Encompassing two continents, Istanbul, the cultural jewel of Turkey, and its neighboring regions are home to more Roman ruins, Ottoman villages, and crystalline beaches than you could ever dream. Here’s a look at some of the best day trips from Istanbul!
Historic cities, natural beaches, fascinating ruins, and dreamscaped villages are waiting for you.
1 — Ephesus
Once one of the greatest cities in the Roman Empire, this day trip from Istanbul exists as a reminder of humanity’s fragility. With its honey-gold stonework and wandering, cobbled streets, visitors of Ephesus are immersed into the haunting decadence of the ancient world through master stonework and grandiose sculpture.
Wandering through the provincial capital, ornate facades and statues relay the city’s lore and enlightenment, with excavations open for exploration. At one time housing over 250,000 citizens, delving through this unearthed city can feel surreal and solitary.
2 — Gallipoli & ANZAC Battlefields
Beneath the crystalline coast and pine-fringed hillsides of Gallipoli lie the tombs of over 3,000 Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and British soldiers.
The ANZAC battlefields are a site of remembrance, and visitors to the region can witness the trenches and battlefields along the Nek in their authenticity, as relics slowly eroding back into the terrain.
Now commonly visited as a point of pilgrimage, the Gallipoli Peninsula and its harrowing history are easily accessed as a day trip from Istanbul.
3 — Troy
The ancient city of Troy is an evocative opportunity for imagineers, historians, and Homeric idolizers. The 7-times-rebuilt ruins reside at the emerald base of the serene and majestic Mt. Ida. Climb inside the reconstructed Trojan horse or meander through the mythicized lost-city.
A ferry ride away is Bozcaada, quite possibly the world’s most tranquil and fertile island town. With innumerable cafes, wine bars, and restaurants, a visit to Troy and it’s antiquated neighbors provide a vibrant day out from Istanbul.
4 — Cappadocia
Cappadocia is one of those places that you wouldn’t think existed unless you’ve seen it. This mystical region is pitted with other-worldly geographic formations, hive-like underground cities and labyrinths of cave communities perforated into the bouldering hillside.
Each morning the horizon is ornamented with hot air balloons speckled above the villages while the cafes are filled with residents playing Rummy and sipping black tea. An unmissable day trip from Istanbul, Cappadocia is a fairytale waiting to be read.
There are many tour operators offering Cappadocia day trips from Istanbul. Compare offers and book your preferred one.
5 — Bursa
A two-hour drive is all it takes to exchange Istanbul for Bursa. Turkey’s second-largest city is enlivened by it’s bustling, fragrant bazaars and eclectic tilework. On this day tour from Istanbul, you can find locals trading sunlight-tinted honey, succulent chestnuts, and artisanal silks, while the waft of fresh brewed coffees and teas enrich the air.
This Ottoman capital retains its most famous buildings: the Grand Mosque and Green Tomb represent some of the best works of Islamic architecture and art.
Mt. Uludag, instead, grants panoramic views of the region.
6 — Bosphorus
The Bosphorus Strait is so intrinsic to Turkish life that it might easily go unrepresented. The banks of the Bosphorus are an outdoor museum. Touring the west and east shores allows you to see the Hagia Sophia, Rumeli Fortress, Topkapi Palace and other heritage sites. The best way to travel it? A cruise!
Chances are, if you’re staying in Istanbul you’ll be approached with offers to take a Bosphorus cruise. While an excellent way to orient yourself with the city, the history and significance of it make for an excellent day out from Istanbul.
7 — Sapanca Lake
If you’re looking to escape the intensity of Istanbul, it’s hard to beat the serenity of Sapanca Lake. Rumored to be the result of a curse placed on the town by a wanderer treated inhospitably, the original village of Sapanca is said to be below the waters. Rumored or not, the town is seraphic in its beauty, with fauna that glistens with the vibrancy of emeralds, gilded coastline and air fragrant with ambrosia.
This day out from Istanbul allows for kayaking and paddling on the water, or the opportunity to view waterfalls while dining under the forest canopy of Masukiye.
8 — Sile
In the heat of summer, you may find troves of Istanbulites sunbathing along the coves or rejuvenating in the sea breeze of this quaint fishing village. Situated along the Black Sea, Sile’s stretch of opulent white sands and turquoise waters are a rejoice from stifling city streets.
Nearby, the crippled remains of an old castle and an Ottoman lighthouse are the historical remnants of previous occupants, dynasties, and peoples who’ve enjoyed Sile’s slow-moving seaside. For a day trip from Istanbul, this hop to the opposite end of the Bosphorus Strait is a pleasure.
9 — Uskudar
Uskudar is a leisurely day tour from Istanbul. Situated on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Strait, the ancient mosques, sharp bazaars, and authentic pace make Uskudar feel traditionally more “Turkish” than Istanbul itself.
No tourist hustling or watered-down cultural attractions here. The harems are functioning places of rejuvenation and the bazaars sell local handicraft. One of the best spots to be bestowed by a magnificent sunset, Uskudar is a microcosm of old-world Istanbul.
10 — Agva
The seaside village of Agva sits three hours outside of Istanbul. With its meandering river and lofty beach life, Agva serves as a nature retreat from the dense city center, for visitors searching for sea-spun air and placid serenity on a day out from Istanbul.
While Agva’s primarily a fishing village, it hosts a variety of artisanal restaurants and cafes to settle into. Private coves and estuaries wait to be found, and kayaking, fishing, and trekking through the village’s hillside are readily at hand.
11 — Edirne
Even if you did nothing in Edirne, it would still be a pleasure to walk through. Strolling through its antique Ottoman Old Town, unique curio shops and local craftsmanship are displayed in the vast, wooden doorways of the city’s traditional buildings. Nearby, the Selimiye Mosque overlooks against the horizon.
As the nation’s second capital, Edirne is vibrant with old-world charm and architectural wonders that are nothing-less than transportive. It’s a pleasant cultural day trip from Istanbul.
12 — Belgrade Forest
Istanbul’s front yard is only 30 minutes from the metropolis. With vast jade canopies and wide swaths of running and biking paths, Belgrade Forest provides summer shade, when the thought of Turkey’s sweltering beaches and dense city center feel overwhelming.
Lurking in the forest lie the ruins of an old Ottoman aqueduct and remnants of an overlooked Serbian community, displaced from the city of Belgrade. Plumes of smoke and the savory smell of barbeque may waft through the foliage from picnics and barbeques prepared by those seeking an oasis from the city’s flurry.
Belgrade Forest day trips from Istanbul are ideal for nature lovers.
13 — Pamukkale
Pamukkale includes a group of limestone terraces shaped by the action of the hot springs that generate a waterfall. The water contains a high concentration of minerals which are suitable for the skin. The flow of the water downhill has form stalactites and pools.
Near Pamukkale, you can visit the ruins of Hierapolis, a church built by converting Roman baths. You can now visit both a Roman theater and the thermal baths.
While you may not be able to witness the entirety of this regional wonder on a day trip from Istanbul, you can definitely partake in the most meaningful of Pamukkale’s opportunities.
Pamukkale day trips from Istanbul are very popular and should be on your travel bucket list if you are looking for unique places to visit.
14 — Emirgan Park
Touted for its colorful spring Tulip Festival, Emirgan Park’s flower gardens provide an uplifting escape from the inner city. Outside the park’s entrance, vendors offer traditional park snacks like cotton candy, dried nuts, and halva for you to enjoy while walking Emirgan’s crimson path through its magnificent landscaping.
Enjoy a tea or brunch in one of the park’s restored Ottoman mansions or people watch, play sports, or simply enjoy the ambiance while picnicking in the grass. About an hour and a half from the city, it’s worth seeing why so many visitors make Emirgan Park their day out from Istanbul.
15 — Kilyos
An hour outside of Istanbul is the endless summer coastal town of Kilyos. With its bustling resorts and high-octane summer festivals and nightlife, this day trip from Istanbul is easily reached by car, tour, or public transport.
Enjoy surfing, volleyball, or soccer through the various sports centers that organize along the coast, or simply refresh with a swim in the towns crisp, cold waters. This ocean getaway offers an escape from the scorching summer sun.
16 — Princes’ Islands
A ferry from the kabatas port of Istanbul will transport you from the frenzy of the metropolis to these isolated islands where cars aren’t allowed.
By foot, bike, or horse-drawn-carriage, you can wander through the passages or Heybeliada or Buyukada Island to witness old, Ottoman chalets or hike through the pine-dense forests to reach ruins, skyline vistas, or the Aya Yorgi Church — one of the islands underrated yet loveliest sights.
With nothing but the sounds of bike bells, horse hooves, and the casual conversation of passersby, it’s no why wonder locals flock here for a day trip from Istanbul.
17 — Anadolu Kavağı
Nestled between the Bosphorus Strait and the domed fortress hills of Yoros Kalesi lies the town of Anadolu Kavaği. With bustling streets embraced by vibrantly-painted fisherman houses and restaurants serving up delicacies caught right off the coast, this small town is easily reached by taking a Bosphorus cruise.
Hike the pine-laden forests to Yoros Kalesi for panoramic views of the Strait and Istanbul’s skyline spanning the horizon. Paired alongside a cruise, you can round-out an evening away from the city center for a day trip from Istanbul that feels unburdened by the city’s haste.
18 — Çanakkale
The nearest hub to the ANZAC battlefields and Troy, Çanakkale is appropriately placed for a more extended or multi-day trip from Istanbul. Similar in vibe to Istanbul but much more manageable in size, the city prides itself on its youthful culture and contemporary buzz.
Conquer Çimenlik Castle and climb its ramparts for impressive views across the Dardanelles, or wander the city’s cobblestone streets to find a quaint cafe for tea. The evening offers an ideal time to walk the city’s harbor, as the city’s lights reflect across the waters.
19 — Golden Horn
Named after the natural curvature of the harbor, the Golden Horn is a district historically recognized for its trade route importance during the Medieval Era. Adorned with mansions and palaces, the area is embedded with historical sites like the Eyüp Mosque and the Aynalıkavak Kasrı pavilion.
In the adjoining streets of the district, Ottoman shops sell trinkets, sweets, and wooden toys not easily found elsewhere. Due to its feeling of exclusivity, it’s easy to enjoy a day out from Istanbul walking the harbor’s banks, venturing through the traditional shops, and witnessing the immensity of the districts local mosque.
20 — Kilitbahir Fortress
This immense stone complex adjacent to Çanakkale is less of a day trip from Istanbul and more of an add-on alongside a visit to the city. An absolutely monolithic structure, adventurers who delve through the meandering maze of passages and corridors are rewarded with some of the highest views across the Dardanelles.
Constructed alongside Çimenlik Castle across the strait, Kilitbahir Fortress historically served as a “lock of the sea,” to the benefit or dismay of traders.
We hope you enjoyed our selection of day trips from Istanbul. Enjoy Turkey 🙂