Driving from Istanbul to Sapanca

I and a friend of mine decided to meet up in Istanbul and try to explore somewhere new in Turkey. We both had been to Istanbul before, so we wanted a different experience and we wanted to visit a new place. We did some research and found out that locals living in Istanbul go to Sapanca for a weekend getaway, so why shouldn’t we do what the locals do?

Sapanca is a district in the Sakarya Province of Turkey and a 2-hour drive from Istanbul.

Renting a car at Istanbul Ataturk Airport

I flew to Istanbul from London and she flew in from Tehran, Iran. We arrived almost at the same time and we met at Istanbul Ataturk Airport at the passport control queue. Before our trip, we booked a car from a local rental car company, as it was cheaper than the other international companies. The company didn’t have any desk at the airport, we arranged the pickup point through a phone call, but the person who called me couldn’t speak any English, luckily my friend could speak Turkish and she sorted it out. We waited for 15 minutes and once our guy arrived and after the usual 5 minutes of paperwork, we drove to our hotel.

Staying on the Asian side of Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the most congested cities in the world and traffic jams are the number-one problem in the city. Moreover, going from the European side to the Asian side by car can be a hassle. This is why we had to choose our accommodation wisely. We booked SelectionSelection Premium Hotel on the Asian side of Istanbul to avoid the morning traffic and also to be closer to Sapanca. We still had to drive from the airport to the hotel from the European side, but fortunately, we didn’t have any issue, probably because it was quite late in the evening.

Istanbul to Sapanca

The day after, we had breakfast, checked out from our hotel and hit the road. Getting out of Istanbul from the hotel we stayed at was straightforward. We got out of the city and we drove on a motorway, which was not too busy. We passed by some industrial areas and we had a nice sea view on our way to Sapanca.


It wasn’t a really long drive away, but we still stopped for a short break. I was surprised how clean the services on the motorway were and how diverse the food choices were as well. We wished we hadn’t had breakfast, but we still enjoyed the view while having Turkish tea.

Things to do in Sapanca

Masukiye waterfalls

We continued on our way. The scenery started improving as soon as we left the motorway. We drove directly to the hotel we booked earlier, Motali Life Hotel, which is located in a mountain near Sapanca city and next to the Masukiye waterfalls.

When we arrived at the hotel, they showed us two rooms to choose from, one room had twin beds and the other one had a double bed but with a great view of Sapanca’s lake. We went for the one with the nice view, of course.

Masukiye Restaurant

Summers and winters are peak seasons in Sapanca, but we went there in October when the summer holidays were over and the hotels began to prepare to host ski lovers. Therefore, we almost had the whole hotel for ourselves.

We put our luggage in the room and headed out to have some lunch. There were a few restaurants near our hotel, but we decided to go to the Masukiye Degirmen Restaurant, which was close to the Masukiye waterfalls. We fell in love with the environment of the restaurant. Most of the tables were outdoor in the forest above the river, and all quite far from each other, which means all the guests could enjoy some privacy.

Turkish food

We had our lunch while we listing to the sound of running water of the river, it was peaceful and relaxing.

Sapanca Lake

Sapanca lake is one of the main attractions in the area, it attracts many international and locals visitors during the summer time. The lake was only a 15-minute drive from the Masukiye waterfalls. We parked our car and started walking near the lake, which had some food stalls and boats to rent. Even though summer was officially over there were still plenty of tourists around the lake and on the pedal boats. We didn’t spend much time there, though.

Sapanca Lake

Ski Resorts

We went back on the road which led us to our hotel, but this time instead of stopping at our hotel we continued uphill. It was a very beautiful road with an overlooking view of the lake. We drove until we reached a ski resort. There was no one the, for obvious reasons. It was too early to ski, but we were told that during ski seasons the resort gets really busy. We enjoyed the empty resort and then headed back to our hotel.

We watched the sunset from our room and decided to have dinner at our hotel restaurant. We had a really lovely day and went to bed quite early because the morning after we had to leave Sapanca and go back to Istanbul.

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