Yalova is a city in the Eastern Marmara region of Turkey, with a population of 128,933 in 2020. It's a ferry port on the south coast of the Sea of Marmara and most visitors are just passing through; the main reason to linger is for the geothermal springs.
Yalova is also the name of the province and peninsula extending west. For the west tip of that peninsula, see Armutlu.
Yalova means "plains of coastal mansions" - it's hemmed in by mountains but spreads along the shore. It stands at the point where the Sea of Marmara narrows into the Gulf of Izmit, so it's long been a ferry port on one of the routes between Constantinople and Smyrna, nowadays Istanbul and Izmir. In antiquity Yalova was known as Pylae (Greek: Πύλαι) meaning "gates", and attracted a cosmopolitan merchant population.
But that was its downfall in the inter-ethnic strife of the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey was defeated in the First World War and Smyrna was awarded to Greece, but Greece had greater ambitions and in 1920 marched on Ankara. They were thrown back by Turkish resistance under Mustafa Kemal, and in retreat carried out massacres and a scorched earth policy along the Yalova peninsula. The conflict was settled by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
The mountains that create the peninsula have been thrown up by ructions along the fault line south of the Sea of Marmara. Yalova is one of several places with geothermal hot springs gushing out of the depths. But the fault is still active, and in 1999 there was a major earthquake across the region. As well as the human cost, the city lost its stock of ancient and traditional buildings, and what you see now is modern.
Most travellers towards Bursa and Izmir now sweep across the Gulf of Izmit on the Osmangazi Bridge, and bypass Yalova. But it remains a ferry port, and lots of Istanbul residents have holiday homes here.
They also sail hourly from Pendik on Istanbul's Asia Side, taking 45 min, for an adult fare in 2022 of 45 TL.
1 Yalova ferry pier is central in town.
2 Topçular has IDO car ferries from Eskihisar near Gebze across the Gulf. They run continuously 24 hours, taking 45 min, and in Aug 2022 the fare for a car and all its occupants is 130 TL. No booking, just turn up and pay. Dolmuşes ply between Topçular and Yalova.
Lüks Yalova have the most convenient service from Istanbul, running every two hours from Harem east bank of the Bosphorus, for a fare in 2022 of 75 TL. They also have daily buses to Yalova from Ankara, Izmir and Alanya.
Metro Turizm buses run every two hours from Istanbul Samandıra Tesis way out in the east suburbs, taking an hour. Flix Bus (formerly Kamil Koç) only run once a day.
3 Otogar the inter-city bus station is south edge of town, 5 km along the Bursa highway. Take a dolmuş for downtown.
Dolmuşes run from the ferry pier (look for the booth) to Orhangazi every 30 min, to İznik hourly, and to Yenişehir every two hours.
From Istanbul or Ankara take O-5 / E881 (toll) across Osman Gazi Bridge, then exit onto the coast road west. From Izmir take O-5 north past Bursa.
Yalova sprawls, with several outlying towns such as Termal (for hot springs), Çınarcık and Çiftlikköy (for beaches) and Topçular (for ferries from Eskihisar). For these you need a dolmuş. They're light blue or shocking pink and ply along Atatürk Cd and Fatih Cd, and to all main sites. In town their main hub is by the ferry terminal (ask for İDO); for town centre ask for Heykel or Merkez.
Taxis also wait at the ferry terminal.
- Gazi Paşa Cd is the long beachfront boulevard, mostly pedestrianised and lined with cafes.
- 1 Yalova Earthquake Monument commemorates the disaster of 17 Aug 1999, when the region suffered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake centred on Izmit. Some 18,000 people died, 2500 of them in Yalova. When the town rubble was cleared, it was dumped on the coast to create this area of reclaimed land, now a park. The monument is a corridor of slabs bearing the names of those lost, as if you were walking up a shattered deserted street.
- 2 City Museum (Yalova Kent Müzesi), Cumhuriyet Cd 1, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Small museum of city life, but few artifacts, and the displays are only in Turkish. Free.
- 3 Ibrahim Muteferrika Kagit Museum (Paper Museum), Ömer Faydalı Cd 203, ☏ . Tu-F 08:30-17:30, Sa Su 10:00-17:00. Muteferrika (1674-1745) was an ethnic Hungarian from what is now Romania, who converted to Islam and became an Ottoman diplomat. He was a polymath scholar who established the first printing press with movable Arabic typeface, but the scribes who copied manuscripts saw the threat to their livelihood and got him shut down. The child-friendly museum displays the history of paper and printing. Free.
- Open Air Museum (Açık Hava Müzesi) is a fancy name for a few Grecian column fragments on the grass between the Paper Museum and Raif Dinçkök events venue.
- 4 Yürüyen Köşk (Walking Mansion), Sahil Yürüyüş Yolu, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:30. This is a beach-house used by Atatürk in his later years, now a cafe. The name is because it was relocated 3 km along the waterfront: supposedly by itself upon Atatürk's command, actually with jacks and rails. It's an interesting example of how fairytale legends get started.
- 5 Karakilise ("Black Church") is the shell of a 6th century Byzantine church. It's 4 km east in Çiftlikköy, within the courtyard of a residential development, so you can only squint in from the street. Çiftlikköy is a straggling beach resort.
- 6 Çınarcık west is the main beach strip, a little Istanbul-by-the-sea full of city dwellers' second homes.
- 7 Karaca Arboretum, Yalova Termal Yol, ☏ . Sa Su 10:00-16:00. Small arboretum set up by businessman and environmental activist Hayrettin Karaca.
- 8 Termal is a geothermal area 12 km southwest of Yalova. The first impression is not great, as a rash of building stretches all the way up the valley from town to the dam which creates a reservoir lake. Continue west into the forested hills above the lake and the view improves. Lots of spa hotels here plus public hammams and a large public swimming pool. Atatürk Mansion is a small museum 200 m south of Limak Thermal Hotel, open Tu-Su 10:00-17:00.
- 9 Su Düşen Şelalesi is a cascade of waterfalls in the hills beyond Termal. It's easily reached with your own car. Otherwise take a dolmuş to Üvezpınar, then hike or take a taxi the last 7 km to the falls. In summer there are also minibuses from Termal right up to the falls, a few times daily. At the entrance there is a combined fee of 20 TL (2022) per group for the car park and admission; it is uncertain how they sort this out if you didn't arrive by a car. See below for the "Green-Blue Road" onward to Armutlu.
- Altinbaş Lunapark is a brash chain funfair by the marina, open daily 11:30 to midnight.
- Çınarcık has the best beach and is the party town.
- Thermal springs bubble out of the mountain at 60 °C in Termal and elsewhere along the ridge to Armutlu. They taste very salty, with sulphate / carbonate / chloride of calcium and sodium to 2 grams per litre, slightly acidic, but not much metal. They're mildly radioactive from radon, but within the permitted range. All the hotels in Termal have spa facilities and there are public hammams.
- Green-Blue Road (Yeşil-Mavi Yol) is a switchback road along the spine of the forested peninsula. It's paved and suitable for 2WD, but signposting is erratic. Leave the coast highway at Çınarcık to ascend west to Erikli waterfalls, Teşvikiye forest, and the Great and Small Bottomless Lakes (Büyük Dipsiz Göl and Küçük Dipsiz Göl, both being craters). See Armutlu for points further west.
- Yalova bazaar is on Cengiz Koçal Cd opposite the marina and dolmuş station, open M W Sa 07:00-20:00. It has fresh food, housewares and clothing. Other nearby stalls are open daily, as is Carrefour 10:00-22:00.
- Gazi Paşa Cd has the usual High Street chain stores.
- Yalova near the marina has Doyum Lokantası, Kent Lokantası, Latika[dead link], Güven Lokantası, Kardeşler, Kervan, Yalova Gurme, Özbaşkanlar, Yalova Balıkçısı, Yildiz Kebap, Kadirga Yemek, Balık sofrası, Lokanta Cihangir, and Tike right by the ferry pier.
- Local specialties: balık ekmek is fish sandwiched within a half-loaf, from the floating balıkcı who fish from the river. Yalova Sutlusu is a milky, coconut-infused baklava.
- Dondurma means an ice-cream cafe. Balim & Tadim at Ziya Paşa Sk 12/D is a good example, open daily 09:00 to midnight.
- Arabic food is common in Termal, as the hot springs attract visitors from the Middle East. Falafels, hummus, ful medames are all staples there, but less often found in Turkey. Hadramout Mandi Kitchen is near Yalova Marina at Fatih Cd 36.
- In Yalova you mostly drink in the cafes. These stayed open during Covid, whilst in 2022 the free-standing bars remain closed.
- Çınarcık has more of a pub strip, but these are likewise closed.
- 1 Grand Otel Karot, Gazi Paşa Cd 2, ☏ . Clean spacious rooms close to ferry port. B&B double 600 TL.
- Hotel Şeref is a decent budget option 200 m east of Karot on Gazi Paşa Cd.
- 2 Ramada by Wyndham, Yeni Bursa Yolu 4, ☏ . Smart business hotel by main highway but only 10 min walk to centre. B&B double 1500 TL.
- 3 Hilton Garden Inn, Bursa Yolu 92/1, ☏ . Clean friendly chain hotel 3 km from centre. B&B double 1200 TL.
- 4 Lova Hotel Spa, Termal Yolu 3/1, ☏ . Edge of town spa hotel, scores well for comfort and service. B&B double 600 TL.
- Termal the hot springs district 18 km southwest has lots of hotels, including Limak (below), Blackbird, Zir Dream, Green Termal, Moringa[dead link], Kapri, Diamond, Saray and Thermalium, plus pansiyons.
- 5 Limak Thermal Boutique Hotel, Sıcak Su Cd, Termal, ☏ . Upscale hotel in Termal district with comfort and spa treatments. B&B double 2500 TL.
- Çınarcık has lots of hotels and pansiyons, such as Grand Koru, Yenice, Grand Krone, Ki Boutique and Lion.
Yalova and its approach roads have 4G from all Turkish carriers. As of March 2022, 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.
- Armutlu south side of the peninsula also has hot springs - take the leisurely scenic Green-Blue Road through the mountains.
- Esenköy is a beach resort 32 km west of Yalova on the coast road to Armutlu.
- Bursa was the Ottomans' first city, and it's full of historic sights.
|Routes through Yalova|
|Ends at ← Gebze ← Osman Gazi Bridge ←||N S||→ Orhangazi ( E) → Gemlik → Bursa|
|Ends at ←||W E||→ Topçular ( N) → İzmit|
|Armutlu ← Çınarcık ←||W E||→ Ends at|