In a country of magnificent scenery and history, the old town of Safranbolu is one of Turkey’s finest. This small Black Sea Region town is situated in a ravine and is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its fine 17th and 18th century Ottoman architecture.
Safranbolu was known as Safrápoli (Σαφράπολη) and Theodoroúpoli (Θεοδωρούπολη) to the Greeks. In fact, the name Safranbolu is derived from the former, which is comprised of the Greek words for “saffron” and “city”. In the past, the town was an important saffron producer.
Many feel that Safranbolu has been over-commercialized and has lost its authenticity. It’s definitely not as authentic as some Anatolian towns and villages, but it’s still well worth a visit. The setting is spectacular and the historic homes are incredibly well-kept. There’s also a lot to see in the area around Safranbolu and it makes a nice base for short day trips.
To get to Safranbolu, it’s easiest to take a bus from Istanbul or Ankara. I used Metro Turizm for my trip. Some buses won’t take you directly to Safranbolu’s bus terminal and involve a bus change at the nearby city of Karabük, so it’s important to ask if the bus is direct to Safranbolu or not. From Istanbul, it’s just under seven hours. From Ankara, it’s only about three.
Buses will drop you off in the new town, which is situated above the ravine. To get to the old town, there are public buses or you can take a taxi.
I stayed at the Yıldız Konak Pansiyon, a small refurbished traditional Ottoman home in the old town. The rate was just 45TL per night. Every morning I was treated to an excellent Turkish breakfast and every day to unmatched Turkish hospitality. I had some great conversations with the owner and his father and felt like a member of the family during my stay. The room was comfortable but the only problem was that it lacked hot water.
As I mentioned earlier, the old town of Safranbolu isn’t the only attraction in the area. There are some beautiful natural places and a small village well worth visiting on a day trip from Safranbolu. These areas don’t have access by public transportation but can be visited by hiring a taxi for the day.
I hired a taxi for a total of 90TL to take me to Bulak Mencilis Mağarası, İncekaya Su Kemeri and Tokatlı Kanyonu, and the village of Yörükköyü. A trip to each site individually would have cost 35TL, but the driver offered to do all three for 90TL. There wasn’t a schedule and I was able to take my time at each site.