Few places can enjoy as idyllic a setting as EĞİRDİR, with its vast lake encircled by undulating mountains. Long heralded by locals as Anatolia’s best-kept secret, this humble lakeside town has a reputation for enticing travellers to stay a lot longer than they’d intended. That’s not surprising when you consider the plethora of hikes – Eğirdir is a major stop on the acclaimed long-distance St Paul Trail – bike routes and watersports in close proximity.
A kilometre-long causeway divides the town, separating the mainland market town, with its historical sites and harbour filled with colourful fishing boats, from Yeşilada, a tiny island reached by a sliver of land running out onto the lake, which is home to most of the local pensions and lakeside restaurants. Aside from its scenic vistas and outdoor activities, Eğirdir’s real charm lies in its endearing indifference to modern tourism. You’re more likely to find restaurant proprietors sipping tea on the terrace than rustling up business on the streets below, so take heed of the slower pace of life and relish lazy evenings relaxing by the lakeside. Just don’t forget your insect repellent; summer nights are swarming with mosquitoes.
Founded by the Hittites, Eğirdir was taken by the Phrygians in 1200 BC. Not until Lydian times, however, when it straddled the so-called King’s Way from Ephesus to Babylon, did the town become famous for its recreational and accommodation facilities.
Turkey’s second-largest freshwater lake, spreading for a vast 488 square kilometres at around 900m above sea level, Eğirdir Lake is an expanse of glistening blue framed by dramatic mountain peaks. With its cool clear waters, the lake offers some ideal swimming spots. Come summer, it plays host to watersports such as kayaking, windsurfing and catamarans, all on offer for around ¨25 per hour at the Eğirdir Outdoor Centre (see p.418). Alternatively, local fishermen are more than happy to take you out in their boats (¨50 per half-day), and know all the best swimming, fishing and barbecue spots. There’s even a growing trend for paragliding when the winds pick up, with tandem flights soaring up over the lake and affording some incredible views over the valley below.
Excursions from Egirdir
Excursions from Egirdir
Despite its comparatively small tourism industry, Eğirdir makes a great base from which to explore the region. The local pensions are now well organized, with tours, guides, maps and independent travel information all easily available.
While the St Paul’s Trail is the region’s most famous long-distance walking trail, numerous trekking routes have been mapped out, and independent hiking is easy. These range from half- or full-day walks to multi-day trips such as the hike to Barla (25km), and the overnight trips to the summits of Mount Dedegöl and Mount Davraz. The Eğirdir Outdoor Centre (wegirdiroutdoorcenter.com) can tailor routes to your requirements and arrange transport (costing around TL1 per km), guides (around TL100 per day), camping equipment and packed lunches.
Potential bike routes vary from easier circuits around the region’s many lakes, or the mostly flat terrain leading to Kovada National Park (54km round trip), to more challenging routes like the hilly climbs to Barla village (46km round trip) or the mountainous course to Zindan Cave (50km round trip).
Kovada National Park
The lake, marshland and forests of Kovada Gölü form a carefully tended and hardly visited national park. Its animal population includes wolves, bears and wild boars, and the lake itself, teeming with fish, receives the outflow of Eğirdir Gölü. The limestone shore is harsh and the lake itself tinted green by its sediment, so it’s not a particularly enticing swimming spot, but the largely untouched wildlife makes for some great walking and birdwatching opportunities.
Many tours of Kovada National Park continue 30km south on the main road through a gorge towards Çandır (signed Yazılı Kanyonu), passing a series of icy but scenic pools and waterfalls, crisscrossed by bridges, and best sampled in high summer. Well-preserved stretches still survive of the ancient Kral Yolu, or “King’s Way”, a road that threaded through Pisidia.
Between December and the end of March, the northern slopes of the 2635m Mount Davraz (30min drive from Eğirdir) offer decent downhill skiing and snowboarding, and the views from the slopes down to Lake Eğirdir are superb. Conditions are fairly reliable, though the limited runs won’t satisfy everyone. The Eğirdir Outdoor Centre (wegirdiroutdoorcenter.com) and the Davraz Ski Centre (wdavraz.com) rent skis (from TL30) and snowboards (from TL35), and a weekday lift pass costs TL30.
The St Paul Trail
The St Paul Trail
Opened in 2004, the rugged St Paul Trail offers over 500km of trekking in the spectacularly beautiful Toros Mountains. Waymarked to international standards, with red and white flashes on rocks and trees, it allows relatively easy exploration of a remote, unspoiled area of Turkey. A detailed guidebook (which includes a map), written by Kate Clow, covers the trail.
The twin starting points of the route are the ancient cities of Perge and Aspendos, on the Mediterranean coastal plain. It was from Perge that St Paul set out, in 46 AD, on his first proselytizing journey. His destination was 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 between limestone peaks that soar to almost 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.
Hikers interested 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 2635m Mount Davraz and 2799m Mount Barla (ascents of both appear in the trail guidebook; for more information check wtrekkinginturkey.com), or even tackle the mighty Dedegül (2992m).