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.
Pamukkale has been made eternally famous by the gleaming white calcite shelves overrunning with warm, mineral-rich waters on the mountain above the village – the so-called ‘Cotton Castle' (pamuk means 'cotton' in Turkish). Just above the travertines lies Hierapolis, once a Roman and Byzantine spa city, which has considerable ruins and a museum.
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.
Turks are proud of İznik's Ottoman tile-making tradition, and the city's Byzantine incarnation as Nicaea once played a significant role through its church councils in shaping Christianity. Today, İznik is a somewhat dusty and run-down collection of tile shops, teahouses and handicraft stalls, though its ruined fortifications and lakeside setting make a visit worthwhile.
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 a destination for a day trip than an overnight stay.
Afyon (Afyonkarahisar) is a provincial city lying under an ancient castle – a particularly dramatic one atop a vertiginous rock, which had myriad occupants between Hittite and Ottoman times. Afyon is home to a university but remains a workaday, conservative place, where the only noise at night comes from minarets and teahouses tuned into televised football matches.
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.
Destinations around Bursa include the nearby mountain of Uludağ – a winter snow-sports resort and the site of the world's longest cable car – and the city of Mudanya, which features good seafood restaurants and is the destination for ferries across the Sea of Marmara from İstanbul.
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.
To visit the sprawling ruins of Sagalassos, high amid the jagged peaks of Ak Dağ (White Mountain), is to approach myth: the ancient 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.