A guide to your visit in Eastern Turkey and Erzurum
If you are considering visiting Turkey it is a must to visit the eastern province of Erzurum. There are an incredible variety of things to see and do from the center city of Erzurum. One option is to take a bus tour around the province. Taking a bus will allow you to experience a large chunk of the many activities in one day. Many of the places to visit are very easy and quick to access from the main roads. Making a bus an ideal way to see a lot very quickly, but with plenty of time to enjoy it. It will also allow you to experience the amazing diversity of landscape within the area. It is impressive to see how much the nature and geology change in such a short amount of time.
Fairy Chimneys in Erzurum
If you take a bus tour similar to the one I took with SilkRoad Moments, you would leave from Erzurum toward Tortum and back. You will first travel through the flat farmlands, where you will see many fields of potatoes and other fruits and vegetables. Right off the road you can pull off into an almost Martian landscape very similar to Bryce Canyon Utah. Huge red chimneys grow out of the dirt and form plateaus. The color is a much deeper iron red than those found in utah. You can easily climb up on one of the hills and get an incredible perspective over the valley and across to the other chimney walls and plateaus throughout the valley.
Georgian Church - Osvank
Before long the landscape will change from the red dusty desert to large green hills covered in an array of colored flowers. Just as fast as they came the hills will turn into towering mountains and deep valleys. The mountains boast impressive layers and twists as if they were once taffy squished and pulled into shape. As you drive you can hardly imagine the powerful forces under the earth it must have taken to thrust these mountains into the sky. Hidden within this extreme landscape is a tiny settlement and at its center a beautiful 1000 year old Georgian church. Its age is evident by the foliage that has been growing off of the roof and the large stone blocks sliding off the corners. Despite the foliage and shifting ground’s attempts to break down the stone church, it stands confidently with little significant damage. If you look carefully you can see many of the faded ancient red writings on the tan walls, over the church entrances. You can also see the remnants of the brightly colored patterns of the past. They were protected from weathering tucked under the window openings and archways. There are many intricately chipped carvings and statues still mostly intact on the outside as well. The church is topped with a tall shingle covered dome and the floorplan is in the shape of a cross. It was constructed between 963 and 973 AD and was partially repaired by Emperors Basil the 2nd and Constantine the 8th in the eleventh century.
As you head down from the little town to the valley bottom you will reach a stream. You can follow the gentle river along the road in the bottom of the valley. The river continues and points down the incredible canyon and as your eyes follow it behind the next bend it seems to call you forward and deeper into the ravine as if something greater is waiting for you to be discovered. Finally you will appreciate the quantity of water flowing through this stream when you realize it swells into a frosty blue lake 6 km long. The huge grey mountains walled around you highlight the beautiful ice blue of Tortum lake. Your eyes can barely drink up enough of the color. It is as if the water was deposited by an ancient blameless glacier 1000 years ago. And if this weren't enough the power of this water is shown in an intense way as you see it gushing out the far end of the lake as a 50m waterfall down the moss stained rocks. You can walk down the path close enough to be drenched by the mist of the water exploding off the rocks at the bottom. It offers many opportunities for group pictures at different elevations of the waterfall.
On the way up from the waterfall don't miss the opportunity to buy some delicious ice cream from the little stands. But be warned it may not be as easy as you think. The icecream servers play a ruthless but laughter filled game of keep away with the ice cream as they scoop it for you. If you choose to continue a few miles forward you can experience many pools formed from the remnants of the waterfall above. These pools are emerald green and in the midst of beautiful lush forests sprinkled with homes and of course with massive walls of rock as a border. You can see pops of reds and oranges peaking through the greenery from apricot and cherry trees growing in the local’s yards. When you drive down to the pools you may pass residents doing things like boiling chai or cooking molasses from mulberries and other culturally unique activities. You can settle down at a tree shaded table right on the edge of the water to have a quiet and peaceful cup of chai. It is a wonderful experience to have a drink and relax with hardly anyone around and just appreciate the greenery. You can look out over the mirrored green pond and take in all the adventure and memories you just made over the day. Reminisce and talk over all the beautiful things you and your friends just saw through the day. Maybe even discuss what areas you might want to stop at one more time on the way back. It is a perfect relaxing ending to a wonderful adventure.
I can honestly say this was one of the most enjoyable adventures of my life!
I am still surprised at the incredible amount of beautiful sites we were able to see in just one day. Truly the adventure of a lifetime!
Until The Next Adventure,