The eastern coast of the Black Sea sees far more visitors than the western half, partly because it holds more of interest, and partly because it’s easier to get to. Trabzon, with its romantic associations and medieval monuments, is very much the main event. With good air and bus services, it makes a logical introduction to the region, and is the usual base for visits to Sumela monastery, the only place in this chapter that you could describe as being overwhelmed by tourists. Other forays inland, however, are just as rewarding – particularly the superlatively scenic Hemşin valleys, home to a welcoming, unusual people, and the northern gateway to the lofty Kaçkar Dağları.

Other than Trabzon, the coast itself between the Georgian frontier and Samsun offers little apart from fine scenery and swimming opportunities that become increasingly restricted. Giresun and Ünye are the most attractive and feasible towns. It’s best appreciated with your own transport, but even without it you’ll face few problems. The towns are close together, and served by endless relays of dolmuşes; just about every route is covered, so you can safely ask to be set down at an isolated beach in the near certainty that another minibus will pick you up when necessary.

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