Bordered by Greece, Bulgaria, the Balkan mountains, and the Aegean and Black Seas, Thrace is the European part of Türkiye, stretching north and west from Istanbul. This region is a mosaic of sandy beaches, rainforests, historical cities, and lush valleys—an unexpectedly perfect setting for vineyards and winemaking.
I had lived in Istanbul and Bodrum for several years before venturing into Thrace. Reading about the lesser-known wine route through Thrace sparked my interest, and I set out on a week-long road trip to explore its four major wine regions. I have since returned to the region several times.
While not a hotspot for international tourism, English is widely understood in Thrace. A few Turkish phrases, however, will endear you to the locals.
This wine route includes the wine regions of Kirklareli, Tekirdag, Sarkoy and Gelibolu and starts from Edirne, Thrace's largest city. Rich in Ottoman history and architecture, it’s a three-hour drive from Istanbul – just keep in mind that driving in Türkiye brings its own set of challenges, even on the motorways.
Allow at least a week for a trip, although you can easily stretch it out to 10 days. This gives you enough time to explore these charming towns and unwind at the wineries. If you prefer not to drive, consider a private tour from Istanbul guided by an Italian-trained sommelier.
The wine tradition in Thrace is ancient, as Homer's mention of 'honey sweet black wines' suggests. Today, family-owned vineyards practice modern viticulture to produce high-quality red, white and rose wines while emphasizing environmental stewardship.
If visiting in October, you might join in the harvest and enjoy a stay at the vineyards' boutique hotels.
Edirne welcomes you with its mosque-dotted skyline and relaxed pace. Highlights include the towering Selimiye Mosque, the Sultan Bayazit II complex, and the famed oil wrestling stadium.
Mosques and minarets will greet you on arrival to Edirne, along with fewer crowds and relatively relaxed traffic. It's a city still hidden from the typical tourist trail, offering an art-rich, serene alternative to Türkiye's bustling tourist spots, perfect for a quiet stay.
What you will find here, though, is Turkish visitors. The locals love Thrace and come here during their holiday season and Ramadan.
While in Edirne, visit the Selimiye Mosque, built in 1575, which has the highest minarets in all of Turkiye, surpassing even the ones of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The Complex of Sultan Bayazit II is also well worth visiting as it gives visitors an incredible insight into the art, education and culture of the Ottoman Empire.
Then wander to the stadium, where one of the most popular sports is performed: oil wrestling. The wrestlers are celebrities and even have their statues outside.
Just outside of Edirne, stop at the Arda Vineyard to taste their merlot and shiraz. Then continue east to Kirklareli, where you'll be greeted by charming half-timbered houses, reminiscent of the Black Sea region.
You’ll see impressive mosques too, including the Hizir Bey Mosque and the Karaca Ibrahim Bey Mosque.
Take a couple of hours to visit Kirklareli Museum, filled with prehistoric treasures. Then head to the town's old train station.
While the train station is no longer in use, an old steam engine is parked on the rails, and the cafe preserves a table where Agatha Christie used to have tea when she stopped over on her train journeys to Istanbul.
Stop at Vino Dessera, a family-run vineyard to try their wine. There is also a small hotel attached to the winery.
An additional hour’s drive takes you to Demirkoy, near the border with Bulgaria. Demirkoy is the gateway to Igneada Longoz Forests National Park and Europe’s only rainforest. Drive along flooded woods and lakes and emerge at another wonder of nature: the spectacular Dupnisa Cave.
The caves are beautifully lit and easy to navigate. They are also a haven for bats. Outside is a kiosk where you can buy soft drinks and delicious kebabs if you are hungry.
Then, continue on to one of the best and most famous vineyards in Thrace: the Arcadia Vineyards, and a very special hotel.
From a distance, the Bakucha Vineyard Hotel looks like a castle, and you will indeed be treated like royalty when you arrive. This winery is only about 20 years old, but already the meticulously and ecologically cultivated merlots, sauvignon blanc, and other wines have achieved a reputation for quality.
The owner and his daughter greet you and tell you that they want their guests to feel like they are family. And they put a lot of energy into that. The hotel is new and modern but with high ceilings, big rooms, and five-star bathrooms. After your journey, you will want to relax, and an absolute highlight is a huge outdoor jacuzzi where you can sit under the stars.
Expect a huge Turkish breakfast, with honey harvested from the vineyard’s bees, tours of the vineyards and the processing plant, and, of course, more opportunities for wine tasting.
Much is still done by hand to ensure that the grapes are treated with utmost care and respect. You can taste to your heart’s content, clearing your palate with chunks of home-baked bread. Of course, you can also buy the wine you like best. This is one of the places where guests are welcome to participate during harvest time in October.
Continue south in the direction of Tekirdag. Along the way, visit another outstanding vineyard: Barbare. Family-owned and rather small, this vineyard also produces high-quality wines. Taste as much as you like, sitting on a terrace amidst the vineyards overlooking the Sea of Marmara.
This area has several other wineries where you may want to stop.
When you leave, the hosts will treat you to a particular Turkish custom: throwing a glass of water after your car. As the water flows down the road, it ensures that you,the honoured guest, will return. Sometimes they also throw flowers after you.
One of the last stops on this road trip, Tekirdag is an Ottoman-era resort town and a popular weekend getaway for people living in Istanbul. Situated on the Sea of Marmara, the city has a big commercial port, a colourful yacht marina and many beautiful beaches.
I love the Hotel Ramada right on the beach with its balconies and terraces and a great breakfast buffet. Right down the road from the hotel is a shopping centre where you can buy excellent leather jackets and bags. If anything needs to be altered, they do it on the spot.
For those interested in history, the Tekirdag Museum of Archaeology is worth a visit. It’s located in an eye-catching white, blue, and brown building. There are several mosques and Ertugrul Firkateyni Park if you’ve had enough of relaxing on the beach. Also, be sure to try the kofte ( spicy meatballs) when you visit Tekirdag - Ozciz Kofte Salonu is a good option.
Suvla’s vineyards on the Gallipoli Peninsula are the final stop of this wine route, and the outstanding wines at Chateau Nuzun, one of the best-known vineyards in the area, are the perfect end to the trip.
Established in 2008, the vineyard also has a small boutique hotel and restaurant. The owners are a delightful couple who speak very good English and are happy to explain things to visitors.
From Suvla, it’s a four-hour drive back to Istanbul.
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Last Updated 8 January 2024