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Safranbolu, Turkey

Safranbolu, Turkey

Ottoman-era houses lovingly preserved. 

Go ahead: Spend the night and enjoy a Turkish bath in the hamam in the morning. Get up early and explore this city, the one where even the Turks travel for vacation, before everyone else wakes up. It’s the only way to see it unspoiled, we’re told. But that’s an exaggeration. This city is worth exploring any time of day and is the ideal destination for those who like to avoid the typical tourist traps and throngs of vacationers; you won’t find many foreign visitors in Safranbolu.

Named after safran, which was a major export of this region, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the major trade routes of the region that existed between the 13th and early 20th centuries. As it continued to grow, Safranbolu thrived; by the 17th century, the city’s architecture influence most of the urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire.

The Old Town, which is the name of the city center in Safranbolu, still stands, preserved for visitors to enjoy. Many of the old buildings, which more than 1,000 registered historical artifacts, include 25 mosques, a private museum, tombs, several Turkish baths, a historical clock tower, foundations, a sundial, and hundreds of mansions and houses. Safranbolu also includes historical bridges, rock tombs, and ancient settlements, none of which are to be missed if you have the time to visit during your stay. The Old Town - the place that holds all of these buildings - is itself a site to behold, situated deep in a ravine.

Though it took its name from it, safran doesn’t play as large a role in the continuing development of this city as the caravans have slowly dried up. Still, industrialization, while it has come to - and transformed - many nearby towns, has not yet hit Safranbolu. In 1994, UNESCO declared the city a World Heritage site because of its well-reserve Ottoman architecture and houses. Costumed staff in cafes and restaurants serve Ottoman cuisine to help keep the era alive.

Know Before You Go

Take a Metro or Ulubus from Istanbul to Safranbolu; your pansiyon will pick you up at the bus station or you can take a cab.