Geographically, Istanbul is a very unique city. It’s divided by a natural strait, the Bosphorus, it also borders two different seas, the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, and its land connects two different continents, Europe and Asia. And, with a population of approximately 20 million, Istanbul is one of the most populated cities. Thus, it can be challenging to live in Istanbul and be closer to nature. Indeed, the spaces for long trekking and hiking routes are limited. In this post we’ll introduce you to four hiking trails near Istanbul. They are no more than two hours away by car and perfect for a real hiking experience.
1- Belgrad Forest Nature Parks
Located on the northern European side of Istanbul, Belgrad Forest is the largest in Istanbul; it is approximately 5,500 hectares. The forest is home to a myriad of tree, plant, mushroom, bird, and other animal species. In addition, there are nine nature parks that have their own paths and helpful signs for trekking and hiking. The names of the nature parks inside the Belgrade Forest are: Ayvatbendi Nature Park, Bendler Nature Park, Falih Rıfkı Atay Nature Park, Fatih Çeşmesi Nature Park, Irmak Nature Park, Kirazlıbent Nature Park, Kömürcübent Nature Park, Mehmet Akif Ersoy Nature Park, and Neşet Suyu Nature Park.
During the Ottoman period, the Belgrad forest was an important water supply for the city. At the time, Istanbul authorities set up an irrigation system in order to provide for Istanbul locals. During your hike at Belgrad Forest it is very possible for you to stumble up these hundred-year-old systems. Belgrade Forest and its nature parks are located in Sarıyer district and only 30 km far from Istanbul city center (Taksim or Sultanahmet).
2- Ballıkayalar Nature Park
Located in Gebze -several kilometers far from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport– Ballıkayalar Nature Park is like an oasis. It has everything that an avid hiker might desire in a trail such as a green canyon, small lakes, waterfalls, and streams. The park is also equipped it a walking path. Due to the many lakes inside the park, an array of different bird species have made it their home. Indeed, the park is not only great for a trekker but has become a gem for enthusiastic bird watchers. Ballıkayalar Nature Park neighbours one of the largest industrial zones in Turkey, Gebze Industrial Zone, making the park a unique green sanctuary. The entrance fee for Ballıkayalar Nature Park is 10 Turkish Lira and it is only 70 km far from Istanbul city center.
3- Balaban Village and Durusu Lake
Balaban is a village 70km northwest of Istanbul’s center and it sits on Durusu Lake (formerly Terkos Lake), the largest lake in the province. For the last one hundred years Durusu Lake was the most important water source for Istanbul and its citizens. The shores of the lake are also famous for their reed fields creating a beautiful landscape as well as a sanctuary for different bird species. The path from Balaban village to Karaburun is especially recommended for hiking. Start your walk with a magnificent view of Durugöl Lake and finish it on the sandy beaches of the Black Sea village of Karaburun. The terrain between Balaban and Karaburun is very suitable for hiking and trekking.
4- Binkılıç Village and Yıldız Mountains
Binkılıç is a small village 120 km from Istanbul’s center. The village is also the beginning point of Yıldız Mountain Range (Also known as Strandzha Mountain Range) that continues westward. In Binkılıç, you can start your one kilometre north of the village at the Binkılıç Castle. It is believed the remains of this fortress are from the sixth century CE during Byzantine period. While the view from castle is amazing, the hike though the Yıldız Mountains is incredible with the scent of the pine, alder, and oak trees. The nature of Binkılıç and its surrounding are so amazing that its hard to believe you are still within Istanbul borders.