Places to visit in Turkey: The classic ‘Cultural Triangle’ Itinerary

We spent 10 days in Turkey with our 15-month-old daughter. Places to visit in this richly historical land are too many to fit in 10 days. As first-time travelers to this country, we stuck to the classic itinerary; visiting what is popularly termed as the Cultural Triangle – Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus.

Our Turkey itinerary of 10 days gave us a chance to see the historic sights in Istanbul at a leisurely pace, experience the unusual landscape in Cappadocia and transported us back to the Roman era in Ephesus.

Turkey 10-day Itinerary Overview

Istanbul – stay at Sultanahmet area for 3 days (flight from Delhi to Istanbul)

Cappadocia region for 3 days (direct flight from Ataturk to Kayseri)

Sirince / Ephesus – 1 day (direct flight from Kayseri to Izmir)

Istanbul – stay at Besiktas for another 3 days (direct flight from Izmir to Ataturk)

Places to visit in Istanbul (Sultanahmet)

Day 1: We took a direct flight from Delhi to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. A smooth 1/2 hour taxi ride and we checked into our hotel – Four Seasons Istanbul – in Sultanahmet area. I do recommend a stay in Sultanahmet so that the top attractions are all nearby, and it is easy to go back to the hotel for the breaks needed with a kid.

Istanbul is a treasure trove for anyone who loves history, architecture, and culture. Do read my Istanbul Itinerary: Best places to visit in the city that straddles East and West

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
If you think this is spectacular, just wait till you see the inside of Hagia Sophia.

The weather was bright and sunny and we decided to hit the top sights in Sultanahmet area. Walking to the point where you see the Blue Mosque on one side and the Hagia Sophia on the other is fantastic. I personally like the Hagia Sophia way more – the mosaics, the history, the sheer number of additions and changes that this monument has gone through is amazing.

Day 2: Because of the 2.5 hour time difference (between Istanbul and Delhi), my daughter woke up at 5 am the next morning. Ouch!

We went for an early morning walk to get oriented with the area. We took some beautiful shots of the meandering roads and the waterside with hardly any people around. And obviously ended at Topkapi Palace way before opening time.

places to visit in turkey
Going early to any popular site gives you the best experience.

My top tip for Topkapi would be to pay the extra money and see the harem – the old time sultans sure knew how to live life king size!

After lunch, we decided to go visit Grand Bazaar. The taxi driver did not want to use the meter and demanded 10 (Turkish) lira to drop us at the market. We were really tired after all the walking in the palace and decided to hop in. And this is where my extensive research failed – I had not noted that the bazaar is closed on Sundays. We asked the taxi driver to take us back to the hotel (this time using the meter).

Day 3: We decided to cover Grand Bazaar today morning. And even after coming from India, where there are plenty of colourful markets, this covered bazaar is an enjoyable and different experience.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
Colours and interesting artifacts everywhere

I tried my (supposedly) time-tested haggling skills with one shopkeeper and most probably it failed – I paid too much for the small leather bag I bought!

We had a flight to Cappadocia region in the evening, so we kept the sightseeing light. The top attractions in Sultanahmet area can be covered in 2 days if you are crunched for time.

Places to visit in Cappadocia

Day 4: We had arrived at Urgup the night before and went to bed early and checked into a fantastic cave hotel – Esbelli Evi. My husband and I were doing the hot air balloon experience separately (our 15-month baby was not allowed and hence we decided to split up instead of missing out on the experience altogether) and he had to get up very early the next day.

It is advisable to rent a car for your duration in Cappadocia, it makes exploring easy and fun.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
A Hot Air Balloon ride is an unmissable experience to see the Cappadocia landscape.

We explored the Deverant valley, Zelve open air museum and then Uchisar town, and finally Goreme museum. We ended the day at Kizilcukur, popularly known as sunset point.

Day 5: Today was my turn to get up early for the hot air balloon experience. And it turned out to be memorable. Unlike the day before when it was quite windy and my husband experienced a bumpy landing, my flight was very smooth.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
The Rose Valley in Cappadocia from high up.
turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
The drive through the Ilhara Valley makes for a pleasant day.

After a great breakfast, the three of us drove out to explore a different area – Ihlara valley. Our first stop for the day was at Kaymakli underground city.

Day 6: We decided to take it easy today.

The baby had had enough of loony parents driving her around and hiking in the hot sun. We spent most of the day playing with her in the garden, except for a nice drive to Ayvali village for lunch. It was a tough choice between Old Greek House at Mustafapasha and Gamirasu hotel at Ayvali!

Our hotel had arranged for a shuttle transfer to the airport in the evening for a late flight to Izmir. We took this option only because it was a direct flight.

Do read my Cappadocia Travel Guide – What to do in Cappadocia: An other-worldly destination

Places to visit in Sirince / Ephesus

Day 6: Ephesus was our third stop before going back to exploring more of Istanbul in our10-day action-packed Turkey Itinerary. A direct flight from Kayseri got us to Izmir and then we had prearranged an airport pick-up from the hotel. Although this was an expensive option, our flight was late in the evening and we wanted a comfortable way of reaching the hotel.

Despite the pre-arrangement, it was eerie when we got out of Izmir and started climbing the hill roads in Sirince village. Our chosen hotel, Nisanyan sits right at the top. We were really late and there was no one to receive us. The taxi guy (who works only for hotel guests) showed us the keys to the room and we fell into bed exhausted.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
The lovely Sirince valley is a sight to behold.

Day 7: The next morning rewarded us with a beautiful view of Sirince valley.

And we got introduced to the resident peacock, peahen, and the goose while having a leisurely breakfast. My daughter, Kaavya couldn’t have been more delighted.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
The resident peacock at Nisanyan, that my daughter wouldn’t leave alone!

We planned to visit Ephesus post lunch, and later we postponed that to 4 pm. This was a good decision. We reached the site around 5 pm – the sun wasn’t hot and most of the tourist buses had left.

Since the site is open till 730 pm, this gave us enough time to wander around this amazing site, see the Terrace houses (ticket windows close at 6 pm, need to be taken separately), take pictures and let the baby spend enough time with the (inevitable) cats.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
This Amphitheatre puts the modern sports facilities to shame.

The hotel taxi picked us up and we were booked for dinner at the hotel restaurant. This turned out to be one of the BEST meals that we had in Turkey.

Next day was an early afternoon flight back to Istanbul.

A couple of tips for Ephesus:

1. Do pay the extra amount for the Terrace houses – the mosaics, the insight into the lifestyle is quite worth it.

2. I would highly recommend an early evening visit to the site.

Istanbul (again!)

Day 8: We had decided to base ourselves at Hotel W in Besiktas for this part of our trip.

A leisurely lunch and then we decided to visit Taksim square and Istiklal Caddesi. Although the concierge at our hotel did not approve of the plan – taking our 15-month baby daughter to such a crowded place. And crowded it was!

It was also tiring to navigate the way pushing a stroller. I would have loved to go inside some shops and try on clothes/shoes but Kaavya was getting quite cranky.

Day 9: Dolmabahce Palace was part of the plan today.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
Dolmabache Palace is one of the most glamourous palaces I have been to. Some of the rooms are a bit OTT!

Super crowded! And you can’t see it on your own – you have to be part of a pre-arranged tour or join one in the palace itself (they have tours in English / Turkish starting every 45 min or so).

Having the baby got us out of the line for security check and ticket purchase but not while waiting for the next English tour of course.

We decided to take a taxi to Ciragan Palace. There are beautiful tree-lined footpaths on both sides of the road in this area and it was really nice walking and exploring the city on foot. But now we were seriously hungry.

Much to our surprise, we ended up walking all the way to Ortakoy! This being Sunday, there were many hawkers selling jewelery, small leather and cloth items and the entire area looked very festive. we had a very nice meal at one of the several restaurants overlooking the Bosphorus.

Day 10: Today we had booked the ‘Two markets, Two continents‘ Food Tour with Culinary Backstreets. This full-day experience draws upon hole-in-the-wall restaurants with lip-smacking food from the European side of Istanbul – Karaköy neighbourhood and the city’s Asian side – Kadıköy – with a scenic Bosphorus crossing.

turkey itinerary 10 days, places to visit in turkey
Do cross the Bosphorus river at least once during your trip.

We had to meet our guide at Karakoy, so we decided to leave the hotel early (without breakfast!). Soon, we met Gokcen, out tour guide and the 2 other couples who were part of the culinary tour.

This is an expensive tour but quite worth it. We went to some small eateries starting with the European side and then spent the day mainly on the Asian side that gave us a feel of the city, its people, local areas, and markets. If you can do this food tour earlier, it would give you a good orientation of the city. Alas! This was our final full day and what a lovely end to the 10-day Turkey trip.

Day 11: We were booked on our flight home today evening. We spent most of the morning lazing in the hotel. And went to a ginormous mall – Istineye park – for some shopping. We ended up spending quite a bit of time getting tax refunds at the airport for all our purchases, so remember to add time for that.

Our experience at the airport was great, at what has to be one of the most interesting business lounges anywhere in the world. Turkish Airlines business lounge has thought of everything – a separate passport control and customs for business class passengers, amazing food and drinks, kid’s play area, library, and what not.

Turkey is a large country, there are so many other amazing places to visit. Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s most popular attractions, see this post on tips on visiting Pamukkule.

If you want to add some R&R on the Turkish Riviera to the above itinerary, check out Turkey beach holidays and this post on Fethiye.

A note to all parents:

If you are even a little bit hesitant about taking your kid(s) to Turkey, don’t be.

Turkish people have to be the amongst the most child-friendly that I have come across. Every shopkeeper, every steward, every hotel staff member would drop whatever work they were doing and come to chat with my 15-month baby daughter (and this was NOT a way to sell anything to us). We took her to little hole-in-the-wall eateries and then to some really high-end places for meals and no one was snooty. And we did not have to stand in any line (not at Topkapi, not at Hagia Sophia) because of the baby…how wonderful is that!

Also, check out my itineraries for a few other countries:

Greece with kids: A 10-Day Itinerary for a family trip

Two-week itinerary for the best places to visit in Croatia

La Dolce Vita: The classic two-week Italy Itinerary


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Have you visited Turkey? If yes, what do you think is a must-do activity or place to visit in Turkey? Share with us in the comments below.

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Author: Shweta Singhal

Hi! I am Shweta, the zest behind this blog . I play several roles – parent to a 6-year old, adventure enthusiast, travel blogger, generally open to trying out new things in life. Besides travel, I love books and theatre and art. I would love to hear from you; do drop a comment. Join me on Instagram / Twitter @zestinatote.

21 thoughts

  1. Beautiful. We had done Turkey and Greece together and cappadocia too. Sad that I lost my 3500 pictures due to a hard disk crash and couldnt write about it. Was reliving all the memories and since you guys were with the kid so you couldnt attend a Taverna which we attended in various cities. Loved the blogpost

  2. Great post. I turned up for Dohmebace on Friday and it was closed – my last day so I never saw it :-(. I found haggling difficult in Turkey as they all seemed determined to stick to their guns.

    1. What a shame with the Dolmabache Palace. I should update my post as all attractions are closed on different days in the week. We found the Grand Bazaar closed on Sunday. I found the taxi drivers in Istanbul do haggle a lot.

  3. Turkey looks amazing! It’s one of those places I’d love to explore. Would you recommend driving in the country by yourself or as part of a tour? Thanks!

    1. We found it easy to drive in and around Cappadocia. It gives you much more freedom than a tour. Istanbul is a large sprawling metropolis that has decent public transport and taxi options, so no car required within the city.

    1. Michelle, it was definitely a wonderful experience. A hot air balloon ride is a must-do in Cappadocia, the aerial view of this unusual landscape is breathtaking.

  4. While Turkey is not on my immediate list of countries to visit during my trip around the world, after reading your itinerary I am contemplating about adding it and visiting the same places you recommend. They all look so beautiful. Especially Cappadocia.

  5. Turkey looks SO beautiful and so fascinating with all the history! Looks like the perfect itinerary! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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