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North Turkey

From the Bosphorus Straits to the Georgian border, Turkey’s Black Sea region remains an undiscovered and unique historic and geographic treasure of scenic seasides, hilltop towns, lush national parks and World Heritage sites. The Black Sea coast served as an important maritime route, and the ancient civilizations who ruled the waters left behind fabulous castles, churches, monasteries and mosques set in captivating historic seaside towns and amidst the enchanting inland mists of the rugged Kaçkar Mountains. This emerald necklace of mountain streams and forested trails preserve some of the country’s most magnificent virgin mountain forests, attracting intrepid trekkers, climbers, mountaineers and horsemen from all over the world.

Bolu, whose centerpiece is Seven Lakes National Park. With a climate that produces multi-colored forests of oak, alder, pine and hazelnut, the park entices visitors to travel through all four seasons of the year within the course of a short drive. Explorers can also discover hot springs, hiking and walking opportunities and, in winter, one of Turkey’s best ski centers.

The coastal town of Amasra, built atop the ancient port of Sesamus, has a Roman bridge, Byzantine city walls, 14th century Genoese forts and historic mosques. Just inland from Amasra is one of the region’s best-known attractions: Safranbolu. With its beautifully preserved and restored Ottoman konaks, or mansions, distinctively made of timber and stone, the town has earned itself a place on the list of World Heritage Sites.

As the only naturally sheltered harbor along the Black Sea, Sinop has been a port for 1,000 years and is still one of the largest on the Black Sea. The town takes its name from the Amazon queen Sinope and local mythology suggests that female warriors, called Amazons, lived in this region.

The town of Samsun and Bafra, are excavations dating back to the Iron Age Hittite civilization. The thermal springs of Havza, approximately 50 miles away, tempt visitors with another popular day trip.

Further east is Trabzon, a major trading port as far back as 7,000 BC and the largest city in the region. The town became an important feature of the famous Silk Route under the Venetian domination of the Black Sea and the Levant, and today visitor will find historic churches and mosques as well as other noteworthy landmarks. Just inland from Trabzon is the Sumela Monastery, a marvel of human ability built almost 4,000 feet above the forest floor into the cliffs of Mt. Mela. Its church, begun in the 4th century by the Greek monks, Barnabas and Sophronius and expanded to a monastery in the 14th century by Alexius III, has been restored and rebuilt over the centuries. It is one of the true treasures of the Black Sea region.

Not far away, in the alpine region of Zigana in the Kalkanli Mountains, is Uzungöl, an extraordinary 3,200-foot-long lake surrounded by forests and typical village houses that has become popular among campers, hikers and fishermen. Even more rugged is the Yusufeli conservation area, just inland from the Georgian border. This remote area of lakes and historic Georgian and Armenian churches also offers an unforgettable white water rafting experience as well as eco-tours on the famous Çoruh River.

Turkey’s easternmost outpost on the Black Sea’s is Artvin, famous throughout Turkey for its many festivals celebrating regional cultures and featuring music, food, costumes, dancing and other traditional celebrations. Visitors will also find other picturesque rural villages in the area as well as the Karagol-Sahara National Park, which is noted for its forests and lakes.

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