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Essential Turkey Itinerary: Istanbul, Cappadocia, Pamukkale

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Embark on the journey to admire the historic and natural wonders of Turkey! Take a cruise in Bosphorus and count the domes and minarets of Old Istanbul. Visit magnificent mosques, fortresses and ancient cities. Bargain in the buzzing Eastern bazaars for silk or leather goods, carpets or spices. Take a dip in white Pamukkale salt pools where Cleopatra herself swam to enhance her infamous beauty. Do this itinerary yourself or join our 8-day full board Turkey Itinerary to experience the best of the country!

Turkey tour highlights:

  • Istanbul tour: Sultanahmet Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Bosphorus Cruise, Spice Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome & Topkapi Palace
  • Impressive mosques: Bursa’s famous Ulu Camii and Isabey mosque
  • Jaw-dropping nature: Pamukkale cotton castle terraces, Goreme “fairy chimneys” rock formations and Pasabag valley
  • Shopping for traditional wares: silk, leather goods, Turkish carpets and pottery
  • Fortresses: Eskihisar Citadel and Uchisar castle
  • Ancient cities: Ephesus, Hierapolis and Kaymakli underground city

Turkey tour itinerary:

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur – Istanbul – Bursa

Bursa Turkey attractions: Bursa grand bazaar, Bursa Green tomb; Sultanahmet istanbul, Hippodrome Istanbul, Topkapi palace

Start your Turkey trip with a visit to the Blue Mosque, famous for its blue tiles, courtyard and unique 6 minarets built in the name of Sultanahmet. Its interior is as stunning as the exterior, and I did take a break from ‘touristing’ for a quick prayer and meditation. Step outside to walk on the ancient Hippodrome where chariot races and gladiator sports used to take place in Constantinople, the old capital of the Byzantine Empire.

My next stop was the Hagia Sophia mosque that was converted into a museum definitely needs no introduction. The marvellous oriental Topkapi Palace, locally known as Seraglio and was built in 1478, is just minutes away by walking. I was amazed by Ottoman imperial harem and the treasury, especially the 86 carats Spoonmaker’s Diamond. According to one tale, a jeweller paid three spoons to a poor fisherman who found it, hence the name.

While there is much more to see in Istanbul, I’d suggest to leave the capital and explore the rest of the country; I came back to Istanbul on Day 7. Take a bus to Gebze and transfer to Eskihisar, while you pass beautiful countryside during your drive. Once in Eskihisar, take a refreshing walk next to the shore and admire Eskihisar Citadel. Take a ferry to Yalova. Alternatively, from Topkapi Palace walk to Marmaray station to transfer to Kadikoy and take a ferry to Yalova. From there hop on a bus to Bursa.

Upon arrival walk around Bursa’s historic city: visit Ulu Camii (Bursa Grand Mosque), Bursa Green Mosque and Green Mausoleum, as well as Koza Hani market to shop for local souvenirs and silk. And if you’re spending more time in Bursa, check this article on things to do in Bursa by a local blogger!

Day 2: Bursa – Kusadasi

Kusadasi places to visit: Isabey camii, Kusadasi beaches

After your breakfast, I suggest you visit a small but informative Bursa Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (free of charge) before you get on a bus to Izmir and Kusadasi.

Day 3: Kusadasi – Pamukkale

Visit Turkey: Pamukkale natural pools Turkey, Efeso Turkey, ruins of Hierapolis

Day 3 is all about the historic sites! Start at Selcuk town with a visit to Isabey Mosque from the end of the Seljuk Empire period in late 14 C A.D. Then take a taxi to Ephesus ancient city archaeological museum where you are likely to spend a couple of hours. Don’t miss the remains of Temple Of Artemis (one of 7 wonders of the ancient world), Terrace Houses and the Great Theatre!

From Selcuk either take a train or a bus to Denizli and minibus to Pamukkale (“cotton castle” in Turkish), renowned for its white terraces and hot springs and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Calcareous hot springs descending over cliffs have created fascinating travertines in the form of white terrace and basins.

Just next to the white travertine pools is the Cleopatra’s Pool (or Pamukkale Antique Pool), which, according to a legend, was a gift from Marc Anthony to Cleopatra; there you can experience sparkling “champagne water.” Also walk to the Antique City of Hierapolis, a 12,000-seat structure that lies just above the travertines.

Day 4: Pamukkale – Konya – Cappadocia

Transfer from Pamukkale to Cappadocia during package holidays Turkey destinations

Personally, I’d suggest to visit the Pamukkale Antique Pool in the early morning before the buses with the day-trippers from surrounding resort towns start showing up. From Denizli take a bus to Konya. It’s one of the first centres of population in the history of humankind and was once the famous capital city of the Anatolian Seljuk Empire.

Have you seen whirling dervishes in the Turkish promotion materials? Konya is their hometown, and Mevlana Museum a former lodge and buzzing pilgrimage centre as many people come to visit the tomb of the famous Sufi Rumi. From Konya, take a bus heading to Aksaray to get off at Gazi. This small town is a home to famous Sultanhani Caravanserai, an outstanding example of the inns used by traders during the Silk Road.

Then proceed to Cappadocia which is considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world with its surrealistic geological creation.

Day 5: Cappadocia

Visit beautiful Cappadocia Turkey! Goreme fairy chimneys, Kaymakli caves in Turkey, cave village and Uchisar Turkish castle

For today I suggest to get a tour package from a local agency that includes a full day excursion tour of the Cappadocia region. You must visit Goreme open-air museum for the “fairy chimneys” rock formations in the Pasabag Valley (sometimes called a ‘mushroom valley’), Uchisar castle and surrounding village, Kaymakli for Cappadocia underground city and Avanos village known for pottery.

If time permits, plan a light 1-hour hike in Güvercinlik (Pigeon) Valley from Uchisar to Goreme, and/or 1-hour walk in Love Valley from Uchisar to Cavusin.

Day 6: Cappadocia – Ankara – Bolu

Visit Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Mausoleum in Ankara | Travel to Turkey

If your budget allows it, go for hot air ballooning during a sunrise. Afterwards, take a bus to Ankara, called “the city of Ataturk”. You must visit the magnificent Ataturk Mausoleum, Anitkabir, honouring Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey and have lunch at one of the traditional Turkish restaurants nearby.

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is another must for this city – it’s the best museum in the country and Selected as the European Museum of the Year in 2002. My next stop is Bolu, 2-hour bus drive away, to soak in the surrounding green landscapes in the Golcuk Nature Park. The town is also known for its cuisine and cooking talent since the Ottoman Empire so do enjoy your dinner!

Day 7: Bolu – Istanbul

Touristanbul, Grand Bazaar Istanbul, Bosphorus Cruise, Spice bazaar are must stops for all Istanbul tours | Turkey tour

It’s time to head back to Istanbul! After you check in your hotel, board the Bosphorus Cruise. While there are a lot of private options, I’d recommend taking the state-run company Sehir Hatlari cruise; it offers 2 and 3-hour cruises.

Spend the rest of the day touring the city and shopping at Spice Market and the 500-year-old Grand Bazaar – the famous Istanbul market of more than 4000 stalls and shops. For dinner, you should check out Kadinlar Pazari square in Fatih area, full of regional eateries.

Day 8: Istanbul – Kuala Lumpur

Chill and buy souvenirs before your flight back home. This is the end of our Turkey itinerary and a flight back to Malaysia!

P.S. While the tour can cover all the stops in 8 days, you will need to schedule more time for all the logistics. And don’t forget to time your trip well to avoid bad weather and excessive crowds!