Turkey’s north coast is not as well-known as its southern coast for two reasons. It is much colder up here and the south has more Greek and Roman ruins. The water is also cooler all year round so it is mostly Turkish tourists that visit this place. The drive from Istanbul to the Georgian border is one of the most scenic drives in the world and takes about two-three weeks to complete.
I only managed to drive as far as Inebolu because I only had four days for my return journey to Istanbul. From Inebolu I turned south towards Kastamonu and Safranbolu and back to Istanbul. Nonetheless, I have seen many amazing places along the road, much of it steeped in history. Whereas the south coast is filled mostly with ancient history, up here you will find out about Turkey’s Ottoman past.
Turkey’s North Coast
I picked up the car at the airport late in the evening and parked up in Sultanahmet where I was staying. Parking was surprisingly easy, most hotel’s have private or street parking. I set off on the road trip early in the morning but with Istanbul’s notorious traffic jams it took almost three hours to leave. My first stop was Sile. It has a nice peaceful coast and some historic ruins. They classed it as a district of Istanbul but it took nearly two hours driving to get there even from the outskirts of the city. There has been a fishing village here since 700 BC and a lighthouse since the Ottoman period. Today, Şile is a beach resort for people from Istanbul. It has a nice atmosphere, without the expense of travelling to the Mediterranean Sea.
Driving on I decided to take the narrow roads and drive along the seashore. It proved a bad decision because it was full of sheep and other animals. What I learned here is that if there is a wider road it is probably better use that, otherwise you might risk missing the really exciting places due to lack of time. By the time I arrived in Akcakoca it was dark and I was very tired. While still in Istanbul the call to prayer at the Blue Mosque woke me at around 4AM so I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.
Akcakoca and my Press Pass
Akcakoca is part of what the government calls the Silk Road Corridor. What they are doing is upgrading the road, rail, electricity and other infrastructure in the region. They are also building a huge motorway and a gas pipe link between Russia and Turkey. These were all along my route which was quite interesting to see. The problem is the quality of the road work is very shoddy and the first torrential rain washed the brand new road away! It was terrible – see images below. Given that it is a freshly built road, it is just beggars belief that it caved in less than a year after opening.
Akçakoca attracts local and foreign tourists with its sea, sand, fishing port and various fish species. It is famous for its religious architecture, mountain strawberries, chestnut honey and hazelnut, as well as the healing beaches that run along the coast for kilometers.
There were plenty of hotels to choose from but not many had the front lights on. I picked one which was a high-rise and had some cars in the car park. May is still the low season and turned out the owners were keen to get just about anyone in to stay. The night cost only £30 and when I accidentally flashed my press pass looking for my ID they even offered free dinner!
Amasra: From Iliad to its Ottoman Past
Amasra is an ancient Greek city, turned Ottoman hot-spot and now tourist resort. The town is so old it was even mentioned by Homer in the Iliad. The town continued to prosper due to its location as a port on the Black Sea. Ships arriving from the Mediterranean and sailing on to Greek colonies in the North of the Black Sea stopped here. It continued to be important in the Roman times where Traian, the emperor featured it on some gold coins. Following a giant leap in time we arrive in 1453 when the Ottoman’s captured Constantinople and the Byzantine empire fell.
The Greeks that still lived in Amasra fortified the city and built the still remaining christian church. The city fell under Turkish rule soon after the fall of Constantinople and began flourishing again as a port city. It managed to keep its Greek heritage well into the 20th century when the population exchanges meant millions of Greeks had to leave the country.
The city is absolutely beautiful even today with structures dating back hundreds of years. It has a couple of nice minarets and bridges as well as some nice fish restaurants. The only downside is that the rubbish dump is right next to the tourist car park and the sea, so on stormy days the trash is washed right into the sea. If that’s not enough, the rubbish heap welcomes all the tourists, which is not a very welcoming sight.
Arriving in Inebolu
Inebolu is another coastal town along the road. It was here where I spent my second night in the B&B of a Turkish family. If you don’t like making plans, it is easy to just turn up and ask for a room. In the low season there will be plenty of rooms but in the high season I imagine one needs to book in advance.
Inebolu is a typical Black Sea port town with many fine examples of traditional domestic architecture. Like most northern towns, it has Greek routes. Its original name was Ionopolis and served as port town for Greek merchants.
If you enjoyed this post and want to read a similar story, scroll down to see the related posts section. You might also want to watch a video I posted about this trip and some of my other videos on Youtube.