Most mornings in Cappadocia start with a hot air balloon sunrise. Check out the ultimate guide to exploring the best Turkey travel destinations on an epic road trip adventure! #turkeytravel #cappadocia #cappadociaturkey #cappadociaphotography

The Perfect Road Trip Through Turkey: A 6 Day Itinerary

Taking a road trip in Turkey ended up being a wonderful decision. At first, I was nervous about driving in Turkey. After arriving back home in the U.S., I found myself regularly wishing that driving here was as smooth as driving in Turkey.

If you’re considering a trip to Turkey, a road trip is a great option to see the country on your own schedule and see more of the beautiful countryside. Our six day itinerary for Turkey took us on a road trip from Isbanbul to Ephesus, Pamukkale, and Cappadocia.

This itinerary adjusts easily to fit your own schedule or to add or take out any stops. Some places we wished that we stayed longer. Others we felt like we planned it perfectly. Overall, our Turkey road trip was one of our favorite trips so far, and we would highly suggest it to anyone considering doing the same.

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Driving in Turkey

When we first decided on a road trip in Turkey, I was nervous. We have driven in a few countries other than the U.S. including Iceland, New Zealand, France, and Portugal. However, the news in the U.S. does not always portray Turkey in a positive light. Other than Iceland with its lack of traffic, Turkey is my favorite country to drive in so far.

The Best Parts of Driving in Turkey

In the U.S., slow traffic is supposed to stay to the right. The left lanes are supposed to be used primarily for passing. Traffic backs up when a slower driver decides to ride it out in the passing lanes. People get on an Interstate, get in the passing lane and stay there the entire drive until they need to exit.

In Turkey, people actually follow the rules about passing lanes. Throughout our hours of driving in Turkey, we never experienced traffic or delays other than in Istanbul. The traffic flowed smoothly, and people quickly moved out of your way if they were in the wrong lane. There are signs everywhere reminding drivers which lane to be in based on how and what they are driving.

The inside of Hagia Sophia from the upstairs.
Inside the Hagia Sophia

This overall made for an enjoyable experience. We saw how well this worked when everyone followed the rules. If someone stayed in a passing lane for too long, they quickly moved over when they saw you coming up behind them. As we learned the rules, other drivers were kind and not honking or yelling at us to get out of the way.

Driving in Turkey also gives you the freedom to make your own itinerary for your trip. You are not held to bus schedules or airport schedules (or time just sitting in the airport). We enjoyed having a car in each place we visited as well. We did not have to find a driver or wait for a taxi or bus to come by. Instead, we jumped in the car and went where we wanted and when we wanted.

The entryway into one of the best hotels in Cappadocia - Cappadocia Cave Suites. Check out the ultimate guide to exploring the best Turkey travel destinations on an epic road trip adventure! #turkeytravel #cappadocia #cappadociaturkey #cappadociahotel #cappadociaphotography

 

What to Watch Out for When Driving in Turkey

Despite everything we loved about driving in Turkey, there are a few things to watch out for and think about before driving in Turkey. We felt safe the entire time we were in Turkey. However, we found that driving in Istanbul was not our best idea. We also ended up stopped at a checkpoint for a little bit too.

Driving in Istanbul

Our first day of driving in Turkey was not so positive. We stayed in a hotel outside of the main tourist areas and close to the airport after arriving in Turkey late the night before. We decided to drive into the city instead of taking public transportation or taking a taxi since we already had a car. The concierge at the hotel suggested otherwise, and we should have listened.

There is not much parking near the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Some of the roads in the area are one lane and one way roads. In trying to find parking, we ended up all turned around in the one way streets.

There were not many signs telling you which way to go. We found out we were going the wrong way on the streets whenever someone turned down and came towards us. We backed down more streets than I care to admit. Everyone was kind, but it made for a stressful start to the trip.

Once we found our way out of the maze, we found a hotel and asked if we could pay to park there. The hotel was kind and let us park outside for a few hours for free. When we returned to Crowne Plaza Istanbul – Old City, we ended up eating there so that we did not just take advantage of their kindness. If we return to Istanbul, we would love to stay at this beautiful hotel with how kind they were to us!

Walking down the streets of Istanbul near the Blue Mosque.
The streets of Istanbul

Getting Stopped at a Checkpoint in Turkey

On our drive from Istanbul to Ephesus at the start of our trip, we drove up to a checkpoint. We passed several more checkpoints throughout our trip, but this was one of the first ones. This time the officer told us to stop. The other times the officer waved us through.

As you drive up to the checkpoint, the officer indicates if you need to pull over or not. This officer indicated for us to pull off into an area on the side of the road. We saw a few other cars already stopped with everything pulled out of the car.

While we had nothing to hide, we were not looking forward to having to unload everything and wait for it all to be searched. It was also a little nerve-wracking because we did not know the language and did not know what to expect.

Cappadocia Cave Suites, one of the best and most Instagrammable hotels in Cappadocia.
Cappadocia Cave Suites

As the officer approached the car once we pulled over, he asked for our passports and my husband’s driver’s license. I grabbed our backpack with those things in it and started going through them. This is where our story differs from others.

My husband is in law enforcement. Cops in the U.S. tend to travel with patches from their department to trade with others. We always take some on our trips to give away or trade. As I dug into the pocket with our passports, driver’s licenses, and international driver’s licenses, I saw the patches sitting right next to them.

I pulled out everything and proceeded to hand the documents to the officer. I also held out a patch and pointed at my husband and said, “Police.” He had been kind and professional before, but he stopped and asked my husband if it was true in limited English.

Through simple English, we managed to communicate and show the officer his law enforcement ID. He sent us on our way without searching anything. Before we left, we gave him the patch and told him to keep it. As we drove away, we saw him excitedly showing it off to his fellow officers.

Thanks to this, we did not end up having to go through the full search. In all of the other checkpoints, the officers simply waved us through.

Often times, if they see you are a tourist, they will also end up dismissing you without searching. At most checkpoints, it seemed to be mostly locals and not tourists pulled over. It is something to be aware of though.

Pamukkale's thermal pools, the Pamukkale Travertine, early in the morning.
Pamukkale’s thermal pools early in the morning

Things to Know Before Your Turkey Road Trip

Before we left the U.S., we made sure to have an International Driver’s License. All that it does is translate your license for you.

We always go through AAA and find the process relatively easy. You fill out the application that can be found here, take it to an AAA office with two passport photos and your valid driver’s license, and then pay them the fee (currently $20) for the license. You can also do it by mail if you can’t make it by one of their locations.

Once you are driving in Turkey, a common sight is flashing lights that appear from a distance to be a cop. When you get closer, you find it out is just a light on a pole. Sometimes there was a wooden cutout of a police car there to make it look more realistic. The main purpose appears to be to slow people down.

The exterior of the Hagia Sophia.
Outside of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

However, traffic cameras are popular throughout Turkey. Some of the flashing lights might be combined with the cameras. These primarily help with monitoring speeding and running red lights.

There are usually signs before you get to the camera. Sometimes it is a sign on the side of the road with a picture of a camera and TEDES under it. Sometimes they just paint TEDES on the road. Keep an eye out for these, especially if you tend to have a lead foot.

With a WiFi rental, driving in Turkey was easy. The maps loaded easily on our phones and told us exactly where to go.

If you use an iPhone, we found that Google Maps worked better than the native Apple Maps program most of the time in Turkey. Sometimes the Apple Maps program was off in terms of where it told us to go. Google Maps tended to show you exactly which lane to be in and gave us no problems in navigation.

One of the large doors at the Hagia Sophia.
One of the large doors to enter the Hagia Sophia

When to Take a Road Trip in Turkey

Our Turkey road trip took place in June. June seemed to be a perfect time for taking a road trip in Turkey, but I doubt there is a bad time for one. Traffic in the major cities will always be a problem.

Some of the areas are more crowded in July and August during peak tourist season. It does snow in Turkey, so make sure you are comfortable driving in snowy conditions if you visit in winter.

Driving from Istanbul to Cappadocia

Cappadocia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey thanks in part to its popularity on Instagram with the hot air balloons and stunning landscape. While we opted to drive to Cappadocia, there are other options as well.

You can fly to two different airports near Cappadocia. Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) is about an hour away, and Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV) is about 40 minutes away. Both have daily flights from Istanbul that are reasonably priced. Even if you fly to Cappadocia, a rental car is a good idea once you are there to get around.

Watching the hot air balloons at sunrise in Cappadocia from Cappadocia Cave Suites.
Watching the sunrise in Cappadocia from Cappadocia Cave Suites

We originally planned to fly to Cappadocia and then drive from Cappadocia to Pamukkale, Ephesus, and back to Istanbul. Then we decided to do the opposite and drive from Istanbul to Ephesus, Pamukkale, and Cappadocia before flying back to Istanbul. In the end, we drove the entire loop.

While the drive from Istanbul to Cappadocia is a long one at about 7 hours, we realized that by the time we drove to the airport about an hour away, waited for the flight, flew to Istanbul, dealt with getting our bags and taking a taxi, we could just make the drive. Plus, this saved us the one way rental fee, the cost of flights and the taxi fee from the airport in Istanbul to a hotel.

In addition to flying and driving from Istanbul to Cappadocia, you can also take a bus or go by train to Kayseri before catching a bus to Goreme. While there are a lot of good options, driving gives you more freedom to see what you want and when you want.

One of Cappadocia's best cave hotels - Cappadocia Cave Suites. Check out the ultimate guide to exploring the best Turkey travel destinations on an epic road trip adventure! #turkeytravel #cappadocia #cappadociaturkey #cappadociahotel #cappadociaphotography
Inside of Cappadocia Cave Suites

A Turkey Road Trip Itinerary

We only had six days in Turkey total. If you can spend more time in Turkey, even if you just to do this route, I would suggest closer to 10 days at least. We made the most of our time and hit the ground running though. This itinerary is easy to adjust to your own schedule and includes suggestions on where to add time if you have extra days to spend in Turkey.

Day 1: Istanbul

While technically we were in Istanbul for two days, we arrived from Iceland via Paris very late on the first day. By the time we gathered our bags, got our rental car, and drove to the hotel, it was already past 2 a.m.

After being up early to leave Iceland, spending the day exploring Paris, and then flying to Istanbul, we went straight to our hotel to sleep. We woke up after some good sleep ready to see as much as we could for our one day in Istanbul. If you have more time to spend in Istanbul, here are more activities in Istanbul to fill up your itinerary.

The view of the Hagia Sophia from inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
The view of the Hagia Sophia from the Blue Mosque

What to Do in Istanbul

Because of our limited time, we wanted to see the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque the most. By the time we woke up, packed our bags and checked out of the hotel, we lost a good chunk of the day. We ate lunch on the way into Istanbul in a little shopping center and went to a grocery store to buy snacks for the road trip.

After our issues with getting lost and finding parking near the city center mentioned earlier, we finally parked and started walking the right way in the mid-afternoon. We went to Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque first. Crowds filled the area around the Blue Mosque. With the crowds and knowing that Hagia Sophia closed first, we left to see Hagia Sophia and then returned later.

The chandeliers inside of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Check out the ultimate guide to exploring the best Turkey travel destinations on an epic road trip adventure! #turkeytravel #istanbul #istanbulturkey #istanbulturkeytravel #turkeyroadtrip
Inside of the Hagia Sophia
HAGIA SOPHIA

Thank goodness we went to the Hagia Sophia when we did. The Hagia Sophia closes at 7 p.m., but the last entry is at 6 p.m. We arrived at 5:58 p.m. This actually worked out well because it was empty.

Go either right when it opens or just before it closes for picture purposes. Once inside, we started upstairs and then wandered downstairs. The building is beautiful even with all the construction going on inside.

If you visit late in the evening, make sure to go upstairs first. They closed the upstairs part by about 6:30 to start moving people towards the doors. By 6:45, they also asked people to start leaving downstairs. If you want more time, make sure to get there earlier than we did.

Being there at closing meant we had almost the whole place to ourselves. The security guards were mostly kind in asking people to leave, and one stopped to take a picture for us since no one else was around.

A woman inside of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul admiring the chandeliers.
Inside of the Hagia Sophia near closing
BLUE MOSQUE

After leaving the Hagia Sophia, we went back to the Blue Mosque. The park between the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque filled with people waiting in the park to enjoy iftar. The atmosphere was quiet for how many people were in the park area.

Make sure to bring our own head covering as a female visiting the Blue Mosque. They rent out head coverings during certain hours of the day. We visited after it closed. We watched many women turned away at the gate for not being dressed appropriately or having a head covering. Because I brought my own, we walked right in.

Looking through one of the gates at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
The entrance to the Blue Mosque

People filled the courtyard area. Because it was a time of prayer, we opted not to go inside. I did not want to be disrespectful or go inside just to look around or take pictures during the prayer time. We planned to come back on our last day in Istanbul at the end of the trip anyways.

That ended up not working out so well either. We got up early to go on the last morning of our trip, but we did not realize it was the end of Ramadan. The streets were crowded in the early morning.

We found ourselves among the crowds as we made our way to the Blue Mosque. Upon realizing what was happening, we again opted not to go in and look around. We did not want to interrupt or do something to offend the worshipers.

The courtyard of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
Inside the gates of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Because we stayed in Istanbul at the beginning and end of our trip, we ended up staying in two different hotels. We also interacted with the staff and enjoyed a meal at the Crowne Plaza Istanbul – Old City. If we return one day, we would love to stay there after how kind and helpful their staff was and how beautiful the hotel was.

Our first night, we stayed at WOW Istanbul Hotel. The beautifully designed hotel is just a few minutes from the Istanbul Ataturk Airport. Because we arrived so late at night, it was perfect for us.

While we did not have time to enjoy them, the hotel has a fitness center and indoor pool. Located about 25 minutes away from the main tourist sites, you can use public transportation to get in to the core of the city or take a taxi.

Inside the lobby of the WOW Hotel in Istanbul.
Lobby of the WOW Hotel Istanbul

On our last night in Istanbul at the end of the trip, we stayed in the Antis Hotel. If you want to stay near the main attractions and travel on foot in Istanbul, this hotel is perfect.

Located less than half a mile (less than 800 meters) from the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, walking to them is easy with lots of restaurants and shops along the way. The Grand Bazaar is less than a mile (1600 meters) away as well. From the rooftop restaurant, you can enjoy the view of the Blue Mosque.

Our room looked out over the city with a view of the water as well. The room was clean and the staff friendly and helpful. While the streets were narrow, it was not as bad as our first day driving in Istanbul. Because it is on the outskirts of the smaller streets, we could quickly access the main roads.

We highly recommend any of these three hotels if you are staying in Istanbul, but if you want more options, you can search for a wider variety of hotels in Istanbul here.

The view of Istanbul from Antis Hotel at sunrise
View of Istanbul from our room at Antis Hotel

Day 1 & 2: Istanbul to Ephesus

After enjoying a quick bite to eat, we hit the road that evening to start making our way to Ephesus. The drive from Istanbul to Ephesus takes about five and a half hours (320 miles or 515 km).

We originally hoped to stay up late and make the drive all at once. We wanted to be able to see the ruins of Ephesus in the morning before the crowds. However, after about three hours on the road, we realized we needed to stop. We were both too tired to continue driving.

We found Onhann Hotel on our way and stopped there for the night. While we did not stay long, the hotel was beautiful and the breakfast was a perfect start for our day. The next morning we continued our last two and a half hours to get to Selcuk and Ephesus.

The drive is mostly on interstates with little to no traffic. On the first part of the drive, darkness kept us from seeing much. On the second part of the drive, we enjoyed the scenery around us. I found myself thinking multiple times about how Turkey was much prettier than I even imagined.

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus at sunset.
The Library of Celsus in Ephesus

Day 2: Ephesus

Once we arrived in Ephesus, finding food was our first order of business. We ate outside near the ruins at Agora Restaurant and enjoyed relaxing while we ate. Our next stop was the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Finally, we made it to the ruins of the Biblical city of Ephesus around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. (find our full one day guide to Ephesus here).

We only stayed at the ruins until closing (actually a little after since there was an event that night). The highlight of the ruins is the Library of Celsus. The ruins are impressive and extensive. You stroll along the main streets of the old city with main stops including the two theaters and the area where the rich lived.

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus.
The Library of Celsus

With only an afternoon in Ephesus and a few hours in the ruins, we felt like that was a good amount of time. However, there are other things to see in this area if you have time to spare. For example, the house that legend says Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived until her death is near the ruins.

Ephesus is also a popular day trip from the cruise port and beach holiday destination of Kusadasi. If you are looking to extend your road trip to make an extra stop and want to enjoy Turkey’s beaches, this is one place you could add extra time and an extra stop. Keep in mind that the tours from Kusadasi keep the ruins full during the middle of the day.

If you plan to stay overnight in Ephesus instead of along the road like we did, there are many options much closer to the ruins and in nearby Selcuk as well. If you plan to take a side trip out to Kusadasi, there are a myriad of hotel options including many along the water.

The Temple of Artemis in Selcus, Turkey, is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Day 2: Ephesus to Pamukkale

The drive from Ephesus to Pamukkale is much shorter than the drive from Istanbul to Ephesus. The drive only takes about two and a half hours (122 miles or 196 km). Once we finished at the ruins and grabbed dinner, we decided to go ahead and make the drive to Pamukkale that night.

If you want to skip Ephesus and drive straight from Istanbul to Pamukkale, that is an option as well. From Istanbul, it is about a six hour drive to Pamukkale. If you need to stop along the way, Onhann Hotel is still on this path as well.

The thermal pools of the Pamukkale Travertines, the thermal pools in Pamukkale, Turkey
The Pamukkale thermal pools

Day 3: Pamukkale

Pamukkale went on my bucket list in high school. We arrived late at night and spent the night at Richmond Pamukkale Thermal, located about 10 minutes from Pamukkale’s famous thermal pools. The hotel was amazing.

For $75, our room at the hotel included dinner and breakfast. They also upgraded us to a suite with a huge balcony just because they had one available (no, they did not know about my blog or Instagram).

We arrived late in the evening, and dinner ended before we arrived. However, they sent us two plates of food to our room when we asked if it ended already. The service at this hotel was top-notch, and we really enjoyed our stay here.

While we did not need long at the thermal pools, if you need some down time to relax on your Turkey road trip, spend a few nights at the Richmond Pamukkale Thermal or another nearby hotel with a thermal pool.

Our hotel had their own thermal pool and regular pool for swimming and relaxing. When crowds fill the thermal pools of Pamukkale, head back and relax without the crowds at the hotel. The food provided for breakfast and dinner were delicious. We really enjoyed our stay here and can’t say enough good things about this hotel.

The balcony and view from Richmond Pamukkale Hotel.
Our balcony and view

As for the thermal pools, they are beautiful, but there are definitely some expectation versus reality moments there. Check out this blog post for a full review of our time in Pamukkale including what to really expect.

Make sure to go early or stay late if you want to avoid the crowds. It is a popular spot for tours which makes it crowded most of the day. There are several entrances to Pamukkale, and the pools that are less crowded are the ones closest to the bottom of the hill and the town entrance.

We opted not to stay at the thermal pools for long despite their beauty. We left by 10 a.m. as the crowds continued to pour in.

Entrance to the ruins of Hierapolis come with your entry ticket, and there is an option to swim in Cleopatra’s pool for an extra fee. Even with those activities, one day in Pamukkale is enough unless you want a relaxing spa vacation in one of the nearby hotels.

The thermal pools of Pamukkale near opening.
The Pamukkale Travertines

Day 3: Pamukkale to Cappadocia

We also left the thermal pools early to start our drive from Pamukkale to Cappadocia. The drive takes almost seven hours (380 miles or 610 km).

With a longer drive ahead of us, we opted to hit the road and try to make it to Cappadocia for sunset. While it is a longer drive, it is a pleasant drive with views to enjoy along the way. Once again, we experienced no traffic on the drive between the two.

If you are staying in Cappadocia and wanting to see Pamukkale, plan to stay overnight. Because the drive from Cappadocia to Pamukkale takes seven hours and the thermal pools take at least an hour or so minimum, plan to spend the night in Pamukkale. Really, if you are driving all that way, you won’t want to just see the pools and then leave again.

While I loved the thermal pools, driving fourteen hours round-trip just to see them is a bit much. It makes sense to stop and see them if you are taking a road trip. Don’t do a day trip from Cappadocia to Pamukkale unless you are doing a tour or can take turns driving.

Trying to make it there and back in a day means you miss out on really enjoying Pamukkale. Spending the night gives you more time to enjoy the thermal pools and Hierapolis ruins.

Watching a hot air balloon sunrise in Cappadocia.
Watching a magical sunrise in Cappadocia

Day 4 & 5: Cappadocia

Cappadocia is just as beautiful and amazing as it looks. From the fairy chimneys to the cave churches to the hot air balloons, Cappadocia is magical. We got to our hotel just after sunset the first night and made it an early night to be up for the famous Cappadocia hot air balloon sunrise the next morning.

On our first morning, we woke up a couple of hours before sunrise to get ready and make sure we did not miss the balloons. Our hotel, Cappadocia Cave Suites, had multiple viewing areas all perfect for pictures. The best part? We had it all to ourselves for almost the entire sunrise.

While many of the Instagram famous hotels have similar views, you also fight for your turn to get the shot. We had no problems like this at Cappadocia Cave Suites and loved our stay there.

Cappadocia Cave Suites, a cave hotel in Goreme, Turkey. Check out the ultimate guide to exploring the best Turkey travel destinations on an epic road trip adventure! #turkeytravel #cappadocia #cappadociaturkey #cappadociahotel #cappadociaphotography
Cappadocia Cave Suites
Cappadocia Cave Suites, a cave hotel in Goreme, Turkey. Check out the ultimate guide to exploring the best Turkey travel destinations on an epic road trip adventure! #turkeytravel #cappadocia #cappadociaturkey #cappadociahotel #cappadociaphotography
Cappadocia Cave Suites

After sunrise, we went to see the Goreme Open Air Museum and Pasabagi (Fairy Chimney Valley). The Goreme Open Air Museum is full of cave churches, some with the original frescoes still inside. Pasabagi is Instafamous for the photo opportunity near the naturally occurring arch there. Both are perfect Instagram photo spots in Cappadocia.

It really helps to have a car in Cappadocia. While most of the main sites are within a mile or two of town, the weather in summer is warm. There are tours and taxis, but we loved the freedom of just getting in the car and going to see the sites on our own schedule.

Renting a car gave us the freedom to visit locations when we wanted. Plus, if a tour came through at the same time, we just waited until they left a few minutes later with no pressure.

Pasabagi or Fairy Chimney Valley in Cappadocia, one of the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia.
Pasabagi or Fairy Chimney Valley
Goreme Open Air Museum's cave churches in Cappadocia.
Goreme Open Air Museum

For sunset that first day, we drove out to Panoramic View Point. Once again, renting a car paid off. We saw the crowded parking lot at the view point and opted to turn back. Further down the road, there are several roads less traveled. We opted for one of those and enjoyed a spectacular sunset that turned the hills around us pink.

Our next morning in Cappadocia started just as early with a trip up the hill to Sunset Point. Despite the name, it is actually perfect for sunrise and a free place to watch the balloons. While the view is amazing, we loved Cappadocia Cave Suites so much that we ended up heading back there early to watch the rest of the sunrise balloon flights.

Rose Valley in Cappadocia. Check out the ultimate guide to exploring the best Turkey travel destinations on an epic road trip adventure! #turkeytravel #cappadocia #cappadociaturkey #cappadociahotel #cappadociaphotography
Rose Valley in Cappadocia

Our last stop before heading back from Cappadocia to Istanbul was a place I looked for the entire time. I saw it on Instagram before we went and loved the look of the landscape there. Each person I asked was not sure of the location.

We decided to drive around some and find something similar. We went to the area where the hot air balloons take flight and realized it was the spot I wanted. The exact directions and what to put in your map app to get there are on this post. From there, it was time to head out.

While I loved our time in Cappadocia, I wish we had more time. I probably could wake up every morning to the hot air balloon sunrises for the rest of my life. Ideally though, just one more day would have probably been enough.

If you have three full days to spend in Cappadocia, take the time and spent it in town and exploring the surrounding areas. If you enjoy hiking, there are plenty of trails in the area. I would love to go back one day to do some hiking there.

For everything you need to know about Instagrammable spots in Cappadocia, where to stay, and what not to miss, check out our full Cappadocia 3 day itinerary here.

Looking out over Cappadocia Cave Suites and nearby cave hotels in Goreme, Turkey
The view from Cappadocia Cave Suites
One of the cave rooms at Cappadocia Cave Suites
Cappadocia Cave Suites

 

Day 5 & 6: Cappadocia to Istanbul & One Last Night in Istanbul

In the late morning, we started our drive back to Istanbul. The drive from Cappadocia to Istanbul takes a little over 7 hours (457 miles or 735 km). While you go through Ankara, we still experienced very little traffic until we got close to Istanbul. By driving this loop instead of flying back, we saw much more of the beautiful countryside.

While we hoped to be back in Istanbul in time to experience the Grand Bazaar, it closed about 5 minutes after we arrived. We ate at a street cafe on the way back to the Antis Hotel and enjoyed wandering the streets until sunset. The next morning we went to the Blue Mosque again to beat the crowds. Instead we found it crowded before sunrise to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Istanbul is another area to spend more time. We had a total of one day and one evening to see Istanbul, and that was not enough. If we go back one day, I plan to spend at least two to three full days in Istanbul to see more of what the city has to offer.

One of Istanbul's cafes near the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.
Where we ate for our last night in Turkey

Why Visit Turkey?

Turkey is a beautiful country with diverse landscapes and so much to offer in terms of travel destinations. Even my high expectations thanks to social media did not diminish the beauty of the country. If you are considering a road trip through Turkey, do it.

If you had not considered it before, put it on your bucket list and go. We hope to return to experience more of Turkey one day.

For more Turkey travel tips, check out our guides for one day in Ephesus, one day at the Pamukkale travertines, and three days in Cappadocia.

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80 Comments

      1. Thank you! I hope you’re able to go. I loved your time in Australia, and I’m looking forward to all of your new European adventures!

    1. I’ve wanted to visit Turkey for so long but this looks like a cool, different want to travel through the country. Your pics are amazing and make me want to go immediately

      1. Thank you so much! We really enjoyed the freedom of a road trip, especially since we weren’t sure how long we wanted to spend in each place when we first started out. I hope you can go sometime soon!

    1. What a gorgeous guide! The colours of Turkey are incredible. Hoping to get back there in the next couple of hears and do a similar trip.

      1. Thank you so much! I hope you can make it happen 🙂

    1. I have to say that Turkey wasn’t really at the top of my list of places to visit and I certainly never thought of driving there but I loved reading how effortless (outside of Istanbul) it was. The checkpoints would freak me out a bit too but I’m glad it worked out for you guys. That cave hotel in Cappadocia though, my goodness, it’s stunning! Sign me up!

      1. Thank you so much! Luckily they try to leave tourists alone for the most part with checkpoints from what I’ve learned since then. As long as you don’t drive too much in Istanbul, it’s a perfect road trip. Cappadocia is stunning in general – so many beautiful hotels and landscapes and views. Hope you can get there one day!

    1. Turkey has always been a dream trip of mine but had never thought of doing a road trip there. I really want to now! Loved how you provided such great info and really captured the beauty of Turkey!

      1. Thank you so much! I hope you’re able to get there one day soon – definitely consider doing a road trip to get around Turkey 🙂

    1. Your photos are SO beautiful! I feel like if I were to take this road trip through Turkey I would really want to take my time, as there is just so much to see and soak in!

      1. Thank you! I really wish we had more time to slow down some and to also add in some of the beach towns along the coast. Next time hopefully we can do more. We were trying to save a few days to see family in Belgium when we were in Europe this time, and I’m glad we did.

      1. I felt like we didn’t have enough time in Istanbul. Hopefully we can do back one day to see more of Istanbul and you can go back one day to see more of Turkey!

    1. This is such a great itinerary 😀 I’ve never considered driving in Turkey before but it sounds like it gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility. Cappadocia is on my wishlist for sure – your photos from the trip are stunning!

      1. Thank you so much! It really was a pleasant place for a road trip. I’m so glad we drove instead of trying to fly or taking overnight buses.

    1. We are so pleased we found this – we have always wanted to visit Turkey and do something other than a package holiday. Thank you for sharing such a fantastic idea ????????

      1. Wow what a wonderful photos and story Christine! Those cave suites look amazing! Thanks for sharing your tips!! Warm regards, Elisa

        1. Thank you so much! The cave suites are definitely dreamy and were a bucket list item for me. Thanks again!

    1. Wow!! This was an epic trip. Your photos are absolutely incredible! You’ve definitely inspired me to get over to Turkey ASAP!

    1. This is such an amazing guide! Loved the details you provided and your photos are incredible! Thanks for sharing such great things to do!

    1. I’m in love with Istanbul and would love to go back and also see more of the country. This Turkey road trip sounds so perfect for that next trip! Thanks for sharing your itinerary and driving tips as well! I was worried about driving in other countries, but it sounds like it was a breeze here.

      1. We haven’t had too hard of a problem in any of the countries other than driving on the opposite side of the road – that throws you off a little bit! I hope you can go back one day – I’d love to go back and see more of Istanbul since I know we missed so much there.

    1. Beautiful photos. It seems like there’s so much to see in Turkey, beyond Istanbul. My dad and I had an agreement that we would go to Istanbul together (it’s one of the few places he was really excited about) because of it’s historical significance. It’s still very much on my list even though he’s no longer here. 🙁 My husband is still worried about the safety aspect. Aside from the initial checkpoint nerves, did you ever feel unsafe, particularly in Istanbul? I love the story about giving the officer the badge. That’s a neat tradition that I didn’t know about with police officers. Very cool.

      1. Thank you so much! There really is so much to see. I’m sorry that you did not get to go with your dad. I’m sure it will still be special for you when you go although I can imagine there will be some mixed emotions for you. Honestly, I never felt unsafe. We were worried about safety there too, but we did not have any problems. I know things can change quickly, but when we went last June, we had no problems. We made sure not to get too close to the Syrian border as that’s where most of the warnings come from, but we felt safe in each area we visited. In Istanbul, there are lots of cops/military around, especially at the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. They are heavily armed and appear to be ready should anything happen. That made me feel safer as it is more likely to dissuade someone from attacking with them there.

    1. Holy wowsers.. the pictures you’ve captured on your road trip are absolutely stunning! I’ve yet to visit Turkey but your post has inspired me. We actually just got back from a road trip through Malaysia and we visited a mosque that’s been modelled after the Blue Mosque. I’m dying to go see the original one now!

      1. Thank you so much! I haven’t been to Malaysia yet, but it is on my list. I’d love to see the version of it there whenever we end up going!

    1. I’m obsessed with Turkey and can’t wait to go back someday. I never thought to do a road trip, but it looks like an incredible way to see the country!

      1. It really was. I hope you can go back one day. I know I’d love to return and see more as well as revisit these spots.

    1. Lovely photos! Istanbul sounds a bit like NZ! I find it hard driving in Christchurch just because the signs aren’t very clear.
      Great thorough post! It’s always nice to know what to expect

      1. Thank you! We didn’t spend much time driving in the cities in New Zealand, but that would have made it even harder than already driving on the opposite side of the road 🙂

    1. This is going to come in such good use! I head to Turkey on August 10th and have pinned this to use it on my trip!

      1. Awesome! I hope you have a great trip and love it as much as we did. If you’re interested, check out my posts on Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Pamukkale for more information on them as well.

      1. Thank you! I hope you can take this trip sometime!

    1. This is a great detailed itinerary. The cave suites looks so beautiful and what a spectacular view of the hot air balloons. This seems like a favorite place. Cappadocia is synonymous with hot air balloons and wish to be able to visit someday.

      1. Thank you! Cappadocia was definitely a favorite – I had high expectations, and it met and even exceeded them. I hope you can go!

    1. Your photos are absolutely STUNNING. And Turkey is just gorgeous! It’s never been a country high on my bucket list, but I think that needs to change soon. Such an informative post (: A road trip seems like the best way to explore Turkey!

      1. Thank you so much! It really is a beautiful country with so many unique places to see!

    1. Gorgeous photos and a great itenerary. Next time I head back to Turkey, I definitely want to do part of the trip in a car!

      1. I was really impressed with how smoothly the driving went (other than in Itanbul!).

    1. Love this post! Turkey is one of my absolute favourite countries!! and I’d love to return for a third time. I’ve never thought about driving in Turkey and would be a little bit worried about the language difficulties but your post makes me think it’s worth considering.

      1. As long as you have a map system on your phone, driving in Turkey (outside of Istanbul at least) is pretty easy. Most of the roads had numbers, so that helped too. Even at the checkpoint, the officer spoke enough English for us to communicate, and we had Google Translate to help if needed. Turkey really is amazing, and I’d love to go back one day!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience and your trip. I have been to Istanbul and to the beach in the South but driving sounds like a fun way to explore the country!

      1. It was a good way to get around and see everything we wanted on our own schedule. I’d love to go back to see the southern coast of Turkey and to visit some of the beaches.

    1. I am CRACKING UP at the idea of a police cut out to scare people into slowing down!!!! Hahah, I freakin’ love Turkey! <3

      1. I had never seen anything like it! Although since we came back to the US, the neighborhood down the street from us put in one of the flashing blue and red lights like a cop is there. You can’t tell from far away since it is just inside the neighborhood. When you drive by, you realize it isn’t the police after all. Maybe it will become more common to have these “fake” cops to get people to follow the laws for at least a few seconds.

    1. I love this so much! I’ve only been to Istanbul but would love to do a more comprehensive trip to Turkey in the near future. Awesome post.

      1. Thank you so much! I hope you get to visit Turkey for a road trip sometime soon!

    1. I’ve been to Cappadocia and really want to explore more of Turkey but I was concerned that it wasn’t safe to do so at the moment. Your post has encouraged me to think more about it.

      1. We worried about if Turkey was safe to visit too, but I really felt safe the entire time. It is always worth checking into current political situations in the area, and we did not go over near the border of Syria because of problems going on in that area at the time.

    1. certainly only my boyfriend can drive us through, but yeah, road trip is always our favorite coz we can control the trip plan by ourselves and reach somewhere not easy for general tourism!!! great guide

    1. I’ve always known about Turkey as a country. But never as a place to visit as a tourist…..until earlier this year! Seriously, I’ve been living under a rock for the past 40+ years or something. Your post is so in depth. Cappadocia is so on my to-visit list now.

      1. You will love Cappadocia! I could wake up for those sunrises every morning and never get tired of it!

    1. What stunning images! Cappadocia has been on our bucket list for a while but it looks like Turkey has so much more to offer! The Library of Celsus looks especially magical. Thanks for the fantastic guide!

      Hannah

      1. It really does have more to offer than Istanbul and Cappadocia. I was surprised by the beauty just walking around. I’d love to go back and see more one day.

    1. Love this guide and all of your photos Christine! I would love to do a road trip in Turkey!

    1. I’ve never been more excited to drive in another country! This road trip looks awesome!

      1. You would love it! And I would love the stories you got out of it 🙂

    1. Wow this looks stunning! I’ve always wanted to road trip through Turkey but this seems like such a great guide – I’m saving for later!

    1. I have used your road trip for inspiration for my own upcoming trip to Turkey and wondering you could share which hotel you saltwater in the first night near the airport
      TIA I love your blog ????

      1. Thank you! We stayed at the WOW Istanbul Hotel. If you look for the heading “Where to Stay in Istanbul”, I have an affiliate link to it if you want to use it to book 🙂

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