Bordered by the Black Sea and nestled in the Pontic mountains, Trabzon is a wonderful natural beauty where the blue and the green meet. With lush green forests, rivers, lakes, and highlands, when in Trabzon, a nature traveler is bound to be spoilt for choice with all the Day Trips to take.
By far the most popular day trip from Trabzon city is to a quaint ‘long lake’ (that’s what the name literally translates into) nestled deep in the mountains. A must for the tourists. Although it did seem a tad disappointing with lack of cleanliness around the lake and a lot of construction going on, the view gets incredibly better once you go up.
Located about 90 km from the main city in the Caykara county, a scenic coastal road running along the shore of the Black Sea takes you for half of the way, the rest is another scenic drive gradually ascending the mountains, alongside little streams trickling down the slopes.
Once there, spend not more than half an hour walking around the perimeter of the lake. It’s a pleasant walk with the beautiful mosque in the backdrop but otherwise quite unremarkable.
Save your time for going further up into the mountains to admire it from above. A viewpoint built on one side is a steep climb of stairs for those up for it. I would rather do the winding drive up the hillside into another balcony built on a ledge. The view from here is incredible.
If you fancy a slightly overpriced tea/coffee/lunch or even a stay with this view from your hotel window, then an ascent into the hills on the mosque’s side of the lake takes you to Kar Hotel. This rustic hotel and restaurant offer an unparalleled view of the valley below along with totally Instagrammable props.
Hamsikoy and Zigana
Ideally, it should be done on another day, but constrained for time, we decided to take the trip the same afternoon. Driving back to Trabzon city we proceeded on the same coastal road, now going westwards and again drove into the mountains via a winding highway with many a hairpin bends. The ride was thrilling and immensely picturesque with lush green mountain slopes, snowy peaks, flowing streams and wooden houses built over the slopes.
Approaching twilight and dipping temperatures meant we couldn’t spend much time here. But there’s one thing you cannot leave without – the Hamiskoy Sutlac – the famed rice and milk pudding which can’t be made anywhere else as the Hamsikoy milk from the cows that graze in these meadows and hence take on a subtle floral flavor in their milk – is the prime ingredient. After several vain attempts to get my hands on the milk itself (Asking if “sut sade” (plain milk) was available), we settled for the pudding, which was so creamy, delicious and truly wouldn’t be easy to replicate elsewhere.
We continued our ascent through the Zigana mountain pass for a brief stop at the skiing village of Zigana. A misty evening meant we couldn’t enjoy much of the view but what we did enjoy was a good warm meal at the restaurant before we started our fog-light illuminated descent back to the coast.
Another crowd-puller in this region is this rock-hewn building constructed on a ledge overlooking the forests and the valley below.
Don’t miss out on exploring the highlights in the fast-paced Trabzon city before you head out. Check this post for things to do in Trabzon City.
Need more options?
The neighboring provinces of Trabzon, also along the coast and the Pontics passing through provide many options for day trips.
Famous for its tea plantations along the slopes, meadowns like “Ayder”, numerous waterfalls, old stone bridges, castles and valleys, it’s another famous spot for the tourists to enjoy the region.
Going westwards, you are offered more lakes, more mountain views and this time from cable cars. Also grab some hazelnuts from this world’s largest hazelnut produces while you are at it.
Fancy a day trip to another country? Go further from Rize and after the Sarp border (ensure your visa eligibility) and a drive of few kilometers, you will find yourself in the second largest city in the country of Georgia. One day is just enough for exploring the old city charm and the modern high rises in this beautiful city and return back, and you can add an extra flag to your countries visited list.
How to get there?
Planning a day trip presents an overwhelming array of options. Catering to a large number of tourists from the Middle East, a huge number of tourist companies can be found in the city center. However, note that English speaking guides/tours are lesser in number. Even in the city, communication in English is very limited. We had to rely on our working knowledge of Arabic and very rudimentary Turkish to get by.
Public Transport – If you can overcome the language barrier and equip yourself with enough information. taking buses to these regions and exploring on your own is a great option and the cheapest at that. There is a bus service in operation, although many people seem to not be a fan of the quality. The main station in Trabzon is the Otogar near the city center.
Tour companies – The tour companies organize daily tour packages costing 60 – 120 liras per person and provide minibus tours for small groups. Ideal if you can arrange with an English speaking guide and cost-effective too but the main disadvantage is that very limited area is covered and a majority of the time is lost in lengthy stops at souvenir shops.
Private tours – The pricier but the best option for more freedom and going at your own pace – whether you prefer slow or to cover more in a day. Many companies offer the car with tour guides (and translator if required) on a day hire basis. We went with “Trabzon tours and travels” with a young Turkish lad who used his translator friend on call and Google Translate to converse with us, along with a good mental exercise for me trying to put my sparse Turkish vocabulary to use.