best weekend trips from Istanbul

7 Cool Weekend Trips From Istanbul That You Didn’t Know About

The number of weekend trips from Istanbul can be really big since the city’s location and the interweaving of centuries-old history hide many beautiful places around. 

You can go on day trips from Istanbul or overnight stays to many different locations, including beach towns and small villages, Princess Islands like Burgaz island and Buyukada, or even some nearby beach destinations.
But you can also do something very different and go to some quite unique and incredibly beautiful (my favorite) places near Istanbul that help to achieve two goals. One is to fully relax outside the big metropolis and two – get an impression of what’s there outside the city.

So, if you are spending more than 4 days in Istanbul or revisiting this destination on a returning trip wishing to do something new, save this post with Istanbul weekend getaways to experience Turkey from a new perspective!

Planning a Weekend Trip From Istanbul Soon? 

While getting to most places on my list is possible with public transportation, I do recommend you hire a car to maximize your time.

In my experience, the best companies for car hire in Istanbul are Discovercars and Localrent. The first one works better for airport car hire and second one for anywhere in the city.

But I do recommend you read my guides to renting a car in Turkey and car hire in Istanbul to get more insight and understand which one will work better for you.


Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you make a purchase or booking by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you).

Best Weekend Trips From Istanbul to Nature

Ballıkayalar Nature Park (for Camping, Rock Climbing & Hiking)

weekend trip from Istanbul to Ballikayala nature park
Ballıkayalar Nature Park is also one of the best places to go hiking near Istanbul

One of my (personally) favorite places where to go for a weekend trip from Istanbul to escape the concrete jungle and dive into nature is Ballikayala Tabiat Parki (nature reserve) which is a great alternative to the Belgrade forest that everyone mentions in their posts these days.

It is located right behind the industrial areas of Gebze (a small city east of İstanbul) that do not usually evoke the most pleasant feelings in the passersby, with bold metallic colors and giant industrial chimneys catching the eye.

But once you drive past them, you will soon find yourself in Ballıkayalar Nature Park, a popular “breathing point” for İstanbulites and people from Izmit who love coming here for nature and extreme sports.

Roughly 70 km (45 miles) away from Istanbul’s old town (which is an hour and thirty minutes ride by car with light traffic) will bring you to a very different scenery with dense vegetation, small streams and waterfalls, and a rich natural life that includes a range of wild animals such as rabbits, foxes, moles, and different types of birds.

Ballıkayalar offers a lot of options to visitors when it comes to activities. First of all, it is among the most popular rock-climbing spots in Turkey with a range of routes that will satisfy both beginners and experts. 

There are also beautiful trekking routes appropriate for people from different levels as well as a picnic area right beside a central pond (though it’s not easy to find a spot there in summer and weekends). Ballıkayalar is also a very suitable destination for camping.

In fact, it is an ideal place for campers. Technically speaking you can also come here on a day trip from Istanbul. But mind that the traffic situation on the stretch from Istanbul to Ballıkayalar Nature Park is often quite intense, so you may end up spending more time driving and it would be better to stay overnight here.

best nature weekend getaway from Istanbul
Autumn is a fantastic time of the year when to go on this weekend trip from Istanbul – you can even do a day trip which is a much better alternative to a Belgrade forest when you have a car

How to Get to Ballıkayalar Nature Park

The best (and easiest) way to reach Ballikayalar Park is by car. 

But there are also options for those who want to visit by public transport from Istanbul. You can do it by bus or train.

Take the high-speed train from Pendik, get off after 1 stop, or take the bus and get off at the Gebze bus station where you can take dolmus shared taxi to Tavşanlı Village from Gebze Center Shopping Center area. Once in dolmus, you need to ask a driver to drop you off in front of the Ballıkaya sign. From it, you can walk down to the valley in about 5 minutes.

Taking a taxi from Gebze center is another option since it is close and won’t cost much.

Where to Stay on This Nature Trip

Ballıkayalar is a fantastic destination for camping closest to Istanbul. This is why you should come here with your tent (if you don’t have your own, rent one in Istanbul).

Lake Sapanca (for Peaceful Retreat & Water Activities)

trip to the Lake Sapanca

Just 2 hours away from the Eminonu neighborhood or even the same time from Balat and Fener, you will reach one of the most beautiful places in northern Turkey which is Sapanca Lake.

It has always been among the favorite weekend getaway spots for people living in Istanbul, and once you’re there, you will see why.

Here, embraced with beautiful shades of green, you will be able to enjoy a calming nature by the lake, treat yourself to a hearty village breakfast, and if you feel like adding some excitement to your weekend, there will be a range of activities to choose from.

Most people from Istanbul hit Lake Sapanca to have a chill weekend where they can just enjoy the beautiful lake views, eat some good food, and rest. And while there’s nothing wrong with any of these, mind that there is a lot to do/discover there.

After satisfying your appetite – which will be increased thanks to the fresh air – with a big local breakfast, you can rent a bicycle to explore the area, accompanied by the lovely lake view. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent an ATV and hit the dirt roads for a thrilling ride.

If that is too much action, you can get a canoe or a catamaran and enjoy the serene waters of the lake. Or if you are in the mood to pamper yourself, you can just book a massage from one of the wellness hotels in the area (like Richmond Nua Wellness Spa or NG Sapanca) for a quick rejuvenation.

And if you visit this part of Turkey in winter and fancy some winter sports, keep in mind that Kartepe Ski Center is just half an hour away from the lake.

Lake Sapanca on a weekend trip from Istanbul
Lake Sapanca is also one of the best places near Istanbul where to go on a getaway in the fall and more so in December and January when the scenery changes

How to Get to Lake Sapanca

While getting to Sapanca is possible by public transportation, I highly recommend having your own vehicle instead.

This region offers a plethora of enjoyable nature activities compared to other places of this type near Istanbul. Having a rental car with you will be ideal for fully experiencing everything once you arrive.

Where to Stay on Weekend Trip From Istanbul to Lake Sapanca

Speaking of hotels, accommodation alternatives around Lake Sapanca range from luxury hotels to bungalows and lake-side houses if you wish to spend your weekend there. 

For the biggest number of accommodation options (and for the high number of activities), look into accommodation along the southern shore of the lake. Sapanca town in particular and nearby Yanik have plenty of wonderful options.

My top accommodations are Richmond Nua Wellness Spa (for years, it has been the most prominent luxury Spa hotel in Sapanca) and Balturk Garden Hotel (excellent B&B for mid-budget). 

But there are also a few nice lake-front bungalows and private villas that are quite popular. If you want a real treat, check out Villa Kirkpinar for two with the pool and walking distance from the pool.

>> Check out more beautiful hotels and villas on Lake Sapanca

Şile (Black Sea Coast Getaway From Istanbul)

Sile coast in Istanbul

Actually a part of Istanbul, Şile nonetheless deserves a spot on the list, as it is one of the best options for those who wish to spend a carefree day trip or even better a whole weekend at the beach, without getting too far away from the city.

There are a lot of beautiful beaches in Şile with lovely forests in the background. So if you are going there to enjoy the sun and the sea, you have a range of options both public and private.

For example, Kumbaba Beach and Ağva Beach are some of the most popular beaches that have showers and changing rooms.

But of course, Şile experience can be much more than just a beach trip from Istanbul. You can visit the nearby villages, especially Ağva and see the historical attractions such as the Şile Castle and the Historical Lighthouse, and of course, discover the local restaurants.

There are also a lot of camping areas as well if you wish to spend a weekend camping, and hidden lakes in the district as some of the most romantic spots in Istanbul greater area.

Just one thing to remember – Şile is on the Black Sea coast which means there might be strong undercurrents which can be risky for inexperienced swimmers, especially during strong winds or periods of high waves.

Sile waterfront in Istanbul

How to Get to Şile

It takes 1.5-2 hours to reach Şile from Istanbul by car, including such neighborhoods as Arnavutkoy and Bebek.

Those who don’t have a private vehicle can take a bus from many neighborhoods in Istanbul, but it will take a lot of time to go there by bus, to be honest. Just an example, one time we went by bus from Üsküdar and it took us 3 hours to reach Şile.

So I highly recommend you hire a car, considering that it is very easy to do so from Sabiha Gokcen airport and prices there are on a lower side.

Another option to go to Sile from Istanbul is of course a taxi. Since the distance is not big, a taxi ride should not cost a fortune.

famous castle in Sile
old Turkish fruit shop near Istanbul

Where to Stay on This Beach Trip From Istanbul to Şile

It is possible to explore Şile on its own on a day trip from Istanbul. But if you wish to make this a weekend getaway, there are a lot of accommodation alternatives such as boutique hotels, villas, bungalows, and more so you can choose according to your taste and budget.

If you want a nice hotel stay on a budget, look into a Sile Butik Otel. Personally, this is my favorite option as it is not expensive, includes breakfast, and is right in the old town close to the sea.

If you prefer camping, I know two excellent campsites, one in Dogancili – Bella Camp and Marmara Camping right in Sile.

Şarköy in Tekirdağ (Istanbul Weekend Trip for Beaches & Nature Park)

Although a bit less popular compared to most other entries on this list (which for some would be a major pro), Şarköy is equally (if not more) impressive. It can be a nice beach destination from Istanbul on a day trip if you have a car but for the most fulfilling experience, I recommend you devote 2 days and have an overnight trip from Istanbul.

Şarköy is one of those rare places in the Marmara Sea with Blue Flag beaches which automatically makes it a great destination for a weekend beach getaway. It is also known for its wines, made from some of the highest-quality grapes in the country, so wine tasting is a must once you are there.

When in Şarköy, you should also visit Uçmakdere (it’s actually halfway between Tekirdag and Şarköy location here), a cute Rum village that sits between the green Ganos Mountains and the blue Marmara Sea. It offers tasty wines, spectacular views, and a lovely glimpse into the old village life of Turkey.

Although at first glance it seems like a serene old village that is reminiscent of an Aegean town, make no mistake, as there is a lot of adrenaline-inducing action in Uçmakdere as well.

For example, you can try paragliding or go scuba diving during your getaway to spice up the Şarköy experience. Another area to visit is Mürefte. Famous for its wines (yes, wine production in Turkey is big), it is also among the places where you can taste some of the best seafood around.

Another beautiful alternative in the area is Gökçetepe Village, which is actually in Keşan, not Şarköy but it’s reachable by an hour or so of car ride, and it is well worth it. There you can visit Gökçetepe Nature Park, on the coast of the beautiful Saros Bay, and spend some quality time all tangled up in green and blue.

And there is no shortage of activities either in the village itself – scuba diving, trekking, horse-riding, water sports, Survivor-style parkours, paintball, and archery are just a few of the exciting options available.

How to Get Here

This Istanbul getaway is suitable only for people who are willing to rent a car. If you read through the entire section, you should have noticed that I mention quite a few places where to go in and around Şarköy.

Also if a goal is to spend time on the beach, with a few beaches that stretch out for a few kilometers, you will need a vehicle to drive around.

If you are staying on the European side of Istanbul and need a car, I recommend you rent it from this company instead as they can deliver a vehicle to your door in this way saving you money on bridges and toll roads. 

Rent a Car in Istanbul on the European Side

Where to Stay on This Overnight Trip From Istanbul

Gökçetepe Nature Park area has great camping spots (both for tents and caravans in case you travel in RV) and accommodation options range from hair tents to luxurious stone villas, and bungalows.

In Şarköy along the beach line, there are a few decent reasonably priced pensions like Yali Pension and Pansiyon Akmonya. They are very basic but cheap and in good location.

Uludağ – Bursa (For Summer & Winter Trip From Istanbul)

weekend trip from Istanbul to Bursa
Istanbul weekend trip to Uludag

Turkey’s top destination for winter sports, Bursa’s Uludağ is still as popular as ever, drawing visitors from every corner of Turkey, as well as from around the globe.

Many think that it is the best destination for a weekend trip from Istanbul in winter when in reality Uludag mountain is great for summer trips as well as being one of the destinations where to escape the summer heat. April, May, and November are the rainy off-season in the mountains. But other times of the time are perfect for different reasons.

Uludağ, Marmara region’s highest mountain, houses a wide range of endemic animal and plant species and is filled with lovely views every season.

And what are the best things to do in Uludağ? Unsurprisingly, the first thing that comes to mind is winter sports, as the area is famous for its exciting snowy tracks, not only for skiing but for snowboarding, sledding, and snowmobiling as well.

Having said that, Uludağ has a lot of activity options for summer such as trekking, hiking, camping, and picnics, not to mention fun cable-car rides with panoramic mountain views that never fail to impress. There is also a summer festival here each year in August.

And then if you feel like having a combination of things on a weekend trip from Istanbul, you can combine nature time in Uludag with time in Bursa.

How to Get to Uludağ

Bursa is quite easy to reach from İstanbul. It takes 2 – 3 hours with a car and there are multiple alternatives such as bus and ferry, or just a plane. Once there, visitors can reach the mountain with cars, bus rides, or even taxis directly from Bursa.

If you are coming from Istanbul and don’t have a car, the best way to reach Bursa would be by ferry to Mudanya first. And then from Mudanya take a dolmus shared taxi or a regular bus (they stop near the ferry terminal in Mudanya) to Bursa.

Ferries depart from a few locations in Istanbul but the most convenient one is from Kadikoy.

Where to Stay on a Long Weekend Break to Uludağ

As it is a popular tourist destination, there is a range of hotels suitable for different budgets, as well as lovely chalets, especially beautiful in winter.

If you are on a budget, it is better to stay in Bursa and go to Uludag in the morning. 

Ulubat Lake Near Bursa (Lesser-Known Trip from Istanbul)

Lake Sapanca in winter
nature trip from Istanbul

Bursa is full of many routes with natural beauty and visiting them on the overnight trip from Istanbul is easy and enjoyable as you get a chance to unplug and recharge.

One of those places is Ulubat Lake which looks somewhat magical with trees trapped in the water, reed beds, hundreds of birds of all kinds, and white storks nesting in every street around each corner.

Due to its strategic location along bird migration routes, this lake is home to a diverse array of bird species. It serves as a crucial wetland habitat with abundant flora and fauna, leading to its inclusion in the RAMSAR agreement for protection.

Notably, the Eskikaraağaç and Gölyazı peninsulas, along with various islands accessible by boat, have become popular attractions. Moreover, the presence of historical ruins around them from ancient times provides significant interest to everyone who loves to travel for history.

Gölyazı village on the lake is probably the most popular place to visit with hundreds of birds above it (seriously, there are so many birds there like nowhere else) and a beautiful waterfront. Rent a boat there to go to the nearby islands or simply go for a walk getting your camera ready as views are gorgeous on all sides. Also, stop at one of the restaurants by the water to try the fresh catch of the day while taking in the views.

During the spring months, as the water level rises, you’ll see the trees partially submerged in the water but the village’s houses still retain their nostalgic charm. Both the lake and the village have a rich history dating back to ancient times. The remnants of the city of Lapedium, established on the island where Gölyazı village now stands, offer a glimpse into the grandeur and beauty of the city in ancient times.

Apart from Gölyazı and Eskikaraağaç villages, there are several other noteworthy places to visit around the lake if you have a car. Some of them are Ayvaini Cave (where the most adventurous can go on a guided tour in the water) and Suuçtu Waterfall.

lesser-known weekend getaway from Istanbul
Once in Gölyazı village, you can also go on a boat tour around the shore. Just use a translator to communicate with a local to find out the price and duration. Going on such a trip is absolutely safe and offers a unique perspective
Gölyazı Merkez Lake
If you go on a walk around the lake, you can find some interesting scenery, including rare birds and plants

How to Get to Ulubat Lake

When using public transportation, Ulubat Lake is accessible from Bursa by dolmus or actual bus to Gölyazı village. But of course with a car, you’ll be able to cover more and see places nearby mentioned above.

Another alternative is to join organized tours that you can sign up for in Bursa from Local tour agencies.

Where to Stay on a Trip to Ulubat Lake

If you wish to have a trip here as an overnight getaway and have the most authentic experience ever, I recommend you stay in Faikbey Konagi guesthouse by the lake.

Get in touch with the owner here inquiring about the availability and price and also see the guesthouse’s photos.

Cumalıkızık – Bursa (Trip From Istanbul to a Traditional Ottoman-style Village) 

Turkish breakfast in Cumalıkızık
day trip from Istanbul to Cumalıkızık

Another excellent place where to go for a quick trip from Istanbul which you can actually combine with the previous one. Or come here on a separate visit, even on one of the day trips from Istanbul. 

With its well-preserved small, colorful houses and stone-paved narrow streets, Cumalıkızık Village is a close-hand witness to the growth of one of history’s greatest empires as it is like a time capsule that takes you back to the Ottoman times.

Included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014 thanks to its importance in the Empire’s history, Cumalıkızık is a must-see, especially for those interested in history, architecture, photography, and local cuisines.

168 km/104 miles away from İstanbul, it takes around 2 and a half hours of car ride to reach this lovely small village.

Once here, just walking the old streets with occasional breaks in local coffee shops is quite a rewarding experience itself (don’t forget your camera!). But you should also check out the local bazaars for fresh products from the region, visit the Cumalıkızık Ethnography Museum, and see the old village masque.

It is also a perfect place to have a local traditional Turkish breakfast (!). But finding a table during weekend mornings can be a bit of a challenge, as the village is among the favorites of locals from Bursa as well – it is just half an hour away from the city center.

short trip from Istanbul to eat Turkish breakfast
Turkish breakfast in Cumalıkızık is a must! Many Istanbulites like to go on a quick trip from Istanbul here just to plunge into the atmosphere of the old times and try regional delicacies in a village atmosphere

Cumalıkızık is ideal for a day trip from Istanbul, as spending a few hours should be enough here. But since the road is long, coming here for a day trip just doesn’t make much sense. It is better to combine a trip to Cumalıkızık with Bursa and possibly Uludağ as you’ll have a ton of things to do.

How to Get to Cumalıkızık

The best way to reach Cumalikizik is by car. I was there twice, one time on a weekend getaway to Bursa and another one when making a stop there for breakfast on the road trip to Bodrum. And having a car helped to see so much without wasting hours on the road.

But if you don’t have a car, come here from Bursa 

Where to Stay 

If you want to have a really unique (even though short) overnight trip from Istanbul to plunge into the times of the Ottoman Empire, I recommend you come to stay overnight in Cumalıkızık instead of Bursa. This will guarantee a very unique experience.

For those who wish to stay, there are a couple of local bed and breakfast options that shouldn’t hurt the budget.

More Ideas for Weekend Trips From Istanbul

More Posts About Istanbul You Shouldn’t Miss

Did you go on any weekend trips from Istanbul? Anything else to add to my list? Share in the comments! 

best weekend trips from Istanbul

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