The wide range of flights to Turkey from the UK (fewer from Ireland) take between 3hr 30min and 5hr, depending on your start and end point. Only two carriers fly direct to Turkey from North America, so most North Americans reach Turkey via a European gateway airport. Many travellers from Australia and New Zealand use a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket that includes İstanbul; there are direct flights from South Africa to İstanbul.
Airfares from Europe and North America are at their highest during Easter week and from June to early September. They’re lower in April and May, and from late September into October, while you’ll get the best prices of all between November and March (excluding Christmas and New Year, when seats are at a premium). Australian and New Zealand fares are lowest from mid-January to the end of February and October/November; peak season is mid-May to August, plus December to mid-January. Flight comparison sites like w skyscanner.net are a good way to search for the cheapest option.
You can fly direct from the UK to İstanbul (both airports), Ankara, İzmir, Bodrum, Dalaman and Antalya. Reaching any other destination in Turkey involves a change in İstanbul.
Direct, scheduled flights are provided by Turkish Airlines (THY; w turkishairlines.com) and British Airways (w ba.com). THY links London (Stansted or Heathrow) with İstanbul (Atatürk or Sabiha Gökçen) year-round, with less frequent flights from Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham. Return flight prices range from £200 in winter to as much as £550 in summer, with London Heathrow and Stansted generally the cheapest departure airports. BA has three daily services from Heathrow (from around £350 return in July & Aug). Information on onward domestic flights with either THY or competitors such as Sunexpress can be found in the section By plane.
Budget and charter flights
Among budget airlines, easyJet (w easyjet.com)flies from London Luton to İstanbul Sahiba Gökçen all year; from Gatwick to Antalya, Bodrum, İzmir and Dalaman (these four destinations are April to early Nov only); from Stansted to Bodrum or Dalaman; and from Manchester or Edinburgh to Dalaman (April–Oct). Advance low-season fares can be under £40 each way, though this can rise to £250 for late, summer-period bookings.
Pegasus (w flypgs.com) links Stansted to İstanbul Sabiha Gökçen daily all year, with fares likely to be a bit higher than easyJet. Jet2 (w jet2.com) serves Dalaman and Bodrum from Leeds-Bradford, Manchester, East Midlands and Newcastle (summer only, from about £100 each way). Atlasjet (w atlasjet.com) also fly from Stansted to İstanbul all year, and to Antalya and İzmir in the summer.
The widest choice of charter flights to Turkish coastal resorts is offered by Thomas Cook (w thomascookairlines.com) and Thomson (w www.tui.co.uk). With Thomas Cook, you can choose different departure and return airports and book one-way tickets. There are year-round charters to Antalya and Dalaman, while services to İzmir and Bodrum usually operate from late April/early May to late October. Peak-season prices can be as high as scheduled flights, but in winter they may drop as low as £100 return.
Flights from Ireland
From Belfast, British Airways offer year-round daily scheduled services, involving a stop in London or Manchester, but prices are high (in excess of £300 in July & Aug). From Dublin, Turkish Airlines have a direct daily flight, starting at €350. Probably the cheapest option is to use a budget carrier from either Dublin or Belfast into Gatwick, then continue with easyJet, Atlasjet or Pegasus on to İstanbul.
The cheapest way to reach Turkey from North America is to buy a bargain transatlantic fare to Europe, and arrange your onward flight separately.
Turkish Airlines (THY; w turkishairlines.com) and Delta Airlines (w delta.com) are the only carriers who fly direct year-round from the US. THY operate twice daily flights (once daily in winter) from New York (JFK); several weekly from Los Angeles and Washington DC; and once daily out of Chicago, while Delta fly out of JFK daily in summer, and several times weekly in winter. United Airlines (w united.com) generally has the cheapest stopping fares, via Frankfurt. European carriers, such as British Airways (w ba.com), Air France (w airfrance.com), KLM (w klm.com), Alitalia (w alitalia.com) and Swiss (w swiss.com), route through hubs such as London, Paris, Milan and Zürich; the best choice is probably Lufthansa (w lufthansa.com) via Frankfurt.
One-month fares out of New York start from US$675 in winter and up to US$1800 in peak season for a direct flight with THY, $650–2500 with Delta. From LA prices range $1000–2400.
There is only one direct flight from Canada to Turkey: THY fly between Toronto and İstanbul several times a week, with fares from CAN$1000. Otherwise, several airlines fly to İstanbul via major European hubs. Winter fares from Montréal start at CAN$1100 and summer ones at CAN$1380, on British Airways via London.
There are no direct flights from Australia or New Zealand to Turkey. However, several weekly scheduled flights will get you there after either a plane change or short layover in the airline’s hub city – typically Bahrain, Bangkok, Singapore or Milan – before the final leg of the journey. A marginally less expensive but far more time-consuming strategy would involve taking a flight to London and then proceeding from there with, say, easyJet.
Two-stop itineraries from Sydney are around AUS$1850 in low season to AUS$2700 high season, with Malaysian or Singapore airlines. From Auckland, Lufthansa (w lufthansa.com), Singapore Airlines (w singaporeair.com) and Emirates (w emirates.com) fly to İstanbul from NZ$2300 year-round.
Round-the-World (RTW) tickets including Turkey use combinations of airlines, and could be worth considering for a long trip taking in many destinations; generally, some free stopovers are allowed, with fares starting at AUS$2500.
From South Africa, Turkish Airlines (w turkishairlines.com) flies five times a week from Johannesburg to İstanbul with starting prices around R7300 – early booking rather than time of year is the most important criterion for bagging a cheap seat. Several airlines also fly from Cape Town. South Africa Airways (w flysaa.com) flies daily via Frankfurt or Munich, but these are longer and more expensive.
Travelling to Turkey by train is slow and expensive. It only makes sense if you are a rail buff or wish to visit several other countries en route. The best route from the UK begins with the Eurostar (w eurostar.com) service from London Waterloo to Paris, then an overnight sleeper to Munich, followed by a daytime Euro-City departure to Budapest, and finally two more nights aboard a sleeper to İstanbul (including a change of engine in Bucharest), making a total journey of five days and four nights. At the time of writing the final leg, between the Bulgarian-Turkish border and İstanbul, was closed for line maintenance, with a replacement bus service in operation. Check the excellent w seat61.com for more information. As each leg is booked separately, you can stop off in any of the cities where you change trains, but the cost, a minimum of £350 one-way, makes the purchase of an InterRail pass mandatory.
The best train deal is provided by an InterRail pass (w interrailnet.com), which offers unlimited travel (except for express train supplements and reservation fees) on a zonal basis within thirty European rail networks. These passes are only available to European residents, and you must provide proof of residency to purchase one. To reach Turkey via the route described here, you need a Global Pass. For under-26s, a pass valid for one month’s second-class travel covering thirty countries, including Turkey, costs €409 (£360); the price for over-26s is €619 (£545). A cheaper alternative is their five-days-travel-within-ten-days option – €169 (£149) for under-26s, or €259 (£228) for over-26s. It’s possible to travel first class on an over-26s’ pass at a considerably higher cost.
InterRail passes do not allow free travel between Britain and the Continent, although InterRail pass holders are eligible for discounts on rail travel in Britain and Northern Ireland, the cross-Channel ferries, and the London to Paris Eurostar service.
You can drive from the UK to Turkey in three to four days. However, this allows little time for stopping and sleeping, and most travellers prefer to do it more slowly, taking in a few places en route. For customs formalities and car insurance cover once in Turkey, see “Getting around”.
The all-land itinerary goes via Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, though a more relaxing if less direct route is through France, Italy and Greece.
Ferries no longer run from Italy direct to Turkey, but it’s possible to take a ferry from either Ancona, Brindisi or Bari to Patras in Greece, and make your way by road or rail to Athens (Piraeus). Regular ferries sail from there to several Greek islands that are linked by further ferries to Turkey. Useful websites for information on Italy–Greece services include w feribot.net and w directferries.co.uk.
Ferries and catamarans from Greece
Many travellers take the short-hop ferries or catamarans over from the Greek islands of Lésvos, Híos, Sámos, Kós, Kastellorizo/Meis, Sými and Rhodes to the respective Turkish ports of Ayvalık, Foça, Çeşme, Kuşadası, Datça, Bodrum, Kaş, Marmaris and Fethiye. Services are daily in season (early May to early Oct) and, except for the Fethiye-Foça- and Datça-based services, still run after a fashion in winter, though you may have to wait five to seven days between departures. Although fares have dipped slightly in recent years, they’re still overpriced for the distances involved; full details of every service are given at the relevant points in this guide. At the time of writing car-shuttle services serve all the above Turkish ports except Foça, Fethiye, Kaş and to a degree Kuşadası, which only has one semi-reliable service weekly.
Alternative Travel UK t 0207 249 9800, w www.alternativeturkey.com. Specialist Turkish travel agency, good for Cyprus Turkish Airlines flights to coastal resorts.
Avro UK t 0161 209 4259, w avro.co.uk. Seat-only sales of charter flights to Antalya and Dalaman from various regional airports.
North South Travel UK t 01245 608291, w northsouthtravel.co.uk. Friendly, competitive flight agency, offering discounted fares – profits are used to support projects in the developing world.
Turkish Tursan Travel US t 212 888 1180. Turkish specialist consolidator, based in New York.
Scores of companies in the UK offer Turkish package deals. Most of these target İstanbul and the coast between Çeşme and Alanya, but most outfits also feature fly-drive plans. Coastal yachting (gulet) packages are available from May to October, while winter breaks are increasing in popularity. Inland holidays concentrate on Cappadocia, while special-interest programmes include trekking, bird-spotting, yoga retreats, whitewater rafting and battlefield tours.
Three- or four-night İstanbul city breaks start at around £130 off season for three-star bed-and-breakfast accommodation (including flights and transfers), £700-plus for boutique or five-star hotels.
Prices for a cheap-and-cheerful two-week beach package start at around £250 per person (double occupancy) in low season, including flights; using a four-star hotel will set you back £500–800. Quality self-catering villas tend to cost £700–1100 per person for one/two week(s), flight included, increasing to £1100–1800 at peak periods.
A seven-day yachting or cruising holiday will cost £650–850 per person (double occupancy basis) depending on season, booked in the UK through an agent, less if arranged in Turkey directly with skippers. Cycling/hiking trips vary from £300–350 for 7 to 8 days along the Lycian Coast arranged locally, to £650–750 for a higher-quality adventure booked in the UK.
Specialist holidays, relying on the services of expert natural history/archeological guides, are priciest of all, from £1200 (1 week) to over £2000 (2 weeks). All these figures exclude flights.
The best of the US-based cultural or adventure tours don’t come cheap either – expect to pay at least US$5100 for a 13-day land-and-sea combo (inevitably with a couple of days in İstanbul at the start and end). The price will include all meals (excluding drinks), guides and ground transport, but not flights.
Anatolian Skyt 0121 764 350, w anatoliansky.co.uk. Mid-range to upmarket hotels and apartments on the southwest coast (particularly Kalkan, Dalyan, Akyaka, the Loryma peninsula, Antalya and Ölüdeniz), classic hotels in İstanbul, and a tailor-made programme.
Cachet Travelt 0208 847 8700, w cachet-travel.co.uk. Small selection of villas and hotels along the Turquoise Coast, plus guided, low-season special-interest tours, and select İstanbul/Cappadocia hotels.
Exclusive Escapest 0208 605 3500, w www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk. Perhaps the best portfolio of properties (both boutique hotels and villas) along the Turquoise Coast, as well as points west to Datça, Cappadocia and İstanbul. Noted for a high level of customer service, which extends to dedicated check-in counters at airports.
Tapestry Holidayst 0208 995 7787, w www.tapestryholidays.com. Limited but carefully selected portfolio of hotels and villas along the Turquoise Coast, as well as boutique hotels in Cappadocia and İstanbul.
Turkish Collection (Ilios Travel)t 01444 225633, w iliostravel.com. Top-quality (and thus pricey) villas-with-pool on the Bodrum and Datça peninsulas, plus rather more conventional accommodation at Akyaka, Kalkan and Kaş.
Cavuralit 0090 542 595 7377, w cavurali.com. Turkish-American guide Enver Lucas and his father-in-law Tosun Sezen, both with years of local experience, offer bespoke sailing (and scuba) itineraries along the Turquoise Coast in a gulet-dive boat.
Day Dreamst 01884 849200, w turkishcruises.co.uk. Large fleet of gulets or schooners hosting “house parties” for singles and couples; also makes on-land arrangements in unusual areas like Kazdağı.
Nautilus Yachtingt 01732 867445, w nautilus-yachting.co.uk. Bare-boat charters out of Marmaris, Bodrum, Fethiye and Göcek, plus set flotilla itineraries from Bodrum or Fethiye.
Setsailt 01787 310445, w setsail.co.uk. Flotilla holidays from Göcek and Marmaris; also bare-boat charter.
Sunsailt 0844 463 6495, w sunsail.co.uk. Flotilla holidays out of Göcek, Orhaniye and Turgutreis, taking in the Turquoise Coast and the peninsulas between Bodrum and Marmaris.
SCICt 0208 510 9292, w tussockcruising.com. Bodrum-area-based fleet of three wooden gulets specially adapted so that you actually travel under sail power rather than (as normally on such craft) with merely decorative rigging.
Adriftt 01488 71152, w adrift.co.uk. Whitewater rafting on the Çoruh River from late May to late July; one-week programme.
Exodus Travelt 0208 675 5550, w exodus.co.uk. Strong on mountain biking and hiking along the Lycian Coast; also more conventional itineraries, staying in small hotels and village houses.
Explore Worldwidet 01252 760 000, w explore.co.uk. Selection of 8- or 15-day trips, mostly in Cappadocia, the east and Lycia (including a cruising section).
The Imaginative Travellert 01473 667337, w imaginative-traveller.com. Vast assortment of 7- to 19-day tours, many pitched at families, taking in all the Turkish highlights plus some lesser known spots, makes this about the best overland group-tour operator for Turkey.
Andante Travels UK t 01722 713 800, w andantetravels.co.uk. Very comprehensive selection of itineraries covering most of this archeologically fascinating country, covering all the major (and many minor) sites, led by experts in their fields.
Cultural Folk Tours US t 1800 935 8875, w culturalfolktours.com. US-based company offering up to nine annual tours (accompanied by company founder and Turkish musician Bora Ozkok) that give a real insight into seldom-visited regions of the country.
Geographic Expeditions US t 1800 777 8183, w geoex.com. Offers Aegean Odyssey (taking in some Greek islands as well), or 16-day walk-plus-gulet-cruises off the Turquoise Coast; four-day Cappadocia add-on available.
Gölköy Centre UK t 0208 699 1900, w yogaturkey.co.uk. Yoga retreat on Bodrum peninsula offering week-long courses, also encompassing shiatsu and assorted “personal growth” themes, from May to October; budget £415–495 per person per week, including full board and activities but not flights.
Greentours UK t 01298 83563, w greentours.co.uk. Three annual, one- or two-week natural-history holidays (emphasis on wildflowers), typically inland from the Turquoise or Mediterranean coasts. Enthusiastic English or Turkish guides know their subjects in incredible depth.
Holt’s Battlefield Tours UK t 01293 865000, w holts.co.uk. One-week tour of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles, in autumn (thus avoiding Anzac Day mayhem).
Huzur Vadisiw huzurvadisi.com. One-week yoga programmes from May to October at a secluded complex with felt yurts or nomad dwellings set around a renovated farmhouse and pool, 10km inland from Göcek. From £450 a week, including full board and activities but not flights.
Mythic Travel US t 831 688 6550, w www.mythictravel.com. Distinctly New Age company offering “Magic Carpets” as opposed to tours, with themed tags like “Mary and the Divine Feminine”, “Jewish Life” and “Sufi Solstice”.
Wilderness Travel US t 1800 368 2794, w wildernesstravel.com. Three tours in western Turkey, including a 16-dayer incorporating an 11-day cruise using the same personnel and itinerary as Geographic Expeditions.
World Expeditions Australia, five city branches; New Zealand t 0800 350354, w worldexpeditions.com.au. Probably the most interesting Antipodean adventure operator for Turkey: its 20-day “Turkey Panorama”, including five days’ trekking and three days’ cruising, is one of half a dozen itineraries.