Excursions from Istanbul: the best day trips around Istanbul

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Istanbul is a complete city where everything encompasses Turkish charm and culture. It should be discovered calmly, taking the time to stroll through its markets and admire the undisputed beauty of its mosques. With a stay of 7 days, time may be enough to explore the city both in its ancient and modern areas, allowing a visit to its surroundings with daily excursions. Here's what they are the best day trips around Istanbul!


  1. Cappadocia: private full-day tour with flights
  2. Bursa la Verde and Olympus of Misia
  3. Edirne
  4. Gallipoli
  5. Princes' Islands
  6. Troy
  7. Lake Sapanca and Masukiye
  8. Ephesus: 1 Day Tour with Flight Included
  9. Bosphorus Cruise and Garipce Tour
  10. User questions and comments

1 - Cappadocia: 1 day private tour with flights

If you think of Turkey, in addition to Istanbul, Cappadocia comes to mind, the famous postcard landscape with hot air balloon flights over the rock formations called fairy chimneys, but unfortunately we often find ourselves having to give up because of the distance and the few days available. Cappadocia is in fact 8 hours from Istanbul and normally the tours offered last at least three days as you travel by bus, but this tour is structured to save time, with return flights on the same day.

We will be picked up from the hotel very early and fly to Kayseri from where the tour will start towards Göreme and the Open Air Museum which houses the fairy chimneys, continuing towards Ürgüp, Uçhisar and Nevşehir with a stop at Ortahisar Castle. It ends with a demonstration of pottery and carpet weaving before returning to Istanbul in the early evening. A tour de force in one day? Likely, but certainly you will be amazed! The only thing to keep in mind is that this type of tour includes the vehicle, the guide and the entrance to the attractions but does not include the balloon ride which must be booked separately.

  • Range: 793 km
  • you are picked up directly from the hotel early in the morning and taken to the airport, otherwise you would have to drive or take a bus which takes about 8 hours; the flight of this tour lasts 1:25 h; - Get directions
  • tours start already at 4:00 am with return scheduled for 18:00 pm; Open air museum Mon-Sun 8: 00-18: 15; Ortahisar Castle Mon-Sun 8: 30-18: 00;
  • tour starting from € 350,00; Open-air museum 20 LT / € 2,80; Ortahisar Castle for free;
  • Cappadocia: private full-day tour from Istanbul with flights

2 - Bursa la Verde and Olympus of Misia

Bursa is a city 2 hours from Istanbul and not just any city, but the first capital of the Ottoman Empire! Bursa is perfect for a full day excursion and is known and visited above all for its unmissable Olympus of Misia, a 2.543 meters high mountain that can be reached by cable car. There are many tours that leave every day from Istanbul to this location but if you want it can also be reached independently with direct buses.

Once in Bursa you can admire beautiful Ottoman-style buildings, relics of the past that testify to Turkish history and culture, the characteristic silk market and magnificent mosques with particular attention to the beautiful Ulu Cami, the Great Mosque. In addition, Bursa is called "La Verde" for its countless parks and gardens, ideal for some nice photos and a relaxing stroll. Finally, the long-awaited moment: the ascent by cable car to the Olympus of Misia for a typical lunch with a spectacular view, made even more suggestive by the presence of snow in some periods.

  • Range: 154 km
  • in the case of organized tours you are picked up directly from the hotel. By car following the E80 road. Metro Turizm Company Buses Take 2 Hours - Get Directions
  • usually we leave at 8:00 and return around 18:00; Ulu Cami 5: 00-22: 00;
  • tour starting from € 35,00; bus € 5,00; Ulu Cami for free;
  • From Istanbul: Green Bursa Full-Day Tour Bursa and Mysia Olympus: Istanbul Full-Day Bursa Tour from Istanbul From Istanbul: Full-Day Bursa Private Tour

3 - Edirne

Always remaining in the theme of the Ottoman capitals, this time we propose the second city that was the capital of this great empire! Edirne is located more than 2 hours from Istanbul and also in this case it is possible to choose public transport or an organized tour.
A day trip that will keep you busy for about ten hours between mosques, fortresses and bridges, each site with a story to tell.

Upon arrival in the city you start immediately from Eski Camii, a stone and white marble mosque with elegantly decorated interiors, continuing with another important mosque, Selimiye, with a symmetrical design and four minarets. We then pass the Meric bridge and the Kule Kapisi gate, both part of the ancient defensive system of the city, and finally visit the large Beyazit Kulliyesi complex consisting of gardens and another large mosque. At the end of the city tour, there will certainly be time for some souvenir shopping and culinary specialties from Edirne before returning to Istanbul.

  • Range: 239 km
  • in the case of organized tours you are picked up directly from the hotel. By car via the E80 road. Turkish Railways company night train takes 5:20 h - Get directions
  • tours start at 8:00 am and last approximately 10 hours; Eski Camii 5: 00-22: 00; Selimiye 5: 00-22: 00; Beyazit Kulliyesi 9: 00-19: 30
  • tour starting from € 130,00; train € 3,00; Eski Camii for free; Selimiye for free; Beyazit Kulliyesi for free;
  • Istanbul: day trip to Edirne

4 - Gallipoli

No, in this case Gallipoli is not the famous and lively Apulian summer resort! It is the exact opposite, a place of memory and important stage during the First World War. Gallipoli is almost 3 and a half hours from Istanbul, but with public transport it would take more than double due to changes and stops, so it is advisable to rent a car or choose an organized excursion that allows the round trip in one day.

Gallipoli is therefore an entire peninsula sadly known for one of the cruelest battles of the war which counts over 200.000 deaths. The tour is obviously historical and reflective themed rather than for leisure purposes, during which you will visit 11 places of interest related to the battle such as the fields of Nek and Çunukbahir and their trenches, the Bay of Anzac, the cemetery on the beach and the Lone Pine Memorial.

  • Range: 267 km
  • in the case of organized tours you are picked up directly from the hotel, or by car you follow the E80 and E84 roads from Istanbul - Get directions
  • tours start very early in the morning and last between 15 and 18 hours; Nek and Çunukbahir fields always open
  • tour starting from € 75,00; Nek and Çunukbahir camps for free
  • Gallipoli: Full-Day Tour from Istanbul Gallipoli Full-Day Tour from Istanbul Full-Day Gallipoli Tour from Istanbul with Lunch

5 - Princes' Islands

Among the favorite day trip destinations from Istanbul are the Princes' Islands, a archipelago of 9 islands located in the Sea of ​​Marmara. They are located west of the city, facing the coast of the Asian side, reachable in 2 and a half hours by ferry from both areas of the city (European and Asian) or with an organized tour. Once you have landed, you will be amazed that there are no cars to explore them and you will have to opt for a bicycle or horse-drawn carriage.

A tour of these islands will take you the whole day taking you around the history of the Byzantine settlements, the lush Ottoman architecture of ancient villas and palaces, and renowned seaside resorts chosen by the princes for their summer holidays and still very popular today. From this detail derives the name of the archipelago! Whether you choose to do this tour independently or by relying on an organized tour, it will undoubtedly be a beautiful adventure full of wonderful landscapes and you absolutely cannot miss, among other things, an excellent lunch based on fresh fish.

  • Range: 27 km
  • Direct ferries depart every hour from both the Eminönü Ferry Terminal on the European side of Istanbul and the Kadıköy Pier on the Asian side. They stop on the islands in the Kınalıada, Burgazada and Heybeliada piers and take 1:35 h - Get directions
  • Tours depart in the morning between 8:00 and 9:00 and last approximately 8 hours
  • tour starting from € 50,00; ferry € 1,00
  • Princes' Islands: full-day tour

6 - Troy

Who hasn't heard of the Trojan War? TO 5 hours away from Istanbul you have the opportunity, lovers of literature or not, of explore and delve into the legendary and ancient city of Troy told in the poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and retrace the deeds of Achilles, Hector, Helen and Paris.

Also in Troy you can admire impressive defensive walls and ruins, now a UNESCO site, which testify through archaeological excavations the presence of as many as 9 cities built one above the other starting from 3.500 BC. The reproduction of the famous Trojan horse, an overwhelming weapon to win the war! In addition, a day tour of Troy, or in any case a trip to it, includes a panoramic and suggestive ferry crossing in the Dardanelles Strait.

  • Range: 346 km
  • you are picked up directly from the hotel early in the morning otherwise by public transport it would take 8 hours. By car following the E84 and E87 roads - Get directions
  • tours depart at 6:00 am and return in the late evening lasting approximately 18 hours
  • tour starting from € 85,00
  • Troy: full-day tour from Istanbul

7 - Lake Sapanca and Masukiye

This extraordinary day excursion is nature-themed and is less than 2 hours by car or transport from Istanbul, but choose an organized tour. This is Lake Sapanca from which you can later go to the discovery of the Masukiye district, on the Gulf of Izmit. Away from the chaos of the city you will find this also very popular with the locals who likes to spend pleasant days or the entire weekend.

Usually yes starts from Masukiye district where beautiful landscapes and an unmissable tasting of local honey await you, then continuing towards Lake Sapanca to admire its banks, the view of Mount Kartepe and the beautiful views of the gulf and the surrounding Adapazari Plain, without forgetting a suggestive boat ride on its clear waters. An excursion suitable for every season with the possibility of visiting the Ormanya Natural Habitat Park and Zoo in summer or the Kartepe Snow Resort in winter to play in the snow.

  • Range: 138 km
  • you are picked up directly from the hotel. Kaml Koc company bus taking 2 hours. By car following the E80 road - Get directions
  • tours start at 8:00 with return around 22:00 and last approximately 14 hours; Sapanca Lake always open; Ormanya Natural Habitat Park and Zoo 9: 00-20: 00; Kartepe Snow Resort always open;
  • tour starting from € 32,00; bus € 8,00; Free Sapanca Lake; Ormania Natural Habitat Park and Zoo for free; Kartepe Snow Resort for free;
  • Sapanca Lake and Masukiye Full-Day Tour from Istanbul Istanbul: Full-Day Sapanca Lake and Masukiye Tour with Lunch

8 - Ephesus: 1 day tour with flight included

Ephesus is one of the largest archaeological sites in all of Asia and the largest open-air museum in the whole of Turkey with over 30 Greek, Roman and Byzantine monuments. However, it is located more than 500 km from Istanbul and for this reason there are tours with round-trip flights included, to reduce the timing by avoiding wasting time driving or with the means, so as not to give up visiting this rich and ancient place.

The tour lasts around 12 hours, certainly a tour de force but the ruins of Ephesus will pay off any effort. Inside the archaeological site you will find, just to name a few of the long list, the House of the Virgin Mary, the Temple of Hadrian, the Library of Celsus, numerous public bathhouses but above all the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world!

  • Range: 539 km
  • you are picked up directly from the hotel early in the morning and taken to the airport, otherwise you would have to drive or take a bus which takes about 6 hours; the flight of this tour lasts 1:00 h; - Get directions
  • tours start as early as 6:00 am with return scheduled for 18:00 pm; Open Air Museum of Ephesus 8: 00-19: 00;
  • tour starting from € 200,00; Ephesus Open Air Museum € 3,30
  • Ephesus tour by air from Istanbul

9 - Bosphorus Cruise and Garipce Tour

Less than an hour away from Istanbul is Garipce, reachable by land but also by sea. What we want to offer you is in fact a pleasant, relaxing and suggestive cruise on the Bosphorus, the channel that leads from the Sea of ​​Marmara to the Black Sea, or from Europe to Asia.

Before reaching Garipce about an hour and a half of navigation awaits you during which you will enjoy the view of Istanbul from another perspective, you will pass the Dolmabahce Palace, Ciragan Palace and under the Bogazici Bridge, and observe the minarets of the mosques in the distance. When you arrive in Garipce you will find yourself in a small e characteristic maritime village where of greatest interest are the Rumeli Castle and the Kucuksu Palace. Finally, allow yourself some time to discover the colorful Fener and Balat districts, then embark again and return to Istanbul enjoying a beautiful sunset seen from the sea.

  • Range: 33 km
  • cruises depart from various docks in Istanbul, but also pick up from accommodation. Alternatively you can get to Garipce with the M2 metro to Haciosman and then continue by taxi in about 1:00 h - Get directions
  • tours start around 9:00 am; Rumeli Castle 9: 00-16: 30; Kucuksu Palace 9: 00-17: 00;
  • cruises starting from € 20,00; Garipce tour starting from € 100,00; Rumeli Castle € 0,60; Kucuksu Palace for free
  • Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise Full-Day Small Group Bosphorus Cruise with Lunch Bosphorus Sightseeing Boat Tour with Audio Guide

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