While Istanbul with its Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Tokapi Palace continues to lure tourists from far and wide, other cities or regions in Turkey's Black Sea coastal area boast tourist attractions that have promising prospects, providing alternatives in tourist spots.
Trabzon and Gumushane, both in the eastern Black Sea region, are among Turkey's regions beyond Istanbul that are making massive efforts to promote their tourism potential worldwide, with historic remains and natural beauty being their main selling points.
Both Trabzon and Mushane are blessed with dramatic landscape, plateaus, flora and fauna.
Located in a strategically important region, Trabzon is said to be one of the oldest trade and port cities in Anatolia (Anadolu in Turkish) - a geographic region bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west and the bulk of the Asian mainland to the east.
Western travelers have been known to refer to Trabzon as the mystic city of the East, thanks partly to its colorful history.
Historically, Trabzon was founded by Turkish tribes who reached the Black Sea region via the Caucasus before being ruled by Millets, Persians, Romans, Byzantium and Kommens respectively.
The importance of Trabzon not only comes from its strategic location between the West and East trade route but also its very rich urban and cultural heritage. "Trabzon, apart from Istanbul, was the first city to issue the publication of city almanac and the city newspaper in 1869. And it was in Trabzon where the first medical magazine Hekim was published in 1908," a book on Trabzon issued by Trabzon City administration says.
The Black Sea coast, especially the eastern Black Sea region, with Trabzon as the major city, is among regions in Turkey with a growing tourist industry thanks to continuous efforts by the local tourism office to promote its tourism potential worldwide.
Trabzon is Turkey's 61th province with an estimated population of 1,061,055.
Mehmet Volkan Canalioglu, the mayor of Trabzon City, disclosed in his office recently that out of the average 20 million tourist arrivals to Turkey per year, around 1.5 million visit Trabzon City.
The mayor was upbeat about the upward trend of tourist arrivals to Trabzon, attributing the increase to rising advertisement placements, invitations for domestic and foreign tour operators and tourism writers to visit Trabzon over the last several years.
Official statistics show that in 2006, 477,665 foreign and 1,196,214 domestic tourists visited Trabzon, contributing around US$95 million to the city.
"Last year, tourists from Far East countries started to come to Trabzon, too," he said.
Foreign tourists like to visit Trabzon not only due to its mild climate, which is not too hot in summer, but also because of its rich historical heritage and natural beauty, he said.
Mehmet cited Sumela Monastery, Ataturk Pavilion, Ayasofya Museum, Gulbaharhatun, Ortahizar Mosque, Trabzon City Walls and the Girls' Monastery as historical sites worth visiting.
The mayor also said that the first International Trabzon Culture and Art Festival was held in 2005 as part of the city's efforts to boost tourism in the region. "The festival is one of the most attractive events in Trabzon and it is held annually, starting September," he said.
Sister cities of Trabzon, namely Rizhao city in China, Batumi city in Georgia, Sochi City in the Russian Federation, Szigetvar city in Hungary and Travenik City in Bosnia-Hezeggovina take part in this festival with their local musicians and folklore groups.
Throughout the three-day festival, visitors are given the chance to see historical parts of Trabzon besides cultural and tourist spots, he said.
The festival features paintings and photographs exhibitions, folklore demonstration, debates, jazz and chamber orchestra, poetic nights, local plays, sports activities.
The mayor also said that more accommodations ranging from budget hotels to luxury resorts, guesthouses and hostels were now available to accommodate the rising number of tourist to Trabzon.
Meanwhile Gumushane, which means House of Silver, is a city on the historical silk-road between China and Trabzon. It is called House of Silver because Gumushane is rich in silver mines.
Gumushane is situated in the inner area of the eastern Black Sea region, surrounded by Bayburt to the east, Trabzon to the north, Giresun to the west and Erzincan to the south.
Gumushane Governor Envier Salihoglu said that aside from having unique flora and fauna, Gumushane also offers caves, plateaus, waterfalls and ancient cities.
According to the governor, Gumushane was established in 3000 BC and constituted a mosaic of ethnic groups.
On the list of Gumushane's recommended tourist spots are the ancient cities (antic kentler) of Sulemaniye, Santa and Olucak; fountains such as Daltaban Cesmesi; mosques like Suleymaniye Camii; tombs like Cagirgan Baba Turbesi; plateaus like Zigana Tourism Markezi; Gumushane houses; Saricicek Village Rooms; waterfalls like Tomara Selasi; natural lakes like Limini Golu; bridges like Tohumoglu Koprusu and caves like Karakace Cave.
Envier said that Karaca Cave is the center of attraction in Gumushane.
"When you go there in order to see the cave, you approach it via old residential centers," he said.
From June 3 to 9, The Jakarta Post along with other writers from Malaysia's Berita Harian and Sin Chew Daily, Brunei Darussalam's Brunei Times and a crew from private television station Trans TV joined a Fam Trip to the eastern coast of the Black Sea in Turkey at the invitation of the Turkish Embassy Tourism Information Office.