Discover Turkey's captivating ancient history and rich heritage on this 15-day itinerary, starting in the bustling city of Istanbul and ending on the sun-kissed shores of Antalya. Explore ancient mosques and markets in the city that straddles two continents, traverse the ruins of Troy and Pergamon, and savor local wines in Sirince. Take a break from the ruins to spend a day relaxing on one of the pristine beaches along the Turkish Riviera, or opt for paragliding to get your adrenaline pumping.


  • Follow your local guide across Sultanahmet, Istanbul's historic district
  • Explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary
  • Relax in the mineral-rich waters of the Travertines of Pamukkale
  • Hike through Mount Gulluk National Park and look for hidden waterfalls

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 Boat Cruise to Büyükada, Guided Tour of the Island İstanbul
Day 5 Visit the İstanbul Archaeological Museum, Transfer to Çanakkale Çanakkale
Day 6 Discover the Ancient Ruins of Troy & Assos, Transfer to Adatepe Adatepe
Day 7 Transfer to Bergama, Visit the Ancient Ruins of Pergamon Bergama
Day 8 Transfer to Şirince, Wine Tasting at Yedi Bilgeler Vineyard Şirince
Day 9 Explore the Ancient Ruins of Ephesus & the House of the Virgin Mary Şirince
Day 10 Transfer to Pamukkale, Visit the Travertines of Pamukkale & Hierapolis Pamukkale
Day 11 Transfer to Antalya, Guided Tour of Kaleiçi, Visit the Archaeological Museum Antalya
Day 12 Visit the Ancient Ruins of Aspendos & Perge Antalya
Day 13 Visit the Ruins of Termessos, Explore Mount Güllük National Park  Antalya
Day 14 Relax on Antalya's Beaches or Go Paragliding Antalya
Day 15 Fly to İstanbul, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

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

Climb up Galata Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the city and Bosphorus Strait

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 outside of 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

Admire the exterior of the iconic Blue Mosque before entering to see the intricate blue tiles lining its walls

Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the hotel, then 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 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

Walk along the covered streets and alleyways of the Grand Bazaar

Spend another day exploring 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 skyline dotted with ancient minarets and modern skyscrapers.

Day 4: Boat Cruise to Büyükada, Guided Tour of the Island

Cruise to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes' Islands

Leave the city behind as you sail to Büyükada this morning, the largest of the Princes' Islands just off the coast of İstanbul's Asian side. As you cruise across the Sea of Marmara, keep an eye out for some familiar landmarks, such as Galata Tower and Topkapı Palace. When you get to the island after the 1.5-hour boat ride, disembark and discover the charming Victorian-era architecture, horse-drawn carriages, and boutique shops.

Choose between exploring the island on foot or renting a bicycle to save your energy as you follow your guide from landmark to landmark. You'll only be able to see the exterior of each site you visit, but many of them are just as impressive from the outside. Start at the Aya Yorgi Monastery perched atop the island's highest hill. Enjoy the panoramic view of the island and the surrounding sea before descending to the Prinkipo Greek-Orthodox Orphanage, built in 1898 as a hotel but given to the Greek community as an orphanage before its opening.

Continue back down the hill to the village, where you can stroll the charming streets and discover the Hotel Splendid Palace, an ornate accommodation retaining the grandeur of a bygone era. End your tour of the island at Leon Trotsky's house, the final residence of the exiled Russian revolutionary. Learn more about him and how he spent his time here during exile, then hop back on a boat to İstanbul in the early evening. Transfer to your hotel to freshen up so you can venture back out for dinner when you get hungry.

Day 5: Visit the İstanbul Archaeological Museum, Transfer to Çanakkale

Explore the vast collection of artifacts and exhibits in the İstanbul Archaeological Museum

Immerse yourself in Turkey's diverse history and heritage at the İstanbul Archaeological Museum this morning. Enter the neoclassical building and discover the remarkable collection of artifacts spanning from the ancient world to the Ottoman Empire. When you finish browsing the archaeological wonders, continue to the Tiled Kiosk Museum within the same complex to see the vast collection of Iznik tiles, pottery, and ceramics dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. As you explore the museum's halls, you'll also be mesmerized by the intricate geometric patterns and vibrant colors adorning the walls.

End your visit at the Museum of the Ancient Orient, where you can learn about the civilizations that once flourished in this region. Admire the diverse collection of artifacts from Persia, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Levant to learn about the daily lives, religious practices, and societal structures of these ancient cultures. After an educational morning, grab your bags and join your driver for the 4.5-hour transfer to the charming coastal town of Çanakkale, nestled on the Dardanelles Strait. After settling into your hotel, head to the waterfront area to enjoy a meal of fresh seafood overlooking the strait to end the night. 

Day 6: Discover the Ancient Ruins of Troy & Assos, Transfer to Adatepe

Step back in time with a walk through the ancient ruins of Troy
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After just one night in Çanakkale, head to the ancient city of Troy, famed for its prominent location in ancient myths. Scholars even regarded Troy as legendary until they excavated the area in 1870 and found remains of the city. You can now step back in time by visiting the archaeological site and exploring remnants of city walls, dwellings, and temples. Check out the museum to learn more about Troy's rich history and view over 2,000 excavated artifacts. Afterward, drive along a scenic seaside road toward Babakale, a historic harbor town, where you can enjoy a delicious seafood lunch.

Your next stop is another area of important Greek ruins, the Assos Archeological Site. Visit the ruins of Athena's temple and the gymnasium where Aristotle taught while enjoying incredible views over the Aegean Sea. Then, transfer an hour south to the village of Adatepe, lying on the western slopes of Mount Ida, to settle into your accommodation and relax a bit before exploring this little town, known as one of the most well-preserved old villages in Turkey. Meander through the narrow cobblestone streets and admire the traditional Ottoman architecture as you look for a local café or restaurant for dinner. 

Day 7: Transfer to Bergama, Visit the Ancient Ruins of Pergamon

Discover Pergamon and the Ancient Healing Center Asclepion
Walk along the cobblestone streets lined with ruins in the ancient city of Pergamon

Bid farewell to Adatepe as you head two hours south to Bergama this morning, home to the ancient ruins of Pergamon, one of the most important ancient Greco-Roman cities in the world. Leave your bags at the hotel and venture out to the ruins. Walk among monuments like the Altar of Zeus, the large theater, or the ruined library that's said to have rivaled the historical Library of Alexandria. This is where King Eumenes II created and used parchment for the first time as an alternative to the coveted papyrus.

The main attraction is the Pergamon Acropolis, the most intact structure here, helping you truly appreciate the architectural achievements of this once-great metropolis. Visit the Asclepius Sanctuary next, a center of healing dedicated to the god of medicine. Explore the serpentine underground tunnels and therapeutic pools and listen as your guide teaches you about the ancient medical practices that were used here. After exploring the ruins of this advanced civilization, return to your hotel in Adatepe for the night. 

Day 8: Transfer to Şirince, Wine Tasting at Yedi Bilgeler Vineyard

Walk among the Ottoman-Christian houses in the charming village of Şirince

Continue your journey south to the village of Şirince, sitting atop Ephesus Mountain. After settling into your hotel, head out to explore the colorful town center on your own. Walk down the quaint cobblestone streets, admire the well-preserved Ottoman-Christian houses, and browse the artisanal shops selling wine, fruit-flavored brandies, and olive oil produced in the region. While you walk, you may pass historical sites, such as the Şirince Mosque and the Church of St. John, offering a glimpse into the village's diverse cultural heritage.

In the afternoon, venture 30 minutes out of the village to the beautiful Yedi Bilgeler Vineyard, established in 2011. Indulge in a wine tasting to savor the rich flavors of locally-grown grapes, sampling red, white, and rosé wines. You can also tour the vineyard to learn about the vineyard's meticulous wine-making process before visiting the fine dining restaurant, where you can try different wine pairings served with regional delicacies. When your belly is full, return to your hotel in Şirince for the night.

Day 9: Explore the Ancient Ruins of Ephesus & the House of the Virgin Mary

Admire the well-preserved facade of the Celsus Library in Ephesus

After breakfast, visit the ancient city of Ephesus, which the Greeks established in the 11th century BCE before it fell under Roman rule in 129 BCE. As soon as you enter the archaeological site, you'll be greeted by the facade of Celsus Library—which could house up to 15,000 scrolls—towering over the ruins. Walk along the marble-paved roads lined with intricately carved statues to see other grand monuments, like the Great Theater or the Temple of Artemis. To see some frescoes and mosaics, pop over to the Terrace Houses, giving you a glimpse into how affluent residents lived.

Tour the Ephesus Archaeological Museum next to see some of the excavated items and learn more about the area's history. Follow your guide and listen as they delve into the stories of prominent pieces, and watch the 3D simulation video to visualize what the ancient city looked like in its prime. Leave the ruins to explore the nearby House of the Virgin Mary, believed by many to be the final residence of the Virgin Mary after her son Jesus was crucified. Today, people visit the house to pay their respects and stop at the sacred spring that's said to possess healing properties. 

Day 10: Transfer to Pamukkale, Visit the Travertines of Pamukkale & Hierapolis

Unwind in the thermal waters of the Travertines of Pamukkale

Travel three hours inland this morning to get to Pamukkale, which means "Cotton Castle" in Turkish, as the town is famous for its travertine terraces with flowing baby-blue, mineral-rich thermal waters. After settling into your new hotel, head to the Travertines of Pamukkale to see this unreal landscape made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and a series of terraced basins. Make sure you pack your bathing suit, as you can swim in some of the hot springs full of minerals like sulfur and silica, said to be 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 afternoon, return to your spa hotel and take advantage of the amenities before enjoying a delicious dinner.

Day 11: Transfer to Antalya, Guided Tour of Kaleiçi, Visit the Archaeological Museum

Start your tour of Antalya's historic district at Hadrian's Gate

Return to Turkey's southern coast this morning to explore the largest city on the Turkish Riviera, Antalya. After the three-hour drive, check into your hotel, then venture out on a guided tour of Kaleiçi, the city's historic district. Start at Hadrian's Gate, the grand entrance to the Old Town, built to honor the Roman emperor of the same name. Enter the walled city and stroll down the narrow, cobblestone streets, admiring the Ottoman-era city walls, charming courtyards, and landmarks like the Yivli Minaret Mosque and the Kesik Minare Mosque

After a stroll around the Old Town, head to the Antalya Archaeological Museum to view artifacts and sculptures from ancient civilizations, including the Hittites, Urartians, Phrygians, and Romans. Make sure you visit the Hall of Gods to stand face-to-face with colossal statues of ancient deities, many of which came from the ancient cities of Perge and Side. Following the educational tour, end the day with a delicious dinner at one of the many beachfront restaurants, watching the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

Day 12: Visit the Ancient Ruins of Aspendos & Perge

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

Venture one hour out of the city this morning to the Greco-Roman ruins of Aspendos, renowned for having one of the best-preserved Roman theaters in the world. As soon as you enter the ruins, you'll be greeted by the second-century CE theater, which used to accommodate thousands of spectators. Admire the sheer size of this architectural wonder, stand in the rows of seats, and listen to the impressive acoustics to imagine the dramatic performances that occurred here. Beyond the theater, the archaeological site unveils additional wonders, such as an ancient aqueduct and towering basilica.

Next, drive half an hour to the ancient city of Perge, founded around 188 BCE by Greek colonists. Walk down the ancient streets lined with colonnades to get to the grand theater, which was capable of seating 12,000 spectators. Continue to the agora, baths, and fountains, revealing the opulence of the city's past. The Greeks appreciated artistic and cultural richness, which you can see in the elaborate sculptures and intricate detailing on each structure. After a day of exploring these ancient ruins, return to your hotel in Antalya for the night. 

Day 13: Visit the Ruins of Termessos, Explore Mount Güllük National Park 

Wander around the ruins of Termessos nestled in the Taurus mountains

Trade the city for the quaint Turkish countryside this morning as you venture 45 minutes to the ruins of Termessos, perched high in the Taurus mountains. Walk along the ancient pathways to explore temples, fortifications, and necropoleis set amid the rugged landscape and lush greenery. The hilltop location, strategically chosen for defensive purposes, also offers a panoramic view of the lush greenery and glittering sea for you to enjoy.

Then, head down the mountain to discover Mount Güllük National Park. Follow your guide through the park's lush forests, where native flora and fauna thrive, passing by hidden waterfalls and scenic viewpoints. The crisp mountain air will rejuvenate you as you keep your eyes peeled for animals like colorful birds, European badgers, or even wildcats. After an action-packed day, return to your hotel in Antalya to rest. 

Day 14: Relax on Antalya's Beaches or Go Paragliding

If you're feeling adventurous, jump off a mountain and paraglide over the Turkish Riviera

The day is yours to spend as you wish in Antalya, and after exploring all those ancient ruins, you may want to just relax. The perfect place to do this is on the Turkish Riviera's pristine shores. Walk to the nearby Konyaaltı Beach, just west of the city center, to lay on the sand or swim in the crystal-clear waters. When you get hungry, go for a stroll along the promenade lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants for a bite to eat. If you're looking for a more upscale beach, head to Lara Beach instead to discover the stretch of golden sand fringed by upscale resorts, hotels, and beach clubs.

Those who want a little more adventure can go paragliding off one of the Taurus mountains. If you have no experience, don't worry; you can do a tandem ride strapped to a professional. After a safety briefing, drive up the mountain, put on your gear, and get ready to run off the edge to inflate the paraglider wing. The wind will pick you up, taking you over Antalya's turquoise waters and golden-sand shores. When you land, visit the marina for picturesque views of the harbor while you enjoy a dinner of fresh seafood or authentic Turkish cuisine. 

Day 15: Fly to İstanbul, Depart

Cruise to Düden Waterfall to see it cascading into the Mediterranean Sea

Say goodbye to the Turquoise Coast as you fly back to İstanbul today to catch a flight home. If you have time before your domestic flight, you can explore more of Antalya on your own. Return to one of the golden-sand beaches to relax, shop for souvenirs at the boutiques in the Old Town, or stroll through Düden Park to see Düden Waterfall cascading into the Mediterranean Sea. If you have time, you could even join a boat tour to see the falls up close. Just keep an eye on the clock, as a driver will be meeting you back at the hotel to transfer to Antalya Airport. Safe travels! 

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Map of Ancient History & Heritage in Turkey: From Istanbul to Antalya - 15 Days
Map of Ancient History & Heritage in Turkey: From Istanbul to Antalya - 15 Days