Istanbul’s surroundings are laden with stunning lakes and nature reserves making for great destinations to enjoy the outdoors and the final weeks of fall. Check out these great five destinations that in just a short journey's time will make you feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the day discovering Turkey’s stunning nature with friends and family.
Ormanya Wildlife Park in Kocaeli
Ormanya Living Nature Park is a wildlife park and tourist facility located in Kartepe, Istanbul’s neighboring province of Kocaeli. The largest natural reserve in Europe and the third in the world, in addition to having a natural habitat for animals spanning 4,000 kilometers, Ormanya also has a zoo, a wildlife rehabilitation center, 26 kilometers of hiking and biking paths, an area designated for 50 tents and 30 caravans and offers nature-themed courses for children. The zoo and natural reserve have animals such as horses, alpacas, deer and antelopes as well as birds such as ducks, swans, peacocks, emus, snakes and an iguana. One of the highlights for younger visitors is their hobbit home neighborhood, which houses a number of mini timber homes built into the hills. You can’t go inside, but it’s the outside that makes for a great photo opportunity. A great place to spend the day, there is a restaurant that serves affordable yet basic fare, and you can also bring your own picnic to enjoy in the park. The Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality is behind this project and also offers bicycles for rent at TL 1 an hour.
FYZoo in Darıca
One of the best zoos in Turkey and a botanical garden to boot, the Faruk Yalçın Zoo and Botanical Park is located in Darıca, which is located between Tuzla and Gebze and thus just outside of Istanbul on the Asian side of the city. While admittedly zoos can be difficult to visit for animal lovers, this particular zoo was opened in 1993 by its namesake, one of the country’s most significant ambassadors for wildlife conservation and thus placed heavy emphasis on giving the animals it harbors such as giraffes, zebras, lions, penguins and Turkey’s first red panda and sloth, as natural a habitat as possible. While Faruk Yalçın was a successful businessman for most of his life, he had also written 21 books on plant and animal care before his death just over a decade ago. This 80,000 square meter area, which makes for hours of entertainment strolling its paths past different domiciles for animals purports to have over 3,600 animals of 286 species and over 600 different types of botanical plants as well as a café and gift shop.
Flamingoköy in Çatalca
Flamingoköy is a nature park and rustic breakfast restaurant in Çatalca, which is an opportune get away from the European side of Istanbul. While on weekdays, they serve a breakfast spread, on weekends there is an open buffet, with either offering a wonderful opportunity to witness flamingoes as they wade in pools that are lined with tables. In addition to flamingos, there are also a variety of birds such as ducks, geese, peacocks and swans and the opportunity to rent a water bike.
Natürköy in Sapanca Lake
A popular destination year-round for city dwellers, Sapanca Lake has a lot to offer for a day trip getaway. Spanning 45 square kilometers, Sapanca Lake is expansive and thus there are a lot of activities that can be done out in nature, including hiking, biking, horseback riding and renting an ATV, boat or canoe. Natürköy is an excellent facility to make your base for the day, with a restaurant overlooking and on the lake itself and amidst flowing streams and waterfalls. All of the abovementioned activities can be arranged on site, and there are refreshing hiking paths all around the surroundings.
Lake Poyrazlar National Park
The Lake Poyrazlar Gölü National Park is located just outside Adapazari in Sakarya province, which is the second province east of Istanbul, making it an approximate two-hour drive from Istanbul. The banks of the lake span nearly 2.5 kilometers, and the surrounding area has been reforested, making it a bird haven, with over 154 different types spotted. The park also provides sanctuary for a wide variety of wildlife, spanning from foxes, jackals, weasels, rabbits and squirrels. The lake has a wide variety of fish, including carp and perch, and it is possible for visitors to angle there. While Poyrazlar Lake House offers comfortable facilities that serve up breakfast and other meals, it is also possible to bring your own picnic, and there are barbeque areas set up. There is a quaint tram that takes visitors around the lake and also a small theme park for the kids. You can rent water bicycles on the lake and even ride an ATV. If you're looking to stay overnight, it is also possible to camp along the shore of the lake.