It’s difficult to know where to start this blog about the Kaçkar Adventure. For that is what it is – an adventure! It would be too easy to just write about stunning mountain landscapes, huge skies, glacial lakes, alpine meadows full of wild flowers, and the many steppe eagles and other raptors seen.
The Kaçkar mountain range is almost 1,000 kilometres, east of Istanbul, near the Georgian and Armenian borders, and has been described as “Switzerland with mosques” – but is far more exotic than that. For these are the Pontic Alps, or the Little Caucasus, steeped in Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history. They are home to the Hem?in people, who live a traditional life still, moving to the high pastures (yayla) with their livestock for the short summer months, cutting and gathering hay by hand. The women wear traditional dress, which includes colourful headscarves worn turban-style.
This is a land of small and bustling towns, deep wooded valleys, winding mountain roads to high alpine meadows, and of course mountains. The drives to the start of some of the walks are slow and often bumpy, as the mini-bus zigzags up through the cloud forest and out above the tree line, to trail heads as high as 3,000 metres. The walks or more accurately hikes, are within the D+ grade, but at these altitudes they do require a little extra effort! – But the reward is C+ scenery!
This is not the Turkey of popular imagination, but a remote, almost timeless rural world, that you sense is only slowly changing. So for a real hiking adventure, in a spectacular mountain area that most people won’t have even heard of, let alone visited, go to the Kaçkar. It’s a gem!