While I spent seven fascinating weeks exploring Türkiye, from the bustling Istanbul and across the country discovering its incredible landscapes, delicious food and beautiful destinations, much of that time was spent working remotely from Istanbul with a holiday tacked onto the end. As such, the itinerary I did can very easily be fit into two glorious weeks.
Türkiye completely surprised me; I had very little expectations going into the trip but it has easily made it to my top 5 favourite countries with each place so beautiful, eniticing, easy to travel, safe, highly affordable and seriously out of this world with what it has to offer. Plus, Turkish food is just to die for!
Here's everything I got up to during my time in Türkiye, compiled into an easy-to-replicate two-week guide to see the best this country has to offer:
ARRIVING IN Türkiye
While there are a few international airports across Türkiye, I highly recommend flying into its major hub of Istanbul, home to Turkish Airlines which services the most international destinations of any airline in the entire world; this means many places fly direct to Istanbul and make it a very accessible destination from across the globe.
Türkiye is big! In Istanbul, the transport system (train, bus, tram, ferry) is fantastic and can be easily used by topping up an Istanbulkart. For getting between cities, we mixed between flying (for example, from Istanbul to Cappadocia) and between overland buses. Both are cheap domestic options; weight up which makes more sense for your schedule and budget.
Türkiye uses the lira. Most places only take cash as the lira is so volatile so you're advised to take out money at an ATM to use on a daily basis. I only used a credit card to pay for online travel bookings. 1 EUR is currently equivalent to about 20 lira, which makes it easy to calculate quickly in your head (divide in half, then move the decimal). Türkiye is extremely affordable and you won't be forking out a lot of money for quite lovely experiences.
I highly recommend getting yourself a SIM card for while you're traveling in Türkiye. I suggest the Vodafone vendor at the airport where you can pick up a SIM card with a big allowance of data plus texting and calling. These packages usually last 30 days, and you can always top up at any local Vodafone shop.
The official language of Türkiye is Turkish and is most predominantly spoken. Thank you in Turkish is Teşekkürler (pronounced tej-ik-you-lehr) and is the most useful word to know. However, you'll find English is widely spoken and understood across the country.
WHAT TO EAT
Turkish food is absolutely mouthwatering. It's very affordable out here and I ate out for almost every single dinner and stuck to a great (and delicious) budget. I also found Istanbul to be one of the greatest cities I've ever been to for vegan food! This may come as a surprise, but the city is simply buzzing with loads of vegan options. Things you absolutely must try while you're here include: baklava (a sweet pistachio pastry), kumpir (stuffed baked potato), gozleme (similar to a crepe), simit (Turkish bagels), meze (a selection of hot and cold small plates), manti (dumplings), cig kofte (like meatballs, can come vegan), kebab and of course, drink plenty of cay (Turkish tea).
ISTANBUL, 4 nights
ARRIVE: fly into Istanbul's International Airport and take an orange taxi into the city, which is about an hour journey and should cost approximately 300 lira.
GET AROUND: buy an Istanbulkart at any tram stop and top it up with lira to use on any of Istanbul's fantastic and wide-reaching public transport system including buses, trains, trams and ferries on the Bosphorous.
STAY: I cannot say enough good things about the Second Home Hostel, just a ten-minute walk from the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque in one direction and ten minutes from the waterfront and ferry terminals in the other. The staff are so welcoming and kind and the roof terrace and the community vibe really made this a wonderful place to be based from, providing a sense of security, belonging and happiness in this choatic city.
DO: visit the best mosques in the city (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, Ortaköy Mosque). Get lost in the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar. Walk along the Golden Horn, especially at sunset, and look back at the city from Galata Bridge. Hang out in the pretty colourful neighbourhood of Balat. Take a ferry over to the Asian side of Istanbul for the day. Go underground at the Basilica Cistern. Spend a day exploring the exquisite Dolmabahçe Palace. Spot the Galata Tower. Take a cruise up the Bosphorous.
DAY TRIPS: take a ferrry out to the Prince's Islands and rent a bike to explore for the day. Do a trip down to the Ancient City of Troy to learn its fascinating history.
READ MORE: check out my post about a complete guide to Istanbul here.
CAPPADOCIA, 3 nights
ARRIVE: fly into Nevşehir and take a pre-booked hotel airport transfer into Göreme. We flew out of Kayseri to Antalya after our time here. Both airports serve the Cappadocia region.
GET AROUND: we took an airport transfer into the city. Göreme is small enough that we were able to walk everywhere, with two short taxi rides from the end points of some of our hikes.
STAY: We wanted to stay at two of the most iconic hotels in the region - be sure to book these in advance as they are boutique hotels with less than twenty rooms each and both quite popular thanks to Instagram! For our first night, we stayed at the iconic Charming Cave Hotel, home to the highest rooftop terrace in town and one of the most insta-famous hotels possibly ever. For our other two nights in Cappadocia, we stayed at the Local Cave House, home to one of the world's most famous pools set against the backdrop of the rooms built into the curving rock faces of the Cappadocian landscape.
DO: watch the hot air balloons at sunrise from the rooftop terrace of your hotel. Go hiking through Pigeon Valley and Love Valley. Take in the views of Uçhisar and go inside one of the rock homes. Spot Camel Rock in Imagination Valley. Wander through the Fairy Chimneys.
READ MORE: check out my post about a complete guide to Cappadocia here.
ANTALYA, 1 night
ARRIVE: fly into Antalya and take the tram straight from the airport into the city centre.
GET AROUND: pick up an Antalyakart at the tram station and top it up to use on trams and buses across the city.
STAY: In big cities, I love staying in hostels as they usually have really great central locations, are a great way to meet people and have a reception which can always help out with tips and getting you sorted. We stayed at the Flaneur Hostel which was perfectly located right in the centre of town, near both tram and bus stations and in walking distance to the old town.
DO: find the Düden Waterfalls. Watch sunset at Karaalioglu Park. Spot the Old City Marina and wander through the Old Town. Walk through Hadrian's Gate.
READ MORE: check out my post about how to spend 24 hours in Antalya here.
Kaş, 2 nights
ARRIVE: take a minibus from Antalya, about four hours along the coast, for 100 lira per person.
GET AROUND: Kaş is so small that you can easily walk anywhere in town.
STAY: In this holiday town, we splurged a little and left behind the hostel life for a gorgeous hotel. It was higher up the hill which meant we had to traipse up the stairs every evening but wow was the view and the peace and quiet SO worth it. We spent two nights at Luna Kaş which was a dream - the room itself was simple, but the views, the service, the breakfast and the tranquility were great.
DO: explore the darling little town. Watch the sunset from the amphitheatre. Take a dip at Kucuk Cakil. Hike up the Sleeping Giant. Watch the sunset from the harbour.
DAY TRIPS: head along the coast to Kaputaş Beach. Enter the EU for a day trip to the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
READ MORE: check out my post about a guide to Kaş here.
Ephesus, 2 nights (or 1 night, if you arrive on an overnight bus)
ARRIVE: From Kaş, we took an overnight bus to Aydın which took about seven hours. We bought tickets for this bus in advance from the bus depot in Kaş. The overnight bus departed from the larger bus depot outside Kaş which you can reach by local bus or taxi (ten minutes drive). We had a two-hour wait in Aydın before catching a minibus for an hour westward to Selçuk.
GET AROUND: Selçuk is small enough to walk, including if you want to do the forty-minute walk up to the ruins of Ephesus. You can also take minibuses from Selçuk to Ephesus for seven minutes for 20 lira.
STAY: We stayed very centrally in little Selçuk at the wonderful Homeros Guesthouse. It really feels like you're staying at someone's cozy home and the service and welcoming atmopshere made this a great choice. It's in walking distance of everything in town, including the bus stop, and Derviş' family really makes you feel at home.
DO: explore the incredibly well preserved ruins of Ephesus. Spot the Temple of Artemis, one of the original 7 Wonders of the World.
READ MORE: check out my post about how to visit Ephesus here.
Pamukkale, 2 nights
ARRIVE: From Selçuk, we took a direct bus to Pamukkale for our final destination on this Turkish adventure. From nearby Denizli, you can fly back to Istanbul for your departing flight out of Türkiye.
GET AROUND: Pamukkale town is quite small so anywhere you stay will be in walking distance of the pools and ruins. Note that there are two gates to enter the Pamukkale site: the south gate, a ten-minute drive from town, opens at 6am in the summer and 7:30am in the winter months. The north gate, a five-minute walk from town, opens at 8am always. If you visit in the summer months, I recommend driving or taking a taxi up to the south gate to get into the pools early and to get golden hour. In the winter months, entering from the north gate is fine.
STAY: We stayed at Hotel Pamukkale, a lovely family-run place just five minutes from the north gate. There's a pool and breakfast, but the best part was the kind service we received from the owners, particularly when my headphones went missing into the laundry basket and were hand-delivered from the laundrette half an hour's drive away!
DO: visit the famous beautiful pools of Pamukkale. Wander the ruins of the Pamukkale Hierapolis.
READ MORE: check out my post about how to visit Pamukkale here.