The Best Day Trips From Istanbul

Spend a day discovering the ancient city of Hierapolis
Spend a day discovering the ancient city of Hierapolis | © isa özdere / Alamy Stock Photo
Ben West

Explore the legend of Troy, the tranquil Princes’ Islands and the natural wonder of Pamukkale on these day trips from Istanbul.

Istanbul is the gateway to a whole host of fantastic destinations that can be comfortably visited on a day trip. Whether you want a scenic getaway, a leisurely cruise or simply to understand more about this fascinating Turkish region, there’s the perfect day trip awaiting you.

1. Princes’ Islands

Natural Feature

© mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

The picturesque Princes’ Islands are an archipelago of nine islands off the Istanbul coast, in the Marmara Sea. So named because princes and other royalty were banished to them in Byzantine times, they are especially tranquil as cars are banned. Each rewards you with beautiful scenery, and a tour of three of the four islands open to the public, Kınalıada, Heybeliada and Büyükada, is a relaxing break from Istanbul city. Sail across gleaming coastal waters, enjoy a delicious buffet lunch of Turkish delicacies and learn about the history of the islands from your guide. This nine-hour tour finishes with a horse-drawn carriage ride on Büyükada – the perfect end to an exhilarating day. You can start this tour from Bosporus Tour Pier or Taksim Square.

2. Pamukkale and Hierapolis

Historical Landmark, Archaeological site, Ruins, Natural Feature

© Jakob Fischer / Alamy Stock Photo

Just a short flight from Istanbul, Pamukkale-Hierapolis lies in southwestern Anatolia and can be visited in one day. This UNESCO World Heritage site comprises the well-preserved ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis and the geographical phenomenon Pamukkale (‘cotton castle’ in Turkish), a succession of stunning white terraces of travertine rock formed by calcium-rich thermal springs, garnished by waterfalls and stalactites. Do as the Romans did and take a soak in the thermal hot springs used as a spa since the second century BC on this unforgettable day trip from Istanbul. Hotel pickup, return flights from Istanbul to Denizli, private transport, a guide and an appetising lunch are included.

3. Troy

Historical Landmark, Archaeological site, Ruins

© Ozbalci / Getty Images

Visit the archaeological site of Troy, the setting of the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad, on a day trip from Istanbul and feel the magic of the legend that captivated readers around the world. See a replica of the Trojan Horse and explore the ancient city on a comprehensive 18-hour tour. Visit the 3,700-year-old city walls and numerous remains of the UNESCO World Heritage site, including everyday houses of the time. Lunch is provided at a restaurant in Eceabat, once the ancient city of Madytos, located on the shores of the Dardanelles Strait. A return ferry trip across the Dardanelles to Çanakkale is included, as is pickup from your Istanbul hotel.

4. Ephesus

Historical Landmark, Archaeological site, Ruins

© isa özdere / Alamy Stock Photo

The extensive ruins of the Ancient Greek city of Ephesus are a must-see for history lovers, and this 12-hour tour with return flights from Istanbul to İzmir makes it possible to visit in a day. Immerse yourself in an array of stunning monuments – souvenirs left behind by the Byzantine, Ottoman, Persian, Roman and Greek empires that once ruled Ephesus. Visit striking sites such as the Temple of Artemis and the Celsus Library, as you walk the ancient streets of Ephesus in the footsteps of inhabitants from centuries ago. This tour includes round-trip, same-day flights from Istanbul to İzmir and pickup from your city centre hotel.

5. Lake Sapanca and Masukiye

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

© isa özdere / Alamy Stock Photo

Escape the bustle of Istanbul to the tranquillity of Lake Sapanca and Masukiye in the Gulf of İzmit. This 14-hour trip to the pretty freshwater lake and picturesque village of Masukiye includes a relaxing lunch under a canopy of trees and a hike up Kartepe Mountain, with the option of a ski-lift ride for non-hikers. You will be picked up from your Istanbul hotel for this tour.

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