Brrr. Winter has returned with a vengeance, which is all the more reason to look ahead to summer. Over the next few weeks we will be helping you choose where to go on holiday. This week, the Black Sea.
Turkey's Black Sea coast stretches all the way from just north of İstanbul to the Georgian border at Sarp (with an extension into Thrace, of course). Far fewer foreign tourists visit the Black Sea than the Aegean and Mediterranean, mainly because its unpredictable climate makes rain an ever-present threat even in summer. But that same rain guarantees that this is one of the greenest parts of Turkey, with thick forests still a feature of the inland valleys despite the concrete development that disfigures much of the coast itself.
Small beaches dot the seaside with decent resorts at Amasra and Sinop, and even some sand around the sizeable port town of Samsun. Beyond Samsun, Ünye, Ordu and Giresun repay brief stops, but the real drawcard of the eastern end of the coast is vibrant Trabzon, with the reconstructed cliff-face monastery of Sümela as its primary attraction.
Beyond Trabzon, the Kaçkar Mountains offer excellent summer trekking possibilities out of Ayder and Barhal; for the time being, whitewater rafting also continues to be an option out of Yusufeli. The center of the flourishing tea industry, Rize is the last Black Sea town of any interest to visitors. Make sure to sample some of the famous local cuisine, especially the hamsi (anchovies) if you're visiting in winter.
Look out, too, for women dressed in colorful local costume, particularly in the Laz country around Rize. Turks regard Safranbolu and Kastamonu as Black Sea towns; most visitors probably think of them as inland