Head In The Clouds: Ağrı

A FAVORITE WITH MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS AND SYNONYMOUS WITH THE MT. ARARAT OF THE NOAH’S ARK STORY, THE CITY OF AĞRI IS AT ITS BEST IN SPRING WITH ITS MAGNIFICENT İSHAK PASHA PALACE, ITS 3,000-YEAR-OLD ROCK DWELLINGS AND ITS VIBRANT BAZAARS.

When the famous Russian poet Pushkin came as far as the foothills of Mt. Ararat in 1829, he gaped in awe at the mountain and said, “I looked at the legendary mountain as hard as I could.” And you should do the same this spring. Come to the foot of this majestic mountain and stare at it as hard as you can. For Ararat knows how to enchant in every season with its colors. Mountains are yellow in the morning, red at sundown and blue by night. But they exhibit their finest colors perhaps in spring when they are covered in a thousand and one flowers and the bells of the flocks are heard on their slopes. Loving Ararat means loving mountains and being a nature lover.

PALACE OF DREAMS
To get a sense of the area’s deep-rooted history, you have to take the legends of the centuries with you and branch out to Doğubeyazıt. Rising with fairytale elegance in stark solitude encircled by a sea of mountains, İshak Pasha Palace will embrace you in its mighty arms. Its construction undertaken in 1685 when the area was ruled by İshak Pasha’s father, Çolak Abdi Pasha, the palace took 99 years to build. This palace, from whose taps milk once ran, represents a peerless synthesis of Ottoman and Selcuk architecture. Actually a complex, the palace is said to consist of exactly 360 chambers. Pastoral landscapes will surround you as you travel from İshak Pasha to Diyadin, crossing the rugged mountains via the 2,000-meter İpek (Silk) Pass. Diyadin Spa is a leading center of health tourism with therapeutic thermal springs, rustic outdoor coffeehouses and charming bed&breakfasts. Meya Valley, chock full of 3,000-year-old rock dwellings, the Priest’s Garden, Meteor Gulch and Buz (Ice) Cave are among the city’s touristic sights. The day starts early in the towns of Ağrı, and Patnos, which lies in the shadow of Süphan, an extinct volcano, is no exception. Roosters herald the rising sun, shops open to the ‘bismillah’, tea is steeped, the conversation begins. Luscious fruits and vegetables plucked from the local gardens and orchards, fresh country cheeses, handwoven carpets and wild mountain herbs bring plenitude to Patnos Market. And life, shaped by Anatolian traditions, forges on in the bazaars of Ağrı.

LOOKING FOR MONTAGU’S HARRIER
The wetlands between Mt. Ararat and Doğubeyazıt are a gold mine for birders. You can observe scores of bird species here in this area fed by runoff from the Tendürek Mountains, among them Montagu’s Harrier, Purple Heron, Egret, Gadwall, Ferruginous Duck, Crane, Pochard and Sandpiper.

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GETTING THERE
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul - Ağrı - Istanbul flights daily. Departures are at 10:50 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. from Istanbul, and 1:40 p.m. and 3:25 p.m. from Ağrı.