Cycling into Istanbul on the D020

Just thought we would write a quick blog about our experiences for anyone intending to cycle into Istanbul from the west. We have read frequent accounts of bad experiences and many cyclists vowing never to do it again. Our experience was very positive and was actually a very memorable journey that we would be happy to do again.||

We wanted to cycle into Istanbul but we are not risk takers so we researched the quietest route possible even if it meant adding a few extra days onto our journey. For us the D100 was not an option as we are not brave enough to take on multi lane motorways. So we took the D020 instead.


Coming from Bulgaria we crossed over the river at Lyubimets and onto the E85 which we stayed on for about 15km until we hit the Bulgaria – Greece border. The road was moderately busy but it was no problem as there is a narrow hard shoulder to cycle on. The border control out and in was very quick so we were soon into Greece. Once in Greece the road turned into a dual lane highway but the hard shoulder widened to over a meter and there was very little on traffic on the road. The towns marked on our map were well off the road so we ended up running low on water until we found a service station some 20km in from the border. Stay on the E85 until you see the turn off for Turkey. From the turn off it’s only another 3km or so until you reach the Greece – Turkey border. The small Greek town of Kastanies just before the border is a lovely place to devour a few Greek specialties, the friendly locals stuffed our bikes with bananas!

The Greece – Turkey border is also very quiet, as there is a weight limit so that lorries can’t cross at this border. We had to queue for 15 minutes to get our entry stamps, then we were off again and into Turkey.  The first major town you come to in Turkey is Edirne. A lovely place in which we happily spent 3 days wandering around the colourful streets and admiring the stunning mosques. Not many tourists make it to Edirne so there almost no touting.

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Leaving Edirne we followed the D100 east for about 10km until the fork intersection with the D020 that heads due east. The D100 was busy so we were very thankful for the small hard shoulder we had.

Once on the D020 we felt immediately comfortable. It’s a single lane coarse tarmac road through rural farm land. There is no hard shoulder but it’s not necessary as they is little traffic and the traffic that does pass we found to be very courteous. According to a local, drivers are used to cyclists on this road.


On our first night we stayed in a hotel at Kirklareli. The next day we cycled to Vize and stayed another night in a hotel. The road conditions stayed pretty much the same, the terrain is consistently undulating, with no big climbs but we struck extremely hot weather and a headwind, so the going was tough at times.

After Vize we continued to a small village called Akalan where we were put up by some friendly locals who allowed us to camp in their garden. The area is very forested with plenty of wild camping opportunities too. There are also hotels in Saray and Subaşi.


The next day we continued along the D020 which theoretically becomes the D010 but the road signs never really indicated this. On this day we encountered some heavy traffic just after the village of Örcünlü as they seem to be building a new motorway which at times runs parallel to the D020. As a result there were lots of top end loader quarry trucks transporting gravel back and forth. We felt a little squeezed in but the drivers gave us a gentle toot to let us know they were passing.


This continued for another 50km until the town of Kemerburgaz where we turned off into a lovely forest road that takes you all the way to the town of Sarayer on the Bosporus.


We ended up free camping in a small village just before the town as accommodation options are very limited. Apparently there is only one hotel nearby, and it is very expensive.

The next day we cycled off at 5:30am, just before sunrise and joined the promenade road that runs right along the Bosporus and into Istanbul. 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.


A truly fantastic way of arriving in Istanbul. The road does become dual lane as you get right in the heart of Istanbul, but the traffic was fairly slow moving and nothing worse than a regular city road at rush hour. This was only for the last 3km or so before the Galata Bridge. The rush hour started around 7am, so if we had started half and hour earlier we may have avoided this.

The link below is a gpx file of the route that you can upload to any GPS device. The total distance from Lyubimets to the center of Istanbul is 370km.

Download Istanbul GPX file

The route profile is shown below:


We would be interested to hear from anyone who has since done this route as to their experiences and in particular the state of the roads between Örcünlü and Kemerburgaz. It looks to us as if the new motorway will run alongside the D020, which may result in even less traffic on that road.

Please contact us if you would like any more information about cycling into Istanbul, we hope you have the same enjoyable experience that we had. Our blog here goes into a little more detail of our experiences along the way.

Happy and safe riding.


  1. I did this route the last few days from Kerklareli to Istanbul – i had a lot of stressy truck traffic between Pinarhisar and Saray, after Saray it got completely calm – i loved the road after Kestanelik, where you climb to sort of a "plateau" – would have been a gorgeous ride if it hadn't rained so heavily. The new road was far from finished between Örcünlü and Ihsanye and it doesn't look like this is going to change until summer 2011, as they are still at the earth-moving part of the construction work – and there was no one working on this part when i moved through.
    However, shortly before Ihsanye the 2 lane road was rerouted to the finished 4 lane motorway, i could see the old 2 lane route next to it but there was just a single chance to change to it at the beginning, which i missed. I ended up going down the motorway till shortly before Göktürk, where i had a flat back-tire and a truck picked me up and took me to the Istanbul city border.
    In the end i actually never saw Kemerburgaz and didn't follow your route to the end.
    I'm not sure if the new road is not going to replace to old part, as the new road often crosses the old one – on my way down from Malko Tarnovo to Kirklareli i had seen the same thing and the old road had simply been destroyed/cut off and was covered with rocks and gravel – i'm afraid this alternative route is not going to exist much longer…

    You can see this part of the tour including my gps-track on these blog entries on my website(Click on the tiny "map"-icon to view the gps-track):

  2. I'm still pondering doing this route. The other option is to take a bus in, but this definitely looks like the best option. Some mention the D100 isn't that bad, but from photos I've seen it looks terrible. I'll be coming from the Bulgarian coast via Kirklareli so the D100 is probably not a lot shorter.

  3. My boyfriend, Phil, and I did this route in September 2011. We entered Turkey at Malko Tarnovo, the most easterly border with Bulgaria. The road on the Bulgarian side is being worked on and still has a long way to go! But the road on the Turkish side is amazing, it's brand new, wide and empty. You follow this new road to Kirklareli where you turn east onto the 020.
    The new 020 dual carriageway is still being constructed from Orncunlu to Istanbul, however a lot of progress has been made. It is complete as far as Tayakadin (I think, it was hard to tell which town it was) and then complete in parts before this. There are about 200+ trucks doing circuits of the road carting fill and other stuff for the construction, but the new road is very wide and empty so there's no problem.
    We found as we got closer to Istanbul at around Gokturk, everyone is using the new road now and it became way too busy. So we followed your advice and left at Kemerburgaz. But we cycled along the Bosphorus at 3pm on a Friday and it was still fine. Here is a better description of our route if you're interested

  4. My wife and I cycled out of Istanbul in April this year. We followed the D010 and D020 road as far as we could tell. We had an inadequate map and I can't remember too many road signs. Anyway we left Sultanahmet about 7am and had a trouble free ride out towards Sarayer. I don't think we quite made it to Sarayer, instead we turned inland at a bay south of there. I remember there being a taxi rank on the road in the bay. We climbed the hill on Tarabya Bayin Cad and then into Buyukdere Bahcekoy Yolu and onto Bahcekoy. From there we took a left turn onto a lovely quiet road Kemerbergaz Bahcekoy Yolu. We camped at the end of our first day in a picnic area alongside a restaurant/bar which was set back slightly from the road. There was a primitive toilet and a spring and lots of tables amidst the trees. It was exactly 40kms from our start point in Istanbul. The next morning we rode onto Kemerbergaz and then onto Subasi where we stayed in the Hotel Kleopatra. This stretch was mostly on the new road which was fairly quiet though a little exposed and we were battered a bit by the wind. I had felt anxious about cycling out of Istanbul but it turned out to be very easy.

  5. Miguel & Nora

    Hey Guy & Freddie,
    Thought we could post our experiences as we approached Istanbul on your recommended route just yesterday:
    From Edirne to Subasi the road is consistent with your description. After Subasi the roadworks are still in progress for the first ~10km. After that, the road is brandnew (2-3 lanes and a wide shoulder), with perfect tarmac and almost no traffic until Kemerburgaz.
    Although a bit hilly (approx. 1000 meters more to cover than along D-100) we would definitely recommend approaching Istanbul that way!
    Thank you for this post and the gpx file!

  6. A few days ago we arrived in Istanbul, mostly following your route description. We took smaller roads between Edirne and Kirklareli, leaving Edirne in northeasterly dirction on the Lalapasa road and turning right after crossing the motorway in the direction of Suloglu. Then via Dolhan and Kayali. This is very beautiful cycling through a rural area, almost no traffic. You have to ask for directions in almost all villages, because there are many more roads.
    We cycled in and out of Kirlklareli on a Sunday. Very quiet on the big highway out of town. The next days to Vize and Saray we had more traffic, but no dangerous situations. After Saray it is more quiet again. Still roadworks after Subasi, but only a few very short stretches. Mostly you cycle on the huge shoulder on the 6 lane highway. Truck traffic becomes very heavy closer to Kemerburgaz. The last 10km where very unpleasant, but not dangerous. The forest road from Kemerburgaz is beautiful and offers the last wildcamping opportuneties. From Sariyer to Istanbul center we cycled mostly on the pedestrian walking path right next to the water. During the day the road was quite busy, but not scary.
    We did all of this with our 2 year old son in a trailer and wild camped all the way.
    I am not sure if it is still allowed to cycle on the new free way when it is finished. I think the alternative will be small roads even more north. All in all we enjoyed this ride. It was defenitely much better than 8 years ago when I took the D100!