Every corner of Turkey is like a piece of heaven. Every part of the country possesses hidden gems and takes its visitors to a journey both through history and to the heart of Mother Nature.
Located in the Mediterranean region's hinterlands, Isparta is one of those beautiful provinces with fields of roses and lavender as far as the eye can see.
Now, as rose harvesting season starts, tourists from all over Turkey and around the world flock to the city to be a part of the ceremony and to get a whiff of the sweet smell of roses.
History of rose in Isparta
Rose production in Isparta began with Müftüzade Gülcü İsmail Efendi in the 1870s, when he smuggled a rose sapling from the Rose Valley of Bulgaria, 1,215 kilometers away from Isparta, inside the pole of his cane. He planted the first rose sapling in the Turkish province, which ultimately changed the social and economic structure of the city.
Nearly a century later, the tradition, which began with İsmail Efendi in a small field has continued for generations, allowing Isparta to become a huge rose garden, which meets 65 percent of the entire world's rose and rose by-product demand.
Contributing to the economy of the country and city, the roses of Isparta, which are known as Rosa damascena or Damask rose, have recently started attracting tourists as well.
The smell of roses lures tourists
Although the techniques used in producing the roses and the methods for extracting rose oil have changed with advancing technology, Isparta's rose harvest has not changed much since the 19th century, since the rose gardens in the city are not conducive with machinery. Hence, the rose harvest in Isparta has become a ceremony that attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists.
Tourists who come to the rose gardens in the early morning hours pick roses and learn about the general process. Taking many photos, they enjoy their time in the lush gardens.
Wu Zhiping, one of the Chinese tourists in the city, said that he came to Turkey before but saw the rose gardens for the first time. He said that he will definitely recommend visiting the rose gardens to his friends.
"We visited the historical rose companies and learned the processes. I liked this place and am deeply affected by the company. Products made out of roses are very popular in China, and they are very healthy. We especially like rose oil and rose water. I will bring some rose products from here to my country and give them as a gift to my friends. I will recommend these products, as well."
Yakup Yolcu, the headman of Ardıçlı village, explained that local and foreign tourists are really interested in rose gardens in this year.
Noting they welcome many tourists from different cities in Turkey and the Far East in the rose season, Yolcu stressed, "We want to see our visitors in rose gardens. They should pick and smell roses here. Our villages smell like roses."
Gülen Çelik, who came from Çanakkale province to see the rose gardens, said they had a great time. Çelik said he was more than happy to be able to visit such a place.
"We like roses. Everyone should visit this perfect place," he said.
Roses: The foundation of the city's culture
Culture and Tourism Provincial Director Osman Çot said that the roses of Isparta have an important part in the culture and daily life of the city.
Explaining that a great deal of work is being carried out in the city, which is the most i
mportant center in rose production around the world, Çot talked about the interest of local and foreign tourists. "With introductory works and workshops held at home and abroad in the last 10 years, important progress was made in ecotourism. Roses take tourists to the region with its visual beauty apart from its economic value. Therefore, the number of visitors in the city increases every year. Travel agents have been adding rose harvesting outings to their tour packages," he said. He said those same tourists who come to the city on tours, also join the process of the extraction of rose oil. "That is, tourists witness the story of roses from plant to harvest, from harvest to product. Therefore, the rose gardens become an attraction center for tourists. Most tourists come from the Far East," he added. Everyone should get the chance to experience picking roses before they die. This is why Çot is inviting the whole world to Isparta - to see this beauty with their own eyes.