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North-East Turkey: Walking In the Kaçkar Mountains

TOUR IN

EUROPE

  • 28 May
  • -
  • 05 Jun 2022
  • |
  • 9 days

$1771

per person

Availability: 12 places

    Join Wild Frontiers on this magical walking tour which travels far from the resorts and beaches of Turkey’s better known tourist haunts. Here in the country's north-east lies another Turkey, where remote mountain monasteries and ancient Armenian churches cling precariously to landscapes that have lain unchanged for centuries. Across the vast Caucasian steppe, amongst the towering peaks of northeastern Turkey, awaits a world stepped in the blood and history of medieval conquest, where bears and wolves still roam the dark forests and timeless traditions survive and endure amongst mountain strongholds.

    Beginning amongst the highlands of eastern Anatolia, this spectacular adventure takes us into the heart of a land scattered with the reminders of Turkish conquest, Russian expansion and Orthodox doctrine. We’ll discover Seljuk treasures and historic markets, visit the spectacular Armenian ruins at Ani and the iconic cliff-top monastery of Sumela and walk amongst the landscapes of the dramatic Kaçkar Mountains. 

    With a chance to sample local cuisine and local traditions along the way, our journey follows a route through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country, as we pass through the Karagol National Park and Mt Ovit area (3060m) and on towards the Black Sea and the coastal city of Trabzon. Fascinating and dramatic in equal measure, this is a Turkey that few visitors experience.

    Day 1

    DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ERZURUM

    The tour starts this morning in Erzurum, Turkey's highest city at 1900m. After checking in to our hotel we will visit the sites of Erzurum on foot. Erzurum was an important stopping point on the Silk Road and has always been a strategically important border town between empires, be it the Romans and Persians, Byzantines and Seljuk Turks, the Ottoman and Russian empires, or most recently between NATO and the Soviet Union. The hinterland is scattered with fortifications from all ages and is now home to Turkey's finest winter sports facilities at Palandoken. The city is decorated with Seljuk monuments and we will visit the finest of them - the Twin Minaret and the Yakutiye Madrasas. This evening we will head out to dinner to sample the rich cuisine of the high steppe, no doubt with an opportunity to try the Çag Kebab, a horizontal döner kebab served sliced onto little skewers.
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    Day 2

    DAY 2: ERZURUM - KARS

    Leaving Erzurum, heading east, we will visit the Cobandede bridge dating from the 16th century.  After lunch in Kars we’ll arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ani.  At ground zero of the still closed Turkish/Armenian border, Ani is perhaps one of the most unforgettable sites in Turkey. This powerful Armenian trading centre, lying on an off-shoot of the Silk Road, was well fortified, and was known as the City of 1001 Churches. At its height during the 10th and 11th centuries it was one of the world's largest cities. We will walk this large site taking in the churches, cathedrals and mosques of this tragic but beautiful city, including the 'forbidden zone' fortress right on the Armenian border. We then return to the small city of Kars, with its castle, Armenian church and some very unusual examples of Russian architecture which the town acquired during the Russian occupation. Tonight, there should be the chance to enjoy the local specialty of Piti, a slow cooked lamb and chickpea stew.

    Approx. 3-4 hrs walking (150m ascent, 150m descent. Total distance 4kms)
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    Day 3

    DAY 3: KARS – SAVSAT

    Leaving Kars we head north around the shores of Lake Çıldır.  At 2000m of altitude, this lake freezes over in the winter, and is a vital rest stop on this important bird migration route in summer.  We continue across the vast Caucasian steppe to the deep ravine system ruled over by 'Satan's Castle' and we walk in the area to appreciate this wonderful spot.  While little evidence exists as to who built this castle or when, the foundations are thought to be Hellenistic. Its situation on an outcrop of rock commanding the deep canyon meant the castle was of strategic importance and was continuously occupied until Ottoman times. Having explored the fort, we climb up a steep grassy slope – reasonably challenging as there is no path – to the top of the escarpment where we’ll rest and have our picnic lunch. From here we will walk amongst these impressive mountain landscapes, before continuing on a scenic drive to Şavşat, which will be our base for the next two nights.

    Approx. 4.5-6 hrs walking (720m ascent, 846m descent. Total distance 9kms, highest point 2076m)
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    Day 4

    DAY 4: SAVSAT

    Using Savsat as our base, today we head into the Karagol (Black Lake) National Park. Blanketed in high upland pastures and dotted with traditional villages and dense forests, the park provides us with a stunning setting for a walk around the lake. A riot of wildflowers in the late spring, the park is a haven for brown bears, who use the autumn falls to forage for fruit in the local orchards. After a lunch where there should be opportunities to try the local trout, we’ll pay a visit to the ruined Georgian church of Tibeti before returning to Savsat.

    Approx. 4hs hrs walking (564m ascent, 564m descent. Total distance 11kms, highest point 1900m)
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    Day 5

    DAY 5: SAVSAT – ALTIPARMAK

    Departing Savsat we descend into the flooded valleys of Artvin this morning. A day filled with engineering marvels, we’ll take in the massive structure of the Deriner Dam and the astonishing network of tunnels and viaducts that were built to span the rising waters. Our destination is the remote Georgian monastery of Ishkhani, where a local guide will take us on a village-channel walk through the local Icoa village a good chance for us to stretch our legs after the long journey.

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    Day 6

    DAY 6: ALTIPARMAK

    Rising above the Black Sea coast, the Kaçkar Mountains represent the easternmost and highest portion of the Pontic Alps. Home to the towering summit of Mount Kaçkar (3937m), this is a stunning setting to explore on foot. After paying a short visit to the nearby Barhal Monastery after breakfast we then set off on a circular walk amongst the high pastures around Altiparmak, a 10 kilometre trek that takes in some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding alps, stopping off at small settlements where we’ll hopefully meet some of the local characters, and take our lunch, before returning to our accommodation. After the walk you probably won’t be able to resist a refreshing dip in one of the rivers clear mountain pools.

    Approx. 4.5-5.5 hrs  walking (875m ascent, 1130m descent. Total distance 13kms, highest point 2000m)
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    Day 7

    DAY 7: ALTIPARMAK – TRABZON

    Driving to the historic market town of Ispir we’ll have time for a short walk amongst the old town – this is a great place to buy local honey or dried fruit – before having our lunch and then continuing on towards the dramatic landscapes of Mt Ovit (3060m) for a memorable ridge walk followed by a drive down to our final destination, Trabzon.

    Approx. 2-2.5 hrs  walking (435m ascent, 435m descent. Total distance 6kms, highest point 3049m)
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    Day 8

    DAY 8: TRABZON - SUMELA MONASTERY - TRABZON

    Beginning early this morning we drive away from the Black Sea and head into the densely forested hills to visit the iconic Sumela Monastery. Perched like an eyrie, high up on the sheer cliffs, this Greek Orthodox retreat can trace its antecedents back to the 4th century and the surrounding views make this one of the finest settings in Turkey. Having alighted from the minibus we will trek up through the surrounding forest to the reach the monastery, just as countless monks must have done over the centuries. Inside the monastery the frescoes, both inside and on the outer chapel walls, are exquisite. Following lunch at a riverside restaurant we then drive back to the coastal city of Trabzon, to visit the church of Hagia Sophia, considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture anywhere.

    Approx 2hrs walking (300m ascent, 300m descent. Total distance 6kms, highest point 1200m)
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    Day 9

    DAY 9: TOUR ENDS IN TRABZON

    The tour ends this morning after breakfast, depending on the time of your flight you may be able to enjoy a short walking tour of the Old Town.

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