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Artvin in Black Sea, Turkey

ARTVIN

Another secret heaven...

Like all cities extending along the beautiful Black Sea coast, Artvin is a lovely district, 64 km southeast of Hopa, possessing picturesque views of nature. Typical of this region, wide forests cover the area, and this landscape of mountains and lakes, plateaus and rivers, together with the traditional settings of pretty wooden houses, offers a pleasant atmosphere to visitors. The wild and romantic Coruh River with its impressive rapids crosses the land here. White water rafting is possible on this river for the adventure - lovers to enjoy the excitement that few other rivers in the world offer. Along the road to Erzurum, are the Tortum waterfalls, constituting another attraction with a calm and peaceful atmosphere. 55 km east of this city, are the towns of Savsat and Borcka, and the nearby Karagoller, a dreamlike place of the beautiful lake. Wide plateaus are also found in Artvin, one being the Bilbilan; and the other Kafkaslar, where the famous Kafkasor Festival is held with the interesting bull - fights.

Sarp border gate is at Hopa. There are many historical citadels, mosques, churches, and bridges, along with yachting, hunting, fishing facilities and thermal springs. In this city of diverse nature, there also exist numerous ancient sites for sightseers to visit. The ruins of a 16th-century castle lie at the foot of the hill where the city is situated. There are fine old churches, dating to the 7th - and 10th centuries, near the villages of Barhal, Ishan, Bagbasi and Camliyamac. Balih Bey Mosque is another important monument of the city and the typical old Turkish houses are the part of the charming historical scenery. The ride to the city via either route is wonderfully scenic. As you approach this beautiful city, you will notice medieval castles guarding the steep mountain passes. As new roads are built in Eastern Turkey, a window opens on early civilizations as old as history itself, amid scenery that will take your breath away. With Trabzon as a starting point, the new and spectacular road to Kars and Mount Ararat, the resting place of Noah's Arc, is an easy drive along the Black Sea Riviera as far as Hopa, a port within ten miles of the Russian border. Here the road winds its way into towering mountains and verdant valleys and passes the hill town of the city, where you will want to break your journey. At the edge of the Eastern Black Sea Mountains, you are in the heart of Turkey's wildlife area where natural beauties are balanced by Georgian and Genoese churches that graced these mountains when Marco polo made his own journey to the East.

Hopa, an attractive town at the foot of a forested mountain, is the last port before the Turkish-Georgian border. The international boundary actually divides the village of Sarp. 27 km northeast of the town of Borcka on the way to the city there is the wonderful alpine lake of Karagol, with various pine trees, as well as other flora and fauna. The road to this place traverses the Cankurtaran mountain pass, where verdant landscape changes to barren rocks. Hatira Valley National Park, about 25 km in length, is 10 km from Artvin, between the confluence of the Coruh River and the Hatilla stream in the east, and Mt. Nathali (2923 m) in the west. Canyons with sheer cliffs and vertical drops can be seen throughout the park. Both Mediterranean and Black Sea flora flourish together in the park along with bears, deer, wolves, foxes and eagles. Special houses on top of wooden stilts are home to the park bees who produce the famous regional honey.

A winding drive midway up a Mountainside takes you to Artvin, the capital of the province. At the foot of the escarpment, a ruined 16th-century castle crowns a rocky outcrop. It is a charming city with beautiful old Turkish houses, typical of the region. The area's mild climate makes summer visits delightfully refreshing and every June, crowds of tourists, as well as brightly-clad locals, throng to the Kafkasor Festival, where the spectacle of fighting bulls highlights the celebration. The adventurous might like to attempt white-water rafting on the wild, romantic Coruh River. During the Middle Ages, the area came under Georgian sovereignty, which makes it the best place for touring remains of the Georgian past. It's wonderfully scenic roads lead to the ruined churches and settlements that stand as a legacy of this period. The best-preserved of these are at Barhal and lshan, in the majestic Kackar Mountains. Barhal also offers some of the best countries horseback riding. Several other churches in Bagbasi and Camliyamac are just off the road to Erzurum, passing by the Tortum Waterfalls and the pristine Tortum Lake. Other Georgian churches and settlements near Yusufeli are Dortkilise, Koprugoren, and Tekkale. Yusufeli itself boasts wonderful possibilities for nature lovers and hiking at 4,000 meters. East of Artvin is the former Georgian capital Ardanuc with its famous castle, which overlooks the longest canyon in the region.