The holy month of Ramadan has arrived in Turkey, slowing down our daily lives with fewer traffic jams, less crowds and an atmosphere of tranquility on Istanbul streets. The city of Istanbul offers one of the most enjoyable atmospheres during Ramadan, transforming into a city that never sleeps with cafes open around the clock and locals taking a seaside stroll just before dawn.
During this special time of year, the beautiful places surrounding Istanbul offer an array of options for locals and expats. Whether you are a long-time resident looking to rejuvenate or recently arrived in the city, there are many tranquil places outside of the city that offer a peaceful sanctuary in nature. We picked up our backpacks and hit the road to discover some diverse destinations, starting with the one nearest to Istanbul.
Just outside of the city limits in the neighboring province of İzmit, the small town of Kefken offers a great getaway for local tourists with its temperate climate and close proximity to major cities. Located in the Kandıra district, Kefken is famous for its special yogurt, and many locals from the Black Sea region and Marmara region prefer to spend their holidays here. While it is not as popular as Şile or Ağva, this small town is perfect for those looking for a change of scenery. Kefken offers seaside villas for tourists to rent at affordable prices. If you plan to stay in the town overnight, we recommend checking available villas beforehand.
Sapanca has become a popular destination in recent years, and is home to beautiful evergreen trees. Just two hours away from Istanbul, Sapanca is known for its clean air and high quality hotels offering spa and massage services for visitors. A popular weekend getaway spot, the shores of Sapanca Lake become a beach during summer where tourists like to relax and nearby cafes bustle with business in Fall and Spring. Sapanca is a hideaway of many fascinating nature spots, Maşukiye being one of them. With its salmon restaurants and natural beauty, Maşukiye is a place you can visit throughout the year and immerse yourself in nature. The best thing to do in Maşukiye is to walk down into the Alabalık (Salmon) Valley. The road that lies at the end of a line of restaurants will take you into the valley, where you can see huge chestnut and oak trees. At the end of the road, a beautiful waterfall offers a majestic view. If you visit restaurants in the area, there are three foods that you must try; namely, cheese, fish and mushrooms, all cooked on tiles. You can also spend time in the country-style hotels around Maşukiye which are easily accessible via the TEM (Trans-European-Motorway). You can also take a train from the Haydarpaşa station in Istanbul to the Arifiye/Adapazarı station or buses leave from Istanbul every 30 minutes.
Ağva, also known as Yeşilçay, is a tranquil getaway offering views that change according which season it is. The area is mostly preferred by young couples. Situated on the delta of the Göksu and Yeşilçay rivers, Ağva offers every shade of green year-round, as well as an exotic atmosphere on the rivers. Ağva has long been a summer holiday destination for Istanbulites, but there are currently many tourists discovering this little town throughout the year from neighboring cities. Fishing is a popular pastime here, and the city is known for its variety of fish.
It takes nearly three hours from Istanbul's city center to reach Ağva, which is located about three hours away from the center of Istanbul. Public transportation is available, departing from Üsküdar on Istanbul's Asian side. The Tranquilla River Lodge is a perfect spot to stay during a visit to Ağva. Located next to the Göksu River, the lodge features 14 bungalows and log cabins. With friendly personnel and a peaceful atmosphere, the lodge is a perfect getaway for couples.
Riva has one of the most serene atmospheres outside of Istanbul's city limits. "Riva," the Greek word for "resident near the waterfront," is a small village in the Beykoz district on the Asian side. With a fascinating view, Riva is where the Black Sea meets the Bosporus. There are many campsites and luxurious hotels in Riva where you can spend a night. If you visit for a one-day excursion, you must have dinner at a local seafood restaurant. You can also take a boat trip on the Riva River that passes through the village. Riva Castle is another destination that draws visitors to the village, where you can see the fascinating landscape from the castle. Riva is like a haven within Istanbul, devoid of crowds and the rush of traffic. If what you are looking for peace and quiet close to Istanbul, Riva is one of your best options. It takes less than an hour to travel from Istanbul. The village is only 22 kilometers from the district of Beykoz with public transportation available from Beykoz to Riva. The Rhebas Hotel in Riva is a luxurious spot for those who want to spend a night in the village. With its natural landscape, the rooms in the hotel allow you to embrace nature. The hotel is located just 55 kilometers from Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Asian side.
The northeastern district of Istanbul, Şile, is a door which opens to the Black Sea. A great weekend getaway for many Istanbulites who hit the road on Saturday mornings, it features many natural beauties from both the Black Sea and the Marmara, and is one of the few untouched locations near Istanbul. Nestled between green forests, Şile offers a sense of village life and natural beauty to visitors. Located on the shore of the Black Sea, this coastal town beckons swimmers with powerful waves that can actually be quite dangerous; so never swim unless there is a lifeguard on duty. The beaches in Şile are clean but packed with Istanbulites on the weekends. So if you are looking for serenity you should visit during the week. There are many small resorts along the coast and most of them also have their own private beaches. What makes Şile such a nice getaway also is its village life. You will be amazed when you visit the hidden streets which take you to the area's small villages. Here, villagers will teach you the true hospitality of Turkish culture with radiant smiles on their faces. The best time to visit the villages is in the morning hours. Just two miles away, you will see Saklıgöl (meaning hidden lake in Turkish). It is like a dreamy place that is hidden amid the mountains. There are little boats around the lake which you can use to explore the lake as well and where many ducks and swans will welcome you (and expect you to feed them). A wooden restaurant sitting over the lake serves delicious Turkish cuisine, including kebabs and shish. The Saklıgöl is where many visit for dinner and a long conversation along with a cup of Turkish tea. If you want to stay a night in Şile, Fusa is a nice option with bungalows overlooking the sea and nice terraces among trees.
Once a favorite destination among Turkish celebrities, Kumburgaz in Istanbul's Büyükçekmece district is still a popular destination for those who want to get away from city life. With its natural beauties, clean beaches and high-quality hotels, Kumburgaz entices many tourists, especially in summer. This does not mean that winter or springtime is not a good time to visit. If you want to rest and relax near the sea, visiting Kumburgaz in winter is better than the crowded summer days. Kumburgaz is highly preferred for its proximity to Istanbul and beautiful beaches along the Marmara Sea. Families generally prefer Kumburgaz as most of them stay at seaside resorts in the village. Unfortunately, many historic remnants in Kumburgaz have been destroyed but the beauty of the sea remains and is now the main attraction in Kumburgaz. You must visit a tea garden during your time in Kumburgaz, which offers a stunning view of the sea. Kumburgaz is 56 kilometers away from Istanbul and it takes one hour to get there by car. There is also public transportation that goes directly to the Büyükçekmece district.