Turkey’s Black Sea is an ancient region with mesmerizing glory and rich in heritage, in sights, in culture — from stunning landscapes and natural wonders to World Heritage sites. The Black Sea, which the ancient Greeks called the Scythian Sea, is contrary to its name a perfectly blue sea. Reasons to make this your next go-to vacation spot are many. Here are just a few of them:
Amsara: A coastal town built atop the ancient port of Sesamus, Amsara has a Roman bridge, Byzantine city walls, 14th century Genoese forts and historic mosques; inland is the town of Kastamonu with its 12th century castle. While there, make a side-trip to Bafra to view some pretty imposing excavations which date back to the Iron Age Hittite civilization.
Samsun: The town where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk drew up plans for what was to become the modern Turkish Republic, Samsun honors him with the hotel where he stayed being incarnated as the Gazi Museum, and a villa that once belonged to Ataturk preserved on the outskirts of Trabzon. At the villa you can find colorful gardens with exotic flora: passion flowers, mullein, hornbeam and sweet chestnut.
Safranbolu: The Black Sea has some of Turkey’s most scenic World Heritage sites, and one of the best is the town of Safranbolu with its Ottoman konaks (mansions) made of timber and stone. Soon two more landmarks of the region will become World Heritage Sites: the Sumela Monastery and the Genovese Trade Routes’ Trading Posts and Fortifications.
Trabzon: Named for the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia dominates the town. It was dizzying to gaze up to the cathedral’s vaulted ceilings soaring heaven-ward and then, look down at the intricate mosaic artistry beneath our feet. Another celestial experience was journeying to the Sumela Monastery built 4,000 feet up in the cliffs of Mt. Mela. Begun in the 4th century by Greek monks, it was ultimately completed in the 14th century — a very important archeological highlight of the Black Sea.
Sinop: As the only naturally sheltered harbor on the Black Sea, Sinop has been a port for 1,000 years. Here you will find the commanding Sinop Castle, which was constructed in the 7th Century BC with walls 3 meters thick and more than 33 meters high. Sinop takes its name from the Amazon queen Sinop and wandering through this special town, it still exudes warrior-like strength.
Artvin: The easternmost outpost on the Black Sea, Artvin is famous throughout Turkey for its many festivals celebrating regional cultures and featuring music, food, costumes, dancing and more.
Most festivals take place in late spring, summer and early autumn. In summer you could witness memorable festivals such as the famed bull wrestling competition — certainly there are not many places in the world where you can view this extraordinary contest between man and beast. A colorful part of this festival is the traditional dance troupes decked-out in vivid, ethnic costumes. While here, add to your not-to-be-missed-list the Karagol-Sahara National Park with its deep forests and glass-like lakes.