Get a perfect overview of Turkey's wonders in just one week, from Istanbul's iconic sites like the Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar to the valleys and underground cities of Cappadocia and the archaeological treasures of Ephesus. You'll also join an Anatolian cooking class, relax in Pamukkale's thermal waters, and haggle for souvenirs in one of the many markets, all while getting to know the country's people, culture, and history.


  • Explore the sites of Istanbul, from the Hagia Sophia to the Grand Bazaar
  • Venture through the fantastical valleys of Cappadocia 
  • Climb through the mazes of caves in the Kaymaklı Underground City
  • Discover the ancient city of Ephesus and see the Celsus Library
  • Enjoy the thermal hot springs and natural spas in Pamukkale

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in İstanbul, Whirling Dervish Ceremony İstanbul
Day 2 İstanbul Sightseeing: Visit the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia & Topkapı Palace İstanbul
Day 3 Discover İstanbul's Bazaars, Boat Ride on Bosphorus Strait İstanbul
Day 4 İstanbul Food Tour, Fly to Cappadocia Cappadocia
Day 5 Göreme Open Air Museum, Ceramics Tour in Avanos & Nature Walk Cappadocia
Day 6 Kaymaklı Underground City & Cooking Class, Fly to İzmir, Transfer to Şirince Şirince
Day 7 Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus Şirince
Day 8 Transfer to Pamukkale: Hot Springs, Roman Ruins & Spa Day Pamukkale
Day 9 Fly to İstanbul, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in İstanbul, Whirling Dervish Ceremony 

Experience a spiritual whirling dervish ceremony at Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi

Welcome to İstanbul! Steeped in history and culture, this "bridge between Europe and Asia" is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. Upon arrival, your guide will pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel to settle in after your journey. Later on, an afternoon of culture and performance awaits at the Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi, a former monastery and dervish lodge (or tekke) that's now a museum.

Here you'll witness the immersive spectacle of a whirling dervish ceremony. This physically active meditative performance dates back to the 13th century and the followers of the Persian poet and Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi Rumi. In addition to the hypnotic ceremony, you'll get a nice introduction to Turkey's history via the museum's cultural exhibits before your driver takes you back to your hotel to rest up for tomorrow's adventures.

Day 2: İstanbul Sightseeing: Visit the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia & Topkapı Palace

Check off iconic İstanbul landmarks like the beautiful Hagia Sophia

After a relaxing breakfast, your guide will take you on a six-hour tour that introduces you to the highlights of İstanbul. You'll start at Sultanahmet Square, a jumping-off point to many historical and cultural sites in the center. These include the Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern, incredible ruins that date back to the Byzantine era. You'll also stop at the Blue Mosque, built in the 17th century and earning its name from the stunning blue tiles that make up its interior. 

Next, you'll visit the Hagia Sophia. This iconic landmark of İstanbul's skyline dates back to 537 CE and was the largest building in the world at that time. Initially, it was built as a basilica for the Greek Orthodox Christian Church until 1453, when the Ottomans captured Constantinople and turned it into a mosque. Last, your guide will lead you to Topkapı Palace, the royal palace of the Ottomans. The exhibition halls offer a glimpse into the sultans' lives while showcasing the Empire's remarkable architectural heritage.

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Day 3: Discover İstanbul's Bazaars, Boat Ride on Bosphorus Strait

View the European and Asian sides of the city today with a boat trip along the Bosphorus

Today's four-hour tour will start at the colorful Grand Bazaar, one of the world's largest—and oldest—markets. Stroll through the mazes of shops selling rugs, lanterns, jewelry, and more. Haggle with merchants or sit for a Turkish tea at one of the many cafés inside. Next, your guide will take you to Eminönü, another bustling market on the harbor where it's believed Byzantium was born. Nowadays, it's known for its Spice Bazaar. Taste some spices for yourself, and treat your senses to the incredible colors and fragrances on show. You can also take some spices or dried fruit and nuts home as a souvenir. 

Finally, you'll rest your legs on a private boat ride along the Bosphorus Strait, admiring 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 Mosque, and take in the city's distinctive skyline—showcasing a juxtaposition of ancient minarets and modern skyscrapers.

Day 4: İstanbul Food Tour, Fly to Cappadocia

Turkish meze, a traditional appetizer presentation to try during an İstanbul food tour

Ready to dive into Turkish cuisine? Today, your guide will take you on a mouthwatering food tour through markets, restaurants, and street food stops. The tour is five hours long and stretches through many parts of the city, from Beyoğlu to Eminönü to the Asian side of the city in Karaköy. Bring your appetite because you'll get to try Turkish favorites like kebabs and traditional meze (small dishes such as yogurt, cheese, dips, and salads), deserts like baklava and katmer (a flaky pastry that dates back to ancient times), and of course plenty of çay (Turkish tea). 

Once you're full, it's time to say your goodbyes to İstanbul and head to the Kayseri Erkilet Airport, where the next leg of your journey begins as you catch a one-hour flight to Cappadocia. Located in Turkey's arid central region of Anatolia, this valley's otherworldly landscapes and wealth of ancient history and culture make it a must-visit destination. Upon arrival, your driver will take you to your hotel to get settled and rest up for tomorrow's in-depth explorations.

Day 5: Göreme Open Air Museum, Ceramics Tour in Avanos & Nature Walk

A view of the rock-cut formations in Love Valley, Göreme Historical National Park, Cappadocia

Start your first morning in Cappadocia with a 2.5-hour tour of its UNESCO-listed Göreme Open Air Museum. This ancient site was believed to be a Byzantine monastic settlement, and today it contains some of the most ornate rock-cut churches and frescoes in the world. There are various churches and chapels to see here, but the most prominent is the Dark Church, which dates back to the mid-11th century and is known for its beautiful frescoes and high-vaulted ceilings.

Next, you'll visit the city of Avanos for a three-hour tour. This city is famous for its exquisite ceramic production, which relies on red clay from the nearby Kızılırmak River. While here, you'll see a pottery demonstration of this traditional art. Afterward, you'll take a short nature walk (or opt for a horseback ride) through the Love Valley within Göreme Historical National Park. Walk amid the region's famous "fairy chimney" rock formations, take in windswept vistas over the lunar-like landscapes, and catch the memorable sight of a sunset over the valley.

Day 6: Kaymaklı Underground City & Cooking Class, Fly to İzmir, Transfer to Şirince

The Amazing Underground City of Kaymakli
Wander the maze of human-made caves in Kaymaklı Underground City

Today, your guide will take you on a two-hour tour of the Kaymaklı Underground City. Built by the early Christians in 3000 BCE to protect themselves from the religious persecution of Roman soldiers, this incredible site is an elaborate maze of tunnels and caves deliberately carved out of volcanic tuff rocks. Underground, you'll notice rooms and halls connected by narrow corridors, wine and water cellars, kitchen and food stores, ventilation shafts, and water wells; even a church was built and established by the inhabitants who feared outside attacks. 

Next, you'll attend an exciting cooking class taught by a local cook, who'll teach you what goes into creating traditional Anatolian recipes. Sit down afterward to enjoy your creations alongside your host, then say your goodbyes as you transfer back to the airport and board a 1.5-hour flight to İzmir on Turkey's Aegean coast. Here a driver will be waiting to transfer you an hour south to Şirince, a quaint, traditional village that serves as the perfect base for exploring the nearby ancient site of Ephesus.

Day 7: Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus

The Celsus Library in Ephesus, Turkey, is still preserved, but more excavations are to come

Step back in time today with a deep dive into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus—located just 20 minutes outside Şirince. The ruins of this city are beautifully preserved and are a testament to the Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian periods. Watch where you step, though; this ancient site still undergoes annual excavations, uncovering new sections and amazing artifacts yearly.

Once a beacon of philosophy, architecture, and art, Ephesus hosts the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as the Celsus Library, which was the epicenter of philosophical and intellectual life at one time. You'll explore other highlights like the House of the Virgin Mary and the Ephesus Archaeological Museum on today's six-hour guided tour, learning about significant figures of the Christian faith and delving into the museum collection that spans more than 8,000 years. When you're finished, you'll head back to your hotel in Şirince to call it a night. 

Day 8: Transfer to Pamukkale: Hot Springs, Roman Ruins & Spa Day

The hot springs at Pamukkale
Transfer east to reach the incredible terraced hot springs at Pamukkale

Today, your driver will take you 3.5 hours inland to Pamukkale, famous for its baby-blue, mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces. Pamukkale means "Cotton Castle" in Turkish and is a remarkable landscape comprising mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and a series of terraced basins. You'll get to soak in the hot springs while you're here and take in the incredible views.

Nearby is ancient Hierapolis, a Phrygian city thought to have been established as early as 190 BCE. Late rebuilt by the Romans as a thriving spa city, today you'll find a well-preserved theater and a necropolis, as well as the remarkable Antique Pool—whose clear waters are scattered with submerged Roman columns due to a seventh-century earthquake. After exploring, check into your spa hotel, where you can enjoy all the facilities, from the pools and sauna to the Turkish baths, massages, and hot spring baths. 

Day 9: Fly to İstanbul, Depart

A view of the skyline of İstanbul and the Bosphorus Strait

This morning, make sure all your things are packed! Your driver will take you from Pamukkale to İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport to catch your flight to İstanbul for your connection 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 Turkey at a Glance: Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus & Pamukkale - 9 Days
Map of Turkey at a Glance: Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus & Pamukkale - 9 Days