Marmara is a region in northwestern Turkey that is Turkey's bridge and connection to Europe. Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, is the region's unofficial capital.
- Eastern Marmara — where Ottoman Empire started 700 years ago, featuring historical towns with whitewashed architecture amidst woods and lakes
- Eastern Thrace (European Turkey) — most Balkan part of the country, both geographically and culturally
- Istanbul Province — world-class metropolis Istanbul and its environs
- Southern Marmara — from former Ottoman capital Bursa in the east to Aegean coast dotted with Roman temples in the west
- Balikesir — an inland city with rail links to Izmir
- Bursa — former Ottoman capital featuring lots of early imperial history, now one of the biggest cities of the country
- Çanakkale — city on the banks of Dardanelles Strait near the Aegean, hub for visiting Gallipoli, Troy, and Bozcaada
- Edirne (Adrianople)— another former Ottoman capital with lots of history to see, first Turkish city when approaching from west
- Istanbul — metropolis connecting Europe and Asia, capital of three empires
- Izmit (Nicomedia)— industrial city east of Istanbul
- Iznik (Nicaea) — historical town on the coast of Lake İznik which is the site of the first and seventh ecumenical councils of Christianity
- Tekirdağ — city on the northern coast of Marmara, famous for its local meatballs and raki, and where Hungarian prince Rakoczi was exiled
- Yalova — city south of Istanbul across the Gulf of Izmit, surrounded by verdant mountains dotted with thermal springs and waterfalls
- Gallipoli — site of WWI memorials and 1915 Anzac landing
- Troy — ruins of what was the legendary Trojan War was fought for
- Mt. Uludağ (~2,550 m) near Bursa is a national park and the main wintersports resort of Turkey.
- Bozcaada — a small Aegean island with a pleasant architecture, streetscape, and a citadel
- Gokceada — semi-abandoned Greek villages on a mountainous island
- Marmara Islands — an archipelago in the middle of the Sea of Marmara, with islands ranging from cramped sun&sea resorts to seldom visited and remote
- Princes' Islands — a great getaway from crowded Istanbul featuring pine-covered islands with elegant mansions
This region gets its name from the sea it surrounds: the Sea of Marmara, connected to Aegean Sea via Dardanelles, and to Black Sea via Bosporus. The Sea of Marmara is considered as the geographical border between Europe and Asia: northern coasts of it are in Europe, while southern/eastern coasts are in Asia. In addition to the Sea of Marmara, the region has coastlines on the Black Sea to the northeast and the Aegean Sea to the southwest.
The northwestern/European part of the region is one of few wide lowlands in the country, with the occasional gently sloping hill, except southwestern and northeastern coasts which are dominated by hilly areas. South and east parts of the region is more mountainous, or hilly at least. While the Marmara Region is the second smallest Turkish region in size (with only Southeastern Anatolia being smaller), it is actually only a bit smaller than Ireland or the Netherlands and Belgium combined.
This region is Turkey’s most populous and most heavily industrialized part, though you can still find primordial forests hardly seen by human eyes here and there.
Travellers often overlook Marmara Region except for Istanbul and a few sites in the southwest and southeast of the region, but there is not really a reason why they should—in addition to quite friendly and open locals, fairly good transportation links throughout and temperate climate which make travelling in the region a breeze, you will certainly find something to catch your glimpse in any part of this region, where empires have made their debut and have seen their fall, and where dense urban areas and farmlands interact with untouched wilderness beautifully.
While it is possible to come upon a village founded by immigrants from Balkans in early 1900s where old people speak Pomak dialect of Bulgarian or some other Balkan language in the region, Turkish is by far the most common and the most useful language in the region, as is in most of Turkey.
Atatürk International Airport (IST) in western Istanbul is the main gateway for the city, the region, and the country as well. The other international airport in the region is Sabiha Gökçen (SAW), situated in eastern Istanbul, largely preferred by low-cost airlines. Corlu Airport (TEQ) is used by airlines flying from ex-USSR countries. Other airports in the region are located in Bursa and Çanakkale.
There are trains to
- Istanbul from Bulgaria, Greece, and a number of other Balkan countries via Edirne.
- Istanbul from various central and eastern Turkey locations via Izmit and Eskişehir, as well as from Tehran, Iran.
- Bandirma on the southern coast of Marmara from Izmir.
All cities and many towns in Turkey has direct daily bus services to Istanbul. Many cities neighboring Balkan countries also has bus links to the city. Bursa, by virtue of being a big city, is also served from a large number of cities and towns throughout Turkey.
Marmara Region is well linked to neighboring regions and countries by a motorway and highway network.
While there are more than one airport in the region, given the region's relative small size and the relative short distance between the airports make transportation by plane practically impossible. The only feasible (and, operating) air service totally within the region is between Istanbul and Çanakkale.
There is an extensive bus network between towns and cities of the region, and any town with a considerable population (say, >10,000), has a direct bus service to Istanbul.
As in the rest of Turkey, the rail network in the region consists of linear lines rather than a spider web-like system. The lines with passenger services are between Istanbul and Edirne (via Corlu and a number of other towns on the way), continuing on to Bulgaria and Greece; Istanbul and Bozüyük (via Izmit, Adapazarı, Osmaneli, Bilecik, and a number of other towns on the way), continuing on to Eskişehir/Ankara in Central Anatolia; and between Bandirma and Balikesir, continuing on to Aegean Region.
There is an extensive network of ferry and fast ferry lines connecting northern and southern coast of the Sea of Marmara, cutting travel time dramatically. Most fast ferry lines fan out of Istanbul towards towns and cities on the southern coast, while conventional ferries can be found between almost any town on the northern and southern coasts (such as Tekirdağ-Gemlik line, which traverses almost the whole sea northwest to southeast).
Being the location which both Byzantine and Ottoman Empires centred around, Marmara Region has quite a lot of imperial monuments from each. While Byzantine monuments are mostly in Istanbul with a number of intact artifacts in historically important, but nowadays provincial towns such as İznik and Vize. Ottoman monuments, on the other hand, while can be found almost anywhere in the region, are best seen in Bursa, Edirne, and Istanbul—the three consecutive capitals of the empire.
The main wine areas of the region are the Şarköy District on the Marmara coast of Eastern Thrace which produces wine out of many varieties, the Marmara island of Avşa where the local wine is of varying quality but is often strong, and the Aegean island of Bozcaada which has a wine tradition dating back millenia ago.
The town of Susurluk in the south is renowned nationwide for its local foamy ayran, which is available in (and apparently advertised by) numerous rest areas along the main Istanbul–Izmir highway.