Situated on both the Asian and European continents, Istanbul is a diverse melting pot that incorporates traditions of Eastern and Western Cultures. And while Istanbul is arguably the most popular destination in the country for travelers, its surrounding regions are equally, if not more, scenic. There are ancient villages, sun-soaked beaches, and even snow-capped mountains and forests located just a few hours outside the city. While some of these places can be reached by public transportation, renting a car or joining a tour group is far easier, as many destinations aren’t located near a metro or bus station.
What is the Best Day Trip from Istanbul?
With such a mix-mash of places to see, it’s hard to say which day trip from Istanbul is the best. To experience another city in Turkey, you can venture to Bursa or Erdine, two historically important capitals during the Ottoman Empire.
If you’d rather enjoy a day of relaxation, you can also head to the beaches of Kilyos or Şile for sun, surf, and lots of delicious seafood.
However, you might not want to spend all your time on the road, in which case there are a few places that can be reached in under 2 hours. You can take the ferry to one of the Princes’ Islands or trek through the woods in the Belgrad Forest.
This archipelago off the coast of Istanbul is just a 1.5-hour ferry ride away, making it a perfect day trip for those looking for a laidback seaside getaway.
There are nine islands in total, although only four of them are inhabited.
Most people visit Büyükada, the largest island known for the Church and Monastery of St. George, which boasts panoramic water views from its hillside location.
There are plenty of cafes, ice cream shops, and seafood restaurants in town where you can relax afterward.
The neighboring island of Heybeliada is also worth visiting for its lush green surroundings and charming fisherman village center.
If the bustle of Istanbul gets too chaotic, you can always escape into nature with a visit to the Belgrad Forest.
With sparkling lakes, lush woodland parks, and an abundance of nature trails, it’s a popular destination for runners, cyclers, and picnickers.
And if you forgot to pack a lunch, there are numerous cafe-style restaurants located throughout the forest.
One of the biggest highlights is the Atatürk Arboretum, a historic botanical garden home to more than 2,000 different types of plants.
Keep your eyes peeled for the roaming wildlife, too – deer, foxes, and around 71 species of birds can be found here.
Getting to the Belgrad Forest is easiest by car, although you can also use a mix of trains and buses if relying on public transportation.
City dwellers and history buffs alike will enjoy a day trip to Bursa – Turkey’s 4th largest city and the Ottoman Empire’s first capital.
It’s located across the Sea of Marmara, roughly 2 hours from Istanbul.
The sheer number of historical sites can be overwhelming, as the land has been inhabited for over 7,000 years.
Must-see attractions include the Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque), the Bursa Citadel, and the Koza Han Silk Market.
Bursa is also a great destination for a spa trip, as the area is known for its hot springs and thermal baths.
To get an overview of the city, you can take the Bursa Teleferik up to the Uludağ Mountain.
The 22-minute ride is one of the longest cable cars in the world and a popular attraction for visitors as well as skiers and snowboarders in the winter.
On a warm summer day, there’s no better place to be than on the shores of Kilyos. Known for its long stretches of golden beaches, this resort town is popular with sunbathers, windsurfers, and swimmers.
There are many restaurants and beach clubs dotted along the coast, which for a few bucks, will allow you to use their facilities.
Many of the clubs also have live music or DJs in the evening.
Sometimes it feels like the entire population of Istanbul is there on the weekend, so I recommend visiting during the week if you want a more relaxing beach day.
It’s easy to reach using the bus and should take roughly around 1.5 hours from Istanbul.
Şile and Ağva
Check off two of Turkey’s most picturesque towns on this day trip to Şile and Ağva (1.5 hours from Istanbul).
Şile is a picturesque fishing village on the Black Sea coast and a popular summer retreat for many Istanbul locals.
Not only can you spend your day soaking up the sun on one of the many beaches, but you can also visit a few historical sites as well, like the Şile Castle and Şile Lighthouse).
After Şile, continue your journey to Ağva.
Although they’re only 18 miles apart from each other, the landscape of Ağva is starkly different from the golden sand beaches of Şile. The scenery here is lusher, with green wooded forests and jewel-blue rivers.
And there are multiple places along the banks where you can hire a boat to explore the beauty of this small town.
Although it makes for a rather long day trip (4-5 hours each way), visiting Çanakkale is one of the most popular day trips from Istanbul.
It’s here where you’ll find the ancient city of Troy (yes – the same Troy from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey epics).
While much of the city is still being excavated, you can still walk through the site and see ruins that date back to the Early Bronze Age
You can also see the iconic wooden horse, which was used in the 2004 movie, situated on the waterfront plaza in town.
Another noteworthy site in Çanakkale is the Gallipoli Peninsula Historical Site, a graveyard and memorial dedicated to the 500,000 people who died here during World War I.
Surrounded by craggy cliffs, white beaches, and green hills, the park is a beautiful final resting place for the Turkish, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives.
Edirne is located in Northwest Turkey, not far from the Greek and Bulgarian borders.
As the second capital of the Ottoman Empire, this old-world city is brimming with architectural gems.
There’s the UNESCO World Heritage Selimiye Mosque and the ruins of the 15th-century Edirne Palace.
While Edirne makes a great day trip any day of the year, it’s especially worth visiting in Summer during the Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival.
The festival has been held here since 1360 and includes food, dancing, and live music in addition to the wrestling competition.
Istanbul is a captivating city that offers so much in terms of history, culture, and cuisine. But it’s not the only part of Turkey worth seeing.
This country is massive, and there are, quite literally, hundreds of cities, beaches, and attractions that are worth visiting during your stay here.
And while you won’t be able to tick every site off your checklist, you can start by exploring one of the fascinating destinations on this list.
Think of these places as just a small taste of what this unique country is all about!