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The Best Bike Route Into Istanbul

September 8th, 2010 18 comments


I will never forget cycling into Istanbul.

Cycling into Turkey

With little experience in bike touring, we didn’t research the smaller roads well enough. Instead, we rode alongside heavy motorway traffic for several days on the D100 – the main highway from the Greek border to Turkey‘s biggest city.

We weren’t alone. Many cyclists take the D100. Do they use this dangerous road because it’s easy, at least in terms of navigation? It is one straight line into Istanbul. Or perhaps they take it because, coming from Europe, they haven’t yet bought a decent Turkish map and don’t know of any other roads.

There Is A Better Way!

In fact, there are two better options:

#1. Southern Coast

Tim & Laura cycled into Istanbul in early 2014. They used the D100 until the port town of Silivri and then picked their way into the city on bike paths and smaller roads. On their website, they write:

We used smaller roads through Beylikduzu (Sari Zeybeck Cd runs parallel to the D100 for a bit).  Around Avcilar Sahil Parki the D100 runs along a narrow bit of land between the coast and a lake – on Google Maps it looks like there’s no other option but the main road, but it’s misleading and there’s actually a minor service road and/or pavements bikes can use so we were hardly on the main road at all. After this came the real joy. Between the airport and the coast, in Bakirkoy, we pedalled for a relatively long way on traffic free cycle routes along the sea front. Total winner. You end up on Kennedy Avenue right in the centre of Istanbul old city, and even this big road is fine as there is a designated cycle lane.

For more information, see their website.

#2. Along the D020.

In 2010, Frederike & Guy (cycling from the UK to Australia) posted details of their route into Istanbul.

The bulk of this route uses the D020, which sounds wonderful from their description:

“It’s a single lane coarse tarmac road through rural farm land. There is no hard shoulder but it’s not necessary as there is little traffic. The traffic that does pass, we found to be very courteous. According to a local, drivers are used to cyclists on this road.”

4000kmEven the very last stretch of their route, coming into Istanbul, was tranquil:

“Expecting a ferocious motorway it turned out to be a lovely single lane road weaving through small villages, suburbs and marinas. With the sun rising over Asia on the other side of the Bosporus, this was one of the most memorable and enjoyable rides we have ever done.”

And now, the small print. Since 2010, we’ve heard anecdotal reports that the D020 has been widened and is not quite as bike friendly as it used to be. This report from late 2013 seems to indicate that it’s still a feasible cycling route, and this blog post shows detailed maps for the last few miles between the D020 and the city centre. If you try it, please let us know about the current conditions.

Read more about Frederike & Guy’s journey to Istanbul, and download the GPX file for this route.

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17 Responses to “The Best Bike Route Into Istanbul”

  1. Or how about turning south west, seeing historic Gallipoli and ancient Troy, then back along the south coast of the sea of Marmara and hopping on the hyrofoil ferry from Bandirma straight into Istanbul’s horn?

    • friedel says:

      David, I can vouch for the ferries! We left Istanbul that way, going to Bandirma, and it was super easy. It’s kind of a long-way-round route though if you need to get to Istanbul quickly.

  2. Lee Hughes says:

    This is great!

    Although I have not yet planned my route I have heard horror stories of cycling into Istanbul with all the traffic. It was a huge concern for me.

    not any more :D

  3. Hi guys,

    Thanks for that…. that’s great to know. Have just started the Danube trail from Donaueshingen so it’ll come in handy when we eventually get there!

    Phil

  4. Matthias says:

    very helpful indeed. if you’re coming from greece i can also recommend taking a right turn after malkara to sarkoy. it is a scenic ride along the coast to tekirdag but with some heavy hills. downside, you end up on the D100 just before silivri. we saw 3 car crashes just some meters away from us on this stretch of the highway until the bicycle path starts some kilometers before the centre of istanbul. seems a good idea to switch to the D020 just before you hit silivri if you are not already on it. thanks for the post

  5. Tom Allen says:

    Excellent topic as it’s so relevant to so many long-term travellers leaving Europe. The D100 is a proper slog from about Silivri onwards, although some people like the adrenalin. It was kind of fun the first time, but the second and third were annoying.

    There’s a similar peaceful route out on the Asian side. Unfortunately I didn’t map it at the time, but it basically involves going north along the east side of the Bosphorous towards Pasabace and heading into the countryside that way, rather than straight east through suburbia.

  6. Fred Bouwman says:

    Hi,

    A little late to the subject and a bit off topic but other than that……….I am in Istanbul and will be leaving via the ferry to Bandirma in a few days but I am trying to find a bike repair shop for a few things. There are lots of bike shops with parts but I can’t any that actually do work on the bike (just tune-up type things before I head down to the Middle East).

    Does anyone know of a bike mechanic in Istanbul, preferrably near the Sirkeci train station.

    Thanks

    Fred

  7. Blanche says:

    An easy way out of Istanbul to the east was following the bosporus and coastline via Polonaskoy. I guess you could do the same westwards too.

    O yes guys alittle spam.

    Go see the biggest cycletouring videoplatform in the World, the WorldCycle Video’s on Vimeo >>> http:/vimeo.com/groups/wereldfietser

  8. julian Fonseca says:

    I’m setting off for Istanbulon thr 25th feb from Wales to Harwich. Thereafter…Hook of Holland, The Rhine to Mainz, The Mein to Frankfurt, across Germany to Passau and then the Danube to Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade,Bucharest and across Bulgaria to Varna on the Black Sea coast and down the coast to Istanbul. I hope to travel small roads. Any advice gratefully received. I’m allowing six to eight weeks.

    • Martin Philpot says:

      How are you getting on? I am riding the same route in July August this year and we appreciate any advice on the route.
      Good Luck

    • Darin says:

      Hey there Julian :-)
      Darin from Bulgaria here, the one on Burger King :-) and the reservation for hotel in Yambol :-)
      Would love to stay in touch with you, guys. My e-mail is darin.stoykov at gmail.com

    • Pan Kim says:

      Hi, This is Pan Kim who is cylcing from lisgon to istanbul.
      now i am following Danube river, in Hungary.

      I really wanna get to Istanbul. and I am looking for the shortest way. BUt it seems like there are many mountains btw Rumanina, and bulgara and turkey.

      So, Following the coast line after blace sea is best way to arrive in istanbul?

      or, is there any other options?

      THanks.

  9. Baerbel Bussenius says:

    Thanks for sharing tips on how to get into Istanbul. We just cycled there coming from the North and took the D20 until shortly after Kestanelik and continued via Yassiören and Arnavutköy into Istanbul. The route was great, with little traffic until Arnavutköy. The road then becomes a little busy, but there is a very wide shoulder which makes it really easy to get into town. Having read all the other posts, I got slightly scared, but this route was really great as well.

  10. Laura says:

    Hi guys,

    We cycled through Istanbul in November 2013 and were recommended a route by a local cyclist which approaches the city from the south, along the coast. It was great with lots of dedicated cycle lanes (the first we had seen since France). We followed a similar route out of the city, via Kadikoy.

    I believe the D020 road is now much bigger and in places there are 4 lanes of traffic so I would definitely recommend our route!

    I’ve written about it here: http://thenextchallenge.org/2014/01/tips-for-cycling-into-istanbul/

    Great website – we use it all the time so thank you for providing such useful resources.

    Laura

  11. Matt says:

    We took the D010 into Istanbul in August 2012. Big busy road, but loads of room on the hard shoulder so we felt safe. We missed the turn-off out to the coast (near Kemerburagaz) so ended up going right into the city. Which did get a little hairy, but as long as you keep going past the junction with the D2/E80, you’ll end up at the top of the Golden Horn and it’s a nice, easy ride in from there.

    We rode out of Istanbul towards the Black Sea Coast on the D020 – not fun. FWIW the Black Sea Coast is not an easy ride for the first few hundred km out of Istanbul – lots of hills, fairly industrial.

  12. Kieran says:

    Hi Friedel

    After seeing the comments and discussions on here about the D020 we thought we would also pitch in. We cycled it at Christmas 2013 and it was… okay…

    We’ve written an in depth review of our route from the border here and as it’s different from all of those listed above we thought you and your readers might be interested.

    http://www.downhillfromhere.net/feed/2014/1/27/the-road-to-istanbul

    Thanks,

    Kieran

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