Ilgaz National Park
Earth : Europe : Turkey : Black Sea Turkey : Western Karadeniz : Ilgaz National Park
The national park is centred around the Ilgaz Mountain, which sits right on the geographical and ecological border between the gently rolling Black Sea Region to north and the windswept hills of Central Anatolia to south. Its immensely verdant spruce forests are immediately recognizable no matter which direction you are approaching from, but it's in an especially stark contrast with the dusty plains and hills to south—if you were just passing through, you could swear you saw that solid line in which what is called as "the sea of trees" in Turkish (ağaç denizi) ends and gives way for the eternal steppes below.
Flora and fauna
Due to the elevation, the temperature on Ilgaz can be (and usually is) considerably lower than its surroundings. Snow should be expected between October and April.
Ilgaz lies on the highway D765, which connects Kastamonu in the north (about 20 min driving) with Çankırı (about 45 min driving) and Ankara (2.5 hrs of driving; also the site of nearest airport, Esenboğa) in the south (see the "get in" section of Kastamonu article for more details on driving in from Ankara). The main entrance to the national park (easily recognizable by its large wooden sign over the road) is right by this highway, near the 1850-metre mountain pass, which is the highest elevation D765 gets. Unique in the Turkish highway system, the road surface around the pass is covered by cobblestones rather than the usual asphalt to assist the vehicles in icy conditions—which can endure well into April, by the way.
Do note that there is also an unremarkable town named Ilgaz on the southern foothills of the mountain, a few kilometres off the highway, but it is almost entirely unrelated to the park apart from being close-by and sharing the same name, so don't get confused and head there (as elsewhere in Turkey, the road signs showing the road for Ilgaz the mountain and the park should be brown, while those pointing to Ilgaz the town should be blue).
Postcard perfect vistas of deep valleys dressed with emerald forests are the main sight around here. In winter, the scenery is almost Nordic—black silhouettes of spruces towering against snow white ground.
A restaurant offering Turkish pizza (pide) on the menu does exist within the park.
There are a number of hotels in the park, as well as rustic resorts offering bungalows.