Experience the best of Turkey's history, natural wonders, and vibrant culture on this 15-day itinerary. Start by exploring the valleys and underground cities of Cappadocia before heading to the Turquoise Coast to hike, see ancient ruins, and cruise across the Mediterranean Sea. Next, you'll swim in the thermal waters of Pamukkale to unwind, then end in the bustling city of Istanbul, where you can discover the city's many landmarks, relax in a hammam, and take a day trip to nearby Buyukada Island.


  • Visit three of Cappadocia's valleys and discover their distinctive fairy chimneys
  • Trek up to Yanartas to see the lava fields and eternal flames powered by methane
  • Swim in the mineral-rich waters at the Travertines of Pamukkale
  • Cruise to Buyukada, the largest of the Princes' Islands, for a guided tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cappadocia, Cooking Class, Visit Avcılar & Paşabağ Valley Uçhisar
Day 2 Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum, Hike in Love Valley Uçhisar
Day 3 Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Kaymaklı Underground City, Dance Performance Uçhisar
Day 4 Transfer to Antalya via Konya & the Aspendos Theater Antalya
Day 5 Antalya E-Bike Tour, Visit Termessos Antalya
Day 6 Guided Road Trip to Kaş via Chimaera & Myra Kaş 
Day 7 Boat Tour to Kaleko & the Sunken City of Dolchiste Kaş 
Day 8 Enjoy a Free Day in the Fishing Village of Kaş  Kaş 
Day 9 Transfer to Pamukkale via the Ancient City of Xanthos Pamukkale
Day 10 Relax in the Travertines of Pamukkale, Explore Hierapolis, Fly to İstanbul İstanbul
Day 11 Explore the Vibrant City of İstanbul by Foot  İstanbul
Day 12 Guided Tour of Sultanahmet & the Grand Bazaar İstanbul
Day 13 Boat Cruise on the Bosphorus Strait, Relax at the Hurrem Sultan Hammam İstanbul
Day 14 Boat Cruise to Büyükada, Tour of the Island İstanbul
Day 15 Urban Hiking Tour of Edirnekapi, Fener & Balat, Depart İstanbul   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cappadocia, Cooking Class, Visit Avcılar & Paşabağ Valley

Learn how to make traditional Cappadocian dishes, like this testi kebab

Welcome to Turkey and the town of Uçhisar, the highest point in the region of Cappadocia. Meet your driver at the airport to transfer to your hotel. Look out the windows on the drive to catch a glimpse of the ancient cave dwellings, surreal rock formations, and soaring hot-air balloons the area is known for. Settle into your hotel, then venture out for a cooking class with a local family. Learn how to cook traditional delicacies, such as testi kebab, a meat stew cooked in a clay pot, and sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor with your hosts.

After a delicious lunch, head to Avcılar Valley to discover the surreal rock formations called "fairy chimneys," which only exist in this region. Admire the towering structures, sculpted by centuries of wind, before continuing to Paşabağ Valley. Also known as Monks Valley, this tranquil escape has remarkable mushroom-shaped rock formations of its own, created by volcanic activity and erosion. A stroll through both valleys can help you understand why people describe Cappadocia as otherworldly. Return to the hotel to rest, then go back out for dinner when you're hungry.

Day 2: Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum, Hike in Love Valley

Admire the towering fairy chimneys in the Love Valley

Set off 10 minutes out of town to Göreme today to visit the Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its collection of rock-cut churches adorned with intricate Byzantine frescoes. Walk among the churches, chapels, and monasteries, some dating back to the 10th century. Admire the frescoes narrating stories of early Christianity as you wander through the maze of cave complexes. Then, head to the Aşıklar Vadisi (Love Valley) for an easy 2.4-mile (4 km) walk among the towering fairy chimneys. Return to your hotel in Uçhisar to relax before dinner. 

Day 3: Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Kaymaklı Underground City, Dance Performance

Wake up early for a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia at sunrise

Wake up before dawn for what's sure to be a highlight of your trip—a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia's lunar-like landscape at sunrise. Enjoy a small breakfast and 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 valleys transform in the soft morning light. When you land, the adventure doesn't stop, as you head to the Kaymaklı Underground City next, one of 36 underground cities in the region.

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. After exploring the four floors open to visitors, return to the surface and continue to Saruhan Caravanserai, a shelter built in 1249 for merchants and travelers traversing the Silk Road. Sit back and watch as dancers whirl in front of you, performing a sema dance in the intimate setting, a centuries-old ritual. After a delicious dinner, return to your hotel for the night.

Day 4: Transfer to Antalya via Konya & the Aspendos Theater

Visit one of the most well-preserved Roman theaters in the world, Aspendos Theater

Leave the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia behind as you transfer to Antalya this morning, the largest city on the Turquoise Coast. Although it's a six to seven-hour drive, you won't be bored, as there are plenty of stops along the way. The first is Sultanhani Caravanserai, which you visited last night for the sema dance. Enter through the massive stone doorway and get a closer look at the shelter, imagining the countless travelers and their camels who sought refuge here. Continue your drive to the city of Konya to visit the Mevlana Museum, dedicated to philosopher Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi.

Read the original writings from this 13th-century icon and browse the captivating display of artifacts to learn more about Rumi's life before enjoying a quick lunch and jumping back in the car. The last stop on the way to Antalya is the 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. Head to your hotel in Antalya to unwind after your action-packed road trip.

Day 5: Antalya E-Bike Tour, Visit Termessos

Watch Düden Waterfall spill into the Mediterranean Sea

One of the best ways to see Antalya's many landmarks is by bicycle, so today, you embark on an e-bike tour. Once you grab your equipment and complete a safety briefing, cycle to Düden Park, home to Düden Waterfall. Hop off your bike to get a view of the falls cascading into the Mediterranean Sea from the park's observation deck. Leave the water behind to head to Kaleiçi, the historic Old Town. Cycle 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. Transfer back to your hotel to rest your legs before venturing 45 minutes out of the city to the Taurus mountains to visit the ruins of Termessos. Explore this well-preserved ancient city, said to have been built around 300 BCE. Walk among the remnants of temples, baths, and towering stone walls. Visit the intact theater and admire the dramatic mountain backdrops, then return to Antalya for the night.

Day 6: Guided Road Trip to Kaş via Chimaera & Myra

Watch your step as you hike over the eternal flames at Yanartaş

Bid farewell to Antalya as you meet your driver and head down the coast to Kaş, a small fishing village turned tourist town. On the way, stop at Yanartaş (Burning Rock), where gases like methane emerge from the rocks, creating an eternal fire. Admire the fifth-century BCE church at the entrance, then walk 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.

Stroll back down the hill to continue the drive, stopping 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 settle in at your hotel. 

Day 7: Boat Tour to Kaleko & the Sunken City of Dolchiste

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Look into the crystal-clear waters to see the Sunken City of Dolchiste

One of the best ways to see the Turquoise Coast is from the water, so this morning, jump in a boat and cruise to the fishing village of Kaleköy, also known as Simena. Disembark and walk up the hill overlooking the village to visit Kaleköy Castle, a Byzantine-era fortress built to fight pirates. Enter the well-preserved ruins, walk among the stone walls and towers, and admire the panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Head back down the hill to explore the small village, full of bougainvillea-clad houses. Walk down the cobblestone streets, sit down for tea or coffee at a seaside café, or jump into the turquoise waters for a swim. When it's time, hop back on the boat and cruise to the Sunken City of Dolchiste, a partially submerged city that was destroyed by earthquakes in the second century. View the remains of the city's walls, stairs, and even sarcophagi from the boat, as swimming is forbidden in this protected area before sailing back to Kaş. 

Day 8: Enjoy a Free Day in the Fishing Village of Kaş

Go hiking today or simply relax on the golden sands of Kaputas Beach

Today is yours to spend as you wish, and there's plenty to do in Kaş, so take your pick. Head to Kaputas Beach if you're looking for a relaxing day. You can swim in the turquoise waters or lay on the golden sand to soak up the sun. If you want a more adventurous activity, you can hike part of the Lycian Way, a 472-mile (760 km) hiking trail around the coast of ancient Lycia. The trail from Kaş to Limanagzi Bay is a popular option, allowing you to see ancient ruins and coastal views.

Start in the town center, where cobblestone streets will give way to a scenic, winding path through the pine forest. Enjoy intermittent glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea between the trees as you ascend the hill. While you walk, you'll come across ancient Lycian ruins framed by panoramic views of the coastline. When you descend, the tranquil bay, fringed by rugged cliffs, greets you. If you packed a swimsuit, jump in the crystal-clear waters for a refreshing swim before returning to Kaş on the same trail.

Day 9: Transfer to Pamukkale via the Ancient City of Xanthos

Wander around the ancient city of Xanthos
Say goodbye to the Turquoise Coast as your driver takes you four hours inland after breakfast to Pamukkale, a town in western Turkey known for its terraces of mineral-rich thermal waters. On the way, stop at the ancient city of Xanthos, which was the capital of the Lycian Kingdom in the second century BCE. Walk among the well-preserved Lycian tombs, theaters, and monuments until you come across the Xanthian Obelisk, a pillar dedicated to 12 Lycian gods.
After exploring the ruins, continue the drive to Pamukkale. When you arrive, check in at your hotel and enjoy the spa and thermal facilities on-site to wind down. 

Day 10: Relax in the Travertines of Pamukkale, Explore Hierapolis, Fly to İstanbul

Unwind in the mineral-rich waters at the Travertines of Pamukkale

After breakfast, head to the Travertines of Pamukkale to see the baby-blue waters the town is known for. 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 that are beneficial for the skin, such as calcium.

Nearby is the ancient Hierapolis, a Roman spa city founded by Apollo around 190 BCE. Explore the incredibly well-preserved theater and a necropolis, a cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments, and admire the Antique Pool, full of submerged Roman columns due to an earthquake. After a relaxing day, transfer to the airport for a one-hour flight to the largest city in Turkey, İstanbul.

Day 11: Explore the Vibrant City of İstanbul by Foot 

Climb up Galata Tower for panoramic views of the entire city

After a nourishing breakfast at the hotel, head out to explore the city on a guided tour. Start at Topkapı Palace, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries. See how royalty used to live by discovering the palace's throne room, courtyards, and even the old Sultans' quarters. Continue on your tour to the Spice Bazaar, one of the longest markets in the city. Smell the fragrant air as you browse the 85 shops selling local spices, nuts, coffee, tea, and Turkish delight. After refueling with a delicious lunch, take a ferry across the Bosphorus Strait to the Beyoğlu district.

Start your exploration of the European side of the city at St. Antoine's Catholic Church, built in 1725. Admire the neo-Gothic facade and twin spires before entering to see the elegant stained glass windows. The next stop is another iconic religious building, the Neve Shalom Synagogue. Neve Shalom means "Oasis of Peace," and you can see why the synagogue received this name as soon as you enter the tranquil space. Cap off this action-packed day with a stop at Galata Tower, taking an elevator to the top to enjoy panoramic views of Beyoğlu, the Golden Horn, the strait, and the historic peninsula.

Day 12: Guided Tour of Sultanahmet & the Grand Bazaar

Visit the iconic Blue Mosque and enter to see the intricate blue tiles lining its interior

Meet your guide for another action-packed day exploring the streets of İstanbul. Today's focus is the historic district, Sultanahmet, home to nearly all the important landmarks. Start at one of the city's most famous sites, the 17th-century Blue Mosque, named after the intricate blue tiles lining its interior. You can easily combine your visit with the Hippodrome, sitting on the west side of the mosque's courtyard. This ancient Roman stadium is now a park known as Sultanahmet Square, where you can admire the mosque's impressive exterior and the ancient Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius.

Head to the Hagia Sophia next, which was built before the Middle Ages in the year 537 CE, making it the largest building in the world during that time. It's difficult to fully understand the true size of this landmark until you enter and marvel at its interior. In the afternoon, follow your guide through the winding streets of the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Meander down the 61 covered streets to browse over 4,000 shops selling goods like Turkish rugs, lanterns, teas, and spices. After all that walking, return to the hotel to rest before dinner. 

Day 13: Boat Cruise on the Bosphorus Strait, Relax at the Hurrem Sultan Hammam

Treat yourself to a spa treatment at Hürrem Sultan Hammam

Start your day off right with a leisurely cruise along the Bosphorus Strait so you can admire the shores of both the European and Asian sides of the city. Listen as your guide teaches you about İstanbul's rich history as you sail past Ottoman palaces, ornate mosques, and elegant mansions that reflect the city's rich heritage. Disembark and return to your hotel to rest or continue to explore the city on your own.

In the evening, head to the Hürrem Sultan Hammam, a traditional Turkish spa designed and built by Mimar Sinan, one of the most important architects of the Ottoman Empire, at the request of his wife. Enter and admire the marble interior, intricate tilework, and elegant domes that create a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Choose the spa treatments you want to indulge in, such as a massage or body scrub, then sit back, relax, and enjoy being pampered.

Day 14: Boat Cruise to Büyükada, Tour of the Island

Cruise to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes' Islands

Leave the city behind this morning as you sail to Büyükada, 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 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 out again for dinner when you get hungry.

Day 15: Urban Hiking Tour, Depart İstanbul

Walk among the colorful Ottoman-era buildings in Balat

Spend your last day in Turkey on an urban hiking tour within the old city walls, starting in the Edirnekapı quarter. Stroll through the neighborhood, admiring the exterior of iconic religious sites, such as Kariye Mosque, Fethiye Mosque, Kanlı Church, and the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church. When possible, you can go in to explore the intricate details of these religious buildings before continuing to the neighborhood of Fener, situated on the shores of the Golden Horn.

Walk along the narrow, winding streets to admire the colorful Ottoman-era houses, charming shops, and vibrant street art. End your urban hike in the neighboring Balat, a multicultural neighborhood showcasing a kaleidoscope of Ottoman-era architecture. Meander the cobbled streets to discover hidden gems like the Church of St. Stephen of the Bulgars, built in 1849. After all that walking, return to the hotel to grab your bags, then meet your driver outside to transfer to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!

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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 Historic Highlights of Turkey: Cappadocia, Antalya, Kas, Pamukkale & Istanbul - 15 Days
Map of Historic Highlights of Turkey: Cappadocia, Antalya, Kas, Pamukkale & Istanbul - 15 Days