From the "fairy castles" of Cappadocia to the Ottoman wonders of Istanbul, eight days in Turkey gives you enough time to check off a few of its greatest highlights. Start in the valleys of Cappadocia, where you'll watch the sunrise by hot-air balloon and explore underground cities and rock-cut fortresses. Stop over at the travertine cliffs of Pamukkale and ancient Hierapolis, then end in the city that spans two continents—cruising along the Bosphorus Strait and getting lost in the raucous bazaars of Istanbul.


  • Marvel at the valleys of Cappadocia on a hot-air balloon ride
  • Delve into the depths of Kaymaklı Underground City
  • Relax in the mineral-rich thermal waters of Pamukkale
  • Explore the dynamic Eurasian metropolis of Istanbul

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Kayseri, Transfer to Cappadocia, Dervish Ceremony Cappadocia
Day 2 Visit Göreme Open-Air Museum, Explore the Cappadocian Valleys Cappadocia
Day 3 Hot-Air Balloon Tour of Cappadocia, Discover Kaymaklı Underground City Cappadocia
Day 4 Transfer Across Central Turkey to Pamukkale Pamukkale
Day 5 Explore Pamukkale & Hierapolis, Fly to İstanbul  İstanbul 
Day 6 Unearth History in Byzantine, Ottoman İstanbul  İstanbul 
Day 7 Heritage Tour of İstanbul, Boat Ride on the Bosphorus İstanbul
Day 8 İstanbul Food Tour, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kayseri, Transfer to Cappadocia, Dervish Ceremony

Whirling Dervish Ceremony at Saruhan Caravansarai
You'll be welcomed to Turkey with a traditional whirling dervish ceremony at Saruhan Caravansarai

Welcome to Turkey! After landing at Kayseri Airport, you'll waste no time hopping on a quick 90-minute transfer to the beautiful land of Cappadocia. This famed region in the country's Central Anatolia region is renowned for its surreal rock formations, with cone-shaped "fairy chimneys" rising up from the ground. After checking in at the hotel and dropping off your luggage, head to the fascinating 13th-century roadside inn of Saruhan Caravansarai for a whirling dervish ceremony.

The mystical one-hour show dates back to ancient times and has become an integral tradition for those who follow Sufi Islam, giving them a way to connect and express their faith. It begins with the recital of various prayers and verses from the Quran. The highly-trained and talented dervishes then rise up and salute one another in their traditional robes and cloaks. They then start to spin across the floor, entering a sacred, trance-like state while chanting and traditional music sets the scene.

Day 2: Visit Göreme Open-Air Museum, Explore the Cappadocian Valleys

Admire the amazing rock-cut churches and buildings throughout the valleys of Cappadocia

Day two kicks off with a trip to Göreme Open Air Museum, home to incredible rock-cut churches and frescoes. You'll learn all about the time-honored technique of forging frescoes right into the rock while also getting to tour several of the area's ancient churches, with some dating all the way back to the 10th century. From there, you'll continue on to the town of Avanos, learning all about the town's ceramic-making past. You can even enjoy a live demonstration or try your own hand at the art of pottery.

The journey continues in the Love Valley, where you can enjoy a romantic, beginner-friendly hike among the heart-shaped rock formations, where legend says that two soldiers on opposing sides of a battle once fell deeply in love. Move on to Uçhisar, renowned for its natural, almost fantasy-like fortress. Tour the town, see the sights, and take in the sweeping views of Avcılar Valley, Çavuşin, and Paşabağ Valley, spying the famed fairy chimney rock formations in the distance.

Day 3: Hot-Air Balloon Tour of Cappadocia, Discover Kaymaklı Underground City

Conquer your fear of heights with a hot air balloon ride
Take a hot-air balloon flight above the valleys to watch them set aglow by the sunrise

The image of hot-air balloons floating above the valleys of Cappadocia is one of the most well-known, emblematic sights in all of Turkey. But why settle for simply watching it when you can live it? Enjoy the view from above with a three-hour hot-air balloon ride to start the day. Watch the sunrise from the sky and marvel as the fairy-tale landscape lights up all around you.

If one Turkish wonder isn't quite enough, enjoy a second before the day is done by taking a two-hour transfer to Kaymaklı Underground City. This place was constructed as a secret subterranean hideout by Christians centuries ago to hide from Roman soldiers. It's a weaving web of maze-like tunnels and caves, and you can learn all about it with an expert-led tour before finishing the day with a glass of locally-made wine back above ground as you watch the sun go down.

Day 4: Transfer Across Central Turkey to Pamukkale

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Stop to take in the sights of Konya on today's epic road trip to Pamukkale
Day four is primarily a travel day. You'll transfer from Cappadocia to Pamukkale, which translates to English as "Cotton Castle" for the white, cotton-like appearance of the calcium-rich natural spas that fill this area. The journey will be a long one, lasting for around eight hours in total as you voyage southwest across central Turkey toward the city of Denizli. Stop off at the city of Konya en route to break up the day, sampling some local pita and visiting the Mevlana Museum before finally arriving at your Pamukkale hotel and enjoying a soothing spa session to end the day. 

Day 5: Explore Pamukkale & Hierapolis, Fly to İstanbul

The hot springs at Pamukkale
Admire the baby-blue travertine cliffs at Pamukkale, where Ancient Greeks once used the natural hot springs

Today you'll take in the majesty of Pamukkale, a completely natural site made up of mineral-rich hot springs scattered across calcium-laden travertine cliffs. The landscape in this part of Turkey is a true sight to behold, with pictures and postcards simply failing to do it justice, and it's been used as a spa as far back as the days of Ancient Greece. You'll have several hours to admire the mineral forests and petrified waterfalls at your own pace, then take a soak in the healing waters to end your visit.

When the time is right, move on to the ancient city of Hierapolis. This Roman spa city was founded over 2,000 years ago, and legend says that the god Apollo created it. The ruins of the city are wonderfully well-preserved, with several sights to wander around, like a theater, necropolis, and the stunning Antique Pool, filled with sunken Roman columns. With your dive into the past complete, return to the modern day with a 5.5-hour flight from Denizli Airport to İstanbul, where you'll transfer to your hotel upon arrival.

Day 6: Unearth History in Byzantine & Ottoman İstanbul

Discover Byzantine + Ottoman Istanbul
Discover Byzantine and Ottoman landmarks around İstanbul, like the Hagia Sophia

You'll wake up this morning in İstanbul, one of the most vibrant and exciting cities on Earth. It's time to get out and explore, taking in the city's vast mosques, winding historic streets, and aromatic markets. Start your guided tour in the Old Town district, home of the city's oldest structures, where echoes of the past await at the end of every street. Pass landmarks like Sultanahmet Square, the Hippodrome, and the Basilica Cistern, learning about the city's storied past from your guide as you go.

Next, it's time to stop off at the city's two most impressive mosques. Begin with the Blue Mosque, so-called due to its brilliant blue-tiled interiors, dating back to the 17th century. Then move on to the legendary Hagia Sophia, built in 537 CE and well-known as one of the most visually breathtaking religious buildings in the world. With your tour of the mosque complete, another brief walk will take you to Topkapı Palace, the royal home of the Ottoman rulers from the 15th through 19th centuries.

Day 7: Heritage Tour of İstanbul, Boat Ride on the Bosphorus

Enjoy views of İstanbul's shore and skyline as you sail down the Bosphorus

A single day simply isn't enough to enjoy all that İstanbul has to offer. Fortunately, you have a whole second day to explore the city's historic marketplaces and ancient architectural sites. Begin your guided tour at the inimitable Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets on earth. With more than 60 streets and 4,000 shops to choose from, it's a shopaholic's dream come true. Move on to the Spice Bazaar, where the fragrance of spices and herbs fills the air, and enjoy the Rüstem Paşa Mosque, a small but exquisite mosque that hearkens back to the heyday of the Ottoman Empire.

After so much walking around, you might like to give your feet a rest. Step on board a public boat tour of the Bosphorus, the waterway that separates the European and Asian sides of İstanbul. You'll enjoy a gentle 90-minute cruise along the strait, admiring fabulous views of the city's long shores—the perfect way to end a memorable penultimate day in Turkey.

Day 8: İstanbul Food Tour, Depart 

Food Tour in Istanbul
Sample Turkish delicacies with a tasty food tour before your departure
For your final day in İstanbul, dive into the city's spectacular culinary scene with a guided food tour. You'll be taken around the various markets and street food stalls of the city's liveliest districts, like Beyoğlu and Karaköy, tasting everything from kebabs to baklava as you go. Local chefs, bakers, and vendors will be waiting to greet you, offering samples of meze, traditional cheeses, snacks, and sweet treats galore, and your expert guide will explain the origins and significance of each one. Then, with a full stomach and happy heart, take a 90-minute private transfer back to İstanbul Airport and head home. Safe travels!

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Map of Turkey's Top Landmarks Tour: Cappadocia, Pamukkale & İstanbul - 8 Days
Map of Turkey's Top Landmarks Tour: Cappadocia, Pamukkale & İstanbul - 8 Days