Explore the best of Turkey's cultural landmarks and natural landscapes on this 16-day active adventure. Start by discovering the bustling cities of Istanbul and Ankara, then continue to the otherworldly valleys of Cappadocia to hike, ride a horse, and float in a hot-air balloon. Set off for the Turquoise Coast next, where you can cycle across Antalya, ride the rapids in Koprulu Canyon, and kayak to Kekova Island. End in the thermal waters of Pamukkale before returning to Istanbul for your flight home.


  • Cruise down the Bosphorus Strait to see Istanbul's many landmarks
  • Explore the former capital of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa, on a guided tour
  • Learn how to make pottery using traditional methods in Avanos
  • Drive yourself to Kas, stopping at Yanartas and Myra on the way
  • Trek part of the Lycian Way to the ancient cities of Apollonia and Aperlai 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in İstanbul, Explore the Bridge Between Europe & Asia İstanbul
Day 2 Guided Tour of Sultanahmet, the City's Historic District İstanbul
Day 3 Guided Tour of Eminönü, Private Boat Tour on the Bosphorus Strait İstanbul
Day 4 Guided Tour of Bursa, Transfer to Ankara Ankara
Day 5 Guided Tour of Ankara, Transfer to Cappadocia Cappadocia
Day 6 Sunrise Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum  Cappadocia
Day 7 Guided Tour of Uçhisar, Visit the Kaymaklı Underground City Cappadocia
Day 8 Transfer to Antalya via the Ancient City of Aspendos Antalya
Day 9 E-Bike Tour of the Largest City on the Turquoise Coast Antalya
Day 10 Whitewater Rafting Adventure in Köprülü Canyon Antalya
Day 11 Transfer to Kaş via Yanartaş & Myra Kaş
Day 12 Sea Kayaking at Kekova Island Kaş
Day 13 Trek to Üçağız via Apollonia & Aperlai Kaş
Day 14 Transfer to Pamukkale, Visit the Travertines of Pamukkale & Hierapolis Pamukkale
Day 15 Transfer to İstanbul via Eskişehir, Relax at a Hammam İstanbul
Day 16 Depart İstanbul  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in İstanbul, Explore the Bridge Between Europe & Asia

Explore İstanbul on your own, stopping at Galata Tower for panoramic views of the city

Welcome to Turkey and the bustling city of İstanbul, often called "the bridge between Europe and Asia," as it's the only city that straddles both continents. Meet your driver at the airport, then transfer to your hotel. You can stay in to fight off your jet lag or venture out and explore on your own. One of the best ways to see the city is from the Galata Tower, standing tall in the Beyoğlu district. This 14th-century medieval stone tower has served various purposes throughout history, from a vantage point for spotting fires to an observatory for celestial observations. 

When you arrive, climb up the spiraling staircase or take the elevator to the observation deck at the top. Step out and enjoy a panoramic view of the cityscape, including the historic peninsula and the winding Bosphorus Strait. After taking in the view, head back down and walk along the strait to choose from the many waterfront restaurants for dinner. If you're not too tired after, walk over to İstiklal Avenue, a street lined with bars, pubs, clubs, and live music venues, to experience the city's dynamic nightlife before returning to the hotel.

Day 2: Guided Tour of Sultanahmet, the City's Historic District

Let a local guide introduce you to the iconic Hagia Sophia, built in 537 CE

After breakfast, meet your guide for an action-packed day exploring the streets of İstanbul's historic district, Sultanahmet. Start at Sultanahmet Square to see the Obelisk of Theodosius, erected in the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt and transported to Constantinople (modern-day İstanbul) in 390 CE. You can also admire the exterior of the city's most famous landmark, the Blue Mosque, taking in the towering spires and domed roofs. Head into this historic building, built in the 17th century, and look around to see the intricate blue tiles the mosque is named after.

Visit another iconic mosque next, the Hagia Sophia, built in 537 CE. Learn about its rich history as an Eastern Orthodox church before it was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Continue to your last stop, Topkapı Palace, the royal residence of the Ottomans from the 15th to 19th century. Glimpse into the past by exploring the palace's throne room, courtyards, and even the old Sultan's quarters. After all that walking, return to your hotel to rest before venturing out for a delicious dinner.

Day 3: Guided Tour of Eminönü, Private Boat Tour on the Bosphorus Strait

Smell the tantalizing mix of spices in the Spice Bazaar

Enjoy another full-day tour of the city, starting in the commercial waterfront area of Eminönü. Begin your guided tour at the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world, with an impressive 4,000 stalls sprawled across 61 streets. You can find an array of goods here, including jewelry, ceramics, lanterns, and clothing. Pick up some souvenirs or stop for a bite of Turkish delight and tea to keep you going as you walk through the lively market. Continue your shopping at the Spice Bazaar to browse the 85 shops selling local spices and snacks, like Turkish cheese, nuts, and figs. 

Visit the Rüstem Paşa Mosque next, often referred to as the "miniature Blue Mosque" for its intricate, blue-tiled interiors. Admire the tiles adorning the walls and domes, then step into the mosque's serene courtyard for a peaceful escape from the busy streets. After all that walking, head to the pier for a relaxing boat tour along the strait. Rest your feet and appreciate the shores of both the Asian and European sides of the city. Get a different perspective on popular landmarks, like the Ortaköy Mosque and Golden Horn, and take in the city's skyline, dotted with ancient minarets and modern skyscrapers.

Day 4: Guided Tour of Bursa, Transfer to Ankara

Admire the minarets and domes of Ulu Camii, better known as the Grand Mosque of Bursa

After four days in İstanbul, set off on a two-hour transfer to Bursa, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire. When you arrive, follow your guide through the UNESCO-listed city nestled at the foot of the Uludağ mountains. Start with a climb up Tophane Clock Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the picturesque landscape surrounding it, then continue to Ulu Camii, better known as the Grand Mosque of Bursa. Discover the intricate calligraphy and geometric patterns lining the exterior and count the 20 domes before stepping inside the prayer hall.

Take in the domes overhead, the detailed columns, and the serene courtyard, but try to stay quiet so you don't interrupt any prayers. Visit another iconic mosque next, Yeşil Camii, also known as the Green Mosque. Admire the graceful minarets, explore the colonnade-lined courtyard, and look for the green and blue tiles adorning the walls that gave the mosque its name. End your city tour with a delicious döner kebab, then jump back in the car for a 4.5-hour transfer to Ankara, the vibrant capital of Turkey. Check into your hotel and settle in for the night. 

Day 5: Guided Tour of Ankara, Transfer to Cappadocia

Climb up the hill to visit the eighth-century BCE Ankara Castle 

Enjoy a full day of exploring the nation's capital, starting at the Anatolian Civilization Museum to trace the evolution of Anatolian civilizations from prehistoric times to the Byzantine era. Explore the collection of artifacts, such as Phrygian pottery and Hittite reliefs, to appreciate the cultural and artistic achievements of these ancient societies. Continue to Ankara Castle, perched atop a commanding hill, to discover the imposing walls and towers dating back to the Roman, Byzantine, and Seljuk periods. 

Enter the vast grounds to enjoy panoramic views of the city, serene contemplation in the quiet courtyard, and a visit to the elegant Alâeddin Mosque. End your city tour at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the revered founder of modern Turkey. Walk along the ceremonial road to enter the Hall of Honor, where Atatürk's tomb is the focal point. After exploring the mausoleum, jump back in the car for a 3.5-hour transfer to a hotel in central Turkey's otherworldly region of Cappadocia

Plan your trip to Turkey
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Sunrise Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum 

Hop in a hot-air balloon at sunrise to float over Cappadocia's otherworldly landscape

Get ready for an early wake-up call this morning to set off on a hot-air balloon ride above Cappadocia's lunar-like valleys at sunrise. Enjoy a coffee or tea to wake you up, then transfer to the launch point to watch the crew inflate the massive balloons. When the balloons are ready, hop into the basket and hold on tight as you rise into the air. Take in the breathtaking views below as the landscape transforms in the soft morning light.

All that adrenaline may have worked up an appetite, so return to the hotel for breakfast to refuel for your next destination, the town of Göreme, to discover the Göreme Open Air Museum. Enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore the remarkable collection of rock-cut churches and monasteries, all adorned with Byzantine frescoes dating back to the fourth century CE, before continuing to the pottery hub of Avanos.

Here, you can learn about the traditional methods of creating pottery, dating back to the Hittite period around 2,000 BCE, as the nearby Kızılırmak River gives residents an abundance of red clay. Watch a live pottery demonstration to truly understand the craftsmanship that goes into each piece. Return to Göreme for a short, 2.4-mile (4 km) hike across Aşıklar Vadisi (Love Valley). Walk among the distinct rock formations called "fairy chimneys," which you can only find in this region. Take in the serene atmosphere, then return to the hotel to rest after your early start.

Day 7: Guided Tour of Uçhisar, Visit the Kaymaklı Underground City

Wind your way through the Cappadocian valleys on a sunset horseback ride

Continue your exploration of Cappadocia in the charming town of Uçhisar, the highest point in the region. Trek up to Uçhisar Castle, an ancient fortification built in the fourth century CE by Byzantine settlers. Enter to discover the intricate network of tunnels and rooms carved directly into the rock and take in the panoramic view of the towering fairy chimneys and expansive valleys, which you'll visit next. Head to the valleys of Avcılar, Çavuşin, and Paşabağ for a stroll among the distinct rock formations and lush landscapes. 

After exploring above ground, venture below the surface to visit one of 36 underground cities in the region, Kaymaklı Underground City. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has eight floors, which were populated by over 3,500 people fleeing religious persecution in the seventh and eighth centuries BCE. Visitors can only explore the first four floors, descending 65 feet (20 m) below ground. Enter at the first level, which used to be a stable, then walk along narrow corridors, peek into old living quarters, and see where residents used to cook at night so enemies wouldn't see the smoke. 
When you're back above ground, return to the hotel to rest and prepare for a sunset horseback ride through some of the valleys you visited earlier. Greet your horse and trot off across ancient valleys and hidden paths. Listen to the rhythmic sounds of hooves while you descend into the tranquil valley and watch as the warm glow of the sunset casts long shadows over the fairy chimneys and rock-cut structures. After two hours, return to the stable before darkness hits, then set off in search of a delicious dinner. 

Day 8: Transfer to Antalya via the Ancient City of Aspendos

See one of the best-preserved Roman theaters in the world, Aspendos Theater

This morning, you trade the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia for the pristine waters of Antalya, the largest city on Turkey's Turquoise Coast. Break up the six to seven-hour transfer with a stop at Aspendos Theater, one of the most well-preserved Roman theaters in the world. Stand within the imposing stone walls of this second-century landmark and take in its sheer size, towering tiers of seats, and the stage where gladiators, musicians, and actors used to perform. Jump back in the car to finish the drive to your hotel in Antalya, where you can unwind after the long transfer.

Day 9: E-Bike Tour of the Largest City on the Turquoise Coast

Cycle to Düden Park to watch a waterfall cascade into the Mediterranean Sea

Today's adventure is an e-bike tour across Antalya to see the city's main landmarks. Once you grab your equipment and complete a safety briefing, cycle to Düden Park, home to Düden Waterfall. Hop off your bike to view the falls cascading into the Mediterranean Sea from the park's observation deck. Leave the water behind to cycle to Kaleiçi, the historic center. Pedal along the narrow streets surrounded by the city walls, mosques, Turkish baths, and charming shops. Take a break in a local restaurant to try a simit, a traditional Turkish bagel, with a cup of tea.

Once you're rejuvenated, continue on the tour, passing world-famous beaches, cultural centers, green parks, and the Antalya Aquarium. When the tour is complete, the rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish. If you want to relax, head to Lara Beach to lie on the golden sands and swim in the crystal-clear waters. Those who want a little adventure can indulge in watersports, from parasailing to jet skiing. In the evening, visit one of the many beachfront restaurants or cafés for a delicious dinner overlooking the water.

Day 10: Whitewater Rafting Adventure in Köprülü Canyon

Jump in a raft and cruise down the rapids of the Köprüçay River

Trade the city for the countryside this morning as you set off on a two-hour drive to Köprülü Canyon, a picturesque marvel with cliffs, lush greenery, and frothy white rapids, for your rafting adventure. After a safety briefing, take your gear to the Köprüçay River to start your journey. Jump in the raft and paddle vigorously through the rapids with your team. Look out for glimpses of ancient ruins along the riverbanks, adding a touch of history to this wild escapade. Enjoy a light lunch to end your visit to the canyon, then return to Antalya for some free time on the beach.

Day 11: Transfer to Kaş via Yanartaş & Myra 

Admire the tombs carved into the cliff faces in the ancient city of Myra

One of the best ways to see the Turquoise Coast is with a scenic drive, so today, you'll embark on a guided 3.5-hour road trip to the fishing village of Kaş. On the way, you can stop at Yanartaş (Burning Rock), where gases like methane emerge from the rocks, creating a permanent fire. Admire the fifth-century BCE church at the entrance, then trek up the hill to see the legendary volcanic field. When you reach the top, look out at the flames that have been burning for over 2,500 years, inspiring the creation of Homer's mythical fiery creature, the Chimera.

Venture back down the hill to continue the drive, making another stop at the ancient city of Myra, built in the second century BCE. Wander through this archaeological wonder, admiring the well-preserved rock-cut tombs adorning the cliff faces. Explore the Roman theater, agora, and St. Nicholas Church, believed to be the final resting place of the saint who inspired the story of Santa Claus. After walking through the remains of this once-prosperous city, finish the drive to Kaş and check into your hotel to relax after your road trip. 

Day 12: Sea Kayaking at Kekova Island

Kayak along the Turquoise Coast to Kekova Island

Today's adventure starts with a 45-minute bus ride to Üçağiz, a former Greek fishing village. Upon arrival, complete a safety briefing and gear up for a day of kayaking along the Turquoise Coast toward Kekova Island. Paddle to the nearby Tersane Bay first for a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters. From there, paddle over the ancient Lycian sunken city of Dolchiste, destroyed by an earthquake during the second century BCE. This is a protected area, so swimming is prohibited here, but you can enjoy views of the ruins from your kayak. 

Continue to Kaleköy, where you can tie up your kayak and disembark to discover Simena Castle sitting atop a hill overlooking the village. Complete the short trek up to the castle and take in the panoramic view of the Kekova region. If you're not up for the trek, explore the small village instead or take a dip in the warm water surrounding the island. When you're ready, jump back in your kayak and paddle to Theimussa, another ancient sunken city. View the ruins from above, then return to Üçağiz for a well-deserved lunch before jumping back on the bus to Kaş.

Day 13: Trek to Üçağiz via Apollonia & Aperlai

Jump in a boat and cruise to the Necropolis of Teimiussa to see the rock-cut tombs

Lace up your best hiking shoes this morning for a trek along a portion of the Lycian Way, a 310-mile (500 km) long-distance trail that traces the old trade route of the Lycians. Start at the archaeological site of Apollonia, a once-thriving city that flourished in the sixth century BCE. Walk among the well-preserved temples, intricate mosaics, and numerous sarcophagi to reach the acropolis at the hill's highest point.

Continue down the path to Aperlai, an ancient city that was once the head of the Lycian Federation. The massive city walls are still intact, so you can appreciate the architectural achievements of the Lycians before continuing your trek. When you reach the coast, enjoy a lunch of fresh-grilled fish, then hop in a boat and cruise to Üçağız to see the Necropolis of Teimiussa, an extensive cemetery with tombs carved into the rocky cliffs dating back to the fourth century BCE.

Seeing the rows of tombs from the boat gives you insight into the Lycian people's burial rituals and their reverence for the afterlife. After taking in the quiet charm of the fishing village, return to Kaş to discover Mezetaryen, a wine bar and restaurant. Sample six of the top wines, made with local produce and grapes, paired with delicious small plates called mezes. Try not to fill up on the appetizers so that you can enjoy dinner here as well. 

Day 14: Transfer to Pamukkale, Visit the Travertines of Pamukkale & Hierapolis

Relax in the thermal waters of the Travertines of Pamukkale

Leave the Turquoise Coast behind as you set off on a four-hour transfer inland this morning to the town of Pamukkale, known for its white terraces of mineral-rich thermal waters. After settling into your hotel, head to the Travertines of Pamukkale. When you enter the property, you'll be greeted by mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and a series of terraced basins with thermal waters flowing down them. Pack your swimsuit, as you can swim in some of the hot springs, which are rich in minerals, such as calcium, that are beneficial for the skin.

Perched high above the travertines is Hierapolis, the ruins of a Roman spa city founded around 190 BCE. Climb up to explore the incredibly well-preserved theater that once seated thousands, a necropolis adorned with intricate tomb monuments, and the Antique Pool, full of submerged Roman columns due to an earthquake. Stop at the Plutonium, also known as Pluto's Gate, believed to be the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology. In the evening, return to your spa hotel and take advantage of the amenities before enjoying a delicious dinner.

Day 15: Transfer to İstanbul via Eskişehir, Relax at a Hammam

Relax in a traditional hammam before your flight home tomorrow

Set off on another road trip transfer this morning, this one to İstanbul, for your flight home tomorrow. Break up the seven-hour drive with a stop in Eskişehir, a quaint city nestled on the scenic Porsuk River. Stretch your legs with a stroll along the riverbanks, popping in and out of the shops and cafés lining the road. If you have time, visit the lively district of Odunpazarı to see the Ottoman-era houses that have been transformed into art galleries and workshops.

After discovering the city's vibrant art scene, continue to your hotel in İstanbul. Stay in to relax after the long drive, or head to a nearby hammam, a traditional Turkish spa, to unwind. Choose from an array of spa services, such as a body scrub, a traditional bathing ritual, or a therapeutic massage. When you've worked up an appetite, meander to the Bosphorus Strait to find a café or restaurant overlooking the water for your final dinner in Turkey.

Day 16: Depart İstanbul

Pick up some last-minute souvenirs before departure

Your Turkish adventure comes to a close today after a memorable 16 days. Say goodbye to İstanbul with a final visit to one of the bazaars, where you can pick up some last-minute souvenirs or get one last taste of some Turkish street food. Keep an eye on the clock, as a driver will be meeting you back at the hotel to take you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels! 

More Great Turkey Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Turkey? Check out these other Turkey itineraries, explore different ways to spend 16 days in Turkey, or discover the best time to visit Turkey.

A note on diacritical and retroflex markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of Active Exploration of Turkey's Cultural & Natural Marvels - 16 Days
Map of Active Exploration of Turkey's Cultural & Natural Marvels - 16 Days