Driving down the roads of Artvin in the Black Sea can sometimes feel like heading to a fairy tale land above the clouds.
This dreamlike land mesmerizes its visitors with its mountains, reaching as high as 4,000 meters, forests of tall pine trees, rock formations and steep valleys carved by the Çoruh River, one of the longest-running rivers in Turkey.
Situated on the border of Georgia, Artvin is surrounded by the high mountains of Kaçkar, Karçal, and Yalnızçam providing a magnificent backdrop for the houses of the town lying on the upper slopes of the valley.
This breathtaking place is among the wonders everyone should see at least once.
Artvin experiences the Black Sea region’s signature climate. The city is very wet and mild by the coast, and as a result, is heavily forested. The rain, a very frequent visitor to the region, turns to snow at higher altitudes, and the peaks are very cold in winter.
The people of Artvin
Caucasian and Black Sea cultures are dominant in the region. Artvin is home to the Laz, a seafaring race of obscure Caucasian origins who migrated to the city when the modern northern borders were drawn following the Turkish War of Independence.
They are remote cousins of the Georgians but with the important difference that they converted to Islam early and have remained staunch Muslims.
The Laz are relatively progressive in outlook and in their dress, which is colourful and fashionable. Often extroverted by nature, they traditionally enjoy dancing and playing the bagpipes.
The folkloric dance, Artvin Barı- generally known as “Atabarı,” the dance dedicated to the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – is the signature dance of the city. Every year, the Traditional Bull Fighting Festival and Kafkasör (Caucasian Cultural Festival) attract thousands of tourists to the city.
A culinary tradition
Artvin hosts a rich culinary tradition. Hamsi, or Anatolian anchovies, is abundant in the region and could be considered Turkey’s national fish. Locals have become very attached to all things hamsi related and, as a result, the fish has become a significant part of life in the region.
However, Artvin’s main tourist attraction is unquestionably its nature and alternative tourism opportunities such as camping, skiing, jeep safari, rafting and canoeing are popular.
There are various trekking routes visitors can explore to discover the area. One of the highest mountains in Turkey, Mount Kaçkar, is probably the most coveted trekking route. Mountaineering groups and mountaineers complete the Trans-Kaçkar route by walking through Yusufeli Yaylalar Village to Rize – Çamlıhemşin Ayder Highlands. If that trail is a bit too difficult, you can take various other routes through the Altıparmak Mountains.
Hunting is also allowed during the region’s open season. However, visiting hunters are advised to hire a local guide to avoid getting lost in the thick forests of Artvin.
Artvin is home to three castle ruins.
The first is the Şavşat Castle located in the Söğütlü Quarter in the city. Built by the Armenian Bagratunis dynasty in the ninth century, the castle was later used by the Ottomans. Today the castle is abandoned but parts of its towers are still visible.
Also built by the Kingdom of Bagratuni in the 10th century, Artvin Castle is located on a huge rocky outcropping near the Çoruh River.
The third, Ardanuç Castle, is among the most significant ruins in the region. Dating back to the region’s ancient civilizations, the castle had been an attraction for centuries, due to its unique interior design. Even the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent recorded his interest in this castle.
Artvin province is also home to several national parks, the most famous being Karagöl-Sahara National Park, which came under state protection in 1994. Covering 3,251 hectares, the national park is composed of two areas. The Karagöl side consists of kale and thick trees and is used as a recreational area by locals. In the Sahara part of the national park, locals continue traditional Black Sea highland life.
Hatila Valley National Park consists of a steep-sided river valley at the eastern end of the Kaçkar Mountains. The area is close to the Black Sea but has a micro Mediterranean climate with warm summers, cool winters and plentiful rain throughout the year. The park’s forests and surrounding areas are rich in wildlife and include the grey wolf, leopard, and brown bear.
Want to know more?
For more information about Artvin, visit the Go Turkey Tourism website at the link below.
Sources: Explorer Turkey/Discover Turkey