Friday, January 4, 2013

Şile - If you need to escape the hectic city life like we do now and then, then the sleepy village of Şile is the perfect place for you.

On Sunday morning, we made the quick decision to pack an overnight bag and hit the road. I’ve heard good things about Şile, a small town of 10,000 along the Black Sea, from a Turkish friend whose family owns a weekend house there.

Only an hour outside of Istanbul, we found Şile to be peaceful this time of year, and the northern Black Sea winds chilly. But during the summer months, this town becomes a popular and crowded beach alternative for holiday-goers and Istanbulians.

So, what can you do during the winter in Şile?

Well, we bundled up and took a stroll along the Şile Limanı (port area) where all the boats are docked. You’ll even find several small fishing boats, converted into restaurants, where you can enjoy a cheap and delicious meal. My sometimes-seasick stomach wasn’t up for sitting on a boat then so we opted to keep walking and watch the turbulent Black Sea crash against the giant cement blocks.
Here's a view of the Şile Limanı and Kalesi.
Walking along the harbor area in Şile.
One of the main sites here is the Şile Feneri (Lighthouse), which was built during the Ottoman Era under the command of Sultan Abdulmecid I in 1859-1860. The lighthouse stands at 19 meters tall, making it the second largest in Europe, and its light can be seen from 20 miles away, according to the nearby sign.
The Şile Feneri (Lighthouse) at dusk.
There’s a café right below the lighthouse, Kavala Park Café, but it must be closed until the spring. I’ve heard the owners sometimes will take visitors up to the top of the lighthouse, which must have an impressive view of the coast.

Also near the lighthouse is a large park where you can capture some good photos of the area and another historic site – Şile Kalesi (Castle). This crumbling castle dates back to Byzantine times but was rebuilt under the Ottomans on a large rock overlooking the fishing harbor. 
According to Pat Yale, a well-known Turkey travel writer and co-author of “Istanbul: The Ultimate Guide:” ‘This was originally the harbor of the ancient settlement of Calpe through which Xenophon’s 10,000 Greek mercenaries passed on their way home from sorting out problems in Persia in 400 B.C., as recounted in the “Anabasis.”’
If you feel like monkeying around a bit like we did, climb down a set of stairs from the park and carefully tread over some slippery rocks. You’ll have a different vantage point from here and you can explore along the coast.
Hubby climbing around on the rocks in Şile.
During the summer months, you’ll want to pack a beach bag and head about 3-4 km east past the lighthouse to a long stretch of sandy beaches along the bay called Ağlayan Kaya. There are a handful of beach clubs of which my friend recommends Life Beach. The Black Sea is quite powerful here so you should only swim when a lifeguard is on duty.
Here's the beach area near Şile along the Black Sea coast.
So no matter what the time of year, Şile is a perfect day escape from Istanbul. But if you want to enjoy the warm weather along the Black Sea, go here during the spring and summer months.

How to get here:
Şile is a part of the Istanbul public transport system so you can take an IETT bus from Harem via Üsküdar No. 139 and 139A. The bus ride will be at least an hour without any traffic. If you click on the bus numbers here, you will see the IETT bus map pull up.

Where to eat:
We had a pleasant, moderately-priced lunch of mezes and fish at Iskandil Restaurant (located below the Iskandil Butik Otel near the lighthouse). The view from here is amazing!

Melek Abla, located on the main street towards the Değirmen Hotel, is recommended and features homemade Turkish dishes such as mantı and gözleme.
We saw several different kinds of fish and seafood at the fish market in the Şile harbor.
Where to stay:
We stayed overnight at the Violet Park Otel, a new, clean small hotel in an odd location right off the highway about 3 km. outside of Şile. If we had known better, we would have stayed at one of the small, local hotels in town. You certainly don’t need to stay overnight in Şile, but you might want to during the warmer months to take advantage of the swimming pool and nearby beaches.

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Kerry said...

Great post Joy, we just bought a car and looking on the map its just over 2 hours from us. We were along the coast from you at the weekend at Karasu not much to write home about but a good drive out.

Think Şile will be next on our list thanks Kerry

jaz@octoberfarm said...

what a fabulous place. i think of all the places you have taken me on your travels, this is my favorite!

Alan said...

Istanbul is usually a 'get in and out quick' place for us - a few days at a time is enough! This offers a great alternative and a good excuse to explore that bit of coast and countryside.

Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

Fabulous post with great shots Joy! Sile is such an escape, must go there again :) happy new year!

Anonymous said...

nkahou $55Sounds an ideal day out from Istanbul. We hope to be back in Istanbul about May time so I will make sure we have the bus numbers, etc.
Thank you for such an interesting post.

Marisa said...

I feel in love with Turkey when I first visited there over twenty years ago. I have been thinking I am way overdue for another visit and will definitely add Şile to list of possibilities when I finally get back.

Joy said...

@Kerry, That's great! Congrats on the new car! Lots to do now. Get out there and explore. :-)

@Joyce, Nice! Şile is a lovely little spot.

@Alan, yes, a good place outside of Istanbul...I've also heard neighboring Ağva is supposed to be another cute Black Sea village to visit.

Joy said...

@Ozlem, thanks so much! Wishing you all the best in the near year too!

@Anonymous, hope you enjoy Şile as much as we do. May will still be too chilly for swimming but should be pleasant weather then.

@Marisa, Definitely add it to your list. Even CNN put Istanbul, Turkey on the hot travel spots for 2013. :-)

BacktoBodrum said...

I admire the way you get out and about at the weekend. I must pull up my socks and get moving. It took me half a day to just get out of the house this morning. Şıle looks great.

Joy said...

@BacktoBodrum, thanks for the comments! Well, it helps that we're in our mid-30s and don't have kids yet. It makes it pretty easy to get out and go whenever we want. ;-)

Julia said...

Always wanted to go to Şile as have heard lots of good things about it. Your pics have shown this to be just the sort of place we love - maybe more so in winter than summer.

Joy said...

@Julia, definitely recommend going to Şile...maybe the spring would be good too? :-)