Festivals in Turkey's highlands calling this summer
by Sena Alkan
ISTANBULAug 08, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Sena Alkan
Aug 08, 2015 12:00 am
Turkey is experiencing the hottest days of the year, as temperatures soar in the southern provinces and the weather becomes more and more suffocating by the day. Even though both locals and foreign tourists tend to rush to Turkish tourist destinations for sunbathing and swimming, Turkey also offers highlands resembling the Scottish Highlands, where you can feel the energizing weather and soak up the myriad tones of green.
With its natural beauty and wooden houses, the high highlands along the Black Sea coast of Turkey (also known as Karadeniz in Turkish), experience their best time of the year and local festivals special to each highlands take place during the month of August. With the smiling faces of locals, mouth-watering dishes and entertaining festivals, the Black Sea coast's highlands offer you a perfect getaway.
To experience ultimate freedom on the tops of the mountains and to fill your lungs with fresh air while having some fun and learning about traditional Black Sea culture, which is completely different from any other Turkish region, August is definitely the perfect month to head to the Turkish highlands.
Here are a few festivals that will entertain you amidst the natural beauties of Turkey's greenest region of the Black Sea.
Ayder Highlands in the northern province of Rİze
Located in the northern province of Rize's Çamlıhemşin district, the Ayder Highlands is among the most famous of the Turkish highlands, as many local and foreign tourists visit here, especially in the summer season. Renowned for its honey, Ayder is where you can find friendly and smiling locals as well as many traditional herbs and foods particular to the region. With newly built roads that make reaching the highlands easy, the number of tourists visiting the area is increasing by the day. The development of infrastructure, while an important way of promoting the Turkish highlands as a tourist destination, may also eventually result in the loss of its pristine beauty, due to over-visiting. Ayder Highlands is renowned for its honey's incredible taste, so the feast on the highlands mainly revolves around the theme of honey, while many traditional activities are also performed, including dances and the preparation of traditional foods. The feast on the highlands is held in the first weekend of August, and if you intend to see the amazing landscape of the highlands and enjoy some traditional activities, you should hurry to book your place to stay in one of the cottages there. Surely the activities on the highlands are all about Black Sea traditions and the language is mostly Turkish, but the main idea of attending the festivals is not only to attend the activities, but also to feel the atmosphere that instantly grabs you. Don't forget to buy some Ayder water that is sold in plastic bottles on the highlands. This water comes from the highlands and is believed to have an incredible taste and cure for many illnesses. During your stay on the Ayder Highlands, you should also visit the Ayder waterfalls and thermal resorts in the highlands. There are also many trekking facilities on the highlands for you to enjoy. Ayder is like a dream that all of us want to escape to when the rush of daily life becomes tiresome. For those who are planning to go to the highlands, Kuspuni Hotel and Haşimoğlu Hotel are among the best places to stay with their wooden houses and high quality service.
Uzungöl Highlands in the northern province of Trabzon
Uzungöl Highlands in the northern province of Trabzon is the most picturesque highlands in Turkey, and draws thousands of local and foreign tourists during the year. Many tourists visiting there describe the beauty of the highlands with one word - " heavenly." It is highly probable that when you visit Uzungöl, no other place on the Black Sea coast will give you a taste of serenity that you will experience on this highlands. Uzungöl, meaning "long lake" in Turkish, is located among the mountains and is nearly an hour away from the city center of Trabzon, which sits at an altitude of 1,090 meters. Villages and forests surround the lake and give you the opportunity to get away from the rest of the world. Uzungöl is like the pearl of the Black Sea, and be asured that you will never feel bored no matter which season you visit in. There are many activities you can try during your stay in Uzungöl, including trekking, paragliding, riding and safari tours. You can also taste many traditional foods and meet locals who will warmly embrace you. There are dozens of festivals in Trabzon during the year and it is quite possible to run across one during your visit. If you intend to go to Uzungöl during the month of August, the first three days of the vivid Uzungöl festival finishes by Aug. 3. However, there are still many small festivals that continue until September due to the increasing number of tourists. It's picturesque view and cool weather makes it a must-visit destination for tourists. There are boutique wooden hotels and houses located around the highlands, and tourists can enjoy the picturesque view of the lake overlooking a cliff. You can be sure that Trabzon is where you will find some of the most unique landscapes and traditions in Turkey, from the region's natural beauties to its lifestyles. If you intend to spend a few nights on the Uzungöl Highlands to enjoy the atmosphere of the Black Sea, Keleş Hotel and Özkan Hotel are good options for you.
Yusufeli Highlands in the easternmost province of Artvİn
Turkey's easternmost province of Artvin has a special place in the hearts of those who love visiting highlands or are in love with greenery, since it is one of the few places where you will see pristine nature and all its untouched beauty. Highlands surround nearly half of Artvin and many of the highlands that have fantastic views are located in the region of the Yusufeli Highlands. What makes this an unforgettable spot is not only its beautiful view over the Kaçkar Mountains, but also its long-lasting festivals mostly based on sporting activities. Trekking is among the most popular sports activities in Yusufeli Highlands, since it has 17 different trekking routes. It is believed that the climate of the highlands is a cure for illnesses that metropolitan life brings, such as migraines, stress, or depression. Trekking tours in the highlands generally last 11 days, but there are alternative routes if you enquire about them. The festivals held on Aug. 9 on the Mount of Pancar, located on the Yusufeli Highlands are perfect opportunities for you to engage in some sporting activities and also to learn some traditional Black Sea dances. Be sure that you will also fall in love with the friendly atmosphere and smiling locals during your stay on the highlands. Each province and highlands offers a different natural beauty in the Black Sea region, but when it comes Artvin, nature shows itself to you in its purest form. Home to nearly 45 species of butterflies, Artvin is one of the richest regions in terms of fauna and flora, drawing the attention of many nature tourists who are eager to photograph what the province has to offer. Kaçkar Pension and Almatur Hotel are among the many fine accommodation options in the Yusufeli region.
What to eat during your stay on the Black Sea Highlands
Turkish tea made from leaves that grow in the Black Sea region is a must and will surely leave you wanting more. The region's cuisine is renowned across the country and marked by dishes made with "hamsi" (anchovies), including rice with hamsi, bread with hamsi and you can even find baklava made with hamsi, especially in Trabzon.
"Muhlama," which can be described as resembling cheese fondue, is a delicious dish made from corn meal, homemade butter and traditional cheese.
The people of this region love to add greens, a member of the cabbage family, to their dishes. It is easy to find since it is a vegetable grown in abundance on the green highlands. You can taste black cabbage soup and dolma, a special recipe with rolled greens filled with spiced rice. Laz börek is also a special dessert unique to the region and similar to baklava.