Photo Safari In The Aladağ Mountains

With Thrilling Summits Approaching Four Thousand Meters, The Aladağ Range At Kayseri Is A New Favorıte With Mountain Climbers. And It Offers Trails Ideal For Hiking And Photo Safaris.

We never hesitate when the invitation to join a photo safari in the Aladağ Mountains is offered every year at the end of July. More than making the summit, our goal is to get stunning shots. The highest point to which we will climb is Yedigöller Highland at 3,100 meters. With national park status since 1995, the Aladağ range is home to fox, lynx, wolf and bear. The range lies mainly in Kayseri province, the rest spreading into Niğde and Adana, and the region is flooded with thousands of nature buffs and mountaineers Turkish and foreign alike every year.

FROM KAPUZBAŞI TO HACER
Our photo safari begins at Kapuzbaşı Falls near the Kayseri town of Yahyalı, where a mighty river appears to have been cut off by steep rocks. The rainbow created by one of the waterfalls dazzles the eye.  A little further ahead at Elif Falls, the flow is a little less. According to others, this cascade, where the water falls from a higher elevation, is used to operate a mill. The local people come here with sacks of wheat and leave with freshly ground flour. The area around the falls are a veritable country fairground. Braziers are set up along the banks of the icy stream, watermelons are chilled, and children play happily. It’s not easy to tear oneself away from this breathtaking sight. But the Aladağ Mountains await us with all their surprises, and we still have to climb a good thousand meters to reach our evening campsite. We hand our heavy equipment over to muleteers waiting for us just outside the village of Ulupınar and set off. On the first leg, we take a pleasant road that runs from from Hacer Forest to the campsite at Soğuksu. Giant cedars and colorful butterflies are our companions along the way.  Towards evening the trees thin out and a magnificent view spreads before our eyes. The sun’s last rays stain the rugged mountain slopes myriad shades of gold and crimson, and we now appreciate even better why the Ala (meaning variegated) Mountains are so named.

CAMPING ON THE MOUNTAIN
The camping fun begins when the sun goes down.  All around us the mountains are completely enveloped in darkness. Lined up side by side, our tents await us. Despite their heavy loads the mules have arrived far ahead of us, and our camp mates have even lit a fire and made tea. We are too tired to take another step. Those who know the route say that tomorrow’s leg will be even more difficult. I sigh inwardly and ask myself if I should turn back. Remembering that if all else fails I can always ride on the back of a mule, I relax again and drift off into a restorative sleep in the overpowering silence of the great mountains… The next morning we are up before sunrise. Today we are going to cross Hacer Pass and climb exactly 1,400 meters. The first two kilometers run over almost flat ground terrain through fabulous vegetation. Then the valley gradually narrows and mountains seem to bear down on us from all sides. At the end of the valley the majority of our group choose a zigzag trail over a steep slag heap. The others choose a path on the south slope. Finally the last trees have been left behind and we are left facing rocky terrain and the deep blue sky. The flowers peeking out from between the rocks are astonishingly brilliant in color. The snow and ice-covered areas that at first appeared only sporadic are gradually bigger now. A person can’t help but feel awed by the splendor of nature. Completing our exhausting climb near sundown with our last shred of strength, we reach the Yedigöller (Seven Lakes). Like a giant wall, the Direktaş is reflected in the waters of Büzül Gölü, a glacier lake. In fact, the lakes large and small in the environs number more than seven. Already dozens of tents have been pitched on these lake-dotted highlands. After a deep sleep we have breakfast and begin our descent. Our trail runs along the shores of numerous lakes, each more beautiful than the last. When we reach our campsite at the edge of the forest, we can’t resist shouting: “Farewell, Oh great Aladağ Mountains!”

1.Trees give way to daisies above 2,000 meters.
2.Delicate species of carnation can be found in the Hacer Forest environs.
3.The area around Soğuksu is ideal for tent camping.
4.Kapuzbaşı Falls, a major photo safari stop.

1.The foothills of the Aladağ Mountains are a grazing area for cattle.
2.Tasty local snacks will give you energy on your safari route.
3.Buttercups cover the Seven Lakes Highland in summer.
4.Wheat on the way to the local mills.

1.A view of the Hacer Pass.
2.The slopes of the Aladağ Mountains.   
3.Elif Falls and a nearby mill.
4.A bell flower thrives in the rugged terrain.

İNFO

ALADAĞ MOUNTAINSTRAVEL GUIDE

HOW TO GO: Turkish Airlines has daily flights in both directions between Istanbul and Kayseri. Once you are in Kayseri, you can reach the Aladağ Mountains via Develi or Yahyalı.

WHERE TO STAY: If you can’t get to Kayseri, you can stay at a bed&breakfast in the village of Kapuzbaşı.

WHAT TO EAT: There are rustic restaurants around the ancient Roman fountain in the Kayseri town of Develi. The dish of choice at these venues shaded by century-old chinars is a kind of flat bread with meat (etli pide) known as Develi cıvıklı.