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A Complete Guide to Planning the Perfect Three-Week Itinerary in Turkey

Updated: Feb 8




Turkey had long been on our travel wishlist, so when the chance finally arose, we eagerly seized it. Armed with insights from various travel blogs detailing the must-see places in Turkey, I meticulously crafted a three-week itinerary, confident that it would encompass all the highlights. However, my assumptions proved misguided. I had underestimated the sheer size of Turkey, prompting us to make some impromptu adjustments. In all fairness, these changes weren't solely a result of my oversight; the invaluable input from locals we encountered during our journey also played a significant role in shaping our route.

Of the seven destinations we initially earmarked, we ultimately explored only four, a decision that greatly enhanced our travel experience. Why? As I mentioned earlier, Turkey's vastness and the considerable distances between cities quickly became apparent. The prospect of spending 12 hours or more on overnight or day buses, coupled with a mere three-day window in each location, would likely have left us utterly exhausted.


Consequently, we made slight adjustments, opting to skip Ankara, Pamukkale, and Bodrum. Why, you might wonder? Primarily, we were swayed by the responses of locals when we shared our meticulously planned three-week itinerary with them. Their reactions, ranging from "But what's the allure?" to "I'd steer clear if I were you" or even "There isn't much worth seeing there," punctuated with laughter, significantly influenced our decision. Naturally, we conducted our own research, and the following reasons solidified our choice to omit these three destinations:


  • Ankara

Apart from its status as the nation's capital, many travelers pause in Ankara en route to Cappadocia, aiming to truncate the arduous 12-hour bus journey. However, for us, the city didn't seem to justify the investment of time and effort. To clarify, Ankara boasts its share of attractions, but we opted to conserve both time and resources, channeling them instead towards savoring the wonders of Cappadocia to a greater extent.


  • Pamukkale

We've all marveled at the breathtaking blue pools of Pamukkale, nestled atop a bed of pristine white stone (fun fact: "Pamukkale" translates to "cotton castle" in Turkish!). However, appearances can be deceiving. Many of the stunning images circulating online date back to 2010, a time before the era of influencers and Instagram when Pamukkale remained relatively undiscovered and untouched. Furthermore, the experience comes at a considerable expense, and the area offers little else beyond the ancient city of Hierapolis. It's a four-hour journey from Antalya, and in just one day, you can pretty much exhaust all the attractions the area has to offer. The allure of Pamukkale seemed to us a bit like falling into a tourist trap. Regrettably, the once pristine natural beauty of the site has succumbed to the adverse effects of mass tourism, and we were hesitant to contribute to its degradation.


  • Bodrum

Bodrum was the final destination we chose to exclude from our itinerary. Insights from blogs and locals alike underscored that Bodrum is primarily a seaside resort, ideal for those seeking a Turkish equivalent of Benidorm during the summer months. However, its allure diminishes considerably during the autumn season, lacking the same appeal and vibrancy.

So here’s what our final three-week itinerary in Turkey looked like :



Accommodation in Turkey



As usual, we embarked on our journey with a constrained budget, necessitating adjustments based on our financial constraints. Istanbul and Cappadocia, being major tourist destinations, tend to be pricier compared to Antalya and Izmir. During our time in Cappadocia, we chose to stay in a hotel/hostel to balance comfort and affordability. For accommodations elsewhere, we favoured private rooms booked through Airbnb—a fantastic alternative for those disinclined to spend three weeks in hostels, enabling us to economise without compromising on comfort. These choices not only saved us money but also facilitated delightful encounters with numerous amiable and intriguing locals, enriching our travel experience in unexpected ways !




The Turks are renowned for their genuine hospitality, and they certainly lived up to their reputation during our travels. However, it's imperative to approach their kindness with respect and gratitude, avoiding any hint of taking advantage of their generosity. Turkish hospitality often manifests through gestures like preparing food and making small purchases without expecting anything in return. Therefore, we made a concerted effort to reciprocate their kindness whenever possible, ensuring that our interactions remained mutually respectful and appreciative.


A three-week itinerary in Turkey: getting around

The preferred mode of transportation for long journeys in Turkey is predominantly by bus. With limited railroad lines, buses stand as the primary means of traversing extensive distances, especially as we opted against air travel for environmental considerations.


Turkey's bus network is highly dependable and extensive, linking virtually every corner of the country. Most cities boast well-equipped bus stations, facilitating seamless travel experiences. Numerous reliable companies, such as Metro and Kamilkoc, operate routes spanning the entire nation, ensuring you accessibility and convenience.


Furthermore, the advent of technology has streamlined the booking process significantly. Through platforms like the Flixbus app, you can now effortlessly reserve bus tickets. The app's user-friendly interface and the option to pay in Euros have made booking buses in Turkey a hassle-free endeavor, enhancing the overall travel experience !


In addition to the Flixbus app, travelers in Turkey have the option to book tickets through the Obilet website or directly at train stations. However, it's crucial to note a significant distinction: Flixbuses in Turkey differ from those in Europe.

We learned this lesson firsthand when we nearly missed our bus to Cappadocia. Expecting a neon green Flixbus, we were surprised to find it was actually a Kamilkoc bus. To avoid the uncomfortable situation of delaying departure and facing disapproving looks, as we did, it's advisable to clarify the bus operator with the driver before boarding. Don't hesitate to seek assistance to ensure a smooth and timely journey.



Turkish buses offer a comfortable and spacious travel experience. Passengers can conveniently charge their phones onboard and adjust their seats for added comfort. I highly recommend bringing a plug onboard as the screens with USB sockets may occasionally be inactive (learn from my mistakes 🤪).


Throughout the journey, a host attends to passengers, offering complimentary drinks and snacks. The buses make regular stops of varying durations, ranging from 5 to 30 minutes. The longer, 30-minute break typically occurs at a sizable petrol station where passengers can enjoy meals, tea, and most importantly, access restroom facilities (a relief for those of us who need to make frequent restroom visits - hello! 👋). I say this because there are no onboard toilets, which might cause some panic for individuals with frequent restroom needs.


Other means of transport:


  • Plane

If extended bus journeys aren't your cup of tea, another option is to opt for internal flights, with airlines like Pegasus Airlines offering convenient travel solutions. However, we chose to steer clear of this option due to the unnecessary carbon footprint it entails. Nonetheless, it can serve as a viable plan B for those seeking quicker travel alternatives.


  • Car rental


If we ever embark on another journey to Turkey, renting a car would be our top choice. While the bus system is efficient, it does impose limitations on one's freedom of movement. During our time in Antalya, we yearned to explore numerous small fishing villages, a task that necessitated the flexibility of a car. Although I didn't extensively research car rental options initially, given our initial plan to rely on buses, it's evident that there are plenty of options available online for those seeking greater autonomy in their travels.



Turkish Currency


The currency used in Turkey is the Turkish lira, with the exchange rate approximately 1 ₺ = 0.03€. Despite the country grappling with high inflation, we found that most things were remarkably affordable. Engaging in conversations with locals, we gleaned insights into the challenges they face due to the rising cost of living. While our experiences may have felt luxurious, we couldn't help but empathize with Turks navigating through the current economic climate.


Cash is the primary mode of payment in Turkey, although credit cards are widely accepted in many establishments. It's advisable to carry both forms of payment with you at all times, just in case you encounter situations where one may be more convenient than the other.




Language barriers in Turkey



Navigating language barriers in Turkey was an adventure in itself. While English is commonly spoken, especially in tourist hubs like Istanbul and Cappadocia, not everyone you encounter will be fluent. It's a valuable lesson to remember: basic phrases like "hello" and "thank you" can go a long way in fostering connections in a foreign country.


We encountered a memorable situation with our last Airbnb host in Istanbul, who didn't speak English at all. Thankfully, we managed to bridge the gap using Google Translate for a brief but effective exchange. While language barriers can initially seem daunting, maintaining a positive attitude and being friendly can often break down communication barriers and open doors to meaningful interactions.


Here are a few words to start with:


  • Merhaba = Hello

  • Güle Güle = Goodbye

  • Teşekkürler (Teh-sheh-kull-erh-ler) = Thank you




Now that you have the three-week itinerary set, you're ready to see the mosques of Istanbul, hike the valleys of Cappadocia, stroll through the old town of Antalya and take in the views of Izmir!



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