EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route is a long-distance cycle route currently running from Cadiz, Spain to Cyprus, including a ferry connection between Athens and Cyprus. The route is being developed in the frame of the ongoing MEDCYCLETOUR Interreg project. This 500-km extension will make the route 7,500 km long and connect the İzmir Province of Turkey to Andalusia, the French Riviera, the Adriatic Coast and the Balkan Peninsula thanks to ferries linking the ports of the Izmir coast to Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The itinerary of the Mediterranean Route connects some of the world’s most beautiful coastal landscapes and cultural heritage from the Hellenistic and Roman Periods. İzmir Province, with its inviting beaches, peaceful harbour towns and World Heritage ancient cities such as Pergamon and Ephesus, will fit right in!
İzmir Metropolitan Municipality presented a proposal to the ECF for the extension of EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean route at the end of 2016, and worked together with ENVERÇEVKO, National EuroVelo Coordinator for Turkey, on this project. ENVERÇEVKO was established in 2007 and mainly focuses on sustainable tourism, sustainable transport and grassroots sport campaigns. The İzmir Metropolitan Municipality has since then made preparations for the route to join the EuroVelo network, including developing a dedicated website for people wishing to cycle this route, signing the itinerary with EuroVelo 8 signs and developing new infrastructure where necessary.
Following the three-year application process, the ECF have now approved the proposed extension. EuroVelo 8 will be the second EuroVelo route to enter Turkey, after EuroVelo 13 – Iron Curtain Trail, which includes a 140-km long section along the Turkish/Bulgarian border, visiting Edirne. The İzmir extension of EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route brings the EuroVelo network to an essential cultural and historical spot in Turkey, as İzmir is the third most populous Turkish city and has an urban history of more than 3,000 years, corresponding to ancient Smyrna.
İzmir Metropolitan City Mayor Tunç Soyer is convinced that the EuroVelo is an important initiative that merges sustainable tourism and transportation policies and he commented that “The EuroVelo partnership is a critically important gain to the City of İzmir which will contribute to developing bicycle infrastructure and enhancing the local bicycle culture. İzmir aims to be an indispensable destination for bicycle tourism. Now we are working on enriching and improving the 500 km extension of Mediterranean Route, which extends along our coast from north to south. We believe that İzmir, as the first major Turkish city to join to the EuroVelo Network, will be the example for the rest of the country.”
Mayor Soyer also indicated the importance of İzmir extension for European cyclists: “They will have the chance to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites of Ephesus and Pergamon; the ancient city of Smyrna which has one of them oldest bazaars of the world; attractive seaside towns that boast a variety of local tastes, beaches, architectural and natural textures. And we will glad to have them as our guests”.
The ECF’s Advocacy and EuroVelo Director, Ádám Bodor, commented: “We are delighted to have this important section of Turkey’s coastline join EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route. It shares many connections with the existing route and it is fantastic that the ancient sites of Ephesus and Pergamon can now be visited on the EuroVelo network. We have worked very closely with İzmir Metropolitan Municipality during the application process and have been impressed by their commitment to develop cycling in the province”
The approved route extension connects the ports of Dikili and Cesme with the modern city of İzmir and picturesque small towns such as Eskifoça (“Old Foça”), a peaceful haven by the sea, and Alaçati, a traditional town noted for its colourful architecture. The route is structured according to the ancient sites and connects two very important ancient cities: Pergamon in the north, and Ephesus in the South. Following an itinerary that features kilometres of very scenic routes overviewing the sea, cycle tourists are invited to discover the Turkish gastronomy and hospitality. The small villages located along the route provide many opportunities to sit down and relax around a glass of strong black Turkish tea or a cup of unfiltered Turkish coffee and the evenings bring people together in restaurants overlooking the sea with a large choice of mezze and local fish!
You can find more information on EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route here: www.EuroVelo8.com.
Author(s): Florence Grégoire