Using free time to get out of the city and enjoy some natural bliss is not an idea exclusive to Istanbul. But, although the megacity can be overwhelming in more ways than one, it is also provides alternative and easy-to-reach locations for you to explore on both sides of the Bosphorus.
Why? To enjoy a hilltop view of the infinite beauty of the Black Sea, a smog-free sea breeze, and the calming sound of waves. In the summer, you might want to try the beach down the hill.
How to get there? From the European side, cross the second bridge and follow the main signs towards Riva. Although the third bridge seems to be much closer to your destination, it will require a longer drive to get to and from the connecting highway.
- Parking spaces in front of the lighthouse can barely accommodate half a dozen cars, so if you’re planning to visit the spot on the weekend, make sure to arrive early. There is also a public bus (number 15D) from Kavacık stopping in the center of Anadolufeneri.
- Just a few meters away in a former bakery, Mavi Kapı Kafe serves breakfast and has a daily lunch menu. It offers a cosy space to rest and enjoy the view. The owners are true enthusiasts of maritime culture, and their knowledge of the area’s history, and international ships sunk nearby, is truly remarkable. Cami Çıkmazı No.14-1, Anadolufeneri; T: (0216) 536 00 66
- To access the local beach, drive down the hill towards the sea. The breeze there is not as intense as at the top, yet the waves can get high enough to discourage beginner swimmers. It is also not as crowded as the nearby beach in Kabakoz, which attracts more visitors due to the public bus connection (number 15D) and a bus stop located literally just across from the beach.
Why? Probably the longest—and also very well maintained—sandy coastline within the Istanbul municipality.
How to get there? There is a public bus (number 336K) from Sultangazi that passes by the entire coastline with a final stop at Yeniköy. However, if you’re based in the center of Istanbul, going to Sultangazi first to take the bus would take you three times as long as driving via Kemerburgaz along the new airport highway.
- Despite lifeguard stations across the beach, beginner swimmers should be extra cautious.
- The coastline between Karaburun and Yeniköy is almost five kilometers long. If you want to be close to cafés, restaurants, and similar facilities, choose the western side near Karaburun harbor. If you enjoy open space, fewer people, and a more natural environment, choose the eastern end of the coast, near Yeniköy.
- The area is a part of the proposed Istanbul canal development plan, so you might want to pay it a visit before construction starts towards the end of the year (according to a recent announcement from the municipality).
Durusu Lake (also called Lake Terkos)
Why? It will take you as close to nature as one can get. Because of the size of the area, there are locations around the lake that barely see any human activity.
How to get there? There are several options you can choose from, but all require a car and some experience in driving on dirt roads. The route via Balaban village is frequented by locals and visitors; the route via Celepköy is more extreme and will require leaving your car in the woods to walk the final 200 meters to the lake.
- Make sure to prep in advance since there are no facilities in the area (restaurants, shops, gas stations etc).
- Some parts of the route are not covered by cell phone signal, so instead of relying on navigation you will have to rely on a map or common sense.
- You might encounter wetlands around the lake; if you feel like your foot lands on unstable ground, do not go any further. Swimming in the lake is not advised under any circumstances.
- The area is a part of the proposed Istanbul canal development plan, so you might want to pay it a visit before construction starts towards the end of the year.
If you have more than a day at your disposal, and want to enjoy free time outside of your vehicle, make room in your travel itinerary for a place where you can stay overnight and unwind.
Why? To bring back memories of your favorite childhood hangout, and recreate them in a picturesque setting with a group of like-minded friends.
What to do there? Event organization, gourmet restaurant, outdoor activities.
Ören Çiftlik Evleri, Yeni Mahalle, Akören Caddesi No.114, Silivri; T: 0542 253 50 80; www.grandmaswonderland.com
Casa Lavanda Boutique Hotel
Why? To top off your weekend with a bit of romance and elevate your expectations of a modest countryside experience.
What to do there? Hiking, outdoor activities, gourmet restaurant, spa treatments.
Ulupelit Köyü, Seçkin Sokak No.2, Şile; T: (0216) 736 56 40-41
Bakucha Vineyard Hotel & Spa, located within the Arcadia vineyard
Why? To enjoy the natural silence and unspoilt beauty of the area, and to try locall produce-based, delicious dishes paired with estate wines.
What to do there? Vineyard walks, wine tasting, spa treatments, gourmet restaurant.
Hamitabat Köyü, Lüleburgaz, Kırklareli; T: (0288) 473 44 17-18, 0533 514 14 90; www.bakucha.com