· istanbul · 6 min read

7 Amazing Day Trips From Istanbul

Explore the wonders of Turkey beyond Istanbul

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Istanbul is a must-see city for anyone visiting Turkey. Fortunately for travelers, it’s also the gateway to many of the best destinations in Turkey. Discover the best day trips from Istanbul to enhance your Turkish travel itinerary.

Although Istanbul has been the center of Turkish trading and culture, it isn’t the only location rich in culture, beauty, and history. Venture beyond Turkey’s biggest city to find beautiful beach towns, wonders of the world, and historic battle sites. Your bucket list in Turkey is sure to grow when you discover the fascinating attractions waiting for you outside of Istanbul.

So, what are the best day trips from Istanbul?

7 Amazing Trips From Istanbul

Boating Day Trips

With its position on the Bosphorus, Istanbul offers access to incredible day trips via boats.

1. Princes’ Islands / Adalar

princes islands istanbul panoramic view

The Princes’ Islands are a short boat ride from Istanbul but offer a completely different atmosphere from the busy city.

Catch the ferry from Kabataş for half an hour to find yourself among these gorgeous little islands. You can select the type of day trip you’d like and find an island to fit your style. The Princes’ Islands have white sand beaches, towering forests, and old-world charm with traditional Ottoman-style houses along the shores.

These islands are a favorite of Istanbul locals who need a break from city life and the permanent traffic. They take day trips out to these islands to breathe in the fresh air, have delicious seafood, and move at a slower pace.

Join them by relaxing on a beach at Heybeliada Island. Go back in time at Büyükada Island with its history museum. 

2. Golden Horn / Haliç

golden horn panoramic view istanbul

The Golden Horn isn’t actually a single place to visit. Rather, it’s a notable feature of the Bosphorus that set Istanbul up to be the booming city it is. Historically, the Golden Horn was a crucial port for the shipping and trading industry.

You can still visit this essential port while exploring the monuments of the nearby districts.

Hop on a ferry cruise to tour your way up the Bosphorus to the Golden Horn. Hop off at Hasköy to visit the famous Aynalıkavak Kasrı pavilion and the 500-year-old Eyüp Mosque. You’ll be taken aback by the historic architecture set against the backdrop of the Bosphorus. 

Driving Day Trips

Istanbul is located within easy driving distance of some of the most famous historical sites in the world. Be sure to include them when you’re planning your day trips from Istanbul.

3. Gallipoli / Gelibolu

canakkale martyrs memorial in turkey

Gallipoli is the famous site of the World War I battle between the Anzac and the Turkish armies. The area has been dedicated to commemorating the fallen soldiers with specific memorials to fallen soldiers from each nation.

Even if you aren’t a history buff, you’ll want to visit this historical location for the stunning beauty of Anzac Cove and the white marble memorials that keep the tragedies of the battle with us.

Although Gallipoli is a short car ride away and can be navigated on your own, it’s best to join a tour to get more information about the battles and how they affected Turkish history.

If you’re in Turkey for Anzac Day, be sure to plan a day trip from Istanbul to Gallipoli to take part in the memorial celebration that happens every year. You’ll see the very nations who battled years ago united in the memory of the fallen.

4. Troy / Truva & Çanakkale

ancient troy ruins in canakkale turkey

History and mythology buffs will already have Troy at the top of their bucket list. It’s one of the most famous ancient sites in the world, thanks in large part to the mythology surrounding it.

Don’t miss a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site to tour the very walls the Trojan horse is said to have passed through.

Take a guided tour to learn the significance of the ruined walls and the Temple of Athena. You’ll discover that there were multiple builds of the city that have been slowly uncovered through the centuries. Guides even give insights into battle strategies and how the sloped city walls thwarted enemy battering rams.

Once you’ve visited the historic site, head to Çanakkale, the nearest city center, to see a giant Trojan horse monument for visitors.

You’ll be drawn to turn your day trip into an overnight adventure when you learn about the city’s developed nightlife.

Flying Day Trips

Save on driving time and book cheap flights to explore further regions of the country on short day trips.

5. Pamukkale

pamukkale travertines in denizli turkey

Pamukkale may be the most photographed natural feature in Turkey. The white thermal pool terraces that cascade onto one another as they pour down a mountainside are not to be missed.

Pack your camera and your bathing suit to visit this hugely popular Turkish attraction. Be prepared for your feet to get wet as you traverse the pools and make your way through the crystal blue water.

Beyond the pools, Pamukkale is the site of the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis that provides a stunning historical backdrop to this natural wonder. You can explore historic tombs and walk along the ancient city roads before heading back to soak at the hilltop thermal baths.

Don’t miss this ultimate day trip. Book a 2-hour plane ride from Istanbul to access this one-of-a-kind location. 

6. Ankara

ankara castle at night with full moon

Although Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, it actually isn’t the capital. Ankara is Turkey’s capital city that lies in the center of the Anatolia region. Although you can access it in a day, you’ll spend most of your time driving. Save 5 hours to view the city by catching a 1-hour flight from Istanbul.

While you’re in Ankara, be sure to visit the Mausoleum of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. You’ll learn about how he changed Turkish society and government while wandering through gorgeous marble halls.

Don’t forget to visit the Old Quarter to wander past red-roofed houses. Get a unique view of the city from Atakule Tower, the highest viewpoint in the city.

There’s plenty to do in the country’s capital. You’ll find it completely different and yet just as captivating as Istanbul.

7. Ephesus

ephesus ruins in izmir turkey with a rainbow

Ephesus can be accessed by driving or flying from Istanbul, but you’ll save time to explore if you fly.

Ephesus is the site of an ancient Greek city. It’s one of the most well-preserved cities on Earth, with ancient monuments still towering in all their glory.

You can walk the streets of the Ancient Greeks, view an amphitheater that is built into the base mountainside, and see where the Virgin Mary supposedly spent her last days. Without a doubt, you’ll spot some of the famous Ephesus cats that roam the ruins of the library and wait happily for human attention.

Don’t miss the opportunity to walk through an Ancient Greek town.

Closing Thoughts

Istanbul is at the top of most bucket lists, but don’t forget about the other wonders Turkey has to offer. Take advantage of the best day trips from Istanbul to discover natural wonders, world-changing history and walk in the footsteps of the ancient world.

Expand your Turkish visit to see more of the country’s natural beauty and historic homes by venturing outside of the largest city.