A Pleasant Weekend Hiking in the Kackar Mountains

After getting our bearings for a day and a half in Istanbul, it was time to move onto the next portion of our trip, exploring the Kackar Mountains (pronounced catch-car) in Northeastern Turkey.

Our flight from Istanbul to the Black Sea port town of Trabzon was at 7:00 am, which meant we had to awaken at 4:15 am, take a shower, wolf down a wonderful slice of banana baklava that we bought at a bakery the night before, and pack our bags before our driver picked us up at 5:15 am. The great thing about driving in Istanbul at 5:00 o’clock in the morning is there is no traffic. The flight to Trabzon took about an hour and a half.

Sumela Monastery on the side of the mountain

We were picked up by our guide at the airport and driven up into the nearby mountains for a tour of the spectacular Sumela Monastery. The monastery was built in the fourth century. This now-abandoned 1600 year old Orthodox monastery is located at a height of 1200 meters on a steep cliff in the Macka region of Trabzon city. It is a wonder how the monastery was built on the cliff side with all of the material hauled in on horseback. A short, but steep, fifteen minute walk up a trail and stairway lead to the entrance of the monastery.  The tour of the monastery took us through rooms and passages where most of the walls were covered with ancient frescoes  The paintings were beautiful, even with all the damage and graffiti left by visitors over the many years since its abandonment and before becoming a protected area in the 1970’s.

Frescoes

Frescoes at the Sumela Monastery

Fresco detail

Fresco detail

After our visit to Sumela, we made the several hour drive to our pension in the picturesque town of Ayder, at the base of the Kackar Mountains just south of the Black Sea. Clinging to the mountainside, Ayder is a small mountain retreat, primarily for Turks looking for a mountain escape. Ayder is not far from the Georgian border and many of the women in the area still wear the customary headdress of the region. After arriving, we met our guide, Nardir, who would take us on two days of hiking into the alpine wilderness of these spectacular mountains. The area is lush from all of the rainfall it receives. It was definitely fall in the Kackars – the brush was turning beautiful fall colors.

Town of Ayder in Kackar Mountains

Our first day of hiking started off with an hour-long drive up a 4WD road to the tiny mountain village of Honsuv. Here we started our climb up a steep trail to a high point where we could see several alpine lakes and Kackar Mountain, the highest mountain in the Kackar Range at 3937 meters in height. The weather was nice so we had lunch at one of the larger lakes and spent an hour or so exploring the area and relaxing in the sunshine before descending to Honsuv where we ended the day with a cup of tea.

Hiking above the town of Honsuv in the Kackar Mountains

The Kackar Mountains

Kackar Mountains of Turkey

Enjoying tea at the end of the hike

Our next day of hiking started in an alpine area where we hiked to the top of a ridge, then followed the trail down through a dense rainforest to another village where we had a truck waiting for us.

Hiking in the Kackar Mountains of Turkey

We had hoped to get a spectacular view of the Kackar Mountains and the nearby villages from the high point of this hike. Unfortunately, fog moved in right when we got to the top, so the view was not as hoped. Still, the beauty of the area wasn’t hurt by the weather. The high meadows were enhanced with broad areas of deliciously ripe blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry bushes with leaves turning a crimson red. Our hike was greatly slowed down as we enjoyed hand fulls of the scrumptious wild berries along the trail from the high ridge down into the dark forest. We saw many signs of the native Gray Bear that lives in these forests, but we didn’t get to see an actual bear.

Kackar Mountain View

Deliciously ripe blackberries

After reaching the bottom, we had tea at a nearby road-side restaurant before heading back to the pension. Just as we ended the hike, it began to rain, raining harder and harder as we descended the valley.

Our “home” in Ayder – very comfortable cabins at the pension

We ended the day by taking a much deserved soak in the local hamam, or hot springs. The hot pools of the spa were wonderful though a bit hot at 46 degrees Centigrade (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit).  The hot water did wonders for our sore muscles. The hamam was quite an experience – as in most of Turkey, the pools are segregated with separate pools for men and women.

If you are interested in planning a trip to the Kackar Mountains, contact me, Mike, at Off Trail Travel – I’d love to help you plan your next adventure.

Watch a short video of our Kackar Mountain weekend here.

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About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company (http://www.offtrailtravel.com). After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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4 Responses to A Pleasant Weekend Hiking in the Kackar Mountains

  1. Pingback: Turkey’s Kackar Mountains – VIDEO | Off Trail Travel

  2. Marc B-B says:

    This looks fantastic, we are looking for a guide to do pretty much this trip.
    Would you reccomend Nardir and can you give us his contact info?
    Marc

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