Once a key stopping point on the famous Silk Road, Safranbolu was the first stop on our Turkey road trip.
Known for it’s well-preserved Ottoman architecture, Safranbolu recently became a UNESCO world heritage site. The town is also famous for it’s lokum (that’s Turkish delight to the uninitiated). Add these two things together and you can understand why Safranbolu is becoming a popular getaway for Turkish tourists, given it’s easy driving distance from both Ankara and Istanbul.
From the lookout above town, there are beautiful panoramic views back across the houses, which showcase the stunning terracotta roofs and mosques of Safranbolu. Its definietly a photogenic place that reminded us of Berat in Albania, another beautiful Ottoman town.
The old town and market bazaar are great for wandering. The old town houses are beautiful with their exposed wooden beams, shuttered windows and flower boxes.
It was fascinating to watch. We wandered up and down the street a few times, just to watch the men at work. On the fourth lap, we were invited into a local shop for tea. Not yet knowing how these things work, we weren’t sure if this was a genuine offer to share tea or a sales pitch. But after just a short time in Turkey, we were already addicted to Turkish tea and thought why not. The shop owner Hazim, was a metal worker who owned a couple of the shops in the street and who himself was a metal smith.
We shared tea with Hazim, his wife and their daughter in his shop, surrounded by some of his amazing works. So you could say it was a sales pitch of sorts, but the kind where they let the pieces do the talking. We sat sipping our tea, looking around in amazement at all the things in the shop, while chatting to the family who spoke a little bit of English.
When Kristen left to wander around some of the other shops, Hazim took me to see the main workshop, even showing me all of the magazine and newspaper cuttings he was featured in. From what I could tell he was a bit of a local celebrity. We left feeling high from all the tea we’d had that day, and happy to have had our first authentic offer of tea in Turkey.
One part of traveling in Turkey we’re both really excited about is the food! Each region has it’s specialties and Safranbolu is no different. Famous throughout Turkey for it’s lokum, you won’t have any trouble finding this delicacy in the old town or market bazaar. Lokum makers are often outside their shops with huge trays, overflowing with free samples to give out to passing tourists.
Real Turkish delight, or lokum, are small sqaures of soft-chewy sweetness. Covered on the outside in icing sugar or coconut, with flavours ranging from saffron, pistashio, rose, and chocolate. Sometimes containing pistachos, hazelnuts or walnuts inside – this is one of the most delicious sweets you’ll ever have.
Next stop – we wind our way through the towns of the stunning Turkish Black Sea coast.
Our Safranbolu Tips.
Where to eat in Safranbolu: Lokrum (Turkish delight) is on offer everywhere, so you’ll have no problems finding samples to try. We had some very tasty food at Bereket Sofrasi, a lovely family run restaurant at the bottom of the old town that’s worth a visit.
Where to stay in Safranbolu: We stayed at Hotel Sayinlar and were very happy. It was a nice hotel, set within a beautiful old Ottoman house, just a short walk to the centre of the old town. Breakfast in the pretty garden was a great way to start the day.
When we visited Safranbolu: late August 2014
Driving from Istanbul to Safranbolu: It took us around 4 hours to drive from Istanbul to Safranbolu. The roads are fine but take you through the ‘scenic’ industrial part of town. There isn’t a lot to look at..