Samsun has a special place in Turkish history since this is where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, started the war of independence in 1919. The city also gets a mention in Homer’s Iliad which refers to Samsun under the name of Enete.
If you visit Samsun you really should spend at least 3 days here. Samsun is not known as a popular tourist destination but like so many towns and cities along this coast it has some outstanding and impressive scenery and history. Samsun history dates back to around 750 BC when the Ionians from Miletus were thought to have established a trading post here.
The shallow waters of Samsun’s harbour, the fertile agricultural land, and its suitability in terms of its location along the trade routes ensured that Samsun prospered. The surrounding lands offer a variety of stunning landscapes from canyons, valleys, waterfalls and natural rock formations of considerable beauty. There are many intersting and historic ruins for visitors to explore.
Almost all of the Empires and spheres of influence in history have had a finger in the pie of Samsun. From the Romans, Greeks, Genoese, Persians, Selcuks and Ottomans have all settled here. The Amazon mythical female warriors are said to have been here around 1200 BC. This cannot be verified of course, and most people associate the Amazon tribes with South America.
Samsun is a large city and has a number of excellent hotels and restaurants and whilst most of the Black Sea coast is fairly conservative, Samsun has a vibrant nightlife scene with plenty of good bars and pubs. The food in Samsun is very traditional and meat and rice dishes are very popular. The city is famous for its Samsun Pita bread. For those who like shopping the Piazza Shopping Centre is a must and with an abundance of outlets there is always a bargain to be had. Another good place to head for is Samsun Bulvari.
There is really so much to do in and around Samsun and it would be impossible to list it all here. Instead we take a look at the most popular places. The Onur Anıtı or Statue of Honour is dedicated to Atatürk and takes pride of place in Atatürk Park. You should also visit the Archaeology & Ethnography Museum with its historic collection of artifacts, jewellery and coins from the ancient civilisations that settled here.
The Bandirma Vapuru Muzesi along the seafront promenade is a replica of the boat that took Atatürk to Samsun. It is open as a museum and you can go on board and walk around it. The Samsun Kent Museum is also worth a visit and it illustrates how Samsun has expanded and developed over the years. Unfortunately everything is in Turkish and English translations have not been provided.
You cannot fail to notice a number of statues and monuments along the Samsun shore line. This is the Bati Park, a large open space with landscaped gardens and canals right on the Black Sea. With its cafes, shady secluded spots and a number of statues and interesting monuments, the park has a smaller park dedicated to the Amazon female warriors. There is a large statue of a female Amazon warrior in the main park area. During the summer months the park is the centre for a host of activities. There is also a cable car that takes you from the park to some gardens high up on the hill near Atatürk Street. The views of the city below are breathtaking.
For those that want to chill out and lounge around on the beach then head for Atakum Sahil, a long sandy beach and promenade with a host of cafes, bars and restaurants. This is very popular especially in the summer evenings.
If you have a car then the Şahinkaya Canyon is a very popular destination. It is located near the Altınkaya Dam Lake just inland from Bafra. This is Turkey’s second largest canyon, the first being Ulubey Canyon in Uşak province which is actually the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA. The best time to visit is during the week. Try to avoid weekends and national holidays. You can take a boat tour and also visit some of the historic houses and mosques at Vezirköprü.