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Gürsu - Finalist 2022

Gürsu has committed to a 5-year strategic plan for tourism investments. The location's participation is high and, in turn, they benefit from the environmental protection measures. Examples include tourism-driven infrastructures that increase job creation while also enhancing recreational experiences for residents and visitors alike.

Balıkesir - Winner 2019

What makes Balıkesir special

Balıkesir ranks high for its natural beauty, ancient cultural heritage and hot waters. There are many tourism opportunities in the city and it can be easily reached by any means of transportation, rail, sea or air. You can ‘heal’ in rich hot waters, see archaeological treasures, cool on blue-flagged beaches and indulge in nature rich endemic species of Mound Ida. Getting to know the gastronomic values of this olive-scented city, where green and blue meet, will provide you with an unforgettable experience.

Health and wellbeing tourism

Local authorities in Balıkesir give great importance to sustainable tourism moves above all tourism efforts. Environmental protection is an indispensable policy approach and one of the most protectionist philosophy of the country is applied across the province. All municipalities in the province gave priority to the expansion of bicycle roads to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. It has made legal arrangements for the protection of 2 national parks and many nature parks it has. Balıkesir actively protects its 22 blue flag beaches, by collecting waste released in nature and distributing free alternatives to plastic bags.

Balıkesir already applied to ‘European Route of Historic Thermal Towns’ and the process is in the final steps toward admission. The 4th International Thermal & Healthcare Travel Summit was organised in Edremit, Balıkesir and all hot spring districts of Balıkesir actively participated. As of 2019, professional support is provided to ensure the sustainability of all thermal reserves, each reserve is being individually assessed and good practices are being adopted for sustainable hot waters.

Sightseeing tips

  • Bathe in hot springs located in every district, with thermal waters of varying chemical composition to address different ailments, surrounded bylush forests, some of which are also home to incredibly rare geological formations.
  • Visit ancient cities in the cradle of civilizations, western Anatolia. Including places like Antandros where Aeneas started his journey which ended in Rome, Adremitteion, Kyzikos and Daskyleion, while also adjacent to Assos, Troy and Pergamon.
  • Ayvalik Archipelago, with its 22 islands and the famous ‘Demon’s Feast’.
  • Bird Paradise National Park is a true nature haven that hosts 266 different avian species. Its importance was also registered by the Council of Europe and it received a class A certificate.

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Gaziantep - Winner 2015

Local gastronomy

One of Gaziantep's finest treats is the incredible food - so come hungry!

There's one Turkish word you should learn before visiting Gaziantep: Fistik is Turkish for pistachio, and you won't walk a block without seeing a shop selling the local pistachio pastry, the baklava.

The pistachios and thus the baklava in Gaziantep are considered by many to be the best in the world. Local inhabitants may tell you: "France has champagne; in Antep, we have baklava". And as soon as you try one, you will understand why the Gaziantep people are so proud of them. Take one bite of this fluffy pastry filled with crushed pistachios and drizzled with honey, and discover that it is quite possibly one of the finest indulgences in life.

In Gaziantep, as in many cities of Turkey, eating places tend to specialize in one or two types of cooking. You go to a kebap house if you want chargrilled meat (with soups and salads), or a köfte house if you want spicy meatballs (usually served with white bean salad). A börek house serves savoury pastries, and a baklava house or a rice pudding house offers dessert. To try a variety of small dishes (mezes), go to a meyhane, which is a kind of bar/bistro. In Gaziantep, you can also find places for lahmacun (a kind of pizza) or katmer (a kind of crunchy pancake stuffed with crushed pistachios and clotted cream, folded into a square and baked in a wood fire oven). There are almost as many places dedicated to food varieties as there are varieties of food!

Environmental sustainability

The city of Gaziantep has approximately 1.8 million inhabitants and has been facing high demographic growth because of its economic attractiveness and the flow of migrants coming from Syria (the city is located at 135 km from Aleppo in Syria). Gaziantep is the 6th biggest city in Turkey, and functions as regional capital in the southern part of the country. In terms of industrial development, the city ranks as the fourth most important city in Turkey.

In the context of its partnership with Turkish municipalities, the French Development Agency (AFD) has established a cooperation with the Metropolitan Municipality of Gaziantep (MMG) to conduct a pioneer action in the field of sustainable urban development. The municipality of Gaziantep, as a pioneer in the field of urban sustainable development, took the initiative to realise a climate plan on its territory.

Following the first phase of the study, the city presented its environmental policy at the international summit for climate change in Cancun, Mexico in November 2010. The final results of the study will allow the city to define its priorities in terms of fight against climate change for the coming years. The MMG also wishes to act as a role model for other cities in Turkey, to inspire the implementation of planned policies tackling climate change at a local scale.

Sightseeing tips

  • Enjoy a change of scenery. Travel deep into Gaziantep by wandering around the city for an afternoon, a whole day, or even a week. Let yourself be mesmerized by the bazaars full of metal workers and shoe makers, all the hand-crafted products, the tea being offered at every corner, and the scents of exotic spices.
  • Experience history by visiting the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, the biggest mosaic museum in the world. This museum (built in 2012 and rewarded the same year by the Presidential Culture and Arts Grand Award) showcases superb mosaics unearthed at the Roman site of Belkis-Zeugma. You can even create your own mosaic, through mosaic practice and training. Other noteworthy attractions are the Emine Gogus Culinary Museum, and the City Museum, set in a restored Bayazhan building.
  • In Gaziantep, hospitality is a way of life. Take part in it by visiting a traditional coffee house, a kahvehane. Known for its strong coffee, Turkey offers an array of atmospheric coffee houses where you can pass the time with a tasty energy boost. For a taste of Gaziantep, try the local menengic, a Turkish coffee made with raw pistachios. If you're lucky, you might be able to find an experienced Turk to read your fortune in the coffee remains at the bottom of your cup.

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Tarakli - Winner 2013


Tarakli is the most frequently visited and easily accessible town in the province.

All important spots at the destination are barrier-free, and infrastructure can be used by all residents and visitors without problems. High quality accommodation services are provided in boutique hotels reflecting the unique architecture of the area.

Regular festivals and meetings are organized in Tarakli, and local entrepreneurs, residents, young people, women and disabled people are encouraged to participate in various activities.

Sightseeing tips

  • Enjoy traditional way of life in the peaceful environment of the district.
  • Visit thermal springs close to the village of Haciyakup.
  • Discover sports activities in a wonderful natural environment: paragliding, canyon trekking and camping.

More information

  • The Tarakli website
  • Watch the EDEN video about Tarakli
  • EDEN contact for Tarakli: tozkaramanatyahoo [dot] com (Subject: Tarakli) (tozkaraman[at]yahoo[dot]com)

Hamamonu, Altindag - Winner 2011

Regeneration and revival

Since 2006, Hamamonu has seen restoration and expansion projects in 250 locations, including masjuds and mosques from the Seljuk era (11th and 12th century). Many buildings were reconstructed or completely rebuilt, and several streets were pedestrianised.

An area of around 210 hectares was reconstructed, and 33 sites were registered with the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board.

Today, Hamamonu treasures and history are unveiled for a new generation to enjoy.

Sightseeing tips

  • See the the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, winner of the 1997 ‘European Museum of the Year’ award and the Ulucanlar Prison Museum.
  • Visit Mehmet Akif Cultural Park and Mehmet Akif Literature Museum where you can learn more about the poet and the author of the Turkish National Anthem.
  • Don’t forget to visit the Haci Musa (Seyfeddin) Mosque, founded in 1421, famous for its wooden framework and gates.

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Nemrut Crater Lake - Winner 2010

What makes Nemrut Crater Lake special?

The unique location of the lake attracts thousands of tourists every year, with its numerous volcanoes and extraordinary nature, as well as the rich historical heritage. City-ruins, castles and other historical monuments, some of which date back to the Ottoman era, offer a truly unique experience for all visitors.

Every summer, festivals and activities like fishing competitions, swimming competitions, junior sailing group shows, various folk performances and concerts like the Presidential Symphony Orchestra draw large crowds.

Don't miss...

  • the city of Bitlis, dominated by a Byzantine Castle. Be sure to taste the delicious honey from the local producers
  • the Seljuk Cemetery in Ahlat District, the largest Turkish-Islamic graveyard in the world.

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Kuyucuk Lake Wild Life Reserve, Kars - Winner 2009

What makes Kars special?

For stargazers, Lake Kuyucuk is said to be one of the best spots in all of Turkey due to there being minimal light pollution. In the warmer months, butterflies fly freely through lake-lined flower meadows as visitors relax lakeside.

Kars is also a food-lovers paradise. The locals are known for their rich dairy products, including world-class cheeses, and their roasted domestic goose, which can only be found in this part of Turkey.

Kars is an area that has a high regard for the environment. Ongoing studies that monitor the ecological impacts on the lakes and other shoreline vegetation are taken seriously. Designated parking, picnicking and walking trails have also been introduced to help preserve the lands.

What to do in...

  • Spring: Do like the locals and pick delicious mushrooms
  • Summer: Watch the cattle grazing in the meadows next to Lake Kuyucuk
  • Fall: Hike your way to the top of Seytan Kale
  • Winter: Go ice-skating on the frozen Cildir Lake

Other highlights

  • Enjoy a picnic in total solitude
  • Eat roasted goose at a local restaurant
  • Go stargazing along Lake Kuyucuk

More information

  • The official website of Kuyucuk Lake Wildlife and Reserve
  • Watch the EDEN video about Kuyucuk Lake Wild Life Reserve, Kars
  • EDEN contact for Kuyucuk Lake Wildlife Reserve, Kars: onderatkuzeydoga [dot] org (onder[at]kuzeydoga[dot]org)

Edirne - Winner 2008


Edirne is a city of rivers – the Meric, Arda and Tunca rivers all meet at Edirne and join the Ergene river in the south. Edirne has become famous for the historical bridges on these many rivers – Gazi Mihal bridge built in 1420 is the oldest and Uzunkopru bridge the longest (1,392 m long) with 174 arches.

Four ancient bazaars are worth seeing:

  • Bedesten, a covered bazaar where valuable goods and jewellery were sold
  • Arasta Bazaar and Ali Pasa Bazaar, the centre of commercial life in the 16-17th centuries with 129 shops
  • Rustempasa Caravanserai which was converted into a hotel in 1972. The last two buildings were built by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan

Edirne is also famed for its mosques, the most spectacular of which are:

  • the Selimiye mosque. Built by architect Sinan in the 16th (1569-1575) century, it is the focal point of the city at the top of a hill and one of the greatest achievements of Ottoman architecture.
  • the Eski mosque. Covered with nine domes, it is the oldest monumental Ottoman structure in Edirne dating back to the 15th (1403-1414) century.
  • the Uc Serefeli mosque. Built in the 15th (144-1447) century, it is a typical Ottoman monument. Its dome was revolutionary at the time of construction, showing the evolvement of two architectural periods – from early to classical Ottoman.

Museums preserve and reflect the history and traditions of the city:

  • the Health Museum (Sultan Bayezıd II. Mosque and Complex) – where patients in the 15th century were treated with the sound of water, music, scents, various occupations, as well as medical knowledge and medicine
  • Edirne Archeology and Ethnography Museum where Ottoman household goods and furniture, rugs, coins, dresses, wooden goods are exhibited
  • Kirkpinar House – encasing belongings of Kirkpinar wrestlers, pictures and documents about Kirkpinar
  • Hafizaga Kiosque (the city's museum of history) – an authentic example of traditional Turkish houses
  • the Museum of Turkish Islamic Works exhibiting Ottoman tiles and ceramics, artifacts belong to wrestlers
  • the Museum of Balkan War and the memorial of Sükrü Pasa
  • the Lausanne Memorial War Museum built at the historical train station area in the Karaagaç district

Aditionally, visitors can sample delicious local cuisine like white cheese, almond paste, fried liver, wrapped liver, Deva-i misk (a kind of halva) and Hardaliye (a drink produced mainly from grape juice mixed with mustard and marzipan).

Kirkpinar Wrestling Events

The highlights of the city are the Kirkpinar wrestling events. This traditional oil wrestling tournament has been officially organised on the island of Sarayici in Edirne since 1925, but Edrine has been the battle ground for wrestlers for nearly 700 years.

Wearing nothing but a kisbet, traditional trousers made of leather from the water buffalo, wrestlers (known as pehlivan) cover themselves with olive oil and engage in one-on-one battles.

The competition winner receives the prestigious Golden Belt, and is awarded the title Chief Pehlivan. The contest starts after a visit to the graves of two famous wrestlers – Adali Halil and Kara Emin, who are said to be the first Kirkpinar wrestlers in Edrine.

The Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

More information

  • The Edirne website
  • Watch the EDEN video about Edirne:
  • EDEN contact for Edirne: edirneintatedirne [dot] bel (edirneint[at]edirne[dot]bel)