Turkey is among the world’s top tourism destinations. In terms of international tourism, Istanbul is second only to London. A visit to the city of Istanbul provides a glimpse into a unique culture, good gastronomy, and many possible destinations.
Everyone passing through would guarantee this is bound to be an unforgettable trip, though some people need tips on how to take advantage of the biggest tourist destinations in Turkey. Let’s plan out some activities for people to consider on a day out in Istanbul. You could plan to do something different every day you are there. Plan to take more than a day to discover Istanbul’s secret history. You could spend a month in this massive city and still need more time to explore all of the exciting things to do.
Trying to explore all of Instanbul in a single day can be done if you concentrate on some important, must-see sights. This is because the city is close to many popular destinations in Turkey. Istanbul is rich in culture and nature, evident in its architecture, beaches, and historic towns.
Without further ado, here is a list of the 11 best day trips to take from Istanbul to give you a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The Best Time to Visit Istanbul
The best time to plan for a visit to Istanbul in favorable weather conditions is undoubtedly the spring, which runs from April to mid-June. During this time, you will find that the temperature is mild and the days are beautiful. September and October are great for those who like to document their trips with photographs. July and August, though particularly hot, are busy months as the city hosts a number of festivals then. On the plus side, the days are longer, which is perfect for those wanting to take in Istanbul’s nightlife.
Those who enjoy colder climates should visit in November, but keep in mind that there will be snow, especially during the winter months. It is also important to know that visiting hours for some of the sites can be shortened on religious holidays in Turkey.
Gallipoli, the site of one of the bloodiest battles in World War I, is located on a peninsula in eastern Turkey between the Dardanelles and the Aegean Sea. Fought between April 25, 1915, and January 9, 1916, The Battle of Gallipoli is an important historical site for a number of reasons.
Casualties during the battle were appalling. Around 100,000 were killed and 400,000 wounded over the campaign in the battle between the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire and France that lasted for nine months.
Gallipoli’s battlefields have been preserved as a national park, and it’s marble and bronze monuments to the battle make this one of Turkey’s most touching sites.
You can visit Gallipoli by taking the Istanbul to Gallipoli group day tour. On the itinerary are guided tours of the Anzac Cove cemeteries along with the site of the battlefield. Transportation from Istanbul and lunch is included.
If you want to spend more time in Gallipoli, consider taking the two-day Gallipoli and Troy tour. This package includes transportation from Istanbul, guided tours of the Gallipoli battlefields, Troy, overnight accommodations in Çanakkale, and sone meals.
Plan Your Visit
Çanakkale, on the Dardanelles’ Anatolian shore, is the best place to stay while visiting. Though Eceabat is closer, it has fewer accommodations. Kilitbahir has a ferry pier, but no other methods of transportation.
Gallippoli’s battlefields are extensive, extending from Abide – Cape Helles at the southern end of the peninsula to the Anafarta Hills in the north (over 35 km or 22 miles long).
The Çanakkale Epic Presentation Center (Çanakkale Destanı Tanıtım Merkezi) is located right in the center. Here, you can take part in a presentation on the Gallipoli campaign and visit a number of museum exhibits.
How to Get There
Car Ferry/Minibus/Road Trip
The quickest way to get to Gallipoli is from Çanakkale-Kilitbahir, where you can cross the Dardanelles in 12 – 15-minutes. Boats sail from Çanakkale once an hour between 6 and 8 am and every half-hour after that until 9:45 pm. The next trip leaves at 10:30 pm, and once an hour after that until 1 am.
The fare for a one way trip for car and driver is 35 TL ($6), adn 2 TL (less than a dollar) for a pedestrian or car passenger per person. Double the fare for a round-trip ticket. The easiest way to tour the Gallipoli peninsula is with your own vehicle, but failing that, there is a minibus route, or you can hike or go on a local day-tour.
Close to the Gallipoli battlefields and the archaeological site of Troy is the youthful, modern, seaside town of Çanakkale. Most visitors go there to see the Trojan Horse monument. Though this is only a movie prop from the 2004 movie Troy, it has been given a prominent location in the town’s square.
The city is a great place to experience Turkish culture but on a scale smaller than in Istanbul. History buffs will appreciate the Dardanelles Straits Naval Museum, and it’s collection of artifacts and relics from the battles at Gallipoli and from the Ottoman era.
Visitors will appreciate the town’s café scene, which is a great place to relax between touring the somber battlefields and moving onward to Troy.
How to Get There
There are six ways to get from Istanbul to Çanakkale: plane, bus, bus and ferry, train, or car. Çanakkale airport (CKZ) is small, located 2.5 km (1.5 miles) southeast of the Clock Tower and ferry piers. It serves AnadoluJet scheduled flights and private or charter flights to and from Istanbul.
Numerous companies, including several major bus companies, operate buses on the route between Istanbul’s main bus terminal at Esenler, Gelibolu town, Çanakkale, the Aegean coast, and İzmir.
Troy has given birth to much mythology. This archaeological site purports to have the ruins of the famed site of Troy, the battlefield of the Trojan War depicted in Homer’s Iliad.
Identified as Troy by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s, there is still much debate that goes on about this site, significant form a number of reasons besides the Greek legend.
Troy has been home to a number of trading cities, dating from the early Bronze Age through the Byzantine period. It is of great importance for understanding the interaction between ancient Mediterranean civilizations. In 1998, the site was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Investing in the audio-guide when touring this site might be a good idea, as there are many ruins from different eras, though the main highlights include Troy VIII’s outer walls, and nearby fortifications of Troy VI, the ruins of the fortified town of Troy VI and its Greco-Roman Temple of Athena, and Troy II’s megarons.
Whether or not this is the actual location of Troy is moot when you consider the site has enough to fascinate anyone who loves history.
If you are pressed for time, book the Troy day-tour from Istanbul, which includes a guided tour of the site, transportation, entrance to the site, and lunch.
How to Get There
Take the first Istanbul Metro (at about 06:00 am) to the Büyük Istanbul Otogar (bus terminal) and find a bus to Gelibolu (for the Gallipoli battlefields) or Çanakkale (for Troy). The service is frequent, and you can usually find a bus and a seat during the day without a reservation, barring holidays.
4- Princes’ Islands
The Princes’ Islands is a great place to go if you’re looking to spend a quiet day away from the city. Popular with Istanbul’s locals, the Princes’ Islands are only a half-hour’s ferry’s ride from Kabatas. Here, you’ll find gorgeous beaches, forests, and traditional, Ottoman-style houses.
Sign onto a day-trip to the islands to experience the beautiful scenery on these nine islands. For sunbathing and swimming, try HeybeliadaIsland. If history’s your thing, visit Büyükada Island, to see the Museum of the Prince’s Islands and the Monastery of St. George. Cars aren’t allowed on the islands–the main mode of transportation is horse-drawn carriages.
How to Get There
You can catch a ferry ride from the public piers, which leave every 45 minutes and the ride takes less than an hour. You can buy tickets or use the “Istanbul Kart” to get in. The price is 8-10 TL ($ 1-2) per person.
If you don’t have a lot of time, you’re a morning person, and you’re interested in a long day trip (around 15-hours long), you might want to consider a day-trip from Istanbul to Ephesus. If you leave early enough in the morning, you’ll have a lot of time to take in the sights in and around Selçuk and end the day with a tour of the remains at Ephesus.
Tours usually consist of small groups, and the price includes a round-trip flight from Istanbul, bus fare to Ephesus, entrance to the sight, a guided tour of the ruins, a stoop at St. Mary’s House (Meryamana), and lunch.
Don’t miss the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The best (and cheapest) way to do all of this is with a guided tour. This way, you won’t have to worry about planning your own itinerary.
How to Get There
The best way to get there is by plane, flying from Istanbul to Izmir, and take the train south to Selçuk, which is adjacent to the ruins. This is the most efficient, cost- and time-wise.
Bursa is a modern industrial city near the peaks of Turkey’s Uludag (Grand Mountain) with an amazing historical core. This city was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. It is from here they looked over Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and made plans to conquer the Byzantine city. Most historical sites are close enough to walk to, located in the city’s central district.
The focal point of the city is the Ulu Camii (grand mosque). Built by Seljuk Sultan Beyazit I, the mosque boasts 20 domes on its roof. From here, go to the scattered remains of the Bursa Citadel and the site of founders of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Osman, and Orhan’s tombs.
Bursa’s Yesil Camii mosque has intricate tile work and calligaiphy, and the nearby Yesil Tomb with it’s tile-covered mihrab (prayer niche), the Medrese (Islamic School of Learning), and the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. The latter is sure to pique the interest of those interested in Ottoman art and design.
Trips to Bursa depart from Istanbul. Plan to take a private day tour of Bursa, which includes all transportation (ferry and minivan), a tour of the city’s Ottoman architecture, entry to Yesil Camii, lunch, and a ride on Bursa’s cablecar, from which you’ll see the entire town.
How to Get There
Take the local bus from Güzelyali to Bursa to the metro. Take the metro to the last stop, which is the city center. The total travel time (ferry, bus, and metro) is about 2 1/2 hours. You can also take the 70-minute ferry ride to Yalova (north of Bursa). The cost of the trip is 13 TL ($2-3).
Cappadocia–located in Central Anatolia–is known for its moon-like landscape. The strange rock formations in the region–called “fairy chimneys”–were formed by the intense volcanic activity and erosion in the area over millennia.
Formed from a hard, outer layer of basalt and a soft inner layer of volcanic tufa rock, the fairy chimneys have been sculpted by the elements over the years. The inner-layer erodes at a faster rate than the outer, leaving behind alien-like spires with dar mushroom-like caps.
Perhaps the most popular attraction here is the hot air balloon rides. Hundreds of colorful balloons dot the skies around sunrise; the view is spectacular from the ground and unforgettable from the air. This is a must-do attraction when visiting Cappadocia.
Best Time to Visit Cappadocia
MARCH-MAY: This is the ideal time to visit Cappadocia for the reasons outlined above. The crowds are lighter than the peak summer season, and the weather is great.
JUNE-AUGUST: This is the busiest time of year in Cappadocia, and pricing for accommodations and activities is at their highest.
SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER: Autumn is a good time to visit Cappadocia–the weather is great, and the crowds aren’t as large. The weather is fairly cold in November, so visiting in September or October might be a better idea.
DECEMBER-FEBRUARY: The coldest and slowest time of the year for attractions in Cappadocia, the weather may frigid, but if you can tolerate the cold, it’s the perfect time of the year to visit. Accommodations and activities are probably the cheapest at this time of year.
How to Get There
From Istanbul, the trip to Cappadocia by air is around 1 hour and 15 minutes. You will land in one of Cappadocia’s two airports, Nevsehir Kapadokya or Kayseri Erkilet, though there are direct daily flights to both airports from Istanbul via Turkish Airlines, which offers daily flights departing from Istanbul/Sabiha Gokcen Airports.
Several companies run busses nightly buses from Istanbul to Cappadocia, including Metro Turizm and Nevşehir Seyahat. This is the cheapest way to go, but it’s also the longest, taking around 10 hours, so traveling is best done overnight.
8- Şile & Ağva
Şile is a fishing village on the coast of the Black Sea. With its white beaches, it looks more like a beach resort, especially in the summer, when you can enjoy frolicking in Şile’s crystal clear waters.
Here, there is an offshore castle on a rocky outcrop with the most breathtaking of views from its peak. If you prefer a peaceful, coastal scene, visit nearby Ağva. Ağva becomes a beach resort in the summer, thanks to an influx of locals. Though the beach is the main attraction, there are other sights to see while in Şile, especially if you don’t enjoy basking in the sun.
A 14th-century castle lies just offshore, built by the Genoese. There’s also a lighthouse dating to the Ottoman era.
How to Get There
Şile is a part of Istanbul’s public transportation system, so you can take an IETT bus from Harem via Üsküdar No. 139 and 139A. The bus ride will take at least an hour, depending on the traffic.
Known as the second capital of the Ottoman Empire, Edirne is home to many heritage-listed buildings, including mosques, museums, and the enchanting and mysterious Old Town.
At the forefront of Turkish culture, Edirne boasts a popular, annual oil-wrestling contest and the Selimiye Mosque, one of the finest buildings in the country, with its spires and large central dome. Don’t miss the Edirne Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, located in the mosque’s courtyard. Here you will find samples of ceramics, cloth, and woodwork from the Ottoman era. There are many other mosques here to see, including Sultan Beyazit II Mosque, the Üç Serefeli Mosque (and its four minarets), and the Old Mosque (the oldest mosque in Edirne).
The real attraction in Edirne is the experience to be had as you wander through the old town streets that once made up the medieval heart of the city. Be sure to take in the wealth of Ottoman tradition, including the wooden houses. Though many are in a state of graceful decay, they exude an old-world ambiance, nevertheless.
How to Get There
Buses leave on the hour every hour. Expect a 2.5-hour trip. You can buy tickets in advance, and there is a free shuttle bus between the station and the city center. Take the tram and metro to Otogar Station, and ask for Istanbul Seyahat, Metro, Ulusoy, or Nilufer. Though these companies offer lines to the same destinations, Ulusoy might be a bit more expensive. Transportation is usually busier on Friday and Sunday evenings, so it might be difficult to find a seat then.
Another fortified settlement brimming with Turkish, Greek, and Roman history is the town of Iznik, originally known as Nicea. Trade pottery and tiles were traditionally produced here, making it a great place to explore.
Full of reproductions and interesting architecture, the town, itself, becomes the attraction. There’s also a beautiful lake just outside of town. Here, you’ll find many restaurants and cafes serving delectable traditional food.
How to Get There
You can stop to visit İznik on the way fro Istanbul to Bursa. The best way is to take a morning catamaran ferry across the Sea of Marmara to Yalova from Istanbul’s Yenikapı ferry terminal. Catch a bus or minibus to İznik from the ferry docks. Take some time to enjoy the walls, mosques, and churches before boarding your minibus to Bursa.
For another full-day trip, visit Pamukkale, and it’s white thermal pool terraces, which cascade into one another on Turkey’s breathtaking southwest flats.
The incredibly preserved Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis if located at Pamukkale. Come here for the dramatic landscape and the opportunity to relax, take pictures, and explore what is truly a unique place.
How To Get There
There are two options for travel to Pamukkale. The first is to take a bus from Istanbul to the provincial city of Denizli, overnight by bus. From Denizli, take another bus (departing every 20 mins) to Pamukkale town. The second option id by plane, flying from Istanbul to Denizli (Cardak Airport, 70 km from Pamukkale) and taking a bus to Pamukkale (departing every hour).
Visit Istanbul to take a boat trip along the Bosphorus after a busy morning’s stroll, taking in the city’s museums. Forget about the bustle of the city’s bazaars while enjoying the marbled Turkish baths.
The city has enough attractions to satisfy all budgets. If money is no object, experience the clubs and red-carpet bars along the Bosphorus. If you’re on a tight budget, opt to stay in a hostel or low-cost hotel and save your money to spend in the bazaars and on the many activities to do and sights to see.