Tucked away within the forested hills and mountains of inner Anatolia, the lake region has an escapist, even otherworldly feel. At its heart is Eğirdir (pronounced ey-eer-deer), a placid town overlooked by mountains including Sivri (1749m), Davraz (2653m) and Barla (2800m).
Pamukkale & Around
The glittering white of Pamukkale's calcite cliffs jumps straight out of many Turkey tourism brochures, and day-waders come from far and wide to indulge in the warm waters of these dazzling travertines. Above them stand the ruins of ancient Hierapolis, whose inhabitants did much the same thing 2000 years ago.
Enigmatic Eğirdir, surrounded by shimmering Eğirdir Gölü (Lake Eğirdir) and ringed by steep mountains, lies hidden away from the heat and dust of Anatolia like some secret treasure. Indeed, with its Byzantine fortress, Seljuk structures and crumbling old quarter ringed by beaches and fishing boats, the place has just about everything except a mythical lake monster.
Eskişehir may well be Turkey's happiest city – and with a massive university population, it is certainly among its liveliest. An oasis of liberalism in austere middle Anatolia, Eskişehir is increasingly popular with Turkish weekenders, and even boasts a small community of dedicated foreigners.
The industrialised city of Kütahya has Phrygian roots, though it is most unique historically as the bygone capital of the Germiyan Emirate (1302–1428), before it was swallowed up by the Ottoman Empire. There are historical attractions on its central pedestrianised boulevards, but little else, making Kütahya better for a day-trip than an overnight stay.
Anatolia's mysterious ancient Phrygians once inhabited this rock-hewn valley (Frig Vadisi), which runs haphazardly past Eskişehir, Kütahya and Afyon. Although an increasingly popular hiking destination, it is still relatively untouched, and offers spectacular Phrygian relics. The rugged terrain is exhilarating and highly photogenic.
Within an 80km radius of Eğirdir exist numerous interesting destinations, most along the St Paul Trail – and listed here in south–north fashion. Trips can be arranged by the Eğirdir Outdoor Centre or your pension. Otherwise, drive or take a taxi (Kovada Gölü Milli Parkı, for example, costs about ₺80). Sütçüler and Yalvaç are served by regular dolmuş (₺15).
To visit the sprawling ruins of Sagalassos, high amidst the jagged peaks of Ak Dağ (White Mountain), is to approach myth: the ruined city set in stark mountains seems to illuminate the Sagalassian perception of a sacred harmony between nature, architecture and the great gods of antiquity.
Mudanya is a lively seaside town most known for its İstanbul ferry. Strategically set on the Sea of Marmara, it is where the Armistice of Moudania was signed by Italy, France, Britain and Turkey on 11 October 1922 (Greece reluctantly signed three days later). Under it, all lands from Edirne eastward, including İstanbul and the Dardanelles, became Turkish.
Only 8km from Pamukkale, Laodicea was a prosperous commercial city straddling two major trade routes, famed for its black wool, banking and medicines. Cicero lived here for a time before Mark Antony had him liquidated, and large Jewish and Orthodox Christian populations co-existed here. Today, the columns standing in the long grass have good views of the travertines.