Ecotourism in Turkey
Ecotourism is a term that has been thrown around the travel industry since the 1980s alongside recent industry favourites such as ‘Sustainable Travel’ and ‘Responsible Travel’. The boom of airline travel in the 80s and 90s as a cheaper way of travel made the world a much smaller place and soon countries like Turkey with warm dry climates were becoming holiday hotspots in the northern hemisphere. As the fight against climate change and the conservation of natural surroundings have become prevalent in society, 21st century travellers have become increasingly aware of the impact that tourism has had on planet and are now looking for ways to make the travel industry more sustainable with minimal impact on the environment.
Ecotourism in Turkey is on the rise as the country has vast areas of unspoilt natural beauty versus destinations that are close to being overrun by tourism. The supply and demand of holidays in Turkey have attracted hotel and food chains across the region which are essentially stealing business from local and family run providers and their money speaks as building works take place on land that really should be protected. The steady increase of tours to various areas of Turkey has also put pressure on local authorities to ensure that heavy tourist traffic doesn’t affect the preservation of historical landmarks. It is our responsibility as travellers to take control of our carbon footprint on the world, but also to ensure that our impact on a destination’s natural environment and local economy is minimal and helpful as possible.
What is Ecotourism?
Essentially, ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation and of economic opportunities for local communities. Responsible travel is about conserving the natural environment while helping to improve the wellbeing of the local people. Ecotourism helps to minimise the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment while ensuring low impact on fragile areas of undisturbed nature. Some travellers may wish to make a financial contribution by providing funds for ecological conservation, others may feel the need to get their hands dirty and work on the land which harvests organic produce.
Ecotourism is about education as well though. As tourism has become a mass market, travellers are looking for opportunities to see the true heart of a destination, to learn about other cultures and to foster respect for human rights across the world. Travellers tend to immerse themselves into the local culture, meet the people behind the holidays and try to understand and respect their beliefs and ways of life. Ecotourism offers tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the local environment and gives them an opportunity to not only learn about other communities, but also to give back to their economies.
Ecotourism is about getting back in touch with nature while contributing to local establishments that care about their surroundings and their local environment. Choose to spend time at places that promote wellbeing by immersing you into nature, caring for your bodies and using healthy and nutritious organic food. Choose to spend time at establishments that use natural resources, be that solar or wind power, natural hot springs or milk from their own cows and eggs from their own chickens. A healthy environment can help you to achieve a healthy body and a healthy mind without having a negative impact on your environment.
Five Ways to be a Responsible Tourist in Turkey
1) Don’t Buy into Mass Tourism
It is all too easy to book an all inclusive holiday to Turkey. You only have to glance at destinations like Antalya and Kusadasi to see how tourism has encroached on an area of immense natural beauty. The turquoise waters are to die for, the yellow sandy beaches are incredibly inviting and the crooks and coves look perfect for snorkelling, what a shame then that these stunning areas have become a slave to a backdrop of concrete. Visiting a foreign country should not be about bringing your own culture to the sun, it should be about enjoying the differences between your home environment and that of another country. Choose a destination where you can bask in natural, unspoiled beaches, spend your money at a local, family run hotel and leave McDonalds behind in favour of independent restaurants that use organic food. Avoid mass tourism and create your own locally sourced and culture filled experience.
2) Get Your Hands Dirty
The world is full of opportunities to volunteer and Turkey is no different. You can choose to contribute to worthwhile causes in areas with varying economic conditions which may be in need of education and social services. By throwing yourself in at the deep end, you can meet new people and experience their cultures while learning valuable work and life skills as part of a Turkish community. You may be teaching English to orphans in rural areas of East Turkey, or helping to farm pomegranates and other fruits and vegetables on the Mediterranean coast, either way, you will be donating your time and skills to a worthwhile cause and giving something back.
Our Favourite Destination in Turkey for Getting Your Hands Dirty
Dedetepe Eco-Farm - Çanakkale
Dedetepe Eco-Farm has a rustic charm about it. If you are looking for a luxury holiday, look elsewhere, Dedetepe offers travellers the opportunity to get back to basics and make a difference to the local environment and economy. As far as accommodation goes, you are welcome to pitch up a tent on the farm’s land, or you can stay in one of the rustic cabins attached to the farm. Dedetepe Farm is definitely one for the adventure seeker with military style obstacle course set out, perfect for those interested in practicing parkour. For those on holiday, there are many opportunities to enjoy local cultures, sports, crafting and mountain cycling tours, but Dedetepe is all about mucking in. Spend a few hours a day digging ground, pressing olives, moving stock around and tending the animals and your free time will be vastly more appreciated!
Çanakkale is a city and seaport in northwest Turkey and attracts weekenders from big cities like Istanbul and Bursa. It is easy to get to from major cities with its own airport and has the convenience of being a large city with fantastic rural surroundings. The ancient city of Troy is nearby, and of course you have access to the sea too. A major draw to the area is its olive pressing history. It is a fascinating place to learn about one of the area’s major exports, olive oil, and you can learn about the very basics of growing olive trees, to olive pressing, production and distribution.
3) Immerse Yourself in Nature
Every corner of Turkey has an incredible wealth of flora and fauna in vast areas of stunning and versatile natural surroundings. Even if you choose to stay in a tourist resort on the coast, there will be opportunities to discover and learn about the area’s local nature. Grab a map and go for a walk, hike up a mountain or ride a bike through the countryside; discover a part of Turkey that other holiday makers are missing. The landscape of Turkey is so diverse you can be in a fruit field at one moment and under a waterfall in the next!
Our Favourite Destination in Turkey for Immersing Yourself in Nature
Hızır Camping - Mount Ida
Hızır Kamp is located on the slops of Mount Ida, 30km southeast of the ruins of Troy. The location is mythical in itself and owes its fame to the legendary poet Homer, becoming one of the most famous mountains in the world thanks to his epic poem, ‘Iliad’ set during the Trojan War. The camping ground is within walking distance from Kazdağı National Park and on the shores of the Zeytinli creek, making it the perfect location for getting back to nature. Treks can be arranged, or you can take yoga classes. The kitchen uses only produce that is grown on site and locally produced olive oil and accommodation comes as tents, tree houses and bungalows, giving you the perfect excuse to sleep among nature.
Staying on Mount Ida provides a huge variety of activities to help you get back to nature as you truly feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere. Hiking is the obvious first choice activity, with hundreds of trails to choose from. The summit is bare and windswept with a relatively low tree line due to exposure, creating the perfect conditions for mountain climbing and wildlife enthusiasts will be able to look out for deer, wild boar and jackal. Wolves, lynx, brown bears and big cats once roamed on Mount Ida but are scarce these days. There are also opportunities to engage in horse riding or mountain biking, but many people choose to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings.
4) Learn Through The Community
If ecotourism for you is about education, perhaps your time would be well spent learning a new skill. Turkey is well known for its carpet and copper trade, agricultural economy, perfume making, handcrafts and health tourism. Practice some yoga, eat organic food and detox your body and your mind. Turkey is covered in natural hot springs where you can immerse yourself in warm sulphur rich waters said to have incredible health benefits. Across Turkey you will find opportunities to learn how carpets are made, there are places where you can see how oils are combined to make perfumes, you can do cooking classes and learn how to make local dishes, you can even take classes in ceramics and create your own dinner sets or Turkish lamps.
While in Turkey, why not take the opportunity to visit a traditional Turkish village and appreciate how the locals live in reality, away from the hype of tourism? Visit their organic farms, feed their chickens, see their schools and talk to their children. Use the local environment to your advantage without ruining it!
Our Favourite Destination in Turkey for Learning Through the Community
Spectrum Turkey - Dalyan
Spectrum is the perfect place in Turkey to “slow down, relax and simply be” as their website states. The property offers an intimate and healing environment up in the mountains on the outskirts on Dalyan on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. This home from home has a taste of luxury with poolside rooms surrounded enveloped in the smell of nature, but here you will find the perfect place to look after yourself while learning about Turkish culture. Spectrum offers yoga and meditation courses, pilates, painting classes, reiki, detox diets using locally produced organic food, healing retreats, walking holidays and the opportunity to partake in local workshops such as EFT (emotional freedom technique), Turkish cookery and tapestry weaving.
Dalyan is also the perfect destination for immersing yourself into local culture. It is a very small town and while over the years Dalyan has become more efficient at catering for tourists, it is very easy to get out of town and explore local villages which are often overlooked. Dalyan itself is also a locals town, the main high street for instance is also home to the local primary school! Cross the river and you have the opportunity to visit the ancient Roman ruins of Kaunos and the traditional working, organic farm village of Çandır where you can visit a traditional Turkish home. A recent addition to the town is the Eco-Trail which connects the Lycian Way to the Carian Trail which extend along the south and west coasts of Turkey. The newly plotted Eco-Trail is perfect for enthusiastic walkers and cyclists. But nature is all around Dalyan, home to the famous Iztuzu Beach, an unspoilt breeding ground for loggerhead turtles, and the Dalyan river and Köyceğiz lake where you can spot a wealth of local wildlife.
5) Don’t Forget to Take Your Rubbish With You
It seems like an obvious one, but one of the worst negative effects of tourism is litter and the damage that it can do to the natural environment. Always recycle if you can. If you can’t, be sure to dispose of your rubbish responsibly. Any rubbish left at the beach or by the river can cause irreversible damage to wildlife. Needless to say, if tourists aren’t more careful about their rubbish, these stunning areas that are so popular among tourists won’t be stunning forever!