The Best Bike Route Into Istanbul

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.

Comments

  1. David Piper
    8th September 2010 at 10:29 am #

    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
      8th September 2010 at 10:33 am #

      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
    8th September 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    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 😀

  3. Phil Duggan
    8th September 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    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
    10th September 2010 at 11:31 am #

    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
    11th September 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    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
    30th October 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    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
    11th May 2011 at 10:19 am #

    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
    26th January 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    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
      25th March 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      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
      15th April 2012 at 11:49 am #

      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
      1st August 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      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
    29th October 2012 at 8:09 am #

    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
    21st January 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    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

    • friedel
      23rd January 2014 at 4:26 pm #

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I will link to your post within our main post. Happy cycling!

  11. Matt
    24th January 2014 at 12:03 am #

    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
    27th January 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    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

  13. Steven
    24th October 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi,

    We have just cycled into Istanbul from Bulgaria (October 2014). We took the northern route and it seemed fine. For more details see our blog:

    http://pedallingprescotts.co.uk/useful-info/cycling-into-istanbul/

    Cheers,

    The Pedalling Prescotts

  14. Charlie
    31st January 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    Hi,

    Just cycled into Istanbul via the Silivri route along the South coast recommended above and it was great. For almost the entire way from Silivri there is a small road that runs beside the D100, with very little traffic.

    One point to note, when you cross the bridge into Beylikduzu, make sure you stay near the main road. I tried to run along the coast for a little while and it was nice, but the road disappeared and I had to weave through some difficult roads – lots of hills and not a lot of shoulder – before I could cross into Istanbul proper. Kennedy Rd was great, with the bike path, don’t see any reason why anyone would enter Istanbul any other way.

  15. Helen Moat
    9th September 2015 at 1:22 am #

    I’ve just cycled to Istanbul this summer. There is no dream route into Istanbul and you just have to grit your teeth and go for it. The D100 from Edirne to Silvri was not nearly as bad as I’d feared though: the hard shoulder is wide and the dual carriageway, while busy, is quiet enough for lorries and cars to give you a wide berth.
    After Silivri, it’s possible to take quiet roads through settlements, usually close to the D100. From Tuyap , the traffic becomes quite frightening. We took the service roads from there; just as bad as the D100 with numerous slip roads onto them and some manic Turkish drivers who didn’t want to give way! From Beylikduzu, it becomes a lot more pleasant: some cycle paths and parks, interspersed with quieter roads – but still busy.
    Tips for cycling to Istanbul from Constanta:
    – consider going inland through Dobrich and Yambol. It’s flatter and the roads are quiet.
    – Try to avoid Bulgaria and Turkey in the heat of the summer – and if you have no choice (as in my case) it’s really worth getting up at dawn to avoid the heat of the day

  16. Kiyan
    21st September 2015 at 7:03 am #

    I just took this route as of Sep 2015. Some work has been done to upgrade but it remains very cyclable.

    The first 1/3 is perfect tranquil country road, second 1/3 is single lane traffic, sometimes with a small hard shoulder. There are trucks here but it was not hugely stressful. Final 1/3 is now a highway but it has a huge hard shoulder for the full length and was actually quiet for a long time so not stressful at all. Don’t miss the turn off which is mostly truckless from then on and I also found the drivers to be courteous!

    Unfortunately I couldn’t find a boat down the Bosphoros but it’s actually not bad cycling down the river – traffic is slow and pretty safe even though it is busy.

    Keep your wits about you and have a great cycle!

  17. Mike
    24th September 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    I just cycled this route today! I didn’t find the road to be too bad at all despite the horror stories. In fact only when I took detours to the side roads did I encounter some truly awful driving, including one driver who I caught up with at the next traffic lights, knocked on his window and gave him a free english lesson, focusing on Scottish swear words.

    It’s an ugly ride yes but I think the reports on how bad it is are a bit misleading. Just have your wits about you. I found cycling into Athens to be far worse to be honest.

    • Simon Adams
      12th March 2016 at 8:08 am #

      Hi mike. I lost the trhread a bit so would you mind saying WHICH of the routes under discusssion you chose please/ I intend being there on about that date this year (from UK).
      Thanks.

  18. Richard
    13th November 2015 at 1:26 am #

    Hey guys! Just want to say thanks to TravellingTwo as you served a big inspiration and great source of knowledge to my trip this Summer from Rotterdam to Istanbul, please check out my video if you get a chance!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty0ckmayTqQ

    Cheers,

    Rich

  19. Gideon Reade
    22nd June 2016 at 6:33 pm #

    D020 problems right now. Hi, we’re right now in Kilyos, directly N of Istanbul, on the coast. We came here from Kirklareli, on the D020 route. The first day and a bit was as previous reports (we camped at Safaalan). Next day we went to Durusu and camped (site alleged on Marco Polo map never found, paid 5TL to use a toiletless picnic area, not worth going down the big hill to Durusu).
    After Durusu it got bad. Firstly, all the minor roads N of D020 are cut by a new, vast, quarry, not yet shown on OSM. Secondly, immediately E, the D020 is in process of upgrade to 4 lane. You, and anyone, can see the new road, but not go on it. Everything is diverted SE toward Gokturk and Istanbul, on a overloaded 2 lane. The whole area is heaving with construction trucks which take a lot of risks on blind bends, and are also found on some of the minor roads too. Really horrible, and because of the unmapped works cutting minor roads, hard to avoid. I think we went as far as Arnavutköy before heading N. Thereafter sanity returned.

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