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 its narrow coastline hemmed in by the sea on one side and rolling mountains on the other. Although this region is not usually top on the itineraries of many foreign tourists, it's a beautiful slice of Turkey, with plenty of attractions and things to do. The winding road that threads its way along the coast 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, and the trip there along the coast is crammed with pretty harborside hamlets boasting ancient fortifications, empty beaches, and vibrant seaside towns.
Bustling Trabzon is a large harbor 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 (modern Istanbul) 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
One of the Black Sea Coast's most famous attractions is Sumela Monastery (official name: Monastery of the Virgin Mary), which seems to sprout out of the sheer cliff face enclosing it. This atmospheric place has a history that 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, and 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, are 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 harbor. It is now a place of little consequence compared with its importance in antiquity, when it was a busy commercial city 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 harbor. The Tarihi Cezaevi building (old jail) on Sakarya 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 subtropical flora. More fine panoramic views are on offer at Rize Castle (Rize Kalesi), which the Genoese built during the medieval era, and 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 just to the east and west of town. The village itself occupies the site of the Ionian settlement of Kotyora, and although all hints of a grand past have long since disappeared, Ordu retains a snoozy charm. The old Greek district, with its timber-framed houses lining narrow alleyways, has bags of old-world character, while the seafront is quaintly old-fashioned.
By far the Black Sea Coast's most beautiful harbor town, Amasra's old town is chock-a-block full of colorful 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 harbor is the main tourist attraction, while Amasra's small museum on Dereoǧlu Sokak has some well laid out displays. For most visitors, though, it's all about swimming, sunbathing, and soaking up the old-town atmosphere. Boats leave from the small harbor on daily sun and sea excursions that allow you 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. 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 if you're passing through.
8 Çaka Beach
Not many foreign tourists venture to the Black Sea, but the locals know a good thing when they see it. This is the region's best beach, and in summer, it attracts plenty of local families for picnics and a spot of sun slothing, though it rarely gets crowded, even in the height of the holiday season in July and August. It's very near Ordu, so if you're road tripping through, don't miss a swimming and sunbathing stop at this white-sand haven.
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 townhouses with slate-covered roofs. In antiquity, the town was known as Abonoteichus 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 beach lovers will be happy with the many sandy stretches of coast in the surrounding area.
This sleepy and very typical fishing village lies just 15 kilometers south of the border with Bulgaria, right at the western tip of Turkey's Black Sea Coast. Although the town itself isn't of any particular interest, during the summer months, the beautiful beaches that speckle the surrounding shoreline are a major magnet for local tourists - particularly Istanbul residents looking for an easy weekend escape from the city's heat. As well as the sea and sand, just to the west are the densely forested Istranca Hills, which are slowly becoming a hiking destination.
This snoozy little fishing village snaps to attention on summer weekends, when Istanbul locals arrive in droves to soak up the sun and sand. The beach here has plenty of family-friendly appeal, with sun loungers and umbrellas for those soaking up the sun, and pedalos for hire if you want to be a little more active. It's a great place to sample a slice of tourism local-style; the shoreline cafés are packed to the brim with young Turks sipping tea between swims. 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 is then 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 three kilometers northwest), the modern city doesn't have huge amounts to offer visitors. 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 some interesting mosques are 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 kilometers south of Sinop) would be a place to just pass through if it wasn't for the Durak Hani. This Seljuk caravanserai was built in 1266 by Pervane Süleyman. It boasts a large summer courtyard surrounded by vaulted chambers leading to a triple-aisled winter hall. The fortified complex has semi-circular towers on each corner, and the external walls are reinforced with additional rectangular towers. If you're interested in caravanserai architecture, it's well worth a stop on a Black Sea road trip.
The little town of Sürmene, 40 kilometers east of Trabzon, was known in antiquity as Susarmia or Augustopolis. Nearby (five kilometers 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 kilometers south of Köprubası) and Seno Monastery (near Küçükdere).