A 10-Day Travel Itinerary to Turkey

Topkapi Palace was built in the 15th and 16th centuries as the main residence for Ottoman sultans
Topkapi Palace was built in the 15th and 16th centuries as the main residence for Ottoman sultans | © Mehdi33300 / Alamy Stock Photo
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

If we had our way, our vacations would last for months, but, alas, with busy work schedules, even 10 days is quite precious. But it’s a great length of time for an introduction to Turkey. Here are some recommendations that include culinary highlights, historic ruins and plenty of beach time.

Want to explore Turkey’s vibrant bazaars and rocky valleys? Book Culture Trip’s 12-day group tour and stop at key historical sights and glide across the landscape in a hot-air balloon.

Days 1-2: Istanbul

Two days in Istanbul are great for an introduction to a city that has witnessed the rise and fall of empires and continues to be a confluence of past and present. After a tour of the major touristic sights in Sultanahmet, such as the Hagia Sophia or the Topkapı Palace, check out our 24-hour guide for some alternate ideas for seeing the city. Of course, during these two days, make sure to check out some of the best Turkish restaurants in the city, from classic taverns to the more upscale venues that are experimenting with traditional Turkish recipes and ingredients.

Suleymaniye Mosque sits on the Third Hill of Istanbul

Days 3-4: Mardin

Often overlooked, Mardin is one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey, rich in history and architectural spectacle. Located on a hill overlooking a flat expanse, Mardin’s old city is full of Artuqid architecture that stands out with ornately decorative stone façades. We recommend grabbing your camera and getting lost among the many winding cobble-stoned streets that always lead you somewhere entirely new. Before you book, check out our Mardin guide for tips on the best restaurants, sights and hotels in this mysterious old city.

The Great Mosque in Mardin dates back to the 12th century

Days 5-6: Cappadocia

Everyone knows about the spectacular fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, and you won’t want to miss out on visiting them during your trip to Turkey. Before you make your plans, make sure to read up about the history of Cappadocia’s magical landscape including the rock formations (called fairy chimneys due to their shape) and the many ancient underground cities. One of the most unmissable experiences here is a hot-air balloon tour that takes off before sunset, allowing you to watch the many colours of dawn illuminating the stunning landscape.

Fly over the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia in a hot-air balloon

Days 7-8: Bozcaada

Formerly inhabited mostly by Greeks, before the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, Bozcaada is one of those classic Aegean islands with burgeoning bougainvillea, stone houses with colourful window shutters, and a sparkling turquoise sea. You can get all the essential tips with our Bozcaada guide, but do make sure to make your hotel and restaurant reservations before you go to the beautiful summer island. Bozcaada is also known for its wine, and Corvus, one of the best boutique vineyards in Turkey, is a great place to visit for wine lovers who want to become acquainted with the local grape varieties.

Dine out on the cobbled streets of Bozcaada

Days 9-10: Izmir

Izmir is a great place to visit, not only because it’s one of the most liberal cities in Turkey but also because of its proximity to the sea and all the great small towns around it. Check out our 48-hour guide to make the best of the city centre – for example, by taking a stroll by the sea or wandering through the famous and historic Kemeraltı Market. Of course, the food in Izmir (especially the fresh seafood) is amazing, so make sure to sample a few of the best local dishes. While you’re here, a day trip to Alaçatı or the off-the-beaten-track village of Şirince are very much recommended.

The Foca fishing port harbor in Izmir is worth a visit
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