AMASRA brazenly flaunts its charms to new arrivals. Approached from any direction, the town suddenly appears below you, swarming up onto a rocky headland sheltering two bays. A narrow stone bridge links the main town to the island of Boztepe further out, while the headland shelters the east-facing Büyük Liman (Big Harbour) on one side and the west-facing Küçük Liman (Little Harbour) on the other. As the beaches at both are at best average, it’s best to regard Amasra as a base for forays to better beaches further east.
Amasra’s historical pedigree and colourful atmosphere make it worth at least an overnight stop. During the day it is a quiet place, full of shady corners to sit and contemplate. By night it’s much livelier, and the old walls are lit up attractively, but it doesn’t lose its small-town charm.
Mentioned as Sesamus in the Iliad, Amasra was colonized by Miletus in the sixth century BC. The name derived from Queen Amastris, a lady of the court of Alexander the Great, who, after the death of her husband, acted as regent for her young son, only to be repaid with murder at his hands. Avid letter-writer Pliny the Younger was appointed Rome’s special commissioner to this region in 110 AD. After the ninth century, following a barbarian attack, the town declined in importance, though the Byzantines maintained a garrison here. The Genoese took over when Byzantine strength declined, and held the city until the Ottomans assumed control in 1460.