Turkey is the perfect blend of East meets West, of old verses new. With so much to see and do, owning to its rich history and diverse landscapes, I would imagine you could spend several years and still not see all of Turkey. Since several years or long vacation time is not a luxury that most people have, here is an itinerary for 8 days in Turkey if you have limited time off like I do, but still want to get a sample of what Turkey has to offer.
Before I get into how to spend 8 days in Turkey, let me start of with some information about traveling in Turkey that will be helpful.
Turkey Travel Guide
Getting Around Turkey
If I told you we took 3 domestic flights between big cities and only paid $88 for all 3, would you believe me? Domestic flights in Turkey are so cheap and it’s fully worth taking a flight without trying to drive or take public transportation across the country. With just 8 days on this trip, you really should not be doing anything else!
Once we got to each destination, we rented a car to get around each city. Driving in Turkey is not difficult, however parking in Istanbul can be difficult sometimes.
The lira is the official currency of Turkey. Most places such as restaurants, attractions and hotels took cards, even for small transactions. However, it is advisable to change some money for things like taxis, tips and small purchases like buying bottles of water or when an attraction site says their card machine is not working. How much, will depend on what you do. ATMs usually give the best rate. However, Turkish ATMs do charge you a fee for withdrawing money so you may either need to find one affiliated to your local bank that does not charge a fee or see if exchanging money is more viable given the charge.
What to Wear in Turkey
I found Turkey to be very interesting in terms of dress code. It is not unsual to see women in headscarves and tourists in all sorts of fun holiday attire in big cities like Istanbul. You may find people dressed more conservatively when you go away from the big cities.
Here are a few pointers:
- If you are going to Cappadocia, bring a light jacket even in the summer
- Dress covering your shoulders and knees if you plan to go to a mosque. This goes for all genders. Women should have their head covered at all times so don’t forget to pack a scarf
- Resort wear is perfectly fine along the coastal cities
I always get a local sim card whenever I travel abroad, even if it for a few days. It is so much cheaper than roaming. If you land in Istanbul, you will find phone shops after you pick up your bag and clear customs.
What to Eat
Wow! Turkish food was simply amazing! From mezes (appetizers) to kebabs, from pide (Turkish pizza) to Turkish delight, it’s a food lovers paradise. Check out my detailed blog post on what to eat and drink in Turkey HERE
Where to Stay
There are so many accommodation options from budget to luxury. Highly recommend staying in a Cave Hotel in Cappadocia as part of the experience. If you plan on using booking.com to book any last minutes hotels, the chances are that you will not be able to do so. Turkey has restricted the use of booking.com within its borders to book hotels within Turkey (you can still use it to book places outside Turkey)
If you are planning on going around Turkey and visiting attractions, then I highly recommend getting the Turkey Museum pass. Click HERE to see all the sites and attractions you can visit with this pass. After buying separate tickets in Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus, we really regretted not knowing about it earlier.
The picture below shows a few sites but the link above will show all the places the pass is valid for.
8 Days in Turkey – Itinerary
This itinerary starts in Istanbul and will require mainly flying cross country and driving around once you get to each destination.
Days 1 to 3 – Istanbul
The historic city of Istanbul straddles two continents and is known to be the center point of where East meets West. This buzzing and vibrant city was our first stop on this 8 days in Turkey itinerary.
Things not to miss:
- Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque
- Grand Bazaar & Spice Market
- Bosporus Sunset Cruise
- Topkapi Palace & harem
- Balat Area
I have a detailed post on what to see and do in Istanbul HERE.
Days 4 & 5 – Cappadocia
We flew from Istanbul to Cappadocia.
Cappadocia should be a must see place in your visit to Turkey! With fairytale like landscapes and historic underground cities, this place was one of my favorite places on this 8 days in Turkey itinerary.
Things not to miss:
- Ride a hot air balloon at sunrise
- Explore the geology
- Visit an underground city
- Taste local wine at the wineries
Click HERE to learn more about where to find some of the most fascinating rock formations and to learn all about hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.
Day 6 – Cappadocia/Izmir/Kuşadası
On day 6, we finished up a few things in Cappadocia and flew from Cappadocia to Izmir. Once we got to Izmir, we drove down to the cruise port of Kuşadası on the Aegean sea and then hung out at Ladies’ Beach.
We stayed overnight in Selçuk near Ephesus.
Day 7 – Ephesus/Şirince/Pammukale
We started day 7 of this 8 days in Turkey itinerary in Ephesus. This ancient city is filled with Greco Roman and early Christian influence.
We were the first in line to get into the Ephesus archeological site that morning.
The Ephesus archeological site is a large complex of Greco Roman ruins which have somewhat withstood the test of time, making it easy to visualize what the city would have looked like in its hay day. We could have probably spent an entire day here, but with the temperature at almost 100 degrees we only spent about 2-3 hours. You should definitely plan to cover the Library of Celsus, the theatre, Agora, Hadrian’s Gate, Hercules Gate and the main street.
After touring the site we then checked out the following attractions:
- Ayasuluk Citadel – Home to a fortress and the ruins of the Basilica of St John which was supposed to have been built over the tomb of St. John, a disciple of Jesus. Although, there’s not a lot to see expect for a few ruins, the site does have some commanding views of the surrounding area
- House of the Virgin Mary – The house of Mary after she was brought to Turkey by St. John
- Cave of the seven sleepers – Home to 7 youth who stayed here to escape Roman persecution of Christians. Can be missed
- Temple of Artemis – Used to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The temple used to have 127 columns but today, only one remains and nothing else so we skipped this
We stopped at Şirince for lunch. This beautiful hilltop city looks like it is straight from a picture perfect postcard and made for a great lunch spot.
We then set off on a road trip to Pamukkale. This was a 2 hour 40 minute trip (with toll)
Pamukkale is famous for its mineral rich thermal waters flowing down white cotton like travertine terraces. Unfortunately, the water was barely flowing when we visited and some of the areas were closed. Definitely check if the place is in operation before you go. Personally, I thought it was still worth it to see it in person, but you may be disappointed to not see the turquoise water pools against the white travertine terrace backdrop.
You can also visit the following sites at Pamukkale:
- Cleopatra’s Pool – An antique pool with ruins inside. The water bubbles up giving it a champagne like appearance
- Hierapolis – Ancient city with Greco Roman ruin. Because we had seen enough ruins for the day in Ephesus, we decided to skip this but the theatre is pretty impressive if you only wanted see just that. Pictured below are ruins we saw on the way to the travertine terraces
We then hit the road again and drove to Antalya which took us 3 hours. It was dark by the time we got to Antalya, however, the old town of Antalya is open very late so we enjoyed an amazing seafood dinner and wandered along the narrow and lively streets.
This was really the only day we spent driving as much.
Day 8 – Antalya
The resort town of Antalya, along Turkey’s turquoise coast is the perfect way to unwind after a few days of traveling and site seeing.
Here are a few things not to miss:
- Old Town and Old Marina
- Hadrian’s Gate
- Dudan Waterfalls
Click HERE for my 10 things to do in Antalya post. These really require very minimum effort and are all a few minutes away from each other.
We then flew back to Istanbul to fly back home.
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See my detailed post on what to see and do in Istanbul below
Click below to see my detailed travel guide on Cappadocia
Here are 10 things to see in Antalya
Turkish food is delicious! Click below to learn more!