Thanks to its stunning natural beauty, healing thermal baths, and scenic trekking routes, Ayder is one the most popular day-trip destinations if you are going to spend more than just a couple of days in Trabzon. Ayder National Park is located in Çamlıhemşin subprovince of the neighbouring city of Rize and is a two and a half hours drive (160 km) from Trabzon city centre. It is also possible (and highly recommended) to visit Kaçkar Mountains National Park, also located in Çamlıhemşin, during your day-trip. Kaçkar Mountains national park is one of the most scenic routes in the region, where you can visit Zilkale (Zil Castle), Palovit waterfall and experience some of the most delicious examples of local cuisine.
If you are planning to visit both national parks, it will be a long day. We suggest you sleep long enough and get ready early in the morning. Some might prefer having breakfast immediately after waking up, but we suggest you keep it light and head to Rize city center for a mouthwatering “kavurma” (beef/lamb deep fried in its own fat). Rize city centre is an hour drive from Trabzon, which makes it an ideal stopover while going to Ayder.
“Liman Lokantası” is the best choice for authentic Rize Kavurma. It also has a wide menu of local and Turkish dishes. We suggest kavurma, lahana sarması (stuffed kale) and delicious handmade yogurt for the breakfast/brunch. If you visit Liman Lokantası for lunch or dinner, kuru fasulye-pilav (stewed beans and rice) and a variety of pot meals are also recommended.
After a one and half hours driving from Rize city center (or two and a half if you drove nonstop from Trabzon), you will reach to Ayder town center. (*there is a toll-charge of 11TL/per car to enter the national park) You can enjoy your Turkish Tea or Coffee in the town and have a walk around to see splendid views of its many waterfalls and breathe mountain air. If you have enough time you can also enjoy the famous natural thermal water. If you came with an SUV or a pickup, you can visit higher altitude Huser Yaylası .
Lunch and Afternoon (Kaçkar Mountains National Park)
You should turn back to Çamlıhemşin town centre, and then take the Zilkale-Kaçkar exit to reach Kaçkar Mountains National Park. You might be starting to get hungry after trekking in Ayder. Then, visit “Çinçiva Kahve” on your road, without making a detour. Don’t leave without trying “muhlama” (a local dish made with cornmeal and cheese) and “mısır ekmeği” (cornbread). You can also try lahana dolması and breakfast if you have been there in the morning. They also serve a variety of not that local dishes such as steaks meatballs and some other food, probably not bad, but we recommend you to try the local ones you can find only in the region. The restaurant is located next to the river and historical Çinçiva Bridge.
Right in front of Çinçiva Kahve, there is a chic third-wave coffee shop, called “Zua Coffee”. Alongside with a variety of hot and cold drinks, they serve yummy desserts made by locally produced ingredients. You might feel surprised by the quality of coffee and all other products to be found in such a small village in the mountains. On the other hand, most travellers are in search of a great social media photo nowadays. And this cafe is one of the most instragrammable spots on your route 🙂
After a short drive from Çinçiva, You will see the glorious Zilkale. It is a well preserved (and recently restored) castle, literally in the middle of nowhere surrounded by heavenly green forests and massive mountains. Its construction dates back to the medieval era (est. 14th-15th century). You can visit the castle and climb into its walls with a ticket to be bought at the ticket desk in front of the castle.
After you pass by Zilkale and continue for a few kilometers, you’ll see a sign for “Palovit Waterfall” (in Turkish “Palovit Şelalesi” as written in the sign). Even though you don’t need an SUV or a 4WD car to get there, the road is quite broken and narrow, so you should pay attention; if you consider your driving capabilities as limited, you might want to skip it. If that is not the case, you’ll be there. And it’s worth it as you can see in the picture below.
It is better leaving mountain road before sunset especially if you are not used to drive there. If you get hungry on the road back, you have some amazing dinner options. You can stop by Çayeli subprovince of Rize for the famous “Kuru Fasulye” (stewed beans) at “Hüsrev Lokantası”. This old restaurant has a well earned popularity for its kuru fasulye and pilav (rice). You should also try its famous dessert “turbo” (rice pudding mixed with kadayif). As the name suggests, it is a heavy energy supply, so you might consider sharing 🙂
Another option is to visit Rize city centre once again for “Huzur Lokantası”. The restaurant serves a variety of delicious Turkish set meals, and arguably the best Black Sea style “döner”. This restaurant also serves “turbo” amongst with some other well prepared desserts.