Explore South Central Anatolia
EĞIRDIR is the natural focus of Turkey’s Lakeland, boasting an astonishingly beautiful setting, clinging to a strip of flat land between the Toros (Taurus) mountains and Turkey’s second largest freshwater lake (488 square kilometres). Lying around 900m above sea level, air temperatures are tolerable in summer (around 30°C), while the clear waters usually remain swimmable until the end of September (though sudden storms can cool things off at any time of year). In April the lake basin’s numerous apple orchards bloom and in August/September the apples are harvested.
The town tends to suffer from its convenience as a stopover between the coast and Cappadocia, and most travellers stay only a night or two. This is a pity as Yeşilada, a tiny island connected to mainland Eğirdir by a kilometre-long causeway, is a wonderfully relaxing place to stay. It has many excellent pansiyons and makes a useful base from which to explore the region’s natural and historic sights. Watersports are in their infancy in Eğirdir, though it is possible to rent small sailing dinghies and windsurfing is beginning to take off. Tandem paragliding is on offer for the more adventurous, but Eğirdir is best suited to its role as the Lakeland’s trekking centre and major stop on the long-distance walking route, the St Paul Trail.
Founded by the Hittites, Eğirdir was taken by the Phrygians in 1200 BC, but it was not until Lydian times, when it straddled the so-called King’s Way from Ephesus to Babylon, that the town became famous for its recreational and accommodation facilities.
Early in the thirteenth century the town came under the control of the Konya-based Selçuks, who refortified it in its role as a gateway to Pisidia. Shortly thereafter the city reached the height of its fortunes as capital of the emirate of Felekeddin Dündar, remaining prominent during the reign of the Hamidoğlu clan. The Byzantines knew the place as Akrotiri (“promontory” in Greek) after its obvious geographical feature; this name was originally corrupted in Ottoman times to Eğridir (meaning “it’s bent”), but was changed again in the mid-1980s to Eğirdir, meaning “s/he’s spinning”, which officialdom thought more dignified.
Eğirdir’s secular architecture was largely damaged by Byzantine–Selçuk conflict, but the religious edifices survived and have been incorporated in the modern town centre. On a preliminary wander the most obvious remains are of the Dündar Bey Medresi, which began life in 1218 as an inn, was converted into a medrese by Felekeddin Dündar in 1281 and now serves as a shopping precinct. The adjoining Hızırbey Camii has also been nicely restored; the roof is supported by Selçuk wooden pillars and it has an ornately carved door, wooden porch and İznik-tiled mihrab. The earliest building in the medrese complex is Eğirdir’s six-domed bath-house (1202) which retains its sixteen original washing basins. It provides six rooms for men and a large separate room for women. Nearby, overlooking the approach to the island, are the ramparts of the Byzantine and Selçuk citadel (kale), on which an imposing cannon is still perched as a reminder of the importance of the trading interests that were once protected.
Across the causeway, Yeşilada itself boasts the twelfth-century Byzantine church of Ayios Stefanos, now re-roofed but still awaiting internal restoration. The remaining Greek houses are mainly set in the centre of the island in walled gardens dominated by mulberries and grapes, accessed by tiny cobbled lanes. The small pebble beaches that border the island are hard on the feet, but the convenience of being able to take a dip from your pension before breakfast compensates.
Back on the mainland the Belediye Plajı, 750m from the town centre in the Yazla district, is the least attractive of the town’s beaches. Much better is Altınkum, out by the train station, a sandy beach, great for children because of the shallow waters and offering umbrellas, pedal-boats and camping. However, its charm is diminished by a holiday-camp ambience and the modern housing development that backs it. Some 11km up the road on the way to Barla, Bedre beach is another option for those with their own transport.Read More
The St Paul Trail
The St Paul Trail
Opened in 2004, this rugged trail offers over 500km of trekking in the spectacularly beautiful Toros mountains. Waymarked to internationally recognized standards, using red and white flashes painted on rocks and trees, it allows relatively easy exploration of a remote, unspoilt area of Turkey. A detailed guidebook (which includes a map), written by Kate Clow, covers the trail.
The route has twin starting points, the ancient cities of Perge and Aspendos, on the Mediterranean coastal plain. It was from Perge that St Paul set out, in AD 46, on his first proselytizing journey, his destination the Roman colonial town of Antioch ad Pisidiam, where he first preached Christ’s message to non-Jews. En route from the Mediterranean to the Anatolian plateau the trail crosses tumbling mountain rivers, climbs passes through limestone peaks soaring to near 3000m, dips into deeply scored canyons and weaves beneath shady pine and cedar forest. It even includes a boat ride across the glimmering expanse of Lake Eğirdir. Those with an interest in archeology can discover remote, little-known Roman sites and walk along original sections of Roman road. The irrevocably active can raft the Köprülü River, scale 2635-metre Davraz and 2799-metre Barla , or even tackle the mighty Dedegül (2992m).
Eğirdir makes an ideal base for forays along the trail. The town’s pension owners will probably be able to help you sort out the relevant dolmuşes, negotiate car rental or taxi hire and let you store unwanted gear until your return from the hills.