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8 Days in Istanbul - Too Long?

So I've been to the major European destinations over the last 5 or so years. Across most of Germany (still my favorite), France, England, Scotland, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain. Whenever I have visited those placed I have done the traditional American vacation. That is, I tried to pack in as many cities as reasonable within that time period. I normally would take about 10 days, and hit up 3 main cities, with about 3 days in each city. This usually works well. Some cities, like Paris, I felt that I missed a lot, but most of the time, 3 days let me hit the main sights, but also get a big bang of my buck, which is a big concern for most American travelers, and sadly I've been the same.

I have about 8 or 9 days in November (US Thanksgiving week to be exact), and have debated a few destinations. I'm coming close to settling on Istanbul, Turkey. My main concern is that unlike the rest of Europe, which is uber condensed and boasts a great rail system, Istanbul doesn't seem to have any cheap, or logical other cities to visit. I've thought about Athens, but 20 hours of trains seems a bit extreme. Thus, I figure I'll probably spend the whole time in Istanbul.

This brings me to my main question. Is 8-9 days in Istanbul actually too much? That is, are there enough exciting things to do to fill the time? I'll be traveling alone, so I want to stay busy and have lots of options.

If you think that time in Istanbul it a bit excessive, are there any other places to fly to or take the train to rather affordbly that would make sense. Like 4 days in Instanbul, and 4 days in another city, flying round trip from Buffalo, NY open jaw?

All thoughts are appreciated!!

Posted by
2993 posts

Hi Matt,

We spent a total of 7 nights in Istanbul and found lots to do--it's a HUGE city! One option would be to fly one of the discount airlines to Izmir. From there it's about an hour to Selcuk where you can visit Ephesus. We flew to Izmir on AtlasJet--it was very inexpensive and a quick flight.

You could also spend 4-5 nights in Istanbul and 3-4 nights in the Cappadocia region of Turkey--it's also a quick, inexpensive flight. Turkey is a fascinating country with lots to see and do!

I'd spend your total vacation in Turkey this trip!

Posted by
1356 posts

Flights within Turkey are quite cheap especially if you book ahead. With so many days at your disposal, you can easily hit a couple of other areas if you fly.

Posted by
2993 posts

Just to add a few more thoughts...Rick Steves has an excellent guide to Istanbul so if you're going and don't have a copy I'd recommend it.

A couple of hotels that we liked very much and both would be great for someone traveling alone are:

Hotel Sultan Hill in Istanbul and,

Hotel Bella in Selcuk.

I agree with JER that a guide or tour in Cappadocia is worth the cost because of the distances of some of the sites! It really is a unique destination and you won't regret going. Also agree that Goreme would be an excellent place to base yourself for visiting Cappadocia.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
112 posts

Just to add a bit about being careful in Istanbul - I was offered to go have a drink at 11 pm by two guys that seemed a too little slick. They were not carpet salesmen. I spend most of my time in NYC and consider myself to be fairly streetwise and what happened to me seemed like the pretext for a scam. Also, I just listened to a Podcast by Rick and he had a travel writer on who was drugged. It does happen, if you are smart you will see right through it. I loved Istanbul and felt VERY safe there. Have a great time.

Posted by
112 posts

I was satisfied with Istanbul after 4 days. I felt that I had seen most of what I had wanted to see. After Istanbul I hoped onto a plane for a short trip to Goreme and spent 4 days there. I felt that combining the 2 places made for a satisfying trip. For me personally, I feel 8 days in Istanbul is too much. Spread it around a bit. BTW: I also traveled alone and was fine. I always felt totally safe. HOWEVER be on the lookout for several cons that exist there ( I felt that the Lonely Planet guide explained this very well). One con is that several men will try to befriend you and have some drinks with you. They then slip a drug into your drink and take your money. I had 2 men who spoke English very well ask me if I wanted to have some tea with them, it seemed fishy to me and I passed on it. After that I read in my Lonely Planet guide to be on the look out for similar events. While traveling alone I say better safe than sorry.

Posted by
990 posts

I would second Sharon's ideas--cheap internal flights make it easy to visit two or three other places in Turkey, and Ephesus and Cappadocia would be at the top of my list, too. Ephesus has some of the most breathtaking Roman ruins still in existence, and most of the pensions in Selcuk are cheap and perfect for solo travelers, with lively common areas to socialize and relax. Cappadocia features other-worldly scenery, great hiking for all skill and fitness levels, cave hotels, fascinating old Christian churches, and the option to take in a dawn hot air balloon ride. If you decide on Cappadocia, I would recommend going to a travel agent in Istanbul and booking a tour. The sites are quite spread out and hard to get to by yourself, especially as a solo traveler. You can book anything from a half day to three and five day tours, as you wish.

Spend a while online googling these options and see what looks most interesting to you.