The Kaçkar Mountains stand in northeastern Turkey, inland from the Black Sea, with the highest altitude reaching 3,937 meters (12,917 feet). The great thing about hiking the Kaçkar Mountains and the surrounding landscape is that it’s not entirely wild, meaning that there are many yaylas inhabited seasonally by pastoralists and their grazing livestock, roads that link these villages, and even power lines. During the high season in the summer, you’ll see a lot of trekking groups taking in the glorious landscape; however, if you’d rather enjoy the mountains in solitude, May is a much better time to plan your trip. Even at lower elevations, the scenery is absolutely beautiful, with thick rain forests, deep green pastures, and a wide color spectrum of wild flowers blooming in the sun.
One of the best routes to take begins in the village of Çamlıhemşim and continues on to Cat, Başyayla, Hacivanak, Elevit, Tirovit Yayla, Palovit Yayla, Samistal Yayla, Aşağı Kavron Yayla, Ayder, Hazmdak Yayla, Pokut Yayla, Şenyuva, and then back to Çamlihemşin, Ardesen, and finally, Pazar. You’ll also find that this route is not too strenuous, meaning rather than rock or snow climbing, you’ll encounter unpaved roads and tractor tracks. To reach Çamlıhemşim, you can book a flight to Trabzon’s international airport, take an intercity bus to Pazar, and then a dolmuş (a local minibus) to Çamlıhemşim.
An excellent guidebook for planning your hike is The Kaçkar: Trekking in Turkey’s Black Sea Mountains by Kate Clow, which includes a great map for general orientation and all the necessary details. During the hike, you won’t have to worry about carrying around a lot of water because there are public springs available in all the inhabited areas. You’ll also be able to find food in Çamlıhemşim, Cat, and Ayder, so make sure to stock up so that you have enough to eat in the areas where you might not come across an inhabited village.
It’s a good idea to bring along your full camping gear for this journey because you will often be staying in a tent when it’s time to settle down for the night. However, some of the mountain villages also offer a few small family-run pensions, so if you’re in dire need of a shower and a bed, you can plan in advance in which villages you’d like to stay and where you’d rather camp out under the stars.