Turkey has so much to explore! For me, the two places in Turkey which are completely unlike anywhere else in the world are its capital Istanbul and the magical Cappadoccia. It isn’t possible to see all of this country in a Turkey Itinerary 7 days but you can absolutely get a good sense of both Istanbul and Cappadocia – and develop an appetite to come back and see more of this beautiful country!
Turkey Itinerary 7 Days: How to get to Turkey and how to get Around
Direct flights from London to Istanbul take just around four hours. I have flown with Turkish Airlines several times and I am a big fan! Lovey planes and good service. British Airways and Air France both fly from London to Istanbul.
Istanbul is definitely a public transport and walking place. Don’t hire a car! Istanbul has a metro and best of all it has a tram system which I found very useful – there are trams in the key tourist areas. There are buses but I prefer a tram or metro as I find it easier to work out where I am and when to get off! And Istanbul has ferries to take you across and around its main river the Bosphorus.
The closest airport for Cappadocia is Kayseri. Most likely you will need to fly into Istanbul and then take an internal flight which takes about 90 minutes.
From the airport, it takes just over one hour in a car to get to Cappadocia. Take a private transfer or join a group shuttle to get from the airport to Cappadocia. Cappadocia is a big area. One option is to buy a ticket on the Cappadocia hop on hop off bus. It is possible to buy a 1, 2 and 3-day ticket.
The easiest way to get around Cappadocia is to hire a car from Kayseri airport. It is quite easy to get taxis around Capadoccia but the costs do add up.
7 Day Turkey Itinerary: Days 1 and 2 Istanbul
The key places to see in Istanbul
If you’re planning on hitting lots of sights in Istanbul in two days then make sure you order an Istanbul City Tourist Pass. This fantastic pass covers virtually every activity listed below and includes lots of options for skipping the queue! Plus public transport and 4G wifi whilst you’re in Istanbul.
1. The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is possibly Istanbul’s most famous attraction. The mosque has six minarets or towers and several domes. It isn’t actually blue – it was named the Blue Mosque because of its beautiful interior tiles – but it is absolutely stunning. The Blue Mosque was built between 1603 and 1617 and is still a working mosque today.
2. Hagia Sofya
Two of the top places to visit in Istanbul – The Blue Mosque and Hagia or Aya Sofya – are located on the same main square in the Istanbul neighborhood of Sultanahmet. Very convenient! Hagia Sofya has had several lives. It began as an Orthodox Cathedral and was turned into a mosque. In 1935, Ataturk proclaimed it a museum – although it is still considered by many to be the second biggest cathedral in the world.
Both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofya are particularly stunning at sunset. I suggest gaining access to one of Istanbul’s many bars and restaurants with a terrace and a view and settling in for sunset!
⇒ Hagia Sophia is the number one tourist attraction in Turkey so don’t waste time standing in queues – book your Skip the line ticket for Hagia Sophia
3. Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace is one of my favourite Istanbul tourist attractions. This palace was used between the 15th and 19th centuries and apparently was a hot place to go during the Ottoman Empire! Topkapi Palace Istanbul is stunning and filled with lots of fantastic Instagram opportunities – particularly the colourful tiles.
⇒ Book your skip the line tickets for Topkapi Palace
4. The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar or Kapali Carsi is the largest covered market in Turkey with over 4,000 shops. This market contains everything you could ever imagine needing! From, of course, carpets to jewelry to lanterns to pajamas. It can be quite overwhelming. The market is 30,700 square metres and has 60 street and is a must in any Istanbul itinerary.
My favourite shop in the Grand Bazaar is Jennifers’ Hamam. This beautiful store is filled with beautiful hammam towels, blankets, rugs, throws and all other soft items in soft colours. (One challenge of the Grand Bazaar Istanbul is finding some simpler designs to suit western tastes!). All of their products are made in Turkey according to traditional techniques but the designs themselves tend to favour Western tastes.
5. Take a cruise on the Bosphorous
6. The Basilica Cistern
This underground cistern was built in 532 to bring drinking water to Istanbul. There are hundreds of them underneath Istanbul but the Basilica Cistern (named because it lay underneath the Stoa Basilica square) covers nearly 9800 square metres and has 336 marble columns! No wonder it is called the Sunken Palace Cistern!
Walkways and lights were installed in the 1990s and there is even a small cafe down in the cistern!
⇒ Book your skip the line ticket for Basilica Cistern
7. Gulhane Park
Gulhane Park was once the private garden of Topkapi Palace. It is now a beautiful public park open to all – and, of course, it is located next to Topkapi Palace. The park is most beautiful in the springtime when it explodes into color. Gulhane Park Istanbul contains several fountains, a couple of museums and a cafe with great views of the Bosphorus.
8. Spice Bazaar
Located at the southern end of Galata bridge, the Spice Bazaar re-opened after major renovations in 2018. It is filled with spices, dried fruit, cheese, seeds and all things tasty. Hasirilar Cadesi is the main street of the Spice Bazaar and possibly the most photogenic.
9. Enjoy some seafood in the Arnavutkoy Neighborhood.
Seafood didn’t really pop into my mind when I thought of what to do in Istanbul. I was so wrong!!! There is fabulous seafood galore here and so many seafood restaurants! But the best thing to do is to head to the super cute Arnavutkoy area on the European side of the Bosphorus. This area is filled with wooden ottoman houses and seafood restaurants.
10. Explore Istanbul’s hippest neighborhood Kadikoy-Moda
Moda is part of the Kadikoy district and is located on the Asian side of Istanbul. It is filled with bars, cafes, cute shops, and quirky restaurants. The best way to experience this neighbourhood is to just wander around. Pop into Ciya Sofrasi for a meal while you’re there. And take the ferry over and back to get some great views of the Bosphorous!
Here’s how to fit all ten of the above into two days in Istanbul:
On your first day in Istanbul, visit the Grand Bazaar in the morning and have lunch at the Fez Cafe. After lunch head for the Basilica Cistern. Come back above ground and take in both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. Take a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus.
Spend the morning in Topkapi Palace. This is when I would then divide up what to see in Istanbul. If you’re more into outdoor attractions head to Gulane Park and then over to the Spice Bazaar. If you’re more interested in exploring neighborhoods head to Kadikoy-Moda. Then head to the Arnavutkoy neighborhood for a seafood dinner – it can take a little while to get there.
⇒ Wondering if you should spend more time in Istanbul? Check out my post on the Perfect Istanbul 3 Day Itinerary
Where to stay in Istanbul – Boutique Hotels
Empress Zoe is a lovely little boutique hotel in the heart of the historic district of Sultanahmet in Istanbul. There are several reasons to stay here. First is a fabulous location. When it comes to what to do in Istanbul they are all an easy walk from Hotel Empress Zoe – the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and the Grand Bazaar.
Second is it is a lovely stylish boutique hotel at a very reasonable price. The third is incredibly lovely staff. And the fourth is the breakfast! Yum! Fabulous fresh treats and make sure you’re there when the warm savoury pastries come out! Finally, it is also fantastic value with rooms starting at just 60 pounds!
Another lovely boutique option in Sultanahmet is Hotel Ibrahim Pasha. This small hotel has only 24 rooms and features a great balcony with a view of the Blue Mosque. Prices from 100 pounds a night.
7 Days in Turkey: Day 3: Gallipoli
The battle at Gallipoli took place in 1915 and is a story known by all Australians and New Zealanders. Today there are memorials and cemeteries in the area that allow visitors to pay tribute to the many young men who lost their lives. Gallipoli can be visited on one long day trip from Istanbul and it is well worth making the effort when you have 1 week in Turkey.
For most tours, the first stop of the day will be the town of Eceabat and lunch. It is a small town. Nice enough but nothing special. Most of the day is spent driving around the Gallipoli Peninsula and getting out at key sights such as ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine (the Australian War Memorial), the New Zealand war memorial, several memorials featuring moving words and the ANZAC commemorative site (this is where the dawn memorial service is held on Anzac day).
⇒ Read my complete post on How to choose the best Gallipoli Tour from Istanbul
Turkey 7 Day Itinerary: Days 4-7 Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a magical place that you will never forget! This national park is filled with fairy chimneys, rocks that change colour, some rather ahem interestingly shaped rocks and best of all hot air balloons stud the skyline as the sunrises! There is so much to see and do!
1. The Pigeon Valley Walk
I suggest starting with the Pigeon Valley walk. This works if you are staying in Goreme or Uchisar (although I do recommend staying in Uchisar so I will assume that you did!). The Pigeon Valley walk was definitely the easiest of all the walks that I did in Cappadocia and it is lovely! If you are joining the walk from Uchisar the pictures you see below of sticks with pigeons on the top lets you know that you’re at its beginning!
2. Uchisar Castle
Best seen as the sun sets, there are lovely views along the way up to the top of Uchisar Castle, but it’s all about the top and the 360-degree view of Cappadocia Turkey. The castle itself is also very photogenic. I would advise taking your pics of the castle from the bottom just before the entry point and after the markets.
3. Take a Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride
I loved everything I did in stunning Cappadocia but when it comes to what to do in Cappadocia the highlight was the hot air balloon ride. I would suggest looking to book your Cappadocia hot air balloon ride before you leave home for the first morning of your trip to Cappadocia. Good weather conditions are necessary for flights to go ahead. I was only able to go out on my last morning in Cappadocia. The more days you have, the more likely that you will make it up into the skies!
Most of the hot air companies will pick guests up at their hotels around 4 am (ugh!). Guests are then taken to a central area for a buffet breakfast before taking the one-hour hot air balloon ride. Depending on the package you have purchased your flight may finish with champagne in the middle of Capadoccia!
4. Ihlara Valley Walk
The Ihlara Valley is a 16km long gorge that was formed thousands of years ago. It is reputed to have been home to at least 80,000 people at one point – and a lot more pigeons! I learned a lot about pigeons and the value of their poo on this walk! In addition to being absolutely stunning, the Ihlara Valley was also the home to a hundred cave churches which were decorated with frescos – some of which can still be seen.
It is easiest to take a guided tour of the Ihlara Valley as it is about 75km from Goreme. Most of the tours include visits to the Derinkuyu Underground City and Selime Monastery which are both well worth seeing.
5. The Love Valley
The Love Valley is a relatively easy trek close to Goreme. It is not particularly steep although it is twisty terrain. The highlight of this walk is the rather phallic section at the end as you will see graphically in the photos! This is, of course, where it gained the name The Love Valley.
6. The Red and Rose Valleys
The Red and Rose Valleys were both major highlights of Cappadocia for me. As you might expect, the rocks of these valleys tend towards the pinks and reds. However, the colours change massively throughout the day dependent on the light and these valleys are best visited towards sunset.
Again I went with a guide and I am very glad that I did. I never would have figured out how to get around the Red and Rose Valleys without him. This was the most strenuous of the hikes that I did in Cappadocia. There was a lot of uphill and downhill and climbing through and around tricky spots. Solid walking shoes ideally with ankle support are a must for this trek.
7. Have a Hammam
I do love traditional Turkish Baths! Sure the cleaning is usually a bit on the rough side and I’ve had some interesting experiences when I’ve been using fake tan (well I have large Moroccan women laugh out loud at the fake tan coming off my skin! Good icebreaker) but you feel SO clean after having one.
If you have had enough of walking – or can fit this in with more walking on your third day – Cappadocia has lots of options for a cleansing Hammam!
Here’s how to fit all of this into 3 days in Cappadocia:
Ideally, you’ll have pre-booked your hot air balloon flight and this is how you will start your visit to Cappadocia. If not, book in now for the following morning so you have the buffer of another day in case of bad weather.
After you are returned to your hotel, head off to the Pigeon Valley walk from Uchisar to Goreme. Explore Goreme and head to the Open Air Museum. Return to Uchisar Castle to watch the sunset and then collapse after a 4 am start!
Take a full-day trip to the Ihlara Valley including the underground museum and the monastery
If you have the energy explore all of the Love, Red and Rose Valleys. If you’re flagging, explore the Red and Rose Valleys and have a hammam.
⇒ For more detail check out my Cappadocia Itinerary post.
If you are looking to a Turkey Itinerary 6 days then I would drop the day trip to Gallipoli on day 3.
Where to stay in Cappadocia – Boutique Hotels
There are several towns in Cappadocia with accommodation. Goreme is the largest of all the towns in Cappadocia and has the most restaurants, facilities etc. Urgup sounded very cute but a little too small. I decided to stay in Uchisar as it sounded a little more boutique hotel-y to me, whereas Goreme felt a little too much like a backpacker town.
If you’d like to stay in Goreme and enjoy a boutique-style cave hotel check out the lovely Cappadocia Cave Suites.
However, I did love little Uchisar and found that it had more than enough to keep me entertained! So I stayed at the Argos in Cappadocia cave hotel which I loved – such a stunning hotel.
Uchisar is at the top of a hill and Argos is right near the top over several kinds of “levels”. As you can see from the photos, Argos in Cappadocia doesn’t look like a hotel – it does look like it has been carved into the earth. It is quite a big hotel but it sort of meanders around so it feels very boutiquey (not sure that’s a word but I think I’m going to make it one!).
Another stunning property in Uchisar is the beautiful Museum Hotel, literally built from the restored ruins of an ancient village
⇒ If you’re planning on spending longer in Turkey check out this fantastic Two Week Turkey Itinerary by High Heels and a Backpack
Things to Know before you go to Turkey
⇒ Turkey operates on a 220V two-point prong system eg European style plugs
⇒ Wifi is very common in Istanbul and almost always free when available. Only luxury hotels charge for wifi. In Cappadocia wifi is freely available in hotels and restaurants. However, as you head out trekking the signal will be patchy.
⇒ The Istanbul City Tourist Pass is fantastic value for money and covers many of the attractions I have listed above. And it includes lots of skip the line options within the pass! Plus public transport and 4G wifi whilst you’re in Istanbul.
⇒ If you’re not keen to hire a car Cappadocia has a hop on hop off bus that works really well as a way to get around the area at a very reasonable cost.
⇒ Book your Cappadocia hot air balloon trip before you go and book it for your first morning. When it comes to things to do in Cappadocia this is a must-do! Taking a hot air balloon trip in Capadoccia is weather dependent. Give yourself every chance of having this amazing experience by booking it for your first morning. If conditions mean the balloons won’t fly you will be given first preference for the next morning etc.
⇒ Although it is safe to drink tap water in Capadoccia it may taste a little different from what you’re used to. Most people in Turkey use bottled water so grab this for your treks but don’t worry about brushing your teeth etc in your hotel with tap water.
⇒ Looking for some travel inspiration? Itineraries not only help you plan a trip they can also help you to figure out where you want to go next. Check out my itineraries for Austria, Nova Scotia in Canada, Colombia, Chile, Sydney, Nepal, Namibia, Sicily, Jordan, Scotland and Korea.
The currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira. Most large places in Cappadocia and Istanbul take credit cards but you will need cash for taxis, public transport, street vendors, bottles of water etc. And you may be able to negotiate a discount if you are able to pay in cash. There are ATMs all over Istanbul and in pretty much every town in Capadoccia so it isn’t hard to get cash.
When to go to Turkey
Summer in Istanbul is hot and generally quite muggy. Surprisingly winter can get very cold and the temperature often drops to low single degrees. Grab a forecast for your visit here. Spring (April to May) and Autumn (September to mid-November) are generally the nicest times to visit Istanbul. The temperature is still warm but not too hot and the skies tend to be clear.
Cappadocia has a continental climate with warm summers and cold winters. Snow falls during winter in Cappadocia. The area is 1000m above sea level so there is usually a significant variation in day and night temperatures. May and June are terrific months to visit the region as are September and October. Click here for a current weather forecast.
What to Pack for a trip to Turkey
Turkey is a conservative country but Istanbul, Gallipoli, and Cappadocia are three of the most relaxed areas due to the high levels of tourism. For women, do ensure you bring some type of scarf that can be used to visit anywhere religious. And of course, it is good manners to cover your shoulders and knees in this type of country.
As this is quite a busy itinerary, I would recommend packing layers and more layers. The temperature can vary quite a bit between day and night in Turkey. And without question, you will be doing a lot of walking so make sure to bring strong and sturdy shoes and a good daypack!
Travelling Solo to Turkey
I visited Turkey on my own and felt very safe. However, as always, when I travel on my own I avoid being out late at night and generally take a taxi home from dinner or eat near my hotel. If you are travelling solo it is a good idea to dress a bit more conservatively to avoid any discomfort.
If you would prefer to travel as part of an organised trip there are loads of options:
⇒ Solos Holidays has also has a very similar itinerary to the one in this post that is designed for solo travellers
⇒ Just You has a range of trips to Turkey for solo travellers
⇒ If you’re planning to travel solo on you may like to read my posts on How to have a great time travelling single when you’re over 40, 30 Fantastic Solo Travel Groups and 30 Fabulous Solo Spa Breaks.
Who Paid for What in this Post
I covered all of the costs associated with my trip to Cappadocia myself. However, this post does contain affiliate links. That means if you click through on them and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure that you were aware of this!
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