As millions of people in Turkey’s most populated city, Istanbul, spend most of their time at home due to the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government on weekends and weeknights, short getaways have become more crucial than ever for those itching to travel, get moving and keep the mind clear and peaceful.
While Istanbul has been surprised by a wave of snowfall that is expected to last five days, its residents are still hoping to take a trip to their nearest ski resorts to fully enjoy and appreciate beautiful winter views. Luckily, there are a few ski centers within driving distance of Istanbul, including Kartalkaya in Bolu province and Uludağ in Bursa province, but the closest is Kartepe in northwestern Kocaeli province – not a very big ski center compared to the other Turkish winter resorts but still worth a visit, if not only for the views.
At just over 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, Kartepe has for years been a popular day-trip destination for Istanbulites. Now that I’ve seen many ski centers, it has lost its spot as my favorite in Turkey, but I was truly amazed when I had a chance to visit it for the first time.
We hit the road in the early morning hours to skip the city traffic and get to the ski center early, which is what I would advise even if you plan on staying more than a day. As the car started moving, I was dreaming of having a sweet nap, thinking it would be the perfect opportunity for some proper rest before the very active day that awaited me on top of the mountain. But to my surprise, I was awoken just a few hours after we left the city. “That was fast,” was the first thought I had when we arrived.
After renting the equipment, I walked to the start of the slopes and that was the moment I realized that coming here was a great idea. A view of the huge pine trees blanketed with snow and snowflakes sparkling under the sun was absolutely beautiful. In addition to the pine trees, the mountain peaks surrounding the area offer breathtaking views as well. Long story short, you can be sure there are plenty of spots to supply your Instagram account with magical photos.
Let’s get down to business. You can get a ski pass after you arrive for a full or half-day, and there is also a small discount for students. For the 2021 winter season, the center has scrapped different rates for weekdays and weekends, instead going with a single rate of TL 170 ($24). If you have no skiing or protective equipment such as helmets or boots, you will also have to rent those, and the price will change depending on what you need. Renting on the hill will also be more expensive than renting them from Maşukiye, for example. You will also have to pay a security deposit for the ski pass and some equipment and, of course, a parking fee if you came by car.
Simpler and newer than its predecessors, the Kartepe ski resort offers four lifts and a dozen runs that are ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers. As the lifts take you up to the peaks, you have a great chance to stop for a moment and enjoy the breathtaking mountain view. One of the peaks even has a little cafe where you can enjoy a hot cup of tea and warm up before going back down. During the day, you can have a quick lunch at cafes next to the parking area and enjoy a glass of hot wine or the traditional Turkish winter drink, salep.
Where to stay
Kartepe is a favored getaway spot year-round and has plenty of local accommodation options. Even though there is only one hotel at the ski center, you can find many options in Kartepe or Sapanca. Besides hotels, you can also find houses and apartments for rent. Many of these options are listed on Airbnb.
What else to see
If you make your way to Kartepe, there are a few nearby natural sites that you won’t want to miss. Kartepe is less than half an hour’s drive from the picturesque Sapanca Lake.
Sapanca Lake has a lot to offer for a daylong getaway. Covering 45 square kilometers (17 square miles), Sapanca Lake offers a lot of activities you can enjoy out in nature, including hiking, biking, horseback riding and renting an ATV, boat or canoe. During the winter, you can dine in one of the restaurants with a lake view – and make sure you reserve a table for sunset. Sapanca Lake is also renowned for its spa resorts, which are highly popular.
Sapanca is also home to many fascinating nature spots, with Maşukiye being one of them. With its fish restaurants and natural beauty, Maşukiye is a place you can visit throughout the year to spend a day immersed in the fresh air.
A word on COVID-19 rules
If you are planning to make a day trip, you will be allowed to visit the center and ski during the week, but if you’d like to pay a visit on the weekend or stay over the weekend, you will have to have a reservation and show your Life Fits into Home (HES) code, the track-and-trace code issued by the Health Ministry. New guidelines to combat the spread of the coronavirus also mean bookings are limited as resorts have to operate at two-thirds capacity. Skiing equipment is also required to be disinfected after every use.