In this post, I'll tell you about the Trabzon, Rize, and Black Sea region of Turkey. Our absolute favorite of this area was the town of Ayder Yaylasi, Rize Turkey. If you head to this region, do not miss this beautiful town.
We rolled up to the Eastern Karadeniz region of Turkey with very little information or knowledge of the area. I had seen pictures of beautiful rolling hills, mountains high above the clouds and rolling tea fields, certainly piquing my interest, but looking into it online left me so confused. I had such a hard time finding out any information about
I couldn’t find any information about it, where to go, where to stay, where to eat, where all these bridges I was seeing in photos were...anything.
But alas, the mountains called, so I we had to go.
I’m not a stranger to last minute planning, and I’m not a hater of it either. My favorite experiences traveling are when we’re a little lost, trying to figure stuff out, and someone swoops in and guides the way with an invitation to dinner or tea in between. That, or we figure it all out using our wit and shotty language skills.
It's these experiences that reveal either our acumen or they completely restore our faith in humanity—either way, these are my favorite memories traveling.
So that was the carpet we were riding on when we landed in Trabzon on a flight from Istanbul.
We booked two nights at an apartment through airbnb because after a week in Istanbul without a washing machine, we were desperate for one. If I were to visit again, I would stay at the Peerless Villas Hotel because it's gorgeous with a great breakfast.
Trabzon is a decent sized city with a great feel. It’s not touristy at all, so it wasn’t hard to dodge tourist traps. There was delicious Turkish food at a great price everywhere and we saw a nice glimpse into, dare I say it, “the real Turkey”.
There’s no reason to stay there long, however, it is a nice jumping off point to some cool things.
I would also recommend staying in Rize as well, which is close by to Trabzon and an equally good jumping off point.
We typically use booking.com when. search for a place to stay. Find a place to stay here:
Seeing the Black Sea
We found that the best spot to dip our feet into the Black Sea and swim (for those daring enough) was where Hancıoğlu Balık Ve Et Lokantası restaurant is. There are cool bridges and stairs that make exploring around really fun for kids. Just be sure to keep an eye on your little ones while walking around.
After we explored the beach area, we went back up to the restaurant for some fresh fish with an incredible view and outstanding prices (our meal was about $10 for all 5 of us).
I had seen photos of the Sumela Monastery before we landed in Turkey. I saved it in Google Maps, not thinking I'd ever get to see it because it was just way too far away and I had no idea that we would make it this far.
But look at us! We did it!
The Sumela Monastery is best visited early in the morning or even better, late afternoon, especially in the hottest months. Based on the positioning of the Monastery, the sun goes behind the mountain in the afternoon, so it's shaded and way cooler--otherwise you're in the blazing sun on a hot day. The crowds also thin out in the late evening.
To get there, you drive to a certain point, then park in a parking lot where you'll take a shuttle the rest of the way (or sometimes 2). You can continue on past the parking lot, but there are only a few spots to park close to the Monastery, so you may have to backtrack if you don't snag one. The shuttle was easy enough and didn't cost much at all.
The kids love exploring around the monastery, so even though a monastery doesn't seem too child friendly, the kids really enjoyed it. There are spots they can crawl up and climb into that kept them quite entertained.
My expectations of Uzungöl were far from the reality of Uzungöl.
Have you see the photos?
A beautiful and quaint small town with little shops and wooden buildings dotted along a mountain lake, culminating at a towering mosque. So picturesque.
The reality was different. I'm sure Uzungöl was once as I described, but it seems to have been transformed by an influx of tourists.
For me, I felt it was a little gimmicky. A little played up. We spent one night there, which I'm glad we did, both because I was happy to see it as it's beautiful, but also happy to leave.
I had read that as you moved further East in Turkey, the more conservative people are. I had stayed pretty covered up in Istanbul, which is not necessary, but I would have been uncomfortable in shorts or a tank top. When we arrived in Uzungöl, I noticed that the last majority of women were fully covered, and the rest were partially covered or dressed quite conservatively.
Out of respect for the local culture, even though Turkey is a secular country, I started wearing a headscarf. I then realized that the majority of tourism in this area comes from the Arabian peninsula, and it wasn't part of the local culture, in which I shed the headscarf.
Things to do in Uzungol:
1. There are a few Instagrammable swings that overlook the whole town that is worth it if you are up that way. There's one at Kat Cafe Hotel that's beautiful.
2. Walk up to the Observation Deck--It's a lot of steps, but the new is worth it!
3. Children's games--This one surprised me. The town had a carnival theme as there were a ton of gas for the kids to play. We had to pull the kids away because they games were not cheap at all.
4. Paragliding--There were a few companies offering this, and it was cool for the kids to watch them land.
5. Shop! The entire town was either souvenir shops or restaurants, so there are plenty of places to get some goods!
How much do I love this little mountain town, let me count the ways.
The drive to Ayder is about 4 ours from Uzungöl. If you only have time for one town, make it Ayder Yaylasi. This place is just so special.
I was drawn into it instantly. The woman on the side of the road brewing coffee over an open flame, people drinking tea looking out on a hazy green mountain, watching the clouds roll, bringing in rain one minute, then clearing to reveal the towering green mountains over dotted with wooden cottages.
Where to eat
Our absolute favorite spot for anything in Ayder was Cafe Sasuk. It's a little spot that will warm your soul and provide you anything you need: Turkish coffee, tea, homemade soup, schwarma, delicious desserts, or just a little snack. It's owned by the sweetest family, and if the son or daughter is working they speak perfect English and are great for a chat. A lot of the food is from their garden and so fresh and delicious. I can't recommend them enough.
Where to stay
For a place to stay, we stayed at Serender Otel. It was right in the center of town, had parking (which is rare in this town), had a decent free breakfast, and above all, cost $35 a night. The owner was super sweet. The room we stayed in was not the cleanest, so I would only stay there if you are on a strict budget. Yayla Bungalov is absolutely gorgeous, has a wonderful breakfast, and the views are incomparable. I recommend this hotel
What to do
I highly recommend doing a tour to Polkut Yaylasi. It's about a 45 minute drive from Ayder, up a windy, steep, dirt road. If you have a car with high clearance, you can probably make it yourself, but I would only recommend doing it if your experienced on wild backroads. If not, the tour wasn't tour-is. It was just transportation that enabled you to explore around on your own. We went with Gezdurici (Instagram profile link) and did the full day tour to a few towns and stopped at some of the infamous bridges. It was so worth it and absolutely breathtaking.
There is a beautiful waterfall to see right in the center of Ayder that doesn't even require a hike to see. It's definitely worth a glimpse, but make sure you go when it's clear--which is a harder feat than you would guess. There is also Tar Selalesi waterfall, which is a nice little hike and completely paved so you can even take your stroller along (it just gets a little steep sometimes).
I hope you enjoy this magical, beautiful, wonderful place. Out of everywhere I've been, this is one of my favorites and I'm so grateful to have visited.
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