Only around two hours away from Istanbul, Sapanca is a haven that is famous for its natural landscapes, clean air and spa hotels. In summer, Sapanca Lake becomes a very popular beach as the nearby cafes fill up with happy visitors. The nearby province of Maşukiye is a great place to wander in green valleys and eat fresh fish at one of the many local restaurants.
If you’re really into camping, then head to the Yedigöller National Park, which gets its name from its seven small lakes that are all surrounded by lush oak, alder, pine and hazelnut tree forests. Apart from camping and just enjoying the beauty of nature, the park also has hot springs for swimming as well as plenty of hiking trails, and of course, you can always go fishing at one of the many lakes.
A small village in the Beykoz district of Istanbul’s Asian side, Riva has a great view of the water, where the Bosphorus meets the Black Sea. Stay at one of the hotels, have dinner at one of the many excellent seafood restaurants and take a boat trip on the Riva River. The Riva Castle is also an important historic site and from its perched location, the view is simply divine.
Another place to immerse yourself in calm village life, Şile is known for its beaches and its natural beauty that beckons urban dwellers on weekends. If you’re not into resorts with their own private beaches, wander the quiet streets of the village, especially Saklıgöl, a lake almost hidden in the mountains where you can have dinner on the water or take a boat tour.
Founded in 1846 by Polish settlers who escaped the invasion of Poland, the village of Polonezköy is another excellent weekend getaway within a nature park. Go hiking on one of the many trails, get to know traditional Polish culture during the annual summer festival and visit the historic sights.
Thanks to BUDO (Bursa Sea Buses), it’s very easy to travel from Istanbul to Bursa via the water, which makes the city a great weekend getaway. Bursa is definitely a place for history enthusiasts since it was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire and therefore has a lot of stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Another tranquil getaway that is quite romantic and therefore popular among young couples, Ağva is a natural haven with many beautiful rivers. Stay at one of the lodges by the rivers, go fishing, take a boat tour, visit the beach and definitely eat some fresh seafood by the water.