From scuba diving in Fethiye, visiting the ancient ruins of Ephesus, to riding in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, there are a lot of things to do in Turkey.
For most, the best way to travel the country of Turkey is via personal vehicle. Your personal vehicle will cost a lot more, but it makes visiting small, rural places more accessible.
However, for this post I have included the the best way to get around Turkey without a vehicle too!
Turkey is a diverse country in both diameter and people groups. In one month, it would be best to choose either A) The West Side or B) The East Side.
Due to a higher number of tourism options and activities, we have chosen to focus on the West and Central Turkey.
(Eastern Turkey is beautiful, and we recommend looking into areas such as Van and Erzurum. However, some background knowledge about the historical sites in Eastern Turkey is almost required.)
So, let’s get into the….
28 THINGS TO DO IN TURKEY
(1 Month Turkey Itinerary)
Day 1: Arrive in Istanbul, Turkey
There is a LOT to do within the city of Istanbul, Turkey.
Plus, it makes for a great spot to explore AND get over jet lag.
Most tourists will stay in either the Sultanhamet or Taksim Square area.
(One note: Beware the scammers in the Taksim Square area. Read more about it here: Is Turkey Safe to Travel To?)
For your first day, I highly suggest walking around the area in which you are staying.
It is likely that you arrived in Istanbul in the afternoon, so figure out where to eat, pick up necessities, etc.
Day 2: Explore the Sultanhamet District & the Beyazit District
If history is your thing, visit the Sultanahmet District which is famous for the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, and some well-preserved obelisks.
(Oh, and the Hagia Sophia!)
Exploring the Sultanhamet District can take between one to two hours, and I recommend starting in the morning.
(Remember: Mosques close to non-Muslims during Salat.)
After this stroll through the parks, I recommend going to the Beyazit District.
From the Hagia Sophia, it will take about 15 minutes to walk. (Or you can take the tram. It is the next stop.)
Beyazit is the location of the Grand Bazaar, which is an experience!
Expect to spend at least 2 hours here.
Walk around and explore the various shops, which sell everything from books to fancy lights!
After shopping, travel over to the Balat Neighborhood. (The buildings with the colorful exterior)
Then, go to the Suleymaniye Mosque for an amazing sunset experience.
Day 3: Visit Istanbul, Asia (Ferry from Istanbul, Europe to Istanbul, Asia)
Visiting the Asian side of Turkey was my 3rd favorite thing to do within Istanbul.
Specifically, I loved the Kadikoy and Uskudar District.
Food will be cheaper on the Anatolian side than the European side.But besides eating, there is plenty to do.
Visit a Turkish Bakery, walk around the fish markets, or maybe even see the Maiden’s Tower!
Even if it does not seem like it initially, you can spend a day within the Uskudar District.
Day 4: Visit the Northern Side of Istanbul
Start your day by visiting the Galata Tower. (If you haven’t done so.)
Then, venture over to the Taksim Square.
Taksim is known for its nightlife, as numerous clubs line the alleys from the main roads.
However, there are also plenty of places to shop. (Turkey has some of the best shopping in the world.)
After Taksim, venture further north via the subway/metro.
There are historical sites like the Rumlei Fortress, and there are some awesome places to eat. (Although these restaurants are expensive.)
Day 5: Final Day in Istanbul!
Your last day in Istanbul should be whatever you want to see!
On my last day, I revisited the Hagia Sophia.
Some people like to explore the Spice Bazaar, or even take a day trip to the Black Sea!
For a complete list of things to do in Istanbul, check out the Best things to do in Istanbul!
Day 6: Drive to Canakkale, Turkey; (Bus from Istanbul to Canakkale)
Spend Night: Canakkale
After a late start to the day, venture over to the city. It will take about 5 hours driving, but there are great places to eat dinner in Canakkale.
If you are driving, you will need money for either the bridge or ferry. The Canakkale Bridge opened in March of 2022, so it’s pretty expensive at 15 Euros.
The Ferry will cost about 50 Lira.
Day 7: Explore Canakkale & the Battlefields of Gallipoli
Canakkale, Turkey is a popular tourist town for international tourists on ANZAC Day due to the popular historical sites nearby. However, its primary tourism is for Turkish tourists. (Especially from Istanbul, Turkey. There is a joke Canakkale is where Istanbul residents go to vacation and to retire.)
The Battlefields of Gallipoli (In Turkey, the battle is known as the Battle of Canakkale) are located across the peninsula from the city of Canakkale.
You can take your own vehicle, but there are several guided day-trips that happen as well.
Day 8: The Ancient City of Troy; (Dolmus from Canakkale to Troy)
The Ruins of Troy are located approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of Canakkale.
You can drive there, but dolmuses are a viable option as well.
Check the frequency of both pick-up and drop-off times before you leave, as it could be several hours before the next pick-up.
This is integral, especially if you visit during summer. The ruins (like all ruins within Turkey) are not protected from the elements. Expect temperatures to increase rapidly beginning around 11:00 in the morning.
If you enjoyed your visit to the ruins of Troy, the Troy archeological museum is located in Canakkale. It houses some of the more impressive archeological finds from the site.
From the Ruins of Troy, either A) Take the dolmus back to Canakkale and take a night bus to Selcuk B) Drive to Selcuk tomorrow.
Day 9: Drive to Selcuk and stopping at different ruins in Turkey; (Bus from Cannakale to Izmir; Then Dolmus from Izmir to Selcuk)
Expect to spend most of the day driving between Selcuk and Canakkale. Taking about 5 hours, there are various ruins near the road. (Some ruins are more important than others.)
If you decide to take the waterfront route, be careful as there are a couple of sharp turns near Ayvacik.
The bus station in Canakkale is not actually located in the center. However, the bus drop-off is the city center. Confused?
Get a taxi (or ride the occasional public transportation), and ask the driver to take you to the otogar. They will know, and just plan on being at the bus station about 20 minutes early. (Follow this protocol for the rest of the trip.) Purchase your bus tickets in the city center.
Day 10: The Ruins of Ephesus and the Basilica of St. John
Spend Night: Selcuk
Ephesus (a popular destination for religious tourism) is a former Greek trading city in Turkey’s Central Region.
Although the port and water have receded since ancient times, it is still easy to see the importance of this amazing ruin.
To get from Selcuk to the Ruins of Ephesus: The easiest way to access the ruins without a vehicle will be the dolmus. They are located in Central Selcuk, and they will leave *usually every hour.
To get from Selcuk to the Basilica of St. John: The Basilica of St. John is located within the city of Selcuk. You can easily walk there.
Please Note: As of 2022, there is a combo ticket that can be purchased for the Ruins of Ephesus, Basilica of St. John, and the Archeological Museum located in Selcuk. It’s an excellent value and you can visit all three places within one day.
Day 11: Travel from Selcuk (Ephesus) to Denizli (Pammukale); (Train from Selcuk to Denizli, Then Dolmus to Pammukale Town)
Spent Night: Pammukale Town or Denizli
Getting to the “cotton castles” of Turkey is a bucket-list experience for many. And thankfully, traveling between the cities of Selcuk and Pammukale Town is relatively easy.
If you have a vehicle, expect the journey to last around three hours. However, if you don’t, there are two other options to travel between the cities:
- Bus between Selcuk and Denizli; Then Dolmus to Pammukale Town
The bus between Selcuk and Denizli is going to take around three hours. With the bus dropping you off at the bus station, it makes transfer to the dolmus easy. (Dolmus station is located downstairs.)
The bus should not cost more than $6. And for the dolmus, I paid $2. However, the price of petrol (gasoline) has increased tremendously since then.
- Train between Selcuk and Denizli; THEN Dolmus to Pammukale Town
The train between Selcuk and Denizli might cost a few dollars more (not likely), but it is very convenient. Within Selcuk, the train is located in the city center near the Byzantine aqueducts.
From the Denizli Train Station, you will exit the station and turn towards the South East. Using Izmir Blvd, follow the crowd of people as most people who get off at the train station will be walking towards the dolmus.
Please Note: You will need to enter the bus stop, and then go to the basement.
DO NOT WAIT FOR THE DOLMUSES OUTSIDE OF THE BUS STATION. They are not going to Pammukale Town.
If you missed your dolmus, there are a couple of small cafes around the bus station.
Expect the train to cost about $5, and then the dolmus around $2 again.
Either way, if you travel between Ephesus and Pammukale Town, here’s what you need to know.
This entire day of travel between Denizli and Pammukale could take 3 or 5 hours depending on the time of year, and the number of tourists visiting Turkey. During “normal” times, the shared-taxi (dolmus) ran every 30 minutes to 1 hour. However, in my experience, it frequented between the cities every two hours.
Day 12: Visit Pamukkale and the Ruins of Hieropolis; Travel Back to Denizli; (Dolmus to Denizli)
Reserve the morning to explore Pammukale, as most tourists will elect to visit in the mid-day or afternoon.
When you get to the top of the travertines, you can bathe in the spa water that Cleopatra once did. However, you COULD wait for that experience after a challenging hike around the ruins of Hierapolis!
The ruins of Hierapolis are built upon the side of a mountain, so expect a lot of stairs, un-even brick, and beautiful views over the valley below!
(If you want to see a picture of Hierapolis, check out the photo gallery)
After spending the morning hiking, head back to Pammukale Town. Hopefully, your hotel or lodging accommodations allowed you to leave luggage in a secured place.
Then, I recommend traveling back to the town of Denizli. Last night, you most likely saw the extent of Pammukale Town… it’s very small.
By heading back to Denizli, you should be able to arise for a late night bus transfer.
Or relax in Denizli and have a late start tomorrow.
Day 13: Travel to Fethiye; (Bus from Denizli)
Spend Night in Fethiye
The trip between Denizli and Fethiye is going to take about 3 hours via bus.
Staying in Oludeniz vs Fethiye
To be honest, you will be spending most of your time in this region actually in Oludeniz. So, if you are like me, you are probably wondering why you would want to spend your precious time commuting from Fethiye to Oludeniz?
#1 The city life in Fethiye supersedes Oludeniz’s beach resort vibe.
Especially during the off-season, Oludeniz is quite deserted after 5PM.
#2 Fethiye is cheaper.
For budget travelers, please know that Fethiye is more of a town than a resort town. This means cheaper hotels and cheaper restaurants.
#3 Most excursions are willing to pick you up at your hotel in Fethiye
If you plan your excursions (more on the excursions available in Oludeniz below) through your hotel, arrange your pick-up and drop-off to be at the hotel.
#4 Transportation between Oludeniz and Fethiye is frequent.
#5 The Bus Station is located in Fethiye.
My least favorite part of traveling is carrying luggage. So, it was pretty easy for me to walk the two miles from my hotel in Fethiye to the bus station. Although the dolmuses are frequent to Oludeniz from Fethiye, this just adds “one-more” stop with luggage.
Day 14: Paraglide over the Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz, Turkey
Spend Night in: Fethiye
For most, paragliding in Oludeniz is going to be a top-3 highlight in Turkey. Now, as mentioned above, arranging travel from your lodging establishment will make the trip to Oludeniz 10x easier. However, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price too if they refuse to offer hotel pick-up.
rOne other note: You are jumping off the side of a mountain (literally), so pick a reputable company.
How much do paragliding pictures cost in Oludeniz?
Unfortunately, the photos from this adventure are NOT included in the negotiated rate with the company AND you cannot bring your own GoPro for these photos either. (safety)
Because of this, the guides will be taking photos and videos for around $20, as this is also an extra way for the guides to make some money. They will ask you at the top of the mountain if you are going to purchase the photos, and then tell you the price.
I thought $20 was fair, especially if you include a “tipping” in this price.
Day 15: Boat Excursion in Fethiye
There are two options for boat excursions in Fethiye, either the 12 Island or Butterfly Valley.
Numerous people pick the Butterfly Valley cruise because it sounds beautiful. However, reports suggest that there are almost no butterflies left. (It depends on the season and migratory patterns.)
I was able to take the 12 Island Boat excursion (pictured above) from Fethiye, and I was happy with what I received. We stopped at four different swimming locations (warning, the water is salty), and it included fish for lunch.
All around, we were on the water for about six hours.
Day 16: Travel to Rhodes (Ferry from Fethiye to Rhodes)
Now, many Turkish readers will be upset that I suggest visiting another country since this list is dedicated to Turkey. (Especially Greece)
But part of the history of Turkey is learning about their wars with Greece. (And the Aegean Dispute.)
So, in order to understand how close these countries are geographically, hop on a ferry from Fethiye to Rhodes. The climates are identical, but here’s a Greece Packing List in case you decide to stay in Greece a bit longer.
If you leave on the earliest ferry from Fethiye to Rhodes, and leave Rhodes on the latest ferry back to Fethiye, this should give you enough time to explore the chora and the island.
Day 17: Relax on beach; Free Day
Spend Night in: Fethiye
There are a lot of other things to do in Fethiye such as scuba diving, hiking around the Lycean Trail, and exploring some of the old tombs.
Or you could use this day to relax on the beach. (But more on the best beach location later.)
Day 18: Drive to Kas; (Bus from Fethiye to Kas)
Spend Night in: Kas
The bus trip between Fethiye and Kas should take around two hours. After arriving in Kas, book the Sunken City of Simena Tour. Then, explore the city and eat dinner. Kas is a small town, so it will not take too long to explore this city.
Day 19: Kayak over the Sunken City of Simena, and Book Lodging for Remainder of Trip
Spend Night in: Kas
After completing the canoe tour over the City of
Atlantis Simena, spend the afternoon to book your lodging in Antalya and Cappadocia.) Also, now is the time to figure out your preferred mode of transportation between Antalya and Goreme.
I recommend flying, and there is a story below…
To conclude the day, watch the sunset from the Hellenistic Theater (a view that rivals most Greek Islands!)
Day 20: Drive to Antalya (Bus from Kas to Antalya)
Antalya is Turkey’s most-famous beach resort town, and it’s the second-most visited destination!
Full of all-inclusive resorts, it’s a popular destination for Russian tourists. (But not just them!) However, a growing number of ex-patriots are beginning to call Antalya home.
To me, Antalya looks like Hawaii!
Now, I do want to give you a heads-up. As mentioned in the Turkey Packing Guide, most beaches around Antalya are rocky. (You can find sandy beaches, but they are a bit more difficult.)
But now that you know, please pack some sort of water shoe.
Day 21: Explore Antalya (Old Harbor, Kaleici Neighborhood)
Today is going to be a jam-packed day in the Pearl City of the Mediterranean. Arise early and explore sites such as the Old Harbor, and then get lost in the Kaleici neighborhood.
(Seriously, it is a maze.)
The Kaleici neighborhood is filled with boutique hotels, restaurants, and shops. So, after eating your fill of fish for lunch, walk over to the Antalya Archeological Museum.
On the way back, stop at the Old Bazaar and try your hand at negotiating. (Or see if you got better since the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.)
Day 22: Beach Day
You have to have a beach day in Antalya! It’s for the ‘Gram; It’s for the tan. This city is a giant beach resort, so just relax and enjoy.
Day 23: Drive to Cappadocia; (Fly or Bus)
Spend Night in: Goreme
If you do get on the bus in Antalya, make sure you understand where the bus is going. Otherwise, you might get on a bus heading to Eastern Turkey, and they have to drop you off on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere….
Day 24: Hot Air Balloon and Open-Air Museum
Spend Night in: Goreme
Hot Air Balloon on Day 1?
Well, it’s just-in-case they do not fly due to weather.
Fun Fact: When I was there, I didn’t get to fly until the second-day.
You will get back to your hotel around 9AM, so you might be wondering… What do I do for the rest of the day!
Well, walk over to the Goreme Open Air Museum! Then, hike around the valley and explore!
Day 25: Jeep Tour & ATV Tour!
Riding in a hot air balloon is beautiful, but the jeep tour? Those are fun!
We went off-road, played loud music, and explored some of the old abandoned caves for a few hours!
Renting a jeep doesn’t have to cost too much money, as you are renting the entire vehicle! (And fortunately, the price includes a driver!) So, it doesn’t matter if you invite 1 or 3 friends, the price is up to you!
If you didn’t get enough excitement from that, finish off the evening with an ATV Tour. (Or better yet, if you have your international driving permit, rent one for a few hours!)
Day 26: Hike in Love Valley and Relax in Hamann
Hiking around Love Valley will be… a day to remember.
And if you are feeling adventurous, hike to the city of Uchisar! It’s about two miles, and full of interesting rock formations.
After that serious workout, go back to Goreme and relax at the hamann (Turkish Bath)
Fun Fact: Hammam’s are traditions throughout the Middle East, not just Turkey. They are integral to community in the Muslim-world. (Less so in present-day.)
Nerd Fact: Honestly, it’s quite amazing to learn some history about community. Hammams are integral in the Muslim World, and in the Roman World, Roman Baths were developed for both cleaning, health, and community.
However, something like the Parisian Coffee Houses may or may not have been a contributing factor of the Enlightenment.
There is some much history in the outside world, so go enjoy it!
Day: 27: Red, Green, or Blue Tour?
The Red, Green, and Blue Tours are guided tours around the Cappadocia region that are too far to walk from Goreme.
(If you have a car, you can easily reach these destinations in your car.)
However, the Blue Tour is the best, as it takes you to the Underground City!
Day 28: Drive to Ankara via Lake Talz; (Bus from Goreme or Nevshir to Ankara)
The drive between Goreme and Ankara should only take about three hours. If you leave after lunch, you can arrive in the early evening…But stop at Lake Tal for an hour and enjoy some baklava!
(Lake Talz is a pink lake about an hour away from Goreme.)
Day 29: Modern Turkish History Tour in Ankara
Explore the capital of Turkey and learn some Turkish and Ottoman History!
Fun Fact: Ankara was not the capital of Turkey until 1923!
Learn about Turkey’s revered founder, Ataturk, and his reforms to make Turkey a modern-day secular state!
Day 30: Souvenir Shopping
Buy a Turkish rug, spices, or spend your last day finishing up your plans to travel to your next destination!
If you want, you could also spend your last day flying back to Istanbul, as most international flights leave from Istanbul!
Day 31: Free Day
Spend Night in: Flexible
Find something that you want to do? Or did you fall in love with Antalya? I always plan a flex day in the event something goes wrong. However, I hope this didn’t happen to you! Let me know how the trip went on Twitter!
So, to recap, here is a short itinerary description
Istanbul – 5 Nights
Canakkale – 3 Nights
Selcuk – 2 Nights
Pammukale Town & Denizli – 2 Nights
Fethiye – 5 Nights
Kas – 2 Nights
Antalya – 3 Nights
Cappadocia – 5 Nights
Ankara – 3 Nights
Flex Day: 1 Night