48 Hours in Kastamonu
By Chantal Blake
After visiting Istanbul, Konya, and Cappadocia, you’re probably ready to unplug. A short retreat to Northern Turkey’s Black Sea region is your chance to reconnect to nature and visit historical sites without herds of crowds and persistent opportunists. You can stroll leisurely through town, go horseback riding, and hike through forest paths to discover canyons, waterfalls, and the small villages that surround them. If this is the kind of recharge your battery needs, then Kastamonu is the destination you’ve been looking for.
Before the advent of hotels, travelers in Turkey found respite behind the walls of a traditional han where meals were offered and shelter was given at no cost for the first three days of their stay. The buzz of activity made a great meeting place for traders to exchange goods, travelers to discover new cultures, and entrepreneurs to learn about new business opportunities awaiting them. Such a hospitable arrangement no longer exists for free, but Kurşunluhan Hotel is a refurbished han that can offer just as warm a welcome at a reasonable cost.
Start your day’s tour by taking a walk around Nasrullah Meydanı square, where you can visit historical mosques, traditional guesthouses, and handcraft shops. En route to the town’s iconic clock tower, take in the sights and sounds of aged wooden homes, rug weavers busy at their looms, and, if you’re fortunate, a chance drum and horn procession inviting guests to an upcoming wedding. To get a sense of the lives lived behind the Ottoman homes around you, step into the Liva Paşa Konağı Etnografya Müzesi where mannequins and artifacts animate the past. If you’re feeling brave and sprite, take two long stairs of flights up to the clock tower for an unobstructed, panoramic view of the region. You’ll be doubly rewarded by the gorgeous vista and refreshments from the café atop the summit.
Circle back to the city center and stop at Münire Sultan Sofrası for a taste of the local cuisine before pushing out to the countryside. On the way to Daday, stop by the village of Kasaba where villagers take pride in a small wooden mosque built without a single nail. Mahmut Bey Mosque is more than 600 years ago and stands strong as a testament to the overlapping architectural technique used to build it. Feel free to patronize the villagers selling homemade rosehip marmalade and raw, local honey.
Check in at Iskir Resort Town for the night but not before enjoying some horseback riding, mountain biking, or a relaxing sauna. The evening’s dinner spread opens at 7pm and will undoubtedly impress you. The chef is enthusiastic about his masterpiece and will happily detail their menu of local dishes, including farm-fresh salads and fruits. Save space for desserts of Western and Eastern fare including some of the best baklava you’ll ever eat. Let the serenity and calm of the farm lull you to sleep because the next day will exhaust you.
Make your first stop at Horma Canyon. No serious gear is required but wear sturdy shoes with a good grip to cross suspension bridges and anchored paths that are about two miles long.
Next, head to Valla Canyon, one of the world’s highest canyons in Küre Mountains National Park. From the precipice you’ll see dense forests that are protected under the World Conservation Foundation.
Take a pit stop for lunch at a small village restaurant nearby and continue on to Ilıca Waterfall for picture-perfect beauty. After hiking through a cleared path in the forest, the sight of the falls will refresh you.
If caving is more your interest, swap one of the canyons on the itinerary for Ilgarini Cave which is said to be the world’s fourth largest cave. Remains found there indicate it was used for residential and religious use and some of its structures date back to the Roman and early Byzantine period. Satisfied with your immersion in nature and your glimpse of the past, bid farewell to Kastamonu, but not without buying some of their famous garlic to take home or their popular gözleme stuffed bread for the road.
Chantal Blake is a Jamaican-American writer from New York City. A frequent traveler since birth, she married a fellow nomad and has been living abroad since 2008. In spite of her background in environmental engineering, her work abroad has included teaching English, travel writing, and raising two amazing kids. Her writing has been featured online and in-print and covers themes of family travel, veganism, and migration.