Last Wednesday and about 100°F.
The gritty town of Doğubayazıt sits a mere 35 kilometers from the Iranian border in the far flung reaches of Eastern Turkey. From Doğu I began my travels in Turkey after an unplanned stopover in the pleasant city of Erzurum when my luggage was unavoidably detained while transiting through Istanbul from Russia. I had set up a 4 day trip to Mt Ararat with a tour operator via email but it was postponed so we did it in 3 days. Pretty tough. Yesterday I took a couple of buses to Kars and today did a tour of the Armenian ruins at Ani. Awesome sight but scorching hot. Tomorrow to Yusufeli where I hope to set up a trek in the Kaçkar Mountains.
Important note about Eastern Turkey: Ramadan is taken much more seriously than in the more touristy areas I subsequently visited. Specifically, in Yusufeli and Erzurum restaurants were not open for breakfast or lunch but food could be purchased in markets. Not even tea shops were open. Even in Yaylalar where there is one pansiyon which caters mostly to trekkers was only serving dinner.
Erzurum Accomodation and Food
Spent one night in the very
nice Otel Bey right on the main drag. 40TL for a clean room and bathroom with good buffet breakfast and use of the internet although Hotmail was intermittently blocked by Big Brother. Lots of great places for food and coffee. Transport
From the airport a shuttle meets arriving passengers and drops them in town for 3TL. Also passes the otogar
. Other minibuses go between the center and otogar
for 1TL. Going to Doğu there was a bus with Star Ağrı Doğubayazıt at 12 pm for 25TL taking 4½ hours. Practically every other destination in Turkey is reachable from Erzurum. There was a great cafe outside the terminal where I got chicken, rice, salad, bread, and cacık (cold, yogurt based soup with cucumbers) - all for 6TL.
Not nearly as nice as Erzurum but it grows on you. Accommodation and food
Ishak Paşa Hotel was 20TL for a single, no breakfast, very basic. Nearby is Mevlana Kebap, very good and cheap if you can handle the poor ventilation of the grill. For Turkish coffee and delicious pastries, head to Manolya Pastanelri. Transport
For Kars there is puportedly a 6 am direct bus. Or
to Igdir for 6TL then change for bus to Kars for 15TL. I left Doğu at 10 am and was in Kars at 2:30 pm. Ishak Paşa Palace
from the otogar
for 2TL, leaving frequently. 3TL entrance fee. Supposedly opens at 9 am but I was there just after 8 am and it was open. Might be able to hitch a lift back to town as I did. Otherwise a long, hot wait for the return dolmuş
. Yeni Hamam
Entrance to the Turkish bath is 8TL and a massage with the works is an additional 15TL. The latter includes an initial scrubbing with a pad resembling 120 grit sandpaper. I went to the hamam right after returning from the Ararat trek and the scrub down removed 3 days of dirt, grime, and a lot of dead skin much to my consternation. Then came the vigorous massage followed by a somewhat less vigorous wash down with soap and shampoo. The whole process lasted ~40 minutes and I will never again be as clean after emerging from the hamam. Agri Dağı
Mt. Ararat is definitely not one of the world's glorious mountain treks. It is
ridiculously expensive to boot. I doubt many people would climb it if it were not the highest mountain in Turkey.
Kars Accommodation and food
Currently staying in Hotel Temel for 30TL, nice room, good location, buffet breakfast. Like Erzurum, there are a lot of restaurants but it's hard to find Turkish coffee. For that treat and infinite baklava varieties, stop by Mervetatlı near the petrol station in the center. Transport
From Kars I am headed to Yusufeli, actually the road junction 10 km from there for 25TL with Artvin Express leaving at 9:30 am from the central minibus terminal. All destinations served from Kars.
Update: The Artvin bus dropped a few of us off at the junction around 1:30 pm where there was a Yusufeli bound dolmuş
already waiting for the final 9 km, cost 4TL. Then only waited about a half an hour for the dolmuş
to Barhal/Yaylalar/Olgunlar. Not sure of the price to Barhal (maybe 12TL) but to the last 2 villages the cost was 20TL and it took almost 3 hours. Ani
Normally 35TL for transport there and back but someone I was with at the hotel got
Our Guide Close to the Edge
Just after sunrise on the 5137 meter summit of Mt. Ararat near Doğubayazıt, Eastern Turkey. Then the endless descent to the 4200 meter high camp and all the way back to Doğu.
it for 3 of us for 30TL each. The hotel will probably ask if you want to go on the tour, not really a tour just transport but it is fine. Pickup from the hotel at 9 am, back around 1:30 pm. Amazing place but in summer be prepared for unrelenting sun and heat. Can spend just one night in Kars if you are arriving there from the Kaçkars and just want to see Ani. After the ruins there is still time to catch a bus to Iğdir then the dolmuş
Kaçkar Mountains Accommodation and food
Stayed in Olgunlar at Olgunlar Pansiyon run by the family who run the cafe of the same name. 45TL for half board and they prepared lunch one day even though it was Ramadan and they were fasting themselves. Lunch was a trout plucked right out of the fish farm tank. Transport Dolmuş
back down to Yusufeli leaves 6-6:15 am. Let your hotel know the night before you'd like to leave. Much faster on the way down, 2 hours. Waited half an hour in Yusufeli for the Artvin Express bus to Erzurum - 3½ hours, 20
Turkish Bath in Doğu
Even Colonel Sanders needs a massage after frying up all those tasty chickens.
TL and stops at the otogar
after the minibus terminal. Frequent transport to Artvin and Trabzon from Yusufeli. Can also get to İşhan at 3 pm where there is a Georgian church but the return trip is 6 am the next day. Kaçkar Dağı
The highest summit in the range is not far from Olgunlar. I set out after breakfast just after 6:30 am and was on the 3937 meter summit ~12:15 pm. The clouds soon rolled in so I bolted back returning a little after 4:30 pm. Stout trip but the trail is easy to follow. No guide necessary although they can be arranged for longer treks such as the popular Trans Kaçkar. Probably need your own gear which I was lacking so opted for the day hike.
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