Sitting on the foothills of the Kaçkar mountains, the gorgeous green Ayder plateau is one place in Turkey that captured my full attention. Numerous Turkish friends had told me about its beauty and simplicity, but I did not realize the plateau would leave me with an overwhelming urge to return.
It is in the north-east region near Rize and at the time of my visit in June, the coastal resorts of the south and west were receiving temperatures of mid 30s while I went to sleep, dressed in jumpers, socks and with two warm blankets.
The temperatures were average during the day but at night-time, drastically dropped. That blew my mind instantly because out of all the years I have spent in Turkey, I have never felt cold in the last month of June.
Early tourism in Ayder Plateau
Up until the 1980s, the Ayder plateau had always been used as a camping base for hikers who wanted to proceed further up the mountain. Over time, people came to appreciate the beauty of the plateau and accommodation choices upgraded from camping sites to traditional wooden hotels.
Of the camping sites that remain, there are signs asking visitors to be on the lookout for bears, who come down from the higher plateaus when food sources are low. Rather than be concerned, I found this potential danger to be a quirky aspect of the area, with hopes that I would see one and capture the best photo of my life. I was out of luck.
In among the traditional hotels, is a unique landmark, the Gelin Tulu waterfall. Translated into “bride’s veil”, it gushes down the hillside, only freezing in winter when low temperatures can turn it to ice. I soon came to see so many waterfalls in the black sea region that the attraction wore off however, this waterfall is still my favourite.
I loved everything about the Ayder plateau. The place is unique, quite unlike any other destinations in the country. I loved the fact that locals used to let their cows roam the hillside unsupervised. Apparently, they never lose an animal. At sunset, all animals instinctively know the way home and they come back without prompting.
I want to return to Ayder Plateau
I spent one night in the Ayder plateau before moving on. It was not long enough. I discovered that the locals have a mixed culture of Laz and Hemsin but I never got the chance to make friends with them so I could learn about their lives and traditions. I never went further up the mountain to explore other plateaus traditionally called yaylas by the Turks.
I only touched the surface of what the Ayder plateau has to offer.
Turkey has always been a diverse country but it is not until I went from the beaches of the west coast to the mountains of the northeast that I realized just how diverse it really is. So it is not only a case of wanting to return. I have to return.
My quest is to learn as much as possible about Turkey and its people, so this region is important. The landscape, weather, people, food, traditions, and music are all completely different to any other place within the country. Some people would consider me well traveled in Turkey, but after visiting the Ayder plateau, I now realize that I have only scratched the surface.
Readers Question : What do you think? If you have not been, would you visit the Ayder plateau?