Day 1: ANCIENT CITY OF ANI – ÇILDIR LAKE – KARS
We meet at the designated time at Kars Airport and start our journey to Ani, the Medieval Armenian capital of the Bagratids. We walk around this unique site that managed to survive so many invasions and natural and human disasters. We then drive to Çıldır Lake, 1960 m above sea level. After tasting the local fish here on the lakeside we drive to our next destination: Şeytan Kalesi (Devil’s Castle) in Yıldırımtepe village. This magnificent castle stands with all its glory overlooking the Kura River, protecting the Silk Road. We take a 3 km walk to get to the castle. After a long and satisfying day we head to our hotel in Kars and get ready for a special evening meal.
Note: Depending on the arrival times of all participans there may not be time to visit Çıldır Lake, in that case we still have the chance to see it on Day 3, on our way to Posof.
Drive: 4 hours
Trekking: 1 hour
Day 2: SARIKAMIŞ FOREST HIKE – KARS CITY TOUR
After breakfast we begin our drive to Sarıkamış. Our first stop is at Aleksi Mansion, known more popularly as Katerina Mansion, built in 1896 by Zsar Nicholas II of Russia. From here we take an 8 km, (3,5 hour) walk to the Sarıkamış Ski Resort, which will be completely abandoned out of season. We will be climbing up and down two hills and each meter of our walk will be within yellow pine forests. We will have lunch in Sarıkamış. After lunch we return to Kars and take a city tour, including the castle and the Church of 12 Apostles (Kümbet Mosque). If we’re lucky we might get to see some local bards…
Drive: 3 hours
Trekking: 3.5 hours hiking, 2 hours city
Day 3: ARDAHAN AND ROAD TO POSOF – KALEÖNÜ HIGHLAND – ARSIYAN HIGHLAND – ŞAVŞAT
After an early breakfast we take a 3 hour drive to Kaleönü Highland where we begin our hike to Arsiyan Highland where we meet our minibus. It will take the minibus the same amount of time as our hike to get to Arsiyan. Our hike begins on a forest road with a slow ascent. If it is a clear day we might see the pass in front of us. We have our packed lunch at 2600 m above sea level while watching the breath taking views of the Eastern Anatolian steppes and the infinite forests and high mountains of Şavşat. After lunch we finally descend to Arsiyan Highland through small trails that disappear from time to time. There are 11 large and small lakes in the area, and we get to see some close up and some from afar. We finally reach a forest road where we walk for a final hour before meeting our bus. We will be very close to the Georgian border and we will be passing right by the border post while taking our 1,5 hour drive to Şavşat. After a long but very interesting day we take rest at our hotel in Şavşat.
Drive: 4,5 hours
Trekking: 5 hours
Day 4: ŞIRATA LAKES – ŞAVŞAT KARAGÖL – ŞAVŞAT
After breakfast we will drive for 45 minutes and arrive at Balıklıgöl Lake passing through Şavşat’s largest village Pınarlı. After a short tea break we will start our hike. The views we will see on either side from the foot of the Arsiyan Mountain are breathtaking. Our path will be occasionally decorated with oxcart tracks and will take us to the first and smaller one of the Şirata Lakes. The water level depends on the time of year. Afterwards, we will carry on walking up to the second and larger lake known as the Larger Şirata and here we will take a long break. If we are lucky we might see Ruddy Shelducks that make the most of this quiet environment. After another short uphill we will enter the forest. If the weather is clear we will see the Karçal Mountains and further. Next we will go down steep hills to meet the oxcart path again. After another 30 minute walk we will have completed our circle and we will be ready to have lunch. We will have a delicious lunch comprised of meatballs and side dishes at Fevzi & Nazire’s Place. After a siesta break we will head out towards Şavşat Karagöl Lake. We will both drive and walk to get there. We will take a break according to our arrival time. Then it will be time to drive back. We will visit the Cevizli Church en route to our hotel.
Drive: 3 hours
Trekking: 4 hours
Day 5: ALABALIK VALLEY – LEKOBAN & FINDIK HIGHLANDS – MAÇAHEL
After breakfast we say farewell to Şavşat. Our first destination is Lekoban Plateau which we will reach after a 2 hour drive along the Alabalik Valley, touching the cool waters of the river from time to time. Here we take our lunch break as guests at a family home. After lunch we drive to Maçahel Pass and look out at the magnificent panorama. We continue to Fındık Plateau by minibus and start our hike at the point where the forest begins. Today’s walk will depend on the weather. The hike will be downhill all the way and our driver will be following us from behind (from a fair distance so that we don’t hear the engine). At a certain point we will join the minibus and drive to our guesthouse.
Drive: 3 hours
Trekking: 4-5 hours
Day 6: MARAL WATERFALL – CAMILI VILLAGE
After a filling breakfast we will head out towards the Maral Waterfall – Turkey’s highest waterfall (63 meters) falling from a single knick point. Our guide will decide the length of our walk depending on the weather and the group. The vehicle can reach a point at a 30 minutes walking distance from the waterfall. It is preferable to walk down instead of walking up after the visit for those who want a long hike. At the first point where we see the waterfall there is a viewing terrace and those who do not want to walk down may sit and wait here. The walk down is rather steep and requires a lot of attention. The descent comprises mostly of stairs with bannisters and we will all help one another on the way down. There are dressing rooms at the foot of the waterfall for our courageous guests. The water is actually not cold to begin with but it cools during its fall due to the cold winds. We advise you not to miss this wonderful experience. Our cooled off bodies will heat up again on the way back up the steep path. We will take a short tea break at the premises of the gentleman who built the stairs and bannisters after which we will walk back to our vehicle. We will have our lunch at İremit Guesthouse on our journey back. After lunch we will carry on driving to the village of Camili and see the border gate and the wooden mosque. After a tiring but magical day full of new experiences we head back to our guesthouse.
Drive: 2,5 hours
Trekking: 3 hours
Day 7: BORÇKA KARAGÖL – MENÇUNA WATERFALL – TRABZON
Our first destination today is Borçka Karagöl Lake, formed by landslides. We take a 40 minute walk around the lake to get to see it from all sides. We then drive to Hopa where we will taste its delicious pide. We then drive through Arhavi and visit the Mençuna Waterfall located in the Kamilet Valley, this visit involves a 30 minute uphill hike but the view is all worth it. We might even take a dip in the pool of the waterfall. We then take the same route back and start our drive to Trabzon. We will be at Trabzon airport at around 6 PM.
Drive: 5 hours
Trekking: 2 hours
This tour can be classified as Alternative Tourism within international standards (Ecotourism). It cannot be carried out with big groups of 40-50 people in large busses. The maximum capacity of the tour is 13 people.
You will see that everyone from the driver to the waiters at restaurants will greet us with smiling faces and they all do their job vey willingly.
On nature tours all activities will be carried out unless there is a natural disaster and all guests should bring the required gear.
This is a tour that everybody with a little bit of hiking experience can join. All the experiences that you live here on this tour will make you want to come back to the unique nature of the Eastern Blacksea region.
You will feel in a completely different world in this magnificent geography that is a must for ecotourists that want to experience new things.
Your guide will always be giving you interesting information that is not written in the program so we advise you to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.
Day 1 and 2: 3 or 4 star hotel in Kars town center
Day 3 and 4: Şavşat Yeşilvadi Hotel or Laşet Guesthouse
Day 5 and 6: Bumbulay Guesthouse or Greenroof Hotel in Maçahel
HOW TO GET THERE
Arrival: You should get a flight arriving at Kars Harakani Airport at 2.30 PM the latest. Our departure time from the airport is 3 PM.
Return: From Trabzon airport at 8 PM or later would be suitable.
BRING WITH YOU
Wearing layers is always an advantage and provides comfort in the outdoors. If you have the suitable clothing and equipment according to the weather you will be able to enjoy every moment of the day, whether it rains or shines. If you avoid bringing unnecessary stuff you will not have to carry it with you all the time. Being in harmony with the nature will make your holiday more enjoyable.
Have a great trip and see you at see you at other Alternative Routes 🙂