Mount Ida in western Turkey is one of the top olive growing regions and a regular spot for tourists taking nature walks to the region's rural villages, that treat visitors with organic food and rich nature
The rural villages on the skirts of the oxygen-laden Mount Ida ("Kazdağları" in Turkish), in western Balıkesir Edremit town, home to many endemic plant species, have become a popular place for nature lovers and sportsmen. These neighborhoods welcome thousands of guests each weekend throughout the whole year.Hundreds of people, mostly doing off-roading, nature walks, photography and trekking, are coming to the region from different cities and from abroad to discover these areas where olive farming is the primary source of income. The olive groves, located on the coast of the Gulf of Edremit, are an endless ocean of trees, which, according to legend, produce the most aromatic olive oil on the Aegean shores.
Local and foreign tourists exploring rural neighborhoods like Arıtaşı, Çamlıbel, Dereli, Narlı, Pınarbaşı and Tahtakuşlar on Mount Ida also play an important role in the economy of locals, whose main source of income is olive cultivation. These villagers treat their guests in the best manner possible and never complain about the high number of tourists.
Villagers set up stalls at certain attraction points of the region during the summer months. In winter they prepare and preserve their local products in fridges in their gardens, getting them ready for sale.
Tourists can buy aromatic olive oil, one of the best on the Aegean shores.
The rural Yaşyer village chief Ahmet Kubaş said they welcome trekking groups all 12 months of the year. "Our village is open for tourism. It is located 9 kilometers [5.6 miles] from the city center and our village of 180 families is famous for its crushed olives, olive oil and strawberries," Kubaş said.
Metin Atan, a leader of a nature walk and photography group in Edremit, said many tourists would like to discover Mount Ida, a place famous for its fountains and surrounding villages. The guests are supporting local villagers by shopping their local products, Atan continued. "Our nature walk group is comprised of 45 members, who are mostly from outside of the town, and the photography group enjoys taking nature photos at Kazdağları and making pit stops at the villages," Atan said, expressing his gratitude to the village head and the villagers for their hospitality.Turning her garden into a natural product production center and creating a sales fridge, Elif Şen, a local in the Çamçı village, sells various types of organic products including natural soaps, olive oil and handwoven products to contribute both to her family and to the development of the village. She said while they have always produced things, they could not previously package and sell them. In 2009, a few women in the village got together, and now, they are supporting their families and the village. "I have a nice stand at home and our sales are good. Travelers stop at our village and buy our products, including types of olives, olive oil, tarhana, healing Mount Ida herbs, different types of grapes, pickles, jam, honey, handwoven products and other souvenirs, which are all natural," said Şen.
İsmail Öztürmen, the head of the Çamcı village, was one of the pioneers who started the sale of natural products in 20 villages in Kazdağları. He noted that while villages now sell natural products, Çamcı Quarter is more developed. He established a marketplace with stands branded as a "Natural Market" in order to include women in the economy back in 2009, with stands by the roads as well, which than extended to homes. "Now there are stands in homes. Travelers, walking groups and other guests are arriving here to buy products from us. We are welcoming guests from Ankara to Europe. Our villagers contribute a great deal to both their home and the village's economy. We would like to invite everyone to our village," said Öztürmen.
There are approximately 50 groups that regularly visit Mount Ida on the weekends throughout the year. Twenty-nine out of the 32 endemic species in the region are located in Mount Ida National Park, which also includes the famous Hasan Boğuldu Waterfalls. Groups visiting the region cannot enter the National Park without a guide due to safety concerns.