Guest author: Eylul Deniz Basok - Spotahome Student Ambassador
Ok so you’ve been to every famous tourist attraction in Istanbul, you’ve even crossed to the Asian side and explored every teeny tiny street. Now you are comfortable with all the crowds and crazy traffic, you’ve tasted all kinds of kebabs and you know how good a çay goes with a simit. What else?
Even though, we love the Istanbul chaos, we all know that sometimes an escape to nature is necessary. There are good beaches where you can swim or forests where you can camp just a couple of hours drive away!
Location of the listed spots. Source: Google Maps
Şile is actually a fishing village on the Black Sea coast, but the gorgeous sand and the endless blue sea attracts locals from Istanbul to flow here every summer. It is usually deserted in the winter, hence why it is so beautiful at certain times of the year. You will have the entire beach just for yourself! There are 3 main parts to this small town: one is the historical part with wooden houses and a bazaar, one is for the rich holiday-makers with rows of villas and the other is the suburban part where locals live.
Seaside of Şile - Photo by Author
After a day on the beach, head up to the historical part of the town and enjoy a plate of hamsi (fried anchovies), and shop for the famous cotton shirts produced here, known as Şile Bezi. There is also a lighthouse – Şile Feneri - which is definitely worth a visit. Just keep in mind, near the lighthouse, there are plenty of motels in case you fall in love with Şile and decide to spend the night there!
Very insider tip: We don’t have the ocean in Turkey but if you are a surf addict like me, check the forecast because in Kefken, which is a small village on the east of Şile, you can find good waves to surf!
If you didn’t bring your board, don’t worry, there is even a surf school where you can rent it. Think about telling your friends about the time you’ve visited Istanbul... and SURFED!!
One of the things I love the most about this place is the journey to get there. You will be stuck in the traffic and be surrounded by aggressive cars but soon, you will break into emptiness and start questioning how small we are as you go ahead with all the huge trees on both sides of the road.Just turn off the radio, open the window of your car and listen to the sound of... silence.
Polenezköy - known as Adampol - was actually a Polish village that was established in 1775 after Poland was invaded by its neighbors Russia, Austria and Prussia. The Ottoman Empire supported Poland and the Polish immigrants by giving them this heavenly place. Still today, there are around 80 Poles living here, keeping their own culture and history alive.
As soon as you reach the village, a church and a Catholic cemetery welcome you to remind you about the special history of this village. It offers much more if you are willing to explore the unique culture and past of this Polish village and its inhabitants. You will find the House of the Memory of Zofia Ryży and Adampol-Polonezkoy Culture House, where the village’s history and photography are exhibited.
I strongly recommend you take the 5K walking track where forests of pine, oak, hornbeam, fir, and chestnut trees will embrace you. Be ready to see the tones of greenery that you haven't seen before.
Photo by Author
And now, you deserve a huge Turkish breakfast!
Princes' Islands (Adalar in Turkish) are the chain of 9 small islands in the Marmara Sea. Of those nine islands, only four of them are open to the public: Büyükada, being the biggest and most popular, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Kınalıada.
These islands are the only place on my list where you can use public transport to get there. From Beşiktaş or Kadıköy, you can either take a regular ferry or a sea bus. The sea buses are faster, 55 minutes maximum and cost 10 Turkish Lira (2 Euro). The regular ferries are slower and can take as long as 1h40, depending on the amount of stops it makes. However, they are much cheaper, 5 Turkish Lira (1 euro) and make more runs back and forth.
View of Heybeliada from the sea - Source: istock photo
The main feature of any Princes' Island is that you won’t see or hear any cars during your stay. Yes, thats right. All motorized vehicles are banned.
The main transport on the islands is horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. Nevertheless, during the summer period, especially at the weekends, it might get a bit crowded. It is definitely worth a day trip to experience a walk or ride though pine forests or to spend the night in a wooden Victorian cottage.
Kilyos is located on the European side, again on the Black Sea coast. If you are driving there, you will go through the beautiful Belgrad Forest, which could be added as another point to this list.
If you are up for a walk or a run, stop here and enjoy the 6 km path where the smell of the pine trees and the birds will accompany you. If not, you can stop in one of the restaurants on the road and enjoy a typical barbecued meatball/meat or fish.
You will know that you are in Kilyos when you see the historical castle that dates back to the Genovese period. Again, during the summer period, especially at weekends it might get crowded as this is the most famous escape point for the locals. It should be noted that there is a strong undertow and riptide so the sea might get rough from time to time, but there are protected areas with lifeguards for keen swimmers.
The uniqueness of this spot is the wide range of water sports, music festivals and beach clubs. Enjoy an active day and try windsurfing, kiteboarding or waterskiing. you can then enjoy a cocktail with a beautiful view.
Kite Surfing in Kilyos - Photo by Author
Yedigöller National Park:
Last but not the least, this is my favorite place for camping!
The name means Seven Lakes, because there are actually 7 lakes in the area. The highlight of this place is that it completely changes with every season. During winter, the whole area is white, resting under the snow. In autumn, you can literally find every color as the leaves turn to different tones of red and yellow. In spring and summer, the perfect combination of sun and greenery will purify your soul.
Photo by Author
If you can make it on a weekday, it will be less crowded and the experience will be more enjoyable. Be ready to drive through some rough roads and bring with you everything you’ll need! This getaway is the furthest from Istanbul in the list so you should definitely consider spending at least one night to experience it to the fullest. You can choose to either stay in the bungalows in the forest or in your own tent in the camping area, where you can use the public facilities, like WC.
Photo by Author
At night, thousands of stars will accompany you by your campfire and different animals will sing you to sleep (from far away, don’t worry they cannot access the camping area).
P.S. Don’t forget to bring your camera! Even if you are not a photographer, this place will make you a good one :)
Have you been to Istanbul? What are your top tips? Let us know in the comments!
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