If you ask me, the most exciting way to explore a destination is through a road trip. You can stop anywhere, anytime and enjoy the landscapes on the road between two destinations of the planned itinerary. Turkey is the ideal country for such a trip. It offers an enormous variety of relief, culture, traditions, and views that will cut your breath away.
With mountain peaks of over 3000 meters, big lakes, limestone terraces, filled with emerald shaded waters, fairies chimneys in the charming Cappadocia, and steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, Turkey has everything you can wish for. If you want to travel it from North to South and East to West, you would definitely need at least a month. So my road trip applies to those who want to see only a significant part of this beautiful country. 14 days full of adrenaline, joy and amazing places to see.
Two-week road trip in TURKEY
Day 1 – ISTANBUL
My recommendation is to start in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the most diverse in all respects. Take advantage of the fact that Turkish Airlines fly to Turkey from almost all over the world and start your Turkish adventure in the only city in the world situated on two continents. Stay in Sultanahmet if you want to be closer to the history of the former Constantinople or in Taksim, if you are more attracted to the bustle and fun.
You must start your first day with a strong coffee at the traditional restaurant Hafiz Mustafa. For a boost of energy, enjoy some baklava, a pudding, lokum (Turkish shit), some halva, revani or kunefe. The choice is yours. Further, explore the streets, which are full of charm and authenticity. Colors, joy, hookahs, friendly cats, hanging plants, souvenirs, palm trees, curious eyes, trams, hurried drivers, ambulant sellers, flavors. That’s what you will find on Istanbul’s narrow and tilted streets. Also, on the first day, you should go to Sultanahmet Square, the place with the most visited mosques in town. Relax and admire the remaining monuments as proof of the glorious past.
In the evening, don’t miss the chance to admire Istanbul from above. The sunsets and the Bosphorus are more beautiful seen from a rooftop bar. Fortunately, you have plenty of choices. There are dozens of such restaurants in the city, and all you have to do is choose the table with the best view.
⇒ Also read: 21 Best things to do in Istanbul.
Day 2- ISTANBUL
Istanbul has some of the most beautiful and famous mosques in the world. Of these, the longest queues are at the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, the former Christian cathedral. No, I’m not trying to advise you to give up on visiting them because of this reason, but on the contrary. Patience is the key to be able to visit the spectacular interior of both. Across the street of Hagia Sophia, underground, you will discover Cistern Basilica, another attraction that you shouldn’t miss. The tank was used to supply the Imperial Palace and several surrounding buildings with water, and it looks stunning.
The same day, as you already are in the area, you should go to Gulhane Park. Besides being Istanbul’s oldest park, it is also a good opportunity to escape the crowds and to retreat to a much quieter and greener place.
You can’t visit the metropolis of Turkey and not enjoy the delicacies in the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar. Fortunately, they are located next to each other, and you can explore them on the same day with ease.
⇒ Find all: hotels in Istanbul.
Day 3 – ISTANBUL
On the third day of my trip to Turkey, I wanted to see a miniature Turkey. The perfect place to do this is Miniaturk Park, a miniature park. Surprisingly, huh? 😂 134 miniatures to be more specific. They are all related to the history of the country and all made at 1:25 scale. The details are amazingly well done, and they correspond exactly to reality. It is a great way to study carefully the architecture of the most important monuments and buildings in the country. Here you will even find even a mini Ataturk Airport and a mini stadium. In the park, you will spend some hours, so the rest of the day you can choose to relax somewhere on a terrace or in the Galata Tower.
Day 4 – ISTANBUL
You can’t leave Istanbul until you have admired it from a different perspective. The Bosphorus. Whether you choose a sunset cruise with dinner included, whether you take the ferry to the Princes Islands or the Asian side, a ride on the Bosphorus waves is a must.
The next on the list is the Ortakoy Mosque. Although its interior is splendid, I don’t recommend you to visit it on the inside, but rather to admire it from the outside. From my point of view, the Ortakoy Mosque is the most Instagrammable place in Istanbul, especially as in the background stands the Bosphorus Bridge. On the same bank of the Bosphorus, 2 km to the left, is Dolmabahce Palace, the most beautiful building in Istanbul, in my opinion. Don’t settle to only admire the tall, white, well-decorated fences, but visit the inside as well. You will discover some really elegant rooms.
Later, go to Istanbul’s Times Square, Taksim. Busy Istiklal street, the famous red tram, the great shops, the chic cafes, and the street shows will fascinate you.
⇒ Best areas to live in Istanbul are Taksim, Fatih, and Sultanahmet. ⇒ Find the best options here
Day 5 – from ISTANBUL to CAPPADOCIA
🚗 8 hours
Day 5 comes with a road trip of at least 8 hours from Istanbul to Cappadocia. There are not many stops to do, but you will cross Ankara, the capital of Turkey, and you will reach Lake Tuz, one of the largest salt lakes in the world. It is so salty that in the area where we stopped, the water was completely absorbed and we could only see the salt. As evidence, check the picture below.
You will arrive in Cappadocia very late in the evening, so there is only time for dinner and for checking in the hotel. Cappadocia has plenty of gorgeous hotels with authentic, décor style. I stayed at the Sofa Hotel, and I probably would still stay there next time.
Day 6 – CAPPADOCIA
As I told you in the article about the hot air balloon, I recommend you choose this activity on your first day of staying in Cappadocia. That’s because it might be canceled if the weather conditions are bad. Therefore, you need time to postpone. There is a lot to say about the ride, but given that I have already done it in a previous article, I won’t insist.
The flight ends before lunchtime. So you have enough time to explore the city of Goreme and even discover many other areas of Cappadocia. You can do this on your own or on an organized tour. Optionally, I suggest you visit Avanos, the neighboring city, famous for handmade ceramic products.
Hotels in Cappadocia:
Day 7- from CAPPADOCIA to PAMUKKALE
🚗 8 hours
During the morning, you can still spend some hours discovering the beauties of these fairy-tale realms. Until your next visit, you will miss them for sure. For example, you can make a stop on your way to Pamukkale, at Uchisar and at the Salkim Tepesi viewpoint.
The road to Pamukkale does not have many places to stop for. However, if you want to take a little break, Lake Edrigil can be a nice option. 8 hours of continuous driving are not very light, so a small rest is welcome.
Hotels in Pamukkale.
Day 8 – PAMUKKALE and from PAMUKKALE to ANTALYA
Pamukkale means cotton castle, a metaphor very suitable to describe the incredible appearance of the travertines. What are they? Some limestone terraces that formed natural thermal pools. Due to the immaculate white, you will initially have the feeling that it is ice or salt. It is a unique place in the world but very visited. The queue can be extremely long, especially in the hot season, so I recommend you get here in the early hours of the morning.
In Pamukkale, with the exception of the limestone terraces, Cleopatra’s pool, and the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, there is not much to see. For this reason, you can very well visit everything in the first part of the day, then head to the following destination: Antalya. Especially since the distance is not very big.
🚗 3 hours
Day 9 – ANTALYA
Antalya is fairly considered to be the capital of the Turkish Riviera. Therefore, it is time to combine fun with relaxation during the two days you are here. Neither are the landscapes to be ignored. The Taurus Mountains, in the background of the Mediterranean Sea, create a gorgeous picture, perfect to admire when you relax on the beach.
On the first day, go and explore the streets of the old town, Kaleiçi, where you can also see the ruins of Emperor Hadrian’s gate. Walk through Karaalioglu Park, play with dozens of kittens that live there, and then descend into the harbor. A bohemian and very colorful place where you can have your lunch.
Given that you are in Turkey, one of the countries with the most varied range of sweets, don’t miss a visit to the bazaar. You don’t even need to buy anything, because the vendors here are more friendly and generous than anywhere else in Turkey, and will serve you pieces Turkish delights for free. Of course, supplemented by a cold mango tea.
⇒ Find all: hotels in Antalya.
Day 10 – ANTALYA
Antalya really has it all, so the waterfalls could not be missed. River Duden is very generous and offers us two waterfalls, on a mere 17 kilometers long. Upper Duden Falls and Lower Duden Falls. One is located in a park in northern Antalya, and the other has a direct fall into the Mediterranean Sea. Both are spectacular.
For the second part of the day, I have two recommendations to make. Relaxation at the beach, whether you choose Lara, the finer sand, whether you prefer Konyaaltı, the spectacular scenery or a ride with the Tünektepe Teleferic at an altitude of 605 meters above Antalya. For just 15 Turkish lire, you get an amazing 360-degree view.
Hotels in Antalya:
Day 11 – From ANTALYA to BODRUM
🚗 5 hours 30 min
The most beautiful and busy day of the 14 spent on Turkish territory was the road trip from Antalya to Bodrum. The route is full of surprises and more and more beautiful discoveries. The first stop was in the town of Kaş, the charming seafront town. What conquered me? The narrow and cobbled streets, flowers set in cute little pots, kittens waiting to be cuddled, arches of vineyards that seem to invite you into a magical world, colorful doors and windows, smiling people and the continuously holiday atmosphere.
The next stop, just 30 minutes from Kaş, is the Kaputas beach, a paradise place. The location between two cliffs and the water in the gorgeous turquoise shades can not leave you indifferent. Park the car along the road, lower the wooden stairs to the beach and enjoy for at least two hours probably the most beautiful beach in Turkey.
Approximately 50 minutes further north, you will reach the Saklikent National Park, a true hidden gem, literally and figuratively. Although you will not have much time to enjoy it, it is worth venturing out through the 300-meter High Gorge. Space is so narrow that you will feel as if you are suffocating. It is also worth mentioning that you will have to cross the ice-cold water of the Xanthos River in order to reach the Canyon. At the entrance, there are floating terraces decorated with traditional Turkish pillows. The ideal place to relax with a hookah.
🔑 I feel I did not have enough time to fully enjoy all these stops between Antalya and Bodrum. So if you add an extra day to the 2-week itinerary, it would be perfect.
Day 12 – BODRUM
Bodrum looks much like Santorini, the Greek island with white houses, perched on the rocky cliffs. Because that’s exactly how it looks like if you replace the rocks with hills. It is a spectacular city, both during the day and after the darkness. The day is ideal for excursions on the coast to explore the old center, port and souvenir shops, or the nearby Greek islands. In the evening, the resort is changed completely. The fun is in full swing and the music echoes from all corners.
Nearby is the village of Gumusluk, with the most picturesque restaurants I have seen. From here, you can cross the water on foot to get to Rabbit Island. Just as the name calls it, the island is populated with cute rabbits.
Hotels in Bodrum:
Day 13 – from BODRUM to ISTANBUL
🚗 9 hours
The distance between Bodrum and Istanbul is so big, especially if you drive by car, so you do not have much time to stop anywhere. However, if you want to include a top resort in the itinerary, you can add Kusadasi. In translation, the island of birds, Kusadasi is a vibrant city, located on the Aegean Sea, with stretched beaches and palm trees.
Day 14 – ISTANBUL
The last day in Istanbul comes as a perfect opportunity to taste the flavor of the city at a much slower pace. A quiet walk along the Bosphorus, a quick snack under the Galata Bridge made up of the famous sandwich with fish and a place decorated in a traditional style where you can smoke a hookah are my suggestions. Unless you have other plans.
🌤 When to visit Turkey
Since it’s a very large country, about 3 times larger than Romania, the climate differs slightly from one region to another. If you follow exactly the proposed itinerary, the most acceptable months in terms of temperatures are May – June and September – October. But also the summer months are a good option if you do not mind the excessive heat and the big wave of tourists.
💰 How much it costs
Turkey is not a very expensive country, especially since the Turkish lira has dropped quite a bit. Prices are acceptable both in terms of food, accommodation, and transportation. Renting the car for 10 days cost around 300 Euros, and the fuel revolves around the sum of 6.5 Turkish lire (≅ 1 €). A 3-star hotel night stay starts at 40 € with breakfast, and a meal in town can vary enormously, depending on where you choose to eat.