Reasons to Love My Time Out in Safranbolu

things to do in safranbolu

My arrival in Safranbolu didn’t go smoothly. I got off the bus a little past midnight. I had called ahead with my arrival time and the owner of the guesthouse I was staying in promised to pick me up. 20 minutes went by without any sign of Genghiz (yes, like the Genghiz Khan). I called him up and was told “I’m on my way!” – another 20 minutes went by. Then another 15 minutes.

I started to get uneasy. The ticket booths were closing one after another until there was only one left, a bright beacon in the dark station. I was afraid that was going to be closed soon leaving the station completely deserted except for one sleepy security guard.

Finally my phone rang, “I’m here, where are you?” said Genghiz. I looked around the empty station. “I’m here. Where are YOU?”

Then a thought occured to me, “Where am I exactly?”

I walked over to the security guard and shoved my phone to him, gesturing him to talk, and spilling my coffee all over him at the same time in the process (that sure woke him up). Thankfully he wasn’t too upset and obliged. After a few minutes of conversation in Turkish between him and Genghiz, they got it all sorted out. It turned out that I was in a bloody wrong city! Who knows how that happened?

Regardless I was so relieved to see Genghis 10 minutes later. It was close to 2 am when I finally collapsed in a tired heap in my hostel dorm.

I was finally in Safranbolu!

So, what is Safranbolu?

It’s my theory that there are 2 types of places to travel: a place to see things and a place to just be. Pamukkale and Cappadocia were places to see things. A lot of small cities fit in the latter category. Guidebooks often refer to these places are ‘atmospheric’ or ‘charming’.

Safranbolu is definitely a town of the latter category. I went there not on a whim, after having been diverted from my original plan to head south to Mardin and Urfa. This hillside town with its collection of renovated Ottoman houses proved to be a nice break from the whirlwind trip I was doing and I ended up staying for a lot longer than I expected, ‘soaking the atmosphere’ to borrow the cliche. Many afternoons I found myself with a cup of tea and my Kindle at the local teahouse.

So what’s there to do in Safranbolu when there’s nothing to see?

Ottoman houses in Safranbolu Turkey
Ottoman houses in Safranbolu Turkey

Taking morning walks in Safranbolu’s old town. I love watching a place wake up. Turkish people in general are not morning people so often time I found myself alone, walking on the cobbled streets and watching the white painted walls of the Ottoman houses light up one after another under the rising sun.


Making friends over tea and simit. In Safranbolu there’s always a group of locals hanging out in front of a tea house in the bazaar. Inevitably I’d get invited to sit and drink tea. Sometimes one of them would run to the simit factory and got a couple of them to share. Turkish hospitality never ceased to amaze me.

Simit, or Turkish bagel, best when it's warm
Simit, or Turkish bagel, best when it’s warm

MORE: Turkish people simply have no idea how to treat strangers

Try many samples of lokum. Safranbolu is known for its Turkish Delight and there are many stores in the history part of Safranbolu that offer a tasting. This guy is my favorite. Even after I bought a box from him, he always offered me samples everytime I walked by. He always seemed to have a group of tourists around his small store in the bazaar because he was very generous with samples.

The lokum, 'Turkish Delight', of Safranbolu
The lokum, ‘Turkish Delight’, of Safranbolu

The local hammam. Safranbolu’s hammam is a landmark in the center of the town. It receives mostly tourists nowadays but it’s still a nice place to relax on a cold afternoon. You’re welcome to stay there as long as you want but they often try to hassle you to leave if it gets busy.

Things to do in safranbolu turkey, check out Tarihi Cinci Hammam, Safranbolu
Tarihi Cinci Hammam, Safranbolu

Visiting the bakery. I always finished my morning walks at this bakery – one of the few places that are open early – and drawn by the smell of freshly baked bread. There was bread after bread after bread coming out of the oven among the blue and yellow tiles. The crust is still crunchy and inside moist and chewy. It goes so well with those bitter Turkish tea.

Freshly baked bread in Safranbolu
Freshly baked bread in Safranbolu

Taking a day trip to Amasra. If you’re craving some fresh seafood, the resort town by the Black Sea is only a couple of hours away. I went there with Genghiz, the owner of a guesthouse I was staying with, his wife and 2 other travelers. Amasra, and later I learned any seaside resort town, wasn’t my cup of tea, but the fresh seafood was a welcome change.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “Oh my gawd, Jill – that sounds really boring. All you do is eating candies, drinking tea, and walking around.” Well, yes. But sometimes after moving around so much (and in this case, many overnight buses), that’s exactly what I was in the mood for. The more I travel the more I learn the early signs of getting burn out and the need to slow down.

I wasn’t the only one who ended up in Safranbolu longer than planned. A young Korean man was helping Genghiz run his 3 guesthouses in Safranbolu. He said he came here as a guest. I asked him how long he’s been here, “Oh, almost 6 months now. I just ended up staying.”

Yeah, Safranbolu is simply one of those towns….

Where the heck am I?

One thing about Turkish bus system that drives me crazy, you don’t always end up in a town that your ticket says.

So apparently if you’re arriving from Ankara, even if the ticket says Safranbolu, sometimes the service ends at Karabuk, an industrial town 10 km away from Safranbolu. From Karabuk, you can take a minibus to Carsi, Safranbolu’s old town proper.

Don’t make the mistake that I did, when arranging a pickup in Safranbolu, ask the ticket office if your bus is actually going to Karabuk or Safranbolu proper.

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23 Replies to “Reasons to Love My Time Out in Safranbolu”

  1. It looks amazing to me! Julia and I love places where we can just chill out and “be” for a while, and Safranbolu looks like it is definitely one of them. We actually almost went there last October but ended up going to Amasya instead, but it will be on the list next time.

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  3. This looks fantastic (you sold me with all those delicious food photos!). The longer I travel the more I really appreciate the places that allow you to really soak in your surroundings and just be, as you put it. With every country we visit, I always try to spend at least a little time in places that most tourists haven't even heard of; I think it really helps you to get a truer sense of the country rather than what the tourism boards want you to believe.
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  4. Couldn't Safranbolu also be described as "charming"? It sounds like it :-). How nice to just stay put for a bit, rest up from traveling, and soak in the atmosphere. We did so much tromping around rock-cut churches and underground cities in Cappadocia, that we too would have loved the chance to just "be" in a small Turkish village for a while…

  5. I agree that you do have to slow down every so often – – especially when the traveling is hard and it sounds like with long bus rides that it was. I think the town looks like a lovely place to hang your hat for a while and the thought of baked goods and a great read is very appealing.
    Wonderful photos Jill.
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  6. Definitely a beautiful place to end up staying.
    The baked goods and Turkish Delight look like a good way to happily gain a few pounds.
    I am surprised by the way you were invited to tea but I assumed that women wouldn't be accommodated as easily. Obviously so wrong! And the story about Sezgin and Nadeem just goes to show that hospitality isn't dead! Amazingly generous of them!
    My recent post Searching for Kerouac: City Lights Books & Vesuvio Bar

  7. Wow, I'm glad even though you arrived in the wrong city but it's not that far from Safranbolu. Looking at the photos, I kinda know that I can spend a few days in this city, walking its alleys and taking photos of little details here and there. πŸ™‚
    My recent post A Taste of the Archipelago

  8. Hi Jill, I may end up staying longer as well. I love places that let you to just be, and where I can have teas and chats with locals. It sounds like a wonderful experience. I read an article about Safranbolu sometime ago and I was charmed with the description of the Ottoman houses and made mental note to check it out when I return to Turkey. You're the first one I know who actually been there and I'm pleased with your insights than there's more to it than the Ottoman styled-houses.
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  9. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Some destinations are meant for you to just be, not to act as a tourist or anything, but just as you are. Safranbolu is lovely, but I can imagine myself just chilling there for a few days too.
    My recent post Backpacking India in 3 Weeks

  10. There is nothing that sounds boring to me! This looks like a nice place to spend some slow travel time. I did that in Granada, Spain, and it was a highlight of that year's big Europe trip. I was tired, and being there for 5 days was exactly what I needed, and it allowed me to get to know the place and some local people.
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  11. I was in the exact situation once in a small town in Germany. Thank goodness I thought about writing down the address of the house we were staying in on a piece of paper to show to the cab driver. Going through dark streets at 2 AM definitely was not my cup of tea!

    Beautiful pictures! Those Simit look amazing – warm and fresh, dipped in hummus. OH MY. I think I need to get some hummus on my way home tonight.
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