expect some rain like we had in May. November – March has cooler temps and rain but you’ll be free of the tourist crowds.
  • Cappadocia – You can go year round, but balloon flights can be cancelled due to weather. If you are going during an iffy weather time, stay an extra day to get an extra chance at flying or seeing the balloons fly. Best months are April, May, September and October. June – August is HOT! The winter gets snow. We had perfect weather in May.
  • Bodrum – High season in Bodrum is July and August. If you prefer a more relaxing vacation with great weather, go in May, June, or September. Some hotels shut down during the off season.

If you’re planning 7 days in Turkey, we hope this itinerary helps you plan your trip and fall in love with this country the way we did. To make a shorter trip, you’ll have to decide between Cappadocia and the Turkish Riviera.

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43 Comments

  • Reply
    Anna
    July 19, 2022 at 4:49 am

    Thanks for sharing this. Did you book a round trip from Istanbul? I need to fly from SFO to Istanbul. But our last stop can either be Bodrum of Cappadocia. I am thinking if it might be better to book the return from one of the cities, that way, we do not have to come back to Istabul and stay at a hotel there!

    Also, do you recommend going to Cappadocia first?

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      July 20, 2022 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Anna – We flew LAX – Istanbul and then departed Turkey from Bodrum on a ferry to Greece. My best advice would be to set your itinerary based on whatever works best with the flights you find. If you can get to Cappadocia easily, it’s a great place to start. We had planned to do that but our flight got into Istanbul late and we missed our flight to Cappadocia. We ended up eating the cost and going to Cappadocia 3 days later. There are tons of flights to Cappadocia every day. Just leave enough time for your connection or book one airline straight through so they can get you on a different flight if you miss the connection.

  • Reply
    Ashley R.
    March 31, 2022 at 11:25 pm

    This exact itinerary inspired me to book our 15 yr anniversary trip… and we followed it to a T! We are going in June and cannot wait!!

    Thank you so much for your help!!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      April 1, 2022 at 12:11 am

      How exciting! You’re going to have the best trip.

  • Reply
    Tammi Kaeberlein
    February 20, 2022 at 8:49 pm

    I so appreciate this detailed and thoughtful post. And the photos are a dream! I’ve never been to Turkey but it keeps popping up in conversations and I”m taking that as a sign. Pinned and will revisit for later. Thanks so much!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      February 21, 2022 at 11:03 pm

      Thanks Tammi. You will love it when you get a chance to visit!

  • Reply
    Mithila
    February 7, 2022 at 6:20 am

    Hi Jennifer, This is truly an elaborate and helpful post for anyone looking to visit Turkey. I am planning to visit Turkey this month and would love to your recommendations or tips for winter travel. Any places to add/replace/avoid from this itinerary?

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      February 7, 2022 at 5:20 pm

      Winter would be a great time to go, especially to Cappadocia when there’s snow that will make it even more beautiful. Istanbul will be chilly but have less tourists and lower hotel rates. You could add skiing at Uludağ (near Istanbul) to your itinerary. If you choose to go to the Turkish riviera, some resorts will be closed for the season but you can still find places to stay.

  • Reply
    Kala
    January 2, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    Amazing photos! Is it safe to travel alone as a woman?

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      January 4, 2022 at 1:55 am

      Hi Kala – I personally felt safe 100% of the time in Turkey. Definitely use the same good judgement you would use at home. I’ve heard some weird things about cabs from the airport so you might want to set up a transportation service ahead of time. Also, it’s always good to check for any state department travel warnings.

  • Reply
    Mitos
    July 2, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    Love your posting on Turkey. Just wondering is it safe to travel in Turkey on our own – drive on our own with friends in cappadocia, oludeniz and just purchase activities when we reach their or should we join a tour group. What tour group can you recommend .
    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      July 2, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      It seemed safe to drive a car, however we flew and took busses. We aren’t really the types to do multi day tours. If you’re the same, you will have an easy time booking excursions and day tours. In Cappadocia there is no shortage of tour operators and our hotel helped connect us with one that had space on a balloon. I recommend booking that as early as possible because they sell out. If they don’t fly for weather reasons, they will refund you. I recommend talking to the hotel because they have good local connections. Turkey is very well set up to accommodate tourists and you’ll have the best trip!

  • Reply
    Deepti
    April 6, 2021 at 9:44 am

    Loved your post!

  • Reply
    aditi oberoi malhotra
    September 19, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    Such amazing pictures, hon! I’d love to visit Turkey someday.
    Adi xx

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      September 20, 2019 at 7:34 pm

      It’s such an amazing trip. You are going to love it when you get a chance to go!

  • Reply
    The Exclusive Beauty Diary
    September 8, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    Istambul is such a magical city. Architecture and colors are amazing. Also Acient city of Ephesus, Cave Hotel as well as Cappakdocia are on my list for visiting for such a long time. After your photos I thing that I definitely need to go there. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      September 18, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      Glad you liked it. We were enthralled with Turkey and would love to go back again to see more.

  • Reply
    Simone
    August 24, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    All you’re shots are truly amazing! I’ve seen so many pictures of Cappadocia with all those balloons and it looks very stunning. I do love Turkey so much but I’ve only been to the beaches and Istanbul so far. The country has so many gorgeous sights to discover.

    xx Simone

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 24, 2019 at 11:53 pm

      Thank you. I agree that Turkey has so much to offer. I’d love to go explore more!

  • Reply
    Jessica
    August 23, 2019 at 8:06 am

    That Topkapi Palace is absolutely stunning! Lovely snaps you have here dear. Thanks for sharing your itinerary!

    Jessica

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 23, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Marijke
    August 22, 2019 at 5:00 am

    What a beautiful post! And your pictures are stunning. Who would not want to go after seeing and reading this article. You have totally inspire me! I am going to check out your other posts as well.

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 22, 2019 at 5:23 am

      Thank you so much! Turkey is such a beautiful and interesting country.

  • Reply
    Juliet
    August 21, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Looks like the trip of a lifetime! xo

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 22, 2019 at 5:23 am

      Thank you. It’s truly an amazing trip.

  • Reply
    Grace Liang
    August 20, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Looks like such a incredible place to visit! I’ve always wanted to go to Turkey. Thank you for sharing this great Itinerary!

    https://colorandgrace.com/

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 22, 2019 at 5:25 am

      So glad you liked the itinerary. You’ll absolutely love Turkey!

  • Reply
    Phyllis Lerner
    August 19, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    My husband spent time in Turkey many years ago when a connecting flight got delayed. He had an amazing time there. I would be a little nervous to go now but you certainly make it sound like an awesome experience!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 19, 2019 at 9:03 pm

      It is such a terrific trip. I know some people are nervous to travel but I didn’t feel unsafe at all. I used the state department website to make my decision about the safety.

  • Reply
    Allie Mackin
    August 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Oh this looked likes such a beautiful trip! Your photos are stunning and really bring the trip to life. How cool to go here and capture it so well.

    Allie

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 19, 2019 at 4:47 pm

      Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Carmel
      August 19, 2019 at 8:07 pm

      Thanks for touring me to Turkey!

  • Reply
    Grace Louise
    August 19, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Gorgeous post Hun, I really want to go to Turkey soon! x

    Grace Louise

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 19, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      It’s definitely a worthwhile trip!

  • Reply
    Laura
    August 19, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing Jennifer!

    I’ve been to Turkey once and it was certainly mixed in terms of how we felt about it, I feel there are really beautiful areas which you’ve showcased here I would love to visit 🙂

    Thanks for your wonderful feature and tips!

    Laura xo

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 19, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      We definitely had an amazing experience. The only thing we didn’t love was that Cappadocia was touristy but it was easy to escape it and that’s why we felt 2 days was enough there.

  • Reply
    Barbara Eskowitz
    August 18, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    Oh how I love your travel blog posts Jenifer! Always so informative and the photos are absolutely amazing. Saving this one. xx

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 18, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      Thank you so much! Turkey is a fascinating and fun trip!

  • Reply
    Jules
    August 18, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for these precious tips, I’d like to visit places like these!!

    https://julesonthemoon.com/

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 18, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      Definitely a great place to visit!

  • Reply
    Kinga
    August 18, 2019 at 8:15 am

    I love this place❣

  • Reply
    Guy B
    August 17, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    This is really great information for a trip to Turkey.
    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      August 17, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      Thank you!

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