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cycling into istanbul

We are hoping that this page will help alleviate any stress that you may be experiencing at the thought of cycling into Istanbul from Europe.

OUR ROUTE

View Approaching Istanbul in a larger map

OUR NOTES
1. The night before the Turkish border we camped at the Sakar Hills campsite near Biser, a top drawer place that was only €10, had WiFi, showers, tables, and free power

2. Biser to Border: On the road from Biser to the border, we followed the signs to Svilengrad, as opposed to taking the opportunity to cycle directly towards Kapitan Andreevo. When we got to Svilengrad we picked up the new road that is being built and followed it all the way to the border. Large hard shoulder all the way

Example of the Svilengrad to Turkish border road

Example of the Svilengrad to Turkish border road

3. Border to Edirne: there is a large hard shoulder for most of the way and we had virtually no traffic. On entering Edirne, cross the bridge and head off up the tree lined street; do not follow the D100 all the way around as that goes to Greece.
Notes:
a) When you get to the top of the tree lined street you will hit the mosque (the one that I am talking about is absolutely unmistakable), you need to turn right here and it will take you out of the city.
b) There is a Carrefour just past the mosque on the road out of town for stocking up on supplies if necessary

4. Edirne to Kirklareli: there is mostly a large hard shoulder out of Edirne all the way to the turn off for the D020. Once turning off onto the D020 the hard shoulder is no longer!
Notes:
a) The D020 all the way to Kirklareli is undulating / rolling hills, with the occasional tough climb.
b) We had to deal with ridiculous head and cross winds that made the cycling slow and lethargic. Definitely factor the wind into your planning
c) We free camped just out of the village of Umulu, however, when we woke in the morning and made our way towards Kirklareli we spotted an ideal camping spot just short of the town of Inece. It is on the left before you descend into the town and has picnic tables; from where we were sitting (as we cycled past) it looked ideal!

Example of the D020 when you turn off the D100 just out of Edirne

Example of the D020 when you turn off the D100 just out of Edirne

Example of upgrade work on the D020 just out of Edirne. Not too sure how long it will be until this is completed, but it is certainly underway

Example of upgrade work on the D020 just out of Edirne. Not too sure how long it will be until this is completed, but it is certainly underway

5. Kirklareli to Saray: the road out of Kirklareli is incredible… for about 10kms. The road then turns into a single carriageway with little or no hard shoulder.
Notes:
a) The drivers were generally good
b) Savage, savage head winds. We made the mistake of taking our time having breakfast in Kirklareli; in hindsight we should have just cracked on as the wind did not really become a big issue until about 10am
c) Brutal hills, much worse than the Edirne to Kirklareli day, but there were fantastic views
d) We camped just shy of Saray, which turned out to be a mistake. We were surrounded by a pack of dogs all night and struggled to sleep. Had we known what lay beyond Saray we would have pushed on and camped there

The road out of Kirklareli is a very fine, wide road. It lasts for around 10km

The road out of Kirklareli is a very fine, wide road. It lasts for around 10km

Road after the road out of Kirklareli, all the way to Saray (and beyond)

Road after the road out of Kirklareli, all the way to Saray (and beyond)

6. Saray to Durusu: the road out of Saray is an undulating single carriageway that passes through the most incredible oak forest. We really wish we had cycled through Saray the day before and found somewhere out there to camp.
Notes:
a) The road from Saray to Subaşi was uneventful, and not memorable at all (aside from the wonderful oak forest). This probably means it was not as tough as we thought it would be, and the drivers were courteous
b) The road out of Subaşi is more like a six-lane motorway with no one on it, and this lasts for a very long time
c) There is an enormous hill just past Kizilcaali, but when you reach the top you are afforded views of the Black Sea
d) We cheated a little (in the spirit of camping etc.…) and on getting over the crest of the aforementioned hill we stopped at a hotel for the evening (about 5-10km from the top of the hill). It was beyond our budget, but it was an all you can eat buffet for dinner and breakfast, and it had a pool (it was too cold for us, but something to possibly consider in the summer months)

Example of the road out of Saray. We wish we had camped out on this road (and not had to deal with the packs of dogs)!

Example of the road out of Saray. We wish we had camped out on this road (and not had to deal with the packs of dogs)!

Road out of Subaşi. The road is like this (or a derivative of this) all the way to Kemerburgaz

Road out of Subaşi. The road is like this (or a derivative of this) all the way to Kemerburgaz

7. Durusu to Kemerburgaz: the road is a large, busy, new motorway type road (it is not a motorway, but in a lot of countries it would be). There is plenty of room on the hard shoulder though, and we did not feel threatened by the numerous trucks at all.
Notes:
a) The road deteriorates a few times from what was described above, but for no more than 1km at a time
b) The road is again undulating, and there was a bit of wind, but not too much
c) Turning off the main road to Kemerburgaz was a shock to the system. The road (for about 1-2kms) is awful and super busy. It is single carriageway with a lot of trucks. It may be a shock to the system, but to avoid what is reputed to be hell on a bicycle, you need to turn off at Kemerburgaz. In fact, if there is anything you glean from this page it is turn off at Kemerburgaz!
d) When getting to a set of lights you need to turn right, this road is even busier, but we managed by waiting for the lights to and cycling as fast as we could and then pulling off when trucks started to come through. It is only like this for about 500m-1km.
e) There is a garden centre on the right; at this point you need to turn and head up a savage, savage hill. This is the road now for most of the way

This is the turn off you do not want to miss!

This is the turn off you do not want to miss!

This is taken right outside the garden centre at Kemerburgaz. You need to turn left here and head up a savage hil

This is taken right outside the garden centre at Kemerburgaz. You need to turn left here and head up a savage hil

Example of the road from Kemerburgaz to Bahçeköy

Example of the road from Kemerburgaz to Bahçeköy

8. Kemerburgaz to Bahçeköy: the road is a single carriageway, but is not too busy. What it is though is hilly, very very hilly.
Notes:
On arrival to Bahçeköy you need to turn right at the T-intersection to go directly into Istanbul (we turned left and cycled over to the Black Sea for an evening). We can’t comment on the road from Bahçeköy to the Bosphorus

The road along the Bosphorus is busy, but not too bad, and should not be feared. It should be respected, but definitely not feared.

Please contact us through our Contact Us page if you have any questions. We will answer them as soon as we have an internet connection.

Happy and safe cycling :)

Discussion

5 Responses to “cycling into istanbul”

  1. hi guys,
    thanks for the really useful information.
    safe trails

    Posted by ferruccio | April 7, 2015, 6:44 pm
  2. Hi just cycles hebden bridge to istanbul brilliant ride , the most eventful part of the journey was on the road from kemerburgaz into istanbul………….. DOGS !!! ….”……… Packs of dogs constantly chasing terrifying . I’d come across many in Bulgaria but not ones as unfriendly as these . It was good to see your pics ,thanks

    Posted by David woodhead | August 11, 2015, 11:28 pm
  3. Hello! Thank you for your such a detailed description of your way from Edirne to Istanbul. It really helped me plan mine, and here are a couple of notes about my experience in November 2016 :-)

    1) I did the ride in four days/three nights. I spent the first night with a Couchsurfer in Kirklareli, and in the next two i was running out of daylight and having trouble finding a nice spot to wild camp, so i stayed in the back of a gas station. I’ll note that both places were the first gas station where i asked whether i was allowed to stay, and they were incredibly hospitable. They both helped me find a good spot for my tent, and in the first the guy even said i could sleep inside of a bus parked in the back, if it started raining. In one the owner and workers invited me to join them for dinner.

    2) Between Tayakadin and Ishaniye, the D020 is closed to general traffic, and only vehicles pertaining to the airport constructions seem allowed through. I tried to negotiate my passage with the authorities, as i thought it would have been safer to keep riding along the hard shoulder, but they didn’t seem to understand what i was trying to say and just kept telling me i had to take the detour through Arnavutköy. It probably added an extra hour or so to my riding time, but fortunately there was still enough time to reach Istanbul before dawn.

    There was not so much traffic coming out of the D020 into Arnavutköy. But between Arnavutköy and Ishaniye the amount of trucks was simply insane! I’d be super careful with that, even though most of that stretch is a 4-lane road. There are many trucks parked along the road, taking all the shoulder and much of the right lane.

    3) Yes, cross and headwinds, and freaking rolling hills of perdition all the way through :p

    Thanks once again for sharing your experience, and i hope my update will be helpful to people planning their ride into Istanbul in the near future :-)

    Posted by Mika MF | November 26, 2016, 12:03 pm

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