The lush green foothills of the Karadeniz or Black Sea Mountains rise quickly from the coast and represent a surprisingly different landscape to the one many of us imagine for Turkey. But the north-east is distinct in many ways from the traditional wooden architecture and the proud people to the vast hazelnut groves, tea plantations and of course the native flora. The latter is nurtured by rainfall year round so the slopes are clad in extensive forests of beech and spruce with tall diverse alpine meadows packed with flowers in summer. It is here among many other beautiful herbs such as big-belled campanulas, orchids, flamboyant bright red poppies and rusty-coloured foxgloves that the majority of the country’s lily species occur. At this season they stand above their peers providing at once graceful and striking accents in the meadows. This tour traverses the north-east Karadeniz Dagları exploring a series of long, green valleys and mountain passes and features all of regions’ lilies, whilst at the same time encountering many other noteworthy and beautiful flowers too.
14 day tour with Basak Gardner.
Day 1 UK to Amasya (17 June)
Although we depart on the 17 June, we arrive very early on 18 June and overnight in Amasya an attractive city with many old wooden houses. o/n Amasya
Day 2 Amasya (18 June)
Amasya is famed for its traditional architecture and the wonderful houses that line the Yesilirmak River flowing through the city. We will be free to explore the town and enjoy a relaxing morning after our late arrival yesterday. In the afternoon there is an excursion to a local orchid hotspot with Himantoglossum affine, Ophrys scolopax and Dactylorhiza osmanica amongst others. o/n Amasya
Day 3 Akkus Valley
The impressive white-flowered Lilium akkusianum is restricted to the Akkus Valley and the areas around Erbaa. It is the earliest of the lilies in the north-east and occurs in a narrow altitude band among woodland and adjoining meadows along with stands of Phlomis russeliana. A peculiarity of the area is the remarkable Mediterranean enclave flora, which includes the strawberry tree Arbutus andrachne and stands of Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani, a conifer that usually thrives among the Taurus Mountains in the south of the country. o/n Ordu
Day 4 Aksu Valley
South of Giresun the road climbs along the Aksu Valley to the Egribel Pass. Among masses of blue Salvia forskhaeli and stands of deep pink Anacamptis pyramidalis is the gorgeous fragrant yellow Lilium monodelphum var. armenum. Higher up and there are amazing populations of somber Lilium ciliatum emerging from lush herb-rich meadows and there are other choice flowers such as the lovely Lathyrus aureus. The views from along the road are some of the finest we see. o/n Giresun
Day 5 Sumela Monastery
From Giresun we drive to Trabzon the largest city in the north-east where we’ll take lunch before visiting the fabulous Sumela Monastery perched precariously on high cliffs south of the city. The lovely white Campanula betulifolia grows on the cliffs around the monastery. o/n Zigana
Day 6 Zigana Pass
The day will be spent on the florally diverse Zigana Pass, with time spent exploring both sides. On both versants there are excellent mixed populations of Lilium ciliatum and monodelphum var. armenum with superb specimens of both species.They thrive among slopes thronging with Aconitum orientale, Geranium psilostemon, Vicia crocea and Lathyrus rotundifolius, Centaurea dealbata, whilst on the somewhat drier southern slopes are stands of elegant Digitalis lamarckii, Morina persica, dense-flowered spikes of Epipactis helleborine and wet flushes crowded with Dactylorhiza iberica. The woods and slopes around the pass are crowded with fragrant Rhododendron luteum.o/n Zigana
Day 7 Uzungol
Ringing the popular lakeside town of Uzungol are diverse slopes peppered with Lilium ponticum in a variety of forms along with abundant meadow flowers such as Campanula lactiflora, Alchemilla spp., Geranium psilostemon, Dactylorhiza urvilleana and Pedicularis condensata. In the afternoon we’ll continue onto our hotel in the next valley near Ikizdere. o/n İkizdere, Rize
Day 8 Ovit Pass
Lilium ponticum is again the focus today with hopefully some near-purple forms. Smaller tracks lead to herb rich slopes with lily populations as well as Campanula lactiflora, Geranium psilostemon and Dactylorhiza urvilleana as we proceed up towards the Ovit Pass. Depending on the remaining snow patches there will be the chance to explore the higher alpine turf with gorgeous clumps of Gentiana verna and Corydalis conorhiza together with Primula auriculata, Primula elatior ssp meyeri and the remarkable robust red-brown cubes of Fritillaria latifolia. Another area of flowery high meadows has a vast population of Anemone narcissiflora as well as Rhododendron caucasicum, Geum coccineum, Campanula tridentata and Aquilegia olympica. o/n İkizdere, Rize
Day 9 Anzer
The finest honey in Turkey hails from the flower-rich Anzer Valley and it is no surprise why. The meadows here are very diverse with stands of magnificent Campanula lactiflora, deep pink Silene compacta, tumbling masses of Lathyrus rotundifolius, abundant Stachys macrantha and as we progress higher around the last snows will be Corydalis alpestris and Scilla woronowii with superb views of the big cirque at the head of the valley. o/n Ikizdere
Day 10 Coruh Valley
The various lily species of the region are rather spread out along the Black Sea Mountains (or Karadeniz Dagları) and today we drive across to Yusefeli via the scenic and much drier Çoruh Valley with intense scarlet Papaver orientale, the lovely bright pink Pelargonium endlicherianum flowering on the rocks and steppe flora such as Xeranthemum annuum, Glaucium corniculatum and Alcea calvertii. We will also look at interesting areas near Mor Yayla where we hope to see the stunning scarlet Sedum sempervivum. Near Yusefeli we can see an impressive ruined Georgian church. Overnight in Yusefeli.
Day 11 Savsat
In the morning we complete the drive to the lovely 'Little Switzerland' of Turkey. Our reward for the journey will be the superb population of Lilium kesselringianum bursting from lush green meadows that grow all around. o/n Şavşat.
Day 12 Cam Pass
Turkey’s only population of the magnificent Lilium monodelphum var. szovitsianum grows among stunning flower packed meadows with abundant Geranium collinum, Linum hypericifolium, Echium russicum and carpets of Polygala anatolica. In the afternoon we will stop for wonderful populations of Papaver orientale that illuminate the slopes, as well as search for Campanula aucheri and Centaurea cheilanthifolia on rocky outcrops nearby. o/n Şavşat.
Day 13 Kars Highlands
The highlands surrounding Kars are brimming with colour at this time, as spring finally arrives with swathes of verbascums, poppies, bugloss and gladiolus. Then closer to the city, right on the border with Armenia is the famed historical site of Ani with its fascinating complex of churches, mosques and caravanserais constructed in warm red, tuff rock. o/n Erzurum
Day 14 Return flights (30 June)
Return flights from Erzurum.