Trekking enthusiasts can find several routes in and around Coruh Valley based on length, difficulty and interest areas, whether one wants to visit the historical sites or just be in nature. Major routes originate from Uzundere, Ispir and Yusufeli. More routes are being drawn and will soon be available in English as well.
Imagine a river, a river that waters lands whose coasts broil in the heat while the surrounding mountains are covered with snow, lands where plants indigenous to both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea grow, where rare beauty lurks in every corner, a river feared by people when it rushes with such abandon that a folk dance has been named for it.
Imagine a valley, a valley exhibiting the vestiges of many civilizations, where the encircling rocky cliffs are imbued with myriad hues, a valley inhabited by smiling, congenial people. A valley so patient it preserves and passes on to future generations all the treasures entrusted to its keeping…
The valley that takes its name from the Coruh River, which flows for 442 km through Turkey, possesses a landscape as spectacular as it is vast. The story of the Coruh, which carved out this valley and which, owing to its topographical structure, ranks among the world’s fastest flowing rivers, begins on the western slopes of Mt. Mescit between Ispir and Erzurum. Let us begin our tour from there. First stop Ispir
Formed by the streams large and small that flow down from Mt. Mescit, the Cermeli and Kurt rivers join together to form the Masat, which takes the name Coruh after the town of Bayburt. Flowing westward, the river turns first northward and then, tracing an arc, directly east. Flowing a little more quietly up to Ispir, it widens after this point with the addition of the streams coming from the Kackar Mountains National Park, and takes on a sometimes frightening aspect. We can make our first stop at Ispir. If you set out from Ispir early in the morning, you will arrive first at the village of Moryayla with its relatively unspoiled traditional architecture. Following a two-hour journey by car, the Yedigoller, or Seven Lakes, the most splendid of the Coruh Basin, will greet you. Just beyond the lakes, which lie there like pearls in a bowl, the Vercenik rises in all its terrifying glory. Baskoy is the first large river to feed the Coruh here. The next valley is Salacur, where the streams originating from Lake Mal in the foothills of Vercenik join together to carry the pure waters of the glacier lakes to the Coruh.
But let us press on to Yusufeli. First the Valley of the Camlıkaya will appear. Don’t return without sipping a quiet tea. The local people know how to appreciate all of nature’s most modest blessings. Figs are dried in huts along the river bank in summer, and the sun-dried pulp is pressed into thin sheets and molasses boiled up. For it’s essential to prepare well for the harsh winter days. After Camlıkaya comes Sırakonaklar Valley, so-called because the eponymous village (which translates roughly as ‘Row Mansions’) in the foothills of Mt. Soganlı, the region’s highest peak after the Kackars, consisting of seven rather widely separated quarters. You will find here large stone houses, mostly built of granite and over a hundred years old. Hiking from the village to the main camping place on Mt. Kackar takes just a matter of hours. Like a painter…
But you may prefer the Deve Dagı road, the better to see the magnificent landscape and areas influenced by the Coruh. This route is also characterized by unusual species of plants. You will come first to the village of Gullubag, then to Ardıclı, one of the loveliest villages in the whole region. The most beautiful vistas of the Kackar Mountains National Park will rise before you when you start the climb from Ardıclı to Deve Dagı. And if you follow the Deve Dagı road to the end, you will leave the river behind and come to Lake Tortum. Starting from the village of Yokuslu, the Coruh embarks on a journey of exactly 100 km through the township of Yusufeli. The sight of its waters leaping meters into the air as they strike the rocks is a scene straight out of an adventure film. From the village of Basalan onwards, nature begins to take on different hues as the Coruh’s wildness gives way to colorful rock cliffs. The precious metals in the rocks are dissolved in the hot waters issuing from the magma as they pass through and then re-deposited in appropriate places. Natural tableaux are created when these metal deposits lend their colors to the rocks and soil. For a stretch of close to 20 km the rock formations offer a visual feast of browns, yellows and reds. And accompanying them all the way to Yusufeli is the super-saturated green of the rice paddies that line the river bank. At the confluence of two rivers
Having come this close to Yusufeli, you can’t go on to Kılıckaya. Kılıckaya, on a plateau high in the mountains, sits opposite Mt. Gungormez, one of the most magnificent peaks of the Coruh Basin. There are also completely forgotten caves here, once used as dwelling places. Another spectacular stream, formed by the rivulets rushing down the southern face of the Kackar and Altıparmak Mountains, joins the Coruh here, doubling its power. The confluence of the Barhal, or, by its new name, the Altıparmak River, and the Coruh is even more awesome than that of the Oltu and the Coruh.
Before its confluence with the Coruh, the Oltu is joined first by the Narman, following its meander among the red fairy chimneys of the village of the same name, and then by the Tortum. The waters of the Tortum and the Oltu join 10 km from Yusufeli in an area known as Sukavusumu, ‘the confluence’. I would recommend that you see the well-preserved church here in the village of Ishan. The Coruh turns northward after its confluence with the Oltu. Towards Artvin olive groves begin to appear here and there. Its current significantly slowed by the dams built here, the river picks up strength when it is joined by the Berta at Ardanuc. After Borcka it does its best to wear down the tea-planted slopes until, flowing as far as Muratlı, it leaves Turkey. Flowing northeastward through Georgia, it empties into the Black Sea at Batum.
To describe the Coruh River and its fascinating micro climate you need to know the language of nature. But, best of all, to experience this river for yourself, set aside a week and abandon yourself to its flow. I’m sure you are going to return with unforgettable memories. Yıldırım Gungor
Practical Information for Trekking
About the Trails
All the trails on this map have superb viewpoints, pass tiny spring and summer villages and give you a glimpse of rural life. Many more inviting trails lead up the valley sides or cross the high passes. The trail network is based on traditional migration routes from the valley-bottoms to mid-level spring villages and high-level summer pastures where cattle, goats and sheep are traditionally grazed. Old trade roads also crossed the range. Mules carried vegetables, fruit and rice from the valley bottoms to the Black Sea coast or to Erzurum and returned with salt and timber. As this lifestyle declined, many trails were replaced by valley-bottom roads and fell out of use, but the UNDP TDEAP project and others have documented a varied network of beautiful trails. Most are steep in places; some are paved or walled, others run over springy grass dotted with boulders and occasionally over scree or rocks. If you wish to trek independently, sources of information on these trails are limited to the following websites: www.choruh.com, where you can download GPS points for some trails (coming soon); www.trekkinginturkey.com, where you can get a guidebook with map and GPS points for the Kackar trails (www.kackarlar.org has a list of trails on the north of the range). If you are not experienced, we recommend you join a group. Many travel agencies run organised trekking groups in the Kackar and Coruh areas; you can find them on the internet. Finally, if you want help to arrange accommodation, guides and mules for your own group, mail one of the sites above, explaining your requirements.
Erzurum is the gateway to the southern side of the range. From there you can reach the small towns of Uzundere, Ispir and Yusufeli, where you can find all the supplies you need. Some trails start from these points, but the high Kackar trails start from Sirakonaklar, Barhal and Yaylalar villages, where accommodation, guides and mules are available. Uzundere is situated in the Tortum valley, and just outside the town the tree-less steep valley sides rise to high hills and meadows. The area has two circular routes: one climbs to Sapaca ‘yayla’, at 2000m, well known for spring flowers, passing two castles. (3 days, from June). Another climbs west to the magnificent Osk Vank monastery church, passing spectacular wooded ridges. (2 days, from May). Ispir is the starting point for a long route via Moryayla to Yedigoller or Seven Lakes, a grassy plateau dotted with small lakes. You could walk down to the Coruh or continue to Sirakonaklar and Dabgit ‘yayla.’ (5-8 days, from June). Sirakonaklar is a day’s walk from the base-camp for climbing Mt. Kackar, and centre of a circle of walks on the high ridges above the tree line. Davali and Dabgit ‘yaylas’ are good bases for high-level exploration. (4 days, from June) Tekkale (near Yusufeli) is the starting point for a long and difficult trek to Dort Kilise, over Gungormez pass to Modut and Yaylalar, and over the Naletleme pass to Yukari Kavron on the north side of the Kackar range (5-7 days, from July). Yaylalar and Barhal are linked by an attractive trek which crosses a low pass to Okuz Gol lake, then a valley head to Satelev campsite, on a ridge surrounded by fir forest. From here you can visit Karagol (Black Lake) before descending along the river to Barhal, then maybe to Sarigol. (5-7 days, from end June)
What to Bring
We suggest that, instead of making a short dash for the summit of Kackar, you take a longer holiday and trek from village to village, staying with local people. So far, it’s not possible to stay every night in village houses, so bring the following camping equipment: 1. Compass and map or guidebook 2. GPS (if you trek without a local guide) 3. Mobile phone with Turkish sim-card (these work in most places) 4. Camera / spare batteries / spare film or cards 5. Synthetic long trousers, shorts, t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, underwear. Don’t wear cottons as they absorb water. 6. Good quality hard-soled trekking boots, thick wool or synthetic socks, trekking sandals, gaiters, walking poles. 7. Thermal underwear, fleece sweater or jacket. 8. Outer layer of wind-and-waterproof jacket and trousers, scarf, hat and gloves. 9 . Sunhat, sunglasses, sunblock and suncream; swimming gear. 10. Lightweight backpacking tent with flysheet and sewn-in groundsheet. 11. Comfortable 65l backpack with waterproof cover. 12. Small first-aid kit. 13. 4 seasons sleeping bag (preferably down) with inner bag and sleeping mat. 14. Petrol or gas stove, cooking equipment, crockery/cutlery. 15. Head torch, Swiss Army knife, thin nylon cord. 16. Small day-sack or waist-sack to carry valuables. 17. 2l water bottles (on most trails there is plenty of good drinking water) You can leave most of your gear in a pension while you take day-walks or hire a mule or jeep to take it high into the mountains.
When to Come
On the slopes of the Coruh valley and further south, snowfall is low, the climate warm in summer and trekking starts in May and continues to October. Because of heavy snowfall, in the central Kackar the trekking season is from July to end-September. Before then, early-season thunderstorms, mist or snow can surprise trekkers. Search and rescue services are in their infancy and local people are only on their summer-pastures from mid-July to early September. Trekking is the only way to discover high summer pastures, snow-rimmed lakes, ruins of tiny chapels or castles, and to follow the old routes. In spring, you will encounter snowmelt bulbs, meadows of orchids, newly arrived migrant birds busy setting up home and may glimpse bear-cubs and their mother. Summer brings clear skies, meadows full of poppies and campanulas, friendly villagers in their summer homes and crowded trail-head villages. Autumn is great for bird migration, colourful trees, autumn crocus and bears raiding orchards of ripe fruit. Even in winter, trekking with snowshoes can be fun!
Uzundere Trekking Routes
Sorry, this information is currently available in Turkish only
Ispir Trekking Routes
Sorry, this information is currently available in Turkish only
Yusufeli Trekking Routes
Sorry, this information is currently available in Turkish only