Excursions to the Far East and Black Sea Coast: Places to Explore



At 4,000 feet and surrounded by snow-capped mountains and tumbling waterfalls, the mountain village of Ayder, with its wooden chalets and wandering cows, can seem like a piece of Switzerland transported to Turkey. Once a sleepy yayla, a high pasture village where locals would live in the summer, Ayder has become a popular destination for Turkish tourists and, increasingly, foreign ones. While a few years ago the village's bucolic nature was threatened by overdevelopment, local laws have now ordered all building to be done in the local style, with wooden exteriors and peaked roofs. Despite the summertime crowds that can sometimes fill the small village to capacity, the setting remains magnificent and the nights, when the stars put on a glorious show in the sky above, are still marvelously quiet. The village is also an excellent base for either day hikes or extended treks in the Kaçkars and for visiting some of the less accessible yaylas in the region to see a way of life that has changed little over the centuries.

Ayder has a grassy main square that during the summer frequently plays host to festivals celebrating local Hemşin culture, with music played on a local version of the bagpipe (known as the bağlama) and horon dancing, which has men and women dancing together in a big circle.

The easiest yayla to visit from Ayder is Yukarı Kavron, about 10 km (6 mi) from the village along a dirt road. A collection of squat stone houses, it's set on a high plateau surrounded by gorgeous mountains. There are several nice hikes leading out of the village. There is regular minivan service in the morning out of Ayder to the yayla, although it's best to check with your hotel or pansiyon about the exact schedule.