Summer is upon us and after a year filled with stress and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, normalization seems to be around the corner. All of us are probably looking for places to spend a nice, peaceful holiday and after being locked indoors for so long nature and greenery seem very appealing. Well, in that case, you need look no further than Turkey's Bolu province, particularly Lake Abant as it is a nature lovers' dream with the beautiful lake itself but also as it stands at the center of numerous other natural wonders all within reach. It may not be secluded, as it surely is a popular location, but that doesn't mean it can't offer peace and quiet as well.
If you are coming from the northeast, let's say Istanbul, getting to Abant means first going through Mount Bolu. Now, there are two ways of going through the mountain, the famous Mount Bolu tunnel offers a unique experience in itself being 3.1 kilometers (1.9 miles) in length and appearing seemingly endless. However, the older mountain road, which was the only way across for decades until the tunnel was opened to traffic in 2007, provides a sight to behold.
Up the road, as you reach the highest point, the mountainous beauty of the area is laid beneath your feet, and cars passing through the highway below going to the tunnel become little specks of dust. Having a nice meal up here is definitely worth it if you find a restaurant open as most of them have closed due to a lack of customers.
Once upon a time, there were dozens of restaurants and service stations up the mountain and you could hardly find an empty parking space. Today, very few people prefer the mountain highway to the tunnel, and for good reason. Taking the road, especially during winter, can be quite an adventure, and it is mostly closed due to ice and snow.
After passing Mount Bolu, you head south before getting to the city of Bolu itself, and you enter Abant Road. The route to Lake Abant is a serene experience as woods slowly start to cover both sides of the road, and two mountain ranges gradually creep in from either side as you progress into the valley. This beautiful green scene continues for around 25 kilometers (15 miles) before reaching the lake, and here you will also find an important part of your holiday: accommodation.
On either side of Abant Road, you will find numerous hotels, hostels, guesthouses and bungalow houses. There are plenty of options to choose from, with prices ranging from quite affordable to luxury, but even the ones on the cheap side are quite beautiful little wooden places.
Here is a little tip, at approximately the midway point of Abant Road there is a cluster of places of accommodation. If you choose one of these places on the southern side of the road (Paşa Hostel springs to mind), you will hear the sound of water from a small creek nearby, which is bound to brighten up your whole day. Having breakfast in one of the small pavilions scattered along this cute creek is a must.
Before you even get to the lake you might want to spend a day here and rest. The lake might be crowded, but these hotels and their green gardens, particularly the ones neighboring the creek, are some lovely spots to catch some peace and quiet with the calming music of water. Be sure to have some tea, and maybe even sleep a little in one of the hammocks that all of these hostels provide.
Another small suggestion: during the night, look up! You are no longer in Istanbul or Ankara, and one of the most mesmerizing beauties of being away from big cities is stars. If you stay in one of these little hostels along Abant Road, you can enjoy the whole galaxy most nights. If you bring a camera with you that can manage nighttime photography, don't forget to snap a few pictures.
Now that you are rested, you can head into Lake Abant Nature Park. The lake itself a large body of water and getting around it can take a long while, even with a car. Luckily there are a lot of parking spaces along the road that goes around the lake. So, choose a nice spot and leave your car (be warned the car will be pretty hot when you get back in it).
The lake lies at an altitude of 1,328 meters (4,357 feet), surrounded by forested mountains on all sides. There are a couple of high-end hotels in the immediate vicinity of its shores if you don't want to stay in the hostels on Abant Road, and if you are feeling a little lavish.
The lake is a sublime sight to see. There is something about large lakes that is even more intriguing and captivating than seas or oceans, in my eyes. The surrounding mountains and lavish green forests are like music to your ears.
There are a couple of gift shops along the shore where you can get some souvenirs. Don't forget to drop by the small marketplace as well, where you can find some of the most delicious and tasty local items such as honey, olives and oils. Throw in some nice eggs as well (or on second thought, don't throw them).
One of the best attractions around the lake is horses. There are a number of spots around the lake, particularly a large flat green area, where you can find horse rides. Trainers usually hold the horses and navigate them, but if you are a little experienced they let you take the reins instead and galloping by the waters is a thrilling experience.
You can even make a deal with the trainers to take the horses up the forest road and into the small villages nearby, which I highly recommend. Horses are sweet animals that you immediately bond with and don't want to get off once you are on their back, so take the forest road: the more time you spend there, the better.
Well, Abant may be the most famous lake of Bolu, and the most popular, but that doesn't mean it is the only one or the most beautiful one as Bolu is splendidly rich with lakes and natural wonders, making it a green paradise. All are within your reach if you are staying in one of the hostels in Abant Road, though some may take all your day to enjoy.
First, there is Gölcük Nature Park around 50 kilometers from Abant, with its little lake, when compared to Abant, and beautiful surrounding woods that are even greener and more majestic than the ones you find in Abant. As it is a smaller lake you can leave your car at the entrance of the park and hike around the lake as you please.
Do sit down and get some refreshments at the cafe if you like, but what I would recommend is go prepared and make your own dinner at the public barbecue spots around the lake.
You will see numerous water lilies covering the lake, providing a charming sight indeed, and there is a little dock as well if you want to be truly on the water like the lilies. There are a couple of paths leading into the forest, which offer a peaceful walking opportunity.
Once you are done soaking in the beauty of Gölcük, on the opposite direction there is Lake Sülüklü (meaning leeches in Turkish) a little over 45 kilometers away from Abant. The small freshwater lake, surrounded by greenery, may not be as majestic as Gölcük or Abant but is just as serene.
However, there is a spot in Sülüklü where the view is more mesmerizing than those found in other lakes, and for that, you need to go further up.
Sülüklü lies right next to a mountain range, like many other lakes found in Bolu, and there is a narrow road you can take to go up to Davlumbaz Plateau. It is a dirt road with space for only one car at a time and lacks guardrails, which makes the whole experience thrilling and somewhat treacherous.
A little advice, when you look out the window, don't look down if you are scared of heights since you will be driving along the cliff.
However, once you get to the top, it is all worth it. The natural wonders and mountains of Bolu present a sight to behold. If you are the camping type, look no further. This is a spot preferred by many campers so you will definitely find some company up there.
The weather though is chilly and quite windy, so pack accordingly, and there are no gift shops or cafes or anything of the sort on the plateau. So, prepare your food beforehand or pack some supplies for a barbecue along the cliff, from which you can see Lake Sülüklü.
This is not the only plateau around Lake Abant. Bolu is literally littered with plateaus and lakes and numerous other natural wonders, as well as some intriguing historical locations.
It would take a whole week to write about them all, let alone explore them. So, for now, let's part ways with these beautiful spots that you're bound to add to your travel wishlist.
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