Beautiful Şavşat: Yukarı Koyunlu, Demirkapı, Çermik

Nine years ago I wrote “Artvin’s worth the effort!” Yep, it’s still worth it, and it’s still an effort. In retrospect (the trip’s over now, but I still have a fair bit of photo editing and blogging to do), the effort:award ratio is quite favorable in Şavşat. If you want to choose only one ilçe (district) to bicycle tour in Artvin, let it be Şavşat.

On this stretch we crossed from high in one valley, where we find the village of Yukarı Koyunlu, to high in another valley, where we find the village of Pınarlı, to high in a third valley, where the village of Demirkapı sits. As is true in Artvin in general, there are things to visit, but it’s more about the journey and the scenery along the way.

From Kanat (the camp for Tamara Kilisesi) it was downhill to Aşağı Koyunlu.

IMG_20210902_100514 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210902_103555 by bryandkeith on flickr

Then the (small) effort kicked in, a short climb to Yukarı Koyunlu and a descent to Meşeli (Meşeli is confusingly three villages with one name; this is the eastern Meşeli).

IMG_20210902_123537 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210902_125346 by bryandkeith on flickr

The next climb started off very steeply to Karagöl (a lake), perhaps Şavşat’s most popular and most disappointing tourist attraction.

IMG_20210902_144056_9 by bryandkeith on flickr

After waiting for the rain to stop for a couple hours, we gave up and pitched our tent nearby. By late the next morning it was raining light enough that we decided to ride. The weather forecast, after all, indicated a fairly dry day.

It was uphill, steep at times, in thick forest.

IMG_20210903_121426 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210903_113922 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210903_121726 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210903_125315 by bryandkeith on flickr

Progress had been slow, and we were still a ways from Pınarlı when it really started to rain. I suggested pitching the tent when I saw a flat spot. Ferda wanted to slog on hoping we’d find somewhere dry with perhaps a wood stove. Haha, I laughed.

Unbelievable. Less than 2km later we came upon a fish restaurant, Pona Alabalık. Not only did they have a wood stove, but they sold beer as well.

IMG_20210903_145750 by bryandkeith on flickr

After getting settled (pitching our tent, washing up, changing into dry clothes), we went back to the restaurant and were greeted by Loana, a young smiling Tica (from Nicoya which I found surprising given her African ancestry)! She was excited that we spoke English and even more excited to be able to use her native Spanish. She speaks Dutch as well but hasn’t learned Turkish yet.

Ferda and I were happy to have sunshine the next day for our climb up to Balık and Şırata lakes.

IMG_20210904_093436 by bryandkeith on flickr

Check out the new snow (hard to see) on the south side of the Karçal Mountains from the previous day’s storm.

IMG_20210904_122437 by bryandkeith on flickr

The lakes weren’t so exciting, but like I said it’s more about the journey.

IMG_20210904_141223 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210904_135207 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210904_134728 by bryandkeith on flickr

We had planned on camping that night, but when we came to a pansiyon (Disharo) in the middle of the afternoon, with this view from the terrace:

IMG_20210904_154731 by bryandkeith on flickr

well, we splurged.

It was up and down and up the next morning to get to another set of lakes, Arsiyan, near the border with Ardahan (a Turkish province) and Georgia (a country).

IMG_20210905_122212 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210905_135934 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210905_140320 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210905_140613 by bryandkeith on flickr

We descended 1000m that afternoon to Çermik, one of Şavşat’s gems.

IMG_20210905_160610 by bryandkeith on flickr
I like the way the clouds are creeping over the mountains. by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210905_154413 by bryandkeith on flickr

The village of Çermik is like a living outdoor museum with wooden houses hidden in the greenery. It reminded Ferda of Japan.

IMG_20210906_082446 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210905_172732 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210905_172246 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210905_172633 by bryandkeith on flickr

I am sad to report that the beautiful canyon below Çermik that I admired so much nine years ago (from Demirkapı down to the Meydancık road is the only part of this route that I had ridden before) is an industrial mess for the last ~5km, destroyed for a (low carbon?) hydro electric energy project.

IMG_20210906_084600 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20210906_091504 by bryandkeith on flickr

I couldn’t bear to take photos of the lower section. A local at the bottom explained how the whole village had protested, but, well, protests don’t mean much to autocrats.

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2 Responses to Beautiful Şavşat: Yukarı Koyunlu, Demirkapı, Çermik

  1. Mike Painter says:

    Beautiful landscape and pictures!

  2. Curt Bradner says:

    Gorgeous –

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