Istanbul offers a wealth of historical and cultural experiences, but sometimes, a day trip to the nearby beaches, forests, and quieter towns can be a refreshing break from the bustling city life. Here are some of the best day trips for an adventurous getaway outside Istanbul:
1- Princes' Islands The Princes' Islands, a short scenic ferry ride away from the city, are a popular destination for both locals and tourists. With their historic mansions, beautiful views, small beaches, and waterfront seafood restaurants, the islands provide a relaxed seaside atmosphere. Büyükada, the largest of the four main islands, is particularly favored by visitors, boasting the Church and Monastery of St. George, offering stunning Greek Orthodox iconography and panoramic vistas. The islands prohibit cars, so visitors can explore by walking or renting bicycles.
2- Belgrad Forest Belgrad Forest, located at the northern edge of Istanbul, is a beloved spot for walkers, runners, mountain bikers, and picnickers. The forest contains nine nature parks with picnic areas and facilities, but venturing off the marked trails allows for a more serene experience. The forest also holds historical significance with seven Ottoman dams that date back to the 17th century, designed to supply water to the city through aqueducts and channels.
3- Kilyos Situated 22 miles north of Istanbul, Kilyos is a charming Black Sea coastal village known for its beautiful sandy beaches. The main beach, although free, can be crowded and not always clean. However, there are beach clubs in the area that offer sun loungers, umbrellas, and facilities for a daily fee. Burç Beach is highly recommended for its excellent amenities.
4- Şile and Ağva Şile and Ağva are picturesque seaside towns along the Black Sea coast, perfect for a peaceful escape. Şile boasts a unique 19th-century lighthouse overlooking the rugged coastline, while Ağva is famous for its two meandering rivers, ideal for canoeing and fishing. Both towns offer various accommodation options for those seeking a longer getaway.
5- Termal Termal, located across the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul, is renowned for its hot springs. Visitors can explore waterfalls, lakes, and hiking paths in the surrounding forests and indulge in the town's hamams and spa facilities. Yalova, a nearby city, also offers attractions like the Karaca Arboretum and the Yürüyen Köşk, a waterfront mansion once used by Atatürk.
6- Edirne Edirne, a western border city, served as the Ottoman Empire's capital before Istanbul. It boasts architectural marvels designed by Mimar Sinan, including the Selimiye Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Edirne is also known for its Kırkpınar oil-wrestling festival, held annually in late June or early July.
7- Anadolu Kavağı Anadolu Kavağı, formerly a fishing village, is now a popular stop on Istanbul's ferry boat tours. The two-hour scenic ride passes by waterfront palaces, mansions, and fortresses. Visitors can hike to the ruins of its castle and enjoy a meal at one of the fish restaurants.
8- Polonezköy Known as Istanbul's "Polish village," Polonezköy was established by Polish immigrants and still retains a small Polish-speaking community. The village features a Polish church, a cemetery, and a small museum of local memorabilia. Visitors can enjoy brunch or a picnic at one of the many restaurants and take a pleasant stroll along the walking path in the surrounding woods.
9- Yeşilköy and Florya Florya, a seaside suburb, houses the Atatürk Marine Mansion, now a museum, and the Florya Güneș Plajı beach club. Yeşilköy, a neighboring village, offers a charming harbor area and historic wooden homes and churches to explore. The area is perfect for a family picnic or a leisurely stroll.
10- Rumelifeneri and Garipçe Rumelifeneri, a fishing village at Istanbul's northern point, features a lighthouse built during the Crimean War. Nearby, Garipçe houses the ruins of a 17th-century fortress. Both villages are popular weekend getaways, offering leisurely breakfasts and fish dinners by the sea.
11- Thrace Vineyard Route For wine enthusiasts, the Thrace Vineyard Route showcases a dozen boutique vineyards in the Thrace region shared by Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece. The route offers tours, tastings, and some vineyards even provide accommodation and fine dining options.
12- Bursa Bursa, Turkey's fourth-largest city, holds a rich historical legacy as the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. It features grand mosques, historic markets, and ornate mausoleums of the early sultans. Visitors can also explore the nearby thermal springs and enjoy skiing or hiking on Uludağ, the imposing mountain that overlooks the city.
To reach these destinations, there are various transportation options available, including ferries, buses, and car rides from Istanbul. Each place offers a unique experience, making them perfect choices for day trips or longer escapes from the bustling city life.