Istanbul Instagram Spots: 21 Photo Spots in Istanbul + MAP

Istanbul Instagram Spots: 21 Photo Spots in Istanbul + MAP

Unveiling the Ultimate Guide: 21 Must-Visit Instagram Spots in Istanbul for Stunning Photos

Heading to Istanbul anytime soon? You will be delighted to know that this historical city is breathtakingly pretty and as a result, the photos turn out amazing. (Yes, it is 2024, and everyone loves clicking pictures with their smartphones for Instagram).

Istanbul is built on seven hills and as a result, there are multiple viewpoints and stunning photo opportunities (just like Lisbon). Moreover, the backdrop of imperial mosques all over the city, especially along the water and on top of the hills results in a breathtaking cityscape.

A Random Pretty Street in Istanbul
A Random Pretty Street in Istanbul

Waterbodies like the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn make the images even better. Bonus points for cats, because Istanbul has many of them and they turn a normal picture into an extraordinary one.

The magical city of Istanbul is where history, culture, and beauty collide. If you’re a travel enthusiast or an Instagram addict, you’re in for a treat. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of some of the absolute best Instagram spots in Istanbul. From historic landmarks to hidden gems, prepare to capture the essence of this mesmerizing city in every frame.

For your convenience, I have included Google Map links at the end of each point so that you can mark them on your map and download an offline version before your trip to Istanbul.

1) Hagia Sophia: Where History Meets Elegance

Hagia Sophia - 3 days in Istanbul Itinerary
Hagia Sophia – 3 days in Istanbul Itinerary

Our journey begins with the iconic Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has stood the test of time. Hagia Sophia is in Sultanahmet Square, a place where you will find some of the most Instagrammable places in Istanbul. Yes, Sultan Ahmet Square is touristy, but it is worth it.

Hagia Sofia in Istanbul - Top Instagram Spots
Hagia Sofia in Istanbul – Top Instagram Spots

Marvel at the grandeur of its architecture, capturing the intricate details of its domes and the interplay of light within its sacred walls. Hagia Sophia is a timeless backdrop for your Istanbul Instagram feed.

Yes this is perhaps the most photographed mosque of Istanbul but is worth the hype. I did mention it as the first spot in my 3-day Istanbul itinerary and also my 10-day Turkey itinerary.

Fun fact: Originally Hagia Sofia was built as a cathedral in 537 AD during the Byzantine era. It was converted into an imperial mosque under the Ottomans. It also functioned as a museum for a few years but as of 2023, it is again a mosque.

Click here for Google Maps location.

2) Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque): A Serene Masterpiece

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Adjacent to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque enchants with its six minarets and a sea of blue tiles. Visit during the golden hour to witness the mosque bathed in a soft, golden glow. Frame the mosque against the canvas of the sky for ethereal Istanbul Instagram photos.

You can’t go inside the mosque during the prayer time but enjoy the stunning courtyard where you will click some of the most interesting photos. If you do get a chance to go inside, you will see a lovely blue tilework on the ceiling and low-hanging lamps.

Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul
Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul

For a unique perspective, click a selfie with the backdrop of the blue ceiling behind you. I tried but I had a bad camera but I’m sure you will do a better job.

Be mindful of what you wear because you’re entering a religious building. Cover your legs, shoulders, and stomach before you enter any mosque.

Click here for Google Maps location.

3) Istiklal Avenue (+Red Tram): Bustling Street Life

Taksim Square and Istiklal Street
Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

I have a thing for lively streets and for me, Istanbul’s Istiklal Street checked all the boxes. It is right next to Taksim Square, which is like the Istanbul city center.

Experience the vibrant energy of Istanbul on Istiklal Avenue, the city’s bustling pedestrian street. Document the eclectic street life, from historic tram rides to street performers. Bonus points if you can also capture the vintage red tram as it moves at a slow pace on Istiklal Street.

You will also see many street food carts and baklava shops. The backdrop of the Taksim Mosque adds a nice touch. The avenue’s dynamic atmosphere provides endless opportunities for candid and lively Instagram shots.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

4) CVK Park Bosphorus Hotel: Room with a View

Sunset view from my bed in CVK Park Bosphorous, Istanbul
Sunset view from my bed in CVK Park Bosphorus, Istanbul

Imagine watching the most amazing sunrise from your bedroom without having to get out of your bed or get ready early in the morning to run to a nice spot. Yes, it is possible!

I stayed at CVK Park Bosphorus Hotel and I was pleasantly surprised when I pressed a button near my bed to open the shutters and saw the sunrise with an amazing view of the Bosphorus. You see, I didn’t even have to get out of bed to open the shutters.

I was alone here and I had a conference to attend for two days, so I could only manage a few quick pictures but imagine if you have a tripod and if you are here with your partner, you can end up clicking the most amazing “in bed” pictures with the view.

Bathtub with a view at CVK Park Bosphorus Istanbul
Bathtub with a view at CVK Park Bosphorus Istanbul

Bonus: even the bathtub has a view and you can sit in the tub with warm bubbly water and enjoy the view.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

5) Feshane Artİstanbul Library: Booklover’s Paradise

I have a thing for stunning bookstores and libraries and the one at Feshane Artİstanbul didn’t disappoint. Feshane was the first textile industry establishment in Turkey, but the building was transformed into a contemporary handicraft museum in 1992. Sadly it unusable due to the rise of the waters on the Golden Horn side

Eyüp Feshane Library - Istanbul Instagram Spots
Feshane Artİstanbul Library – Istanbul Instagram Spots

After the 1998 restoration, the building was revived and has been transformed into a space that can be used for all kinds of organizations, meetings, seminars, concerts, galas, parties, exhibitions, and cultural events. I also attended a press event for influencers that was hosted by the Mayor of Istanbul here and I was awarded the title of Istanbul Tourism Ambassador.

Our spot of interest is a library inside that looks super pretty because of the old walls and the stark contrast of new bookshelves with loads of books. Honestly, this is like a hidden gem and still under the radar because the posts for most Instagrammable spots never mention this place.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

6) View from Bosphorus Bridge

The Stunning Landscape of Istanbul
The Stunning Landscape of Istanbul

There aren’t many bridges in the world that connect continents but the Bosphorus bridge is one of them. Imagine if you cross the bridge and you move from Europe to Asia or vice versa in just minutes.

But the thing is, this isn’t an easy picture to capture because of the horrible traffic situation in Istanbul. If you are crossing this bridge in a car, then forget about even clicking this picture. Even from a normal bus, you won’t manage a good shot, I didn’t also the first time I visited.

The only way I was able to click pictures from Bosphorus Bridge was because we were on top of a bus, on a “Busforus” bus tour. Honestly, I normally hate bus tours but Istanbul is the city to do it because of the traffic situation and you get to sit on top of the bus and see many landmarks all over the city.

View from Bosphorus Bridge
View from Bosphorus Bridge

Another option would be to arrive here on your own by public transport and walk on the bridge. It has a pedestrian lane on each side but the situation does get chaotic due to the traffic.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

7) Topkapi Palace Courtyard: Regal Grandeur Unleashed

View from Topkapi Palace courtyard in Istanbul
View from Topkapi Palace courtyard in Istanbul

Step into the world of Ottoman royalty at Topkapi Palace. The sprawling complex offers a visual feast of opulent courtyards and lush gardens. Explore the palace’s chambers, capturing the richness of its history and the grandeur of its architecture. Topkapi Palace is a regal setting for your Instagram storytelling.

Pro tip: One of the best photo spots inside Topkapi Palace is from one of its courtyards because you can see the Golden Horn, the Marmara Sea, and Galata Tower on the other side. The entry fee for Topkapı Palace in 2024 is 750 Turkish Lira per person.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

8) Galata Tower: Panoramic Views of Istanbul

Galata Tower in Istanbul
Galata Tower in Istanbul

For a panoramic perspective of Istanbul, ascend the historic Galata Tower. Capture the city’s skyline against the changing hues of the sky during sunset. The 360-degree views from the tower make it a prime spot for showcasing the blend of old and new in Istanbul.

View from top of Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
View from the top of Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey – CC0 via Pixabay

Galata Tower has 9 floors and the lifts will take you to the 7th floor. You have to climb up two floors yourself. It is worth the time and effort. If you visit in the summer months, there is a queue of people waiting to get on top during the prime golden hours like sunrise and sunset.

The entry for Galata Tower closes at 8 pm and the entrance fee is 650 Turkish Liras per person.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

9) Galata Bridge: Iconic Water Crossing

Galata Bridge with locals fishing
Galata Bridge with locals fishing

Galata Bridge deserves a spot in your Instagram arsenal. Whether it’s the bustling street life, the views of the Golden Horn, or the iconic structure itself, this bridge provides ample opportunities for stunning shots. Visit during sunrise or sunset for a magical atmosphere.

Galata Bridge is less about the views for me but more about the culture because you will see hundreds of locals who gather here for fishing.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

10) Eminönü: Bustling Waterfront Hub

Istanbul Cityscape clicked from Eminönü during sunset
Istanbul Cityscape clicked from Eminönü during sunset via Unsplash

Some of the most popular pictures of Istanbul were clicked right from Eminönü. It is a waterfront area and on the other side are old buildings specifically Galata Tower and mosques with high minarets.

Eminonu, with its lively waterfront, historic landmarks, and vibrant street markets, is a visual feast. There are loads of waterfront eateries and many of them are pickle shops where you can try the Turkish legendary Pickle Juice (which I mentioned in my Istanbul food tour post).

Pickle Shops in Eminönü, Istanbul
Pickle Shops in Eminönü, Istanbul

Capture the energy of the ferries, the silhouette of the New Mosque, and the lively atmosphere of the numerous shops. This dynamic area will add diversity to your Istanbul story.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

11) Basilica Cistern: Subterranean Marvel

Inside basilica Cistern in Istanbul
Inside Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Now, let’s shine a light on the mysterious Basilica Cistern. It is a unique spot made famous by Dan Brown’s book Inferno, and later the movie. It is the largest surviving cistern from the Byzantine times and is beneath Istanbul city.

I visited Istanbul during the leaner tourism month of November in 2023 and saw a long line outside Basilica Cistern. I highly suggest you buy a skip-the-line entrance ticket so that you don’t waste your time waiting.

Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

With its mesmerizing columns and the famous Medusa heads, it’s a unique spot that adds a touch of mystique to your Instagram feed. Play with shadows and reflections to capture its enigmatic beauty.

When I visited Basilica Cistern, I noticed that they change the lighting inside every few minutes so you can capture different kinds of shots at the same spot. I understand that it would be a nightmare for those who carry around DSLRs because they would have to keep changing the setting.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates.

12) Bosphorus Cruise: Sail into Instagrammable Beauty

Sunset cruise over Bosphorous, Istanbul itinerary
Sunset cruise over Bosphorus, Istanbul itinerary

One of the ways to find loads of amazing photo opportunities is by embarking on a Bosphorus cruise during sunset time. This way, you have a unique vantage point of Istanbul’s beauty.

Capture the cityscape along the waterfront, with iconic landmarks lining the shores. The gentle waves of the Bosphorus create a picturesque backdrop for your Instagram feed, telling the story of Istanbul’s timeless charm.

I have shortlisted a few tours for you

I did a tour that lasted 2 hours and I clicked lots of photos. It did have a running commentary, which I didn’t listen to. It got very cold right after sunset so I suggest you carry a jacket even during the summer months.

I haven’t mentioned any Google Maps location link here because all these tours have meeting points that are mentioned separately in the tour description.

13) Grand Bazaar & Spice Market: A Kaleidoscope of Colors and Culture

Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Do you have a thing for local markets to understand the local culture? I have good news for you: Istanbul has some of the world’s oldest and most interesting bazaars.

Dive into the vibrant tapestry of the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s most renowned markets. The bustling alleys, adorned with colorful textiles and spices, provide endless photo opportunities. Some of the best-performing photos of the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul were the ones that were clicked outside lamp shops.

Egyptian Spice Bazaar in Istanbul
Egyptian Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

Document the market’s energy and capture candid moments to add authenticity to your Instagram collection.

Don’t miss the nearby Egyptian Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar. I liked it much more than the Grand Bazaar because of its arched ceilings, pillars, and slightly less chaotic vibes. You will find many shops selling not just spices but also aromatic teas, coffee, and Turkish delight among other things.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates for Grand Bazaar.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates for the Egyptian Bazaar.

14) Balat: Colorful Houses, Umbrellas, Rainbow Stairs

Colorful houses of Balat - Istanbul photo spots
Colorful houses of Balat – Istanbul photo spots via Unsplash

Venture into the heart of Istanbul’s historic Balat district, a treasure trove of colorful houses and narrow streets. The famous rainbow stairs serve as a whimsical backdrop for your Instagram photos.

One of Balat’s distinctive features is its colorful houses. Narrow cobbled streets are lined with homes painted in a myriad of hues, creating a picturesque and lively atmosphere. The vibrant colors add a unique charm to the neighborhood, making it a popular destination for photographers and visitors seeking an authentic Istanbul experience.

Balat also has an “umbrella street”. Dimitrie Cantemir Museum Café on Sancaktar Yokuşu Sokak has a colorful courtyard with umbrellas that’s now a famous photo spot.

In recent years, Balat has also become a canvas for street artists. Colorful murals and street art can be found adorning walls, adding a contemporary touch to the neighborhood’s historic backdrop. These art installations contribute to the area’s eclectic and bohemian ambiance.

The neighborhood has embraced its artistic side, with many establishments showcasing local art and crafts. Explore the street art and capture the eclectic spirit of this vibrant neighborhood.

Click here for Google Maps Coordinates for Colorful Houses of Balat.

15) Ortakoy Mosque: Elegance by the Bosphorus

Ortaköy Mosque in İstanbul, Türkiye
Ortaköy Mosque in İstanbul, Türkiye via Unsplash

Ortakoy Mosque, gracefully perched on the shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, is a visual masterpiece that seamlessly blends Ottoman and Baroque architectural styles.

Constructed in the 19th century, this waterfront gem stands as an elegant testament to Istanbul’s rich cultural heritage. With its intricate details, cascading domes, and a stunning view of the Bosphorus Bridge, Ortakoy Mosque exudes timeless beauty.

The mosque is not only a symbol of religious significance but also a picturesque landmark that captivates both locals and visitors, inviting them to appreciate its harmonious blend of tradition and splendor.

Capture the mosque’s elegance against the backdrop of the Bosphorus Bridge, especially during the evening when the lights transform the scene into pure magic.

Click Here for the Google Maps Coordinates.

16) Suleymaniye Mosque: Majestic Ottoman Architecture

the view from Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
the view from Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul

Explore the grandeur of Süleymaniye Mosque, an architectural masterpiece dominating Istanbul’s skyline. The mosque’s domes and minarets create a stunning silhouette, especially against the canvas of a clear blue sky.

With most of the tourists visiting the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia, Süleymaniye Mosque somehow maintains its low-key charm and some say that it is the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul.

The best view of the Süleymaniye mosque is from the Bridge near it. Also, this mosque is a bit higher up so prepare to climb up the steps. The view from Süleymaniye mosque is worth all the effort.

Süleymaniye Mosque is close to the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar, so you can combine the visit to all these places together. Visit during different times of the day to capture the changing light.

Click Here for the Google Maps Coordinates.

17) Maiden’s Tower: A Fairytale Setting

Salacak, Maiden's Tower, Üsküdar Salacak Mevkii, Üsküdar:İstanbul, Türkiye
Salacak, Maiden’s Tower, Üsküdar Salacak Mevkii, Üsküdar:İstanbul, Türkiye via Unsplash

Istanbul’s Maiden’s Tower, rising gracefully from the Bosphorus on its own islet, is an iconic subject for photographers. Steeped in legend and history, its silhouette against the vibrant cityscape or the golden hues of a sunset creates an enchanting scene.

The tower’s architectural details, illuminated in the evening, add a touch of mystique, while its reflection in the water enhances the visual allure. Whether capturing the tower in daylight against the blue waters or during the atmospheric glow of night, Maiden’s Tower offers a timeless and captivating photographic subject, encapsulating the romantic essence of Istanbul.

Whether viewed from the European or Asian side, the tower offers enchanting photo opportunities. Experiment with framing to capture the tower against the cityscape or the serene waters.

Now this is one sight that you will enjoy from your Bosphorus cruise. That’s why I am not sharing any Google Maps location since it is in the middle of the water.

18) Camlica Hill: Skyline Spectacle

View from the Camlica Mosque on Çamlıca Hill
View from the Camlica Mosque via Unsplash

For a panoramic view of Istanbul’s sprawling skyline, head to Camlica Hill. The highest point in the city provides a breathtaking backdrop for your Instagram photos. Capture the city below during different times of the day, showcasing the dynamic beauty of Istanbul.

Camlica Mosque is also an interesting spot for you to see if you are on Camlica Hill. Note that the mosque is not on top of the Camlica Hill.

The stunning Çamlıca Mosque on Camilca Hill in Istanbul
The stunning Çamlıca Mosque on Camilca Hill in Istanbul

Camlica Hill is a panoramic masterpiece, providing an unrivaled view of Istanbul’s iconic skyline, the Bosphorus, and historic landmarks. The changing hues of the sky at sunrise and sunset transform the scene into a canvas of warm tones, making it a prime location for capturing the city’s magical moments.

The hill’s expansive green spaces, paired with the city’s architectural wonders, create an ever-evolving visual spectacle. Photographing Camlica Hill means immortalizing the dynamic beauty of Istanbul from an elevated perspective, promising timeless and awe-inspiring images.

Click Here for Google Maps Location.

19) Mağlova Aqueduct: Ottoman Marvel in Kemerburgaz Forest

Mağlova Su Kemeri - Malov Aquaduct, Istanbul
Mağlova Su Kemeri – Malov Aquaduct, Istanbul

Mağlova Aqueduct is a historical gem that many don’t end up visiting. It is an Ottoman aqueduct bridge dating back to 1563. Turkish Airlines calls it a tranquil masterpiece. It is named Malov Aquaduct or Mağlova Su Kemeri on Google Maps.

The Mağlova Aqueduct is on top of the Alibey River and is within the borders of Sultangazi. This aqueduct is 257 meters long and 36 meters high and is still functional. It carries clean water to Istanbul even today.

Kemerburgaz City Forest and Maglova Aquaduct
Kemerburgaz City Forest and Maglova Aquaduct

I have to admit that it isn’t easy to get here on public transport but if you have a rented car or can hire a taxi, you have to go towards Kemerburgaz City Forest. You can combine this visit with a bit of hiking for 45 minutes from the parking. Alternatively, you can drive directly up to the spot from where you can see the aqueduct, the river, and the hills.

Click Here for the Google Maps location for Maglova Aquaduct.

20) Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul
Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul

Nestled along the sparkling shores of the Bosphorus, Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace stands as a testament to opulence and architectural splendor. This majestic palace, built in the mid-19th century, served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire during its later years.

Adorned with a harmonious blend of European and Ottoman design, Dolmabahce Palace is a marvel of crystal chandeliers, grand staircases, and ornate furnishings that reflect the empire’s transition into a modern era.

If you booked the “Busforus” bus tour, then you will be happy to know that the Dolmabahçe Palace is one of the stops.

Visitors are greeted by the resplendent Ceremonial Hall, boasting the largest Bohemian crystal chandelier in the world. The palace’s sprawling gardens and the Clock Tower add to its allure, offering a tranquil escape with breathtaking views of the Bosphorus.

As you wander through the halls that once hosted statesmen and royalty, Dolmabahçe Palace invites you to step back in time and immerse yourself in the regal legacy of Istanbul.

Click Here for the Google Maps Location.

21) Restaurant with a View: Istanbul has Many

Oligark Restaurant with a view
Oligark Restaurant with a view

Let’s face it, you won’t spend all your time going to every single one of the historical landmarks or viewpoints that I have mentioned on this list, but you will surely at some point go out to eat. Why not make it a visual treat?

I went to Oligark İstanbul, which is along the Bosphorus Strait and we had a full view of the water and the city on three sides because of the glass walls.

Click here for Google Maps coordinates for Oligark.

Another amazing place that one of my friends visited is Henna Hotel Istanbul, with a rooftop restaurant that has a view of the Bosphorus and it is right there in Sultanahmet Square.

Honestly, Istanbul doesn’t have a shortage of restaurants and cafes with a view. I found a list of the top 10 Istanbul restaurants with a view on Tripadvisor, be sure to check it out. Some of them blew up on social media and it takes a while to get a place so those aren’t worth it. I recommend checking out the reviews on not only TripAdvisor but also Google Maps to get the latest information.

Final Thoughts on Istanbul Instagram Spots:

Congratulations! You’ve just explored the crème de la crème of Instagram spots in Istanbul. From ancient landmarks to contemporary art spaces, each location offers a unique perspective on this captivating city.

I know it sounds counterproductive but don’t focus all your energy only on the spots that are mentioned here but go find some more interesting spots of your own. Find cozy cafes, bustling streets, and interesting perspectives. Or just follow the stray cats of Istanbul.

As you embark on your Instagram journey, remember to capture the spirit and diversity of Istanbul, and share the magic with your followers. Happy snapping!


Disclosure: My trip to Istanbul was sponsored as a part of the Istanbul Travel Influencer Summit 2023. However, all the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

I did a Food Tour in Istanbul (Here’s What I ate)

I did a Food Tour in Istanbul (Here’s What I ate)

What’s the best way to enjoy a new destination’s culture for you? For me, it is by walking, visiting street markets, and tasting different foods.

Food is how you can experience how the culture of a specific destination or region has evolved over the years. Not only does one taste the herbs, spices, or ingredients that are unique to that place, but also the traditions.

Confession time – I didn’t enjoy the local food in Istanbul in 2016, so I decided to go for a food tour when I revisited in 2023. I wanted to learn about Turkish cuisine and eat what the locals love to eat. Of course, I loved every bit of it, and that’s why I decided to write this post.

Hoca Paşa in Faith, Istanbul
Hoca Paşa in Faith, Istanbul

If you are flying to Turkey, then most likely you have included at least a few days in Istanbul. Even though it is a bus city, it offers enough to hold a prime spot in any Turkey itinerary. If so, then consider doing a food tour in Istanbul.

My food tour in Istanbul was a slightly shorter version because we also already did a treasure hunt that day and were short on time. We didn’t end up crossing the Bosphorus strait to go to the east side of Istanbul like all the other food tours. It was a private culinary tour that was curated by a professor.

For the full experience, I highly suggest you book a tour for yourself. I have handpicked three tours for you that also go to the Eastern side of Istanbul and not just the European side. They all are highly rated with knowledgeable guides.

  • Taste of Two Continents food tour: A 6-hour food tour that starts at 9:30 am and has 9 stops. It goes to the Kadikoy market in the Asian side of Istanbul. It starts at Hobyar Mahallesi. It also includes a ferry ride from Europe to Asia and back.
  • Guided Food Tour of Street Food and Markets: This 6-hour tour starts at Rüstem Paşa which is at one end of the Galata Bridge. You will cover both the Asian and European sides and visit Kadikoy. You can pick a start time of 10:30 am or 11 am.
  • Guided Food and Culture Tour: This is a 5-hour evening food tour that starts at 6 pm. It also covers both Asian and European sides with a visit to Kardikoy. It makes sense to book this one if you aren’t a morning person to experience Istanbul from a unique perspective.

Pick a tour carefully after checking the meeting point. Istanbul isn’t tiny so it makes sense to pick a tour that starts not so far away from your hotel.

Tip: if you are staying in a nice hotel with a traditional Turkish breakfast buffet, then you don’t need to pick the morning tour, pick the evening tour instead.

If you’d like to know what I ate, here’s a list of exactly what I ate and drank during my food tour of Istanbul.

You can start your day by crossing the Galata Bridge and reaching Eminönü. Alternatively, if you’d like to walk less then arrive at Hoca Paşa and skip the first spot.

1) Turşu suyu (Pickle Juice) – Eminönü

Us drinking Pickle Juice in Eminönü, Istanbul
Us drinking Pickle Juice in Eminönü, Istanbul

Eminönü is on one side of the Galata Bridge and you will see many roadside pickle stores with pink juice – that’s the famous Turkish pickle juice and you should try it.

Although this wasn’t officially a part of our food tour, I highly recommend you make your first stop in Eminönü to drink a glass of pickle juice. Our group had two variants – a spicy and a non-spicy one. I obviously went for the spicy one.

Pickle Shops in Eminönü, Istanbul
Pickle Shops in Eminönü, Istanbul

Pickle juice is an excellent appetizer and is proven to boost your gut health and help in fat loss (like apple cider vinegar). Even if you drink half a glass of this pickle juice, you are all set for your intense culinary experience in Istanbul.

Both Eminönü and Galata Bridge are on my list of Instagram spots in Istanbul.

2) Kebab – Kasap Osman

Kasap Osman Kebab Shop in Istanbul
Kasap Osman Kebab Shop in Istanbul

From Eminönü, make your way to Istanbul’s Hoca Paşa, which is in Fatih. If you are walking then this is just 1.3 KM and you will cross Istanbul’s spice market (or Egyptian spice bazaar) on your way.

You don’t need to make a stop in the spice market because that’s where we will end our food trip today. Alternatively, you can also take public transportation to arrive here if you have an Istanbul card. I have mentioned more details about this in my Istanbul itinerary post.

Kebab rolls at Kasap Osman, Istanbul
Kebab rolls at Kasap Osman, Istanbul

Hoca Paşa is a famous street for traditional restaurants on the European side of Istanbul. Most of the travelers visit Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square and just see Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque but miss places like Hoca Paşa which aren’t even that far away.

This and the next few places are near each other so if you do a self-guided food tour, you won’t have to walk so much.

Yes, Turkish Doner kebabs are famous but do you know that the term “döner” was invented in Berlin? Of course, the concept didn’t originate in Berlin but in Turkey, and Kesap Osman is Istanbul’s OLDEST döner kebab shop.

Kasap Osman - the Man Who Created This
Kasap Osman – the Man Who Created This

If you don’t know, a döner kebab is a roll made out of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and includes salad, pickles, and sauces. The kebab meat in Turkey is usually a mix of lamb meat and beef. All the kebab shops have somewhat different ratios of lamb and meat, that’s what makes them unique.

Kasap Osman’s kebab shop has outdoor seating, so we sat outside to eat kebabs and drink Ayran with it. Ayran is a Turkish yogurt drink that is salty and helps you digest your food better.

3) Pide (Turkish Pizza) – Güvenç Konyalı

Güvenç Konyalı Restaurant in Istanbul
Güvenç Konyalı Restaurant in Istanbul

Ever heard of Pide? Some call it a Turkish pizza, but is so much more than that. It is a long rectangular flatbread with tomato paste, toppings, and cheese. If you live in Europe, chances are that you have tried a pide already in one of the kebab shops.

Pide at Güvenç Konyalı Restaurant in Istanbul
Pide at Güvenç Konyalı Restaurant in Istanbul

Güvenç Konyalı is a famous Turkish chef and his restaurant also has the same name. We tried different kinds of Pide here, and some of them also had green pepper on top. If you are into meat then try the lamb Mandi smoked ribs.

The seating here was a little more comfortable than the others because we went to the top floor and got a table next to the little window.

4) Köfte (Meatballs) – Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi

Kofte - food tour in Istanbul
Kofte – food tour in Istanbul

Our next stop was for my favorite Turkish food, köfte (Turkish meatballs), so I was very happy when we stopped at Istanbul’s most famous köfte restaurant. It was actually the first time that I was getting to try köfte in Turkey because I had eaten them just in Germany.

Meşhur Filibe Köftecisi is legendary and is130 years old! It is here since 1893 – whoa! And boy the food here truly didn’t disappoint.

I loved the fact that our plate of köfte came with raw white onions and a red sauce which looked like tomato sauce but was super spicy. I loved that spicy sauce by the way and you will too. We also had yogurt so it went well with the köfte.

Drinking Turkish Coffee in Hoca Paşa, Istanbul
Drinking Turkish Coffee in Hoca Paşa, Istanbul

For me, this was the best thing I ate with meat during my time in Istanbul topped most of the traditional Turkish dishes.

I did drink a cup of Turkish coffee here and my friend had Turkish tea. We wanted to wash the food down to enjoy the last 3 items on our food tour.

5) Cağ Kebap (Meat on Skewer) – Şehzade Cağ Kebap

Food tour in Istanbul - meat on skewers
Food tour in Istanbul – meat on skewers

Şehzade Cağ Kebap is an award-winning restaurant where we tried Cağ Kebap, which is meat on skewers with lavash (flat bread). This meal reminded me of what I would normally eat back home in India.

If you are an Indian then you probably have eaten Rumali Roti on multiple occasions. Lavash is a bit like that – a super thin flat bread.

Şehzade Cağ Kebap in Istanbul
Şehzade Cağ Kebap in Istanbul

Şehzade Cağ Kebap was one of those restaurants that I personally didn’t enjoy so much maybe because I was full but the boys in our group loved it. I think it is a matter of personal taste.

6) Cig Kebap (Vegan Kebabs) – Çiğköfteci Ali Usta

Chee kofte kebab in Istanbul
Chee kofte kebab in Istanbul

This right here was my favorite food experience in Istanbul in terms of taste and overall feel. Believe it or not, this is a vegan kebab and it tasted amazing. This kebab and kofte shop isn’t located on the same Hoca Paşa street but just 80 meters away.

Cig kebab or “Çiğköfteci” was originally made with raw meat mixed with spiced bulger, but over the years it has transitioned to just bulger. This happened because raw meat was banned and thank god for that.

Bulger is a variant of couscous with a bigger grain and is heavily spiced and coated with a tomato paste to make cig köfte. These are then wrapped in lavash bread with salad, raw onions, and loads of lemon. The overall result is mind-blowing.

Also, this particular kebab shop is famous because some of the street food videos that were made here went viral on Instagram. After all, the main chef prepares the food very fast and looks angry. Actually in reality he isn’t angry but that’s just his persona. Overall, this was my best street food experience in Istanbul.

I did have cig köfte in a high-end restaurant called Oligark with views of the Bosphorus Strait. The experience was obviously different here and I recommend them both.

7) Midye Dolma (Mussel with rice) – Kral Kokorec

Mussels stuffed with rice - istanbul food tour
Mussels stuffed with rice – Istanbul food tour

By the time we reached Kral Kokorec, I was very full but I decided to eat a little more. You see, I have a thing for seafood and I wanted to experience traditional Turkish mussels preparation.

Kral Kokorec Streetfood In Istanbul
Kral Kokorec Streetfood In Istanbul

The specialty of this place is Kokorec, which is a Balkan dish that’s made with lamb or goat intestines. By that time we couldn’t handle more meat, so eating Midye Dolma (salted mussel stuffed with rice) was pretty nice (and different).

8) Lokum (Turkish Delight) – Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir

Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Sweet Shop in Istanbul
Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Sweet Shop in Istanbul

If you have spent any time in Istanbul, especially in the spice market and the grand bazaar, most likely you have seen shops selling Turkish delights. So let’s go to the shop where it all began!

Hacı Bekir Effendi invented “Lokum”, which is what we know as Turkish delight. Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir has been in the Turkish delight and confectionary business for centuries.

Not just Turkish delight but we also drank three different kinds of sherbets and each was mindblowing. The flavors were tamarind, mint with lemon, and raspberry. For me, the tamarind sherbet was the perfect drink at the end of the tour because it was a bit sour and sweet.

Sherbet and Lokum at Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Istanbul
Sherbet and Lokum at Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Istanbul

As for me, Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir was the only place in Istanbul where I enjoyed dessert because it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet. Out of all the different flavors of Turkish Delight that we tried, the best one for me was made with just almonds. I also tried one with walnuts and it was really good too.

I am not much of a sweet eater but if you are, then I’d like to tell you that this place also has halva, which is a popular Middle Eastern dessert that’s made with tahini and sugar. Halva originated in Iran but is popular all over the world. We also have an Indian version that’s made with dark flour.

9) Turkish Coffee at Spice Market

Beta Yeni Han Coffee House in Spice Bazaar Istanbul
Beta Yeni Han Coffee House in Spice Bazaar Istanbul

One of the best things that you can drink after eating loads of food is coffee (or tea). Head to Spice Market, and walk around here to get that much-needed cardio to burn some calories.

Make your way to Beta Yeni Han Cafe, which is one of the best coffee houses. This place is relaxing, and stunning and will give you that much-needed break after walking on bustling streets and experiencing delicious Turkish foods.

Inside Beta Yeni Han Coffee House in Istanbul
Inside Beta Yeni Han Coffee House in Istanbul

Yes, you will find traditional Turkish Coffee, Turkish Tea, and also international coffee. So drink what you want and get caffeinated.


This brings us to the end of the food tour in Istanbul. This entire process of eating so many delicious things and trying new drinks lasted around 5 hours.

If you are in Istanbul for a solo trip, then I highly suggest that you book a food tour because that will also be a bit like a city tour since that will take you from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side, with a boat ride included. Of course, you will experience the yummy food but also the culture of this amazing historic city.

My food tour was just on the European side but you shouldn’t miss the fish market area of the Asian side of Istanbul. But still, I was so impressed with it and I have now decided to do food tours in many other destinations that I visit solo.

Taksim Square and Istiklal Street
Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

If you are doing a self-guided tour, then I also suggest you add Taksim Square because this area is super lively at night. I did mention in my Istanbul itinerary post that you can experience the city’s amazing street food on Istiklal Street, which is right next to Taksim Square.

If you do end up going there, then try kebab, Baklava, Turkish ice cream, and more. Just experiment with new foods while you are here. Just don’t buy apple tea because it isn’t traditional but is something that’s just made for tourists.

Another memorable food experience that you shouldn’t miss out on while in Istanbul is a traditional Turkish breakfast, which is super lavish because it contains different kinds of cheeses, honey, yogurts, olives, herbs, tomatoes, eggs, bread, and meats. If you stay in a hotel, most likely you will end up eating a traditional breakfast buffet which is worth it.


Where to Stay in Istanbul?

Sunset view from my bed in CVK Park Bosphorous, Istanbul
Sunset view from my bed in CVK Park Bosphorus, Istanbul

I highly recommend CVK Park Hotel, it is along the Bosphorus Strait and is fantastic. My room had a view of the bosphorous and I didn’t even have to get out of bed to enjoy the sunrise every single morning.

For around EUR 200-300 per night, my room also had luxurious Roberto Cavalli toiletries, a bathtub with a view, and the most comfortable bed.

Moreover, the service and the buffet breakfast spread in CVK Park Bosphorus Hotel were excellent. I will stay here when I visit Istanbul again.


Other Travel Blog Posts for Turkey


Disclosure: My trip to Istanbul was sponsored as a part of the Istanbul Travel Influencer Summit 2023. However, all the opinions expressed in this article are my own.


PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Is Istanbul Worth Visiting? The Biggest City in Turkey

Is Istanbul Worth Visiting? The Biggest City in Turkey

There are many historical cities all over the world but not many are as special as Istanbul in Turkey. If you are living in Europe or Asia, and are planning a city break and aren’t sure where to go, then let me suggest Istanbul.

The city of Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey, Ankara is. But Istanbul is the most populous city in Turkey and is the starting point for every single Turkey travel itinerary (was for me too).

Istanbul is a city that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia; and is known for its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning architecture.

So, is Istanbul worth visiting? Let me give you my honest feedback after visiting this city twice.

East and West

The Stunning Istanbul Landscape
The Stunning Istanbul Landscape

“East meets West” is such a cliche, but the only destination that fits this description both culturally and geographically is Istanbul.

Why? Because of its unique position, Istanbul is at the point where the two continents of Asia and Europe meet, separated by the narrow Bosporus Strait.

The European side is on the west and the Asian side is on the east. This physical division symbolizes the meeting of two continents.

Sunset cruise over Bosphorous, Istanbul itinerary
Sunset cruise over Bosphorus, Istanbul itinerary

The city has a rich history that has been shaped by various civilizations, and it serves as a meeting point for different cultures, traditions, and religions.

Istanbul’s East-meets-West character is deeply embedded in its geography, history, architecture, and cultural fabric. The city’s ability to seamlessly blend elements from different traditions makes it a truly unique and captivating destination.

Mosques, Palaces & Historical Sites

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

If Istanbul was a necklace, then the historical mosques, towers, and palaces would be the jewels!

Istanbul boasts a unique blend of architectural styles, ranging from the Hagia Sophia dating back to the 6th century, and the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) with their Ottoman and Byzantine influences to the modern structures on the European side.

These historical sites collectively tell the story of Istanbul’s evolution from Byzantium to Constantinople and finally to Istanbul. Mosques, Palaces, historical towers, let’s talk about some of the iconic old sites of the city. Each is prettier than the other and many are on my list of Instagram spots of Istanbul.

Some of the most noteworthy historical sites of Istanbul are in the Sultanahmet Area and are together a UNESCO World Heritage site. This spot is the perfect place to start any kind of walking tour. I started my 3 day Istanbul itinerary right here!

First is Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), which was originally built as a cathedral in 537 AD during the Byzantine era, and then became an imperial mosque under the Ottomans. It functioned as a museum for a few years but as of 2023, it is again a mosque. This building showcases a stunning blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture.

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Another one in Sultanahmet Square is the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 and is an iconic Ottoman structure known for its six minarets and blue tiles adorning the interior. You can book a guided tour of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia which is going to be a rewarding experience.

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) also mentioned in Dan Brown’s Inferno, is a one-of-a-kind historical site that you’d see nowhere else. This ancient underground water reservoir was built during the 6th century and features atmospheric columns and dimly lit chambers.

Inside basilica Cistern in Istanbul
Inside Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

There’s always a massive line outside Basilica Cistern but we had skip-the-line entrance tickets and I recommend you get them too.

The Topkapi Palace (Topkapı Sarayı) is right at Sultanahmet Square too. It was the primary residence of Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. The palace complex includes beautiful courtyards, and chambers, and exhibits artifacts such as the Topkapi Dagger and the Prophet Muhammad’s cloak.

Another amazing palace is the Dolmabahçe Palace, which was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s residence. Dolmabahçe Palace is a grand and opulent palace located on the European shore of the Bosphorus Strait.

My favorite one is the Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) which dates back to the medieval period. It provides panoramic views of the city and has served various purposes over the centuries, including as an observation tower and a prison.

Galata Tower in Istanbul
Galata Tower in Istanbul

If you are near the Grand Bazaar, then don’t miss the nearby Süleymaniye Mosque dating back to the 16th century with panoramic views of the Golden Horn. The Süleymaniye Mosque and its surroundings are together classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A few more historical places of interest are Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi), Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Theodosian Walls, and the Hippodrome of Constantinople.

If you decide to visit one of the religious buildings, then follow the dress code and cover-up.

Bazaars

Inside Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Inside Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

If you are into sensory experiences then Istanbul is an amazing place because of its bazaars. The city’s bustling historic bazaars have played a significant role in the city’s cultural and economic life for centuries. These bazaars are not just marketplaces but are also integral to the social fabric of Istanbul.

The most famous bazaar of Istanbul that everyone knows about already is the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı). It dates back to the 15th century, and is one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, offering a wide array of goods

The Grand Bazaar spans over 60 streets and houses thousands of shops selling a wide variety of goods, including jewelry, textiles, ceramics, spices, carpets, and more.

Walking here was an experience I’d remember for life as I navigated the labyrinthine alleys and immersed myself in the vibrant atmosphere of this historical market.

Very close to the Grand Bazaar is the Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı), which is also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. Personally, I liked it so much more than the Grand Bazaar. It is located in the Eminönü quarter, which is one of my favorite parts of Istanbul.

This market has been a hub for spices, herbs, and other exotic goods since the 17th century, so be prepared for all the amazing aromas and sensory overload.

In addition to spices, you can find a variety of sweets, dried fruits, nuts, and Turkish delights. The atmosphere is infused with the aroma of various spices, making it a sensory delight.

Another amazing bazaar is the Arasta Bazaar, which is situated near the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. It is a smaller market that offers a more relaxed shopping experience compared to the Grand Bazaar. It is known for its collection of high-quality carpets, textiles, ceramics, and souvenirs. The bazaar has a traditional feel, and many of the shops are housed in restored Ottoman-era buildings.

I have a thing for Fish Markets and Istanbul has one too. Balık Pazarı (Fish Market) is situated in the Eminönü district, is a haven for seafood enthusiasts.

Here, you can find a wide variety of fresh seafood, including fish, shellfish, and other marine delights. Many restaurants around the market offer the option to select your seafood and have it cooked to order.

Lastly, located in the Fatih district, the Çarşamba Bazaar is a bustling market that primarily takes place on Wednesdays. It is known for its fresh produce, textiles, and everyday items. The market provides a glimpse into the local life of Istanbul, and you can find a variety of goods at more affordable prices compared to some of the more touristy bazaars.

Public Transportation

Istanbul City Card
Istanbul City Card

A very important factor for me to enjoy a destination is the ease of using the public transport. So let’s talk about Istanbul.

Yes, Istanbul is massive and complex so navigating can initially seem overwhelming. But the public transportation network is easy to understand and can get you everywhere. The city has a comprehensive and relatively easy-to-use public transportation system that includes buses, trams, metro lines, ferries, and funiculars.

Vintage red tram of Istanbul
Vintage red tram of Istanbul

Get an Istanbul card (like I did) to easily hop from one means of public transport to another. The Istanbulkart is a smart card that you can use for buses, trams, metros, ferries, and funiculars.

Istanbul is a large and densely populated city, and traffic congestion can be an issue during peak hours. So, the best way to move around in Istanbul isn’t by driving or taxis, it is by using public transport, especially in the city center. You can visit all of the city’s main attractions just by public transport.

Landscape

Sunset view from Bosphorus Bridge
Sunset view from Bosphorus Bridge

Istanbul’s landscape is a unique blend of natural beauty, historical landmarks, and modern urban developments. The city, strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, is characterized by its diverse topography, iconic skyline, and the presence of water bodies.

Just like Lisbon, Istanbul is often referred to as the “City of Seven Hills” due to its hilly terrain. The hills provide vantage points for panoramic views of the city and contribute to the unique character of various neighborhoods.

What’s even more special is that there’s usually a mosque with high minarets built on top of these hills and the resulting landscape is stunning.

Istanbul is divided by the Bosphorus Strait, which offers picturesque views and many opportunities to click amazing photos. You can also take a boat tour between the two continents (I did that too).

Istanbul - galata tower - Turkey itinerary 10 days
Istanbul – Galata Tower – Turkey itinerary 10 days

Bosphorus Strait is the most defining geographical feature of Istanbul. It is a narrow, natural waterway that separates the European and Asian sides of the city. There’s also the Golden Horn estuary that separates the historic peninsula from the newer neighborhoods on the European side.

Istanbul is not just a concrete jungle; it also boasts several green spaces and forests. Moreover, the Princes’ Islands, a group of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara, are part of Istanbul’s landscape.

The combination of historic structures, natural features, and modern developments makes Istanbul’s landscape diverse and captivating.

Food

My lunch at Pudding Shop
My lunch at Pudding Shop

Turkish cuisine is diverse and delicious. Don’t miss trying traditional dishes such as kebabs, mezes, baklava, and Turkish delights.

I wasn’t impressed with Turkish food until I met locals and they suggested what to eat. I also did a food tour in Istanbul and spent the most amazing day in Istanbul.

Let’s start with the traditional Turkish breakfast, known as “kahvaltı”. It includes a spread with:

  • different cottage cheeses (Peynir),
  • spicy Turkish sausages (Sucuk),
  • olives, tomatoes, cucumbers & fresh herbs
  • bread,
  • eggs,
  • börek,
  • yoghurt,
  • raw honey and jams.
  • Turkish Tea (Çay) or Turkish Coffee (Türk Kahvesi).

I ate a lavish Turkish breakfast like this every single time at my hotel – CVK Bosphorous Park. I fell in love with Turkish food a little more when I did a guided tour with food experts.

Here’s what I ate and fell in love with:

  • Midye dolma: mussels stuffed with rice,
  • Çiğ köfte or Chee köfte: veggie kofte with spicy bulger – this was my favorite.
  • Kofte: spicy meatballs with chili sauce and onions,
  • Meat on skewers with Lavaş and lahmacun,
  • Pide: Like a pizza but different,
  • Turkish Delight: sweets made with different things, sometimes without sugar and just with almonds,
  • Ayran: salted yogurt drink,
  • Sherbet: sweet drinks with flavors like tamarind, rose, mint, and raspberry,
  • and of course, the world-famous Kebab which is known all over the world as döner.

My food tour in Istanbul was one of the most memorable things I did and I felt I was a part of a food show as I went from one spot to another.

At first, it does appear that Turkish food isn’t vegan friendly but it is. Normally Çiğ köfte are vegan but please ask because they were mixed with raw meat in the olden times but that has been banned so now they are made with bulgur. Also, there are many vegetables and beans that one can eat.

Culture

Galata Bridge with locals fishing
Galata Bridge with locals fishing

Istanbul’s culture is so strongly present that it feels almost tangible. I felt it in my core at literally every step and so will you.

As the only city in the world straddling two continents, Europe and Asia, Istanbul boasts a unique blend of East and West. Its unique culture showcases its rich history, diverse influences, and vibrant contemporary life.

Istanbul city’s cultural identity has been shaped by successive civilizations, including Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman, each leaving an indelible mark on its architecture, art, and traditions.

In contemporary Istanbul, a thriving arts scene, bustling neighborhoods, and a diverse culinary landscape showcase the city’s cosmopolitan spirit. From traditional Turkish coffeehouses to modern art galleries, Istanbul embraces both tradition and innovation.

A tabby cat in Istanbul at night
A tabby cat in Istanbul at night

I remember the intense feeling of stepping into the city’s rich culture as I walked on the Galata bridge over the Golden Horn estuary to move between the historic peninsula and the newer neighborhoods on the European side. This bridge is lined with rows of locals on each side who sit here to catch fish.

Moreover, Turkish people are simply the best. The city’s residents are known for their warmth and hospitality, and contribute to the dynamic cultural scene, creating an atmosphere where ancient traditions seamlessly coexist with the pulse of contemporary life.

Along with the people, cats play a very important role in Istanbul’s culture because they are everywhere. These cats are well cared for by the locals and rule the city.

Hamams

Cağaloğlu Hamam in Istanbul
Cağaloğlu Hamam in Istanbul

Ever heard of Hamams? They are Turkish baths that have been an integral part of Istanbul’s cultural and social life for centuries.

These traditional bathhouses have a history deeply rooted in the Ottoman Empire and continue to be popular today as both a cleansing ritual and a social activity.

Even before the Ottoman times, Hammams in Istanbul had a history dating back to the Roman and Byzantine periods. They became particularly prominent during the Ottoman era because the Ottomans incorporated elements of Roman and Byzantine bathhouse traditions into their own hammam culture.

Inside Cağaloğlu Hamam
Inside Cağaloğlu Hamam

More than just a wellness spot or a Turkish bath, a typical historical hammam of Istanbul features stunning Ottoman architecture. The design often includes domed ceilings, intricate tile work (known as “çini” tiles), and marble interiors.

Some famous historic hammams in Istanbul include the Çemberlitaş Hammam (built in 1584), the Süleymaniye Hammam, and the Çemberlitaş Hamam.

If you’d like to know before you go, I’d like to inform you that the hammam experience typically begins with relaxation in a warm room to help the body adjust to the higher temperatures. Visitors then proceed to a hotter room to receive a vigorous body scrub, often performed by an attendant known as a “tellak” for men and a “natır” for women.

After the scrub, guests are usually treated to a soap massage and sometimes a foam massage.
The process concludes with a rinse and often a period of relaxation in a cool room.

Lively Streets

Taksim Square and Istiklal Street
Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

Istanbul has a lively atmosphere with vibrant street life, filled with the hustle and bustle of daily life, the aroma of street food, and the echoes of centuries-old history.

My favorite streets in Istanbul are around Taksim Square because you can see a red vintage tram, mosque minarets, food carts, sparkling lights from the shops, and loads of people. The liveliness of this area surprised me because it was on even on a Tuesday night.

Just around there is Istiklal Street which is a vibrant pedestrian street in the heart of Beyoğlu. It is one of Istanbul’s most famous and lively avenues. Stretching for about 1.4 kilometers, Istiklal Avenue is lined with shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and theaters. It’s a popular destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. The historic red tram runs along the avenue, adding to its charm.

Istanbul has pretty streets
Istanbul has pretty streets

Another amazing street in Istanbul is the Bosphorus Promenade (Boğazkesen Caddesi). This scenic street runs along the Bosphorus and offers stunning views of the waterway, the Asian side of Istanbul, and historical landmarks such as the Maiden’s Tower. Locals and tourists alike stroll along the promenade, enjoying the sea breeze, street vendors, and occasional street performances.

I also like the streets near the Galata Tower and Galata Bridge because you can see the top of the tower peeping out from many areas. Moreover, the liveliness of locals fishing is something else! Go to Karaköy Fish Market and you will love the experience.

A few other streets worth mentioning are Kadıköy Bull Statue (Bahariye Caddesi), Karaköy Streets, streets of Sultanahmet Square, Balat and Fener Streets.

What isn’t so good about Istanbul?

Istanbul's traffic situation
Istanbul’s traffic situation

Let me be honest, not everything is perfect in Istanbul. The parking, traffic, driving, and the over-road situation are not good here.

Don’t get me wrong, the roads are nice but there are just too many cars and vehicles on them. If you like to rent a car and explore destinations at your own pace, then Istanbul might not be for you. Instead, you can just rent a car from the airport and get out as soon as you can to the nearby amazing destinations like Cappadocia, and Pamukkale.

If you like exploring using public transportation, then you won’t have a problem in Istanbul.

Istanbul does have its share of scams, but honestly, that doesn’t put me off because I have visited a lot of cities like Delhi, Bangkok, and Rome with tourist scams and that is how the world works.

Where to Stay in Istanbul?

Sunset view from my bed in CVK Park Bosphorous, Istanbul
Sunset view from my bed in CVK Park Bosphorus, Istanbul

Imagine sleeping in a room where you can just wake up, press a button to draw the curtains away, and experience a magical sunset. I’m talking about CVK Park Bosphorus, and this is where I stayed.

Moreover, my room also had a bathtub with a glass wall that turned from frosted to clear with just a button and I could sit and see the view. I also had Roberto Cavalli toiletries and I loved them.

If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind room with a view, then do yourself a favor and look no further than CVK Park Bosphorus, it is worth the price considering the view, the comfort, the luxury, and the breakfast.

Moreover, while staying at CVK Park Bosphorus, I was in a very good location because I could just walk to Taksim and the lively İstiklal Street at night for the lively atmosphere.

From my hotel, I also walked to the Galata Tower and Bridge, even though it is 1.8 – 2 KM away but it was s super fun walk filled with all kinds of sights. After you cross the Galata Bridge, you will arrive in Eminönü, which is the neighborhood with the Bazaars.

When you are close to the Bazaars, you can easily walk a little more to the Sultanahmet square, which is where most of the tourist attractions are. I mean, you can do all this very easily by getting onto the tram from Taksim but I enjoyed the walk too.


Is it worth visiting Turkey with ONLY Istanbul on the list?

Yes, it is. Honestly, Turkey is massive and has a lot to see, but I understand if you don’t have enough time and you’d like to visit just Istanbul. The city has enough that would keep you occupied for at least 3-4 days.
If you do have more time then get out and visit Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Ephesus, and Bodrum.

Is it safe to go to Istanbul?

Usually yes, but always check the most recent travel advisory before you fly.

What is the best time to visit Istanbul?

Avoid peak summer and visit Istanbul in spring, early summer, autumn or even winter.

Istanbul is a year-long destination. I have visited the city in both winter and summer and had an amazing time.

For me the month of July felt very hot in mid-day for sightseeing but not everyone else minds that. Winter was very comfortable for me because I live in Germany and I’m used to more cold.

Can you drink alcohol in Istanbul?

Yes you can, I did that as a solo female traveler and also when I traveled with a group. You can order a beer or wine with your meal pretty much everywhere.

So Is Istanbul Worth Visiting?

If you are into cultures, food, history, and a one-of-a-kind city break then in my opinion Istanbul is a must-visit destination. Put it on your travel bucket list and you won’t regret visiting it.

However, it also depends on your personal preferences and Istanbul might not work for you if you’re looking to relax in a quiet area in the middle of nature. If so, then you are better off in a national park.


Disclosure: My trip to Istanbul was sponsored as a part of the Istanbul Travel Influencer Summit 2023. However, all the opinions expressed in this article are my own.


PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

How to Spend 3 Days in Istanbul (Itinerary), Turkey + MAP

How to Spend 3 Days in Istanbul (Itinerary), Turkey + MAP

Epic sunsets, distant sounds of Namaaz, spectacular minarets, and adorable cats – this is Istanbul, one of the most exotic cities in Europe or Asia.

East meets West is such a cliché but no other destination fits this description as perfectly as Istanbul. There is an Asian side and a European side that’s divided by the Bosphorous Strait.

If I start writing an introduction about this historically, culturally, and artistically rich city, I’d never be able to stop typing.

Super quick history: Istanbul was once the ancient Roman colony of Byzantium. It was the imperial city of Constantinople in the early ages. The middle age of history started here when the Ottoman Empire took over this city in 1453.

The Stunning Landscape of Istanbul
The Stunning Landscape of Istanbul

I won’t go deeper into the history here in the introduction but of course, I will mention a bit of it in the itinerary for most of the Istanbul attractions. This will help you get a deeper perspective of the place that you’re visiting.

Oh and if you think Istanbul is the capital city of Turkey, you’re wrong. It is Ankara. Haha, gotcha!

Istanbul is built over hills, just like many other prominent cities like Rome and Lisbon. There are a total of 7 hills in Istanbul.

Many of those who visit Turkey just use Istanbul as a quick base before heading off to Cappadocia, Pamukkale, or Ephesus. I recommend at least 3 days in Istanbul to do this city justice. Check my detailed itinerary for spending 10 days in Turkey too!

To explore this city of Seven Hills within 72 hours is a formidable task, and those who love this city will shake their heads in disapproval. Still, this awesome 3-day Istanbul itinerary has been carefully designed so that you can get a taste of many different aspects of this city.

Istanbul 3-Day Itinerary

Planning a last-minute trip to Istanbul? I’ve got you covered with my recommendations to help you book quickly.

Istanbul Activities to Book

Istanbul Hotel Recommendations

Istanbul Itinerary Day 1 – Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula

If you are arriving in Istanbul by air then you could be landing in one of the two airports – Istanbul Airport (IST) or Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW). Back in 2016, I landed in Atatürk Airport but that is no longer operational. In November 2023, I flew from the new Istanbul Airport (IST) and I was pleasantly surprised to see how nice it is.

Istanbul doesn’t have a shortage of nice hotels and I like how you can experience luxury at a slightly lower cost. I enjoy the Middle Eastern standards of luxury because everything is even more luxurious than normal.

In 2023, I stayed in a hotel called CVK Park Bosphorus where I had a fancy room with a view of the Bosphorus Strait. The best part was that I could see the sunrise from my bed and it was epic.

Bathtub with a view at CVK Park Bosphorus Istanbul
Bathtub with a view at CVK Park Bosphorus Istanbul

Not just the bed but my suite at CVK Park Bosphorus also has a bathtub with a view of the Bosphorus. It had Roberto Cavalli toiletries too!

CVK Park Bosphorus is located close to the lively Taksim Square so in terms of location, this hotel wins. The buffet breakfast here had everything – traditional Turkish breakfast but also international essentials.

So check in, enjoy a good night’s sleep if you arrived the night before, eat a nice breakfast, and be ready to tackle your first day in Istanbul.

Istanbul City Card
Istanbul City Card

Tip: Forget about traveling by taxi in Istanbul because the traffic situation isn’t ever good. Get yourself an Istanbul City Card, and you can use it on metros, trams, buses & ferries. Istanbul’s public transportation is amazing so use it to your advantage.

I had so much fun exploring Istanbul with this city card in my pocket because it made it very easy and fun to move from one place to another and I hopped onto old red trams for fun and also metro.

1) Start at Sultanahmet Square

Obelisk of Theodosius at Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul
Obelisk of Theodosius at Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul

For your first day, you will start at the Sultanahmet District, which is on the European side of Istanbul.

Walking around Sultanahmet Square is perhaps one of the first things a traveler does when they visit Istanbul. This area has some popular tourist spots, all within a walkable distance from each other.

Moreover, just like any other “touristy” area, Sultanahmet Square also has a lot of cafes and restaurants – most of which I’d recommend you avoid.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain or the German Fountain at Sultanahmet Square
The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain or the German Fountain at Sultanahmet Square

Once upon a time, Sultanahmet Square was the hippodrome of Constantinople – the social center of Constantinople. During that time, this area also featured horse racing.

Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are of course the most obvious attractions here, but you should go look for the Serpent Column, the Obelisk of Thutmose III (Obelisk of Theodosius), the Walled Obelisk, and the German fountain. Most people who can spare just a day in Istanbul end up visiting Sultanahmet Square.

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2) Visit the Blue Mosque a.k.a. Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque Courtyard, Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque Courtyard, Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque is spectacular from the inside and it is also free. This iconic building of Turkey is definitely one of the most popular European landmarks. It is an imperial mosque and was built for members of the Ottoman imperial family.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque has been nicknamed “the blue mosque” because the inside features blue hand-painted tiles. You will see them on the walls and the ceiling.

The blue interiors look spectacular with a lush red carpet. The low-hanging lamps and many windows cast an amazing light and the result is spectacular.

Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul
Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque has six minarets, 5 main domes, and 8 secondary domes. Fitting everything in one picture is impossible but you can move to the middle of the garden or the courtyard with a wide-angle lens to capture the visible minarets and domes.

The construction of this historical mosque ended in 1616. The best light for photographing the Blue Mosque from the courtyard is sometime around sunset. But hey, I recommend many other places for sunset photography in this article so decide accordingly.

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul - Turkey Travel Tips
Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul – Turkey Travel Tips

The mosque has a very big courtyard and as you enter, you worshippers at their midday prayers. There is a separate section inside for tourists and another one for Islamic worshippers.

You’d need to cover your legs, shoulders, and your head when you’re inside so please respect and dress accordingly. I do remember seeing a sarong rental area at the entry point.

Entry to Sultanahmet Mosque is free.

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3) Visit Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia is right next to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and it is free to visit as of 2023. Moreover, it was once a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, then it was turned into a mosque, then was a museum, but now has been redeclared a mosque.

Because it was once an expensive place to visit but is now free, you will see a massive line of people that are always outside the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

If you love admiring historical architecture, you’d love to know that Hagia Sofia is believed to have changed the history of architecture in the world.

Inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey – CCO via Pixabay

Constructed in 537 AD, Hagia Sophia has orange-colored exterior walls. It was a prominent landmark for Byzantine imperial ceremonies.

From 1453 to 1931, Hagia Sophia served as an imperial Ottoman mosque, and in 1935 it opened as a museum. It was named after Sophia the Martyr. If you’re interested to know more about the history of this place, I highly recommend you check out the timeline of Hagia Sophia here.

The entry fee for Hagia Sophia was earlier 20 TL but as of 2023 is FREE.

If you’d like to skip the lines and get an entry ticket from before for Hagia Sophia, then I have handpicked the below options for you.

There’s not much different between what both the tour guides are offering but it is always a good idea to read the latest reviews before booking your tour or experience.

4) Basilica Cistern

Inside Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
Inside Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Less than 2 minutes walk away from Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is the Basilica Cistern. It is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern that’s beneath Istanbul city.

It features in the famous old-school James Bond movie – From Russia with Love. If you’re a Dan Brown fan, you’d have surely read about this cistern in the book Inferno.

The entry point for Basilica Cistern is in Sultanahmet Square, close to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. There are 336 marble columns inside Basilica Cistern that are arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns.

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul
Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

I finally got a chance to visit Basilica Cistern in November 2023 and I saw a massive line outside even though it wasn’t the busiest season. If you’d like to see Basilica Cistern, then I highly suggest you buy a skip-the-line entrance ticket so that you avoid the hassle of standing and waiting.

Basilica Cistern has a very interesting history – I won’t tell you all of it but only the most interesting part as per me. It was built in the 6th century but was closed when the Byzantine emperors relocated but after that, it was completely forgotten.

It was rediscovered in 1545 when a scholar was researching Byzantine antiquities in Istanbul and the locals told him that they were able to obtain water by lowering their buckets in the dark space beneath their basements. The scholar – Petrus Gyllius eventually found it through one of the basements!

Walk inside underground and you will see many interesting sculptures. For me, the medusa heads and upside-down heads were the most interesting.

Basilica Cistern is unique and is an interesting spot for clicking unique photos. I did mention it in my Istanbul Instagram spots post.

The entry fee for Basilica Cistern is 450 Turkish Liras per person. The ticket lines are massive so get a skip-the-line entrance ticket.

5) Lunch at Pudding Shop

Pudding Shop Restaurant in Sultanahmet Square - istanbul
Pudding Shop Restaurant in Sultanahmet Square – Istanbul

Pudding Shop is a historical restaurant/cafe in Sultanahmet Square that thrived during the 70s because it was on the hippie trail. If you want to have home-style traditional Turkish food you can select and pick things on your plate and pay at the counter before you eat.

My lunch at Pudding Shop
My lunch at Pudding Shop

I had a portion of salmon, kofte, mashed potatoes, salad, and caramel pudding. Overall, the meal was amazing and the view from the window was pretty decent since it faced the lively Sultanahmet Square.

My vegetarian friends tried chickpeas, okra, aubergine, and barley. I tasted that food and loved it too. Of course, they have the typical Turkish doner kebab too.

6) See Topkapi Palace (Optional)

View of Topkapi Palace from Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
View of Topkapi Palace from Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey – CCO via Pixabay

After lunch, walk for 500 meters to arrive at Topkapı Palace, which was once the main residence for the Ottoman Sultans and administrative headquarters for the Ottoman Empire but is now a large museum.

This palace displays visions of true Turkish royalty. It is rather expansive and can take up to a few hours to explore in depth.

It features a stunning imperial gate, four massive courtyards at different levels that have their own set of sections inside, a harem, an outer garden, and many smaller courtyards. The harem also features a courtyard of the Eunuchs.

Inside Topkapi palace, Istanbul itinerary
Inside Topkapi Palace, Istanbul itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

Some of the things that will stun you inside are the baths of the Sultans with golden grills, the imperial throne, the fruit room, and many stained glass windows.

You will also get an opportunity to see the panoramic view of the Marmara Sea from the palace. The garden area in the second courtyard has some really interesting trees, a few of them are hollow from the inside because of fungus.

The entry fee for Topkapı Palace is 750 Turkish Lira per person.

If you’d like to skip the lines and get an entry ticket from before for Topkapi Palace, then check out this tour that also includes a tour guide.

7) “Busforus” Sunset Tour

If you think this is touristy, please hear me out. Have you ever done a hop-on hop-off bus open tour? I did one ages back in New York City and I realized that it is the best way to see the sunset and all the amazing sights in Istanbul.

Considering how crazy the traffic situation is in Istanbul, it doesn’t make sense to get on a taxi. I highly recommend the local transport but during the sunset hour, you will miss the view.

I did a tour with Istanbul Tourism and I was laughing when we got onto the “Busforus” tour because it felt so touristy. But I couldn’t help changing my mind as soon as the bus ride started since I had a higher-level view of all the attractions.

Sunset view from Bosphorus Bridge
Sunset view from Bosphorus Bridge

The tour started at Sultanahmet district, then Eminonu, Karaköy, and Galataport, went on the Galata bridge and I saw the Galata tower from the distance.

Just at sunset time, we went on the Bosphorus Bridge. I won’t forget the sunset view from here over the Bosphorus Strait. We also crossed Dolmabahçe Palace and I was surprised to see how pretty it looked.

Come Back to Your Hotel to Freshen Up

From your Busforus city tour, come back to your hotel using the metro transport and freshen up. Get ready to head to one of the liveliest parts of Istanbul to experience the street food for dinner.

8) Taksim Square and Istiklal Street for Streetfood

Taksim Mosque at Taksim Square
Taksim Mosque at Taksim Square

If you did follow my recommendation and book a suite at CVK Park Bosphorus, then you just need to walk for 5 minutes and you will arrive at the lively Taksim Square. This is the liveliest part of Istanbul and I was shocked to see how this area was totally on even on a Tuesday night.

Taksim Square and Istiklal Street
Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

Stand in front of the Taksim Mosque and see the buzz of street food carts, vintage red tram, and thousands of interesting shops all around. Walk from here to Istiklal Street and eat to your heart’s content.

Taksim Square and Red Tram
Taksim Square and Red Tram

Of course, the most popular street food to try in Istanbul is the world-famous doner kebab but I prefer kofte and veggie bulgur kebabs. Drink Ayran or sherbat, and finish off with something sweet like Turkish delight, Tavukgöğsü (milk pudding), Halva, or Baklava.

Istanbul Itinerary Day 2: Bazaars, Culture, and Food

If you thought your first day in Istanbul was fun, you will be pleasantly surprised when you experience your second day here. Your Istanbul city card will come in handy today too because we will be visiting some attractions that are easier to reach with public transportation as compared to taxis.

Download an offline version of Istanbul’s map on Google Maps so that you can use it on the go when you have to use public transport.

1) Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar or Misir Carsisi)

Inside Spice Bazaar in Istanbul
Inside Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

From Taksim Tünel, get on the yellow line metro and get off at Eminönü in order to arrive at Spice Bazaar. It is also known as Egyptian Bazaar and Misir Carsisi.

Enter the Egyptian Spice Bazaar through one of the high-arched doors to see this lovely market that’s indoors with interesting arched ceilings.

One of the shops in the Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Bazaar) - Istanbul itinerary
One of the shops in the Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Bazaar) – Istanbul itinerary

The spice market isn’t just about spices but also tea, nuts, dry fruits, and Turkish delight. It is smaller than the nearby Grand Bazaar, which is one of the next on the list.

Even if you spend 30-45 minutes, that is enough time to experience the lovely Misir Carsisi and its interesting shops.

2) Beta Yeni Han Cafe

Just at the end of the spice market is a pretty cafe called Beta Yeni Han. You have plenty of time today to explore the bazaars and the cultural points of Istanbul, so you can take a break here to sip Turkish coffee or tea.

While walking through the narrow streets of bazaars, the sudden open spaces of Beta Yeni Han come as a pleasant surprise.

3) Grand Bazaar & Lunch

Grand Bazaar Entry Istanbul
Grand Bazaar Entry Istanbul

Walk 650 meters through the narrow lanes and you will arrive at another arched entrance for a covered bazaar, it is Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and it is massive.

The Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, beckons with its labyrinthine alleys and a kaleidoscope of goods. It’s a sensory journey through vibrant textiles, intricate ceramics, and the heady aroma of spices. The Grand Bazaar is not just a marketplace; it’s a cultural immersion where past and present collide.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is legendary and is a place that should definitely not be missed. It is a good place to escape the midday heat because it is covered.

Grand Bazaar - 3 days in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar – 3 days in Istanbul

Believe it or not, the Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world with more than 4000 stalls and 61 streets. It also has 18 different entry points and was kind of like the “first shopping mall” of the world. The construction began as early as 1455/56.

The bazaar is so big that it may overwhelm you! But it may end up being one of the best places that you’ll visit in Istanbul because of the interesting sights, people, and things. Not only does it have historical significance, but it also will give you a lovely taste of Turkish culture.

The grand bazaar is in Istanbul’s Fatih neighborhood and is between the Nuruosmaniye and Beyazit Mosques. Walk around and explore as many streets here as you can and even eat some lunch here. Post that, leave for your relaxing hammam.

4) Beyazıt Square

Beyazit Square, located in the heart of historic Istanbul, stands as a bustling testament to the city’s rich history and vibrant present. Nestled amidst a tapestry of iconic landmarks and institutions, the square exudes an energy that reflects the convergence of the ancient and the contemporary.

At the center of Beyazit Square looms the historic Beyazit Mosque, an architectural marvel that dates back to the 16th century. Its distinctive Ottoman design, characterized by graceful domes and slender minarets, adds an air of grandeur to the surroundings. The mosque’s courtyard provides a serene retreat, inviting visitors to pause and soak in the spiritual ambiance.

Surrounding the square, one encounters a symphony of activity because of its close proximity to the Grand Bazaar.

Beyazit Square is also home to Istanbul University, a venerable institution founded in the 15th century. The university’s presence adds an intellectual vibrancy to the square, and students can be seen engaged in lively discussions or enjoying moments of respite in the nearby parks.

As the day unfolds, Beyazit Square transforms. In the evening, the square comes alive with the rhythm of daily life. Locals and tourists converge in the surrounding cafes and eateries, creating a lively atmosphere. The square, illuminated by the warm glow of streetlights, becomes a gathering place where the city’s heartbeat is felt.

In essence, Beyazit Square is a microcosm of Istanbul’s diverse identity. It seamlessly weaves together the threads of history, spirituality, commerce, and academia, creating a vibrant tableau that captures the essence of this dynamic city. Whether one is drawn to its architectural wonders, the allure of the markets, or the spirited energy of its people, Beyazit Square stands as a compelling invitation to explore Istanbul’s multifaceted soul.

5) Suleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul - view
Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul – view

Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Mosque is the grandest of them all and is on top of Istanbul’s third hill. It is the largest of Istanbul’s imperial mosques and many say it is the most beautiful one. In 2010, this mosque was renovated after the expense of 21 million Turkish Liras.

See the grand courtyard of Suleymaniye Mosque and the view of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus Strait from here. There is also a hammam inside and a restaurant in the mosque complex.

Come Back to Your Room to Freshen Up

6) Galata Tower for Sunset Panoramic View / Dinner

Walking on Galata Bridge is an experience because it goes over the Golden Horn. It is a symbolic link between the old city of Istanbul and the modern districts.

You will see locals fishing on each side of the Galata Bridge and is super interesting to observe.

Cross the Galata Bridge and you will see your next stop from far away. If you’re a sucker for viewpoints, then you will love this place because it is the best location for a great view of Istanbul from up above.

Galata Tower and the Observation Deck, Istanbul
Galata Tower and the Observation Deck, Istanbul – cc0 via Pixabay

Galata Tower is one of Istanbul’s most prominent landmarks because it stands proudly at a height of 16.5 meters (54 feet). It is a stone tower that was completed in 1348 A.D.

The tower has 9 floors and two lifts that can take you to the 7th floor and from there you have to climb up two floors yourself.

Please keep in mind that the queues outside Galata Tower at sunset time are very long, so keep a time buffer. Most of the time the queues move very fast even when they’re long.

View from top of Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
View from the top of Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey – CC0 via Pixabay

There is a viewing deck on the top from where you can see a 360-degree view of Istanbul city, the Bosphorus Sea, the Golden Horn, the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and many other landmarks. The viewing platform is very narrow and is just like a ring around the tower.

The viewing platform on top of Galata Tower gets very crowded so you may not be able to stay for long, but there are two restaurants on lower floors where you can sit and chill for long and admire Istanbul’s skyline.

There is also a flight stimulator – 3D Skyride which costs 25 Liras extra and is 10 minutes long.

Galata Tower closes at 8 pm, but the restaurants may remain open for longer.

The entry fee for Galata Tower is 650 Turkish Liras per person.

Nightlife in Istanbul – Galata District

After you’ve spent enough time at Galata Tower, you can enjoy this neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife. You can eat dinner in one of the restaurants that are under the Galata Bridge and then check out some clubs or bars.

Head to Beyoğlu and you’re sure to find a lot of bars with outdoor seating and live music. You can also find clubs here. In Beyoglu, go to Baraka for live music on the weekends. You can also check out Bizz Jazz Bar for Jass music, Riddim for alternative, rock or hip hop, or Mojo for strictly rock music.

When in doubt, you can always come back to Istiklal Caddesi or Taksim Square where you experienced your first night in Istanbul on day 1 of this itinerary.

Istanbul Itinerary Day 3

For your third and last day in Istanbul, I will give you two options. Either you can make a day trip to the nearby islands or explore Istanbul further. In case you’re not in the mood to spend your entire day on the Princess Islands, you can head to the below-mentioned places to fall in love with Istanbul a bit more.

1) Food Tour (5-6 hours)

Chee kofte kebab in Istanbul
Chee kofte kebab in Istanbul

Istanbul is a city of historical culture and the best way you can experience it is by food. I wouldn’t do a food tour in many cities but Istanbul is one of the few.

One of the best things that I did in Istanbul was a food tour (check my Istanbul food tour post) and I highly recommend it to you too. There are many food tours and personally, I think it is better if these food tours start early so that you can chill and relax in the evening.

We had many different kinds of kebabs, meat on skewers, veggie kebab made with bulger, pide, mussels stuffed with rice, Turkish delight, sherbets, and many more interesting things. This was better than any five-star meal and was totally worth the cost.

I have shortlisted a bunch of food tours but I suggest you look at this one because it starts at a good time and covers both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

Otherwise, you can check this list of tours that I have shortlisted for you:

  • Taste of Two Continents food tour: A 6-hour food tour that starts at 9:30 am and has 9 stops. It goes to the Kadikoy market in the Asian side of Istanbul. It starts at Hobyar Mahallesi.
  • Guided Food Tour of Street Food and Markets: This 6-hour tour starts at Rüstem Paşa which is at one end of the Galata Bridge. You will cover both the Asian and European sides and visit Kadikoy. You can pick a start time of 10:30 am or 11 am.
  • Guided Food and Culture Tour: This is a 5-hour evening food tour that starts at 6 pm. It also covers both Asian and European sides with a visit to Kardikoy.

2) Turkish Hamam and Massage

Cağaloğlu Hamam in Istanbul
Cağaloğlu Hamam in Istanbul

A hamam is a traditional Turkish bath house, which features usually a sauna, a scrub, and sometimes also a massage. A few years back I read a hilarious article about someone’s first hamam experience and that made me very curious to try it out. Of course, my experience was very different than hers

You will see many hammams near touristy areas and some of them are as expensive as 100 Euros. Keep in mind that literally all areas have at least one historical hamam and the ones where locals go can be as low as 100 liras. Some of the cheaper hammams may not look very clean but there are no germs because of the heat and the marble.

The traditional Turkish hamam or bathhouse dates back to the Ottoman era. These were established for cultural, religious, and commercial purposes.

Inside Cağaloğlu Hamam
Inside Cağaloğlu Hamam

The fanciest Turkish Hammam in Istanbul is at Cağaloğlu Hamam, where even celebrities like Cameron Diaz, John Travolta, Kate Moss, and Ophrah Winfrey have visited. How do I know this? because they have a hall of fame inside with the photos.

Another option would be to head to Cemberlitas Hamami which is close to the Grand Bazaar (Çemberlitaş Hamamı) – it is a little high-end as compared to many.

You can spend a few hours in an elegant steam room and soak in the hamam after the initial thirty minutes of scrub and massage. Like most of the hammams, there are different sections for males and females, but the bathing rituals are almost similar for both sexes.

Affordable and Traditional Hamams

If you’re looking for something a little affordable and less touristy, try Çemberlitaş Hamamı in Fatih where the entrance is 25 Liras and the scrub is 10 liras. Alternatively, you can also try Büyük Hamam in Kasımpaşa or Gedik Ahmet Paşa Hamamı in Gedikpasa or Aziziye Hamam which is towards Istanbul’s Asian side.

3) Sunset Cruise over Bosporus (Option 1)

Sunset cruise over Bosphorous, Istanbul itinerary
Sunset cruise over Bosphorus, Istanbul itinerary – CCO via Pixabay

Yes, the Bosporus Cruise is a little touristy but it is a very good way to see some very interesting parts of Istanbul that you won’t be able to see in just three days. The several towering minarets of the mosques look spectacular from a distance and you will get many good photo opportunities.

You’ll see many places to buy tickets for the Bosporus cruise all around Istanbul’s touristy areas, but not all are good. I did an overpriced 2-hour cruise because I decided last minute to go for it while I was walking around Sultanahmet Square.

View from the Bosphorous Cruise with Galata Tower, Istanbul
View from the Bosphorus Cruise with Galata Tower, Istanbul – CC0 via Pixabay

Honestly, my overpriced cruise experience wasn’t bad at all and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I was all by myself. I didn’t need to go anywhere special but was just in Sultanahmet Square and their office was right there.

Right before the cruise, their staff member took all of us to the pier that was just 5 minutes walking distance away.

If you’d like to check the details of your Bosphorus cruise for better options than I did, check out the below tours and tickets that I have handpicked for you:

All of the above tours are different in their own way. I did not have so many options to choose from while I was in Istanbul but I would have definitely picked a smaller boat or a yacht because mine was a little too full.

Luckily I was carrying my own water because the one on the boat was super expensive.

When you buy your ticket, keep in mind that there is no use in paying extra for a special seat. No matter where you sit, people will stand in front of you and block your view.

Spend two hours in the evening enjoying the sunset cruise on the Bosphorus straits. Opt for the small wooden boats as the guide can better explain the facts as you head to the Bosphorus Bridge and back to the Asian side.

As per my research, it costs just 120 Turkish Liras for 2 hours if you go through the state-run company called Sehir Hatlari, their cruise departs from Eski Kadıköy Pier. They also have a 3-hour option but in my opinion, that’s a little too much. Two hours are more than enough. Do check their website before going because they sometimes run sunset cruises only on Saturdays.

4) Dinner at Oligark

One of the fanciest and yummiest meals that I had in Istanbul was in a waterfront restaurant called Oligark, and it overlooks the Bosphorus Strait. It is a super luxurious restaurant and bar, but it actually is affordable when you compare the prices in Euros.

The view, service, and the food at Oligark are simply the best and the experience shouldn’t be missed. I had the most delicious Çiğ köfte (chee kofta), meat on skewers, lentils, lavash (lavaş), and many other things that tasted heavenly.

Suggested: Best Places to visit in Istanbul

Çamlıca Hil for a Sunset and Dinner (Option 2)

If you don’t want to do the Bosphorus cruise for sunset, then I have another option for you here. Camilca Hill is the highest hill and it is on the Asian side of Istanbul. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Istanbul and see the Golden Horn and Bosphorus.

There are two Camilca Hills – Little Camilca Hill and Big Camilca Hill. This point is about Big Camilca Hill, which is in Üsküdar.

In order to reach the Çamlıca Hill from Taksim or Sultanahmet Square, take a tram to Eminonu docks. From here, get on a boat to Uskudar and then take the 9U bus to Camlica Hill. Of course, you can do the full or a part of this journey by taxi too.

Apart from just enjoying the panoramic view, you can also visit one of the cafes or restaurants here. They are not as expensive as the ones in the Sultanahmet area.

After spending the last two sunsets in comparatively crowded (yet lovely) spots – Galata Tower and “Busforus” Bus Tour, the sunset experience at Camilca Hill will be a refreshing change. Many visitors say that this is the best sunset experience in Istanbul, but I’ll let you decide.

Princes’ Islands Day Trip (Option 3)

Seagullls with Princes Islands in the background - Istanbul, Turkey
Seagulls with Princes Islands in the background – Istanbul, Turkey – CC0 via Pixabay

Many people incorrectly call them Princess Islands or Princess’ Islands but these are “Princes’ Islands” and are a group of 9 islands in the Asian side of Istanbul. They’re named so because, during the Byzantine and the early Ottoman times, the exiled princes and monks were sent here.

Don’t imagine these islands to be “resort-esque” and expect to sit on a beach here. Instead, these islands will give you a cultural or historical experience. You’ll feel that time stood still some decades back here and never moved ahead.

A very interesting part about visiting the Princes’ Islands is that motorized vehicles are banned here. Because of this, these islands are a good escape from Istanbul’s hectic life and sounds of the automobiles. Instead, you will see horse carts and Victorian bungalows.

In order to reach here, you will need to take a fast ferry operated by IDO or look for Istanbul Liners. These ferries depart from Kabatas or Eminönü near the Galata Bridge. You can book your ferry tickets for the Princess Islands and back here. Alternatively, you can book a tour that will pick you up from your hotel in Istanbul (if centrally located), and take you to the Princess Islands and back, including lunch, and sightseeing. The most popular island here is Büyükada, and the other major ones are Kınalıada, Burgaz, and Heybeliada. 

Tip: Make sure you find the timetable so that you don’t miss the last ferry out of the islands.

Istanbul Hotel Information

I have visited Istanbul twice and I have stayed in the Sultanahmet area during the first visit and near Taksim Square during the most recent one. I was pretty happy with both the locations, but I realised the second was a better option.

Here are some of my recommendations for different budgets:

The most popular hostel chain here is Cheers and they run hostels all over the city –

If you want more information than what I have specified, check out this post with information about places to stay in Istanbul.

Where to go after Istanbul

Istanbul to Cappadocia

Sunrise view - Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey
Sunrise view – Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey

My visit to Cappadocia was in 2016 and to this day when people ask me what’s the most beautiful place that I’ve ever seen, I always think of this place.

Cappadocia has an otherwordly landscape with weird formations, fairy chimneys, and hundreds of hot air balloons in the sky. My website has a lot of posts about Cappadocia, so head over the to main Turkey page to see all the posts.

Istanbul to Pamukkale

Blue Water and White Travertine - Pamukkale Thermal Pools
Blue Water and White Travertine – Pamukkale Thermal Pools

Pamukkale has been a spa destination since ancient Roman times because of its stunning limestone thermal pools. This destination is very blue and white and you’ll fall in love with it for sure. For information about how to reach, where to stay, and more, check my detailed guide to Pamukkale.

If you’ve been to Istanbul already and have tips to share, comment below and let us know.

3 Days in Istanbul Itinerary Closing Thoughts

This itinerary has been made keeping in mind Istanbul’s culture, attractions, and uniqueness. It is a tried and tested itinerary based on my two visits to this city, out of that the most recent one was at the end of 2023.

Don’t try to cover it all because Istanbul can be stressful. Remember to be spontaneous and to have fun.


Disclosure: My trip to Istanbul was sponsored as a part of the Istanbul Travel Influencer Summit 2023. However, all the opinions expressed in this article are my own.


PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Turkey Travel Tips (from a local): 15 Things to Know About Turkey

Turkey Travel Tips (from a local): 15 Things to Know About Turkey

Turkey travel tips post has been written by our Europe content specialist – Alara Benlier, who is originally from Turkey. This post has been further expanded by the editor. 

Turkey is historical, vibrant, and insanely beautiful. This country that’s twice the size of California offers an exhaustive selection of places to visit and travel experiences to its visitors.

While in Turkey, you can find pretty much every kind of landscape (and even more) if you know where to go.

You can enjoy thermal springs with crystal clear waters, relax on the inviting beaches, see the ruins of ancient empires, float on a hot air balloon over unique formations, party on a yacht like a millionaire, enjoy delicious cuisine, and even go skiing.

White Travertine Thermal Pools with Blue Water - Pamukkale, Turkey
White Travertine Thermal Pools with Blue Water – Pamukkale, Turkey

Turkey’s unique location attracts millions of tourists each year. No matter the season, you can do many fun activities here. Moreover, you can experience countless cultural trips, including wandering around ancient ruins that are also listed as Unesco World Heritage Sites. 

So, whether you are a passionate photographer, a gourmet, an adventure lover, or just a professional sunbather, you can have the holiday of your dreams in Turkey. If you are interested, here is everything you need to know before visiting Turkey from a born and raised Turkish expat. Here are my top Turkey travel tips for you.

Travel Tips for Turkey

Turkey Weather and When to Visit

A dog sitting on the road in Cappadocia with snow around
This adorable dog is surely enjoying the snow

No, Turkey isn’t just a summer destination like many places in Europe. Depending on what you want to do, you can visit Turkey during every season.

Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara region gets very warmer in summer and it can sometimes rain too. This area gets colder than many other parts of Turkey during winter and it can snow too (but not often).

Most of the coast of Turkey has typical warm Mediterranean weather (think of Italy, Greece, etc.) with warm and dry summers and mild winters. The middle part of the country (like Central Anatolia) gets warmer summer days but chilly nights and mornings. 

During spring, summer, and winter, not only you can enjoy many breathtakingly beautiful beaches, but also you can do lounging, parasailing, paragliding, and even canoeing in the ancient lands of Turkey. And starting from Winter, here is a winter wonderland.

Over the years, Turkey has become a hot spot for ski lovers with its excellent ski resorts, splendid hotels, and amazing nature.

Visa for Turkey

Some nationalities do not need a visa to enter Turkey, that includes some European countries a few Asian countries, and also a few South American countries. They can enter visa-free for 90 days.

Many other nationalities can enter with an eVisa and some with a conditional eVisa. Passport holders in Australia, the UK, USA need to apply for an Electronic Visa (e-Visa). Indian travelers can get a conditional e-Visa if they already have an active visa from the US, UK, Ireland, or the Schengen countries.

As the name suggests, the e-Visa Application System allows travelers to apply their e-Visas online. You just have to fill out the online form and pay the visa fee, and within 3 minutes, you will receive your visa! Just don’t forget to apply for your visa between three months to 48 hours before your travel date.

What is the capital city of Turkey?

Most people get this wrong. The capital of Turkey is not Istanbul, it is Ankara.

Is it safe to travel to Turkey?

The answer to this question is yes, but just like anywhere in the world, you should be cautious about your surroundings. Thankfully, Turkey’s name is coming clean after several terror attacks that happened in the past, and today, it is declared safe by many governments. 

Just be careful around the crowds, and if you are too anxious, try not to visit Turkey around religious and public holidays. Keep in mind that the coasts are safe, and big cities like Istanbul are always surrounded by policemen. Unless you are visiting the cities close to the Syrian border, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

In any case, you should make it a point to read the travel advisory before you plan your trip and once again before you visit. 

Currency in Turkey and Managing Money

Turkish Lira notes of 10s and 20s - Currency in Turkey
Turkish Lira notes of 10s and 20s – Currency in Turkey [CC0] via Pixabay

The local currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira. Although most places would prefer cash, you can also pay with VISA and Mastercard. 

Try to carry a smaller amount of money for smaller purchases. Turkey has banknotes for 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 lira. So carrying two 50 liras instead of one 100 lira might be better. Haggling is also very common in local shops. You might get up to 50% off from bigger purchases.

Which SIM Card to get?

Due to the legal restrictions, it might be complicated to get a local SIM Card if you’re traveling here for a longer period of time. Generally, you can get a SIM card by showing your passport at one of the shops in the airport or in a store in the city. 

There are three network operators in Turkey: Turkcell, Vodafone, and Türk Telekom. They have official stores everywhere around the country. 

Turkcell is known for its good connection, but it is the most expensive one. Vodafone is also fairly good and Türk Telekom is the cheapest one. Although Türk Telekom is good, if you are planning to visit locations with high altitudes, I would stick with Vodafone or Turkcell according to my budget. 

Also, all mobile devices purchased outside Turkey that use a Turkish SIM must be registered with the government after 120 days. If not, you will end up with a phone that doesn’t work.  

Scams in Istanbul

Outside the Blue Mosque at night, Istanbul - Turkey Travel Tips
Outside the Blue Mosque at night, Istanbul – Turkey Travel Tips

Istanbul is one of the most visited cities in Turkey due to its historic beauty. And just like every other tourist city, here also has typical tourist scams.

Although the Turkish people are very helpful, it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to scams. The most known ones are taxi scams, pickpockets, and paying more because you are a tourist. 

Taxis usually take a longer road to get you to your final destination to make you pay more money. To prevent that you can use public transportation, or if you have to use a taxi, you can ask the reception of your hotel or hostel to call a cab for you. 

To avoid pickpockets, you have to be careful about your belongings. If you are around a crowd, keep your bag in front of you or somewhere you can see it. 

Last but not least, sellers might charge you more money because they think that you don’t know the actual price of their products or services. To prevent that, do your research! Thanks to the internet, you are one click away from knowing all the best and the worst shops all around the World. 

Overall Istanbul is a majestic city, but keep in mind that Turkey offers more incredible cities. So, if you have enough time, try to spend less time in Istanbul, and explore other cities in Turkey.

Getting around in Turkey

You can get around in Turkey by internal flights, renting a car, using a coach, and depending on the location – even a ferry.  

With its bunch of airlines that fit your budget, Turkey can be easily explored by plane. Due to the competition, you can book a cheap flight and fly to almost every city in Turkey.

One of the low-cost carriers in Turkey is Pegasus Airlines, that’s what the Drifter Planet team used in Turkey twice. Although it is not the most environmentally friendly option, if you have a tight schedule, you can always get to your destination very quickly via plane.

Although renting a car is always an option, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you are aiming for a heart attack, then renting a car might be the one for you. Having one of the most expensive gas in the entire World, constant traffic, and of course, so many angry drivers that ignore most of the traffic signs, you can easily rent a car in Turkey with your passport or driver’s license. Just make sure to rent your car from a reliable agency, like Europcar, or Avis, and get insurance for the car. 

Most Turkish people use the coach, especially the night coach, as a more budget-friendly option. The buses in Turkey for longer destinations are very luxurious and shockingly affordable. Every Turkish town and city has a bus station, called Otogar. From there you can buy your bus ticket, which is called bilet in Turkish. 

Buses in Turkey - Metro turizm bus
Buses in Turkey – Metro turizm bus

If you are a solo traveler, depending on your gender, you can book a seat next to your own gender to ensure safety as well. During your trip, you will be served a cake or sandwich, and a bottle of water for free. Most of the bus companies also provide wireless Internet, and a film to watch. Buses will stop in many resting places for you to use the toilet, stretch your legs, and eat in restaurants.

Metro Turizm bus ticket - Turkey travel tips
Metro Turizm bus ticket – Turkey travel tips

It isn’t easy to prebook the buses online without a Turkish card or phone number but it can be done if you really try your best. We were able to book a bus with “MetroTurizm“, but only after translating the entire website into English. Somehow their English version of the website wasn’t allowing bus bookings at that time.

Ferries are also a great option for traveling in and around Istanbul, Izmir, and from incredible cities like Bodrum and Marmaris to the Greek islands.

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Turkey

Sunrise view - Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey
Sunrise view – Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey

The most beautiful place on earth where you can enjoy a hot air balloon ride is right here in Turkey. It is in a mystical fairy land called Cappadocia, which looks like it belongs on another planet. Cappadocia’s landscape looks surreal, and it looks it is out of a science fiction movie like Star Wars.

There are fairy chimneys and caves everywhere in Cappadocia. People still live in these caves and many have been transformed into spectacular hotels. Right here, you can enjoy a hot air balloon ride to experience the most magical sunrise.

Cappadocia is massive and has around 10 villages that are all unique in their own way. One can get a little confused about where to go. The most popular place in Cappadocia for a hot air balloon ride is Göreme. Be sure to read about Cappadocia on our website – Hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia, staying in a cave hotel in Göreme, and Cappadocia’s Instagram-worthy spots.

It is no secret that there are lots of places to visit, lots of things to do, and lots of things to eat in Turkey!  If you want to visit this glorious country, but don’t know where to start, there is a great 10-day itinerary on this website, which covers the most attractive places you can visit in Turkey. However, if you want to spend more time in Turkey to understand the culture better and explore all around it quickly, here is a two-week itinerary of Turkey!

Day 1 and 2 – Istanbul

Sunset cruise over Bosphorous, Istanbul itinerary
Sunset cruise over Bosphorus, Istanbul itinerary

Istanbul is mostly famous for its bridge that brings together Asia and Europe, mosques, tulips, seagulls, and Turkish bagels. But the city also has a great history dating back to 660 before Christ, the Roman empire, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empire. If you want to check out the historical monuments on your first day, you can start exploring Istanbul from Sultanahmet Square, where you can find Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque, and Basilica Cistern. 

On your second day, you can shop at the Spice Bazaar aka Mısır Çarşısı, which is one of the largest bazaars in Istanbul. Here, you can buy spices, Turkish delights, jewelry, souvenirs, dried fruits, and nuts. The Grand Bazaar, on the other hand, is the oldest and largest bazaar in the world with 4,000 shops and 350,000 visitors a day! 

Day 3 and 4 – Bursa

Bursa was the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire. But here is not only known for its history, but also its silk, ski resorts, and thermal baths made here a must-visit city. Due to its location near an extinct volcano called Uludağ mountain, Bursa has thermal baths with mineral-rich waters.

If you are visiting Bursa, you should experience the traditional thermal Turkish bath, since it is one of a kind! The mineral water boils up from below to comfort you and nurture your skin! As a tradition, you should get the best rubdown (kese) to get rid of the dead skin cells and a massage just to relax your muscles.

Day 5 – Izmir and Ephesus (Efes)

Izmir is blessed with amazing beaches, gorgeous nature, and of course, ancient places like Unesco World Heritage Site listed Efes! 

Celsus Library, Ephesus - Turkey Itinerary
Celsus Library, Ephesus – Turkey Itinerary

While in Ephesus, you can check out many historic gates and temples, but the most impressive ones are definitely the Temple of Artemis and the Library of Celsus. But if you enter Ephesus from the south entrance, you will see its world-famous theatre. This theatre not only witnessed history but also hosted many amazing performances by Elton John, Ray Charles, Jethro Tull, and many more!

Day 6 and 7 – Bodrum

With its pure white buildings with Saxon blue doors, its amazing seacoast, and gorgeous bougainvillea flowers, Bodrum is definitely a must-visit city! This old fishing town is located on the coast of the astoundingly clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea and also hosts the ancient city of Halicarnassus, which is said to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus has an ancient tomb, which was built between 353 and 350 BC! Here, you can also check out the Myndos Gate, which was built under the reign of King Mausolus. This gate witnessed the greatest battles during the siege of the city by Alexander the Great.

Day 8 and 9 – Fethiye

Oludeniz Beach, Fethiye, Turkey Travel Tips
Oludeniz Beach, Fethiye, Turkey Travel Tips

With its breathtaking marina, amazing nightlife, and otherworldly sea, Fethiye is the only city in the world, where you’ll find sarcophaguses on the streets!  Here, you can swim in the Dead Sea/Blue Lagoon, and also do lounging, parasailing, paragliding, canoeing, and many more! The world-famous beach of Fethiye and its blue lagoon, Ölüdeniz, is known for its shades of turquoise and aquamarine, and it is officially awarded as a Blue Flag beach.  

On your second day, you can hike the ancient Lycian Way to check out the amazing views of the sea and the mountains. You also have to check out the gorgeous Butterfly Valley! This valley’s name comes from the endemic butterflies that live near the waterfalls on the canyon wall. From the top of this valley, the view of the bay is just breathtaking.

Day 10 and 11 – Antalya

When you first hear Antalya, you might think of beautiful beaches, a bright sun, and 5-star hotels. But Antalya also offers gorgeous ancient cities and sights! On your first day, you have to check out Aspendos, which is an ancient Greco-Roman city in Serik. Aspendos has huge fame with its breathtaking Roman theatre, the best-preserved theatre in Turkey. The theater has a seating capacity of 20,000 people, and it is still used for concerts. 

For your second day, you can visit the Konyaaltı, which has a pebble beach with amazing turquoise waters. Here you can also paraglide and enjoy many water sports. Or around 60 km away, you can visit the sandy Lara Beach, which is known for its curative sands for the ones with rheumatism problems!

Day 12 and 13 – Pamukkale

Early Morning in Pamukkale, Turkey
Early Morning in Pamukkale, Turkey

With its mineral-rich hot springs and its ancient Greco-Roman city, Pamukkale is a natural site, located in Denizli. Pamukkale literally means cotton castle in Turkish, which suits its amazing calcium-rich springs that shaped its snow-white limestones over the centuries perfectly. But this Unesco World Heritage site is not only popular for its natural pools but also its holy ancient city of Hierapolis!

Cleopatra Pools in Pamukkale, Turkey
Cleopatra Pools in Pamukkale, Turkey

On your second day, you have to check out this Greco-Roman city. Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BCE. After the archeological diggings, many significant structures like gorgeous Byzantine gates, a theatre, temples, thermal baths, and an extensive necropolis came to light.

Day 14 and 15 – Cappadocia

Cappadocia's unique landscape caves carved in volcanic formations
Cappadocia’s unique landscape caves carved in volcanic formations

With its fairy chimneys, amazing nature, and fun hot air balloon activities, Cappadocia offers a great time for its visitors. Being on the Unesco World Heritage List, with its fairytale-looking landscapes with fairy chimneys, pigeon houses, orchards, and vineyards, it is surreal to fly over the beautiful valley and have the most romantic time while gazing at the sunset!

On your second day, you should visit the Ihlara Valley, which is a 16 km long valley that is home for 105 ancient churches! This unique valley’s honeycombed churches were built by Cappadocian Greeks. It is truly a magical place to wander around while listening to the peaceful river sounds.

What to Eat in Turkey?

Shish Kebab with Naan - my food in Istanbul
Shish Kebab with Naan – my food in Istanbul

Turkish cuisine is one of the most diverse and famous cuisines in the entire World. You may have eaten Turkish dishes before, but there are some must-taste dishes that you shouldn’t miss while visiting Turkey!

  • As the main dish, you can have Iskender Kebab, Şiş (Shish) Kebab, Mantı, Etli Ekmek, or if you are vegetarian, you can have Meze or street food like Kumpir
  • Iskender Kebab is a traditional Döner kebab that is served with yogurt a warm tomato sauce and melted butter over pieces of thinly sliced lamb meat and pide. 
Turkish food menu - Turkey travel tips
Turkish food menu – Turkey travel tips
  • Şiş (Shish) Kebab, on the other hand, is grilled chicken, beef, or lamb on a skewer, served with rice, salad, and fries. 
  • If you crave carbs, you should try Mantı aka Turkish Ravioli! Mantı is little a handmade dumplings filled with ground lamb or beef, topped with creamy yogurt and melted butter tomato paste sauce. Or Etli Ekmek, which is a long and thin piece of flatbread, topped with meat and cheese. 
  • If you are a vegetarian, you will love Etli Ekme because you can choose your own toppings to “vegan-ize” it. 
  • As a lighter dinner option, you can have Meze, which actually consists of a small selection of dishes commonly served with drinks or before a meal. You can either just eat Meze, or you can also order a main dish with them. Turkish people love eating Meze while drinking Rakı, which is a traditional alcoholic beverage. 
  • Traditional Turkish Mezes are Cacık, which is yogurt with herbs and cucumber, hummus, and butter, and Dolma, which is rice-stuffed vine leaves, eggplant salad, Feta cheese and all served with a warm pide. Pide is a flatbread which is kind of like a pizza, but is much better. It is a typical Turkish comfort food.  
Eating Pide -Turkish Food -
Eating Pide – Experiencing Turkish Food
  • Lastly, Kumpir is actually a giant baked potato, which is cut down the middle and served with butter, cheese, and various toppings that you choose. As a dessert, you can have World-famous Baklava, and of course Turkish delight.
  • Turkish cuisine is very flavourful and best complemented with local alcoholic beverages. You can have some Turkish wines including Kavaklidere Yakut (Bogazkere – Okuzgozu), Merlot, and Vinkara. 

The national drink, Rakı, is a must if you want to have an authentic Turkish food experience. It is a spirit, distilled from grapes and made with aniseed. When Rakı is mixed with water and ice, its color changes from transparent to white, which is why it is also called lion’s milk.

Ramadan in Turkey

Ramadan is called Ramazan in Turkey. It is important to know about this because it is a month-long fasting time, that ends with Eid ul-Fitr. During this time, the locals do not eat or even drink anything from the time the sun rises to the time it sets; they only eat after the sunset.

If you’re in a smaller part of Turkey during Ramadan, you should know that some restaurants will be shut during the day, and it is considered inappropriate you eat in front of those who are fasting. Although in touristy places like Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square, you will easily find a bite to eat. 

The dates for Ramazan for the next year are the Evening of Sun, Mar 10, 2024 – Tue, Apr 9, 2024. 

What to Wear in Turkey?

Trying to bathe in Pamukkale's Thermal Pools without taking off my clothes
Trying to bathe in Pamukkale’s Thermal Pools without taking off my clothes

No, all Turkish people don’t dress conservatively. Somehow the country is split where one-half of the people wear conservative attire while the other half wear whatever they want and don’t mind showing some skin. Don’t stand out as a tourist, but try to blend in.

You can wear pretty much anything you want in Turkey, depending on the weather. During summer, light cotton pants, T-shirts, and flip-flops are the most common clothes to wear. Depending on the location, you can also wear shorts.

During Spring and Fall, you should bring a warm jacket/windbreaker because the weather is rainy, and it is chilly at night. And during winter, you better pack your sweaters because it snows almost everywhere in Turkey. For the beach, you can basically wear anything you want. Most Turkish women love sunbathing in their bikinis. 

If you are planning to visit mosques and churches, you should not wear any shorts or sleeveless tops. Women should also cover their hair. And don’t forget to bring socks since most of the mosques have carpet floors, and walking with your shoes on a carpet (or inside the house) is not acceptable for Turkish people. Overall, modesty is very appreciated in Turkey. If you want to avoid some looks while walking in the city, try to dress up on the conservative side.

About Turkish Hamams

Turkish Hamams - Turkey travel tips
Turkish Hamams – Turkey travel tips

Turkey might be known for its amazing beaches, and historical places, but this country is also blessed with more than 1,000 thermal springs. These mineral-rich springs have also healing properties, which is the reason why they attract many tourists throughout the year. 

You will find lots of Traditional Turkish Bath places which are called Hamam anywhere you visit in Turkey. If you want to get rid of all the dead skin cells from your body, you can visit the Hamam of your choice. But there are a couple of things to know! 

For example, every Hamam has two sections, one for women and one for men. This means that at most of the Hamams, you can’t get scrubbed down with your significant other. 

Keep in mind that, Hamams are HOT. If you have any lung or heart problems, ask your doctors for permission beforehand.

If you are visiting a Hamam, don’t forget to bring your bathing suit and some clean sandals. 

When you enter the Hamam, you will see an amazing interior and five to six taps of water with beautiful sinks underneath. In the middle, there will be a big stone which is called göbektaşı. 

If you want to be rubbed down by a professional, he or she (depending on your gender) will come and rub you there. Before the rubbing, you need to be inside the Hamam for at least 15 minutes. Afterward, they will first soak your body with warm water, otherwise, the dirt won’t come off. 

After washing up, you will receive a massage, and later you will get rubbed with an oriental washcloth, which is called kese. Finally, you will receive another soapy wash, followed by a rinsing session with cold water. 

After the whole experience, don’t forget to tip your attendant. PS. You need to wash your private parts yourself. Most of the Hamams, people inside are butt naked, but it doesn’t mean that you also have to be. Also, bring your own soap and shampoo if you are allergic, and don’t forget to remove your makeup because it will get ruined.

Etiquette for Visiting Mosques

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul - Turkey Travel Tips
Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul – Turkey Travel Tips

One of the most beautiful experiences in Turkey is listening to the unmissable call of prayer 5 times a day from a nearby mosque. There’s something calming and soothing about this sound. Of course, you should try to expand this experience by visiting a mosque. Please don’t be stupid enough to mimic this sound of prayer, even if you’re in a hostel and are sitting with backpackers. 

Mosque Etiquette - what to wear - Turkey travel tips
Mosque Etiquette – what to wear – Turkey travel tips

Dress conservatively if you’re visiting a mosque. Cover your legs, arms, and shoulders – this is for both men and women. In most of the mosques, you will be able to pick up a scarf to cover your head on your way in. Photograph the architecture by all means, but look out for “photography allowed” signs before you do. Do not take the liberty of photographing the locals in prayer without their permission.

Just like many places of worship all over the world, you will need to remove your shoes at the entry point so wear something that can be easily removed. 

Quick Tips for Solo Women Travelers

Traveling to any new country as a solo woman traveler can be overwhelming but at the same time, liberating. Turkey is an amazing country and is an excellent destination for a solo woman traveler.

We have mentioned this before in this article, but it is time to reiterate – try to blend in. Dress like locals and don’t let your outfit or actions scream “tourist”. Be careful of your surroundings at all times and listen to your gut. If a place or a situation doesn’t feel safe for any reason, then get out. Make friends with other women travelers that you meet, share stories, and stay connected. 

Did follow our travel tips for Turkey?

Tag @drifterplanet on Instagram and hashtag it #drifterplanet. We will be happy to share your journey with our audience.

About the writer:

Alara Benlier Alara Benlier

My name is Alara Benlier, and I am a passionate traveler who is in a constant search for delicious foods and historical places. Currently living in Germany, I visited many places in Europe and met lots of lovely people from different cultures. Before Germany, I lived in Rotterdam for a year and traveled all around the Netherlands. I am excited to share all my experiences in Drifter Planet.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

The Ultimate Turkey Itinerary 10 Days: Best Places to Visit

The Ultimate Turkey Itinerary 10 Days: Best Places to Visit

The ultimate 10-day Turkey itinerary for first timers including the best of Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Pamukkale

Is it Asia or Europe? Turkey is both – the best of two continents in just one country.

At first, it may appear that Turkey mostly suits cultural travelers. After all, it sits on the cusp of both Europe and Asia, so it’s no wonder that the Turkish heritage is a fascinating fusion of various cultures.

By finely balancing age-old traditions with modern influences, Turkey promises travelers an unforgettable experience.

Istanbul - galata tower - Turkey itinerary 10 days
Istanbul – Galata Tower – Turkey itinerary 10 days

Here’s the thing – Turkey is an amazing destination for literally every kind of traveler. Adventure seekers, backpackers, families, fantasy landscape chasers, pilgrims, and party travelers – all will love Turkey for the same as well as different reasons.

I’m not much of a cultural traveler but I’m always in search of fantastic landscapes. I traveled to Turkey mainly because I had seen photos of Cappadocia‘s surreal structures that looked something like a fantasy movie. Moreover, I really wanted to sit in Pamukkale‘s blue and white natural pools.

Sunrise view - Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey
In search for fantastic landscapes in Cappadocia, Turkey – itinerary for Turkey

Yes, I did everything that I wanted to do, and even more. Believe it or not, I fell in love with the culture in Turkey despite claiming not to be a cultural traveler. 

If you’re looking for a destination with fantasy-movie like strange beauty, rich history, amazing culture, insane bazaars, and good food then you really have to visit Turkey. The best part – Turkey is affordable. After all, Turkish Airlines runs promos for cheap flights to Turkey from many places in the world.

Alright, now that I have sold Turkey as a travel destination for you, I’d like to share my highly researched itinerary for Turkey that I personally made for myself. It includes Istanbul, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, and Ephesus.

Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul - view
Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul – view

There is a lot to see and do in Istanbul and Cappadocia, so you will spend most of your time there if you follow my itinerary.

Pamukkale and Ephesus can be covered in a short time but can get extremely crowded during the mid-day because most of the people head there for a day trip. So, as per my itinerary, you will visit these places early enough and stay the night nearby for a more relaxing experience. 

Rather than searching through various Turkey itineraries to find the one that best suits your interests, I will share golden nuggets on how to spend 10 days in Turkey. From information about how to move from point A to B and where to see the best sunsets, our Turkey trip planner has you covered. 

Planning a last-minute trip to Turkey? I’ve got you covered with my recommendations to help you book quickly.

Istanbul Activities to Book

Cappadocia Activities to Book

Pamukkale Activities to Book

Ephesus Activities to Book

Istanbul Hotel Recommendations

Cappadocia Hotel Recomendations

Pamukkale Hotel Recomendations

Selçuk (for Ephesus) Hotel Recommendations

The Ultimate Turkey Itinerary

Table of Contents

Day 1 of Turkey Itinerary

Arrive in Istanbul + Map

Istanbul, Turkey with Galata Tower in the Background
Istanbul, Turkey with Galata Tower in the Background

Start off your trip to Turkey by arriving in the bustling city of Istanbul. Your first day of Istanbul itinerary will be light and relaxed and yet will highlight the captivating history and culture of the city.

Remember, you will return to Istanbul towards the end of your trip and that’s when you will visit the majority of important landmarks.

If you think the trams of Lisbon are cute, then you will love Istanbul too!

Istiklal Street and Red Tram
Istiklal Street and Red Tram

I still remember my first few hours in Istanbul. I was amazed at the stunning minarets on each side of the water with interesting old buildings and historical sites that can be seen from a distance like the Galata Tower, the Maiden’s Tower, etc.

Talking about the water, the massive Bosphorus Sea is actually not a sea but a Strait between Blacksea and the Marmara Sea. It also has an inlet – the Golden Horn which divides the historic center of Istanbul from the rest of the city.

I have made the below map for you for your first day in Istanbul that you can save on your phone before your trip begins. You can also check out my Istanbul Instagram spots post for more inspiration.

By the way, Istanbul isn’t the capital city of Turkey, Ankara is.

Hippodrome of Constantinople (Sultan Ahmet Square)

Walking around in Sultan Ahmet square, Istanbul
Walking around in Sultan Ahmet square, Istanbul

The best place to start off after the touchdown is Sultanahmet Square. In the past, the square was the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the social and sporting center of the Byzantine Empire

Today, Sultanahmet Square is a historical area that is filled with various iconic attractions, and within close walking distance to other major landmarks such as Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul
Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul

Since it is your first day and you probably will have to leave for Cappadocia on an overnight bus or an early morning flight, you will not be visiting both Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque – but just one of them if the time allows.

Instead, take your time to discover the beauty of Sultanahmet Square. You will spot:

  • Serpent Column,
  • Obelisk of Thutmose,
  • Walled Obelisk
  • German Fountain

It is nice to walk around here in the evenings and see the colorful fountain. The minarets of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia look spectacular when they’re lit up.

If you have enough time left, then head to the Blue Mosque. If not, you can head directly for the last thing for the day – Gulhane Park,

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque)

Inside the Blue Mosque - Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Inside the Blue Mosque – Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

If you have enough time on your first day, then a visit to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is definitely a must. It will introduce you to the beauty of Turkish culture and wow you.

Please note that it takes around one hour to visit the Sultan Ahmed Mosque because it is a big complex and the entry for visitors is all the way from the back.

The lovely architecture of Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul
The lovely architecture of Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul

Sultan Ahmed Mosque is commonly known as the Blue Mosque and is one of the most visited mosques by travelers.

It has six minarets that you can spot from a distance. The interiors look spectacular with ceramic tiles, blue paint, and stained glass windows that let the natural light in. To make things even more awesome, there are 100s of chandeliers inside. 

Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul
Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul

There is a section that’s just for people who are praying and a separate section for visitors. I like that it is done like this so that the travelers and visitors do not disturb the ones who are praying.

The Blue Mosque closes for prayers a few times a day and on those times the entry is restricted. The Blue Mosque has no entry fee because it is a place of worship.

What to wear at Blue Mosque in Istanbul
What to wear at Blue Mosque in Istanbul

When entering the Mosque, please make sure that you are dressed modestly as a sign of respect for the culture. 

Gulhane Park

If you are the kind to eat an early dinner, then interchange the next two points. I eat early too but understand that a lot of people don’t.

Gulhane Park is a short 10-minute walk from Sultanahmet Square and offers a relaxing escape from the busy tourist center of Istanbul. It is definitely one of the best things that you can do in Istanbul which even the locals will approve of.

Gulhane Park, Istanbul, Turkey itinerary
Gulhane Park, Istanbul, Turkey itinerary via Unsplash

Gulhane is a Persian word for greenhouse and during the Ottoman times, this park was earlier a part of Topkapi Palace. This itinerary also includes a visit to Topkapi Palace when you come back to Istanbul after visiting other places in Turkey.

It isn’t just a random park but has impressive historical structures and panoramic views of the Bosphorus. The historical, urban park stretches alongside the famous Topkapi Palace and even extends to its grounds. The Islamic Science and Technology Museum is located within the park.

To see the views of the Bosphorus, Marmara Sea, and Princes’ Islands, head to the park’s northeastern edge. The Column of the Goths is also located here.

This column is the oldest surviving monument from the Roman period! It commemorates the victory of Emperor Claudius II over the Goths in 268 CE. 

If you visit in springtime, then you may be able to enjoy the stunning Tulip Festival. If you do, then I will be very jealous but please comment below and show your pictures.

Expect to see not only lush trees but also fountains, wooden bridges, historical columns, and loads of flowers.

Garden 1897 Restaurant for Dinner

After walking around in Gulhane Park, I’m sure you would have worked up an appetite. Visit the legendary Garden 1897 Restaurant which is at Garden House Hotel very at Sultanahmet Square.

Garden 1897 Restaurant is a very highly rated one and has not only the Ottoman dishes but also the Mesopotamian dishes.

Your first day in Istanbul serves as an introduction to the rich history that resonates across the whole country. Take the time to soak it in and prepare for the rest of your Turkey itinerary.

Day 2: Istanbul to Cappadocia, overnight in Göreme

Fairy Chimneys in Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
Fairy Chimneys in Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Waking up early isn’t fun but prepare to have your mind blown as you will see my favourite place on earth – Cappadocia. You will feel like you woke up and arrived in a dreamland!

How to Reach Cappadocia from Istanbul?

It is easy to reach Cappadocia from Istanbul. The simplest way is by catching a flight. Cappadocia has two airports – Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) in Kayseri and Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV).

Pegasus Airlines flies daily from Istanbul to Cappadocia and the flights are usually not expensive if you book in advance. However, if you’re traveling on a budget, then you may want to get on an overnight bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia. Look for a ticket on Metro Turizm’s website.

Cappadocia's bizarre landscape
Cappadocia’s bizarre landscape

When you arrive in Istanbul, you will land at the international airport – Atatürk. In order to fly to Cappadocia, you will have to go to Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. They are both at the other ends of Istanbul.

Thankfully the public transportation system in Istanbul is pretty decent and both the airports are reachable by shuttles and metro.

Keep in mind that reaching Sabiha Gökçen airport from the Sultanahmet area just by public transport can take a while because it has to be split between tram and train. It is usually a better idea to get an Uber taxi or ask your hotel to arrange for a shuttle.

After an easy one-and-a-half-hour flight, you’ll arrive in Cappadocia, the breathtaking semi-arid region known best for its honeycombed hills and strange beauty.

Cappadocia is unreal – you will see caves, fairy chimneys, weird formations, and giant mushrooms. The best part – you can stay in a cave too!

Cappadocia has a reputation as a fairytale destination, whimsical in nature and magnificent in beauty. I want to remind you to sure that your camera (or phone) is fully charged before arriving. 

Head to Göreme, Check-in at the Cave Hotel

Sunrise view - Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey
Sunrise view – Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey

From Kayseri Airport or Nevşehir Airport, get on a taxi to arrive at Göreme, the loveliest part of Cappadocia.

Cappadocia is massive and has around 10 towns (or villages). They are all special but I recommend you stay in Goreme. It is super lively and you can walk to the main town center from most parts. Prepare to spend the night at one of the cave hotels in Goreme.

To make your Göreme travel experience truly unique, please do yourself a favor and book a cave hotel.

While Göreme has several amazing accommodation options to choose from, we’d definitely recommend the Sultan Cave Suites. The unique hotel offers cave rooms perched on top of Aydinli Hill. 

Over the last few years, Sultan Cave Suites has become crazy expensive because it is Instagram famous. You can look at some other nearby hotels too, they are all pretty decent, and Turkish hospitality standards are amazing.

Apart from Sultan Cave Suites, I recommend the following hotels:

Göreme doesn’t have a shortage of cave hotels and remember you will still have an amazing experience if your choice of hotel isn’t available.

Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley, Pigeon Valley

Inside a cave in Cappadocia, Turkey - Green Tour
Inside a cave in Cappadocia, Turkey

Now that you’ve found your nest, it’s time to explore the wonder of Cappadocia. There are many different tours that are available in Cappadocia because there’s so much to see. However, I joined the Green Tour.

One of the best things I did in Göreme was the green tour because it covered the things I wanted to do at a nice pace and also a traditional Turkish dinner in a lovely garden restaurant.

The reason why I picked this tour was because it includes places that I knew I couldn’t reach myself by walking.

The Green Tour takes you to explore Derinkuyu underground city, Ugrup Panorama Point, Ihlara Valley, and Pigeon Valley. Let me talk about them briefly below

Selime Monastery

Cappadocia has caves everywhere

As a part of the Green tour, we visited the Selime Monastery which was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Selime Monastery is a historical and abandoned rock-cut construction and the largest religious structure in the Cappadocia. It has a cathedral-sized church cut directly into the volcanic rock. All these are caves too!

Inside, our guide showed us frescoes and some were damaged by the weather over the years but they still looked amazing.

Three Sister Rocks Ugrup

Three Sister Rocks or Three Beauties in Ugrup, Cappadocia
Three Sister Rocks or Three Beauties in Ugrup, Cappadocia

The three sister rocks are three tall fairy chimneys at Ugrup Panorama Point. This was actually the first stop on our green tour.

The three tall fairy chimneys are slanted and are called three sister rocks or sometimes “the three beauties” as per the legends.

Ugrup Panorama Spot, Cappadocia
Ugrup Panorama Spot, Cappadocia

You can stand at this point and just marvel at the beauty around you because you will see the views all around.

This spot tends to get windy so make sure you carry a jacket even if it is a warm day.

Derinkuyu Underground City

Cappadocia's underground city
Cappadocia’s underground city – Derinkuyu

Derinkuyu Underground City is the most shocking thing that I have seen in my life. Imagine an entire city that is built underground but is yet airy and it somehow manages to stay hidden for years.

It is so large that it sheltered 20,000 people as well as their livestock and food storage. It had rolling stone doors that could close the city from the inside. And this is one of the many underground cities, that are connected via tunnels. (Mindblown!)

Derinkuyu Underground City Cappadocia
Derinkuyu Underground City Cappadocia

They were discovered in 1963 when a local found a mysterious room behind a wall in his house while renovating.

There are many levels inside the Derinkuyu Underground City and I remember visiting at least 4 before feeling claustrophobic.

Inside Derinkuyu underground city, Cappadocia
Inside Derinkuyu underground city, Cappadocia

As per the experts, the Derinkuyu underground city thrived in the Byzantine era and was used as protection from the Arabs during the Arab–Byzantine wars of 780–1180 AD. They were also used by Christian natives in the 14th century, as a refuge for Cappadocian Greeks and Armenians.

Thankfully visiting it was an experience because I had a guide since I booked the green tour. I would. be so lost here without a guide.

Sunset Point in Göreme

Sunset point in Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
Sunset Point in Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

After the Green Tour, go back to the comfort of your hotel for a well-deserved rest and get ready to see a spectacular sunset. Wear comfy shoes to walk to Göreme Sunset Point before dinner and bed.

Göreme’s sunset point the the place in Cappadocia that will make you feel like you are on Plant Tattoine from Star Wars!

On my first day in Göreme after I came back from the Green Tour, one of the locals took me to the Sunset Spot after I mentioned I loved sunsets and clicking amazing photos.

Stunning viewpoints in Cappadocia, Turkey
Stunning viewpoints in Cappadocia, Turkey

The walk to the sunset spot is short but I remember that there is a steep climb that comes at the end of the walk right before arriving at the sunset spot.

The sunset spot in Göreme is an elevated area on top of a hill which is pretty big. You will see loads of hills, caves, and rock formations in all directions.

There are multiple possibilities of places where you can stand and admire the view. You know me, I love viewpoints so I kind of went crazy here.

Dinner and Sleep Early

On your way back from the sunset point, eat dinner in Göreme city and sleep as early as you can before you have to wake up early to experience the most famous thing to do in Turkey.

Day 3: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia + Göreme Sightseeing

Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey
Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

Let’s face it – people visit Cappadocia from all over the world to experience the famous hot air balloon ride over the fairy chimneys. Many people visit Turkey just to do this, and this is how you will start your day today.

On your third day in Turkey, you get to tick off one of the most iconic activities in the region – flying above the ground in a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. Because of this, the Lonely Planet says – “Turkey is Balloon filled skies”.

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia

Fairy Chimneys in Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
Fairy Chimneys in Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Waking up early is hard and is a complete hell when it is as early as 4:30 a.m. But trust me, it is worth it because around this time you will get picked up by the balloon company. (Yes, they pick you up from your hotel when you book this, how convenient!)

You don’t need to eat breakfast because this usually includes a lavish buffet-style breakfast right before the balloon ride. Just make sure you carry a thick jacket because it gets very cold up in the air.

Sunrise with Balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey itinerary
Sunrise with Balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey itinerary

Prepare yourself for the magical experience that is to come as you watch the incredible sunrise while flying 3000 feet above the ground.

Needless to say, you will click 100s of pictures of the fairy chimneys, volcanic spires, and unique architecture of the buildings below. 

When the balloon ride is over, it lands on the back of a moving jeep that takes everyone for the champagne and certificate ceremony, which is thankfully a quick one.

You’ll get dropped off at your hotel in the mid-morning, giving you enough time for a nap and relax before grabbing lunch. I remember I slept for two hours straight after the balloon ride!

Lunch in Göreme

After your nap, walk to the Göreme city center for a nice lunch and the rest of your day in this cute city.

Göreme Open Air Museum

Me inside Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia
Me inside Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia

Walk to Göreme Open Air Museum. Here you will see even more amazing rock formations that you may have seen before.

Goreme Open Air Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It includes the most magnificent rock-cut churches, beautiful frescoes, and rock-formed architecture. 

Göreme Open Air Museum Opening Hours8 am to 5 pm
Göreme Open Air Museum Ticket Price for 2023 & 2024480 TL (around €16)
Dark Church Ticket Price for 2023 & 2024 (additional)130 TL (around €4)

The ticket window closes at 5 p.m. but you can definitely stay inside for much longer. I have seen people with sunset photos inside, and I’m sure that was in winter.

Goreme Open Air museum, Cappadocia
Goreme Open Air museum, Cappadocia

I was here without a guide and I wished I had someone to tell me all the amazing facts and stories. You can book a guided walking tour here which is highly rated and lasts for 75 minutes.

There is a cobbled walking path that’s hilly and goes over the entire Göreme Open Air Museum. The highlight is “The Dark Church” which has an additional entrance fee.

You will spend easily 1 hour here exploring the beauty of this place. I think I spent a bit more because I clicked a lot of photos.

Zemi Valley, a.k.a., Love Valley

Zemi Valley in Goreme, Cappadocia
Zemi Valley in Goreme, Cappadocia

I asked my guide for the Green Tour about easy-to-do attractions in Göreme that are unmissable, and he told me to go hike Zemi Valley and go to the Göreme Open Air museum one after another since they are right next to each other. I don’t know why Google Maps doesn’t show it like this.

Goreme cycling : hiking map - Cappadocia, Turkey
Goreme cycling or hiking map – Cappadocia, Turkey

Zemi Valley is also known as Love Valley because of its penis-shaped structures – more politely called the fairy chimneys. The entire Zemi Valley hike is 3.3 miles and is strenuous at times but you will be able to enjoy the surrounding view. 

Zemi Valley Hike - 10 day Turkey itinerary
Zemi Valley Hike – 10 day Turkey itinerary

The entire Zemi Valley trail stretches between Uchisar and Ortahisar. There are many hiking loops inside but you can pick a shorter one.

You don’t have to do the entire Zemi Valley hike, it is long and time-consuming but you can do a part of it. I did a part of it too because I was alone and I wanted to get back to the main street before it got dark and head to a sunset spot.

Just because I didn’t go further in, I don’t have better photos of Zemi Valley but it is one of the loveliest spots in Cappadocia, so please don’t miss it based on my bad photos.

Pottery Shop on the way to Zemi Valley, Goreme, Cappadocia
Pottery Shop on the way to Zemi Valley, Goreme, Cappadocia

It is worth mentioning that on the way to Zemi Valley from Goreme Open Air Museum is a beautiful open-air pottery store that looks out of this world. It has trees decorated with evil eye stones, an alien and a bunch of other amazing things.

Red Valley Panorama Lookout for Sunset

Red Valley Sunset Spot, Cappadocia, Turkey
Red Valley Sunset Spot, Cappadocia, Turkey

Another local took me to the sunset spot in Red Valley and I was so thankful because it was unreal. It is so different from Goreme’s sunset spot and is totally worth it.

There are no fairy chimneys here in Red Valley but miles and miles of reddish-pink hills that look better than any place that I have ever seen before when the sun sets.

These red hills with rock formations made the sunset landscape look even redder than normal. Seriously, I had to remove the warm tones a bit from my photos to prevent them from looking too red, and I usually do the opposite.

Just Married - Bride and groom in Red Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey
Just Married – Bride and groom in Red Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

In order to reach the Red Valley sunset spot, you have to get in a taxi or drive your rented car to “Red Valley Panorama Lookout”. It is in Ortahisar and the drive from Goreme to here will take you 15 minutes.

This place was so stunning that I saw three newly married couples here for their wedding photoshoots. Looking back, I have realized that some of my best Cappadocia photos turned out at this spot.

The Stunning Red Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey itinerary
The Stunning Red Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey itinerary

So, end your day by catching the sunset in Red Valley, which also happens to be my choice for Instagram-worthy spots in Cappadocia. This promises to be the perfect way to end your day before returning to sleep in Ottoman Cave.

Day 4: Uchisar in Cappadocia

Uchisar in Cappadocia, Turkey
Uchisar in Cappadocia, Turkey via Unsplash

Today is the day when you will head to Uchisar, but first there’s another fun early morning activity.

You will hate me for including another early morning activity in your Cappadocia itinerary, but you will totally thank me when you see the view.

The thing is, Cappadocia isn’t the place for a late-night, late-morning kind of trip. The nightlife is pretty nonexistent, thanks to the early morning hot air balloon rides. Cappadocia’s sunrises and sunsets are epic, so make sure you wake up early every day.

Day 4 of your Turkey 10-day itinerary starts off brightly by catching yet another epic sunrise.

Photoshoot with a view of Balloons in Cappadocia

Sunrise view from Sultan Cave Suites, Göreme, Cappadocia
Sunrise view from Sultan Cave Suites, Göreme, Cappadocia

If you are already staying at Sultan Cave Suites then this will be easy for you. Otherwise, you need to walk here early morning to enjoy the sunset at Sultan Cave Suites with a view of balloons.

Now depending on the season, the balloon time is different and can be as early as 5:30 am, so please call Sultan Cave Suites in advance and ask.

Sunrise Photoshoot in Goreme with Hot air balloons, Cappadocia
Sunrise Photoshoot in Goreme with Hot air balloons, Cappadocia

Sultan Cave Suites is the most Instagrammed place in Cappadocia, thanks to the Do You Travel and Gypsy Lust duo. The location is perfect because of the nearby fairy chimneys. Moreover, the sky looks amazing as it gets flooded with hundreds of hot air balloons while the sun rises.

Sultan Cave Suites has been saying to to those who aren’t staying here, so, in that case, I recommend you book a professional photo shoot in Cappadocia with balloons at sunrise time, which is surprisingly affordable!

If I go back to Cappadocia, I’d ditch Sultan Cave Suites but book a professional sunrise photoshoot in a different location instead.

Arrive in Uçhisar at Kale Konak Cave Hotel

Kale Konak Cave Hotel in Uçhisar, Cappadocia
My Suite Window at Kale Konak Cave Hotel in Uçhisar, Cappadocia

Uçhisar is the highest point in Cappadocia, and the main feature is a massive cone rock. On top is the Uçhisar castle, where you will see the sunset. Under it is a network of numerous underground passageways and rooms which are now blocked.

If you are in Cappadocia with a car, then you will not need to change your hotel. I changed mine from Goreme to Uchisar because I wanted to be close to the attractions here.

The view from my balcony at Kale Konak Konak Cave Hotel, Uçhisar, Cappadocia

I recommend staying at the Kale Konak Cave Hotel. The hotel itself is so stunning that exploring it felt like I was sightseeing. I actually took it away and relaxed a little at Kale Konak Cave Hotel because I had a super amazing cave suite and I wanted to pamper myself a bit.

I also found a hammam inside the Kale Konak Cave Hotel and enjoyed half an hour there. After relaxing, I got out to conquer the beauty of Uçhisar with my fully charged cameras.

Quick Walk in Uçhisar

Uçhisar Streets and roadside shops, Cappadocia.
Uçhisar Streets and roadside shops, Cappadocia.

Uçhisar has a lot of slanted streets and antique shops. Spend a few minutes to know your surroundings in Uchisar and take note of any interesting restaurant or cafe that you might want to visit later.

I didn’t walk much here but I ate an egg Pide and then an ice cream before deciding to head back.

After a while, it gets a tad difficult to walk here because of the slopes. Save your energy for a hike in Pigeon Valley if you are up for it.

Pigeon Valley Hike (Uçhisar to Goreme)

Pigeon Valley Hike between Uchisar and Goreme
Pigeon Valley Hike between Uchisar and Goreme via Unsplash

Once you are in Uçhisar, explore the area around by walking. There is a hike between Goreme and Uçhisar through the Pigeon Valley that takes 2 hours. I will suggest it as an optional thing to do here.

The Pigeon Valley hike between Uçhisar to Goreme takes 2 hours and you can take a taxi to come back after doing one way.

Pigeon Valley is special because many pigeon houses have been carved into the sides of the valley over the last few years. Pigeon droppings were used for Pigeon guano – a fertilizer. The droppings were also used to deepen the color of the frescoes of the cave churches.

If you did the Green Tour, you would have already seen a glimpse of the Pigeon Valley but a hike here is definitely a deeper experience.

Gumusler Monastery (Optional)

If you have the time or a rented car, then drive to Gumusler Monastery. I didn’t do this but I heard amazing things from people who visited, so I’d like to mention this as an option for you.

Turkey was the center of the Byzantine Empire, and the Gumusler Monastery is a cave monastery that reflects this history. It is carved out of a large rock and is considered one of the best-preserved in the region. 

Uçhisar Kalesi (Uçhisar Castle) for Sunset

View from the top of Uchisar Castle, Cappadocia
View from the top of Uchisar Castle, Cappadocia

The last thing for today is to head to Uchisar Castle or Uçhisar Kalesi, which is estimated to be around 60 million years old. (Yes, you read that right – 60 million)

The castle is a fascinating rock citadel that is perched on a rock spur. The views from the top are out of this world. It is a man-made castle carved out on a volcanic hill.

Sunset at Uçhisar, Cappadocia
Sunset at Uçhisar, Cappadocia

Yes, this castle is famous for its underground caves but you would find that aspect not as impressive after seeing the Derinkuyu underground city. The reason for your visit is the panoramic view from the top.

Uçhisar at Sunset time, Cappadocia
Uçhisar at Sunset time, Cappadocia

If you want to see the sunset here then I recommend that you get there around 5:30 pm or 6 pm so that you can explore before watching the sun dip behind the fascinating rock formations. 

Of course, it makes sense to check the sunset time in your weather app and then arrive here at least 30 minutes before. Once you arrive, it doesn’t take much time to reach the top of the Uçhisar Castle.

So you think three days are too much for Cappadocia? Not at all. Cappadocia is massive and has so much to see that even three days are not enough. There are at least 10 villages and so many valleys and they’re all different. I spent 4 days here but I was literally crying while leaving because I did not want to leave such a pretty place.

Dinner in Uchisar

While you are in the area, choose from the many wonderful Turkish restaurants and enjoy dinner before heading back for the night at Kale Konak Cave Hotel

Day 5: Cappadocia to Denzili, Pamukkale

How to Reach Pamukkale from Cappadocia?

Having wrung every ounce of goodness from Cappadocia, it’s time to fly to Denizli. You can choose to fly to Denizli from either Kayseri or Nevsehir Airport.

Pegasus flies from Keyseri to Denzili but it isn’t direct. If you’re lucky to find a direct flight, it shouldn’t take you longer than an hour and 15 minutes but it seems there aren’t any direct flights operating anymore in 2023.

Denizli city is slightly more industrial but is surrounded by beautiful valleys and natural sites. When you arrive in Denzili by flight, it is very easy to reach Pamukkale because there are shuttles from the airport after every flight.

These shuttles typically cost 15 – 20 TLs. The trip is short and shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to half an hour. Pamukkale village will be your home for the night.

Arrive in Pamukkale. Check-in at Ozbay Hotel.

Directly translated, Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. It is a mineral-rich natural site that boasts thermal waters that flow over white calcite travertines (terraces).

The area is regularly frequented by day travelers who travel to dip into the pools, but we would definitely recommend that you spend the night here, explore the small village, and visit the thermal pools in the morning without crowds like I did.

My dorm room was like a private double room at Ozbay Hotel, Pamukkale, Turkey
My dorm room was like a private double room at Ozbay Hotel, Pamukkale, Turkey

I highly recommend booking a room at Ozbay Hotel, Pamukkale. It is literally a 1-minute walk from the calcium pools.

It is a pretty hotel and absolutely loved their breakfast. Yum! Staying the night will also allow you to enjoy the rest of the village, further exploring the ancient ruins in the area.

Explore Pamukkale Village and Market

Colorful Local Market in Pamukkale, Turkey
Colorful Local Market in Pamukkale, Turkey

The white travertine pools are the main highlight of Pamukkale but we will leave that for tomorrow morning. I have made this 10 day Turkey itinerary post based on how I spent my time. My travel from Cappadocia to Pamukkale took almost an entire day so I visited the travertine pools the next day.

Today is the day to walk around and explore Pamukkale’s little market. This market is a good place to buy handmade souvenirs because it is much cheaper as compared to other places in Turkey.

The village of Pamukkale, Turkey and the local market
The village of Pamukkale, Turkey, and the local market

Dinner in Pamukkale

Eat a nice meal in Pamukkale’s town. Sleep early so that you are rested after a day of travel. You will wake up early tomorrow, eat breakfast, and then visit the most famous attraction here.

I found Pamukkale to be much more authentic and affordable as compared to Cappadocia in terms of eating out.

Day 6: Expore Pamukkale

White Travertine Thermal Pools with Blue Water - Pamukkale, Turkey
White Travertine Thermal Pools with Blue Water – Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale Thermal Pools

Having spent a large portion of the day before traveling, your sixth day in Turkey is dedicated to exploring the surreal environment and travertine thermal pools of Pamukkale.

Start your day early and reach Pamukkale’s travertine pools by 9 a.m. to avoid crowds. I had a nice breakfast at my hotel and then I ventured out for the day.

Walking on Travertine Terraces - Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey
Walking on Travertine Terraces – Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey

The beautiful, white, terraced waters invite travelers to indulge in the offerings of the ‘spa town’. The pools offer a great way to unwind and relax while enjoying the beauty of the surroundings. 

Walk around Pamukkale’s mineral-rich formations, sit inside one of the pools, and take dozens of pretty photos. Spend enough time here so that you can check out the other attractions within this complex. 

Trying to bathe in Pamukkale's Thermal Pools without taking off my clothes
Trying to bathe in Pamukkale’s Thermal Pools without taking off my clothes

If you exit Pamukkale’s travertine complex, then you can’t reenter without buying another ticket so spend a few hours here to satisfy yourself before you leave.

I did see a few travelers who were in the travertine pools in swimsuits but somehow I didn’t feel comfortable since I was traveling in Turkey as a solo female traveler.

Cleopatra’s Pools

Cleopatra Pools in Pamukkale, Turkey
Cleopatra Pools in Pamukkale, Turkey

While you’re exploring Pamukkale’s travertine complex, there’s another famous pool that you can enjoy here – the Cleopatra’s Pools, also known as the Antique Pool. 

Unlike the other pools in the area, Cleopatra’s pool is privately owned and has a fee of 700 TL as of 2023 and needs to be paid upon entry. 

Hierapolis

Hierapolis – a beautifully preserved ancient Roman site - Pamukkale, Turkey
Hierapolis – a beautifully preserved ancient Roman site

As tempting as it is to wallow in the ‘healing waters’ of the hot springs all day, you also need to see Hierapolis, the ancient Roman city.

Don’t worry – everything is right next to each other in the same complex. The settlement boasts a fascinating history, and iconic attractions such as the Hierapolis Theatre, Necropolis, and Museum. 

Lunch in Pamukkale

Get out of the Travertine complex and check out of your hotel. Leave your luggage there or carry it with you to the market where you can spend some time in a restaurant.

Enjoy a nice Turkish lunch in Pamukkale before you head to the ancient city of Ephesus. Actually, you won’t be staying in Ephesus but in the nearby town of Selçuk. 

Pamukkale to Selçuk

Pamukkale and Selçuk are just 2.5 hours away from each other by road, so this journey is very easy if you do it in a rental car or entirely on a taxi. If you’re two or more in number, then a taxi makes sense and the cost isn’t so high when you split it up. The taxi journey will cost you around $60.

Another way of reaching Selcuk from Pamukkale is by hopping on a bus from Denzili. By now you surely know that Denzili town isn’t far from Pamukkale, so you can get here by taxi. From Denzili, get on a Kamil Koc bus to Selçuk.

Check-in at one of the below-mentioned hotels in Selçuk:

Day 7: Explore Ephesus

Celsus Library, Ephesus - Turkey Itinerary
Celsus Library, Ephesus – Turkey Itinerary

Selçuk to Ephesus

Having spent one week in Turkey, Ephesus introduces a new and exciting adventure to your trip. Depending on where your hotel is in Selcuk, you can choose to bicycle or walk to Ephesus over a distance of roughly 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). 

Explore Ephesus – the Walled Ruins

Ephesus Ruins - Celsus Library - Itinerary for Turkey
Ephesus Ruins – Celsus Library – Itinerary for Turkey

If you want to make the most of your Turkey itinerary 10 days in, then we suggest you get an early start. The lost city of Ephesus has a lot to explore, and you want to get the most out of it before all of the day-trippers arrive.

Alternatively, you can visit it right before the complex closes when it isn’t so crowded. The complex closes at 7 p.m. during summer months and 5:00 p.m. during winter months. You may want to check the official website for more information.

Enter Ephesus at the lower gate, which is closer to Selcuk town. The entire city of Ephesus is a World Heritage Center and a shining example of Greek and Roman architecture and history.

Ephesus Entry Fee 2023700 TL Per Person
House of Mary Entry Fee250 TL Per Person
Terrace Houses320 TL per person
St. Jojn’s Basilica130 TL per person
Sirince VillageFree
Ephesus Museum220 TL Per Person

Whether or not you are a history-lover, Ephesus is sure to leave you in awe at the marvelous ruins that tell stories of centuries gone by in the ancient port city. 

Some key sights to include on your agenda are the Library of Celsus and Ephesus Amphitheater – arrive at these places early to avoid the queues.

Ephesus Outside the Walled Ruins

There are things to see outside the walled ruins too. These attractions are close to the Lower Gate. The Temple of Artemis, Basilica of St. JohnIsa Bey Mosque, Ayasoluk Castle, and Ephesus Archaeological Museum among many others. 

Evening in Selçuk

After soaking up as much history and culture as you possibly can, spend a relaxing evening with a beer and cool off at Denis Bar or Dplphin Bar. Both these bars are in the main town center.

Prepare to leave the next day for Istanbul on a flight. Alternatively, you can also catch an overnight bus to Istanbul from Selçuk by Varan Bus lines.

Day 8: Arrive in Istanbul, Cruise over Bosphorus

Sunset cruise over Bosphorous, Istanbul itinerary
Sunset cruise over Bosphorus, Istanbul itinerary

So it is the second time you are arriving in Istanbul. I suggest one of the above-mentioned hotels for an amazing experience:

Hamam in Istanbul

If you chose to spend the previous night resting in Selcuk, then the morning of your eighth day in Turkey will start off with a morning flight from Izmir to Istanbul.

If you take the bus, you’ll also arrive sometime in the morning. Check into your Istanbul hotel of choice, and head straight to a Turkish hammam for a one-of-a-kind experience

Turkish Hamams - Turkey travel tips
Turkish Hamams – Turkey travel tips

These hammams are all over the city and offer a variety of services. Some are touristy and as expensive as EUR 50 per person.

There are historical hammams in almost every area and some are frequently visited by locals. They may not look fancy and clean but because of the heat and marble, these are germ-free. If you ask a local, you might get a good recommendation.

If you want to book a high-end hammam with a massage, check this option that costs EUR 49 and you will have to go to the Hilton Doubletree Hotel for this.

You can choose from a self-service option, a traditional hammam that offers the real Turkish bath experience, or other styles which include aromatherapy massages, reflexology, and facial clay masks. 

Sunset cruise over the Bosphorus Strait

View from the Bosphorous Cruise with Galata Tower, Istanbul
View from the Bosphorus Cruise with Galata Tower, Istanbul

After your hammam experience, you should feel rested and revived. Make your way to the Bosphorus Strait, which is sometimes called a sea or even a river but is a strait that separates the continents of Europe and Asia. 

Kick back, relax, and enjoy a sunset cruise on the Bosphorus River, taking in the unique perspective of the city. I have shortlisted some tours for you to book and they all offer something different:

The Bosphorus Cruise that I went for lasted 2 hours. It also had live commentary that I wasn’t interested in but the views on each side of the Bosphorus Strait were unmatched.

After a day of walking around Istanbul city during summer days, the Bosphorous cruise felt pretty amazing because I got to sit back and relax to just enjoy the view. It did get a bit chilly later in the evening.

Nightlife in Istanbul – Bosphorus Strait Area

Unlike most of the trip – you won’t need to wake up early for the next 2 – 3 days so take time to explore Istanbul’s party scene.

A tabby cat in Istanbul at night
A tabby cat in Istanbul at night Unsplash

One of the most popular and scenic spots for nightlife in Istanbul is the Bosphorus area. Here you will find many places where you can enjoy your food and drinks with a view of the Bosphorus Sea.

Head to Beer Point or Taps Bebek for good beer. If you want to get fancy, head to Sortie – the most lively (and expensive) place to party in Istanbul.

Day 9: Historical Istanbul (and Dan Brown’s Istanbul) + Map

Istanbul - the Epic Turkish Itinerary
Istanbul – the Epic Turkish Itinerary

Istanbul has got so much to offer, and as your trip draws to a close, it’s time to put on your comfortable walking shoes and prepare to explore the historical Istanbul. If you are a fan of Dan Brown’s Inferno, you’ll recognize a lot of these attractions from the adventures of Robert Langdon.

In order to save money and avoid standing in lines in Istanbul, you can buy a multi-day museum pass.

There are a few must-see attractions that can’t be missed and need to be added to your Istanbul itinerary. These are all located near one another and can be explored in one go. 

I have made a map for today’s locations. The ones that are not a short walk away can be reached by tram. I have mentioned tram details before each destination that’s a bit far.

Save the above map as an offline map on your phone to avoid getting lost without the internet.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia - 3 days in Istanbul Itinerary
Hagia Sophia – 3 days in Istanbul Itinerary

Many first-time visitors are surprised to know that Hagia Sophia was once a Greek Orthodox church, was later also a mosque but is now a museum.

As of now, it is one of the greatest surviving architectural examples of the Byzantine Empire. It has been restored a few times and new structures have been added. The minarets were added during the Ottoman time. 

There is a lot to see inside Hagia Sophia but I will mention a few things for you to notice and possibly photograph. See the minarets, the dome, the inscriptions, the marble door, the imperial door, the beautiful door, the hammam (bathhouse), the Omphalion, lustration urns, and calligraphic roundels among other things.

The entry fee for Hagia Sophia was 72 Turkish Liras but was removed after 2020 because it functions as a mosque. So as of today, it is free to visit. Set aside one hour for Hagia Sophia.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey
Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey

If you are a fan of Dan Brown’s books then for sure you have heard of Basilica Cistern. It is just 500 meters away from Hagia Sophia and is definitely worth visiting.

Basilica Cistern is unlike any place that you would see. It is an ancient giant well cavern below the city streets of Istanbul. There are water ducts and massive columns.

Historically the ducts fed this Cistern with water for general use like drinking, washing, bathing, etc. These water ducts were supported by columns that are said to be 35-40 meters tall.

There are carved faces of Medusa at the bottom of some columns. Meduse is from Green Mythology with hair of snakes. As per the legend, if one looked directly at Medusa they’d turn to stone.

The entry fee for Basilica Cistern in 2023 is 350 Turkish Lira and isn’t included in the Museum pass. It is open from 9 am to 7 pm.

Set aside 30 minutes for Basilica Cistern and perhaps take a break after it before you head to the next place on the itinerary.

Topkapi Palace + Lunch at Museum Cafe

Inside Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Inside Topkapi Palace, Istanbul Unsplash

Just 450 meters away from Basilica Cistern is the Topkapi Palace. You can visit this place on your own but will definitely be more interesting with a guide. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For almost 400 years, the Topkapi Palace was the Ottoman Empire’s royal residence. Today it attracts thousands of tourists as they glimpse the history while enjoying the beauty of this lavish palace.

The museum cafe overlooks the water so is an amazing place to eat lunch.

Topkapi Palace Entry Fee750 Liras
Topkapi Palace, Harem, and Hagia Irene Combined Ticket950 Liras
Harem Ticket Inside Seperately350 Liras

Set aside a few hours to spend at Topkapi Palace because it is huge. There are pavilions, massive courtyards, and rooms with an impressive collection of artifacts.

The tile work and the decoration will wow you! There are some rooms where you can’t click photos so keep your eyes out for the sign.

Inside is also Hagia Irene, one of the few churches that wasn’t ever converted into a mosque in the Ottoman area.

View from Topkapi Palace courtyard in Istanbul
View from Topkapi Palace courtyard in Istanbul Unsplash

One of the courtyards overlooks the “Golden Horn” (where the Sea of Marmara meets the Bosporus River waters), so you will get amazing views and photos. Many people say that it is the best viewpoint to see the golden horn of the old quarter of Istanbul, overlooking the Bosphorus Strait and Galata Tower.

There is also a harem inside the Topkapi Palace with 400 rooms but you have to buy an additional ticket to see it. Also, there is a hamam inside with an entry fee of 100 liras.

Set aside two hours for Topkapi Palace, especially if you will be eating lunch here.

Come back to your Hotel to Freshen up

The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, and Basilica Cistern are a stone’s throw away from one another, so you can do them all together and come back to your room to freshen up for the evening.

Get ready to head to the Galata area for sunset and nightlife. The Galata Bridge and Tower is slightly further away, but still walkable and definitely worth a visit.

Sunset at Galata Bridge and Tower

Galata Tower and the Observation Deck, Istanbul
Galata Tower and the Observation Deck, Istanbul

Walk over the Galata bridge and get on top of the tower to enjoy the sunset. The walk from Sultanahmet Square to Galata Tower is around 3 kilometers. It goes over the Galata Bridge from where you will see amazing views.

Walking isn’t necessary and you can also arrive at the Galata Tower by getting onto a tram from Sultanahmet Square. Get on T1, ride 4 stops till Karaköy, and from there you will be 600 meters away from Galata Tower.

The Galata tower has 9 floors but the lift will only take you till the 7th – so wear comfortable shoes. There is a 360-degree observation deck on top which will give you breathtaking views of Istanbul city.

Entry Fee for the Galata Tower in 2023650 Turkish Liras / Included in Museum Pass
Galata Tower Opening Hours8:30 am to 10 pm

If you see a queue of people outside you can just skip it. Instead, the sunset from the Galata bridge is pretty amazing as compared to having to wait in line.

Drinks and Dinner in Galata District

Galata District at night Istanbul Unsplash

Galata District is a good spot to enjoy the nightlife in Istanbul. You have had to wake up early on many mornings but the next will start late.

Head to Riddim or Mojo in the Galata district to enjoy good music. I like this list by Culture Trip that mentions the best bars for epic nightlife in the Galata district.

Day 10: Bazaars of Istanbul + Map

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul - 3 days in Istanbul Itinerary
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul – 3 days in Istanbul Itinerary

While Istanbul is rich in history, it is also buzzing with a lively atmosphere and super-rich culture that you should experience.

At the center of this culture are a large number of bazaars and markets that can be found in the city. Istabul’s Bazaars are world-famous and you can not leave Turkey without visiting at least one of them.

From the sharp and sultry aromas of the Spice Bazaar to the Turkish lanterns and carpets at the Grand Bazaar, the hustle and bustle of the city is unrelenting. 

In order to reach the market area, get on a tram from Sultanahmet station to Eminönü station. From there it is a 3-minute walk that you will enjoy.

I have made a map for you to tackle the day. Save it as your offline map before you start the day.

If you suffer from social anxiety and can’t handle crowded places, then you may want to avoid the below two bazaars altogether.

Spice Market (Misir Carsisi)

Spice Market – Misir Carsisi is one of the largest bazaars in Istanbul and is in the Faith District. It has 85 shops that sell spices, tea, dry fruits, nuts, and more. It is not to be confused with the Grand Bazaar, which you will visit right after this.

Inside Misir Carsisi, the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul
Inside Misir Carsisi, the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul via Unsplash

Before you visit Misir Carsisi, it is important to know how to say “no thank you” because you might get haggled by pushy salesmen. As an Indian, I’m pretty used to this and I don’t mind it at all. For me visiting a place like this is worth the hassle of dealing with pushy salesmen.

Misir Carsisi is something that you have to see while you are in Istanbul whether you want to buy it or not. This visit is about experiencing the smells, sounds the people – and all the sensory overload that you can imagine.

The spice market is cheaper than the Grand Bazaar, so if you see something you’d like to buy, just go for it.,

Walk through the endless maze of stalls inside the Egyptian spice market. You can stop for local Turkish snacks and tea or coffee.

This market is in a building that’s lovely from the inside with arches. The spice market joins the textile market and uphill to the Grand Bazaar with a 10-minute walk.

Grand Bazaar

Turkish Delight and Food in Grand Bazaar in Istanbul - 3 days itinerary
Turkish Delight and Food in Grand Bazaar in Istanbul – 3 days itinerary

Grand Bazaar is the grandest of all bazaars in Istanbul. It is a covered market with 41 streets. It is the largest and the oldest covered market in the world. Whatever you want to miss in Istanbul, but do not miss the Grand Bazaar because it will offer you the most memorable sights. 

There are shops that sell home decor, leather goods, clothes, food, Turkish delight, lamps, and just about anything. Remember this is one of the places where you have to haggle. In some ways, it reminded me of Bangkok’s Chatuchak market because that also has sections for everything.

Inside Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Inside Grand Bazaar Istanbul via Unsplash

Again, this isn’t a shopping visit but more of an experience. Buying things in the Grand Bazaar is now super expensive because a lot of tourists visit it from all over the world.

The Grand Bazaar also has a bunch of cafes, so you can eat a snack or lunch here. It is also located in the Faith district and is easy to reach from the Spice Bazaar.

When you are done snacking on the Turkish delight treats and bargaining the price of shiny trinkets, make sure that you visit Süleymaniye Mosque, an iconic landmark in Istanbul.

Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul from the Bosphorus Sea
Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul from the Bosphorus Sea

The most visited Mosque in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque but it is the Süleymaniye Mosque that’s the grandest. One of the locals suggested that I visit the Süleymaniye Mosque, so I did.

Again, I’d like to remind you to dress appropriately – cover your shoulders, your legs, and your head in order to visit religious sites in Turkey.

The Süleymaniye Mosque is located on top of one of the hills of Istanbul. To reach here is quite a climb but it doesn’t have the queues of the Blue Mosque that you visited on your first day. Inside are also the tombs of Hurrem and Suleiman.

You will also be able to see the view of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn when you are up at the Süleymaniye Mosque‘s gardens. Take some time and sit in the gardens, you won’t want to leave.

the view from Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
the view from Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul Unsplash

If you are a cat lover, then you will be happy to know that there are quite a lot of them roaming around the Süleymaniye Mosque.

The Ottoman imperial mosque is staggering in size and quite a sight to behold. It is Istanbul’s second largest mosque – you will see it from your Bosphorus cruise and maybe even from the airplane when you land.

Come back to your hotel for a break

After spending more than half of your day at different bazaars and Süleymaniye Mosque, I’m sure you are itching to shower, freshen up, and just relax a little before you head out. I did the same too.

Since you have already seen a bunch of sunsets in Istanbul, it is up to you if you’d like to see one today too, or just enjoy street food at one of the most famous spots in Istanbul where locals go.

Street Food at Istiklal Street

Istanbul Street Food - Turkey itinerary
Islak Burgers – Istanbul Street Food – Turkey itinerary Unsplash

Assuming your hotel is close to Sultanahmet Square (mine was), get on the T1 tram in the direction of Kabataş from Sultanahmet tram stop, and ride 5 stops till Tophane. Get off at Tophane, walk for 500 meters and you will arrive at Istiklal Street, the famous street food hot spot in Istanbul. It is near Taksim Square.

If you like experimenting with food, you will lose your mind at Istiklal Street. You won’t just see kebabs but also Islak burgers, pide, lahmacun, borek, and many more interesting things.

The food options are not just limited to one street but also smaller streets that are crisscrossing.

Closing Thought – Turkey Itinerary 10 Days

After a whirlwind adventure through Turkey, enjoying the taste of the intricate culture, your Turkish trip has come to an end.

From the fascinating, sweeping views of Cappadocia, the ethereal hot springs of Pamukkale, the ancient ruins of Ephesus, and the vibrant culture of Istanbul – what more could you ask for? You can now enjoy one of the best Turkey itineraries 10 days long, and full of adventure.

Flying out of Istanbul on day 11 will leave you with a light heart and a mind full of memories. No amount of Turkey travel blogs can fully describe the magnificence of this country, you simply have to go on this adventure and experience it yourself. 

Is Turkey Safe to Travel?

Many people warned me before I traveled solo to Turkey and said it wasn’t safe. They also said I should be careful of unwanted male attention.

Honestly, I did not face any issues with “unwanted male attention” because many Turkish people helped me, and some were men. Interestingly a few of them had a protective “brotherly” vibe when they were helping me, which is something I have only seen in India apart from Turkey.

I still remember how a stranger helped me find my shuttle from Denzili to Pamukkale. On a hot afternoon in Istanbul, a shopkeeper gave me free bottles of cold water while I was hunting for my hostel. 

Just when I was about to leave Turkey, I was stranded in Istanbul during the military coup. Bad timing! During this time, a lot of strangers helped me with information, support, and more. My suggestion to you – please read the latest travel advisory before traveling to Turkey. 

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