If you’re looking to take a mini-vacation that features waterside vistas, cool forests and the sluggish tempo of small-town life, look no additional than Sapanca in Turkey’s northwestern Sakarya province.
Just a decade in the past, Sapanca was solely domestically recognized, primarily a spot for Istanbulites with summer time properties. In the previous 5 years, nonetheless, the great thing about Sapanca Lake coupled with the verdant Samanlı Mountains stole the hearts of vacationers far and broad. But at the same time as villas for international consumers go up left and proper, Sapanca has managed to keep its small-town vibe, in the interim.
Especially if you happen to stay in Istanbul, make sure to put aside a weekend to discover Sapanca’s artisan retailers, take a bike experience alongside the lake and luxuriate in superb eating beside waterfalls and dense forests.
How to get there
Getting to Sapanca from Istanbul is especially handy thanks to the Istanbul-Arifiye practice line that departs from Söğütlüçeşme or Pendik and stops in Sapanca, dropping you off conveniently shut to the lakeside and city heart. The journey is about an hour and a half, roughly the identical period of time it takes to drive in a automobile from the Asian facet of Istanbul. If you might be touring from Ankara, you possibly can take the high-speed practice to Arifiye. You may take a bus from any metropolis with Sakarya VIB or one other line.
Where to keep
Sapanca has a broad number of lodging choices ranging in fashion and worth – from quaint hostels by the lake to bungalows nestled within the woods. Many of those choices are listed on Airbnb. If you have an interest in indulging in Sapanca’s well-known spas, you might have considered trying to e-book a room on the Richmond Nua Wellness Spa Hotel or NG Sapanca.
Picnicking and eating
From picnics to superb eating, Sapanca can accommodate a vary of tastes. If you need to stick your toes within the grass for a picnic, Koru Picnic Area close to the lake in central Sapanca is a lovely, wooded spot to unfold out your blanket. There are additionally a restaurant and bar close by, in case you need to take within the atmosphere with out packing a lunch.
A bit farther down the shore is Harmanlık, the place you possibly can picnic proper subsequent to the water. The tables get snatched up quick on summer time weekends, although, so be sure you get there early if you would like a desk.
About 15 minutes from Sapanca’s heart is Kurtköy Park, one other attractive spot for a household picnic. The wooded park runs proper alongside the water and is a widespread spot for cookouts.
If you might be searching for an upscale eating expertise, I recommend heading out of the middle metropolis up into the mountains, about a 20-minute drive by automobile or taxi, to absorb the invigorating forest air over a luxurious Turkish breakfast or a contemporary, scorching trout at Istanbuldere Alabalık Evi or Sopeli restaurant. These two websites are like a web page out of journey journal, with desk areas linked by walkways and bridges that skirt streams, ponds and waterfalls. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these are the perfect eating places for consuming out – open air, spacious and far-removed from the crowds.
If you like a panoramic view to a wooded wonderland, take a look at Sapanca Seyir Terası, a restaurant that overlooks the lake. This spot affords a view value seeing in daylight or at night time.
For a morning espresso or afternoon snack, cease by Bağdat Avenue in Kırkpınar. This avenue is lined with quaint cafes and grand, distinctive properties. Check out Green White for an iced espresso or burger, or pop into Matranç for some do-it-yourself ice cream. If you need a snack to go, seize some scorching simit from Akyol Simit – simply the perfect simit I’ve ever eaten in Turkey.
If you might be prepared for a break from Turkish meals, there may be a Palestinian restaurant – known as Filistin Lokantası – within the metropolis heart of Sapanca that provides scrumptious hummus and falafel, in addition to a number of heartier dishes.
Walking, biking and mountain climbing
There are loads of locations to stroll off all of that meals. Sapanca has three lakeside promenades, two close to downtown Sapanca and one in Kırkpınar.
The promenade – or sahil, in Turkish – in Kırkpınar affords a beautiful view of the lake, whether or not you select to stroll or sit at one of many cafes lining the walkway. The promenade in Sapanca offers one other prime view of the lake and is dotted with hookah cafes, tea gardens and benches. The theatrical Turkish ice cream sellers and the corn on the cob roasting over coals could be fairly engaging throughout a day stroll.
If you have an interest in biking or jogging, or simply need to stroll with out the distraction of distributors, head down to Harmanlık. An train path runs virtually 10 kilometers (6 miles) alongside the sting of the lake from Harmanlık to Uzunkum Park to Gölbaşı. This path is especially beautiful at sundown. You can lease bicycles of all sizes from Sapanca Municipality’s bike rental stand at Harmanlık.
You may take a hike deep into the woods at Çatalkaya Valley Recreation Area in Yanık. This mountain climbing path affords contemporary air, verdant views and a wealthy variety of flora. You can get there by automobile or by taking the Sapanca-Izmit buses that cease all through Sapanca heart metropolis. The native buses settle for money – simply be sure you know the place you need to get off.
Swimming and different thrills
Not everyone seems to be a fan of lake swimming, however when you have by no means taken a dip in a lake, Sapanca Lake is a good place to begin. Especially in case you are touring with kids, you gained’t need to miss out on this chance to cool off and take a swim. Other than some to-be-expected lake grasses and a few pointy rocks, the waters are clear and the right temperature for summer time swimming. The greatest place to swim, particularly with kids, is Sasa Harmanlık, a complicated that features a restaurant, bungalows and a seashore. There is an entrance free to entry the seashore, however it’s stored clear and consists of a dock to soar off of.
As Sapanca has developed into a vacationer vacation spot, outside leisure choices have cropped up in recent times. Özkum restaurant close to Sapanca promenade affords a ropes course with a view of the lake. You can take an ATV experience, play paintball or fly down a zip line in Yanık, close to Meşelik Park. Sopeli restaurant in Mahmudiye additionally has a zip line of its personal – simply be sure that to let your meals settle first.
In my expertise, Sapanca is unusually stuffed with inventive and resourceful folks. Some of those artists have put their wares up on the market, and in case you are bored of the identical shopping-mall reward and decor choices out there in Istanbul, you’ll need to take a look at the artisan retailers in Sapanca.
If you journey by automobile, you’ll in all probability discover some retailers as you drive round city, notably on Izmit and Bağdat avenues. The different title utilized by locals for Bağdat Avenue is the Silk Road, as a result of it’s the historic route of the Silk Road that ran from East Asia to Europe by means of Istanbul. The route continues to be an avenue for artists to promote their wares – from woodcarvings to handmade jewellery. You may store for these things on Sanat Sokağı (or Art Street, in English) proper by the principle Sapanca lakeside promenade.
Kırkpınar and Kurtköy host annual arts and crafts festivals that, for me, embody all of the wonders of summer time. Dozens of stands line the sting of grassy parks as artists promote every little thing from pottery and work to handmade furnishings and lamps. Local cooks and cooks promote their very own mouthwatering paintings, from döner to gözleme to rolled grape leaves. The occasion runs late into the night time as stay music attracts festival-goers collectively on the central stage every night. Unfortunately, these festivals have been canceled this 12 months due to COVID-19, however hold them in thoughts for subsequent summer time.
Before returning to Istanbul, you might have considered trying to choose up a houseplant or fruit tree on your balcony from the numerous greenhouses and small landscaping companies all through Sapanca. You can discover virtually any type of plant and probably the most educated specialists within the area on what would develop greatest in your house. What may very well be a higher memento of your weekend getaway in Sapanca than a tree?