14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on the Black Sea Coast
Turkey's Black Sea Coast is a world apart from the rest of the country, with the clusters of villages that speckle the narrow coastline hemmed in by the sea on one side and rolling mountains on the other. A winding road threads its way along the coast and is one of the most scenic in the country, making this region perfect road trip fodder.
The star sightseeing attraction is Sumela Monastery far out to the east, but the trip there along the coast is crammed with pretty harbour-side hamlets boasting ancient fortifications, empty beaches, and vibrant seaside towns.
Bustling Trabzon is a large harbour city enclosed by the soaring peaks of the Eastern Pontic Mountains, which run along the coast. It was founded perhaps as early as the 8th century BC by Greek settlers and soon flourished as part of the caravan trade route between Persia and the Mediterranean. The main tourist attraction is the Aya Sofya Museum (Hagia Sophia Church) probably built by Emperor Alexius Comnenus immediately after his arrival in Trabzon from Constantinople in 1204. It was converted into a mosque in Ottoman times and is now a museum. The church follows a cruciform plan with a nave flanked by aisles and a transept with frescoes. Along the base of the south doorway is a frieze depicting the story of Adam in a style showing a clear Eastern influence. Despite the fact the wall paintings are severely defaced, they are still beautiful.
2 Sumela Monastery
The Black Sea Coast's most famous attraction is Sumela Monastery (official name: Monastery of the Virgin Mary), which seems to sprout out of the sheer cliff face that encloses it. It's an atmospheric place where the history goes back to the Byzantine era, and it was only finally closed as a working monastery in 1923. There are fabulously vibrant (though sadly defaced) frescoes within the main chapel but the warren of rooms and chapels that make up the rest of the complex give you a good idea of the austerity of religious life in previous centuries. Possibly the biggest highlight of a visit here though, is the views of the entire monastery, clinging to the rock face, on the winding road up to the entrance.
Location: Sumela, 70 km south of Trabzon
Charming and cosmopolitan Sinop is both the most northerly point on the Turkish Black Sea coast and also the best-protected harbour. It is now a place of little consequence compared with its importance in antiquity, when it was a busy commercial city situated at the northern end of important caravan routes from Cappadocia and the lands of the Euphrates. The town streets, with some lovely surviving Ottoman houses, are a delight, while history-fiends will enjoy climbing upon the old city fortifications with their panoramic sea views down by the harbour. The Tarihi Cezaevi building (old jail) on Sarkaya Caddesi is also a fascinating (and particularly creepy) place to see.
Rize is capital of Turkey's tea-growing region and every fan of a hot brew should make a stop here. The town itself is a thoroughly modern affair, surrounded by lush green tea plantations. Take a trip to the Tea Garden above town where you can sip your tea while admiring great views across the rolling hills. As well as being home to a huge range of tea plants, the garden has a collection of sub-tropical flora. More fine panoramic views are on offer at Rize Castle (Rize Kalesi), which the Genoese built during the medieval era. There is another relaxing tea garden here.
Chilled out Ordu is a top spot for Black Sea beach bums with plenty of gorgeous sweeps of sand both to the east and west of town. The village itself occupies the site of the Ionian settlement of Kotyora and though all hints of a grand past have long since disappeared, Ordu retains a sleepy charm. The old Greek district with its timber-framed houses lining narrow alleyways has bags of old world character and the seafront is quaintly old fashioned.
By far the Black Sea Coast's most beautiful harbour town, Amasra's old town is chock-a-block full of colourful houses crammed close together along narrow streets that tumble down to the sea. It's a photographer's dream with plenty of street scene potential. The Byzantine citadel beside the small harbour is the main tourist sight, while Amasra's small museum on Dereoǧlu Sokak has some nicely laid out displays. But or most visitors it's all about swimming, sunbathing and soaking up the old town atmosphere. Boats leave from the small harbour on daily sun and sea excursions to explore the surrounding coves
If you're a cherry fan you have Giresun to thank for them. It was from here that the Roman general Lucullus tasted his first cherry (the town's name stems from the Greek word for cherry) and took the fruit back to Rome. Giresun occupies the site of ancient Kerasous, founded by Miletus in the 7th century BC. Despite this rather long history there's not much to see. If you're passing through, the ruins of a Byzantine castle above town have great views across the surrounding countryside and Giresun Museum on Atatürk Caddesi has an excellent collection of archaeological finds.
8 Çaka Beach
The Black Sea Coast's best beach lays about 20 km west of Ordu. This white sand haven is a peaceful getaway that rarely gets crowded - even in the middle of summer.
The principal port of the western Black Sea region is home to a ruined castle, a wealth of traditional Ottoman wooden houses (many crumbling into disrepair) and several handsome Pontic-style town houses with slate-covered roofs. In antiquity the town was known as Abonouteichos, but was renamed Ionopolis (hence it's modern name) during the Roman era. In the old town district you'll find the remnants of the Christian quarter of Erkistos Mahalle, while avid beach-goers will be happy with the good number of beaches in the surrounding area.
This typical fishing village lies 15 km south of the Bulgarian border, right at the western tip of Turkey's Black Sea Coast. The surrounding beautiful beaches are popular with weekenders from Istanbul, while to the west are the densely forested Istranca Hills.
This quiet little fishing village snaps to attention on summer weekends when Istanbul locals arrive in droves to soak up the sun and sand. As well as the beach, the village is home to a 6th century Byzantine castle.
The largest city on the Black Sea is all about bustling industry. The surrounding coastal plain around Samsun produces tobacco, cereals and cotton, which are then all exported from the city's busy port. Despite its long history (the site of ancient Amisos, founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC lies 3km northwest) the modern city doesn't have many attractions to offer tourists. The Archaeological Museum exhibits finds from ancient Amisos; the Ghazi Museum (set in the hotel where Atatürk stayed) remembers Samsun's role as the starting point for the Turkish War of Independence in 1919; and, there are some interesting mosques around town. The Market Mosque (Pazar Camii) and Great Mosque (Ulu Camii) are both worth a look.
The small, rather bland town of Duraǧan (133 km south of Sinop) is home to the Durak Hani - a Seljuk caravanserai built in 1266 by Pervane Süleyman. A large summer courtyard surrounded by vaulted chambers stands in front of the triple-aisled winter hall. The fortified complex has semi-circular towers on each corner and the external walls are reinforced with additional rectangular towers.
The little town of Sürmene, 40 km east of Trabzon, was known in antiquity as Susarmia or Augustopolis. Nearby (5 km to the west) is the village of Sürmene Kastel where there's a ruined medieval castle and the impressive 18th century mansion Yapukoǧlu Konaǧı that was formerly the seat of the ruling Yapukoǧlu family. In the isolated hill region to the south of Sürmene are a number of abandoned Greek monasteries. Most are in a state of severe ruin and only three of them can be reached on foot with a local guide: Charveli and Oma Monasteries (20 km south of Köprubası) and Seno Monastery (near Küçükdere).