The country’s first milli parkı (national park), Yozgat Çamlığı Milli Parkı, was established in the Central Anatolia region in 1958 to protect an endemic pine species. Today, there are 45 national parks across Turkey, comprising secluded and wild terrain, family-friendly recreation areas, and important historical sites like the ancient city of Troy (Troya Tarihi Milli Parkı). Here are a dozen of our favorite national parks to start exploring Turkey’s great outdoors.
Know before you go
Outdoor activities are still slowly gaining ground in Turkey, and it is not always easy to find information (or markers for!) Hiking trails and other recreational opportunities. The NGO based in Antalya Society of Cultural Routes has done a heroic job in establishing and maintaining a long distance trail system, and many local municipalities are starting to see the benefits and follow suit. Hiking with a guide is a good option in many less visited areas, and hikers who wish to go out on their own would do well to research the trail websites first to download GPS tracks.
Unfortunately, national park status – or some other designation such as tabiat parkı (natural park), koruma alanı (protection area) or kuş cenneti (bird sanctuary) – does not always mean that an area will be free from development. poorly planned, crowded or carelessly thrown out garbage. But you usually don’t have to venture far from the main parking lots and picnic areas to have some spectacular scenery to yourself almost on your own.
Beydağları Sahil Milliı Park
Best national park for ancient ruins
The pine-shaded ancient ruins of Olympos and Phaselis lie within the boundaries of Beydağları Coastal National Park in the Mediterranean province of Antalya, as do some beautiful beaches, including Çiralı and Adrasan. Above Çiralı is the famous “fiery rock” known as the Chimera. Here, natural gas escaping from the earth creates small fires that burn continuously – a phenomenon, according to legend, caused by the blast of a half-lion, half-goat and half-snake monster that once terrorized this region.
A section of Turkey’s best-known hiking trail, the Lycian Way, passes through the national park, and another important archaeological site, the awe-inspiring ruins of Termessos, is just an hour’s drive away.
Kaçkar Dağları Milliı Park
Best national park for hiking
The craggy peaks of the Kaçkar Mountains rise above the eastern coast of the Black Sea, dotted with glacial lakes, high-altitude pastures called yayla, and tiny alpine villages. Climbing Mount Kaçkar (12,916 feet) and crossing the range from north to south (or vice versa) are the most popular hikes in this wild – and incredibly beautiful hinterland. Some trails are only accessible without snow or ice gear for a short time each summer.
neada Longoz Ormanları Milli Parkı
Best national park for canoeing
A canoe trip is the best way to explore this rare ecosystem, a floodplain forest in the Thrace region in the far northwest of Turkey. Here, an aquatic world of marshes, swamps and reed-filled lakes flows past the coastal sand dunes into the Black Sea. Visitors will find walking and cycling trails in the national park.
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Deltas Dilek Yarımadası – Büyük Menderesı Milliı Park
Best national park for beaches
A world away from the nearby resort town of Kuşadası, the serene beaches of the Dilek Peninsula are bathed in clear blue water and backed by lush pine forests. Facilities are rustic but clean, and family-friendly hiking trails wind through the woods as well as more difficult trails, which offer superb views of the Aegean Sea and the Greek island of Samos.
Aladağlar Milliı Park
Best national park for large expanses
This austere and beautiful high-altitude national park, with glacial lakes, waterfalls and wildlife, covers over 135,000 mountainous acres between Kayseri and Adana. Its four major peaks, all above 9,840 feet, attract hikers and climbers, while less ambitious nature lovers can visit on a day trip from Cappadocia. Limited accommodation can be found mainly around the village of Çukurbağ.
Uludağ Milliı Park
Best national park to visit in winter
Close enough to Istanbul for a weekend getaway, Uludağ (Big Mountain) in Bursa is one of Turkey’s most popular ski areas, with 24 km of slopes and around two dozen hotels to choose from. During the summer months, visitors can hike through the coniferous forests on the mountain slopes, although the trails are not well marked. An 8 km long cable car provides access all year round.
Köprülü Kanyon Milliı Park
Best national park for water sports
A stone bridge from Roman times marks the entrance to this picturesque and steep canyon in the Manavgat region of Antalya, one of the longest in Turkey at over 14 km. A popular destination for rafting and canoeing, the area also attracts climbers and mountain bikers. Part of the long distance hiking trail (500 km) that the Saint-Paul trail also crosses here. For those who don’t feel like working out, the restaurants by the water serve fresh river trout and provide a pleasant setting to spend an afternoon.
Marmaris Milliı Park
Best national park for families
Escape the bustling seaside resorts of Marmaris into these quiet woods, where walking trails wind gently around small lakes and across wooden bridges to picnic areas, scenic terraces and children’s play areas . The national park also contains a small beach and a few archaeological ruins to explore.
Kuşcenneti Milliı Park
Best national park for bird watching
More than 250 species of birds, including pelicans, herons, spoonbills, cormorants and geese, can be spotted nesting or roosting in this 158-acre wetland, an important site on flyways birds between Europe and Africa. A 57-foot-high platform offers stunning views of the lake waters, willow groves and reed beds of this bird sanctuary in the western province of Balıkesir, right across the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul.
Munzur Vadisi Milliı Park
Best national park for wildlife
Covering over 100,000 acres, this national park in the eastern province of Tunceli is Turkey’s largest and most biodiverse. Home to mountain goats, wild boars, foxes, lynxes, badgers and even wolves and bears, it is also home to some 1,500 plant species. Hiking and rafting are among the options to explore its mountains, valleys, rivers, springs and mixed forests. The weather can be harsh outside of the summer months.
Altınbeşik Mağarası Milliı Park
Best national park for caving
In summer and fall, water levels are high enough to float in Altınbeşik Cave on rubber rafts to explore the cave’s gigantic underground lake, past stalactites, stalagmites, and travertines. The surrounding landscape in the Manavgat Valley in Antalya is a spectacular mix of karst and pine forests.
Yedigöller Milliı Park
Best national park for fall colors
Yedigöller translates to “Seven Lakes” in English, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this national park in the northern province of Bolu. The lakes of the same name were formed by avalanches and are today surrounded by mixed forests that burst into vibrant colors each fall. One of the most popular places in the park to visit is the Kapankaya Manzara Seyir Yeri, a scenic lookout point.