Hit the road: Harvest and nature festivals this fall
Coming up this weekend and in the weeks to come are a number of wonderful harvest festivals celebrating local products and making for an opportune time to discover some of Turkey’s most beautiful off the beaten path spots.
Ayvalık Olive Harvest Days
Located on the northwestern Aegean coast of Turkey in Balıkesir province, Ayvalık is a well-established seaside holiday town that also happens to house some of the most premier olive oil trees and brands. Every year, the region celebrates the olive harvest season with a festival and full program of seminars, workshops and activities devoted to olives set to take place over the next five days. This year will be the 15th annual Ayvalık Zeytin Hasatı Günleri Festivali, in English Ayvalık Olive Harvest Days, and will take place from Friday, Oct. 25 until Tuesday, Oct. 29.
While throughout the five-day festival there will be stands, seminars, musical and folkloric performances held in the town’s main square (Cumhuriyet Meydanı), there will also be a number of related activities taking place at various venues in Ayvalık. The Ayvalık International Music Academy, the Hakkıbey Peninsula Nature Reserve, the Ayvalık Chamber of Commerce, Küçükköy and Yeni Mahalle are just some of the various locations hosting events. Participants will also have the opportunity to witness the harvest in action on Saturday morning with a field trip to Barbun Farm to watch and take part in all of the processes related to harvesting olives. During the festivities, there will also be a harvest run, a bike ride across the peninsula and a boat tour to discover Ayvalık from the sea.
The Ayvalık Olive Harvest Days make for a wonderful time to visit Ayvalık, which is a lovely, authentic and picturesque laid back holiday town that has remained out of the limelight, unlike Turkey’s other more glamorous holiday resort towns. Cunda is a connected island located at the tip of the peninsula that you can drive too and has a number of boutique accommodations and dining options while of course Ayvalık also serves as the main gateway by boat to one of Greece’s most loved islands Midilli, aka Lesvos island.
First-ever Adramytteion Festival
This year will be the first time the Adramytteion Festival is being held in the mountaıns above Balıkesir province’s other seaside holiday resort town of Oren. In fact, it could be a great opportunity to visit both the Adramytteion and neighboring Ayvalık festivals as they will be taking place less than half an hour’s drive away from each other. The Adramytteion Festival is a new wave festival focusing on nature walks, bicycle tours, workshops, seminars, concerts and camping.
This festival will be based in the foothills of the Madra Mountains, which is the start of the Ida Mountain region, in Turkish Kaz Dağları, and an area that is known for its rich history and oxygen, spectacular nature and diversified flora and fauna. This festival aims to celebrate and promote the ancient region of Adramytteion, in a two-day campout with environment-focused activities that will take place this weekend from Oct. 26-27. There will also be stands with local village products and workshops for adults and children on practices such as yoga, orienteering, martial arts and storytelling. Participants are welcome to take part in all of the activities for free; however those camping out are asked to make a donation of four tree saplings and a book – or its monetary equivalent of TL 50. A wonderful opportunity to discover the region by foot in guided nature walks or by bike on a tour of the mountains as there will also be two different nature walks and bike rides taking place over the weekend.
Harvest Festivities in Milas
Milas is a lively inland town in Muğla province that is less than an hour’s drive away from Bodrum, the holiday resort destination regularly referred to as the “Turkish Riviera.” The traditional town of Milas offers visitors to the region an authentic look at the day-to-day life of a typical town in Turkey, and the Milas Zeytin Hasat Şenliği, in English Milas Olive Harvest Festivities, which will take place over the weekend of Nov. 2-3, is one of the best times ever to discover it.
The sixth annual Milas Olive Oil Festivities will be based in Atapark, where there will be stands set up throughout the weekend. Meanwhile, there will be events such as an olive pressing demonstrations at the Zeybekler Zeytinyağı Fabrikasında olive oil factory on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. At 3 p.m., the festivities continue at the Milas Amphitheater with workshops followed by a concert by Grup Pusula back at Atapark. On Sunday, there will be an exhibition held at Çöllüoğlu Han, followed by a demonstration of how to discern quality olive oil and a cooking contest at Atapark with a closing concert performance by Yusuf Güney, a Turkish pop musician based in London.
It must be said that Milas, however, is not just any ordinary town. With a history spanning back to the seventh century B.C. and a whopping 27 archaeological sites to prove it, Milas is also just a half an hour drive from the spectacular Lake Bafa, which is also steeped in history, including prehistoric cave paintings, Carian ruins and Byzantine monasteries, while being immersed in picturesque boulders, majestic birds and a unique flora and fauna, making you feel like you are in a parallel mystical world.
Mandarin harvest in Seferihisar
Seferihisar is a quaint inland town located less than an hour’s drive south from Izmir on a road that continues on to the coastal town of Sığacık, once known in ancient times as Teos, making for a refreshing and relaxing day or overnight getaway. The other side of Izmir as it were, Seferihisar remains less touched and transformed than other neighboring towns to Izmir such as Urla, Çeşme and Alacatı. Turkey’s first “slow town,” having joined the Cittaslow (slow city) movement in 2009, Seferihisar is famous for its indigenous Satsuma mandarins and for the past two decades, the town has been celebrating this legacy with the annual Mandalina Hasat Şenliği, in English Mandarin Harvest Festivities. The 20th Mandalina Şenliği will be taking place on Sunday, Nov. 17 from noon to 11 p.m. at the Seferihisar Çarşı Meydanı with a full day of stands with local products, dance shows and musical performances as well as nature tours all in the aim of promoting the Seferihisar mandarin.