Istanbul might be known for its culture, its history, its food, and its cosmopolitan vibe, but it's not lacking in natural beauty either. If you’re more of a nature buff than a city slicker, you’ll find no shortage of parks and trails to explore. Pull-on your hiking boots and get ready to work up a sweat with our selection of the best places for hiking in Istanbul.
Evliya Çelebi Way
Evliya Çelebi Way comes highly recommended by theworldpursuit.com. It’s not hard to see why. Stretching all the way from Istanbul to Hersek, this 600km-long hike is not for day-trippers (although, obviously, you’re under no obligation to do the whole thing at once). It is, however, for those who want to pack in as much of the beauty and history of Turkey as possible. Following the same route that the celebrated Ottoman writer and explorer Evliya Çelebi took back in the 17th century, the hike passes through numerous towns and beauty spots, giving you the kind of authentic Turkish experience you’d never get by sticking to the resorts. If you’re more of a rider than a hiker, the route can be traversed by horseback.
Take the short ferry ride over from Istanbul to Prince Islands and you’ll find yourself in a place of such outstanding beauty, you’ll never want to leave. Consisting of nine islands in total, Prince Islands is about as far from the madding crowd as it’s possible to be – as tooistanbul.com reports, even cars have been deemed too disturbing to the natural vibe, with horse-drawn carriages being the most popular mode of transport. While the architecture of the settlements is spellbinding, it’s in the acres of virgin forest that the islands really show their worth. Pack your walking boots, leave your stresses behind, and prepare to enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery you’re likely to encounter anywhere in Turkey.
Stretching between Eyüp Sultan mosque and Sülemaniye mosque, Sultans Trail is a gorgeous way to explore old Istanbul. Easy enough to suit most activities, it should take most hikers no more than around 4 hours to complete. But despite the relatively short trail (at least the part situated in Istanbul- the trail itself stretches all the way to Vienna), it’s not short on amusements along the way. Expect to pass by the old city wall, Kariye mosque, Sufi temple of Jerrahi, Yavuz mosque, and Fatih Mosque. As a bit of background for you, the trail was once trekked by Suleiman the Magnificent and his Ottoman armies as they conquered their way through history.
Polonezköy Nature Park
Consisting of some 7,420 acres, Polonezköy Nature Park is Istanbul’s first and largest nature park. Regardless of what kind of outdoor fun you’re in the mood for, you’ll not find yourself short of entertainment. The park is bursting at the seams with opportunities for camping, trekking, orienteering, and (thanks to its excellent selection of restaurants and numerous picnic spots) eating. As Wikipedia notes, it’s not exactly lacking in flora and fauna either, with no end of species (including red deer, roe deer, wild boars, jackals, squirrels, martens, weasels, and the bird species of pheasant, partridge, hawk, buzzard, falcon, Eurasian blackbird, European goldfinch, common wood pigeon, owl, magpie, and sparrow) calling the park home.
Kilimli Parkuru has the backing of legions of fans on Trip Advisor. Looking at some of the reviews, it’s not hard to see why. “It is a piece of paradise. Worth to spend around 3 hours to reach from Istanbul. I would recommend this for hikers. Safe and well-marked track,” one says, with another adding “Easy Walk with Stunning Views. A short drive out of Ağva takes you up to Kilimli. Park in the restaurant car park and the start of the walk is just a few meters back. The walk to the lighthouse and back is about 6 kilometers on a well-marked path with no tricky areas. The views across the cliffs and down into the bays are quite memorable. It is also possible to take the little ferry across to the steps near the lighthouse but this is not running all the time.”
Ventre just a little outside Istanbul’s center and you’ll stumble on the opening to Via Egnatia, a majestic hiking trail that manages to span four countries - Albania, Greece, Macedonia, and, of course, Turkey. As you’d expect, the trail spans a massive distance - 1000km, to be exact. While you don’t need to master the whole hike (although if you do, you’ll be following in the footsteps of the thousands of Roman soldiers who walked the path (which connects the easternmost reaches of what was once the Roman Empire with its most western points) during the height of the empire. Given its breadth, you’d expect the path to take you on something of a magical mystery path through Europe, and indeed it does. Expect to pass by huge, sprawling cities, tiny, remote villages, and some of the most breathtaking natural beauty you’ll experience in a lifetime.
Ibb Halic Nedim Parki
With its gorgeous sea views, acres of gorgeous parkland, and numerous recreational opportunities, Ibb Halic Nedim Parki is one of Istanbul’s most popular parks. The hiking trails are easy enough for all ages and activity levels, but be sure to pack some sun protection before you head out.
Gokturk Goleti Milli Parkı
For nature lovers, Gokturk Goleti Milli Parkı is a little slice of paradise. Set alongside a crystal clear lake and offering stunning views over the surrounding area, it’s a peaceful, serene place to enjoy a stroll in nature. Just be aware that past visitors have commented on the number of stray dogs in the area– although they’re routinely vaccinated by the municipality, they can still be dangerous if approached.
While you’ll need to venture a little outside Istanbul's city limits to reach our next entry, you won’t regret the trip. Ranked by traveltriangle.com as one of the 13 most ‘Gorgeous Places Near Istanbul’, it’s got no shortage of natural beauty to keep you happy – not to mention no shortage of hiking trails to explore. The mixed deciduous forest offers a peaceful reprise from the hustle and bustle of the city, along with some much-needed shade from the blistering Turkish sun. Scattered with hiking trails (and several designated picnic and barbeque areas for when the hunger strikes) it’s a gorgeous, blissfully tranquil place to while away a day.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn