A couple of worthwhile targets for half-day or even overnight outings are located immediately around Bursa. The picturesque rural Ottoman village of Cumalıkızık served as the setting for a popular Turkish TV serial several years ago, which greatly enhanced its tourism potential, while the mountain resort of Uludağ is a year-round attraction.
Further afield, the 120km route west from Bursa towards Bandırma port is enlivened by two large but shallow lakes, the largest inland bodies of water in the historical region of Mysia. The first, 36km from central Bursa, is Uluabat Gölü, home to the appealing village of Gölyazı built atop the ancient settlement of Apollonia, while the second lake, Manyas Gölü, southeast, supports a bird sanctuary.
The showcase village of CUMALIKIZIK, set on the lower slopes of Uludağ, 17km from Bursa on the Ankara road – head east, then south – is the most attractive of several such kizik (valley) villages in the region. While the earliest records of the village mosque and hamam date from 1685, it’s thought to be at least three centuries older. Cumalıkızık’s cobbled streets are full of traditional dwellings, some restored and painted, others leaning brokenly into each other.
The narrow alleys that radiate from the village square, dominated by two enormous plane trees, are often only wide enough for pedestrians and pack animals. The ground and first floors of the village houses traditionally harboured the storerooms and stables, while the living quarters with their latticed bay windows were upstairs under tiled eaves. Many of the surviving double-front doors sport large-headed nails, wrought-iron strips and massive handles.
The dramatic, often cloud-cloaked massif of 2543m-high Uludağ (or “Great Mountain”) presides over Bursa, its northern reaches dropping precipitously into the city. In ancient times it was known as the Mount Olympos of Mysia, one of nearly twenty peaks around the Aegean so named (Olympos was possibly a generic Phoenician or Doric word for “mountain”). Locals insist this was the seat from which the gods watched the battle of Troy. Early in the Christian era the range became a refuge for monks and hermits, replaced after the Ottoman conquest by Muslim dervishes.
These days the scent of grilling meat has displaced the odour of sanctity, since Bursans cram the alpine campsites and picnic grounds to the gills on any holiday or weekend. Getting there has always been half the fun, especially if you opt for the cable car (teleferik), which links the Teleferüç borough of Bursa with the Sarıalan picnic grounds at 1635m, where a cluster of et mangals and kendin pişin kendin ye (cook-it-yourself establishments) await your custom. At the time of writing, however, a new cable-car line was being built and the entire teleferik service was shut down, pending its completion.
Much of the dense middle-altitude forest has been designated a national park, though only a few kilometres are marked hiking trails. In fact, the best part of the mountain lies outside the park to the east, where a few hours’ walking brings you to glacial lakes in a wild, rocky setting just below the highest summit. The best months to visit are May and June, with wildflowers in bloom, or September and October, when the mist is less dense.
However, thanks to the nearby Sea of Marmara, the high ridges trap moist marine air, and whiteouts or violent storms can blow up during most of the year. Skiing is possible from December to March, though it’s better earlier in the season than later. At around 1800m, there’s a dense cluster of hotels known as Oteller, most with their own ski lift (day-passes TL15), and you can rent skis and ski clothes on the spot.
Hiking around Uludag
Hiking around Uludag
From the top of Oteller, a 90min walk along a jeep track will bring you to a tungsten mine. An obvious path slips up behind the mine’s guardhouse onto the broad, barren watershed ridge, just below the secondary summit of Zirve (2496m); follow this trail for a further 90min to a fork. The right-hand path leads to the main peak (2543m), though the cairned left-hand choice is more rewarding, descending slightly to overlook the first of Uludağ’s lakes, Aynalıgöl, reachable by its own side trail 30min beyond the junction.
While Aynalıgöl holds campsites, there are none at Karagöl, the second and most famous lake, 15min southeast, sunk in a deep chasm and speckled with ice floes. Kilimligöl, the third substantial lake, is tucked away on a plateau southeast of Karagöl and offers more good high-altitude camping. The crags above Aynalıgöl conceal two smaller, nameless tarns.
As long as the weather is good, when you return to Oteller you can stay with the ridge rather than revisiting the tungsten works, passing below the ruined hut on Zirve to meet a faint trail. This soon vanishes and thereafter it’s cross-country downhill along the watershed as far as Cennetkaya, a knoll above the hotels, served by a marked trail. High above the trees, crowds and jeep tracks, you just might glimpse patches of the distant Sea of Marmara to the north.