The vast Black Sea region of Türkiye is a breathtaking cinematic landscape. With its densely forested mountains, roaring rivers, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife, as well as its many historic mansions, forts, and cities, this region delivers a delightful glimpse into local life.
Imagine a million shades of green rolling into one another, cascading down to the deep indigo of the Black Sea. If this sounds like the perfect backdrop for your dream holiday, then the Black Sea region of Türkiye is where you belong. The richness of the region extends beyond its natural diversity. Here, you will also be captivated by the deep-rooted history manifested in exquisite Ottoman period wooden mansions and encaptivating Hittite monuments ―testaments to the storied peoples who ruled Anatolia during the 2nd millennium BCE. The Northern Central Anatolian Mountain Region also boasts some of the country’s best regional cuisines, just waiting to be explored by culinary travelers. Below, we present the best experiences one can have in this lesser-explored part of the Black Sea, which will unveil the true spirit of Türkiye to the curious mind.
Listen to the Call of Nature
The cities of Düzce and Bolu mark the beginning of the magnificent coastal mountain range of the Black Sea, with peaks soaring a dizzying 2,000+ meters. The slopes, rivers, and lakes here provide a year-round playground for big-city dwellers from İstanbul and Ankara, who can access the region easily in a mere two hours by car. Yedigöller (Seven Lakes) National Park is a haven for nature lovers who prefer sleeping in a campground and immersing themselves in the gentle murmur of the forest. Those who crave a touch of luxury can choose from a wide selection of rustic lodges and rental villas scattered around Lake Abant and charming mountain villages. For an adrenaline-soaked adventure in a dazzling natural setting, you can enjoy exhilarating white-water rafting along the 13-kilometer stretch starting from the village of Dokuzdeğirmen on the Melen River. The region allows professional rafting and canoeing for all seasons, while nature lovers can also enjoy endless outdoor activities like camping, trekking, cycling, and photo safari.
Just 40 kilometers from Bolu, the popular ski center of Kartalkaya awaits winter sports enthusiasts with stylish hotels, challenging slopes, and a world-class snowpark freshly redesigned each season. Be sure not to miss the towns of Göynük and Mudurnu, which are part of the cittaslow (slow city) international network and are recognized for their civic architecture and local traditions, embodying a truly authentic local way of life.
Culinary tip: The town of Mengen in Bolu is famous for its cooks, whose pedigree traces back to the Ottoman Palace. So get ready to savor the exceptional cuisine offered here. Hunting for local mushrooms is a traditional pastime for locals here as well, and varieties including ayı mantarı (porcini) and kuzu göbeği mantarı (morel) are among the favorites.
Sleep in a Century-old Ottoman House
In the UNESCO-registered city of Safranbolu, you will find a picturesque medieval Ottoman town that once flourished as a vital trade station along the Silk Road. Explore the authentic cobblestone streets and artisanal shops of the historic marketplace before retreating to your wood-scented and cozy hotel room in a traditional Safranbolu house. Also consider a visit to Tokatlı Canyon, which astounds visitors with its cliffside Crystal Terrace, offering panoramic views and a winding 9-km walking route that leads back to Safranbolu.
Culinary tip: Indulge in the mouth-watering taste of lokum (Turkish delight), still prepared using ancestral recipes in Safranbolu. Join the saffron harvest in October to learn more about the age-old tradition that gave Safranbolu its name.
Breathe Deeply in Old Forests
Kastamonu and Bartın are two towns that combine the best of two inviting worlds: the mountains and the sea. After exploring the historic city center of Kastamonu with its old caravanserais and wooden mansions, head to the Küre Mountains National Park. This treasure encompasses 380 square kilometers of unspoiled land with deep valleys and gorges (including the famous canyons of Valla and Horma), as well as rivers and waterfalls. The park is home to endemic plants and animals, as well as the oldest trees in the country, all of which can be explored via several clearly marked trekking routes. The villages around Pınarbaşı and Azdavay still preserve the local culture, where you can encounter elder women dressed in traditional vibrant colors and patterns. Horseback riding in Daday and skiing on Ilgaz Mountain are also among the experiences not to be missed amidst the natural beauty of the region.
For a perfect seaside getaway, head to the small fishing village of Amasra near Bartın. Take a stroll around its old citadel, located on a small island connected to the mainland by a narrow stretch. Enjoy a plateful of freshly caught fish cooked to perfection by local chefs while watching the sunset over the Black Sea. It is here that you will understand why Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror called this place “Çeşm-i Cihan” (The Apple of the World’s Eye).
Culinary tip: Kastamonu is renowned throughout Türkiye for its Taşköprü garlic (a EU registered geographical indication); pastırma (beef brisket cured with spices); the ancient wheat variety of siyez (brought back to life by local producers) and çekme helva, a soft candy made of flour, castor sugar and butter.
Uncover the Golden Age of Kingdoms
The Black Sea holds some of Türkiye’s most encaptivating sites, where you can behold some of the venues that hosted important mythological events as well as many of the remnants of glorious ancient Anatolian civilizations. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Hattusha, near the city of Çorum, was once the capital city of the aforementioned Hittite Empire and attracts curious visitors with its stunning presence and history. The site is renowned for the signs of the early urbanization during the Bronze Age. Hittites also signed the famous Treaty of Kadesh with Egypt, the world’s first peace treaty ever. Another welcoming attraction is the open-air temple of Yazılıkaya, cut into the bedrock and showcasing some of the most striking examples of Hittite relief art. This seminal sanctuary is located just 2 km northeast of the capital.
Culinary tip: Çorum’s trademark staple is leblebi (roasted chickpeas), a traditional Turkish snack. While in the city, you should also try Çorum mantısı (baked dumplings) and keşkek (a ceremonial dish made of wheat and meat cooked in huge cauldrons).
Enjoy Coastal Living Along the Black Sea
As the northernmost city of Türkiye, Sinop cheerfully conjures a summer holiday mood thanks to its long coastal stretch. The crowd-free white sand beaches of Akliman and the black sand beaches of Karakum are among the spots where locals relish the delights of coastal living. The peninsula housing the city center provides promenades for leisurely walks, allowing you to enjoy the sea breeze. You may also spot small boats departing from the city’s sailing clubs, dotting the deep blue of the Black Sea daily. Erfelek Şelaleleri, the secret gem of the region, features 28 waterfalls of all shapes and sizes that can be explored on a trek through this lush valley.
Culinary tip: When in Türkiye, it is a must to try mantı (dumplings typically filled with minced meat and onions). Sinop mantısı is a special variation served with butter sauce and crushed walnuts instead of the usual yogurt and tomato sauce.
Dive Deeper Into the Ottoman History
The city of Amasya was the location where Ottoman princes once received their formal education as warriors and potential future rulers of the empire. Its historic background is still visible in yalı (waterside)-style old Turkish houses that line the Yeşilırmak (Green River). Today, many of them serve as boutique hotels and restaurants catering to tasteful travelers. The city, once the capital of the Pontic Kingdom founded by the Persian invaders, is still dominated by Mount Harşena, where the rock-cut tombs of ancient kings are illuminated in neon blue at night. The emerald-green Lake Borabay, located about 60 kilometers from the center, offers a tranquil escape for those seeking serenity.
Culinary tip: Amasya is surrounded by vast apple orchards, producing the fragrant local variety of misket elması, which is exported to all corners of the country. Amasya çöreği (a delicious pastry made of walnuts and poppy seeds) and bakla dolması (bulgur and broad beans wrapped and cooked in vine leaves) are other regional specialties not to miss.
Explore the Wetlands of the Black Sea
Samsun is a province watered by two of the greatest rivers in Türkiye, Yeşilırmak and Kızılırmak, which bestow the city and its surroundings with some of the most fertile lands in all of Türkiye. Home to 35% of the country’s 460 bird species, the Kızılırmak Delta Wetland and Bird Sanctuary is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage Center’s Tentative List. While at the city center, don’t miss the cable car ride to Amisos Hill, which unveils panoramic views of the city and coastline. The historic Bandırma Ferry, which played a consequential role in delivering Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to Samsun in 1919, now welcomes visitors to its virtual museum, commemorating the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. For seekers of outdoor activities, the city center also provides a cable water ski park, a 9-hole golf course, and a nice coastal route specially built for biking.
Culinary tip: When asking Turks where to find the best pide —a crusty and buttery flatbread, topped with cheese or various kinds of meat— the answer will likely be Karadeniz (the Black Sea) and Bafra specifically.
Indulge Your Tastes at the Vineyards
Tokat is yet another hidden gem in the Black Sea region that will instantly appeal to history buffs, nature lovers, and culinary enthusiasts alike. After his victory against the Pontus king in Zela (modern-day Zile), Julius Ceasar coined one of history’s most famous proverbs: Veni, Vidi, Vici (I Came, I Saw, I Conquered). These three simple words, emblazoned here, have symbolized the will to victory ever since.
The city center further offers attractive stone-arched caravanserais, where you can buy fine examples of Tokat yazması (handpainted scarfs) from local workshops. The towns of Niksar and Zile both deserve a visit for their frozen-in-time ambiance. Additionally, Ballıca Cave showcases million-year-old stalactite and stalagmite formations — impressive to the end.
Culinary tip: Tokat is among the grape harvesting epicenters in Türkiye. Look for white wines made of local Narince grapes; pekmez (grape molasses); and köme (walnuts on a string dipped in grape molasses) from Zile, as well as pickled vine leaves from the vineyards of Erbaa, used for wrapping sarma (a favorite Turkish dish prepared by rolling minced meat or rice fillings in grape leaves).
Discover the Source of Hazelnuts
The twin towns of Ordu and Giresun are famous for two things: being among the world’s largest producers of hazelnuts (some 70-80 %) and offering picturesque high plateaus where locals escape the summer heat to graze their animals. In Ordu, a delightful cable ride takes you to the summit of Boztepe, offering a bird’s-eye view of the city by way of a tandem flight. Perşembe Plateau is a hidden gem, perfect for nature lovers, with its lush green meadows and winding streams, where locals gather for an annual dance and music festival every summer. Nearby Cape Jason is the legendary landing spot of Jason and the Argonauts during their quest for the Golden Fleece across the Black Sea.
In Giresun, the Zeytinli (Gogora) neighborhood is ideal for a leisurely city stroll, thanks to its well-preserved local architecture and monumental church, the latter serving as an archaeology and ethnography museum today. Beyond the city center, Giresun also offers multiple marvels, including Göksu Travertines at Kuzalan National Park that amaze visitors with thermal pools resembling those in Pamukkale. The high plateaus of Kümbet and Kulakkaya charm visitors with their wild mountain landscapes. In the small mountain villages of Kuşköy and Şadı, prepare to be amazed by the rare whistled language “spoken” by the locals.
Culinary tip: Ordu is famous for kaygana (rich omelets made with a variety of wild herbs), hamsi kuşu (fried anchovy balls), and the surprising hazelnut soup. In Giresun, one can savor karalahana çorbası (a hearty stew-like soup made with collard leaves and white beans) and karalahana sarması (collard leaves stuffed in with rice and meat), cornbread, and hazelnut paste.