The Black Sea Region
vibrant green of Turkey's lush, humid Black Sea Coast surprises
those who imagine the country to be nothing but barren steppe.
From the European border with Bulgaria to the Georgian border,
dense pine forests cover the mountaintops while lush vegetation
and bountiful crops grow in the lower elevations and valleys.
Along the coastline, mile after mile of beautiful uncrowded
beaches offer sun, swimming and relaxation. In the springtime,
delicate wild-flower blossoms carpet the rolling meadows
of the eastern hills. The wooden houses in fishing villages
and mountain hamlets alike preserve indigenous and traditional
architectural styles. The humid climate and fertile soil
encourage cultivation of a variety of crops including tea,
tobacco, corn and hazelnuts. The magic of such a diverse
landscape proves irresistible to any friend of nature, whether
hiker or mountain climber or canoe enthusiast; whether you
go in by mountain bike or by jeep safari.
Archaeological excavations from the early Bronze Age settlements
at Ikiztepe in Samsun Province have uncovered evidence of
the region's earliest inhabitants. The Hittites, Miletians,
Phrygians and, according to Homer, the Amazons all colonised
parts of the coast. Alexander the Great in his world conquest
also brought the region under his sovereignty. Eventually,
it was incorporated into the Roman and then the Byzantine
Empire. The 15th century saw the greater part of the area
come under the Ottoman rue of Sultan Mehmet II.
The Black Sea is easily accessible to tourists and provides
a wide range of hotels and restaurants at a variety of prices.
The Western Black Sea Coast
The Yildiz (Istranca) Mountains bisect the province of
Kirklareli. Lush mountainous landscape dotted with quaint
houses transport you to an idyllic and tranquil reverie.
In the city of Kirklareli the oldest mosque is the Hizirbey
Mosque, built in 1383. The mosque complex includes a bazaar.
Nearby stands a hamam (bath) also built under the patronage
of Hizir Bey. The 14th-century Kirklar Memorial with its
impressive 18 columns stands on Kirklar Hill honouring the
site where 40 soldiers lost their lives when the Ottomans
conquered this area under the command of Murat I. The Archaeology
Museum exhibits finds from local excavations.
The Sokollu Mosque in Lüleburgaz, on the Edirne-Istanbul
road, is an exquisite work of Sinan that dates from 1570.
The neighbouring town of Babaeski also boasts a Sinan building
in the Cedid Ali Pasa Mosque.
Vize (Byzia), an important Byzantine center, houses the
Küçük Ayasofya church and a castle, both
dating from the Byzantine period.
If you are travelling north to Bulgaria, linger for a few
hours in the peaceful and green town of Dereköy, the
last stop before the border.
Kirklareli's Black Sea Coast is another place to enjoy
beaches and good fish restaurants. Igneada, 98 km east of
Kirklareli, lies sandwiched between sandy shores and the
Yildiz Mountains. Kiyiköy (Midye) is another holiday
resort town with good accommodation and picturesque dwellings
from the Middle Ages. The town and its walls date from the
Byzantine period. The best site to visit in Midye is the
historic St. Nicholas Rock Monastery.
Also on the European Black Sea coast, only 35 km from Istanbul,
are the sandy beaches, and hotels, motels and camping facilities
Across the Bosphorus, on the Asian shore, Sile's (71 km
from Istanbul) long sandy beaches, overlooked by the remains
of a Genoese Castle, attract many visitors. The excellent
restaurants and nightlife make it a popular weekend retreat
for Istanbul residents. Cotton blouses and shirts (Sile
Bezi) are sewn and embroidered here.
Originally founded by a Polish prince as a home for Polish
exiles, Polonezköy (25 km from Istanbul) has been transformed
into a relaxing resort with guest houses and restaurants
serving a delicious selection of fresh local produce. Inland
from the coast, the rolling hills and peaceful woods make
an excellent area for horseback riding.
Agva (50 km east of Sile), on the banks of a river as well
as on the shores of the Black Sea, is surrounded by lovely
scenery, ideal for a camping holiday. Kerpe, Kefken and
Karasu are three quaint fishing villages east of Agva. Delightful
restaurants and limpid water draw a constant stream of visitors.
Inland, between Ankara and Istanbul, is Bolu (262 km from
Istanbul and 192 km from Ankara), an important provincial
center with an impressive 14th century Ulu Mosque and modern
thermal facilities close at hand. The Bolu Archaeology and
Ethnography Museum has artifacts from the Hittite, Roman,
Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Southwest of Bolu
is the popular and relaxing Lake Abant resort, set in lovely
alpine surroundings at an altitude of 1,500 meters. Istanbul
dwellers often escape to the lake for a weekend of fresh
air and exercise.
the Köroglu Mountains is Kartalkaya, one of Turkey's major
ski resorts. In the summer you can stop for a picnic at
Gölcük Lake. The breathtakingly beautiful Yedi Göller (Seven
Lakes) National Park lies north of Bolu. Nearby, the town
of Mengen has a reputation for its good cooks and holds
the annual Chefs' Festival of in August, featuring traditional
The sites around Konuralp (53 km from Bolu) the ancient
Prusa ad Hypium, continue to yield artifacts from both the
Roman and Byzantine periods, which are on display in the
local museum. Among the ruins, the Roman theatre is not
to be missed.
Back on the coast, the lovely beach and comfortable guest
houses and hotels at Akçakoca ensure that it remains
a popular holiday resort. Near the town, you can explore
the remains of a Genoese castle now set amid hazelnut groves.
Alapli is an ideal place for water sports, especially sailing
and surfing. Long sandy beaches stretch both east and west
on both sides of the town.
Eregli, whose ancient name was Heraklea ad Pontus, stands
on a hill adjacent to a Byzantine castle. In the spring
the aroma of strawberries, some of the sweetest grown in
Turkey, fills the air, making a visit a mouthwatering experience.
Eregli derives its name from the mythological demi-god,
Hercules, who, in the 11th century caught the three-headed
dog, Cerberus, guardian of the gates of hell. According
to Xenophon, Cerberus resided in the cave Cehennemagzi (Entrance
to Hell), outside of Eregli near Kavakderesi.
Zonguldak is a major center of coal production and an important
Black Sea port. The scenic road on the east side of town
leads to the areas of Kopuz and Uzunkum, where tea gardens
and restaurants beckon tourists to spend a leisurely afternoon.
Connoisseurs of fine handcrafted wood, travel to Devrek,
a pretty town, 50 km southeast of Zonguldak, to purchase
its renowned wooden canes.
Karabük, situated 10 km southeast of Safranbolu is
the most important industrial center in Turkey, known for
its iron and steel industry. Not far from Karabük lies
the charming park of Çamlik, the perfect place for
rest and relaxation. The entire area is dotted with pine
forests and there is a lovely tea garden and restaurant
in a nice place to enjoy nature.
Also inland and further to the east is charming Safranbolu.
Step back in time in the lovely "old world" style
of the town to see some of the most beautiful traditional
old houses, unique in Turkey for their outstanding design
and construction. The most interesting of these include:
Kaymakamlar House, Aygiroglu House, and Asmazlar Havuzlu
Konak which has been restored and is now used as a hotel
operated by the Turkish Touring Automobile Club. The Mektepçiler
House is also noteworthy as is the Haci Memisler House.
Pasa House is also restored and has been converted into
a lovely cafe and pension as well. The castle on the hill
offers a vista of the town. Be sure to see the Cinci Inn
and Hamam (17th-century Turkish bath), the Izzet Mehmet
Pasa Mosque and Library (18th-century), and the Köprülü
Mosque which also dates from the 17th century. Also worth
seeing are the Dagdelen Mosque (18th-century) and Kaçak
Mosque (19th-century). UNESCO has named Safranbolu as an
international cultural area.
originally takes its name from the saffron fields that dotted
the area in the 19th century. Today, saffron fields abound
in the village of Davutobasi, 20 km away, where a thriving
saffron business continues. Before leaving, be sure not
to miss the Arasta (Old Bazaar) where you can watch craftsmen
at work and bargain with them for their goods. The "lokum"
(Turkish Delight) is also a special treat, unique among
lokum connoisseurs and a must to sample.
About 36 km. south of Karabük is Eskipazar, where
the old Ömer Beyler Mansion is located. It is now restored
and famous for its ornately decorated ceilings.
Bartin (80 km east of Zonguldak) is a pretty city of timbered
houses that holds a strawberry festival every year in the
spring. The remains of a Roman road dating back to the reign
of the Emperor Claudius can still be seen. A boat trip on
the Bartin river makes for a delightful excursion. Nearby
Inkum has been developed into a holiday village with a sandy
beach, restaurant and guest houses.
Amasra (17 km from Bartin), one of the most beautiful towns
on the Black Sea coast, was called Sesamos in ancient times,
when it was founded by the Miletians in the sixth century
B.C. It stands on a peninsula made by two inlets. The eastern
side enjoys a reputation for good swimming. On a rocky promontory
rise the ramparts of a Byzantine citadel, inside of which
is an old church, now the Fatih Mosque. The necropolis dates
from the Roman period. Remnants from Amasra's entire history
are displayed in the Archaeology Museum. You can purchase
a lovely handcarved wooden souvenir on Çekiciler
street. Continuing eastward along the coast, you arrive
at Çakraz (15 km east of Amasra) a typical fishing
village with excellent beaches, friendly accommodation and
fine restaurants. The winding road between Çakraz
and Inebolu has steep mountainsides and offers a spectacular
Beyond Çakraz is Kurucasile, a town known for its
fishing boat manufacturing. Cide, 28 km farther, has good
hotels and a pleasant beach, providing comfort and relaxation.
Gideros Bay will make you think a dream has come true.
Inebolu ( 100 km east of Cide) is a typical Black Sea town
set in lush greenery displaying many fine examples of traditional
Turkish architecture. East of Inebolu is Abana, another
good holiday center. Situated inland amid beautiful forests,
the provincial center of Kastamonu (90 km south of Inebolu)
also dasts several important monuments: the 12th-century
Byzantine castle, the 13th-century Atabey Mosque and the
Ibni Neccar Mosque of 1356. The Archaeology and Ethnography
Museum displays artifacts found in the region and the Liva
Pasa Mansion Museum also has local ethnographical artifacts.
Near the town is Evkaya, a rock tomb dating from the sixth
century B.C. In the village of Kasaba, the 14th century
Mahmut Bey Mosque retains some of the finest wood carvings
found anywhere in Turkey. About 41 km west of Kastamonu
via Daday, Çömlekçiler village has traditional
timber houses and farms offering country horseback riding
63 km south of Kastamonu is Ilgaz National Park, a delightful
protected area in the Ilgaz Mountains, in which also is
a ski center and good accommodation. East of the park by
the Devrez and Kizilirmak rivers, is Tosya where extensive
rice fields cover the landscape.
Ilgarini Cave, in the region of Pinarbasi (northwest of
Kastamonu), is one of the largest caves in Turkey. It is
a wonderful place for trekking and exploration off the beaten
The Eastern Black Sea Coast
(192 km northeast of Kastamonu) is one on the most beautiful
natural harbours of the Black Sea. It was founded in the
seventh century by Miletian colonists and was the birthplace
of the third-century philosopher, Diogenes the Cynic. The
town's citadel and the foundations of a temple dedicated
to Serapis date from that period. The Archaeology Museum
exhibits several beautiful golden icons and the 18th-century
Aslan Torunlar Mansion Museum displays ethnographical artifacts.
Other important monuments include the 13th-century Alaeddin
Mosque and the Alaiye Medrese. Excellent fish restaurants
along the charming fisherman's wharf serve tasty meals while
brightly coloured boats bobbing in the water complete the
picturesque setting. Sinop is also known for its traditional
nautical wooden carvings. Seaside hotels and holiday villages
provide accommodation in all price ranges. Some 35 km to
the southwest, high in the mountains, lie the yaylas (mountain
plateaus) of Güzfindik and Bozarmut. At an elevation of
1,350 meters, these green pastures with their summer residents
offer a glimpse into a traditional way of life.
Gerze is situated on a peninsula 40 km east along the coast
and is surrounded by parks and beaches. Farther along the
coastal road, you arrive at Yakakent, a fishing village
with clean, sandy beaches. Çamgölü, a large
forest which slopes to the sea, has camping sites, guest
facilities and restaurants.
inland, the road takes you to Bafra (30 km east of Yakakent)
a town famous for its tobacco, caviar and thermal springs.
Its 13th-century hamam and 15th-century mosque-medrese complex
are sights worth seeing. Ikiztepe, 7 km northeast of Bafra
is an archaeological site from the early Bronze Age that
uncovers much of Black Sea regional history. The artifacts,
including jewellery, which is especially important, can
be seen in the Samsun museum.
Samsun (418 km northeast of Ankara) is a modern industrial
city that has served as a major port for centuries. Products
from all over the region are exported from this city, which
annually hosts the Samsun Trade and Industrial Fair. Samsun
found itself at the center of the Turkish War of Independence
on May 19,1919, when Atatürk landed here to organise
the defence of Anatolia. The Atatürk Museum houses
many objects and documents relating to the war. An equestrian
statue honouring the founder of the Republic stands in a
prominent place in the city park. The 14th-century Pazar
Mosque and the 19th-century Büyük Mosque reflect
two different Turkish architectural styles and are interesting
to compare. The Archaeology Museum not only displays the
fends from Ikiztepe but also artifacts from Dündartepe
and Amisos, as Samsun was known in ancient times.
charming little port of Ünye (93 km east of Samsun) is one
of the nicest holiday towns on the eastern Black Sea and
justly boasts of its excellent beaches and camping facilities.
Do not miss the extraordinary 18th century town hall. Within
easy reach of Ünye is the beautiful Çamlik Beach.
After Fatsa (22 km east of Ünye), another holiday
town on the road to Ordu, the ruins of the Byzantine Jason
Church, now a museum, stand on the Çamburnu promontory.
Legend has it that the Argonauts landed here on their quest
for the Golden Fleece. Fish restaurants serving the finest
tea found in the region dot the 50 km of scenic road to
Ordu. Sea snails, a regional speciality, are particularly
delicious at Yaliköy.
Returning from the Babylonian campaign, the survivors of
"Xenophon's Ten Thousand" left Anatolia from Ordu
in their retreat to Greece. Today, it is a beautiful port
situated at the foot of a forested hill. In the Pasaoglu
Konak (mansion), now the Ethnographical Museum, see how
a rich and influential 19th century family lived. Hazelnut
production centres around Ordu and every September the town
hosts the Golden Hazelnut Festival. Be sure to sample the
delicious chocolate nut candy. It is worth spending some
time at an 18th-century church, 2 km of town, and the pretty
beach of Güzelyali is worth visiting. 58 km further
south, at an altitude of 1,250 meters, lies the yayla (plateau)
of Çambasi offering beautiful mountain views. The
yayla of Keyfalan, at 2,000 meters, is another popular summer
destination for local residents.
The ruins of a Byzantine fortress offer a wonderful panorama
of Giresun. It was from this city, ancient Cerasos, that
the Roman general Lucullus exported the first cherry trees
to Europe. An 18th century church (now a museum) makes a
short visit worthwhile. Outside of town, Giresun Adasi (Giresun
Island) is said to have once belonged to the Amazons. A
ruined temple supports this theory. The Aksu Art and Culture
Festival is a yearly event in May. To get off the beaten
track, take an excursion to the high mountain yaylas of
Bektas or Kümbet.
Between Giresun and Trabzon, are the quaint coastal towns
of Kesap, Tirebolu, Görele, Vakfikebir and Akçaabat
squeezed between wooded mountains and the Black Sea waters.
Stop at Görele for delicious, submarine-shaped meat
and cheese 'pitas', at Vakfikebir for the best butter and
at Akçaabat to sample the best köfte (meat rolls).
Trabzon, the major city of the region, was founded in the
7th century B.C. by Miletian colonists, and was later at
the center of the Comnene Empire established after the fall
of Byzantine Istanbul. The exiled Byzantine court ruled
until 1461 when the Ottomans conquered the area. The jewel
of Trabzon's monuments is the restored 13th-century Byzantine
church, used for centuries as a mosque and now as the Ayasofya
Museum. Splendid frescoes, some of the finest examples of
Byzantine painting, cover every one of the interior church
walls. Several other churches were converted to mosques,
two becoming the Fatih Mosque and the Yeni Cuma Mosque.
The Ottoman Gülbahar Mosque, a typical provincial style
building, is set in a lovely tea garden. Wooden houses fill
the old quarter nestled in the ancient fortifications, which
still retain the spirit of a medieval town. The house in
which Atatürk stayed has been made into a museum.
the hills above Trabzon, Boztepe Park offers a beautiful
view of the city and coastline. On the western slopes of
Boztepe Hill stands the Irene Tower, built by Empress Irene
of Trabzon in 1340. Just east of the city, the village of
Sürmene has an impressive 19th-century mansion known as
the Kastel. Near Trabzon, south of Akçaabat, the lovely
highland meadows of Karadag, Hidirnebi and Erikbeli are
ideal for hiking and picnics. The road inland from Trabzon
winds through spectacular mountain landscape before reaching
the Zigana Tunnel, the longest in Turkey. Nearby Hamsiköy
is a charming mountain village, that has gained a national
reputation for its excellent cuisine (including the best
rice pudding), and is also conveniently near the Zigana
Ski Center. The beautiful meadows and highland pastures
of Gürgenagaç Yaylasi, Kirazli Yaylasi and Solma Yaylasi
are ideal sites for outdoor activities. The traditional
Kadirga Festival celebrates the annual summer migration
to the high mountain pastures.
National Park provides a magnificent setting for the 14th
century Sümela Monastery, perched high on a cliff face 270
meters above a deep gorge. Surrounded by the ruins of the
monks' quarters, is a church covered inside and out with
brilliant frescoes. Southeast of Trabzon is lake Uzungöl,
a lovely alpine lake surrounded by mountains and meadows,
excellent for camping, hiking and fishing. The restaurants
there also make it the best place for eating river trout.
Gümüshane (88 km east of Trabzon), on the ancient
trade route between Trabzon and Iran was once of considerable
importance. Many elegant buildings still remain. Set amid
fruit groves and wild roses, the town is a natural stopping
point between Trabzon and Erzurum. Take the opportunity
to try the local rosehip syrup and marmalade.
Bayburt (77 km from Gümüshane), is situated on
the banks of the Çoruh River and lies on what was
once known as the Silk Road. Marco Polo and the inveterate
Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi both passed through
this city. The remains of a Byzantine castle, as well as
major mosques, Turkish baths and fascinating carved tombstones
are among the significant sites. Two of the most important
monuments in Bayburt are Ulu Mosque (18th century) and the
Clock Tower in the city center which dates from the republican
period. Also worth seeing are the twin mauseoleums of Sehit
Osman and his sister which are situated on the hillsides
at the southern entrance to the city. Osman Park on the
Çoruh River has wonderful scenery and is a lovely
place to relax.
Rize (75 km east of Trabzon) is built on a mountain slope
covered with tea bushes that look like puffy green pillows.
Be sure to see this typical Black Sea city's 16th-century
Islam Pasa Mosque and the remains of a Genoese castle. From
Ziraat Park you can take in a splendid panorama of the whole
area. A lightweight summer cloth of good quality and printed
with colorful patterns comes from the Rize area. During
the Summer Tea Festival you can purchase the best blend
of Black Sea tea. Mehmet Mataraci Mansion is now an Atatürk
Museum that displays his personal belongings as well as
ethnographical artifacts from the region.
inland after Ardesen off the road going east from Rize,
you come to the beautiful little town of Çamlihemsin straddling
a rushing stream. Nearby is the Firtina Vadisi (Valley of
Storms) - ideal for canoeing, and the beautiful Zir Castle,
and stone bridges from Byzantine times. After walking around
Ayder's rolling meadows, you can relax in one of the many
hot springs. For those who like mountain climbing, this
is the best starting point for scaling theKaçkar Mountains.
This emerald range is one of the best and the most challenging
for climbers in Turkey. The whole of the Kaçkar Range constitutes
the beautiful Kaçkar Daglari National Park. In the mountains
south of Rize, Anzer village offers the world-famous and
nutritious Anzer honey and is a nice area for hiking and
for its botany. Ikizdere Canyon, between Anzer and Ikizdere
Plateaus, is a great spot for hang-gliding. At the same
time you get a bird's-eye view of the area. Near Rize, the
towns of Çayeli, Pazar, Ardesen, Of and Findikli all enjoy
a subtropical climate, lush green settings and boast traditional
chalets. The Çamburnu coast is covered with golden pine
trees where many species of migrating birds stop and it
is a lovely area for resting and picture taking.
Hopa, an attractive town at the foot of a forested mountain,
is the last port before the Turkish-Georgian border. The
international boundary actually divides the village of Sarp.
27 km northeast of the town of Borçka on the way
to Artvin there is the wonderful alpine lake of Karagöl,
with various pine trees, as well as other flora and fauna.
The road to Artvin traverses the Cankurtaran mountain pass,
where verdant landscape changes to barren rocks. Hatilla
Valley National Park, about 25 km in length, is 10 km from
Artvin, between the confluence of the Çoruh River
and the Hatilla stream in the east, and Mt. Nathali (2,923
m) in the west. Canyons with sheer cliffs and vertical drops
can be seen throughout the park. Both Mediterranean and
Black Sea flora flourish together in the park along with
bears, deer, wolves, foxes and eagles. Special houses on
top of wooden stilts are home to the park bees who produce
the famous regional honey.
A winding drive midway up a mountainside takes you to Artvin,
the capital of the province. At the foot of the escarpment,
a ruined 16th-century castle crowns a rocky outcrop. Artvin
is a charming city with beautiful old Turkish houses, typical
of the region. The area's mild climate makes summer visits
delightfully refreshing and every June, crowds of tourists,
as well as brightly-clad locals, throng to the Kafkasör
festival, where the spectacle of fighting bulls highlights
the celebration. The adventurous might like to attempt white-water
rafting on the wild, romantic Çoruh river.
During the Middle Ages the Artvin area came under Georgian
sovereignty, which makes it the best place for touring remains
of the Georgian past. Its wonderfully scenic roads lead
to the ruined churches and settlements that stand as a legacy
of this period. The best-preserved of these are at Barhal
and Ishan, in the majestic Kaçkar Mountains. Barhal
also offers some of the best country horseback riding. Several
other churches in Bagbasi and Çamliyamaç are
just off the road to Erzurum, passing by the Tortum Waterfalls
and the pristine Tortum Lake. Other Georgian churches and
settlements near Yusufeli are Dörtkilise, Köprügören,
and Tekkale. Yusufeli itself boasts wonderful possibilities
for nature lovers and hiking at 4000 meters. East of Artvin
is the former Georgian capital Ardanuç, with its
famous castle, which overlooks the longest canyon in the
55 km east of Artvin is Savsat, an alpine village surrounded
by meadows of wild flowers and butterflies, rushing streams
and quaint chalets. The local womens' organisation has established
a training center for weaving in an attempt to keep the
indigenous carpet and kilim traditions alive. Karagöl
- Sahara National Park, 17 km from Savsat on the way to
Ardahan, has one of the most beautiful Karagöl alpine
lakes as well as the widely-known Sahara plateau. The lake
is 45 km northeast of Savsat via Veliköy Village, another
typical authentic village. The area around the lake is covered
with a variety of pine trees and also has picnic facilities.
Wildlife, including bears, is plentiful. The Sahara plateau
itself is also covered with beautiful mineral and fresh
springs. On the plateau is Kocabey Kislagi Village where
you can see traditional wooden houses with their friendly
residents. Another important plateau and popular summer
residence in the region is Bilbilan whose people are also
exceptionally welcoming and helpful. Generally, in all the
national parks you can see wonderful examples of birds and