Lake Tuz, the second largest lake in Türkiye located in the middle of the country between Ankara, Konya and Aksaray, is actually the shallowest lake in the entire nation. The lake is among the world's saltiest lakes – thus its name Tuz, meaning literally "salt" – but it is also rich in terms of biological diversity.
Lake Tuz meets around half of Türkiye's salt needs and has a length of 90 kilometers (55 miles) and a width of 25 kilometers. The lake formed naturally, even if its white appearance baffles those who expect it to be blue or green like other lakes, but of course, there is a legend about it.
There are many legends about the lakes, plains, mountains and seas of Anatolia, and Lake Tuz is no exception. According to the legend, there was a vineyard that belonged to a stingy old woman during ancient times at the lake's location. One day, a dervish – a religious person who chose or accepted material poverty – passes by the vineyard as he is about to die of thirst. The dervish tells the old woman that he is very thirsty and wants some grapes. The woman, not wanting to give any grapes to the dervish, says, "My vineyard has dried up this year, I don't have any grapes." The dervish gets very angry and says to the old woman, "With salt, may you become ice." At that moment, the old woman turns into stone and the whole vineyard transforms into the Lake Tuz we know today.
Of course, there are many scientific explanations for the accumulation of salt in Lake Tuz. The simplest is that rainwater seeps through the ground and breaks down the very old salt layers below, then the salt water reaches the surface from tectonic lines and evaporates, which results in salt accumulations in the lake.
The lake has a pure white appearance due to the salt but it also turns pink from time to time. The reason for this is the proliferation of a type of algae in the lake. This seaweed called Dunaliella salina, which lives in salty areas, is able to live and multiply here thanks to the abundance of salt at the lake. When it turns pink in this way, Lake Tuz offers dazzlingly sweet vistas to photographers, making one almost want to call it "sweet lake" instead of "salty lake."
You can also take wonderful photos of the reflection of the sky in Lake Tuz, where you can capture the most beautiful shots at sunrise and sunset. You will also see that the earth and sky blend together around the edges of the lake, where the horizon line disappears at sunset. You should not miss the wonderful images provided by this landscape.
It is also said that the stars reflected on the evaporating salt layer at night create an incredible image. After sunset, you can spend the night in Lake Tuz and witness this view, but bring appropriate clothing as it can get cold due to its geographical location. Apart from taking pictures, one of the things to do at Lake Tuz is to take off your shoes and go for a walk in the lake that seems to extend to eternity. Try not to pay attention to the salt being absorbed into your feet while walking on the receding waters of the lake because the mineral structure of salt is said to be very beneficial. It is said that the salt in Lake Tuz contains 22 types of minerals and that these minerals relieve joint pain and are good for eczema and cracks.
It's not just the seaweeds that give Lake Tuz its sweet pink look, but also the flamingos that brood on the mud islands of the lake and choose it as their habitat. Lake Tuz and its surroundings are one of the most important breeding grounds in the world for these delicate and aesthetic birds. In fact, the highest number of flamingo offspring in the world was recorded here at one time. Apart from flamingos; avocets, European golden plovers, cranes, wild geese and wild ducks, which can adapt to salty environments, also live in groups at Lake Tuz.
The lake, where endemic plant and endemic insect species also live, is a "Class A" wetland according to international criteria. It has also been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. Disproving the notion that endemic plant species do not live in places with such high salt levels, it is very remarkable that this site is so rich in indigenous species that are able to survive despite the amount of salt and drought. In this sense, Lake Tuz is considered a genetic reserve area. Scientists are thinking of transferring the genes of endemic plant species found here to fruits and vegetables to preserve them from adverse conditions such as climate change and famine.