Located at the meeting point of Europe and Asia, Istanbul is an ancient city with a modern and fascinating culture. Home to monuments like the Grand Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and extensive Roman ruins, this city has also been the seat of two major world empires, the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire. And yet, central Istanbul is a long way from being a museum. Instead, it's the city center of a vast and vibrant city that is the ideal introduction to Turkish culture and one of the world's great cities to explore.
Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Istanbul, and you'll be ready to immerse yourself in the fascinating history, culture, and nightlife of this unique city. But once you've visited the historic monuments and seen the best museums in Istanbul, including the incredible Islamic Arts Museum, you may find yourself wondering what this area has to offer besides city life.
Well, you're in luck. The best day trips from Istanbul can take you to some truly incredible locations in and around Turkey. If you want to explore more about this country, day trips from Istanbul are the ideal way to see sites you won't soon forget. Put your bags in storage and get ready to enjoy some incredible locations within a day's journey from Istanbul's city center.
How to get out of Istanbul
Istanbul's main train station is a good gateway to explore the rest of the country. High-speed trains leave Istanbul to visit locations in Turkey, such as Ankara, and it's also possible to take the train into Europe and visit cities like Sofia in Bulgaria. The train station also functions as a hub for Istanbul's bus network, and you can learn more about how to get around Istanbul here.
Driving in central Istanbul is something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, and so it's definitely better to stick to public transport where possible. However, depending on what your ideal day trip looks like, you may find that driving is the only way to get where you want to go. That's certainly true if you want to explore the more off-the-beaten-path destinations in the region. It's not always possible to take an organized tour or public transport to where you want to go, and in those cases, renting a car may be a better way to enjoy some great day trips. But given Istanbul's challenging traffic situation, it might be better to rent a car at the airport or somewhere a little out of town so that you don't find yourself trying to drive in the heart of the city.
From Istanbul to Princes Islands
Istanbul is never boring, but sometimes, the hectic pace of the city can get to be a little much, even for people who have lived there for their entire lives. Luckily, locals know where to go to recharge their batteries, and that's Princes Islands.
Reachable by ferry from Kabatas, these islands are only an hour from the city, but they feel so much further. With beautiful beaches and hiking trails, these islands are truly special. Cars are not allowed, so the only way to get around once you reach the island is on foot, by bicycle, or by horse. Visiting the Princes Islands can feel almost like taking a step back in time, and there are few better ways to take a break from the frenetic pace of the city. And because the islands are so close, this is one of the easiest day trips from Istanbul you can possibly take, as well as one of the most relaxing.
How to get to Princes Islands
You can reach Kabatas in around half an hour from Istanbul, and from there, you can take the ferry to the islands. The ferry ride itself takes about an hour.
From Istanbul to Belgrad Forest
This huge forest is actually located within the city limits of Istanbul, and it's one of the best places to escape the hustle and bustle for a few hours. With over 5,000 hectares of forest, there's plenty of space to explore, and you can even go camping if you want to spend more than a day here.
The forest is also home to some incredible wildlife, including deer, boar, and even bears. If you're lucky enough to see one of these animals, it'll definitely be a day to remember.
Whether you're looking for a place to relax or an adventure, Belgrad Forest has something for everyone and is one of the most diverse day trips from Istanbul you can take.
How to get to Belgrad Forest
The best way to reach the forest is to drive, which will take around an hour. Driving means you'll have a car to explore everything on your day trip. However, it's also possible to take a guided tour during the summer months.
From Istanbul to Gallipoli Historical National Park
This historical site is one of the most popular day trips from Istanbul, and it's easy to see why. The Gallipoli Historical National Park is the site of one of the most important battles in Turkish history, and it's also one of the most beautiful places in the country. Site of a famous World War One campaign in which the declining Ottoman Empire triumphed over Allied forces, the Gallipoli Peninsula occupies a huge place not only in Turkish history but also in the national consciousness of the Turkish people.
The park is huge, and there's plenty to see and do here. You can explore the trenches and battlefields, visit museums and memorials, or even go for a swim in the sea. There's also a wide range of accommodation options if you want to stay for more than a day.
No matter what your interests are, Gallipoli Historical National Park is a must-visit for anyone spending time in Istanbul.
How to get to Gallipoli Historical National Park
The journey to this historic site takes nearly four hours by car or bus, so if you really want to see it, it might be worth planning an overnight stay.
From Istanbul to Uludag National Park
Day trips from Istanbul to Uludag National Park reward you with beautiful scenery and peace and quiet. The park is home to a wide range of animals, including deer, jackals, and foxes, and there are also plenty of hiking trails to explore.
In winter, the park becomes a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts, with skiing and snowboarding on offer. And in summer, the park is filled with picnickers enjoying the cooler temperatures. No matter what time of year you visit, Uludag National Park is sure to impress.
How to get to Uludag National Park
You can reach Uludag National Park with a drive of two and a half hours from Central Istanbul. It's also possible to take a tour bus there during the summer months.
From Istanbul to Selcuk
Selcuk is a small town located in the west of Turkey, and it's a great day trip from Istanbul. The town is home to a number of historical sites, including the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus.
Ephesus was once one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, and it's easy to see why when you visit the site. The ruins are huge, and they're incredibly well preserved. You can explore the streets of the ancient city and even enter some of the buildings.
Selcuk is also home to a number of other historical sites, including the Temple of Artemis and the House of Virgin Mary. There are plenty of tour operators offering day trips from Istanbul to Selcuk, or you can make your own way there if you're feeling adventurous.
How to get to Selcuk
At around a five-hour drive from Istanbul, this may be a little far for a day trip, but is a great destination for a stay of a night or two to enjoy a different aspect of Turkey.
From Istanbul to Cappadocia
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the most incredible landscapes in Turkey. The region is known for its unique rock formations, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore them.
There are also a number of historical sites in Cappadocia, including the Goreme Open Air Museum. This museum is the site of ancient churches, and it's well worth a visit.
Cappadocia is located in the central part of Turkey, and it's easy to get to from Istanbul. There are plenty of tour operators offering day trips, or you can make your own way there if you're feeling adventurous. As well as being a great place for a day trip, Cappadocia is famous for its hot air balloon tours. Getting off the ground is the perfect way to enjoy the incredible scenery and rock formations that have made the area famous.
How to get to Cappadocia
Given that it's around eight hours by road from Istanbul, Cappadocia isn't really a day trip destination as much as it is a weekend destination. You can either drive there yourself or take an overnight bus since many of the hot air balloon operators offer this service.
From Istanbul to Ankara
Istanbul may be Turkey's most famous city, but it isn't actually the capital of the country. That distinction belongs to Ankara, located in the central part of Turkey.
Ankara has lots to keep you busy, including historical sites like the Mausoleum of Ataturk. This mausoleum is the final resting place of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. It's an impressive building, and it's well worth a visit.
When in Ankara, you should also check out the Anitkabir and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
How to get to Ankara
Ankara is around a four-hour drive from Istanbul. The train also takes around four hours and may be a better option if you don't want to drive. The train lets you avoid the chaos of the roads in two of Turkey's major cities.
From Istanbul to Bursa
Bursa is a city located in northwest Turkey, and it's one of the most popular day trips from Istanbul. One of the main tourist attractions here is the Green Mosque, which is probably worth the visit by itself.
The Green Mosque is an impressive building surrounded by a number of other historical sites, including the Tomb of Osman I.
For another historical attraction in Bursa, visit the Grand Mosque. Built just before the turn of the 14th century, this impressive structure with blue domes is a sight to see.
How to get to Bursa
It's a two-hour journey from Istanbul to Bursa by car. It's also possible to take a long-distance bus, which will take closer to three hours.
Strategically located between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been a crossroads of history since it was founded. You could spend a long time exploring the history of this coastal city and encountering the relics of the ancient world, to say nothing of the lively atmosphere of the bustling streets and the incredible food you'll encounter here.
But now and then, you may find yourself wanting to leave this thriving seaside town to see more of what Turkey has to offer. Luckily, these incredible day trips from Istanbul will give you a better understanding of what the country has to offer and provide a memorable trip you'll want to repeat again and again.