How To Cycle Into Istanbul From The West

“How to cycle into Istanbul from the west” may seem like an oddly specific title for a blog post.

My reasons for writing this are due to the fact that I receive several emails each month from people who have read my London to Istanbul bicycle diary. The most common question I’m asked is: “what route did you take across west Turkey and into Istanbul?”

So in order to answer this question, I thought I’d just write a blog post to lay out the route I used and share some advice.

Istanbul is a major crossing point for long-distance cyclists, as it serves as the bridge between Europe and Asia. I will say, though, that there are no amazing routes, simply more favourable routes.

Ahead of my journey, I read many accounts of bad experiences and heard many cyclists vowing never to cycle into Istanbul again. I was a little nervous.

However, my journey from the Greece/Turkey border to Istanbul was not so bad. The scorching Turkish sun, along with the dusty, undulating roads, meant that the ride was hard work, but it was easy to navigate, safe and perfectly adequate.

In a nutshell, our route went like this: Greece/Turkey border > Edirne > Kirklareli > Pinarhisar > Vize > Aydinlar > Subasi > Durusu > past Istanbul airport > Gokturk > Kemerburgaz > Bahcekoy > Sariyer > Istanbul

Below is a trace of said route, starting from the morning we crossed into Turkey. A reader named Julian has kindly dropped a GPX track of this route into the comments section at the bottom of this post, so feel free to download that to your navigation app.

Entering Turkey and joining the D020 at Edirne

We entered Turkey via the Kastanies Border Crossing Point in Greece, and followed the road to the Turkish town of Edirne.

At Edirne, we joined the D020, which we followed pretty much the whole way to Istanbul.

Once on the D020, I felt very comfortable. While the route wasn’t particularly scenic, it did feel safe. It was a tarmac road through rural farmland. There was not much in the way of a hard shoulder but this was fine as there was very little traffic on this road. The traffic that did pass tended to give us plenty of space – perhaps drivers here are used to seeing cyclists on this road.

D020 in Turkey
The D020

Another great thing about the D020 was that it regularly displayed Istanbul on signposts. This meant we always knew we were going in the right direction and could see how far away we were!

As we got closer to Istanbul, the D020 did begin to get bigger and busier, but it was still fine to cycle on as there was now a large hard shoulder.

D020 in Turkey

Cycling into Istanbul itself

On the penultimate day before arriving in Istanbul, we stayed in Durusu, which is about 58 kilometres from the centre of Istanbul. Much of those 58 kilometres were urban, which meant we had to ride through busy suburbs for a large part of the day.

We used the D020 to get out of Durusu and followed it down to Gokturk. At Gokturk, we bore directly west and followed a smaller road towards Sariyer via Kemerburgaz and Bahcekoy. This road offered a lovely respite from the now-busy D020, as it was fairly quiet and wound through the forest.

Once we reached the coast at Sariyer, we bore south and cycled along the water all the way down to the city centre. Cycling along the water was very pleasant, and we made the most of this before we had to join the madness that was Istanbul’s city centre.

I hadn’t realised just how big Istanbul is – it’s simply massive and sprawls out far into the suburbs.

You’ll certainly need to keep your wits about you when cycling into the city centre. The roads are chaotic and not bike-friendly. That being said, I arrived at my hostel unscathed, albeit very sweaty.

All in all, the ride was nowhere near as bad as I had anticipated. The EuroVelo route coming out of Novi Sad in Serbia was much worse – and that was a designated cycling route!

Cycling into Istanbul
Cycling along the water

What about cycling on the D100?

The D100 runs parallel to the E80, a motorway serving as the main artery of western Turkey and which funnels traffic into Istanbul.

While it is not legal to cycle on the E80, it is legal to cycle on the D100. Many cyclists have used this route to get into Istanbul from the west, as it’s just a straight road, making it the fastest and most direct option. Navigation-wise, you can’t get lost.

That being said, I would actually suggest that you avoid the D100.

The road is incredibly busy and there are no hard shoulders to ride on. I’ve heard many a horror story from fellow cyclists who said that the road is frequently used by heavy trucks and that they would regularly get forced off the road as they sped by.

Accommodation for bike tourists in west Turkey

Accommodation for cyclists is pretty limited in Turkey. Or at least, it is on the European side of Turkey. I have no experience beyond Istanbul.

There isn’t much choice in the way of campsites, although there is one conveniently located along the D020 just outside of Edirne called Ömür Camping Edirne. I didn’t stay at this campsite, though, so can’t comment on what it’s like.

I was with two cyclists from Thailand at this point, and one of them told me that he had read that it’s possible to free camp at gas stations in Turkey. We gave this a go one night, and it was a really positive experience. We pitched our tents on a patch of lawn next to the gas station and were gifted coffee by the security guard and watermelon by a local who was passing by. We were able to use the toilet and sink in the gas station, too.

Free camping in Turkey
My makeshift campsite at the gas station

In reality, we ended up sleeping in hotels most nights. This wasn’t ideal, as I was cycling on a budget, but I was near the end of my trip and so was okay with spending a little extra for the last few nights.

It’s also legal to wild camp in Turkey. We did consider this, but there wasn’t much in the way of trees and we didn’t feel confident with camping out in the open. This is definitely an option though!

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you would consider using the affiliate links below when planning your travels. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help me to keep this blog running. Thanks for your support – Lauren.

Hotels – Booking.com
Hostels – Hostelworld
Cheap flights – Skyscanner
Travel insurance – World Nomads
Outdoor gear – Decathlon / GO Outdoors
Cycling gear – Chain Reaction Cycles

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  1. Hi there
    Quick question if I may… In your opinion , do you think it would have made a difference if you cycled the other direction , east to west,

    1. This ride is on my list to do one day and I think the practicalities are much better if you cycle back to the UK. This allows you to fly out with your bike in a box, which you can recycle, and then cycle home. Cycling out to Istanbul will give you the hassle and stress of finding a cardboard box suitable for your bike. All that is set against the feeling that cycling to Istanbul feels much more exotic than cycling to London, and also means that you start with the “easy” countries of France et cetera before the more challenging eastern ones.

  2. Hi – thanks for sharing your experience. I am looking to do the same route this summer. Did you bike to the Hagia Sophia to end the trip? Is that possible?

    1. Hi Mark, my official end point was the Bosphorus Bridge, which I did cycle to. I went by the Hagia Sophia on the way to my hostel but there were too many people to try and cycle in this area so I had to wheel my bike on foot at that point!

  3. Hi there
    Quick question if I may… In your opinion , do you think it would have made a difference if you cycled the other direction , east to west,

    1. Thanks for this guys , busy planning this section from my Hotel room in Novi Sad and that’s helped a lot. 🙂

  4. fabulous

    It is on my bucket list and always useful to have a route as this is renowned as a challenging place to approach. will be bookmarking it!

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