Memories of the Ayder Plateau

posted in: Black Sea Region 40

Out of all my travel memories from around Turkey, the Ayder plateau stands out for a quirky and possibly absurd reason. I remember that it was the end of June, and while my friends on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts were enjoying alfresco dining on warm summer evenings, I was huddled in my hotel room.

Despite wearing two pairs of socks, a jumper, my coat, and covering myself with a thick blanket, I felt an unwelcome shriving cold in my bones. Daytime weather temperatures had been mild but pleasant, so the significant drop at night had caught me off guard.

The reason for the cold nighttime temperatures in summer was the 1,350-metre altitude of the Ayder plateau. As part of the Kackar mountain range in the north-east of Turkey, it has a vastly different climate zone than that of the coastline holiday resorts.

Ayder Plateau Rize Turkey

Made up of the Laz and Hemsin communities of Turkey, tradition, and culture still reigned strong. Everything was old style, and most locals built their homes and hotels using wood from the nearby forests. My guide said it would be impossible for me to buy a house in the scenic, mountainous village. I assumed this was because I was a foreigner but even a Turk with no family or friend connections to the area would be hard-pressed to find a local who would sell to him.

Ayder Plateau Rize

Up until the 1980s, only hikers used the Ayder Plateau as a camping base, while they trekked to the summit. Over time, accommodation choices upgraded from camping sites to traditional wooden hotels and tourists like myself flocked en-mass to discover what all the hype was about. Fresh mountain air, scenic views, and an entirely different cultural lifestyle to the rest of Turkey had led some travel writers to compare Ayder plateau to the Swiss Alps.

Exploring the Ayder Plateau

Locals of the Ayder Plateau

Despite the cold, I did sleep well that night. High altitudes and mountain air have a habit of knocking you out quite quickly. So after breakfast, I eagerly went exploring with a local guide. Green fields filled with yellow buttercups and fat cows that would be perfect for a milk advert dominated the landscape.

The guide looked at me as if I was stupid when I asked why the cows were not in enclosures. It made perfect sense to me because they could wander off, but apparently, black sea cows don’t do that because they have some kind of god-given beacon system and at sunset, instinctively walk back home.

Gelin Tulu waterfall in Ayder Plateau

My other vivid memory was of bears. A sign at the entrance to one of the camping sites said to be aware of bears. This stupidly excited me because the thought of snapping the perfect photo of a big grizzly bear was tempting, although common sense dictated running in the opposite direction is the best option.

Luckily, my interest in big bears was all in vain because it was the wrong time of year. They only come down the mountain in winter when a thick blanket of snow covers the ground making it harder for them to find food. At the same time as they descend, the Gelin Tulu waterfall of Ayder plateau turns to ice. Flowing down the edge of one of the vast green hillsides, it resembles a bride’s veil, hence the name.

I loved everything about the Ayder plateau, even the rickety hand-built hotel that I thought would fall down at any minute and the cold night-time temperatures. Anyone seeking an alternative travel experience in Turkey would do well to go there.

Other Places to Visit

Ayder Plateau

Other places to visit in the Northeast Kackar Mountains include Uzungol, a large lake destination. The cities of Rize and Trabzon of which the first is the tea capital of Turkey are also easy to reach with direct flights from most major airports in Turkey.

In addition, the rural honey-making Macahel region that shares a border with Georgia is a remote mountain destination but worth visiting just for the scenic views. Independent travel using public transport is not as easy as other places because of remote mountain roads, so I booked a guided trip with a tour company operating out of Trabzon. Many other Turkey tour agencies also sell the same itinerary.

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Hi. I'm Natalie, a freelance travel blogger and writer specializing in the country of Turkey. I love hot summer days, historical sites and coffee.

40 Responses

  1. Nat
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    Definitely come back John – you won’t regret it

  2. We had a trip to Istanbul in early 2015 and I have wanted to come back and see more of Turkey since then. It is sometimes strange the way climates work. We are in Nepal and staying altitudes of 1500 meters and higher yet do to its climates it is always warm here. Even our tips to 2500 meters and higher and still fairly warm. I love the photographs and hope to return to see more of Turkey soon.

  3. Nat
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    Looking forward to your updates Alan. Enjoy

  4. Alan
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    . . just having another read through Nat before we set off on tuesday for the slug hunt. Really looking forward to this.

  5. A must visit place for everyone. It is one of my favorites as well. Spread the word Mandy

  6. Mandy
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    I was here in November and it was absolutely gorgeous! I travelled from Kars to Trabzon via bus and the views were stunning. I spent a day in Rize and it was just perfect. Lunch at the Evvel Zaman restaurant was simply delicious, perhaps one of the best meals I had in Turkey.

  7. I love Ayder! I also went in the summer and it was pleasantly cool. The old women spent their evenings knitting woolen socks. They were so pretty and warm, I bought more than my fair share. The area and the people are very beautiful. I hope you are able to get back there soon, Natalie!

  8. Wow. Great photos. I never pictures Turkey like this at all. When we get to Turkey we may need to travel a bit more than just the touristy areas.

  9. Didn’t speak English Wanderplex but I speak basic Turkish so it was not that difficult

  10. What an incredibly beautiful place! It must be so amazing to wake up to views like that. Did you find it difficult being in a more remote area like that – as in, did people speak English?

  11. Understand that statement Michael – I want to pack my bags and return now

  12. It makes me want to pack my bags right now.

  13. No problem Adele = glad you liked

  14. Adela @FourJandals
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    Such a differnt side to Turkey, thanks for sharing

  15. I too was surprised at just how different it was Ali. I also loved the differences immediately. No beaches but wonderful views

  16. Ali
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    It looks like such a gorgeous area! Definitely different from the central and western parts of Turkey we saw a few months ago. I love how different Turkey is from one side to the other.

  17. Really different. Beginning to think I have wasted years hanging around the coastal resorts of the west

  18. Look forward to reading about your trip Alan – will be an interesting one

  19. Do it Angela – next time you come to Turkey

  20. Ha ha – Think of much of a prized photo that would have been though

  21. That is an interesting fact TW – I think many people would be surprised to learn that

  22. Cam
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    Sounds like a destination right up my alley! Haven’t been to Eastern Turkey but I’ve heard it’s quite different from the West. One day! 🙂

  23. Alan
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    . . another good post with some evocative photos. We’ll be spending time there next June when we’ll combine it with hunting out your Blue Slug that shouldn’t be there 🙂

  24. Angela
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    Wonderful, would love to visit!

  25. For your sake, I hope you don’t get to take that really good picture of the bear.

  26. Interesting photo article. Most interesting fact for me: There are not many differences between mountain huts in Turkey and my native country Austria.

  27. You are welcome Terry – glad you enjoyed.

  28. Unbelievable isn’t it DJ. so different from the beaches, Istanbul and Cappadocia

  29. I have been so busy with work Ozlem that time is just flying by. Lots more articles to come on the Black sea coast though

  30. I agree about Uzungol IIke. It was very touristic but not like the tourist resorts on the south or west. I liked the fact that we could still get out and about with nature

  31. Cheers Jack – hoping to get off again on my travels this month so might be emailing you with some work for when you get back from GC

  32. You are welcome Mark – Glad you liked the article

  33. I did not make it to the baths Alexey and that is one reason why I want to return. I only really scratch the surface of what this destination has to offer

  34. Who knew Turkey looked like part of the Alps — or Scandinavia? Thanks for a visual reminder that travel never ceases to surprise and delight.

  35. What a beautiful region…if based solely on photos alone, I wouldn’t have pegged this as Turkey. Great stuff!

  36. Just as I was thinking where have you been here comes the glorious Ayder!! Have been there many years ago, so lovely to refreshen memories, great photos!:) I would love to go back to Ayder, hope soon!

  37. Ilke
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    I have been to Ayder and its yaylas many many years back. After so many years, I can say that my several hours in a yayla up there was one of the peaceful, quietest hours of my life. I would like to go back and show it to my husband as well. Uzungol was nice as well but seemed more touristic to me for some reason.

  38. Just stunning. You’re just a gad about girl!

  39. Mark
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    This is a breathtakingly beautiful place, Natalie.

    Thanks for sharing and happy Sunday to you, miss : )

  40. Thank you for sharing, Natalie. It is a great place! We stayed there for 2 days & loved it. Unfortunately it was rainy and foggy, but we managed to hike a bit. Definitely plan to go there for a longer time. Have you tried Laz Boregi, which is specific for this region? Have you been to the baths? Hot water saved us after hiking in the cold.