Guidebooks often say that Turkey has a good bus network and that 'buses are faster than trains'. But do you really want to spend 12 hours in a bus? When you can travel on a comfortable air-conditioned train, with a bed to sleep in in your own room, a restaurant for your meals and space to move around, through fantastic scenery, unspoilt by roadside development?
Train travel in Turkey can be a wonderful experience, with the best trains now modern and air-conditioned. Sensible travellers will use a train for long distances (for example, Istanbul to Konya, Ankara, Kars or Pamukkale) then a short bus trip where necessary to reach places off the rail network, for example Antalya or Gorëme.
Much of the rail network was built by the Germans, and the joke goes that the Turks paid them by the mile, hence the twisting and curvaceous nature of Turkish railways! However, the best air-conditioned Istanbul-Ankara trains now travel at up to 95mph and take just 5 hours after major improvements. The first section of a brand-new high-speed line from Istanbul to Ankara opened in March 2009, and journey time will be reduced to just 3 hours by 2013, beating both buses & flights. Overnight trains with sleeping-cars, some now air-conditioned, provide a comfortable, romantic and time-effective way to travel between major cities.
High-Speed Trains Turkey's first high-speed train line is completed between Ankara and Eskisehir, and trains are running. The journey between Eskisehir and Istanbul is by traditional express train. More...)
In a few years there will be high-speed train lines competed between Istanbul and Ankara and Konya.
Super Express Trains
Fast, comfortable, more expensive long-distance trains, with few stops. These run from Ankara to Istanbul (Haydarpasa), Izmir (Basmane) and Erzurum, and vice-versa. Some are sleeping car trains.
Fast inter-regional trains, with few stops, running on these routes (some are sleeping car trains):
Ankara - Adana
Ankara - Izmir (Basmane)
Istanbul (Haydarpasa) - Adana
Long-distance trains stopping at the larger cities and towns on these routes (some are sleeping car trains):
Istanbul (Haydarpasa) - Ankara
Istanbul (Haydarpasa) - Konya
Istanbul (Haydarpasa) - Kurtalan (east of Diyarbakir and Batman)
Istanbul (Haydarpasa) - Kars (note: 38-1/2 hours!)
Istanbul (Haydarpasa) - Tatvan (western end of Lake Van)
Ankara - Izmir (Basmane)
Bandirma - Izmir (Basmane)
Eskisehir - Izmir (Basmane)
Isparta - Izmir (Basmane) (for getting to Lake Egirdir)
Kayseri - Adana
Cappadocia is an incredible land of strange rock formations and cave dwellings that should not be missed. Taking the sleeper train from Istanbul to Ankara or Konya then a relatively short bus ride to Gorëme in Cappadocia is a great way to get there, avoiding a nightmare 12+ hour bus journey all the way from Istanbul. It lets you sleep in a comfortable sleeper on the train, with breakfast in the restaurant car, before taking a bus ride for the last bit. Alternatively, for a really short bus section, take the train to Kayseri just 70 km from Gorëme and take a bus from there.
Option 1: Take a train from Istanbul (Haydarpasa station) to Ankara . Take the metro from the station to Ankara's long-distance bus terminal, located a couple of miles out of the city centre. Buses run from Ankara to Gorëme or Nevsehir in Cappadocia every hour or two throughout the day, taking about 4.5 hours.
Option 2: Take the overnight 'Meram Express' from Istanbul to Konya . Konya, home of the whirling dervishes, is well worth a stop in itself. Buses run several times a day from Konya to Gorëme, taking about 5 hours.
Option 3: Take a sleeper train from Istanbul to Kayseri . Kayseri is only 70 km from Gorëme, so this is the shortest bus journey (maybe 1.5 hours) though a longer overall trip.
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