Ayder comes as a surprise—a Turkish alpine village!
Surprising but true: Turkey’s eastern Black Sea coast resembles noplace so much as mountainous Central Europe with its thick stands of evergreen trees, cascading streams of chill water, high mountain pastures (“alps,” called yayla in Turkish), and hearty, ruddy-complexioned high-altitude (alt. 1300 meters/4265 feet) folk.
More surprises: the citizens of Ayder, perched on the slopes of the Kaçkar Mountains (map), are famed throughout Turkey as pastry chefs. Many move to the cities to ply their trade in fancy hotels or their own little pastane (pastry shops), returning to Ayder to vacation or retire.
Why visit Ayder? For the scenery, the invigorating mountain air, the hiking and trekking possibilities, and for a dip in the thermal baths. Hot springs burst from the earth, run into bathing pools, then slip through the forests, cooling, on their way to the Black Sea.
Without your own car, take a bus or minibus east from Trabzon to the seacoast town of Pazar (or, if you can find one, to Çamlıhemşin, the town up the mountainside from Pazar on the way to Ayder.) One bus makes the entire run from Trabzon to Ayder each afternoon in summer.
Ayder has numerous hotels and pensions where you can spend the night, but reserve ahead on summer weekends.
On weekends (especially Sunday) in summer, crowds of local tourists stream up the mountainside to enjoy the fresh air and cool breeze. At other times, you may have to hitch a ride or take a taxi to cover the 19 km (12 miles) between Çamlıhemşin and Ayder.
Distances & Travel Times
Artvin: 168 km (104 miles) NE, 3.5 hours
Çamlıhemşin: 19 km (12 miles) N, 30 minutes
Hopa: 52 km (32 miles) N, 1.25 hours
Pazar: 41 km (25 miles) N, 50 minutes
Rize: 50 km (31 miles) NW, 1.25 hours
Trabzon: 120 km (75 miles) E, 2.25 hours
—by Tom Brosnahan