At 4,000 feet and surrounded by snowcapped 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 live in the summer, Ayder has become a popular destination for Turkish tourists and, increasingly, foreign ones. Although 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. Summer weekend crowds can fill the small village to capacity, but the setting is still beautiful. The village is also an excellent base for 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.
The easiest yayla to visit from Ayder is Yukarı Kavron, about 10 km (6 miles) 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.
Ayder has a grassy main square that during the summer frequently plays host to festivals celebrating local Hemşin culture. Locals in traditional dress (for women this includes the colorful red, orange, or gold head scarves that many still wear) play music on a version of the bagpipe (known as the tulum) and dance together holding hands in a line or semicircle, known as horon dancing. The shoulder shimmying that is a key part of this dance represents the sliver of the famous Black Sea anchovy.