The Great Outdoors in Istanbul and the Marmara Region

Information on the facilities in Istanbul for outdoor activities: walks, hikes and cycling activities in the area...

The Marmara Region has a varied topography, with a wide variety of landscapes, enabling visitors to find something to suit all tastes. The area is characterised by a central plain surrounded by mountains, making it unique in Turkey’s six regions.

With a mild climate throughout the year, the area offers a range of leisure and scenic activities for nature lovers. Tourists can choose from lakes and rivers, parks and mountains.

  • There are four natural lakes: Ulubat, Manyas, Sapanca and Iznik
  • There are a number of national parks including: Bird Paradise National Park and Kaz Mountain National Park (both in Bal?kesir), Uluda? National Park (in Bursa), and the Troy National Park (in Çanakkale)
  • The most popular mountains are the Kazda?? and Uluda?, and there are 12 mountain ranges altogether
  • Five rivers dominate the region; the most well known is the Meriç

National Parks

The main national parks (Milli Park?) in the region are:

Bird Paradise National Park in Bal?kesir (Ku?cenneti Milli Park?): The park is situated approximately six to seven hours' drive from Istanbul. Since the park is located on migratory paths, over 250 species of birds visit the lake (Ku? Gölü). The best season for birdwatching is between the months of March to July and September to October. With information desks and a museum, visitors can find out about the various migrating birds that frequent the park. Species that breed around the lake include the Dalmatian pelican, the cormorant, heron, spoonbill and great crested grebe. Birds of prey such as sparrowhawks and spotted eagles can also be seen. Binoculars are provided at the visitor centre.

Kaz Mountain National Park in Bal?kesir (Kazda?? Milli Park?): The park is situated approximately six hours' drive from Istanbul. The mountain's mythological name is Ida, and many legends surround it; it is said that the first ever beauty contest took place here. With an altitude of over 1,700m, it is home to olive and pine trees, and a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is also said to be one of three areas in the world with the greatest amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Visitors can tour the park with a trained guide.

  • For further information about Kaz Mountain: Click here

Uluda? National Park in Bursa (Uluda? Milli Park?): Bursa is situated five hours' drive from Istanbul. The national park can be reached by road, cable car and ski lift. There are also helicopter services to the area. The park includes 67,000 hectares of woodland and is home to the highest point in the Marmara region at an altitude of over 2,500m. The best time to visit the park is in spring or summer, as the area is relatively cool due to its high altitudes.

Uluda? National Park is also a popular winter tourism destination. There are many activities available such as climbing, hiking and skiing. There are also different types of accommodation on offer.

  • For further information about Uluda? national park: Click here

Troy (Troia) National Park in Çanakkale (Truva Milli Park?): Çanakkale is six hours from Istanbul by car. Private bus companies also go to Çanakkale daily. If going by car, take the Çanakkale-?zmir or Bursa-Bal?kesir routes. The park is best known for the ancient city of Troy mentioned in the legends of Greek poet Homer. The area is a historic site representing 3,000 years of human habitation, although remains are sparse. Visitors to the park can discover palaces and houses, including the Palace House which some consider as the Palace of King Priam, mentioned in Homer's Iliad, a defence wall and a Roman theatre. The entrance to the park is dominated by a model of the legendary Trojan horse.

  • For further information about Troy national park: Click here

Hiking and Walking

There are many hiking routes in the region, easily accessible from Istanbul, and many companies organise trekking tours for one or two days with overnight accommodation. Information about trails within the region are available from the General Directory of Forestry (Orman Genel Müdürlü?ü).

Popular nearby areas for hiking include Kerpe, where there are unmarked paths along the coast; and the Inonu Valley near ?zmit, with marked and unmarked trails in the valley and forests.

Other good areas for walking and hiking in the region include:

  • Adapazar?-?zmit region: Lake of Leech (Sülüklügöl), Maden Creek, Kazankaya, Sapanca-?ahinkaya, Ball?kayalar (Honey Rocks) and the Crocus Plateau
  • Thrace (Trakya) region: K?y?köy in K?rklareli and Uçmakdere, an old village located on the coast in Tekirda?
  • Yalova-?znik region: The Erikli Plateau, Sudü?en, Lake Iznik and Sansarak Canyon

The Turkish Hiking Federation (Türkiye Da?c?l?k Klübü - TDF) is the overseeing body for mountain sports and can provide information and maps of hiking and walking trails in Turkey.

  • The Turkish Hiking Federation
    At
    : Ulus Business Center, Ulus, Ankara
    Tel: 0312 311 91 20
  • For further information about trails in the ?zmit area: Click here (e-magazine). Although in Turkish, the booklet has maps detailing trails in the region
  • Eco Turkey has further details on hiking in Turkey: Click here
  • See The Business Directory business directory for Walking, Hiking & Climbing

Mountain Biking and Cycling

There are many mountain biking routes in the region, and cycling tours make it possible to visit back roads and hidden villages.

Popular trails in Istanbul are the Belgrade Forest, an 8 Km route, and the Village of Poland (Polonezköy), about 5 Km long.

The Samanl? Mountain route In Yalova, Bursa, is 30 Km long.

The Turkish Cycling Federation (Türkiye Bisiklet Federasyonu) is the overseeing body for cycling activities and professional competitions.

Kayaking and Rafting

Two hours from Istanbul, Melen Creek in ?zmit offers the best rafting experience in the region. In spring, the water is very fast flowing. Tours are regularly on offer at weekends.

  • Istanbul Water Sports Organisation
    At
    : Pazarba?? District, Yamac? Str. No. 30/22, Üsküdar, Istanbul 
    Tel: 0216 342 17 24
    email

Caving

Ayvaini Cave (Ayvaini Magarasi) is in Ayva Village in Bursa approximately 46 Km from Istanbul. Ferry boats and bus companies provide transport to Bursa. Appropriate climbing clothes and helmets are recommended when visiting this cave.

The cave has two entrances and there are over 60 pools inside, as well as a trail of about 5.5 Km.

  • For further information about the Ayvaini Cave: Click here

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving in Turkey is especially popular around the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. The Gallipoli Peninsula (Gelibolu-Saros) is a popular diving destination among professional divers, due to its proximity to Istanbul.

  • To find out more about scuba diving in Turkey: Click here

The Turkish Underwater Sports Federation (Türkiye Sualt? Sporlar? Federasyonu) provides comprehensive information. Private diving courses are offered.

  • Turkish Underwater Sports Federation
    At
    : Fahrettin Kerim Gökay Road, Ortaklar Business Centre No. 71, Kad?köy, Istanbul
    Tel: 0216 348 08 08
    email
  • See The Business Directory business directory for Water Sports, Diving & Scuba

Horse Riding

Istanbul has exclusive horse riding areas and riding schools.

The Istanbul Horse Riding Club provides riding courses and is close to the forest.