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House of Virgin Mary

House of Virgin Mary

Covering some 27,598 hectares between them, the parks have long been a popular destination for Turks and tourists alike thanks to their beautiful bays and beaches and natural terrain that mixes lagoons and wetlands with canyons and valleys, revealing a wonderland of flora and fauna: over 800 species of plants and trees (Turkish pine, Phoenician juniper, elm-leaved sumach), 256 bird species (egrets, eagles and kestrels), 28 mammal species and 45 species of fish.

Some of these species are endemic to the park and cannot be observed anywhere else in the world, including some endangered variants such as the Anatolian Leopard, the Dalmatian pelican and the pygmy cormorant. You might glimpse wild horses, striped hyenas and Eurasian lynx while hiking or driving, or sea turtles, monk seals and dolphins out at sea.

The peninsula’s beaches, which include local favourites Içmeler, Kavaklı and Karapınar, are all lined with natural forest and dotted with benches, picnic tables, occasional cafes and toilet and shower facilities—as well as the occasional wild boar; don’t be too alarmed though, they’re fairly tame here due to a lack of natural predators and are usually just sniffing for food scraps. A curious highlight just inside the park entrance is the Cave of Zeus, a freshwater pool filled with clear spring water, refreshingly cold all year round, where many visitors stop to bathe just like Zeus himself is said to have done.

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