Endearingly nicknamed the Rose City, Isparta ranks among the world’s biggest growers of the renowned Damascena rose, and exports rose oil all around the globe. Eco-friendly British brand Lush are buyers, and the rosewater is shipped out to the grand mosque at Mecca. With a 200-year history of rose oil distillation, harvest time, in May/June, in Isparta is more than just a boost to the economy (a mere 1kg of rose oil retails for around €8000, making it a profitable venture). It’s also a time of celebration for the villagers’ featuring a two-day Isparta Rose Festival, and a plethora of home-made rose marmalades, ice creams and cosmetics hit the markets.
Alia (wessentialtravel.nl), a collective founded by Dutch rose specialist Joanne Klein Wolterink in conjunction with Isparta’s Sebat Rose factory and Dutch eco-cosmetic brand, Natucos, run small-group rose harvest tours (from €20 for a half-day tour, with lunch; local homestays can also be arranged). The tours include the chance to help villagers with the morning rose harvest; explore the factory, including a demonstration of a traditional distillation kettle; sample organic rosewater cosmetics; and, most entertainingly, frolic on a 30cm-thick “bed” of roses.
Tours are also available for the lavender harvest (July/Aug) and the chamomile harvest (April/May). As this book went to press, a luxury wellness centre, set amid the factory’s acres of plantations, was expected to open shortly.