Download GPX file for this article

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Istanbul to Izmir is an itinerary across western Turkey. It's 500–700 km long and might take as little as 7 hours, or several days, or as long as your visa allows. This page describes the principal routes and some side trips. It doesn't describe the terminus cities, so see Istanbul and Izmir for important detail on transport hubs, accommodation, and their many sights and amenities.


First World War Memorial, Eceabat

Daily flights between Istanbul and Izmir take an hour, there are frequent buses, and driving might take seven hours. So that’s your itinerary sorted. If time is limited that might be your best plan, since both cities need a while to explore.

But you will be rushing past the most fascinating, culturally rich parts of Turkey. You miss ancient Troy, cockpit of war between the Hellenistic city states. A great arc of territory from Söğüt through Bursa to Thrace records the build-up of the Ottoman dynasty, before they captured Constantinople and founded an empire. The coves and artillery positions of the Gallipoli peninsula saw a modern western invasion rebuffed, and the lines quoted above are boldly etched upon its hills. Dur yolcu! — take time to explore it. Follow in the footsteps of kings, merchant adventurers, troops and above all tourists, who have a 2,000-year-old tradition in these parts.

There's no single best way, but a leash of routes along three principal corridors. The central is by ferry across the Sea of Marmara, then onward south; the west is by the Gallipoli Peninsula and Troy coast; and the east (once you shake the industry) is through forested hills and geothermal areas. Each of these has variants, and could be a very full trip in itself, before factoring in the return. So this page sets out the options and indicates the highlights of each stop-off, whilst details such as transport, accommodation and museum opening hours are set out on the relevant city pages. If this account inspires you to formulate your own route, that’s all to the good.

This page describes routes north-to-south and mentions some side trips, such as the islands, that might add a day or two. In this part of the country there are many options for further side trips upon side trips — an extra day might take in Edirne or Ephesus — but they're not described here and you need to keep it real. Top tip: never try to see all of Turkey in a single visit. Even Tamburlaine couldn't pull that off, though he gave it his best shot.


You need eligibility to enter the country — see Turkey: Get in — and you may need Covid-health clearance, so check these requirements as they continue to evolve. Most western nationals don't need a visa for tourist stays of up to 90 days or can readily get an e-visa. The paperwork for the car, if you bring your own, is more laborious, and it had better be in good repair. See individual car rental websites for conditions such as minimum driver age.

The best times of year for this route are early April to mid-June and early September to late October, when you avoid both dreary and scorching weather. Spring is delightful as the fruit trees blossom, and in autumn the forest foliage is a blaze of gold and the vineyards ripen. In hot weather you don't want to be boiling the radiator straining up hairpin slopes. In winter, Turkey can have heavy snowfall even at sea level, much more than people expect. (Certainly more than the highway crews expect: even motorways, which are priority for snowplowing, can take many hours to clear.) Visitors from northern climes will be glad they arrived with their cold-weather kit.

On public transport, always think ahead for Plan B in case a connection fails. Where could you stay over, what could you eat, and suppose they only take cash? But at least you'd be in a well-developed part of the country, and you won't be alone. The broken-down bus will be full of people yelling on their phones for taxis and pide.

Get in[edit]

Routes from Istanbul to Izmir:
  • Western route
  • Central part-route by ferry
  • Eastern by road
  • Eastern by train

By plane[edit]

Istanbul has global air connections, and flights to all parts of Turkey. To Izmir they take an hour, flying hourly from both the new Istanbul Airport (IST IATA, mostly by Turkish Airlines) and from the Asia-side Sabiha Gökçen (SAW IATA, mostly by Pegasus). So fares are competitive. As well as transport downtown, IST has a direct bus to Tekirdağ (for the "yellow route") and SAW has a bus to Bursa (for the "green route").

Izmir has domestic and a few international direct flights, mostly from Germany in summer, but usually you connect via Istanbul.

There are some half-a-dozen commercial airports between, but they don't help with this itinerary. They're too close to both cities to have flights from either; it's usually just a sporadic service from Ankara.

By car[edit]

You can drive to Turkey from western Europe though it's a long itinerary in its own right. By this approach, simplest is to bypass Istanbul and head down the Gallipoli / Aegean coast, the western or yellow route. See below for the car-train from Austria. You can also enter Turkey from Georgia by road, and from Northern Cyprus by car ferry; other borders are unfriendly if not dangerous or altogether closed. These eastern approaches involve a drive almost as long as the route from Europe just to start the itinerary — güle güle!

Most visitors will prefer to rent a car from the airport. You then pick up either the western route, or the eastern or green route, the quickest. You can also take a car on some of the ferry routes, marked in blue. Turkish motorways are of a good standard but you need an HGS tag for electronic toll collection — this should be included on a rental car. You can also buy them and top-up credit at post offices and motorway service areas. The green route from Gebze via O-5 and the Osmangazi Bridge to Izmir cost 459 TL for a standard car in 2022.

Parallel to the motorways are no-toll state highways. They're generally well surfaced and signposted, but not as wide and fast, and can be congested near large towns.

By bus[edit]

Buses from western Europe to Turkey remain suspended in 2022.

Osman founded the Ottoman dynasty

Within Turkey, bus is the staple method of travel. Buses ply between Istanbul and Izmir round the clock, and except at the busiest times you should be able to depart within the hour. The main bus lines are Metro Turizm, Pamukkale Turizm, Flixbus (which has taken over Kamil Koç) and Truva Turizm. Their websites are only in Turkish but are easy to use — the only pitfall is that you must use Turkish spelling. For instance no buses go to "Canakkale", you must use the letter "Ç" not standard on western keyboards. Either select your extended character set or cut-and-paste from the correct spelling.

Buses mostly start from Esenler, Istanbul's Europe-side bus terminal, head out to the ring road, then swing over the Bosphorus bridge onto the motorways east. Non-stop on the eastern green route might take 7 hours, and you should have little difficulty hopping off for sightseeing then picking up an onward bus. The western yellow route is more constrained: they're frequent as far as Çanakkale from either end, but only one bus a day runs through to Izmir.

All buses offer comfortable airline-style seats with individual entertainment systems and charging points for phones. The conductor offers free hot and cold drinks and snacks at intervals throughout the journey.

By boat[edit]

See also: Ferries in the Mediterranean

There are no ferries direct to Turkey from Europe. It's possible to island-hop across the Greek Aegean from Pireaus to Chios, then reach Çeşme on the Turkish mainland and take the bus to Izmir. You could also island-hop to Lesvos and take the ferry from Mytilene to Dikili north of Izmir.

The central or blue route below describes ferries across the Sea of Marmara. They're only a part-route of course, as you have to continue overland.

Ferries across the narrow Dardanelles are described as part of the western yellow route, as are the ferries to the Aegean islands.

By train[edit]

Trains run nightly from Sofia and Bucharest to Istanbul, and a car train runs in summer from Villach in Austria to Edirne, see Turkey: Get in by train.

See below for trains between Istanbul and Izmir. They take twice as long as the bus.


Western route[edit]

View from Kilitbahir Castle in Europe across the Dardanelles to Çanakkale in Asia

This road route, yellow on the map, swings west of the Sea of Marmara then down the Aegean coast. It's about 700 km, with three days on the road plus whatever you want to allow for sightseeing. And that could be several extra days, because it takes in the Gallipoli battlefields, the Dardanelles, ancient Troy and Pergamon, and the Turkish Aegean islands.

Toll motorways (O-7, O-3 / E80) and bus routes head west out of Istanbul into the European region of Turkish Thrace. The first 100 km are urban, so don't dawdle on slow roads looking for scenery: what you'll see is automobile factories, cement works and endless suburbs. It has history aplenty, but it's all been built over.

  • 1 Tekirdağ is 145 km from Istanbul, 550 km to Izmir. It has a couple of museums and a beach resort but is modern. You might stop over if you made a late start from Istanbul city or the airport. You can also take the car ferry from here to the Marmara Islands and Erdek on the far mainland — this switches you onto the central route, marked in blue.

The main highway leads inland west, signposted for Keşan and the mysterious realm of Yunanistan, better known as Greece. Since 2022 a new motorway O-6 cuts off before Keşan towards the Gallipoli peninsula, and this is the preferred route. A slow scenic alternative road twists southwest through the mountains on the Marmara coast to Şarköy.

  • 2 Şarköy is 65 km from Tekirdağ, 215 km from Istanbul and 430 km to Izmir. It's the largest and westernmost of a string of coastal villages, beaches, olive groves, and vineyards producing much of Turkey's wine.

From Şarköy you can continue on the coast road if you've not enjoyed enough twists and potholes already. It's easier to cut inland on D-120 to Kavakköy. This has the on-ramp rejoining the motorway, and staying on O-6 will sweep you over the Dardanelles by the magnificent Çanakkale 1915 Bridge, the world's longest suspension bridge. Less than an hour brings you into Çanakkale; however this bypasses all the sights down the Gallipoli Peninsula. Last chance to decide is the off-ramp south of Gelibolu town.

You could also visit the beaches of the Gulf of Saros, a strip west from Gökçetepe to Enez on the Greek border. But since the new road opened this is more of a back-track, and you'll encounter better beaches further down the yellow route on the Aegean coast.

  • 3 Gelibolu is 300 km from Istanbul, 380 km to Izmir. The main town on the peninsula, it's at the point where the Sea of Marmara narrows into the Strait of Dardanelles, so it's been a ferry port since antiquity, with museums and ancient forts along its shores. It still has ferries, though long-distance buses and other through-traffic now fly way overhead on the bridge.
  • 4 Eceabat is 340 km from Istanbul, 335 km to Izmir. This and nearby Kilitbahir are the outermost pinchpoints on the Dardanelles. It was therefore the target of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign of World War I, and the battlefields, cemeteries and monuments are all around here, not at Gelibolu — the disastrous campaign never got that far north. It also has redoubts and mementos of much earlier conflicts, and ferries across the strait to Çanakkale. A side-trip west brings you to the island of Gökçeada.
Temple of Athena at Assos
  • 5 Çanakkale is 345 km from Istanbul, 330 km to Izmir. The area's chief city controlled the Dardanelles and has many reminders of its history. There's a lively old town / bazaar area with many restaurants and cafes converted from old houses and pleasant waterfront.
  • 6 Troy is 5 km west of the highway; 375 km from Istanbul, 305 km to Izmir. The Trojan War with its heroes and deceptions is fictional, but here is a real ancient city inhabited for 4,000 years. The visible ruins are modest but the museum is outstanding.

An alternative to speeding down D-550 / E87 is to take the side road along the Troad Coast, past beach resorts, traditional villages, archaeological sites, Ottoman citadels, and a striking, unworldly landscape of boulders and dryland vegetation in perfect contrast with the deep blue of the Aegean. This road branches off D-550 / E87 about 5 km south of the turn-off for Troy, and rejoins it near Küçükkuyu, east of Assos.

  • 7 Bozcaada island is a side trip by ferry from Geyikli, which is 20 km west of the highway; 400 km from Istanbul, 300 km to Izmir. It's a charming island with an ancient winemaking tradition.
  • 8 Assos is 20 km south of the highway; 430 km from Istanbul, 260 km to Izmir. A simple side-trip by car, Assos is a historic village with a hilltop Temple of Athena. The modern village of Behramkale on the coast has stately old warehouses repurposed as hotels and restaurants.
  • 9 Edremit is 480 km from Istanbul, 200 km to Izmir. It's inland but is the main town of a string of beach resorts, including Altınoluk, Akçay and Burhaniye. It's backed by the forested foothills of Mount Kaz (ancient Mount Ida), with villages such as Güre, hot springs, waterfalls and endless olive groves. Some of the towns have their historic cores intact, and there is a scattering of archaeological sites. This strip has the best beaches you'll encounter on the itinerary.

The main itinerary stays on D-550 / E87, but you can cut inland over the hills to Bergama / Pergamon. Several roads start up this way, with the best turning off at Keremköy 8 km before Ayvalık. It's signposted Kozak, the name of the plateau it crosses. The road is surfaced but is narrow and twisty, but the scenery is worth it. The area, about 500–1,000 m altitude, is old-growth stone pine forest, the source of most Turkish pine nuts. All routes converge on Aşağıcuma then the road descends to Bergama.

Windmill on Cunda Island near Ayvalık
  • 10 Ayvalık is 520 km from Istanbul, 155 km to Izmir, and not to be confused with Ayvacık which you passed 100 km back. It's a pretty little town with cobbled streets, stone houses and little neo-classical style churches. You can also drive over the causeway to Alibey or Cunda island.
  • 11 Dikili is 560 km from Istanbul, 125 km to Izmir. It's a picturesque seaside resort with charming villages inland, and Çandarlı Castle to the south. A side-trip by ferry takes you to Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesvos, but exploring all of that large island is a trip in itself.
  • 12 Bergama is 10 km east of the highway; 595 km from Istanbul, 110 km to Izmir. Here are the must-see extensive ruins of Pergamon, perched on an acropolis. You need some hours to explore it, and many more if you want to start haggling in the carpet shops.
  • 13 Foça is 30 km west of the highway; 650 km from Istanbul, 75 km to Izmir. This is a side-trip onto a peninsula while the main highway sweeps inland. Foça is another old town with much Ottoman Greek architecture, and a scenic waterfront. The nearby islets are inhabited by the endangered Mediterranean monk seals.

By the time you reach the turn-off for Foça, you've already reached Izmir's industrial suburbs of Aliağa then Menemen — city suburban trains run out this far. The main conurbation starts a few km along in Çiğli.

Central part-route by ferry[edit]

Osman Hamdi Bey Museum in Eskihisar

Direct ferries between Istanbul and Izmir ended in the early 2000s, but you can still take a ferry across the Sea of Marmara. Most take cars, some (called "sea-bus", deniz otobüsü), are for foot passengers only. Then from the south coast you join one of the other onward routes.

On the north coast[edit]

  • Istanbul itself remains the chief port. IDO is the main operator, sailing from Bostancı and Kadıköy (Asia side) and Yenikapı (Europe side), to Bursa, Bandırma, Güzelyalı, Armutlu and Yalova. They also sail to Yalova from the eastern district of Pendik. BUDO are fastest, with sea-buses from Eminönü and Sirkeci (Europe side) to Mudanya.
  • Tekirdağ (see the western yellow route) has the Marmara RoRo to Erdek. This is a roundabout way to reach the south coast but some ferries call at Marmara Island, the largest of the archipelago. They don't call at Avşa, the best developed for tourism. Otherwise you have to backtrack from Erdek on the Gestaş car ferry, which serves all the inhabited islands but doesn't ply to the north mainland coast.
  • 1 Eskihisar near Gebze has a short crossing to Topçular near Yalova, operated by IDO. Most traffic nowadays uses the nearby Osmangazi motorway bridge so there's no ferry booking, just turn up and go, and it sails 24 hours. The fare's cheaper than the bridge toll. Gebze has an old religious complex but it's only an hour out from the city so you might not want to linger.

On the south coast[edit]

Bozburun lighthouse near Armutlu
  • 2 Yalova lost its traditional buildings in the 1999 earthquake. However it has the İbrahim Müteferrika Kağıt Museum — Müteferrika devised the first printing press with movable Arabic type — and is near a geothermal area with hot springs. Yalova has direct buses from Istanbul city and both airports, and onward to Bursa and Izmir.

A side loop from Yalova adding about 90 km is to follow the coast road west around the Armutlu Peninsula, through the beach resorts of Çınarcık and Esenköy to Armutlu. Dolmuşes putter along this route, taking 3 hours. You can also drive the Green-Blue Road (Yeşil-Mavi Yol) which switchbacks through the hills.

  • 3 Armutlu has IDO water-buses from Istanbul, which then continue to Güzelyalı for connections to Bursa. In summer the ferries also call at İhlas beach resort at the tip of the peninsula. Armutlu has hot springs.

Continuing from Armutlu by road usually means travelling via Gemlik. It's modern and of little interest but brings you onto the main "green" route towards Bursa and Izmir.

  • 4 Mudanya and its associated port of Güzelyalı have IDO and BUDO ferries from Istanbul. The last scenes of the 1920-22 Greek-Turkish war were played out in this area, and a few old mansions survive. Tirilye 12 km further west has an 8th century basilica. Otherwise follow the crowds who are getting on the bus to nearby Bursa, see the Green Route.
  • 5 Bandırma has IDO ferries from Istanbul. These connect with the afternoon train to Balıkesir and Izmir, see the Red Route. The Marmara RoRo from Tekirdağ also sails here. There's little to see in town, so get on a bus or drive south on D-565 to pick up the main Green Route south. 15 km south is Bird Paradise National Park (Kuş Cenneti Milli Parkı) where the lake is a stopover for migratory birds.
  • 6 Erdek has lost its ferry from Istanbul but has ro-ros from Tekirdağ. It's the main port for reaching the Marmara Islands, also the main town of the Kapıdağ Peninsula, which has lonely beaches and wild Mediterranean landscapes.
  • 7 Marmara Islands have likewise lost their direct ferry from Istanbul and are easiest reached from Erdek. Avşa is the most touristy, Marmara Island is the largest and some ro-ros from Tekirdağ call here.

Eastern by road[edit]

The Green Mosque, İznik

The eastern or green route is the main way between the two cities, so if you stop off for sightseeing, there'll be an onward connection soon enough. Or you can blaze down O-5 and cover the 480 km in five hours non-stop, leaving the rest of your life free to regret not stopping to explore.

  • 1 İznik is 40 km east of Orhangazi; 140 km from Istanbul, 415 km to Izmir. This was historically on one of the major routes, D-595, but the motorway now runs 30 km further west and it's become a side-trip. But it's a detour worth making, as this sleepy lakeside town was the site of the Councils of Nicaea of early Christianity, and a major Byzantine, Seljuk, and early Ottoman centre. There are plenty of monuments from those eras, and İznik continues to manufacture its attractive tiles, a 600-year-old industry.

O-5 passes north of Bursa; a long loop of D-575 runs into the city then back to O-5. The exit from the north is briefly O-22 before D-575, but clearly signed.

  • 2 Bursa is 155 km from Istanbul, 345 km to Izmir. This fascinating city, the fourth largest in Turkey, needs a full day to explore. It was the earliest Ottoman capital, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the antiquities are dotted about in an otherwise busy modern place.

The mountain looming just south is Uludağ, which you can drive up or take the cable-car from Bursa. In winter it's a ski resort, in summer locals flock there and claim to be hiking, but spend the day roasting and devouring kebabs.

Head west then north on D-575 to rejoin O-5. Or you could continue west on the old highway D-200, which brings you by Gölyazı.

  • 3 Gölyazı Gölyazı on Wikipedia is 40 km west of Bursa; 180 km from Istanbul, 310 km to Izmir. It's a village on a lake island linked by road to the mainland. There are Roman and other antiquities and you can hire a rowing boat to plosh around the lake. There's some accommodation but it's more like a place for a lunch stop, and most of the village is modern breeze-block.
  • See Bandırma (the Blue Route) for Bird Paradise National Park on Lake Manyas south of town.

Past Karacabey, the O-5 and old road trend south towards Izmir.

  • 4 Susurluk Susurluk on Wikipedia is 240 km from Istanbul, 250 km to Izmir, halfway. You might want to take a break here — there's not much on O-5 so turn off towards town for eating places. Nothing to see here, and the only essential is to avoid travelling in a car which just happens to contain a police chief, a beauty queen, an MP and a notorious hitman deployed against Kurdish separatists. In 1996 their Mercedes 600 SEL was famously squished here by a truck; the MP survived. It's believed to have been assassination by a rival police faction seeking control of the narcotics trade. The car brakes were defective and it was travelling at colossal speed, but since when was that a problem to a Turkish driver?
  • 5 Balıkesir is 280 km from Istanbul, 205 km to Izmir. It's a large modern town that lost its old buildings in the earthquake of 1898. The museum relates how it sparked resistance to the Greek invasion of 1920, which became organised under Atatürk and spearheaded the Turkish War of Independence. The railways from Bandırma and Eskişehir meet here and head south along with the highway, so you've a choice of rail or bus on the rest of the itinerary.

South of Balıkesir, you can exit O-5 towards Soma and divert west on D-240 to reach ancient Pergamon — it's described on the yellow route, which you follow thereafter. Don't waste any time on Soma, a large drab mining town. It's not even any good for mining, as the coal is poor and polluting, and in 2014 an underground explosion and fire claimed the lives of 301 miners.

  • 6 Akhisar is 390 km from Istanbul, 105 km to Izmir. This was ancient Thyatira, one of the Seven churches of Asia of the New Testament. The sights are confined to a small city block. The town has trains and buses for Izmir.
  • 7 Sardis or "Sart" is 65 km south of Akhisar and 40 km east of Turgutlu; 450 km from Istanbul, 90 km to Izmir. This is a diversion worth making with your own car, but difficult by public transport. It has extensive Graeco-Roman ruins of the capital of the Lydians, and you'll probably have them to yourself.

Another diversion off O-5 follows the old Izmir highway across the hills via Manisa.

  • 8 Manisa is 430 km from Istanbul, 40 km to Izmir. This is industrial but has several mosques in its historic core, from the bygone days when the favoured Ottoman princes were assigned here to practice their administrative skills. Just south, Mount Spil has herds of wild horses roaming its forests, is associated with ancient Greek myths, and is the site of a Hittite rock relief.

This is the last leg of O-5; but from Manisa stay on D-565 across the Sabuncubeli Pass (and the tunnel underneath) for the final descent into the coastal plain of Izmir.

Eastern by train[edit]

Sazova Park in Eskişehir

It is possible to travel the whole way from Istanbul to Izmir in a day by train, by swinging east and changing at Eskişehir; the route is marked red on the map. The journey has a fast initial leg then a ponderous second leg, taking 14 hours altogether. You'll need to enjoy Turkish rail travel more than the state operator TCDD appears to. There are few options to get off and see places along the way, and if your aim is simply to reach Izmir, the bus gets you there in half the time. See also the Central (blue) route above for the partly-rail route, by ferry to Bandırma then the daily train to Izmir.

The first leg from Istanbul is on the high-speed YHT train. See Istanbul: Get in and the TCDD timetable for the stations currently served: the Asia-side terminus of Haydarpaşa is closed long-term for redevelopment, and in 2022 most trains start from Bostancı 10 km southeast. There's a dozen a day, but you need to be on an eastbound train not much after 07:00 to make the daytime connection, with 90 min slack. Trains heading for Ankara or Konya take three hours to Eskişehir. They stop along the way at Gebze, Izmit, Arifiye, Bilecik (for Söğüt) and Bozüyük: places you might want to see, but you can't hop on and off these inter-city trains like a tram, and they might not sell you a ticket for short hops.

Any later start from Istanbul means you either wait for the overnight train to Izmir or stay the night in Eskişehir then take the day train onward. The last eastbound YHT is around 19:30 so you have a weary couple of hours wait on a midnight platform.

  • 1 Eskişehir is a substantial city with several museums, and a renovated Ottoman district. There's accommodation near the station, which is walking distance to the centre, but use the tram to get to the old town.

There are two daily trains to Izmir from Eskişehir, taking 9-10 hours via Kütahya, Balıkesir, Savaştepe, Soma (for Pergamon), Manisa and a dozen out-of-the way places. The day train Ege Ekspresi (Aegean Express) departs at noon, so it reaches Balıkesir towards 18:30 and Izmir towards 23:00. If you despair of these trains, direct buses run from Eskişehir railway station to Bursa, switching you onto the green route.

Iznik tiles adorn many palaces and mosques

The overnight İzmir Mavi Treni (Izmir Blue Train) starts from Ankara at 21:00, so it's past midnight at 00:20 when it trundles onward from Eskişehir, reaching Balıkesir around 06:00 and Izmir by 10:30. Couchettes and sleeping cars are available.

(You can actually travel a second route by train: take the YHT from Istanbul via Eskişehir to Konya, then the overnight Konya Mavi Treni. This leaves at 19:00 to reach Izmir at 07:30, so it's not suitable for sight-seeing along the way and isn't described further.)

  • 2 Kütahya, 70 min down the line, has lots of traditional architecture, remnants of the early Ottomans and their predecessors the Germiyan kingdom, and a centuries-old tile industry.
  • Çavdarhisar is a side-trip, an hour southwest by dolmuş, for the impressive Roman ruins of Aizanoi. Backtrack to Kütahya to continue by train, but by car or bus continue southwest to join the Ankara – Izmir highway near Uşak.
  • Balıkesir is 4-6 hours down the line. It's described on the eastern road route (green) above and is a railway junction. The 17 Eylül Ekspresi (17 September Express) departs from Bandırma on the coast around 16:00, so it has same-day connection with ferries from Istanbul. It takes a couple of hours to Balıkesir then follows the same route to Izmir. The northbound return train is called 6 Eylül Ekspresi.

See the green route for the other stations south to Izmir, where the inter-city station is Basmane.

A high-speed YHT railway is under construction towards Izmir, for completion not necessarily anytime in the 21st century. Even the first section as far as Bursa is a decade behind schedule with no finish in sight.

Stay safe[edit]

Temple of Zeus at Çavdarhisar

It's not a good plan to come straight off a long flight then drive any distance, even if you land on time. Consider staying in Istanbul for a couple of days then returning to the airport to pick up the car.

With any luck, you'll be starting outbound at a time when most traffic is heading in to the city, and vice versa as you approach Izmir late afternoon. The motorways are excellent, long and wide with gentle bends. Beware road fatigue — best cure is for your partner to vex you at ten minute intervals. Otherwise you may drift off, or slow to a dawdle. If your speed creeps up, until the mock-up 2D police cars are blurring past like milestones on the road to Izmir, then sure enough some fellow in a white Merc will come up on your tail, flash impatiently, then overtake on the inside.

The risk of a crunch is greater as you come into conventional streets with criss-crossing traffic, confusing junctions and poor signage. Sort out your directions to the hotel before you plunge into the melee. Apply commonsense and don't blindly follow Satnav.

Go next[edit]

Once you've reached Izmir, your options to continue your trip are almost unlimited.

  • Istanbul since you need to return the car there, to avoid an expensive one-way rental. So see above for other routes to return northbound.
  • Çeşme to the west is both a historic town and a beach resort, with ferries to the Greek island of Chios.
  • Ephesus is one of the best preserved ancient ruins anywhere around the Mediterranean. Selçuk is the nearest visitor base but there's more in raucous Kuşadası.
  • Birgi and Tire are traditional towns with medieval heritage in the Küçükmenderes Valley to the southeast.
  • Bodrum, Turkey's partying capital, is further down the line.
  • And so is the rest of the Southern Aegean coast.

This itinerary to Istanbul to Izmir has guide status. It has good, detailed information covering the entire route. Please contribute and help us make it a star!