Cost: Free to visit (price to hire a guide, boat, etc will vary)
Great for: Bird watching, Nature, Boating Culture, Swamp Music
In a wide valley between the mountains of western Turkey, Eber Lake is a vast expanse of mud flats, lush reed beds, and open water, teeming with birds and locals harvesting the reeds by boat. It’s a wonderful blend of natural beauty and culture that you won’t easily find anywhere else.
There are two main reasons to visit Eber Lake. The first is simply to enjoy the magnificent sights of the lake with its islands of reeds backdropped by the towering Sultan Mountains to the south. The chance to explore the maze of waterways, hemmed in by walls of reed is one well worth taking. A home for birds of all types, Eber Lake is a great place for bird watchers with Spoon bills, cormorants, pelicans, bitterns, various types of heron, terns, numerous duck species, geese, coots, ibis, and hawks living in or migrating through the area. There’s even the small chance of catching a glimpse of the wary Reed Cat (also known as jungle cat) and wild pigs that live here.
The second reason to visit Eber Lake is a cultural one. Eber Lake is home to a fantastically unique industry where locals venture out into the lake to harvest reeds which are used primarily for thatch roofs. The village of Derekarabağ, on the north side of the lake, is the centre of the reed harvesting industry, here you’ll find great rows of tee-pee shaped piles of reed bundles surrounding the small village. If you want to venture onto the lake and see the harvesters at work, you’ll have to come to Derekarabağ to find a guide.
A few facts about the reed industry:
-As of 2020, one bundle of reeds earns a harvester about 4 Lira.
– 80-90% of reeds are shipped overseas to places such as England, The Netherlands, and Denmark to be used as thatch roofing.
– At peak harvesting season there will be up to 250 people on the lake cutting reeds.
-reeds are cut by hand with sickles and transported back to the shore by boat.
-Patpats, a purpose-built truck-like vehicle, are the vehicle of choice for the extremely muddy conditions.
Eber Lake is generally quite shallow, often no more than one or two metres deep and twenty metres at its deepest recorded point. While the size of the lake has always fluctuated seasonally, in 2018 the lake dried up completely as rains decreased and irrigation pulled water from the tributary creeks and streams. While this made the work of the reed harvesters easier it killed of the fish stock in the lake.
While the main draw to the area is the Eber lake itself and the interesting industry that goes on there, this is still turkey and there are a couple interesting historical sights that you may want to visit.
On the western end of the lake, not far from the town of Bolvadin, is the ancient Byzantine Kırkgöz bridge. Kırkgöz, meaning ‘Forty Eyes’ refers to the forty arches of the bridge, though, in the mid 1500’s the bridge was repaired and expanded by architect Mimar Sinan.
Today the bridge sits in a field next to the Akar Stream canal where a modern bridge crosses the slow moving water.
To the west of the town of Bolvadin, in the middle of a field is the unusual sight of a lone minaret. The place is known as the Broken Minaret (Kırık Minare) and is all that’s left of a town that burned down in 1801.
How To Get There
Derekarabağ Village (Reed Harevsters)
To see the reed harvesters at work you’ll need to go to the village of Derekarabağ, just west of the town of Bolvadin. Turn off of the D300 highway that connects Afyon to Akşehir and Konya, heading north to Bolvadin. From the Bolvadin city centre head east on Uçkuyu street for 10kms, Derekarabağ will be on your right. All around the village you’ll see great piles of reeds.
Eber Village Lake Shore
If you’re just hoping to get to the edge of the lake, your best bet is to go through the village of Eber, which shares its name with the lake. Eber Village sits just off of the D300 highway (also known as the Afyon-Konya Highway), 55 kms from Afyon city centre. Coming from Afyon you’ll take a left turn following the signs marked Eber. The village is a warren of streets but is tiny and so easy to manage, follow painted arrows on signs and walls maked ‘Eber’ and ‘Göl’. You’ll cross a set of train tracks just a little way before you reach a open grassy space that marks the edge of the lake.
On the D675 (highway connecting Bolvadin and Çay) you’ll find a bridge crossing the Akar stream (this is the only bridge in this stretch of road). On the south side of the stream there is a dirt road that runs east towards the lake and will take you directly to the bridge. Be careful of muddy road conditions and do not walk this road as there are many aggressive stray dogs.
The Broken Minaret is to the northwest of Bolvadin in the midst of poplars and fields. The roads here are unmarked but turn west on the dirt road that is across from ilkay street and the minaret will be about 2 kms to your right.
Where To Stay
Bolvadin is limited to a pair of very low end hotels. In the nearby town of Çay, which is closer to the Eber Village lake access and on the D300 highway, you’ll find some better options. Other than these close by options the city of Afyon is 55 kms away and has a wide selection of hotels ranging from the cheap and basic to thermal pool resorts.
Planning on visiting Eber Lake? Make sure to check out what other sights are in Afyonkarahisar!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.