Turkey Itinerary 10 Days | Beaches, Ruins, Adventures, and History."
Deciding the location for this trip was probably one of the toughest, If I am being honest. During one of such brainstorming sessions on what we wanted to do, we (N&I) played a little game. We took 2 minutes and wrote down things we wanted from this trip. Here are a few things that appeared in our list:
Close to a beach but more than just a beach
An adventure activity
A city vibe
Easy on visa
Even though every point checks out, the last point became one of the main reasons we chose Turkey. We had recently gotten a US visa (Renewal for K, and a new visa process for N) With a US visa, you get an instant e-visa and it really just takes 20 minutes to apply. Here’s the link where we applied.
Turkey has SO much to offer. When we started to research, we were taken by surprise on the amount of things we could do here. The vibrant Istanbul was a perfect starting point, the beautiful Turkish rivera became a stunning highlight and Cappadocia became a lovely finisher.
Experiences at the trip
City Slicking, History Walks, Shopping, Paragliding, Island Hopping, Snorkelling, Road Tripping, Exploring ruins, Cafe hopping, Hiking, waterfalls spotting, Hot Air Ballooning.
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul. Check into an Airbnb In Galata Area, Bosphorus Cruise
Day 2: Visit Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Galata Walks, Partying
Day 3: Grand Bazaar & Fly to Dalaman. Stay in an airbnb
Day 4: Pick up car from Sixt, Dalaman- Oludeniz, Paragliding & chill
Day 5: Day Boat trip to multiple islands including a hike in butterfly valley
Day 6: Drive to Kas from Oludeniz. Stop at Patara ruins and the beach. Cafe hopping in Kas
Day 7: Early morning to Kaputas beach, Walk around Kas Town
Day 8: Drive To Antalya, Explore myra ruins on the way. Antalya town & Dudden waterfalls
Day 9: Fly to Kayseri, Explore Cappadocia, Goreme open air museum
Day 10: Early morning hot air balloon & take a flight back to Istanbul and leave for India.
Patara Beach, Kaputas Beach, Oludeniz beach, St Nicholas Island Beach (Oludeniz
Favorite Places to Eat
Istanbul: Patatas For Kumpir, Cafe Privato For turkish breakfast, Viyana Kehvesi Galata for best cheesecake.
Oludeniz: Buzz beach bar
Kas: Dolphin, Pisekar Vegan Restaurant.
Antalya: Karaf Bistro, Kaleci for the best pizza
Cappadocia: Kaira Rooftop Cafe, with veg options
Places We Stayed At
Istanbul: Galata M84 Apart
Dalaman: Airport Guest House
Oludeniz: Bronze Hotel
Antalya: Saye Konak Hotel .
Cappadocia: Artemis Cave Suites
If I could rate flights, I’d give the utmost importance to the time it takes to reach the destination. Our IndiGo flight landed in Istanbul at 11 am on a Saturday. (We left at 6 am from Mumbai on Saturday morning.) We took an Uber from the airport to the hotel and arrived well before our check-in time. So, we left our luggage and walked up to the bustling Istiklal Street, the most happening pedestrian street on the European side of Istanbul. While we're on that topic, here's an interesting fact about the city: Istanbul is situated between two continents, Asia and Europe, and it's divided by a narrow water body called the Bosphorus Strait (your 7th-grade geography teacher would be proud if you remember this). The European side is more vibrant, while the Asian side is quieter. I loved the Asian side for its tranquility, but almost everything you'd want to do is on the European side, so I highly recommend you stay there.
The European side is divided into two by a waterway called the Golden Horn. Sultanahmet or the Old City is on one side of the Golden Horn, and Beyoğlu is on the other side of it. Both of these areas are in Europe.
Sultanahmet boasts the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, some lovely old hamams, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar, to name a few. Beyoğlu has the Galata Tower and Istiklal Street but is probably the liveliest part of Istanbul. Yes, it's touristy, but the vibe is incredible. I stayed in both areas the last time I visited Istanbul in 2019, but if I had to choose, I'd stay in Beyoğlu without a second thought. This part of town never sleeps. It's filled with incredible energy, boutiques, shops, bars, and the nicest restaurants.
On our first day, all we did was have lunch at my favorite Patatos, drank apple tea, strolled along Istiklal Street multiple times, did a little shopping, took a lovely Bosphorus cruise, and partied a bit. How did we manage to do all this? Thanks to the sunset at 8.45 pm, my friend. The days are so long that we had time for afternoon naps and still felt like we had ample time to explore. These are the little joys of summer in Europe.
We booked the Bosphorus cruise through our hotel manager. The one we took was a sunset Bosphorus cruise that departed from the port at 6 pm and returned at 9.30 pm, with a stop on the Asian side for an hour and some tea and snacks on board. There were so many options available, some included dinner, some lunch, some even had dancing. I highly recommend asking the hotel or apartment where you are staying for suggestions. They are usually updated with timings and can make the booking for you. You don't need to worry about pre-booking, as there are plenty of these boats running the cruise every day. We loved it because it was so vibrant, helped us understand the geography of Istanbul, and made for a perfect first-day activity in Turkey.
Woke up early and went for a walk to see the Galata Tower with hardly anyone around (except some very enthusiastic Indian uncles and aunties at 7:30 am) We loved this ritual of waking up early and walking around, making use of the little jet lag well. Had a traditional Turkish breakfast with the view of the Galata Tower, which was surprisingly veggie friendly.
Later, we went to the Sultanahmet side of Turkey. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace were on the list, so we took a cab from the Airbnb. All three main spaces are right next to each other and are inside a tourist bubble. It's easy to hail a cab in Turkey or use Uber/BiTaksi (Uber equivalent in Istanbul). Hagia Sophia is open every day of the week during non-prayer hours. It was a museum and is now a mosque. The monument has quite a story. It was first built as a church in 537 AD, and then when Constantinople (now Istanbul) was conquered, it became a mosque, and then became a museum for 90 years. From 2020, it's a mosque again. The Blue Mosque, right next to Hagia Sophia, is also called The Sultanahmet Mosque and is another gorgeous part of Istanbul. The mosque is decorated with gorgeous Iznik ceramic tiles, making it grand. Going to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque has a dress code you should keep in mind. Wear clothing that covers the shoulders, knees, and cleavage for both men and women. Women are expected to wear a headscarf to cover their hair. So, carry palazzos, jeans, etc., for this day in Istanbul. After the visits in Sultanahmet, we ate an Indian meal because it was just so hot, and we needed some comfort food. In the evening, we ate what's described as one of the best 'San Sebastian Cheesecakes' at Viyana Kehvesi Galata (a shop right opposite the Galata Tower). It was light and delicious. We got a mix of strawberry and chocolate topping and loved the ambiance there. Later, instead of climbing the Galata Tower, we chose to go to a bar adjacent to it for a drink and to enjoy the sunset with a view of the tower. We thought it was a great idea to spend the 650 Turkish Lira on a drink rather than a lift :) We also shopped a bit for some Turkish souvenirs in the alleys near the Galata Tower. It's cheaper and more artistic here than the Grand Bazaar.
Woke up early and geared ourselves up to explore the narrow alleys of the Grand Bazaar! Surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colors from the spices that filled every nook and cranny of the bazaar, it's a gorgeous place to spend a day. Saffron, cardamom, cumin, olives – you name it, they had it. Our noses were on an exotic adventure of their own. But do remember not to shop as much here, as there are cheaper and better options in the city. The Grand Bazaar is commercial, and there's a lot of haggling you can do. Having said that, we eventually shopped there for spices and emerged from the sensory whirlwind. We strolled out onto the lively streets, where the old world met the new in the most Turkish way possible. We had a flight to catch later that day, and all the shopping made our luggage heavier. Luckily, Turkish Airlines came to the rescue with a budget-friendly solution for extra luggage. We decided to up our check-in game by adding 20 extra kgs for just INR 750. A lifesaver, and because of this, I got a pretty mirror for the house. We took an 8 pm flight from Istanbul, wishing we had more time in this gorgeous city. Landed at Dalaman Airport, the coastal part of Turkey. We had booked a small homestay near the airport to crash for the night, which resembled so much of the Schitt's Creek motel :) Thankfully, no water leak :) IYKYK.
After a delicious homemade breakfast by our host, we picked up a Ford Aegean from Sixt at Dalaman Airport, hitting the highway towards Ölüdeniz, a charming neighborhood in Fethiye, Muğla. Ölüdeniz might be small and consist of just a few alleys, but it's such a vibe. Extremely famous for paragliding, this gem boasts tall mountains and a beach, creating the perfect stage for soaring above the Mediterranean Sea. We met our paragliding instructors from a company called Hanuman. Their inspiration came from our Hanuman deity, who carries mountains and flies, much like paragliding. They took us to a height of 2000 meters, and we took off in tandem with our respective instructors. The sensation was pure exhilaration as we glided through the sky, absorbing breathtaking views below of the azure Oludeniz Bay and the beautiful lagoon. N and his instructor even saw a small turtle in the bay. The instructors, with your permission, do 'the crazy,' as they like to call it, where they fly the parachutes like a roller coaster. Not for the faint-hearted, this experience was incredible. Touching down, we checked into our hotel, which was a 1-minute walk from Oludeniz Beach, one of the best locations we could think of. As the day dipped into evening, we went to the happening Oludeniz Beach and Lagoon. HIGHLY Recommend wearing ocean shoes as it's very pebble-y. We ate dinner at the Buzz Beach Bar, enjoying delicious Turkish dips like hummus, muhammara and menemen, accompanied by heavenly Turkish bread. We had taken a prior reservation for the rooftop place, which offers a front-row seat to the sunset. Post dinner, we walked the buzzing streets of Oludeniz and chilled by the ocean, experiencing the most magical moon set on the water.
No coastal trip is complete without a full day boat trip. We hopped on a boat that was practically a floating party through the islands and bays near Fethiye/Oludeniz and booked it through an agency called Deep Blue Adventures. Their boats had the right amount of party. Some of the fancy boats which looked like a pirate ship even had some foam parties.
We started cruising through the turquoise waters, jumping on and off, hitting up some killer spots throughout the day. We got to see and swim in some of the clearest waters ever. Can you believe we got some excellent vegetarian food on board: some delicious pasta, salad, bread, and fries? Turkey has been so kind to vegetarian folks, taking me by surprise.
We explored St. Nicholas Island, Aquarium Bay, Cold Water Bay were some of the gorgeous places we went to. Almost at the end of the day, we landed in the Butterfly Valley, where we got to hike to a waterfall. Since we went during the summer, the falls were very small, but the hike was lovely, though we didn't see a single butterfly. The whole day was like jumping into different shades of blue – like the kind of blue that's so vibrant it should be a color on its own.
We ended the day back at Buzz bar's terrace. Seeing paragliders land on the beach as the sunsets is such a gorgeous setting.
Roadtrip Day! Ölüdeniz to the romantic town of Kas; the part of the trip we have been looking forward to. What we didn't anticipate was how pretty the drive was, with the road hugging the ocean and offering breathtaking coastal views. We made a quick pit stop at the splendid Patara ruins, an ancient and flourishing capital city of Lycia. It was a dose of history against the backdrop of stunning beaches. Even though it was hot, we had read so much about Patara Beach's sandy shores. It's so sandy it almost resembles a desert with sand dunes. The waves here were so soft, and it was best to take a dip. What started off as just a dip in the ocean, we ended up chilling in the water for almost an hour. After a couple of hours' drive from Patara, we reached Kas, a true hidden treasure. Our Airbnb boasted a view that seemed almost surreal, and the best part? A jacuzzi for two on the balcony 😀
After a quick Airbnb lunch, we drove into the heart of Kas. The town's narrow streets, lined with cafes and adorned with cascades of bougainvillea, are so charming. We sat in a gorgeous ocean-side bar and drank the lovely Aperol Spritz as the whole town turned even more romantic. Our evening was a leisurely stroll through this town.
This day was a perfect blend of scenic drives, history, and the magic of Kas. Kas might just be our favorite city in the world, maybe.
The alarm rang at 6:45 am, and we set out for the famous Kaputas Beach, known for its golden sands, azure waters, and towering cliffs right in front of it. We tried to get there early to beat the crowds and were rewarded with some decent parking. The steep steps to the beach offered quite a workout and a jaw-dropping view. To anyone visiting Kaputas, early morning is the key to enjoying this place. It's a very popular beach with the locals and can get really crowded.
While the water was choppy and wild, we got ourselves a sunbed and enjoyed a quintessential European beach morning. We found a gorgeous cafe for an ocean-side leisurely breakfast. Best morning in the trip, I think.
As evening rolled in, we returned to Kas, of course. We played a little game we like to call 'Find From Map,' since we had seen a large part of the tiny town. We found a place on the map that looked pretty and walked to it. Through this little game, we got to check out the not-so-famous but cute lighthouse, found some spots by a garden with an ocean view, and ate a delicious Magnum.
We then walked to a highly-rated vegan restaurant where we could order anything off the menu. That really felt like a luxury in Turkey.
Our day ended back at the Airbnb's jacuzzi with the moonlight on the ocean for company, talking about how Kas has to be the most favorite part of Turkey for us.
The next morning, we hit the road again, this time driving to Antalya. Our first pit stop was the Myra ruins, where the tombstones and an amphitheater whispered tales of ancient times. I stood there imagining how rich and grand the place would have been during its prime time. I'd probably try it with AI now.
The road trip was outstanding; we crossed multiple coastal towns to reach Antalya. Introducing the Upper Duden Waterfalls right in the heart of the city, Antalya. Amidst the bustling streets, this waterfall is a hidden gem. A mere 10 lira and a 20-minute queue got us entrance to see the falls from above and even venture into a cave for a view from below. Trust us, it was prettier than we expected.
Later, we checked into our hotel in Kaleici, (which btw wasn't as great, apart from its location. The rooms were the tinest ever) the old town of Antalya. The town was so charming. We saw a gorgeous sunset from a park at one end of Kaleici and wandered the narrow streets post-sunset, stumbling upon a Turkish rock band concert in a small pub. Love how some nights turn out different from what you planned but even better :) Just remember to go with the flow.
We really wished we could have stayed another day in Antalya. If you are reading this, do that. But please don't take away days from Kas/Oludeniz.
We took an early morning flight from Antalya to Kayseri airport. We were greeted with snow-capped mountains right outside the airport. Apparently, these mountains perennially have snow on top and often host ski competitions in the winters. We hailed a taxi to Cappadocia, and it was an hour drive. The drive was lovely, a bit dry though, with mountains on one side and some small farms on the other. We reached Cappadocia and checked into the Artemis Cave Hotel. All the hotels in Cappadocia look the same and honestly we picked Artemis for the 2 cute resident dogs there with their own instagram account, and the vibe they've created on Instagram. We later hired a taxi and went to explore Goreme National Park, the Black Church, and a few other places. The landscape here was one of a kind due to volcanic activity. To be honest, this part of Turkey wasn't really my favorite. It was commercial and wasn't really vibrant. But there's one thing we absolutely loved: the Dark Church. Paintings about Christ's life from the 11th century. Later in the evening, we got back to our hotel and went to the hotel's cafe called Kaira Rooftop Cafe, famed to be one of the best in Cappadocia. We loved the vibe and ended up chatting with a few folks from all over the world about history, politics, and everything under the sun. Love that travel enables us to peek a little bit into someone else's world. We ended our day quickly because we had an insanely early morning next day, and YOU know why :)
Day 10 It was such a long day.
Starting at 3:30 am as the alarm rang, we sprang out of bed and got ready for the Hot Air Balloon safari. We booked it through our hotel the previous day by paying 130 Euros. Please check with your hotel before pre-booking these things, as you will get it for a MUCH better rate once you go there. For some reason, everyone in Cappadocia prefers cash over online payment. So, carry a few euros for the same.
Anatolian Balloon picked us up at 3:55 am, and we went to the Take off site. The next 90 minutes were just pure bliss. We boarded our balloon and took off with the wind, gliding gently over the Goreme National Park, through the rugged and unreal landscapes. The lovely staff at our hotel, Artemis, explained to us that the direction the balloon flies depends on the wind. So there are times the balloons fly very close to the hotel terrace, and some days away from it. That's definitely another experience that would have been great, seeing the balloons fly low near your hotel terrace.
We landed, popped a wannabe champagne, and got back to the hotel by 6:10 am and had the best 2 and a half hour sleep.
We checked out of our hotel and took a shuttle to the airport. Our hotel suggested this option and it was really convenient. Every flight that takes off from Kayseri airport has a shuttle that goes from Cappadocia, picking people up from every hotel at 10 Euros per person. It's a cheaper and very efficient transport system. The only way to book this is through your hotel.
We took a flight from Kayseri to Istanbul and flew back to Mumbai that night.
What an incredible part of the country we got to experience. So much variety and so many new experiences. If you are planning a trip to Turkey, I urge you to go beyond Istanbul and Cappadocia. The country has so much to offer and is so less marketed.
Our Turkey trip was one of our favorites. It had so much variety, starting out with the quaint city of Istanbul, some adventure activities, stunning beaches, little towns in Kas, one of the best road trips to Antalya, breathtaking ruins, and an unreal landscape in Cappadocia. There's so much we couldn't do in the country, saving it for the next check-in :)