far from Istanbul, all known for their natural beauty.
This is the start of the months in which everyone wants to escape somewhere, even if for only a few days or just a weekend. And truly, this is the perfect time of year to witness the reawakening of nature and the blooming of so many flowers and shades of green in person. What follows is a list of 10 spots not far from İstanbul, all known for their natural beauty.
Abant: Lake, forest and a great abundance of oxygen
Abant is a great getaway spot not only for İstanbulites, but for people from Ankara, too. You can reach Abant from İstanbul via the TEM highway in only a couple of hours. Long walks around the shores of Abant Lake, surrounded by fresh pine trees, will give you your much-needed oxygen refill and satisfy your sports needs. What's more, you can also rent a canoe on this lake and go fishing. The flora and fauna of this region are rich and varied; there are many different kinds of birds living here in addition to otters and even deer. If you have a bicycle, don't forget to bring it with you to Abant -- what could be more relaxing that riding your bike along the shores of this gorgeous lake? On your way home, you might also be tempted by one or more of the many local food items for sale here; things like the local tarhana soup mix, homemade noodles, butter, cheeses, honey, walnuts, rosehips and thorn apples. If you want to stay overnight at Abant, one place you might really enjoy are the wooden Abant Evleri. Call 0 (374) 224 51 78 for more information.
Ağva: A hidden paradise in İstanbul
For people working at fast, busy tempos in İstanbul, Ağva is a natural getaway. In fact, it's really not even right to think of Ağva as being separate from İstanbul. This place is only one-and-a-half hours outside of İstanbul; simply take the Ümraniye-Şile highway on the Asian side, following the Kabakoz, İmrenli and Kurfallı route, to arrive in Ağva. For those without cars, you can hop on one of the buses headed to Şile that depart from Üsküdar. Ağva lies between the Göksu and Yeşilçay rivers. You can paddle canoes on the river or walk on the shores of the Black sea here. Rent a bicycle and ride through the forest. There are plenty of "river homes" on the banks of the Yeşilçay River where you can spend the night. While in Ağva, definitely make it a point to eat some Black Sea fish for dinner. Also, make sure you wander over to see the "Woodyville" wooden homes, known locally as the "cowboy town." Call 0 (216) 727 70 10 for more information.
Cumalıkızık village: Take a journey into Ottoman times
This little village lies at the base of the Uludağ Mountain and has managed to maintain a very Ottoman feel. In fact, this place is replete with examples of Ottoman civil architecture. A favorite site for the filming of various television series due to its historical look and feel, Cumalıkızık is only half an hour away from Bursa and boasts a little museum all of its own, displaying historical items. The 270 homes in this village are all under official protection and have all been restored. Open tables have been set up in front of many of the villagers' homes where homemade jellies, cheeses, butter, etc., are sold. Local women also make treats like gözleme, sıkma and mantı. A little ways above the village is a long walking trail. This is a great place to relieve stress in the spring, walking along the outskirts of the beautiful Uludağ mountains. A great place to stay here is the Mavi Boncuk Butik Hotel. Call 0 (224) 373 09 55 for more information.
Polonezköy: No, not Poland, Polonezköy!
Some people refer to Polonezköy as İstanbul's back garden. This beautiful little village lies along the edges of İstanbul's Beykoz district and contains immense historical and natural attractions. The first hint that you have strayed outside of İstanbul is the number of pine trees that greet you here. Polonezköy transports you away from the stress and tempo of İstanbul but without requiring too much of a road journey to do so. There is so much to do here: ride horses or go for long walks in the forest. Ride your bike on Turkey's first real bike trail or go take a look at the bee-keeping museum here. Descendents of Polish immigrants who settled here from the mid-1880s now run some wonderful restaurants that offer lots of unique tastes. Call the Adampol Rest Facilities for more information at 0 (216) 432 31 54.
The islands: For a relaxing weekend with no traffic
Büyükada, Heybeliada and Kınalıada… three islands in the Marmara Sea that lie only an hour or so away by ferryboat from İstanbul. As you head toward the islands, leave your stress, all the noise and the activity of the city behind you. These islands are the ideal weekend getaway spots, and with no cars allowed on the islands, you will be forced to rely on your feet or bicycles or perhaps horse-drawn carriages for transportation. The largest of the islands is Büyükada. The best time to head out here is during the spring or summer. Many trails and paths allow you to take advantage of all these islands have to offer while numerous great restaurants serve delicious dishes, many made with freshly caught fish from the sea. Some places to stay include the Saydam Planet Hotel (0  382 26 70) Villa Rıfat (0  382 60 68).
Safranbolu is renowned for its historic homes. In fact, there are 200 homes under historic protection here, homes which people come to see and take in the classic Ottoman architecture. Safranbolu hosts thousands of Turkish and foreign tourists every year. It is truly an ideal spot for a quiet and interesting weekend getaway. This period of the year -- late spring -- will also allow you a glimpse of some of the beautiful natural bounties of Safranbolu. Also, regional cuisine is very strong here, so enjoy some of Turkey's tastiest cooking, from lamb kebab to walnut çörek. Call Pasha Konak at 0 (370) 725 35 72 or Havuzlu Konak at 0 (370) 725 28 83 for more information on where to stay in Safranbolu.
Kaz Mountains (Mount Ida): Load up on your oxygen
The Kaz Mountains -- also known as Mount Ida -- lie on the Balıkesir-Biga peninsula. They are the ideal spot for people looking for a real replenishing of oxygen into their systems. Reaching this region is really very easy: All you need to do is get on the İstanbul-Bandırma ferryboat. There are many stone boutique hotels located in the Yeşilyurt village, on the outskirts of the mountain. Among the wonderful places to walk are the mountains, where you are almost assured of catching a glimpse of some of the rich and varied wildlife living here. With lots of olives and olive products around here, no doubt your appetite will be awakened at breakfast time! Zeytinbağı Hotel (0  387 37 61)
Bozcaada and Cunda Island: Sea, history and nature all at once
The Aegean island of Bozcaada boasts a unique mixture of natural and historical wonders. It is the ideal spot for a getaway, with its crystal clear sea and its serene environment. Make sure you stop by the Bozcaada Museum and the little island of Ayazma while here. As for Cunda Island, it is one of the most popular stopovers for people traveling in the northern Aegean region. This little island is famous for its stone homes and for its Crete and Lesbos cuisines. The fastest way to reach Cunda from İstanbul is to get on an İDO ferryboat heading for Bandırma. The Rengigül Pansiyon/Bozcaada can be reached at 0 (286) 697 81 71 and the Altay Butik Pansiyon/Cunda Adası at 0 (266) 327 10 24.
Kerpe: A hidden village on the Black Sea
Kerpe lies in a forest that runs along the shores of one of the most hidden bays on the Black Sea. This village is nearest to the Kandıra district of İzmit. It lies one-and-a-half hours outside of the İstanbul Çamlıca toll booths. While here, take a boat ride around the bay. Make sure you see the monumental stones near Miço Burnu. Taste the local yoghurt. Take advantage of all the fresh fish dishes at local restaurants. Call Hotel Kerpe at 0 (262) 561 25 82 or the Varuna Hotel at 0 (262) 561 28 00.
The village of Uçmakdere lies 200 kilometers from İstanbul and is 34 kilometers past Tekirdağ along the Marmara shoreline in Şarköy. The beauty here is perfect, and because it's difficult to reach during the winter months, it's like a hidden paradise of sorts. Every kind of fruit imaginable is available. During the summer, hotels, small pensions and even camping are available for your convenience. Call the Yapıncak Touristic Facilities for more information at 0 (282) 528 71 60 61.