Wildlife Holidays in Turkey

Turkey is a nation of startling contrasts and exceptional beauty. Its unique position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia makes it a remarkable melting pot, home to a mix of natural and human history unlike anywhere else on Earth. These lands have been host to many of the world’s greatest civilisations, from the ancient Hittites through the Greeks and Romans to the mighty Ottoman Empire; numerous traces of their presence remain, providing endless opportunities for cultural exploration. No less spectacular are the country’s fauna and flora; straddling two continents and a stone’s throw away from a third, Turkey supports a surprising combination of wildlife and plants, as well as providing an ideal thoroughfare for migratory species travelling between Africa and Eurasia.

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Operations Manager
Dan Lay

Our Specialist Recommends

"I recommend our ‘Western Turkey – Wildlife & History’ gentle-paced wildlife holiday focusing on natural & classical history"

Operations Manager - Dan Lay

Naturetrek Tours to Turkey

It is Western Turkey that exemplifies this best of all. Constantinople, now known as Istanbul, was for over a thousand years the centre of the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire, before taking on equal importance for the Ottomans. Remnants of these civilisations include Ephesus, once the Roman capital of Asia and now the most famous archaeological site in the country. At its peak in the first century AD, this great city was home to over 200,000 people; today, visitors can wonder at its well-preserved streets, shops and 24,000-capacity amphitheatre. The World Heritage Site of Hierapolis, founded as a thermal spa in the second century AD, also provides a compelling picture of ancient life and (particularly) death, with an astonishing variety of sarcophagi to be found within its ancient necropolis.

Today, Istanbul remains Turkey’s economic centre, but it is the skies above the city that are likely to draw the attention of the natural history traveller. Its location on a narrow strip of land connecting Europe and Asia means that vast numbers of migratory birds, including great flocks of raptors and storks, are funnelled over the metropolis. Especially during spring, the whole country is enriched by avian arrivals, including Masked Shrike, Bee-eater, Roller and Hoopoe, a profusion of colour matched only by the explosion of botanical life. Some of Turkey’s finest wildlife sites include Dilek National Park, a gorgeous expanse of rocky outcrops, scrub-covered hills and pine forests where Bonelli’s Eagles soar overhead and Western Rock Nuthatches hop over boulder-strewn slopes. Another location is the Menderes Delta, home to a breathtaking variety of wetland birds such as Pygmy Cormorant, Dalmatian Pelican and Ferruginous Duck. Amongst the mammals, Brown Bear, Wolf and Caracal still roam the country’s wilder corners, which in the not-so-distant past also sheltered Anatolian Leopard and even the extinct Caspian Tiger. Overall, Turkey is a phenomenal wildlife destination, with exciting species to find throughout its varied and picturesque landscapes.


What’s special about its wildlife?

Turkey supports a fantastic blend of wildlife, with its fauna influenced by no fewer than three continents. The spectacle of visible migration over Istanbul in the spring and autumn has to be seen to be believed, with hundreds of thousands of White and Black Storks, Egyptian Vultures, Lesser Spotted Eagles and much more visiting the region on passage between Africa and their Eurasian breeding grounds. The country’s special birds are too numerous to list comprehensively here, but other highlights include Kruper’s Nuthatch, Red-fronted Serin, Masked Shrike, Collared Pratincole and Black-headed Bunting.

The country’s flora is no less colourful and diverse than its avifauna. This is true not only in spring, but also in the autumn, when south-west Turkey’s Turquoise Coast bursts into an end-of-summer kaleidoscope. The numerous microhabitats of this region foster incredible plant diversity, from elegant ivory-coloured crocuses to vibrant lilac Colchicum. From the red pine-adorned slopes of Babadağ to the pristine beaches and wetlands of Patara, Turkey’s contrasting landscapes are a paradise for the visiting botanist.

Mammals are typically more elusive, but Turkey is still home to a range of charismatic and highly endangered species. While the Caspian Tiger is sadly extinct, and the Anatolian Leopard now vanishingly rare, other large carnivores like Wolf, Brown Bear and Caracal continue to survive and even thrive. Other species include Wild Goat, Indian Porcupine and small numbers of Mediterranean Monk Seal, while Beech Marten, Persian Squirrel and Bottlenose Dolphin can even be seen within Istanbul itself. Although seeing many of these mammals can be challenging, dedicated effort in the right habitat can bring an excellent chance of success.