How can I retain my outdoor passions while living in Istanbul?

What are some great outdoor activities I can do while I'm living in Istanbul? The only things I know of are running and swimming in the Bosporus. How about diving or snowboarding? -Lauren Istanbul, Turkey

Greg Melville

Swimming? Diving? Have you gotten out of your apartment and actually looked at the water in and around the city? It makes the East River in New York look like a crystal mountain spring. Istanbul (not Constantinople), in northwestern Turkey, is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. It straddles the continents of Europe and Asia, divided by the Bosporus, a narrow, murky strait that runs through the city’s center and connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Sadly, outdoor recreational opportunities are scarce in the city. The good news is that Turkey is filled with quiet, unspoiled places to explore-on the coasts and in the mountains inland. As long as you can find the transportation to get there. Here’s a rundown.

You’ve got two best bets here, both two the southwest. Saros Bay, a few hours away on northern Aegean Coast, is the first. The rock-strewn sea floor, though not as filled with marine life as, say, the Caribbean, still has enough critters living in the remarkably clear water to keep you interested. The second diving option lies further down the coast, on Gallipoli. Yes, the peninsula on the Aegean where, in World War I, the Allies—-intent on taking Constantinople (not Istanbul)-fought their epic battle with the Turks, and lost. There are more than 200 wrecks along the peninsula, mostly of military vessels from this era, which are worth exploring. Atlantis Scuba in Istanbul organizes trips.

Skiing and Snowboarding
You might be surprised by the number of decent skiing options in Turkey. Kartalkaya in the inland Koroglu Mountains is the closest to Istanbul. (Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.) Your reward for making the six-hour journey is a resort with 23 trails, accessed by three chairlifts and nine t-bars, on the slopes of a 7,300-foot peak. The vertical is about 2,000 feet, and the snow conditions are generally pretty good. For more information, refer to the Grand Kartal Hotel.

Hiking and Mountain Biking
There’s not much of a mountain biking scene in Turkey, but the best trails are generally found in the Cappadocia region in the country’s geographical center—famed for the vast volcanic rock formations within its deep valleys. Think Moab with white rocks instead of red. Argeus Tours organizes guided trips. Cappadocia is also one of Turkey’s top hiking destinations. The country’s two epic hikes, the Lycian Way and St. Paul’s Trail, are both about a half-day’s drive away. The 300-mile Lycian Way winds along the remote southwestern Mediterranean coast, considered the Turkish Riviera. St. Paul’s trail lies further to the east on the shoreline, a 300-mile path that supposedly traces the mountainous Roman road that the Apostle Paul took during his first missionary travels. You can find information on both footpaths at