On a warm, sunny April afternoon, we stood at the top of the lookout tower in the little lakeside village of Eskikaraağaç, gazing out over the beautiful Uluabat Lake. The lake stretched across the olive tree-blanketed plains under a clear blue sky and against a snow-capped mountainous backdrop. A pair of white storks perched on a nearby stand, fishermen cast their lines into the water off the pier, and boats floated along the grassy, reedy shoreline. It was a lovely day for a picnic at the lake.
Uluabat Lake, historically known by the name Lake Apolyont, is located about 40 kilometers west of Bursa on the road to Īzmir. The long, shallow lake is probably best known for the village of Gölyazı, an ancient Greek settlement that dates back to the Roman era. Though Gölyazı is a wonderful little village to visit and explore, it’s not the only thing that makes Uluabat Lake a neat place.
Outside of Gölyazı, the lake boasts a number of little interesting jewels. These include traditional Turkish and Yörük (nomad) villages, a Silk Road caravan inn (Issız Han) near the village of Uluabat, the bird center in Eskikaraağaç, and some important archaeological sites, including the Neolithic settlement at Aktopraklık, which dates back to the 6th Century BC and is believed to be one of the earliest farming communities in northwestern Anatolia. Eight islands dot the lake, with a couple of them containing ruins from the Byzantine period. The most notable are the ruins of the St. Constantine Monastery on Nailbey Island.
In addition to a rich human history, the lake also boasts a rich natural diversity. In 1998, Uluabat Lake was designated as a “Living Lake” by the Global Nature Fund and recognized by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. This is because the lake is on a key European waterfowl migration route and is teeming throughout the year with migratory waterfowl. Pelicans, ducks, storks, ibis, herons, terns, and egrets are among the many bird species that annually visit Uluabat. Notably, the lake is an important breeding ground for the endangered pygmy cormorant. However, birds aren’t the only wild inhabitants of Uluabat Lake. The lake is also home to 21 species of freshwater fish, including carp, pike, catfish, chub, and herring. These species are commercially important and can often be found for sale in the markets in Gölyazı and other lakeside villages.
If you’re looking to get out of Bursa and see some of the surrounding countryside, Uluabat Lake is an ideal place to spend an afternoon. You can wander the quaint, historic streets of Gölyazı, find a hidden place along the shoreline to throw in a fishing line, or enjoy a lakeside picnic to the sounds of birds and frogs.
You can reach Uluabat Lake by car by heading west out of Bursa on Īzmir Road. If you prefer public transportation, take bus 5/G to Gölyazı from Küçük Sanayi metro station on the University metro line.