Walking In North-East Turkey: Ani, Sumela Monastery & the Kackar Mountains
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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 ...
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.
At a glance
On this tour we will use minibuses and our feet!
As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this particular trip we will typically be in small locally owned hotels and guesthouses. They will be simple but comfortable. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.
FITNESS RATINGLOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).
LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.
MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.
MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.
HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.
Wild Miles Club
When you book a trip with Wild Frontiers you are awarded points, which are based on the return distance from London to the arrival city of your trip. Points are awarded for all our holidays, including both our escorted group tours and tailor-made trips. When you accrue points, you will qualify for the following discounts on all future bookings:
|More than 10,000 points
|More than 30,000 points
|More than 45,000 points
|More than 60,000 points
Map & Itinerary
Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below
Day 1 Tour starts in Erzurum
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.
Day 2 Erzurum - Kars
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)
Day 3 Kars – Savsat
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)
Day 4 Savsat
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)
Day 5 Savsat – Altiparmak
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 first destination is the remote Georgian monastery of Ishkhani, which we will visit after a spectacular drive. We then continue into the valleys of the Kackar mountains where a local guide will take us on a gentle walk along the village-water channels to the site of Parkhali (Barhal) monastery, very close to the guest house which will be our home for the next 2 nights.
Day 6 Altiparmak
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)
Day 7 Altiparmak – Trabzon
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)
Day 8 Trabzon - Sumela Monastery - Trabzon
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)
Day 9 Tour ends in Trabzon
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.
ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR
Rafo Butik Hotel, Erzurum
The Rafo Butik Hotel is perfectly situated in the centre of town, a short walk from the major sites this ancient location has to offer. Spread across seven floors the hotel stands tall and thin – don’t worry, with an efficient lift – and each of the rooms are of a good size, with modern bathroom, kettle, safe and other facilities. There is a dining room in the basement at which a plentiful breakfast is served. Although not necessarily forming a highlight of a trip to the city, this hotel is clean and comfortable, well-managed, and overall offers a good place to stay.
Hotel Katerina Sarayi, Kars
It’s not often one gets the chance to stay in a Russian mansion, so take your chance here at Hotel Katerina Sarayi. Built during a brief period of Russian occupation (1878-1917), this grand palace is situated on the banks of the Kars River on the edge of town and is the perfect place from which to explore the local region – including the fabulous UNESCO World Heritage site of Ani. The rooms are all very spacious and comfortable – if decorated in a somewhat ‘over the top’ (gilded bedframe) manner – the dining area on the first floor is light and airy, and there is a lovely garden in front by the river in which you can sit and enjoy drinks either before or after dinner.
Barhal Karahan Pansiyon, Altiparmak
Run by a father and son team, this charming pansiyon sitting a little above the tiny village of Altiparmak is an idyllic place to stay. Set in the heart of the Kaskar mountains, that rise above you on all sides, the guesthouse is not the most luxurious place you will have ever stayed, but that hardly matters as here you have the sense of escaping the world and feel privileged to be here. The 10 rooms are all en suite, with balconies, and although plain by design are perfectly comfortable. The main balcony/dining area is where you will spend most of your time eating the delicious cuisine your hosts prepare for you. There is no alcohol served so if you want some wine with dinner or a beer after a long walk in the hills, bring it with you.
Usta Park Hotel, Trabzon
Situated in the heart of the old town, this perfunctory ‘city centre’ hotel has all you need for a pleasant stay in this interesting town. Laid out over seven floors, the en suite rooms are all of a decent size and decorated in light and neutral hues, well-equipped with safe, kettle, fridge, mini bar and TV, and offering modern-style bathrooms. There is a large reception meeting area on the ground floor and a sizable dining area on the top floor from which fabulous views of the Black Sea can be enjoyed.
Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.
PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?
All group tours can be taken on a private basis.
With local people, culture and eco-systems in mind, responsible travel and sustainable tourism are at the core of Wild Frontiers. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our travellers but also benefits the people and places we visit.
When designing our tours, we actively seek out experiences that have a positive impact on the communities and precious environments we visit - from supporting social enterprises; resting our heads in rural homestays; and eating at locally owned restaurants; to helping fund conservation projects that protect wildlife and their habitats.
Visit the Responsible Travel area of our website to read more, including the work of the Wild Frontiers Foundation through which we fundraise to aid community empowerment and education projects.
Reducing Single Use Plastic
We recognise the environmental issues and challenges around single-use plastic in many countries we visit and are actively working with our partners on the ground to reduce plastic waste on our tours and within the hotels and restaurants we visit. You can help to reduce your personal plastic waste by taking a refillable, filtered water bottle with you on your trip. Filtered water bottles can be refilled from water sources including your hotel room and restaurant taps, drinking fountains and refill stations. Every time you refill your bottle without the use of single-use plastic, you will be helping to reduce waste and protect the environment. Filtered Water Bottles | Wild Frontiers (wildfrontierstravel.com)
If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.
If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
|London Heathrow (LHR) 22:10
|Istanbul (IST) 03:55
|Istanbul (IST) 06:10
|Erzurum Airport (ERZ) 07:55
|Trabzon Airport (TZX) 15:00
|Istanbul (IST) 17:00
|Istanbul (IST) 18:25
|London Heathrow (LHR) 20:35
Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact a reputable visa agency. More details can be found here - https://www.wildfrontierstravel.com/visa
For this tour UK passport holders currently do not require a visa for Turkey.
Passports should ideally be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the end of your tour.
Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.
VACCINATIONS & ADDITIONAL TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS
There are no mandatory vaccination requirements for travellers to Turkey.
For all destinations, please make sure you are up-to-date with any standard vaccinations (e.g. MMR, Hepatitis A, Tetanus) as recommended by your local health care provider.
For the most up-to-date information on all vaccination requirements and the most suitable anti-malarial tablets, we strongly suggest that you seek advice from your local travel centre or consult an official travel health website such as www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk or www.travelhealthpro.org.uk
Covid Testing: No mandatory testing is currently required for vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers.
If necessary further details will be sent out to you upon booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas & vaccinations are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.
If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Alternatively, you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.
The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries*. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your requirements.
*Please note bespoke, tailor-made itineraries need to be a minimum of 7 days and we can only offer them in countries where we have a tailor-made expert
Governmental Travel Advice
Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.
Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.
While the sun can be strong, the temperatures are usually perfect of trekking in this part of the world in late spring through to the early autumn. While it should be warm weather during the days the evenings can be cool so a jumper is recommended. Average daytime temperatures should be in the range of 25C with night-time temperatures dropping to 15C. Waterproofs are essential as showers are always possible and high winds can be experienced on the summits.
IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?
It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.
KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER
Anyone in a good state of health who enjoys hillwalking should be able to cope with this tour. Please note that while all the walks can theoretically be opted out of, they are a fundamental part of the trip and so you should be fit enough to enjoy them. In general, the terrain is very varied throughout offering up a real kaleidoscope of experiences. There is the occasional steep drop and stream to be crossed but nothing too daunting!
THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL
We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.
TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS
As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!
Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.
On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour.
Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. Please see the Insurance section for more details.
All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.
A 10% deposit is required to confirm your booking.
PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY
For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page
This tour will earn you 4246 Wild Miles
WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED
We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.
Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Airport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs
WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY
If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events.
WHY WILD FRONTIERS?
We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.