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BLOG Slow Cities in Turkey and the Cittaslow Movement

2 August 2023 / Culture

Where to Chill in Turkey?

While Turkey has experienced much development in recent years, the “slow cities of Turkey” are worth getting to know, especially if you plan to live here. The Cittaslow movement originated in Italy in the late 1990s. The term "Cittaslow" combines the Italian word "citta," meaning "city," and the English word "slow," to indicate slowing down life and preserving local traditions and culture.

The movement, founded by Paolo Saturnini in 1999 in Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, was inspired by the Slow Food movement, which promotes local food traditions and sustainable agriculture. Cittaslow extends slow living to all aspects of urban life, emphasizing more holistic and balanced approaches to city living.

Fundamental principles of the Cittaslow movement include prioritizing the well-being and happiness of residents over economic growth and promoting eco-friendly practices and environmental conservation. Slow cities should also encourage local traditions, craftsmanship, and historical landmarks and support local businesses and agriculture to strengthen local economies.

Additionally, they encourage non-motorized transportation like walking, and cycling, to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. This helps foster community and active citizen participation in local decision-making. Cities and towns that embrace the Cittaslow movement commit to adopting these principles and work towards becoming more liveable and sustainable places.

 These cities undergo certification processes and must meet specific criteria to be officially recognized as Cittaslow cities. The Cittaslow movement found fertile ground in Turkey, with numerous towns and cities joining the ranks of Slow Cities. Inspired by Slow Food principles and protecting local heritage, these communities come together to create an alternative approach to urban development.

Far from the hurried paces of modern life, these Slow Cities represent the resilience of tradition and the value of sustainability. In this descriptive post, we journeyed through tranquil streets and charming neighbourhoods of Slow Cities in Turkey, exploring how they preserve tradition, foster sustainability, and savour slow living.

                                                            Slow Cities in Turkey

1: History of Ahlat in the Bitlis Province

Ahlat town in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey, sits on the northern shore of Lake Van, Turkey's largest lake. One notable aspect of Ahlat's cultural heritage is medieval Islamic tombstones and mausoleums. These tombstones, known as "Ahlat Stones" or "Ahlat Selçuklu Mezar Taşları," are unique examples of Seljuk Turkish art and craftsmanship. These 11th and 12th-century carved tombstones display beautiful geometric and floral designs, inscriptions in Kufic script, and depictions of animals and human figures.

Other landmarks include Ahlat castle, the impressive Çifte Minareli Medrese, a 13th-century theological school adorned with characteristic Seljuk architectural elements, and a well-preserved Seljuk-era bathhouse. Despite the cultural and historical value, Ahlat remains somewhat off the beaten path regarding mass tourism, making this place an authentic and rewarding destination.


2: Delicious Food in Akyaka in the Mugla Province

On Turkey's southwestern coast, Akyaka belongs to the Datca-Gokova Special Environmental Protection Area, which emphasizes preserving unique ecosystems and biodiversity. Akyaka's most prominent feature is Gokova Bay, a large and picturesque bay surrounded by mountains covered in lush greenery. The bay sits in the more prominent Gulf of Gokova, with crystal-clear waters, sandy beaches, and diverse marine life.

Traditional wooden houses called "Gokova Houses" or "Ula-Mugla Houses" are inspired by local architectural styles. These houses feature unique wooden balconies and have been carefully designed to blend in with landscapes. This architectural style reflects cultural heritage while promoting sustainable development. The town sits where the Azmak River meets the Aegean Sea. The Azmak River river with clear waters, surrounded by reeds and trees, creates peaceful and refreshing environments.

3: Slow City Movement in Eğirdir, in the Isparta Province

Eğirdir's location on the shores of Lake Eğirdir, surrounded by mountains, creates a peaceful and tranquil environment. The town sits away from big cities, offering slower paces of life that encourage relaxation and reflection. Traditional handicrafts, such as rug weaving and pottery, are still practised.

Slow living in Eğirdir extends to culinary offerings. Fresh fish from Lake Eğirdir, regional kebabs, and locally produced fruits and vegetables are among the gastronomic experiences. Additionally, Sagalassos ancient city, an important archaeological site, is a short drive away. Slow living in Eğirdir allows visitors to escape fast-paced worlds, appreciate nature, connect with local communities, and savour authentic experiences.

4: Gökçeada in the western province of Canakkale

Gökçeada is the largest and westernmost Turkish island. Renowned for unspoiled landscapes, and rich history, Gökçeada has embraced slow living, making the island perfect for authentic escapes from modern life. The island's inhabitants, Gökçeadalı, have strong community vibes and are dedicated to maintaining their heritage. Traditional island architecture, with whitewashed houses adorned with colourful shutters and flowers, can be found throughout the island's charming villages.

As a destination that values slow living and environmental preservation, Gökçeada practices sustainable tourism. Authorities and local businesses minimize the impacts of tourism on the environment, and efforts promote eco-friendly practices and support local products. Gökçeada boasts stunning natural landscapes. From beautiful beaches with clear waters to lush green valleys and rolling hills, the island's scenery captivates visitors. Those seeking solitude to connect with nature can explore walking trails, visit secluded beaches, and appreciate abundant flora.

5: Gerze in the Northern Sinop Province on the Black Sea

Gerze offers refreshing escapes through slower living. With picturesque coastal settings and delicious cuisine, Gerze also provides authentic Turkish experiences along the Black Sea coast. Whether exploring historical landmarks, or savouring seafood delights, Gerze invites visitors to embrace slow living and appreciate simple pleasures.

Lush green landscapes, rolling hills, and dense forests make the destination ideal for nature enthusiasts, hiking, and nature walks. With a population of 20,000, 2012 protests erupted after the planned construction of a coal plant. This was later abandoned.

6: Göynük in the Bolu Province of Turkey

Known for historical sites, and traditional architecture, Göynük has embraced slow living, making it ideal for peaceful holidays. The main square, Göynük Meydanı, is surrounded by a 17th-century mosque. With a population of 4,500, Goynuk is one of those Turkish destinations that earn fame for old Ottoman period houses. Goynuk has also been the location of a few Turkish films.

7: Güdül in the Ankara Province of Central Turkey

With a population of 8,000, Gudul sits around 90 kilometres away from Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. This mountainous district breaks into roughly 30 smaller villages that embrace rural living away from big cities in Turkey. North of Gudul, the lake and forest earn much admiration for their natural beauty.


8: Halfeti on the Euphrates River of Turkey

Halfeti town in the Sanliurfa Province of southeastern Turkey features captivating settings, with a significant portion partially submerged underwater. Halfeti's history dates from ancient times, showing various civilizations that once thrived here. During the Birecik Dam construction in the 1990s, the old Halfeti town was partially submerged, leading to the relocation to a new village.

Old buildings, including mosques and houses, are partially submerged in the Euphrates River. The Byzantine Halfeti Castle stands proudly. Other sites of interest include the Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque.) The area is particularly famous for its black roses, known as "Halfeti roses," which grow along the riverbanks.

9: The Charming Town of Köyceğiz in the Muğla Province

Köyceğiz is known for biodiversity and traditions, and the lake connects to the Dalyan River, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea, creating diverse ecosystems. The protected Köyceğiz Lake is home to many bird species and features natural mud baths and thermal springs.

Dalyan, a nearby town, is famous for therapeutic mud baths, believed to have healing properties for the skin. The Sultaniye Thermal Springs offer warm and mineral-rich waters, providing rejuvenating experiences for visitors. With tranquil environments, traditional architecture, and local cuisine, Köyceğiz provides authentic experiences from the fast-paced world. Learn about the Mugla region of Turkey.

10: Mudurnu in the Bolu Province of Turkey

Mudurnu features Ottoman architecture and beautiful natural surroundings. The historic district of Mudurnu is a living museum of Ottoman architecture, while bazaars support local artisans and businesses. The proximity to the Abant and Gölcük National Parks makes this slow-living destination an excellent base. Responsible tourism ensures visitors experience Mudurnu's beauty while contributing to conservation. (More about the Bolu province in Turkey.)

11: Perşembe in Northern Turkey

Perşembe in the Ordu Province of the Black Sea is the place in Greek Mythology where Jason and the Argonauts had to land their ship after a storm. The quirky aspect is that the town's name takes after the word for Thursday. Breaking down into many smaller villages, the population of 31,000 enjoys the principles of slow living.


12: Green Şavşat in Northeast Turkey

If ever you want to see the Greenest place in Turkey, head to Savsat in the Artvin province of Turkey. The district is home to Karagöl-Sahara National Park, featuring the crystal-clear Karagöl Lake, dense forests, and diverse fauna. The breathtaking scenery of Şavşat attracts nature enthusiasts, hikers, and photographers. Visitors experience local culture through traditional dance performances, local handicrafts, and authentic culinary experiences.

13: Seferihisar in the Western Province of İzmir

As the first Slow City in Turkey to achieve zero waste, the town set examples for other historical villages to follow. Organic farming, solar energy, and eco-friendly practices are standard in Seferihisar.  Sığacık, one of the central neighbourhoods of Seferihisar, features a picturesque harbour filled with colourful fishing boats, narrow cobblestone streets, and traditional stone houses. The 16th century Sığacık Castle is a historical landmark overlooking the village and the sea. Seferihisar is the first town in Turkey and the second in the world to be designated as a "Cittaslow" (Slow City) by the Cittaslow International movement.

14: Beautiful Nature in Taraklı

Tarakli,  in the foothills of the Samanlı Mountains, in the Sakarya Province of northwestern Turkey, brims with rich historical heritage and tranquil natural surroundings. The Taraklı Grand Mosque, also called Orhan Gazi Mosque, is an iconic Ottoman-era mosque with an elegant minaret and intricate interior decorations. This is another town in Turkey that has kept the Ottoman vibes, as seen in the narrow streets and old wooden houses. With easy access to nearby sites of nature, the town is also famous for the dishes of Keskek and Ugut.

15: Uzundere in the Erzurum Province of eastern Turkey

Sitting near the Palandöken Mountains, which also happens to be a top skiing spot in Turkey, the region is also home to numerous waterfalls, including the Tortum Waterfall. The Tortum Lake and Dam are among the major attractions in Uzundere. The dam is a significant engineering marvel, providing hydroelectric power and irrigation water. The most notable landmark is the Tortum Castle, a medieval fortress overlooking the lake and the surrounding countryside. The castle's ruins provide a glimpse into the region's historical past.

16: The Cittaslow Network in Vize, Kırklareli

The Vize Castle, also called Bizye Castle, overlooking the town dates from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Other historical sites include the Taş Mektep (Stone School) and the Vize Hagia Sophia Mosque. Favourable climate and soil conditions contribute to the production of high-quality grapes. Visitors explore local wineries, taste regional wines, and learn about traditional wine-making techniques.

17: Slow Living in Yalvaç

Situated in Pisidia's ancient region, Yalvaç boasts well-preserved archaeological sites and a tranquil rural setting. Ancient ruins make this slow-living town captivating. The town was once an important city during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Evidence of historical significance is seen in well-preserved ruins throughout the area. The ruins of Antioch include a theatre, an agora, and various temples, showcasing architectural and cultural achievements.

Yalvaç is near Lake Eğirdir, one of Turkey's largest freshwater lakes in Turkey. Yalvaç offers laid-back atmospheres, making it an excellent destination for relaxation and breaks from city life. The rural charm allows visitors to experience slower paces and connect with nature. The region's agricultural produce features cherries, apricots, and roses, used to make rose-based products like rose jam and rose water.

18: Yenipazar in the Aydın Region of Turkey

Yenipazar town can boast an impressive historical heritage and traditional architecture. The town was a significant settlement during the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine eras. One notable historical landmark in Yenipazar is the Heraclea ad Latmos ancient city called Latmus or Latmos. The ancient ruins include remains of a theatre, agora, temples, and city walls, providing visitors with insights.

The fertile lands around Yenipazar support agricultural activities, particularly olive and grape cultivation. The region's olive oil and wine production are renowned for their high quality, and visitors can enjoy authentic flavours of local produce.

19: Slow Living in Kemaliye, Erzincan

The name of this town means Spring, and like many other slow places in Turkey, the town has kept the Ottoman heritage as seen in the restored houses. Sitting in the Eastern Anatolian region and with a population of 3,000, the town also boasts an impressive location and views of the Karasu River. Breaking down into 11 districts, this slow town reflects traditional and rural Turkey away from big cities like many others.

20: The Quiet Town of Arapgir in Malatya

The origins of Arapgir Castle, also called Kızıl Kule (Red Tower), can be traced back to the Hittite period, which has undergone several renovations and expansions over the centuries. Arapgir features traditional Anatolian architecture, with Ottoman houses and historical structures. The historical district features stone buildings, traditional Turkish mansions, and charming cobblestone streets, creating an authentic and picturesque setting. Arapgir's cultural heritage blends Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian influences. 

21: Delightful Foça in the İzmir Region of Turkey

One notable historical landmark in Foça,  the ancient city of Phocaea, from which the town's name derives, has remains of the old city walls, theatre, and other archaeological remnants, providing insights into Foça's ancient past. Foça's diverse marine life includes the resident population of Mediterranean monk seals, an endangered species. The international network ensures pristine beaches and marine environments. Find out more about Izmir in Turkey.


22: İznik in the Bursa Region

İznik, formerly known as Nicaea, is a charming town in the Bursa Province of northwestern Turkey. Sitting on the shores of Lake İznik (Lake Nicaea) and surrounded by ancient walls, İznik features ancient landmarks and serene natural surroundings. İznik is particularly famous for hosting the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, an important event in early Christian history.

Visitors explore the remains of ancient gates, towers, and other structures. İznik is famous for exquisite İznik tiles. These tiles are traditionally handcrafted and are renowned for their intricate designs and vibrant colours. The town's namesake, Lake İznik, adds to the natural beauty. Find out more about Bursa in Turkey.

Conclusion and Further Reading

The slow cities in Turkey have been a catalyst for preserving the nation's unique cultural heritage while nurturing community and sustainable practices. The participating towns have embraced the movement with enthusiasm, showcasing the beauty of slow living. In recent years, as more and more people seek to move away from urban living, we could see more destinations in Turkey adopting the slow movement network. To learn more about the country, visit our blog on the best places to live in Turkey.

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