A forgotten corner of Turkey, dotted with over 2000 historical homes, whispering tales of ages past.
Since 1994, Safranbolu’s historical heart throbbed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. And yet, the tourists, have been slow on the uptake. The exception? Turkish and Muslim holidays. Good luck snagging a hotel room then.
Flashback to the times between the 13th and early 20th centuries. Safranbolu was a pit stop, a breather, a hustling trading hub on the caravan trail stretching from Istanbul to the Black Sea’s Sinop and further eastward. Of its historical edifices, 2000 remain standing – 800 with a governmental guardian angel. The eldest hark back to the mid-1600s.
Now, imagine a Safranbolu home. Stone-clad, rising three stories, its façade plastered over timber formwork, its innards cradling rich wooden finishes. These houses cascade down slopes, ensuring none steals the limelight from the other. Most of the old town is a tangled web of serpentine alleys, so narrow that two cars would bicker over the right of passage. And the touristy patch with cafes and souvenir shops? Tiny. A dot. Roaming around Safranbolu, there’s no “I’m-in-a-museum” vibe. Most of these ancient walls? They still resonate with the laughter, hopes, and mundane everyday of ordinary folks.
Surroundings: Venturing just a touch further from the heart of the city, your feet might find themselves wandering toward the Byzantine aqueduct, Incekaya, with its modern juxtaposition – a glass viewpoint, a mere five clicks away.
If you find yourself around in October or November, the fields come alive in a golden hue – saffron in bloom. The town’s namesake, and they flaunt it, every corner shop peddling a spectrum of saffron-infused goods, from cosmetics to delicacies. And if you ever feel the sea calling you, the Black Sea is just a 90km drive away. Make it a trip. Drop by Zonguldak, roll back to Istanbul via the Black Sea coastline, passing through Karasu and Şile.
Sleep: Dreaming of sleeping within the walls that have seen centuries pass? The town center’s brimming with such places – historical wooden beauties, oozing authenticity. Picture a courtyard, a hint of the past. But, here’s the catch, these walls, they’ve got ears. Every whisper, every footstep from neighboring rooms, it’s like an open book. Light sleepers, you’re warned. Seek modernity for silence. But if silence is all you seek, the quaint lanes of Hasan Dede, Ulukavak, and Akçasu will lull you.
- ‘Doyum Pide Salonu‘ for a taste of pide
- ‘Çinaralti Çorba Salonu‘ for a parade of soups
- ‘Sıcak Soğuk‘ mingles Turkish classics with burgers
- ‘Tarihi Safranbolu‘ encapsulates tradition, serving dishes right out of a home kitchen.
Getting There: Istanbul to Safranbolu spans 400km, with Ankara a closer 230km. Buses galore from both hubs. From Istanbul, the journey’s a 6-8 hour stretch, depending on your point of departure – Europe or Asia? A ticket might set you back $20. From Ankara, however, it’s a breezier three-hour trip with a ticket ranging from $10. Snag those seats either at the bus station counters or try your luck online with Obilet, which doubles as a handy timetable.
Renting a car in Istanbul is also a great option:
Few more shots of Safranbolu