While Istanbul is a stunning cosmopolitan city full of museums, shopping and world-class historical sites, it may surprise you to learn that Mother Nature also blessed it with many spots of natural beauty. When you're ready for a break in the outdoors, take a look at these locations, all accessible as day trips from Istanbul.
Istanbul has many parks where you can get away from the buzz of the city for an hour or two or spend an entire day leisurely enjoying the surroundings. Yildiz Park is an urban common within the city of Istanbul that was once a sultan's hunting ground. It's the perfect place to head with a picnic lunch. Don't forget your camera as this spot offers some amazing vistas.
Another favorite park is Gulhane Park, the oldest in Istanbul. You can meander there for hours, appreciating the trees, flowers and beautiful water features. This park was once part of the Topkapi Palace grounds, so you can combine it with a palace tour for a wonderful day's itinerary. Check out the tea garden with its fabulous water views.
The Princes' Islands
For a full day of nature enjoyment, head to the Princes' Islands, the summer vacation land of many Istanbul residents in the Maramara Sea. You can find less crowded beaches than in the city and return to an old world style of relaxation with horse-drawn carriage rides and walks in old growth pine forests. There are nine islands total, many of which are open to the public.
The Black Sea Beaches
If a day at the beach suits your fancy, and you'd like something more remote than the city shores, try some of the stunning beaches on the Black Sea. You can find plenty to explore on both the Asian and European sides of the sea, including Riva, a former Greek colony, and Agva. You can barbecue and picnic to your heart's content there and still make it back to Istanbul by nightfall.
Polonezkoy is a Polish area on the far edge of the city's Asian side. It retains much of the charm and culture of its mid-19th Century roots. You can fill a picnic hamper with goodies in the village then head to the hiking trails nearby that offer both meadow and forest walks. If you visit in June, be sure to go to the Cherry Festival.
The Belgrad Forest
Once inside the 5,500-hectare Belgrad Forest, you'll have a hard time believing you are still in Istanbul. The name of the forest comes from the Serbs who were originally brought to Turkey by Sultan Suleyman to watch over the reservoirs in the forest. You can still drink from their springs when you've worked up a thirst wandering amongst the huge variety of trees that make up the Atatürk Arboretum, part of the Belgrad Forest.
You can make it to Bursa and back from Istanbul in one day if you plan well in advance, although some visitors opt to stay overnight there. Bursa offers skiing in the winter months, and in the summer, visitors can still take the tram to the top of the mountains as well as picnic and hike in the foothills around the city. If you have the time, this resort area is not to be missed!
Ask our Concierge Department at Hotel Büyük Keban to help you with any arrangements to reach these natural wonders in and around Istanbul. We can assist you with directions or transportation and help you create trips you'll never forget. When you contact us to book your stay in our boutique hotel, please feel free to ask about setting up your itinerary in advance. By the time you arrive in Istanbul, all you'll need to do is have fun!