New arrivals will find that their first few months in Istanbul will fly by, especially as they're caught up in discovering the city's intricacies. That said, after a while, the thrill of discovery can subside as newcomers settle into 'real life' and find themselves needing to escape from the big city.
Here are some options for weekend adventures, most of which are only a few hours' drive away from Istanbul.
Edirne for a day trip or a weekend getaway from Istanbul as it's only a two-hour drive to the west of Istanbul, and is situated close to the border with Greece and Bulgaria. It was the capital of the early Ottoman Empire and there is therefore some wonderful Ottoman architecture and mosques to explore in the city. The easiest and cheapest way to reach Edirne from Istanbul is to take a bus.
Gallipoli and Troy
Gallipoli is an elongated peninsula stretching from the Thracian mainland, between the Gulf of Saros and the Dardanelles, and is about a four-hour drive southwest of Istanbul. Expats can get here via one of the several coach tours which travel directly from Istanbul. Thousands of people come here on Anzac Day to pay their respects and visit World War I battlefields and memorials. Nearby is the ancient city of Troy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and national park, where visitors can see a replica of the Trojan horse.
Polonezköy means 'Polish village', which is exactly what this once was. It is a thickly forested area on the eastern side of Istanbul, which makes for a good day trip, especially in the summer. There are numerous restaurants in the village, some serving traditional Polish meals. There are also a few guesthouses and hotels for those wishing to make a weekend of it.
Sapanca Lake (Sapanca Gölü) is situated east of Istanbul. It offers beautiful scenery and is only a couple of hours’ drive from the Asian side. The area has become popular for day trips and weekend breaks from Istanbul.
Skiing in Kartepe
The closest ski slope to Istanbul is Kartepe and is only a couple of hours' drive away, making it an ideal day trip. That said, it's a small slope and serious skiers might feel dissatisfied. It also gets crowded at weekends. For more serious skiing, Uludağ is a good option, but this is further east and might necessitate a two- or three-day trip at least.
Bursa and Iznik
Bursa is a four-hour bus ride from Istanbul and is about 12.5 miles (20km) inland from the Sea of Marmara. The fastest way to get to Bursa from Istanbul, however, is by boat. The city was the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire. The historical city of Iznik, on the other hand, is located on the eastern shore of Lake Iznik and is situated nearby to Bursa. This region offers an ideal two- or three-day trip from Istanbul. Bursa also has many examples of stunning Ottoman architecture, particularly the Grand Mosque, while Iznik is famous for its glazed tiles.
The Princes' Islands (Adaları)
The Princes' Islands are a collection of islands in the Sea of Marmara just to the southeast of Istanbul. They are a short ferry trip away from Istanbul and can easily be visited either for a day-trip or as a weekend getaway. Cycling around the island is popular, as is meandering through the island's quaint, villa-lined roads.
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