Not sure where to go? Try one of these common itineraries to take on your own, or mix and match destinations to plan your own independent trip.
1. Mediterranean Turkey
Approximate Time: 2 to 3 Weeks
Istanbul - Canakkale - Ephesus - Pamukkale - Fethiye - Antalya - Cappadocia - Ankara - Istanbul
Turkey truly is a country where East meets West. It offers something for every type of travel, whether you're looking for culture, history, natural beauty, or adventure. Most people travel through Western Turkey. Istanbul is the most common starting point. Allow yourself at least four, if not five or more days to explore this fascinating city. Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world and you should not limit your time there. Turkey is a large country and travel times between cities may be surprisingly long. If you're short on time you should consider taking at least one flight in order to keep travel times to a minimum. Alternatively, if you're short on money consider taking overnight buses. Buses in Turkey are usually efficient and comfortable and you will save both time and money by avoiding the cost of accommodation for the night.
From Istanbul, begin your loop by traveling to Canakkale and then on to Ephesus. Both destinations warrant at least one full day to fully explore them. From Ephesus, travel to Pamukkale. Although many people say Pamukkale lacks the appeal it once had, it still is a stunning and fun place to visit. From Pamukkale you can take a bus to the coastal city of Fethiye. Fethiye is a good jumping off point for several activities. Many people choose to hike for several days along the coastal trail known as the Lycean Way. This trail is well marked and accommodations are frequent so you do not need to carry camping equipment with you. The trail follows the coastline for hundreds of miles, but you can easily hike for a couple of days and then return to Fethiye by minibus. Alternatively, Turkey's popular Blue Cruises also leave from Fethiye. These boats travel with a handful of people along the dramatic coastline for several days, ultimately dropping you off in the town of Olympus. From Olympus you can continue on to Cappadocia, although you may have to change buses in Antalya. Cappadocia warrants at least a few days for hiking and exploration. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, allow yourself even more time to enjoy the area. From Cappadocia it may be worth taking a flight back to Istanbul. Alternatively, you can travel to Ankara and on to Istanbul. Ankara has little to offer travelers but is a good stopping off point on your way back to Istanbul. If you're heading further east you can also catch a bus on to Diyarbakir.
2. Eastern Turkey
Approximate Time: 2 Weeks
Diyarbakir - Hasankeyf - Mardin - Sanliurfa - Adiyaman - Diyarbakir
If you're looking for a slightly different experience then head on to Eastern Turkey. There are some very fascinating and culturally unique cities in Eastern Turkey. The people are warm and welcoming and will greet visitors with both enthusiasm and interest. Many people head east from Cappadocia, taking either a flight or an overnight bus to Diyarbakir. It is also possible to rent a car and travel independently with the freedom to explore. Diyarbakir is a large city with a great market and a long history. It warrants at least two days, if not more. From Diyarbakir you can spend a night in the small town of Hasankef and then travel on to Mardin. Accommodation in Hasankef is lacking so if you're interested in comfort then you may want to move to a new town before nightfall. Mardin sits in a spectacular setting. You truly feel that you've stepped back in time as you look out on this golden city. From Mardin head to the vibrant city of Sanliurfa (Urfa). Sanliurfa is a lively city with plenty of public spaces. You'll find families outside picnicking and children playing games. It's easy to feel like part of the community in Sanliurfa. From Sanliurfa move on to the famous Mt. Nemrut. Mt Nemrut is most recognized for the large statues that are found at its summit. These statues are assumed to be a royal tomb that dates back to the 1st century BC.
Throughout Eastern Turkey you will be greeted with warm smiles, friendly waves and lots of baklava. The markets are colorful and intriguing and the history if mesmerizing. Turkey is a large and diverse country and it is strongly recommended that you explore it on every level in both the east and the west.