Top Day & Best Side Trips From Istanbul:
There is some much to do in Istanbul you could easily fill an entire week without leaving town. Because of this, many visitors often overlook the amazing day and side trip opportunities available nearby.
Side Trip Transportation Tips:
The first few side trips on our list are more traditional day trips which are easy to get to by ferry and take up about half a day. The rest of the list are more side trips than day trips and require 1-3 full days to experience. There is definitely advanced planning required to go to Cappadocia or Ephesus, but they are well worth it. We suggestion locking down your flights early and giving yourself an extra day to work with. Try www.kayak.com for your plane tickets. High speed rail connection Istanbul to Ankara in the East and Greece in the West have been in construction forever it seems.
Best Day Trips Near Istanbul:
1. Bosphorus River Cruise: To do one of the best day trips from Istanbul you don’t have to go very far as a cruise down the Bosphorus Straight is right at your fingertips. This ancient trade route connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea all while passing grand palaces and ancient castle ruins along the way. You will have the choice of a full day route, shorter-day day trip, or a moon light cruise. We prefer the full day option where you see most of it from the river, but get a solid hour layover half way to check out some sights. We have put it all together on our Bosphorus River Cruise Guide. Getting Here From Istanbul: Ferries down the Bosphorus leave near Emınönü Bridge. Rating as a Day Trip From Istanbul: 9 out of 10.
2. Prince Islands (55 Minutes): The Prince Islands are a set of 9 small islands located just South of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea. They are very easy to get to and have numerous beaches. The most common activities for tourists are taking old world horse-drawn carriage rides in the islands beautiful villages. The cute architecture will make you feel like a mix of Savanna Georgia and New Orleans, but all the way around the World.
Getting Here From Istanbul: Right from the Kabataş Ferry Station you can get to the Prince Islands in 55 minutes for the just $5 on the IDO Sea Buses. The slower conventional ferries are only $2 but takes 100 minutes. Rating as a Day Trip From Istanbul: 7 out of 10.
3. Pamukkale Hote Springs (Denizli – 2.5 Hours): Translated as the Cotton Castle, Pamukkale is a series of 17 cascading hot springs that sit in terraced pools of white calcium carbonate. The pools are among the most beautiful and unique in the World and each one forms its own steam infinity pool. The name Cotton Castle came because most of the hillside if also covered in white deposits left by the hot springs, giving it an imposing look while approaching. Around 200 BC the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was built on top of hill to make use of the hot springs. Today the well preserved ruins, which is highlighted by a large theater, are an excellent thing to see. The 300 long stage is semi circled by amphitheater seating which was capable of holding over 15,000 people. Brochure: Here
Getting Here From Istanbul: The best way is to fly to the Denizli Airport via Turkish Airlines which takes about 75 minutes. From shuttles from the airport will bring to the pools 70 Km away in about an hour. Most people stay overnight, but you can do there an back in one as there an almost daily flight leaves at 6:30am and returns at 8:20pm. This will get you to the pools by 9am and you wont have to head back to the airport until about 7pm giving you plenty of time to also check out the Roman ruins. Flight Cost: Round trip will cost about $160 for the airfare plus your shuttle to the pools which is also cheap. Book the flight early and it can be $75 round trip. Rating as a Day Trip From Istanbul: 7 out of 10.
4. Bursa (90 Minutes): Located in Northeast Anatolia, Bursa is very over rated in what it has to offer tourist. There are some craft elements, but really not much to see or do. The Cumali neighborhood is the prettiest of the 7 Kizik Villages in town which our centuries old, untouched Ottoman neighborhoods. Brochure: Here.
Getting Here: Fast ferry takes 70 minutes to get to Mudanya from Yenikapı station and then it’s just a 20 minute bus ride that meets the boats. The bus will stop at the Emek metro stop in Bursa which is at the end of the M1 Subway Line. Take the Subway to Şehreküstü Station which is the central one. map https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=201846936216359053382.0004e98cd3f710dbb8af9&msa=0&dg=feature Rating as a Day Trip From Istanbul: 3 out of 10.
2-3 Day Side Trips From Istanbul:
5. Göreme/Cappadocia (2.5-10 Hours): Located in Göreme, the Fairy Chimneys rock formations make the Cappadocia region one of the most unique, and beautiful places on Earth. Many of these Chimneys have been carved out to form cave homes and churches over the centuries, some of which you can rent a room in. Hiking around the animal shaped hoodoos in Devrent (Imagination) Valley is fun and about 2 miles long. While hiking and exploring are fun, morning balloon rides over the interesting formations are the most popular activity. Our favorite formation is the Uchisar Castle with its multi-storied caves was had terracotta workshops for 5000 years. Out of the more than 25 cave churches, Tokali Kilise is the most famous with excellent painted murals. Over 40 underground cities , Kaymakli is a huge one the Hitties used 4000 years ago which could house up to 5000 people.
Getting Here From Istanbul: The shortest option is by flying to Kayseri which only takes 80 minutes, then taking a 75 minute shuttle/bus to Göreme. Round trip air is expensive for such a short flight at $500-600 so we prefer the overnight bus. The bus leaves Bayrampasa Station (halfway to Büyük Otogar on the M1 Metro), takes 10 hours but is only $25 each way. You can book your bus tickets ahead HERE, keep in mind that the 46 person bus have paired seating where Men and Women are not allowed to sit directly next to one another.
6. Selcuk/Ephesus: East Central Anatolia, in the 1st Century B.C. it was the second largest city in the world, is one of the seven churches of Asia listed in the Book of Revelations in the Bible, was the home of the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), also home to the House of the Virgin Mary
7. Ankara (5 Hours): Capitol of Turkey, very modern, has old fortress bus 5 hours Brochure: Here
Getting Here From Istanbul: Take the Bus for 3 hours to Eskişehir, then transfer to the high-speed rail for another 90 minutes. Soon the High-Speed rail will be expanded to directly connect Istanbul to Anakara which will only take 3.5 hours and cost $30 each way. You can book your bus tickets ahead HERE, keep in mind that the 37 person bus have paired seating where Men and Women are not allowed to sit directly next to one another. Flying only takes 80 minutes on Turkish Airlines but can be expensive since 90% of people use the flight option.
8. Bodrum: East Central Anatolia, Homer called it “heaven of eternal blue land”, Was home of one of the 7 Wonders of the World when King Mausolus built himself a huge tomb, was the capital of Caria in 353 BC, seaside village, Bodrum Castle made out of bricks from the Mausoleum, will feel like a Greek Island with white homes, beaches, and bars.
9. Izmir: East Central Anatolia, Brochure: Here
10. Aksaray: Central Anatolia, Brochure: Here
11. Troy (Troia – 5 Hours): Located in Northeast Anatolia there really isn’t much to see as a tourist in the ancient city of Troy. The once mighty city was the setting for Homer’s epic poem the Iliad the site of the Trojan War, and of horse the famous Trojan Horse. Today you can see a cheesy reproduction of the Trojan
horse and see the crumbling, unimpressive ruins of the city of Troy. Overall it isn’t worth your time to visit and it is cooler just to read about the history than to go there. If you are super set on going, be prepared that it is a 5 hour car or bus ride each way. Many people who make the trek also pop over to the battlefields of Gallipoli on the way. Rating as a Day Trip: 2 out of 10.
Further Away Side Trips:
Trabzon/Sumela Monastery (Sümela Manastırı): North Eastern Anatolia on Black Sea
Mount Nemrut: Center East Anatolia near Adiyaman, mountain with tons of huge head sculptures, settlements dating back to 40th Century B.C., artifacts found from 7-3,000 B.C., Brochure: Here
Ishak Pasha: Far East Anatolia