While many fly into Turkey dead set on seeing only Istanbul and its ‘East meets, shakes hands with, and then fists bumps with West’ vibe, those in the know realize that Istanbul is just the tip of the iceberg of Turkey’s wonders. One of these wonders is located a distant – yet surprisingly comfortable – bus ride or flight to the east from Istanbul, and it’s called Amasya.
Here are nearly a half-dozen reasons why you should go out of your way to include Amasya in your next Turkish trip:
1. Stunning Setting
Point blank, Amasya, Turkey has one of the most dramatic settings I have ever seen, anywhere in the world. The town is cradled within a steep mountain valley, straddling the flowing Yeşilırmak River. On one side of the water, you will find dozens of classical Ottoman buildings accentuated with dark brown wood and ivory contrasts jutting out over the water. Above them, sharp cliffs home to a castle and ancient tombs create a breathtaking backdrop. The other side of the river is more modern, but still full of character, with a riverwalk full of bronze statues of famous folks from the town’s history and kitschy paddleboat restaurants selling tasty grilled “river fish” sandwiches.
2. The Legend of Ferhat and Shirin
The Turkish version of Romeo and Juliet was set in Amasya, and while it’s definitely just a myth, it’s a tragically cute one. Legend has it that Fehrat and Shirin fell madly in love, but Shirin’s family was having nothing of it. They told Fehrat that the only way he could marry their Shirin is if he dug a hole through the mountains of Amasya with his hammer. He diligently began his work, but then after months of toiling was told a lie one day that Shirin had killed herself. You can probably figure out what happened next, but if not, the statues of the lovelorn couple atop the mountain and along the riverside will fill you in on the fairy tale
3. Half Price Hamams
Soaking in steam and getting rubbed down and exfoliated by a complete stranger at a hamam (Turkish bath) is a quintessential experience while in Turkey. Hamams are a huge part of Turkish tradition and Amasya is a great place to take in this cleansing experience, with a much lower price tag than you would in bigger cities like Ankara or Istanbul. I visited the Kumacik Hamam alongside the river, and they took good care of me and my skin – so be sure tell them I sent you.
4. The Apples
Yes, you read that right, the apples. The surrounding hills of Amasya, Turkey have long been known as fertile ground for apples, and the apples here are bold, red in color, and delicious. They are such a signature of the region that when we checked into our hotel, there was a basket of apples waiting for us.
5. The People
While friendly locals abound in towns over the globe, the niceties we received in Amasya really took the cake, or the pizza as it were. An example: searching for a small respite from Turkish food after nearly two months in the country, we stumbled into a certain international pizza chain one evening craving some cheesy familiar delicacies. I won’t mention the international pizza chain by name, (it rhymed with tom-in-hose), but the friendliness and smiles we received by the staff there were so over-the-top I was compelled to write an e-mail to the corporate office. But here’s the thing: it was just normal for Amasya. All over town we were treated so well and offered help that we were constantly left awestruck. The free dipping sauces were just the icing on the pizza.
This post originally appeared on TravelPulse