Samsun is a modern city, provincial capital, important Black Sea port and transportation center, and though it has few sights to detain you, it does boast one of the best collections of hotels on the Black Sea coast (map).
Although it’s very old, Genoese raiders burnt it to the ground in the 1400s, so there’s not much left of old Samsun (SAHM-soon, pop. 500,000).
It was in a Samsun of some 30,000 inhabitants that Mustafa Kemal Pasha (later Atatürk) came ashore on May 19, 1919 to rally the Turkish people against Allied occupation and to begin the War of Independence.
Little is left of that quaint early 20th-century Black Sea port town. A booming economy has covered old Samsun with modern high-rise buildings.
The Archeological and Ethnographic Museum and, right next door, the Atatürk Museum, are worth a look. The parks and promenades along the Black Sea shores of this l-o-n-g spread-out city are also pleasant.
Samsun has numerous decent hotels and restaurants.
Otherwise, you’ll probably find yourself heading west to Sinop or east to Giresun and Trabzon on the Black Sea coast, or south to Amasya, all of which are more interesting towns. For details, see my Recommended Itineraries, particularly the one for Eastern Turkey.
Bus service is frequent and convenient to Samsun, especially with the Ulusoy company. The few trains from Sivas via Amasya take twice as long and are not as comfortable.
Turkish Airlines has daily flights from Istanbul to Samsun.
Distances & Travel Times (map)
Amasra: 495 km (308 miles) W, 8 hours
Amasya: 130 km (81 miles) S, 2.25 hours
Ankara: 420 km (261 miles) SW, 8 hours
Boğazkale: 262 km (163 miles) S, 5 hours
Cappadocia (Ürgüp): 465 km (289 miles) S, 8 hours
Giresun: 209 km (130 miles) E, 3.5 hours
Istanbul: 733 km (456 miles) W, 11 hours
Kayseri: 450 km (280 miles) S, 8 hours
Sinop: 168 km (104 miles) NW, 3 hours
Sivas: 338 km (210 miles) S, 6 hours
Trabzon: 346 km (215 miles) E, 5.5 hours
—by Tom Brosnahan