Driving across Europe to Türkiye on your Sila Yolu? Try our leisurely southern route
If you’re taking a road trip through Europe to Türkiye this summer and you have some time on your hands, take a look at this meandering route which promises an unforgettable experience. This route is the ultimate Sila Yolu experience, the term used by European Turks for the journey home, which conjures up so much more than a road trip - this is a veritable spiritual and cultural journey through natural beauty and centuries of history, before reaching the familiar warmth of the Turkish homeland.
Our suggested long route invites you on an exciting journey from Germany across seven countries discovering the culture and history of some of Europe's most beautiful cities and lakes on your journey to Türkiye. You will get an authentic taste of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. Stop off wherever and however long you choose on this suggested long route starting in Germany and driving through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece to reach Türkiye.
Even if your journey starts elsewhere in Europe, the road trip to Türkiye will almost certainly pass through part of Germany. This road trip begins in the Rhine metropolis of Cologne and ends in the magic city of Istanbul. If you want to take a more direct but still leisurely route, have a look at this itinerary or for our shortest route, check out this route. Bon voyage!
- Cologne → Munich - 575 km - 6 hrs
- Munich → Chiemsee - 97 km - ~ 1 hr
- Chiemsee → Salzburg - 51 km - 45 mins
- Salzburg → Wörthersee - 216 km - 2 hrs 30 mins
- Wörthersee → Ljubljana - 114 km - 1 hr 30 mins
- Ljubljana → Split - 467 km - 5 hrs
- Split → Mostar - 166 km - 2 hrs
- Mostar → Sarajevo - 125 km - 2 hrs
- Sarajevo → Podgorica - 230 km - 4 hrs 15 mins
- Podgorica → Tirana - 160 km - 3 hrs 15 mins
- Tirana → Berat - 98 km - 1 hr 45 mins
- Berat → Elbasan - 69 km - 1 hr 20 mins
- Elbasan → Thessaloniki - 361 km - 4 hrs 50 mins
- Thessaloniki → Komotini - 247 km - 2 hrs 40 mins
- Komotini → Alexandroupoli - 58 km - 50 mins
- Alexandroupoli → İpsala - 55 km - 50 mins
- İpsala → Tekirdağ - 110 km - 1 hr 20 mins
- Tekirdağ → İstanbul - 149 km - 2 hrs 30 mins
Start your road trip in the western city of Cologne. As the largest city in the German state of Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne is well known for its neo-gothic architecture, which is omnipresent throughout the city. It is also the fourth most populous city in Germany and was one of Europe’s largest during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
A must-see on your visit is the Cologne Central Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Germany. Opened in 2017, it features a modern and elegant design and can host up to 1,200 worshippers. It is open for prayer and regular events.
One of Cologne’s most famous landmarks is the Cologne Cathedral. This Gothic-style cathedral is one of the largest in the world and is known for its stunning architecture and intricate stained glass windows. Visitors can climb to the top of the cathedral for stunning views of the city.
Another popular attraction is the Hohenzollern Bridge. This historic bridge spans the Rhine. For those interested in art and history, the Museum Ludwig is a must. It features an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by Picasso, Warhol, and Lichtenstein. The Roman-Germanic Museum is another popular museum that shows the history of the city from Roman times to the Middle Ages.
Cologne is also known for its charming old town with narrow streets lined with colourful buildings, cafes and restaurants. The Alter Markt is a popular square in the old town, known for its historic buildings and bustling market.
After your stay in Cologne, it’s time to drive to the other side of the country to Munich, which is approx 571 km and will take around 6 hours to reach.
Before arriving in Munich, make a detour to the "fairytale castle" Neuschwanstein in Schwangau, one of the most famous sights in Germany! It was built in 1869 for the Bavarian King Ludwig II as an idealised concept of a knight's castle from the Middle Ages.
The next stop is Munich, the vibrant capital city of Bavaria, offering a warm and welcoming atmosphere for travellers seeking to explore its rich history, cultural heritage, and beautiful surroundings. With its diverse population and an increasing number of facilities catering to the needs of Muslims, Munich has become an increasingly popular destination for those looking for a Muslim-friendly experience.
The city is renowned for its architectural marvels, including the iconic Frauenkirche, Nymphenburg Palace, and the BMW Museum. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of the Marienplatz, Munich's central square, and witness the famous Glockenspiel show.
Munich is home to several mosques that offer prayer facilities and services for Muslim visitors. The Islamic Center Munich, located in the city's Sendling district, is one of the largest mosques in Germany and welcomes visitors. Additionally, there are other smaller mosques and prayer rooms scattered across the city, ensuring easy access to places of worship.
For those looking to indulge in shopping, Munich offers a variety of options. The Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauser Strasse form a bustling shopping district, where visitors can find international brands, local boutiques, and specialty stores. The city's traditional markets, such as the Viktualienmarkt, are also worth exploring, offering fresh produce, spices, and souvenirs.
In terms of halal food, there is a wide variety from Turkish kebabs to Middle Eastern cuisine, Munich offers a wide range of options to satisfy diverse palates. Popular areas such as Schwanthalerhöhe and Sendlinger Tor are known for their halal restaurants, providing a range of delicious culinary experiences.
After your visit in Munich, it’s time for a 97 km drive to Chiemsee.
Also known as the Bavarian Sea, the picturesque Chiemsee in south-eastern Bavaria offers beautiful scenery with the mountains to the south, two attractive islands that can be reached by boat trip and a number of different villages to explore.
The Chiemsee boasts natural beauty with crystal clear waters that are perfect for swimming, boating or simply relaxing by the shore. On the island of Herrenchiemsee is a magnificent palace built by King Ludwig II and inspired by the Palace of Versailles, and on the Frauenchiemsee is a picturesque Benedictine monastery.
Accommodation options around Chiemsee range from hotels to guesthouses, where visitors can find comfortable and suitable places to stay. While halal food options might be limited, hotels offer vegetarian and seafood dishes. In addition, if you are staying in a villa or have your own camper van with meal preparation facilities, there are several supermarkets in the surrounding towns where you can buy halal products and prepare meals if required.
There are no official places of prayer around the Chiemsee, but there are many quiet places to pray in the natural beauty around the lake. Nearby towns like Rosenheim and Traunstein have prayer facilities for Muslim visitors.
Exploring the surrounding area is highly recommended as it is known for its stunning landscapes, charming villages and outdoor activities.
Just a short 40-minute drive takes you across the border to Austria for your next stop: Salzburg.
Nestled in the Austrian Alps, the enchanting city of Salzburg, offers a delightful experience for Muslim travellers seeking a blend of history, culture and natural beauty.
Salzburg's UNESCO-listed Old Town (Altstadt) is a treasure trove of architectural gems, including the grand Salzburg Cathedral and the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
The Mirabell Palace and Gardens offer a tranquil escape, while the Salzburg Museum provides insight into the city's history and art. The city's most iconic site is the birthplace of renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which has been converted into a museum.
The Salzburg Islamic Cultural Centre in the Itzling district offers prayer facilities. It's recommended to check prayer times and access details in advance.
You will find several restaurants in Salzburg that offer halal or vegetarian dishes. Exploring the Old Town area reveals a plethora of eateries serving international cuisine, including Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisines. The friendly staff is often happy to accommodate specific dietary requirements upon request.
The nearby Alps offer opportunities for hiking, skiing and breathtaking mountain vistas. The Salzkammergut region, with its serene lakes and charming villages, offers a scenic respite from city life.
Next up is a short trip across the country to Wörthersee, a 2 hr and 30 mins drive away.
The beautiful Lake Wörthersee in southern Austria offers picturesque landscapes, crystal clear turquoise waters in a majestic Alpine setting and is an ideal retreat for those seeking relaxation, tranquillity and spiritual rejuvenation.
The serenity of nature around Lake Wörthersee offers countless opportunities for outdoor and leisure activities. Visitors can engage in leisurely walks or hikes around the lake, take a refreshing dip in the pristine waters, or simply relax on the sandy beaches. The beauty of the surrounding mountains also offers a chance for scenic drives and exploration of nearby trails.
For cultural experiences, the Wörthersee and its surrounding charming villages offer a rich history and heritage. Discover historic landmarks, castles and churches that showcase the region's architectural and artistic heritage. The town of Klagenfurt, located near Wörthersee, boasts a beautiful old town with well-preserved medieval buildings and museums, providing insights into Austrian history and culture.
While traditional Austrian cuisine may include pork and non-halal ingredients, many restaurants in the area offer vegetarian and seafood options, allowing you to enjoy local flavours without compromising on your religious beliefs.
It’s time for another short drive of 1 hour and 30 mins across the border to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana.
The small but charming city of Ljubljana offers a delightful and inclusive experience that combines historical landmarks, vibrant culture and a welcoming atmosphere. It is known for its pedestrian-friendly streets, green spaces and beautiful architecture.
Ljubljana's rich history and cultural heritage are evident in its well-preserved architecture and landmarks. The mediaeval old town, with its cobblestone streets and Baroque-style buildings, invites visitors to explore its charming alleyways and historic sites. Notable landmarks such as Ljubljana Castle, Triple Bridge and the beautiful Dragon Bridge testify to the city's architectural beauty and provide sightseeing and photography opportunities.
For spiritual fulfilment, visit the Islamic Religious and Cultural Centre, which offers prayer facilities and a space for community gatherings. The centre is an essential hub for the local Muslim community and provides a welcoming environment for visitors looking to connect with fellow Muslims.
Nature lovers will appreciate Ljubljana's green spaces and proximity to natural wonders. The city is home to numerous parks, such as Tivoli Park, which provides a peaceful retreat for relaxation and outdoor activities. Additionally, Lake Bled and Triglav National Park are just a short drive away, offering breathtaking landscapes, hiking trails, and opportunities for spiritual reflection amidst nature's beauty.
Ljubljana also boasts a diverse culinary scene that caters to different dietary requirements. While traditional Slovenian cuisine may include non-halal ingredients, there are a variety of international cuisine restaurants that offer halal options ranging from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine to vegetarian and fish dishes.
After your visit to Ljubljana, it's time to head east across the border into Croatia, an approximately 5-hour drive to reach Split.
Your next destination is Split, which is located on Croatia's wonderful Dalmatian Coast, offering a captivating blend of history, natural beauty, and a warm Mediterranean ambiance. As the second-largest city in Croatia, Split is home to a wealth of cultural and architectural wonders that harmonise with its idyllic coastal setting, offering you an unforgettable experience.
Muslims will find that Split is a welcoming and inclusive destination, with amenities and facilities that cater to their needs. While halal-certified restaurants are limited, several establishments offer vegetarian, seafood, and international cuisine options, ensuring a variety of dining choices that align with Islamic dietary preferences.
At the heart of Split is the historic Diocletian's Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world. This impressive complex, with its grand architecture and labyrinthine streets, is a treasure trove of history and culture. Explore its ancient walls, the Temple of Jupiter and the Peristyle, an open-air courtyard that hosts various cultural events and performances. The palace's unique fusion of Roman, mediaeval, and Renaissance architecture creates a captivating atmosphere for exploration.
Beyond the palace, Split offers breathtaking natural landscapes and azure Adriatic Sea views. Marjan Hill, a verdant forest park, provides a peaceful retreat for those seeking tranquillity amidst nature. Its walking trails offer panoramic views of the city and the coastline, making it an ideal spot for spiritual reflection and contemplation. The nearby beaches, such as Bacvice Beach, allow you to relax and enjoy the sun, sand and crystal-clear waters.
For your spiritual needs, Split is home to a few mosques and Islamic centres, including the Islamic Centre of Split, where Muslim travellers can find prayer facilities and connect with the local Muslim community.
Our next destination is Mostar in Bosnia, about 2 hours drive from Split.
Mostar, the enchanting city nestled in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, is of immense beauty, history and cultural significance, offering an unforgettable experience. With its harmonious blend of Ottoman and European influences, the city boasts a vibrant Muslim community that proudly preserves its Islamic heritage while warmly welcoming visitors from around the globe.
Central to Mostar's allure is the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), a UNESCO World Heritage Site and architectural masterpiece. Constructed in the 16th century, this bridge serves as a symbol of the city's multicultural past and serves as a gathering point for locals and tourists alike. Standing atop the bridge presents breathtaking views of the turquoise Neretva River, allowing you to appreciate the historical and cultural significance of the area.
Meandering through the captivating old town, you will encounter several beautiful mosques that grace the cityscape. Among them is the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, a serene and spiritually uplifting space for prayer. Its distinctive minaret and intricate architectural details exemplify the rich Islamic heritage of the region, inviting you to embrace the spiritual essence of Mostar.
Mostar holds deep respect for Islamic traditions and customs, ensuring a welcoming atmosphere for Muslim travellers. Halal food options abound, allowing you to savour authentic Bosnian cuisine while adhering to your dietary preferences. Numerous halal-certified restaurants and cafes offer tantalising dishes like cevapi (grilled minced meat) and burek (savoury pastry).
Moreover, the warm and hospitable nature of the locals adds to Mostar's allure. They take pride in their inclusive mindset, embracing diversity and fostering peaceful coexistence. Interacting with the locals provides a chance to deepen your understanding of the city's Islamic heritage and engage in cultural exchanges, leaving you with a profound appreciation for the local community.
Beyond the city's borders lies a world of natural wonders awaiting exploration. Mostar's surroundings encompass picturesque mountains, pristine rivers and breathtaking landscapes, offering an array of outdoor activities for adventurous travellers. From hiking amidst lush greenery to rafting down the vibrant river currents or swimming in crystal-clear waters, Mostar presents a harmonious blend of natural beauty and Islamic heritage.
Now it's time to visit the capital of Bosnia, Sarajevo, which is a 2 hour drive.
On the way to Sarajevo, you need to stop in Jablanica, also known as the “Balkan’s capital of lamb on the spit”. After having re-energised with a portion of delicious jagnjetina (roasted lamb), continue your journey to Sarajevo. The road will take you through Konjic, a must stop to view the famous Stara Ćuprija bridge, built over six slightly pointed stone arches between 1682 and 1683 by Ali-aga Hasečić, a wonderful example of Ottoman bridge architecture in the Balkans.
Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a captivating destination that holds great significance for Muslim travellers. Known as the "Jerusalem of Europe", Sarajevo boasts a rich Islamic heritage, a vibrant Muslim community and a seamless blend of cultures and traditions.
Sarajevo's historic core is a treasure trove of Islamic landmarks, offering a unique opportunity to explore its rich heritage. The city is home to numerous mosques, each with its own distinctive charm. The Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque, dating back to the 16th century, is an architectural gem that serves as a spiritual centre for the local Muslim community. Its impressive courtyard, elegant minaret and exquisite interior design create a serene atmosphere that invites visitors to contemplate and connect with their faith.
Baščaršija, the city's Ottoman-era bazaar, is known for the famous 18th-century Sebilj fountain. The Ottoman-style wooden fountain features intricate and ornate craftsmanship.
Baščaršija is also a bustling hub where the vibrant past comes to life. It showcases a diverse array of traditional crafts, authentic Bosnian cuisine and Islamic artefacts. Strolling through its narrow streets, you can savour the aroma of freshly brewed Bosanska kahva (Bosnian coffee) and taste local delicacies like ćevapi (grilled meat), burek (savoury pastry) and baklava (sweet pastry). Halal food options are readily available, with numerous restaurants and cafes serving traditional Bosnian dishes prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary guidelines. From delectable grilled meats to mouth watering pastries, Sarajevo offers a range of halal-certified culinary delights.
Baščaršija also houses workshops where skilled artisans craft beautiful copperware and traditional Islamic calligraphy, providing an opportunity to witness the preservation of ancient crafts.
A few minutes walk from the Sebilj fountain is the Kovaci Cemetery (Shahid/Martyr Cemetery), where you can pay a visit to the grave of the “Wise King”, Alija Izetbegović, first President of the newly-independent Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who led the Bosnians during the Bosnian War.
Also visit the Latin Bridge, also known as Princip Bridge (Principov Most), an Ottoman bridge over the river Miljacka next to Baščaršija. On June 28, 1914, the Latin Bridge was the site where Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb nationalist, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie. This event was a catalyst for the outbreak of World War I.
The Tunel Spasa (Tunnel of Hope) is an underground tunnel that played a crucial role during the Siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s, providing a lifeline for its residents and the outside world. It served as a vital supply route, allowing food, medical supplies, and ammunition to be transported into the city and enabling residents to flee or access essential services.
Sarajevo's multicultural history is reflected in its architectural landscape, with stunning examples of Islamic, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian styles. The Sacred Heart Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stands majestically alongside the historical Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque, symbolising the harmonious coexistence of different faiths in the city.
Beyond its historical and cultural heritage, Sarajevo is nestled amidst breathtaking natural beauty. Surrounded by mountains and blessed with pristine rivers, the city presents opportunities for outdoor adventures such as hiking, skiing, and white-water rafting. Trebević Mountain, overlooking Sarajevo, offers panoramic vistas and a chance to reconnect with nature while basking in the serenity of the surroundings.
After your stay in Sarajevo, it's time for a 4 hour and 20 minute drive to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.
Podgorica sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Morača and the Ribnica, dividing the city into 2 parts: on the south, the Stara Varoš, the old Ottoman town, and to the north, the Nova Varoš, home to a lively mix of shops. Podgorica is a vibrant and welcoming destination for all visitors. With its rich history, diverse culture and significant Muslim population, Podgorica offers a mix of traditional Islamic heritage and modern day attractions.
Podgorica's museums and historical sites provide fascinating insights into the region's past. The National Museum of Montenegro houses a collection of artefacts, while the Modern Art Gallery showcases contemporary Montenegrin art. The Old town, Stara Varoš, display a blend of Ottoman and European architectural influences, making it a captivating place to explore. The iconic Ottoman-era Sahat Kula (Clock Tower) creates a serene atmosphere for visitors with its elegant architecture.
The Nova Varoš, the modern city centre of Podgorica, offers a lively atmosphere with its bustling cafes, vibrant markets and cultural events. Trg Republike, the central square, is a hub of activity, hosting concerts, festivals and markets throughout the year. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture, sample traditional delicacies, and interact with the warm and friendly locals.
Podgorica boasts several mosques that stand as symbols of the city's Islamic heritage. Amongst them, the 18th century Osmanagić Mosque and the Haxhi Zeka Mosque are notable places of worship, offering peaceful spaces for prayer and contemplation.
Muslim travellers will find a range of halal-friendly facilities and services in Podgorica, including halal restaurants serving delectable local cuisine. Local markets like Ribnica and Voli offer halal food, allowing Muslim travellers to savour authentic Montenegrin flavours.
Podgorica is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. Take a stroll along the Moraca River and enjoy scenic views. With lush landscapes, diverse wildlife and scenic boat tours, the nearby Lake Skadar National Park is a nature lover's paradise. Also explore the beautiful Ostrog Monastery, an important spiritual site carved into a cliff and the abandoned fortification of Montenegrin Alcatraz on the Island of Grmožur.
Make sure to also venture beyond Podgorica to explore the wider region. Montenegro's stunning coastal towns such as Budva and Kotor are within easy reach, offering pristine beaches, mediaeval fortresses and enchanting old towns, allowing you to relax, indulge in water sports and witness the mesmerising sunsets over the Adriatic Sea.
After your visit to Podgorica, it's time to head south to the Albanian capital of Tirana, a 2 hour and 50 minute drive.
A fascinating destination with a diverse population and historical significance, Tirana offers a unique blend of Islamic traditions and modern day attractions. Tirana is a city of contrasts, where modern architecture blends harmoniously with historical sites.
Skanderbeg Square, the heart of the city, is surrounded by government buildings, museums and cultural landmarks. The National History Museum showcases Albania's rich past, while the Pyramid of Tirana stands as a unique architectural marvel. The Bektashi World Centre, a significant place for the Bektashi Sufi order.The Clock Tower, a symbol of Tirana, offers panoramic views of the city.
Tirana's lively atmosphere is characterised by its bustling markets, vibrant cafes and a thriving arts scene. Blloku, once a restricted neighbourhood, has been transformed into a trendy district filled with restaurants, boutiques and art galleries, with live music performances and theatrical productions.
Tirana is home to numerous mosques, reflecting the city's strong Muslim identity. A prominent landmark is the Et'hem Bey Mosque, an architectural masterpiece adorned with intricate designs and colourful frescoes. Experience the tranquillity of prayer in this sacred space or witness the beautiful call to prayer that resonates from its minaret.
The Namazgah Mosque and the King Mosque are also important places of worship that attract both locals and visitors.
Muslim travellers will find a range of halal-friendly facilities and services in Tirana. The city boasts a variety of restaurants that serve halal cuisine, allowing Muslim visitors to savour traditional Albanian dishes. Additionally, several supermarkets and grocery stores provide halal food options. Local markets, such as the Pazari i Ri (New Bazaar), offer a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and halal meat, providing ample options for those wishing to prepare their own meals.
Nature lovers will find solace in Tirana's surrounding landscapes. The Dajti Mountain National Park offers breathtaking views of the city and the opportunity to partake in outdoor activities such as hiking or cable car rides. Additionally, Lake Tirana provides a peaceful setting for a leisurely stroll or a boat ride.
After visiting Tirana, head south to Berat, which takes 1 hour and 45 minutes.
One of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Albania, Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fascinating tourist destination with a rich history and Islamic heritage. Known as the "City of a Thousand Windows" for its well-preserved Ottoman architecture, it offers a unique blend of cultural charm and natural beauty.
The historic old town of Berat, known as Mangalem, is a maze of narrow streets lined with traditional Ottoman-style houses with unique architecture and offers a lively atmosphere with many local handicraft shops. Perched on a hill overlooking the city, Berat Castle invites visitors to explore the remains of ancient fortifications with panoramic views.
Berat's riverside location adds to its charm. The Osum River, which flows through the city, creates a picturesque backdrop, perfect for leisurely walks along its banks. The Gorica Bridge, an iconic landmark, offers a stunning view of the city's skyline and is a perfect spot for capturing memorable photographs.
Berat is home to several mosques that showcase the city's Islamic identity. The 13th-century King Mosque, with its beautiful frescoes and elegant design, stands as a symbol of the city's historical significance. The Lead Mosque, dating back to the 16th century, is another notable place of worship attracting visitors with its intricate details and a peaceful atmosphere.
Muslims will find a welcoming environment in Berat, with halal-friendly facilities and services available. There are a variety of restaurants offering delicious traditional Albanian cuisine that cater to specific dietary needs. Local markets provide an array of fresh produce, allowing visitors to experience the flavours of the region.
Beyond the city's cultural and historical attractions, Berat is surrounded by natural beauty. The nearby Tomorr Mountain offers opportunities for hiking and exploration, rewarding adventurers with breathtaking vistas and a chance to connect with nature. The Osumi Canyon, with its crystal-clear waters and dramatic cliffs, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
It's time to leave for our next stop, Elbasan, a 1 hour and 15 minute drive away.
Founded in 1466 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, Elbasan is situated on the north bank of the Shkumbin River in the highlands at the eastern end of a fertile, well-watered plain. As in other Greek cities in the region, about 85 percent of the population was Muslim until World War II. Architectural remains of the former city walls are visible. With its warm hospitality and rich cultural and historical heritage, this charming city invites visitors to explore its Islamic traditions and immerse itself in the authentic Balkan atmosphere.
Elbasan is home to several mosques that reflect the city's strong Muslim identity. Built in the 15th century, the King Mosque stands as a symbol of Elbasan's historical importance. With its beautiful architecture and serene ambiance, it provides a peaceful space for prayer and contemplation.
The Old Town, known as the Castle District, is a treasure trove of historical sites such as the 4th-century Elbasan Castle, which offers a glimpse into the town's past with its two remaining ancient walls. In the castle area you will find cobblestone streets lined with traditional Ottoman-style houses, the impressive Sahati (Clock Tower) and two water springs. Exploring the narrow streets and alleys, visitors can also discover local craft shops that showcase the city's artistic traditions.
At the lively Elbasan Bazaar in the Castle District, visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture and find a variety of goods, from traditional handicrafts to local produce and delicious snacks. The bazaar offers an authentic glimpse into daily life in the city and provides opportunities to interact with friendly locals.
The city offers a range of halal restaurants serving traditional Albanian dishes and the local markets provide ample options for halal food and ingredients.
Elbasan's natural surroundings add to its allure. The nearby Shkumbin River offers picturesque landscapes and a tranquil setting for relaxation, ideal for leisurely walks along the riverbanks, picnicking or fishing.
It's time to hit the road and head east towards Greece to the city of Thessaloniki, about a 5-hour drive.
Sprawling along the edge of the Thermaic Gulf, Thessaloniki is classed as one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. With its rich history, vibrant culture and Islamic heritage, Greece's second-largest city is a captivating destination for Muslim travellers. From 1430 and for 482 years the city was a major city of the Ottoman Empire (Selanik is its Turkish name). It's hard to imagine how minarets still dominated the city's skyline at the beginning of this century, until the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne mandated the mandatory exchange of Muslim and Christian populations between Greece and Turkey, leading to the disappearance of the city's centuries-long Muslim community and led to the destruction of many of their monuments.
However, Thessaloniki is still home to several mosques that showcase the city's Islamic legacy. The Hamza Bey Mosque is a notable landmark with its elegant architecture and serene ambiance, and the Alaca Imaret Mosque is a historical complex housing a mosque, a soup kitchen and a bathhouse.
Thessaloniki's rich history is evident in its archaeological sites and historical landmarks. The White Tower offers panoramic views of the area and houses a museum dedicated to Thessaloniki's past. Originally built as a mausoleum, the Rotunda has served as a church and mosque throughout history and is now a fascinating monument that reflects the city's diverse cultural heritage.
The city's vibrant atmosphere is characterised by its lively streets, bustling markets and vibrant nightlife. The Aristotelous Square is lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants, offering a perfect spot to relax and soak in the city's energy. The Modiano Market, a bustling bazaar, is a treasure trove of local products, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the flavours and aromas of Thessaloniki.
The city also boasts numerous restaurants that serve delicious halal cuisine, allowing visitors to indulge in traditional Greek dishes while adhering to their dietary preferences. Local markets offer a variety of fresh produce and halal ingredients, providing ample options for those who wish to prepare their own meals.
Nature lovers will appreciate Thessaloniki's proximity to stunning natural landscapes. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and offers opportunities for hiking, nature walks and enjoying breathtaking views. The beautiful beaches of the Halkidiki Peninsula, just a short drive away, provide a perfect escape for relaxation and water activities.
After your stay in Thessaloniki, head east to Komotini - the journey takes 2 hours and 50 minutes.
Located on the Thracian plain near the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains, the picturesque town of Komotini has some of the finest architecture in Greece combining natural beauty and traditional elements. It is a religious and cultural crossroad where Christians and Muslims live harmoniously for centuries. It offers Muslim travellers a unique blend of cultural heritage, warm hospitality and a vibrant atmosphere. Komotini is home to a sizable Turkish-speaking Muslim minority from the time of the Ottoman occupation, who were excluded from the aforementioned 1923 population exchange. The city's landmark is the Ottoman Clock Tower, which was built in 1884 as a prayer memorial to Sultan Abdul Hamid. It stands next to the 19th-century Yeni Mosque (called Yeni Tzami in Greek and Saat Kule in Turkish), the only surviving structure in Greece with Iznik tiles from the 1580s.
Home to an impressive total of nine mosques, Komotini has retained much of its Islamic identity. The Ottoman-era Eski Mosque is a significant landmark with its stunning architecture and peaceful ambiance.
Komotini's rich multicultural heritage is evident in its numerous museums. Amongst them, the Folklore Museum of Komotini showcases the region's traditions and cultural heritage through exhibits of traditional costumes, crafts and artefacts, and the Archaeological Museum of Komotini features a collection of ancient artefacts, offering insights into the city's history.
The central square, Eirini Square, is a popular meeting place surrounded by cafes and restaurants where visitors can enjoy local delicacies and soak up the city's vibrant energy.
The city boasts numerous restaurants that serve delicious halal cuisine and local markets offer a variety of fresh produce and halal ingredients, providing ample options for those who wish to prepare their own meals.
The proximity of Komotini near the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains offers opportunities for hiking and nature walks with breathtaking views. The Evros Delta, a protected wetland area, is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
Next on your journey is a 45-minute drive to Alexandroupoli.
Located at the crossroads of sea and land routes, Alexandroupoli connects Europe and Asia. Once a fishing village, this vibrant coastal city offers a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere with its rich history, diverse cultural heritage and numerous attractions.
Mosques are available throughout the city, providing convenient places for prayer and spiritual reflection. Notably, the historic Alexandroupolis Mosque, situated in the city centre, is an architectural gem that showcases the region's Ottoman heritage.
The city’s cultural landmarks include the Ethnological Museum of Thrace showcasing the region's cultural heritage, while the Municipal Art Gallery offers a glimpse into Alexandroupoli's artistic scene.
Additionally, Alexandroupoli's iconic Lighthouse, which has proudly stood proud for over a century, and the splendid Egnatia Archaeological Park are perfect spots for scenic walks and relaxation. Alexandroupoli Beach stretches across an extensive coastline of crystal clear turquoise waters and is covered with light-coloured sand and pebbles.
Alexandroupoli is full of restaurants and eateries offering delicious and authentic dishes, from succulent kebabs to flavorful vegetarian mezes. Muslim visitors can savour a variety of culinary delights, including traditional Greek cuisine prepared with halal ingredients.
From Alexandroupoli it's time to cross the border into Türkiye to reach the next stop of our road trip, Ipsala, about an hour's drive away.
As you reach Türkiye for the final stops on this epic Sila Yolu, you can reflect on the life-enhancing experiences you have enjoyed en route and the rich Ottoman history which you have discovered on the way!
Ipsala, a charming town located in the Edirne Province of Turkey, offers a unique and culturally immersive experience for its visitors. With its historical sites, warm hospitality and Islamic heritage, Ipsala offers a delightful blend of religious significance and tranquil surroundings.
One of the top attractions for Muslim travellers in Ipsala is the Alaca Mustafa Pasha Mosque, a Gothic cathedral turned into a magnificent Ottoman mosque with stunning architecture and a serene ambiance. It is believed to have been made in the 15th century during the Murat period.
Ipsala is also home to a number of historical sites such as the Ipsala Fortress, a well-preserved medieval castle offering a glimpse into the town's rich past. Visitors can wander the walls and towers, marvel at the architectural details and appreciate the panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
Ipsala is situated in close proximity to the Meriç River, where visitors can enjoy peaceful walks along the riverbanks or engage in recreational activities such as fishing and boating.
Ipsala also has a vibrant local market where Muslim travellers can find a variety of halal food and traditional Turkish delicacies. The market offers an assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and other halal products.
Ipsala offers many hotels with halal food options, prayer facilities and other amenities to ensure a comfortable and fulfilling stay for Muslim travellers.
Ipsala is well-connected to nearby cities. Edirne, the capital of the province, is a short distance away and offers additional cultural and historical attractions, including the Selimiye Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Time for our penultimate destination, Tekirdag – about 1h30 drive from Ipsala.
Tekirdağ offers a rich blend of history, culture and Islamic heritage, making it an excellent destination for Muslim travellers. With its mosques, halal food options and various attractions, Tekirdağ provides a welcoming environment for visitors seeking a fulfilling and memorable experience.
Tekirdağ features numerous mosques, including the Namık Kemal Mosque, a beautiful structure that is considered a symbol of Islamic architecture in the city.
Among the historical and cultural sights of Tekirdag is the Rakoczi Museum housed in a historical mansion. It offers insight into the city's past and displays artefacts related to the Hungarian nobleman Francis II Rákóczi. Another must-see is the Tekirdag Archeology and Ethnography Museum, which exhibits archaeological finds and ethnographic artefacts from the region.
For nature lovers, Tekirdağ offers breathtaking landscapes and outdoor activities such as the Tekirdağ City Forest, providing a peaceful environment for walking, jogging and exploring.
Tekirdağ's location along the Sea of Marmara makes it an ideal destination for beachgoers. The city's coastline has beautiful sandy beaches where visitors can relax, swim and soak up the sun. There is a ladies-only beach in the town of Marmaraereğlisi, some 40 kms away.
Halal food is readily available throughout Tekirdağ. There is a wide range of restaurants and eateries offering delicious Turkish dishes made with halal ingredients. From traditional kebabs and mezes to seafood specialties, there are plenty of options to suit different tastes. Don't forget to taste Tekirdag Meatballs while visiting the city!
It's time for our final destination, Istanbul - a 1 hour and 50 minute drive. Where better to conclude your Sila Yolu but in the city which was capital of three Empires? In the spiritual home of the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans!
Istanbul, the vibrant metropolis spanning two continents, is a remarkable destination for visitors looking for an immersive and culturally rich experience. With its deep-rooted Islamic heritage, numerous mosques, halal cuisine options and Islamic attractions, Istanbul offers Muslim travellers a warm and welcoming environment.
Among the numerous mosques in Istanbul, the most famous is the magnificent Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, with its striking blue tiles and elegant architecture. It is an important religious site and invites visitors to explore its splendour. Another iconic mosque is the Suleymaniye Mosque, an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of Ottoman design.
Istanbul is also home to various Islamic historical and cultural landmarks that showcase its rich Islamic heritage. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hagia Sophia was built as a church and later converted into a mosque - praying here is an unforgettable experience. A large complex that served as the residence of Ottoman sultans, Topkapi Palace displays an extensive collection of Islamic artefacts, including the holy relics of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Halal dining options abound in Istanbul, offering a diverse dining experience, from street food stalls serving delicious doner kebabs and Turkish delights to fine dining restaurants serving traditional Ottoman dishes. The historic Sultanahmet district and the lively Beyoglu district are particularly well-known for their vibrant halal food scene.
The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar are vibrant marketplaces where Muslim tourists can indulge in a shopping extravaganza. These bustling markets offer a wide range of products including traditional clothing, carpets, spices and souvenirs.
For leisure and relaxation, the city's public parks and waterfront areas, such as Yıldız Park and Emirgan Park, offer peaceful retreats. The Bosphorus, dividing the city between Europe and Asia, offers opportunities for scenic boat trips and allows visitors to marvel at Istanbul's famous skyline from the water.
The city has an extensive public transport system, including buses, trams and ferries, making it easy to navigate and explore the different neighbourhoods.