I found it. Turkey’s most beautiful secret destination. The so called Turquoise coast is probably one of Turkey’s most popular destinations. It’s the white sandy coastline and azure blue water that makes this region a favorite among tourists and locals. But just on the other side of the country where the rough Black Sea meets green woods and rocky mountains. That’s were I want to take you today.
A few weeks ago we hoped on a short plane flight and flew across the country. From the outermost Northeast to the outermost Northwest, just a couple hundred kilometres from the Georgian boarder. We landed in Trabzon on a cloudy Thursday afternoon. We picked up our rental car at the airport and drove for another 1.5 hours before we reached our final destination: The Rize Province.
If you know only Istanbul and the southern coast of Turkey, this lush yet rocky region will take you by surprise. It’s a little step back in time. You don’t find any international 5 star hotels there yet. Accommodation is rather simple but authentic and comfortable. Food is mostly home-cooked and served with a lot of pride. And those green hills, snow covered mountain peaks, fresh air and crystal clear rapid streams. Oh all this natural beauty just makes you want to get up before sunrise so you can enjoy every minute of it during daylight.
The Rize Province is located between the eastern Black Sea and the Pontic Mountains. It’s also know as the region where Turkey’s infamous black tea comes from. Drinking tea is an essential part of Turkish culture but people in the Rize Province live and breath black tea on a whole new level. We even slept in one big field of black tea bushes. In general, locals keep a traditional way of life and alongside growing black tea, they also live on bee keeping, trout hunting and recently more on more on hospitality.
I only brought back a few tips on where to eat and sleep as we mostly spend our time outside. And honestly, there isn’t much on offer either as (fortunately) the flow of tourists have not reached this wonderful place yet. However I brought along a lot of photos. Despite the fact that I forgot, not my camera, but the batterie for my camera. So all my photos are either taken with my iPhone (it was a challenge) as well as our drone.
Best Hidden Travel Gem in Turkey
Where to Stay
Tabiat Bungalows Otel
We were a party of 5 and spontaneously booked ourselves into two huts of the Tabiat Bungalows Otel. Osman the owner didn’t speak any English but had his cousin help with the translation. The huts were very easy to find, situated just a few km outside of Çamlıhemşin. We were welcomed by his parents, an elderly couple who were extremely excited about our arrival. We were immediately taken to the outdoor kitchen where hot black tea was waiting for us. Little did we know what would come next.
The Rize Province and in particular the Çamlıhemşin district are very popular among outdoor and active sport enthusiasts. And if you are lucky like us, your accommodation offers a huge swing over a rapid steam or a zipline above that said river. Yes, we had a lot of fun.
The owner Osman served breakfast at freezing 5°C/41°F outside each morning. The table was set with with Turkish delicatessen from the region. With hot tea in one hand and a freshly baked bread with cheese fondue in the other hand, the cold didn’t even matter anymore. We simply enjoyed being outdoors, listing to the nature and eating nourishing food.
Moyy Mini Otel
Unfortunately booked out the weekend we traveled to Çamlıhemşin but the Moyy Mini Otel was recommended to me by a friend. It does look beautiful and next time I go to this part of Turkey I make sure I book our accommodation in advance. Also, Kinfolk (yes, the magazine) once hosted an event here.
What and Where to Eat
The Black Sea and Rize region Turkey-famous for its local specialities. I honestly got a little frustrated after day two because every single place we visited for lunch and dinner offered the exact same food. Chicken, meat balls (köfte), trout (balik) or muhlama (some kind of heavy cheese fondue). We later learned that we were visiting in low season. During the summer months the choice for restaurants is more diverse.
Nonetheless, we ate some good traditional food during those days.
Definitely don’t miss out on Pide (Turkish pizza) as most Turkish would agree that the best pide comes from the Black Sea. Just stop at any pide place on the drive from Trapzon to Rize.
Trout or hamsi (Turkish anchovy but it’s not always in season) is a must-eat too. The locals catch the fish fresh from their farms. The cook fries it in lots of butter and served with a simple salad.
Muhlama or Turkish cheese fondue might feel like a little challange to your health-conscious self. But the melting mixture of half butter, half cheese and a little bit of cornmeal can be quite comforting on a cold day.
Honey, black tea and hazelnuts are grown in the region and a nice foodenir (aka food souvenir) for family and friends back home.
Even though I can’t really recommend a place to eat, there is one wonderful little Cafe. Zua Coffee is located in a small village of no more than 10 wooden houses. They serve homemade lemonade, strong coffee from an Istanbul roastery and delicious herbal tea of local mountain flowers. And on that very day, gum tree pudding. The interior is simple but very cozy.
Now that I covered accommodation and food let’s marvel over the beautiful landscape and nature.