Blog

TURKEY: Your Guide to Skiing in Erzurum + Palandöken

After last years ski trip to Kars, Turkey, I can now declare (after 7 years of marriage too) that we are a skiing family! Yes, both Jason AND Sofia both when out skiing with me in Kars. Check out ALL of our KARS videos and Blog post!

This year we were itching to go again! We consisder meeting friends from Dubai north of Antalya to ski Davruz, and it didn’t work out. So this time, after a lot of change of plans, we are on our way to Erzurum to ski at Palandöken Ski resort!

And of course… in usual ‘Catie’ fashion, we can’t just ‘go skiing’! We wanted to see some of the other sites around Erzurum as well! Check out ALL of our ERZURUM videos linked at the bottom off the article

Hopefully your 2022 winter season got you to the slopes as well!!

By the way…. IMPORTANT: This post covers only the ski portion of our trip to Kars, Turkey. Check out our other Kars post below:

Now on your guide to skiing in Turkey!

Where should I ski in Turkey?

This post is all about skiing near the area of Erzurum, specifically Palandöken. BUT I wanted to live you with a list of other options kayak merkezi (or ski centers) to explore if you aren’t wanted to head that far east. The other places we have skied are Sarıkamış (Kars) and Uludağ (and I don’t have a post on it).

In no particular order, these are some of the most popular (not all of course):

  • Uludağ Ski Center near Bursa (easy weekend from Istanbul and Izmir)
  • Kartaltepe Ski Center near Bolu (easy drive from Istanbul)
  • Erciyes Ski Center, south of Kayseri Airport (aka Cappadocia region)
  • Davraz Ski Center, north of Antalya near Isparta (2 hour drive from Antalya)
  • Sarıkamış near Kars (east Turkey)

Check out this article over at the Daily Sabah for a brief description of each.

Where is Erzurum + Palandöken?

Erzurum city, capital of the Erzurum province, is located in the far northeast region of Turkey just north of the Palandöken Mountains. Situated at an elevation of 1,890 m (6,200 feet), it’s 140 meters higher than its neighboring city of Kars (1,750 metres/5,740 feet). This city sits on the historical Silk Road and preserves much of it’s legendary Anatolian hospitality.

Palandöken ski center is just 10 minutes south of town and a half hour drive from the Erzururm Airport traveling through the city of Erzurum.

Erzurum Palandoken Ski Turkey
Erzurum Palandoken Ski Turkey
Erzurum Palandoken Ski Turkey

Little bit of history:

Situated on the historic Silk Road, Erzurum has been a residential area for centuries, dating back to 4900 B.C. Like most of this area, it has fallen under the rule of many nations such as the Urartu, Meds, Persian, Parthian Romans, Arabs, Seljuks, Byzantines, Mongols, and Ottomans.

The city of Erzurum is best known to Turks as the seat of the Erzurum Congress which met in summer of 1919. Crucial decisions were made among 62 delegates determining the path for Turkish national independence.

Today, Erzurum is still a Turkish stronghold protecting the Eastern region. It is called the “City of the Dadaşlar” which means “brave men. ” The famous touristic Dogu Express Train also passing through this city from Ankara onto Kars.

It is also favorite getaway for local and foreign tourists, especially in the winter season for those who love winter sports.

To learn more about Erzurum, check out part 2 – TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE

About the Palandöken Ski Center:

Palandöken Ski Center (also known as Ejder 3200 World Ski Center) is built on the 3,000-meter-high mountain named Büyük Ejder (The Great Dragon). Palandöken offers local and foreign tourists a true skiing experience boasting of its title for having the longest ski track in Turkey.

Thanks to the University Winter Olympics held in Palandöken in 2011, serious investments were made in the facility. When you look at the map, you can see how long the ski slope appears. Tracks Ejder and Kapıkaya are actually approved by the International Ski Federation (FIS) for Slalom and Grand Slalom competitions. All these have made Palandöken very appealing to outsiders.

Unlike Sarıkamış, most of their slopes are more suitable for intermediate to advance skiers. There is very little area for beginners. Local businesses providing ski equipment rentals and private lessons are located at the entrance to the ski lift areas.

Snow falls at the Palandöken Ski Center is about 50 days a year and it stays on the ground for about 113 days. The season usually starts around late November lasting until mid-April.

Palandöken Erzurum Turkey
  • Facilities in Palandöken: It has 3 chairlifts and 1 ski lift. 
  • Height of Palandöken: Tracks starting from 2200 meters go up to a height of 3,176 meters. 
  • Ski tracks in Palandöken: With an altitude at 3,000, Palandöken has a total of 22 tracks (2 of these are declared Olympic tracks). For the tracks: 4 black, 3 red, 9 blue and 8 green. (I will explain more about this in the PROS and CONS section below). There are 28 kilometers of tracks in total. It is possible to ski 12 km without interruption on the longest track (which wasn’t open when we were there). On paper, Palandöken seems to beat Sarıkamış, but in practice things are complicated. Due to unmaintained lifts and closed runways due to avalanche risks, there are a lot of underutilized runways.
  • Times and Lift hours: General season is late November to mid April. Lift closing hours vary from month to month. But it usually opens at 9.00 and closes at 16.30 – 17.00 depending on the weather conditions.
  • Lift wait times: The total number of ski lifts claim to be 13 but we only ever saw 3 or 4 that were open. (I belief this number includes the separate private lifts for the Polat and SWAY hotel which I will explain more in the hotel section.) There are 2 gondola (bottom to mid-level then continuing from mid-level to top of the mountain) and 11 Chairlifts. During our stay, the gondola never opened to the top of the mountain. As well, we found that we had to walk a bit from the chairlifts or gandola to get to the ski path -can we say exhausting!? The open chairlifts and the gondolas both seat 4 at a time.
  • Electronic Passes: There are electronic pass readers on the lifts. You swipe the plastic card over the magnet and pass it on. The card has lanyard. You can use all the lifts with a single pass in Sarıkamış Ski Center.
  • Ski equipment: Most of the hotels have their own private ski rental companies usually located in the hotel. The prices are reasonable and if you forgot anything, they have it! As well at the entrance of Palandöken there is a ski rental room not attached to any hotel.
  • Food/Drink the slopes: For lunch, our hotel was full-board and we always just took a break to eat there to eat. It was also a natural stopping time for our daughter who is still 3 years old and can only really be out about 2-3 hours. On the runways, there is a cafe at the entrance/bottom of the mountain and mid-area, and all of them have hot and cold drinks. However, not all of them have much choice of food. There are also a restrooms.
  • In case of emergency, loss or injury: The gendarmerie is the first to respond to accidents. The search and rescue team will come to you with snow vehicles as soon as possible. There are doctors on the mountain and if necessary, transfers are made to nearby hospitals. Take the contact number of the hotel you are staying in with you in case of an emergency.
  • Extras: There are a few folks that provide a VERY small area to snow sled. It is also the area that beginner skier use for lessons… I saw most people almost running into one another. This trip we didn’t get the chance to do any other winter activities with our daughter.
Palandoken Ski prices

Our Experience with the Ski Center:

Palandöken ski center definitely has a variety to offer. From luxury hotels to more modest ‘pansyon’ type hotels and even private Airbnb type rentals, you can make this ski destination as expensive or as affordable as you would like. The prices are more than Sarıkamış but not as steep in cost as Uludağ. And while the mountain has great slopes, we found a lot was closed to skier while we were there and the snow to be less fluffy and much more icier.

We did stay in an all-inclusive ski lodge type accommodation but it wasn’t on the slopes (which was by choice but prefer being right on the slope). We loved that the town of Erzurum was not far. We were able to go into town one night and do a day trip another day. Something that you can’t do, or at least isn’t as easy, in Sarıkamış to Kars.

Keep reading on to see our final decision between Palandöken vs. Sarıkamış below.

PROS:

  • Ezurum is so close! The best part of Palandoken is the convenience of transportation. Being only 15 minutes away from Erzurum, when the skiing is done, one can head into town and enjoy some site seeing. It also means that an all-inclusive hotel is not necessary as you can commute from town to ski or get a more affordable hotel option and enjoy trying out the local restaurants instead of staying in the hotel all the time.
  • The roads are always clear and sparkling coming to and from the Erzurum airport. It is part of the city and the roads are taken care of properly. Since the elevation was already so high, the ride to the hotel was easy and clear. No shuttle issues or curves to fear.
  • No one thought twice about giving us skis for our 3 year old! If you read our Sarıkamış post or watched our video, you will remember we had issues with them even allowing us to rent skis for our daughter (2.5 years old at that time).
  • Since this is a huge district, the state brought services such as schools and train stations here. There is a hospital and it’s possible to reach the hospital quickly in case of an accident.

CONS:

  • Even though we went during the weekdays, I felt like it was still crowded everywhere. Because schools are near, there were many ski classes out during the day. This ski center is just a bit narrower and I felt the need to keep an eye out around me for less experienced (or even more experience one!) flying by us.
  • Since it is a more formal ski center, the prices of food and beverage etc are marked up.
  • Our hotel’s kids play area was not nice. We had to ask for the lights to be turned on most times and the toys were all half broken.

Palandöken vs. Sarıkamış

We would 100 % choose Sarıkamış over Palandöken in the future. There were no closed lift in Sarıkamış or ski paths. 🙂 While snowfall and season lengths seem to be the same, I’ll post our points below comparing why we like Sarıkamış more:

  • Snow: The snow is powdery and crystal with very little ice.
  • Tracks: The facilities are open and spread out allowing room for skiers even on the busier days of the season. The tracks of Sarıkamış seem a little wider to us around 70m. More difficult tracks in Palandöken are narrow, but since these tracks are for super advanced levels it’s not an issue. It is an issue with those skiers that are not ready for those slopes.
  • Fog: As well, we did not encounter any fog on the tracks in Sarıkamış. However in Palandöken, we came across a fog during our skiing, which thankfully didn’t cause any accidents. Since Sarıkamış ski center is surrounded by yellow pine forests, it affects little if there is a wind blowing.
  • Wind: Since Sarıkamış ski center is surrounded by yellow pine forests, it affects little if there is a wind blowing.
  • Risks: After the avalanche that fell in Palandöken, experts from abroad were brought and the tracks were examined. Unfortunately, they found a lot of runways risky and closed them. (We did not know this prior to going.)
  • Crowds: While both are quite spacious during the week, both get crowded during the holidays and especially on the weekend. Difficult tracks are still calm in Sarıkamış. It is empty enough that you can choose a lane and slide straight down without ever leaving. We found that we were always aware of other people moving while skiing in Palandöken. In summary, although the capacity of Palandöken is higher, its tracks and lifts are denser. Sarıkamış’s calmness makes a difference for us – especially with having our daughter with us.
  • Beginner? Our recommendation is Sarıkamış again, as it is less likely to be disrupted by the weather conditions in Sarıkamış. Considering that there is a lot of fallout while learning, Sarıkamış seems to be more suitable as it has less icing and more space to practice!
  • Nature: The hills of Palandoken are bare. Sarıkamış is surrounded by yellow pine forests. When skiing, Sarıkamış was a 1000 times more enjoyable. It is not surprising to see wildlife like rabbits and foxes in Sarıkamış.

When Should I Go to Palandöken?

If you came to Palandöken, you probably came to ski. That’s why you should make sure to come in the best time of winter. Snow falls here for 5 months of the year, from the beginning of December to mid of April. December’s new snow and March’s warmer weather seem to be popular times to go.

Getting There:

  • For our trip, we flew a 2 hour direct flight from Izmir to Erzurum on SunExpress Airlines and took a free shuttle offered by the hotel.
  • If you are going to come directly to Sarıkamış by plane, the nearest airport to you is the Erzurum Airport. The airport is 18m (30 minutes) away from Palandöken. Before buying your flight ticket, we recommend that you compare the ticket prices of different airline companies. Both Pegasus Airlines and Sunexpress offer direct flights from Izmir but not daily. You can always find connecting routes to Kars with layovers in other airports via Turkish Airlines (which some of our friends who joined us did).
  • Alternative options: The historic Doğu (Eastern) Express is an alternative option for those with a bit more time on their hands. Passing through Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan, Erzurum and Sarıkamış, it arrives at the second to last stop, Erzurum, before finishing in Kars. Coming to Erzurum with the Orient Express is an experience that must be experienced in itself. It’s a bit difficult to figure out the ticketing system and times (and it’s usually sold out) but if you are able to figure it out, go for it! This article is a bit old but it’s a great start!

Lodging: 

Around the Palandöken ski center, you will find a variety of accommodations. From luxury hotels to more modest ‘pansiyon’ type hotels and even private Airbnb type rentals, you can make this ski destination as expensive or as affordable as you would like. It’s hard when searching online, where exactly you should stay. (I outline all of this more in detail in my video.)

There are 3 sections of accommodations near the Palandöken Ski Center:

  1. SWAY and Polat Hotel: Lower area. You pass this as you go towards the Palandöken Mountain base and ski center. SWAY is a luxury full board hotel and perhaps the most popular hotel in Palandoken. It has wifi and spa facilities. Polat Hotel is a A full board five-star hotel option with 3 types of rooms: deluxe, family and standard(old rooms). These two hotels have their own ski slopes not part of Palandöken. Using these runways are included in the price. 
  2. Palandöken Mountain base area: This is where we were at. This hotels usually have some type of shuttle to the nearby base and we found are more affordable than the 1st and 3rd areas.
  3. Mid-mountain level: Located on the mountain and at the top of the first gondola. Funny enough there is a Dedeman Hotel at both the 2nd and 3rd levels so it can be a bit confusing when looking at the hotels on a map.

Where we stayed:

  • Palan Otel: Our friends recommended this hotel to us, and this was the good option for our family because it had a more affordable 1+1 room option. The hotel is located near the entrance to the ski center with a free shuttle taking you to and from the lifts. The staff was kind and quick to respond to any request. I was even able to WhatsApp with one of the workers in English which helped bypass any miscommunication in Turkish. For Sarıkamış we did a package via estur.com, but for this trip we booked everything for Palan Otel via their website. You get a cheaper price when you book on their website and pay the non-refundable deposit. The food was good and varied and that was nice to have included in our stay. They were a bit of sticklers about take your lunch the day you arrive and wanted to make us pay extra which we did not have too. The ski rentals where just down the hall from the main lobby of the hotel. You will need to pay in cash or transfer via your Turkish bank account like we did.
  • Here are a few other recs if you want to stay in town or nearby:
    • The Erzurum Hotel – Just outside of the city center before getting to the 1st area with the SWAY hotel going up mountain. Breakfast is included, free ski shuttle to the base of the mountain, and ski rental area in the hotel.
    • Hotel Zade – Hotel Zade is a hotel option from the center of Erzurum, but it is a 7-minute drive from Palandoken Ski Center. Breakfast is included, wifi is available. 
    • Grand Catalkaya Hotel – In the center of town if you are wanted an extra night to explore the city and be ‘in the middle of it all’

Must Try Foods: 

Although the hotels do provide food service, feel free to taste local delicacies in Erzurum via our tour with Silk Road Moments.

  • Cağ Kebabı: Originating from Erzurum, cağ kebabı, also called Yatik Döner, is a horizontally stacked marinated rotating lamb kebab and is one of the specialities that you must try. Apparently, it is the tradition that they will keep bringing the kebab until you tell them to stop.
  • Burma Kadayif: I would recommend to take another speciality of Erzurum desert after the meal. This type of baklava is made with shredded kadayıf dough rolled around ground or whole pistachio nuts or other nuts like walnuts. Burma, literally meaning wringed or twisted, is baked like most other baklava varieties, soaked in a simple syrup, and sprinkled with ground nuts before serving.
Cag kebap Erzurum Turkey

Restaurants: 

  • Because our hotel was all-inclusive, meaning it offered breakfast, lunch and dinner, we did not really explore much more outside our ski resort and ski park. We take a day tour and tried a few places in town. Check out our Erzurum Guide here: TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE

Sites In Erzurum:

There is quite to see in and around Erzurum. I have another post to check out that is all about touring this area here: TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE

Nearby Erzurum:

  • Some people like to do Erzurum and Kars in one trip! The drive is about 2.5 hours from Erzurum to Sarıkamış. However, we think you should always tour the area nearby too! You could fly into Erzurum, tour, ski, drive on to Sarıkamış, ski, then tour Kars a few days, and depart from Kars! If you do head to Sarıkamış and Kars, we suggest to visit Kars City, Ani Harabeleri, Lake Çildir, and Boğatepe Cheese farms! All the links for the videos are below.
  • North about 4 hours by car, Rize is home to Turkey’s famous tea fields and the nearby Trabzon’s Sümela Monastery (Explore Trabzon Part 1, Turkey – POST and VIDEO).

Overall, Palandöken was not our favorite ski center in Turkey, but we did enjoy trying it out. We really enjoyed touring the city which you can watch a video on that AND read our complete guide to visiting.

You can check out our trip via video over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel and see what all we did in our ski week!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Have you gone skiing in Turkey?
  • Have you visited Palandöken Ski Center, Turkey in Erzurum? 
  • Share a memory you have about skiing! 

Check out our 2 part video for Erzurum, Turkey:

Want more info on skiing in Turkey? Check out our Kars, Turkey skiing and touring videos and blog posts!

Ani Herebeleri Kars Turkey

TURKEY: Top 3 Day Trips from Kars

IMPORTANT: This post covers only the day trips from Kars City. Check out our other Kars post below:

Intro/Little Recap:

After completing our 2 week Black Sea road trip, I wanted more of Eastern Turkey! I have always has a list of places to visit, but due to some crazy COVID restrictions, it’s put us behind on our travels. COVID has forced us to last minute travel plan, and I have to say… I am loving it. Our Black Sea Road Trip was  Road Trip was planned just a mere 10 days before we left. And this trip was somewhat similar! 

Each winter we try to get to a more ‘wintery’ area, wether it’s been Germany for Christmas or Uladağ with friends. I love my warm winter Izmir but it’s fun to go play in the snow and ski for a few days a year!

Over 2019 Christmas, our family headed up to Uludag to ski with some friends. We plan to do the same this year but there wasn’t any snow in Uludag yet! We still had the itch, ok – more so Catie did, and we decided to head out east instead! This way we can see more of Eastern Turkey AND get our ski fix in!

Our 2020 trip to Uludağ with friends didn’t pan out this year, leaving us wide open to exploring other locations. Some other friends of ours are prolific skiers and they suggested we look into ski resort over near Erzurum and Kars. So we did and picked KARS!

And of course… in usual ‘Catie’ fashion, we can’t just ‘go skiing’! We wanted to see some of the other sites around Kars as well!

Kars Turkey

More about Day Trips from Kars!

IN THIS POST:

Where is Kars

Kars is the capital of the Kars province is located in the far northeast region of Turkey. Situated on a plateau 5,740 feet (1,750 metres) above sea level on the Kars River, the city of Kars is only an hour drive to the border with Armenia (which, by the way, you can not cross).

The 3 places I am suggesting to visit are all within a 1-2 hour driving radius by car as you can see in the second picture.

Sarıkamış Kars Turkey
Kars Turkey Day Trips

Bit of History

The city’s name of Kars is said to be derived from the Armenian word hars, meaning “bride” or possibly the Georgian word kari meaning “the gate” since it was a border stronghold.

For the full history of Kars, check out my other complete guide to Kars city – START HERE with your TOP 5 Sites in Kars post!

kars turkey

Here are our Top 3 Day Trips from Kars City, Turkey:

1. UNESCO ANI HABARLERI – ANI ÖRENLERI

Only 42 kilometers distance to Kars, the most notable and popular site for both Turks and foreign tourist is Ani Heberleri. Why? In Ani’s prime time, this thriving ancient capital of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia grew to be one of the four biggest cities of the world, having a population of over 100,000 while hosting 24 different civilizations.

Being located on the Silk Road, Ani was established on a volcanic landscape to the West of Arpaçay River separating Turkey and Armenia (which you can not cross over into). But you can stand at the edge of the site and see the river below with its destroyed brides and see the land of Armenia and its boarder watch towers!

This site holds 21 historical building: a temple, church, palace, caravansary, mosque, bath, and mill. If you are an historic junkie and want to know the ins and out of this place before you go, check out the UNESCO post explaining everything!

After the kingdom collapsed, Ani experienced a long history of war, looting, vandalism, capture, and transfer of power. Situated on the eastern Turkish province Kars and bordering Armenia, the Ani site is open to the public for visiting.

Ani Herebeleri Kars Turkey

This archeological site is very large and all the sites are spread out. This means a LOT of walking! If you are coming on the busy season and the weather is nice, after entering the city walls, we recommend that you walk to the right. The tours usually generally start from the left making the right side very calm. BUT if you come during the cold winter, TURN LEFT so you get to see the cool stuff first before you freeze!}

Here are the places you must see at Ani:

Ani Ruins Map sites Turkey
  • Tigran Honents Church: This is why we say to turn left if you can. This Church is the one you DO NOT want to miss. Unfortunately it is one of the furthest from the entrance and you can’t see it either! You have to walk the path to the end and then take the steps down the hill to see it. However, you will be rewarded with the most beautiful interior space completely decorated with frescoes of scenes from the Bible and particularly the lives of Jesus and Mary.
  • Ani Cathedral: There is a walking path that goes straight from the entrance directly down the middle to this church. It is the largest structure by far and the one you see first. Everyone, including us, seemed to gravitate towards it. There isn’t much on the inside though, outside of its impressive size.
  • Ebu’l Manuçehr Camii/Mosque: Built in 1086, this mosque is located at the southwest part of the city just before the road leading into the citadel.
  • St. Gregory of Abumarents: This is the pics everyone see for Ani. The Armenian style architecture, similar to the Kümbet Camisi in Kars City. The inside is in a sad state, but the outside is beautiful, and a great shot for getting Armenia in the background.

Getting There: Ani is located 45 km southeast of Kars. It takes about a hour to get there by car. While we had a car, you would join an organized day tour from the center of Kars. The ruins are open between 09.00-19.00 in April-October and between 08.00-17.00 in November-March. Also, the entrance to the ruins is a Müzekart. If you do not have a museum card, check the entrance fee via their website.  

Check out video sharing our explorations of this area!

2. FROZEN LAKE ÇILDIR

Lake Çıldır is about 40 to 60 minute drive from Kars and is a great place to spend your time partaking in some regional winter activities. At an altitude of 1959 meters above sea level and covers 123 square kilometers, Lake Çıldır is the second largest lake in East Anatolia after Lake Van, and you can spend lots of time walking on the frozen lake. The area of Lake Çıldır contains a few lake-side restaurants, few short and flat trails, and the lake itself.

Just a 1.5 hours drive away from Kars, Çıldır Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Eastern Anatolia and the second largest lake in the region (to Van Lake). Whatever praises people make about Çıldır, they are completely right. Especially when the winter comes and the lake freezes completely, the beauty of this place becomes more visible.

Çıldır Lake begins to freeze in mid-December and begins to thaw from mid-April . As a general information, it is possible to walk on Çıldır Lake starting from January, and it is one of the most amazing feelings. The lake’s snow-white view of nothingness in this period is inexplicable to be experienced.

Eating yellow fish in the restraurants around the lake is also a Çıldır classic. We stopped off at Arpaçay Log House (Kütük Evi), which is a touristic facility where you will find this famous fish and other local dishes. As well, they host many other various activities walking on the lake, horse drawn sleigh riding, and possibly ice fishing. The sitting areas are quite cozy (this a legit log cabin in the states – we were VERY surprised!). We think it is more suitable for family sitting, there is a playground in the garden, and the toilets are clean.

Another popular activity of Çıldır Lake is to take a sleigh tour at this log house as well. The tours are done for 10-20 minutes, and the prices are around 50 TL (as of 2020).

Getting there: Çıldır Lake is located between Kars and Aradahan. It is most logical to rent a car for comfortable transportation. Another alternative is to participate in tours organized in the center of Kars. Those who have enough time can set out early in the morning and reach Çıldır in 1.5 hours, if you have a more tight schedule, you can visit Ani Ruins and Çıldır on the same day but it’s a LOT of driving!  

Note: If you are curious about ice fishing (which we did not do), call Atalay’s Yeri or Gunay’s Yeri a few days before you go, you can ask them how it is done and how much it is.

Check out video sharing our explorations of this area!

3. Boğatepe Cheese Museum and Gruyere Cheese!

The tiny village of Boğatepe is 50 km away from the Kars City center and holds and interesting history. The Malakan families migrated from the Caucasus in the 1930s bringing livestock and dairy farming cultures to Kars, including many cheese varieties.

Situated at an altitude is 2,667 metres, it’s a perfect location for making the world famous Grüyere cheese (think of the cheese in the famous cartoon Tom and Jerry!). This little village even has a free cheese museum teaching you all about the process. This cheese productions and their methods have been passed down from generation to generation and over the years, making Kars a cheese paradise! Learn more about the Boğatepe Köyü Peynir Müzesi HERE.

After seeing the museum we ventured to a local farm for a cheese tasting. Since it was off season, there weren’t any crowds or private breakfast offered. We loved seeing the family runs cheese factory of ….. and enjoyed learning and tasting, of course, all of the local varieties of cheese!

Check out video sharing our explorations of this area!

Our other tips listed below for this area can all be found in the TURKEY: Top 5 Sites in KARS City Guide

  • When to go
  • Getting There
  • Lodging
  • Must Try Foods
  • Restaurants

As well make sure to explore skiing near Kars at Sarıkamış via this post – Your Guide to Skiing in Turkey – Sarıkamış/Kars

Overall, Kars is so amazing. Not the first place foreigners go to visit, but if you are a long-term expat like us then this is a must visit – especially winter time and skiing in nearby Sarıkamış.

You can check out our trip via video over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel and see what all we did in our few days before skiing!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Do you want to travel to Kars now?
  • Have you traveled to Kars before?
  • Did you do to any of these areas near Kars?
  • If so, what did you love? What did we miss?!

Check out our other locations on this road trip! This is just a piece of our 8 part video and blog post series of our road trip.

Kars Turkey Kumbet Cami Mosque

TURKEY: Top 5 sites in Kars City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE

Intro/Little Recap:

After completing our 2 week Black Sea road trip, I wanted more of Eastern Turkey! I have always has a list of places to visit, but due to some crazy COVID restrictions, it’s put us behind on our travels. COVID has forced us to last minute travel plan, and I have to say… I am loving it. Our Black Sea Road Trip was  Road Trip was planned just a mere 10 days before we left. And this trip was somewhat similar! 

Each winter we try to get to a more ‘wintery’ area, wether it’s been Germany for Christmas or Uladağ with friends. I love my warm winter Izmir but it’s fun to go play in the snow and ski for a few days a year!

Over 2019 Christmas, our family headed up to Uludag to ski with some friends. We plan to do the same this year but there wasn’t any snow in Uludag yet! We still had the itch, ok – more so Catie did, and we decided to head out east instead! This way we can see more of Eastern Turkey AND get our ski fix in!

Our 2020 trip to Uludağ with friends didn’t pan out this year, leaving us wide open to exploring other locations. Some other friends of ours are prolific skiers and they suggested we look into ski resort over near Erzurum and Kars. So we did!

And of course… in usual ‘Catie’ fashion, we can’t just ‘go skiing’! We wanted to see some of the other sites around Kars as well!

IMPORTANT: This post covers only the city of Kars. A second post covering day trips from Kars City will be coming! Here are the Kars blog post:

Now on to Kars Guide!

Kars Turkey

Where is Kars:

Kars is the capital of the Kars province is located in the far northeast region of Turkey. Situated on a plateau 5,740 feet (1,750 metres) above sea level on the Kars River, the city of Kars is only an hour drive to the border with Armenia (which, by the way, you can not cross).

Little bit of history:

The city’s name of Kars is said to be derived from the Armenian word hars, meaning “bride” or possibly the Georgian word kari meaning “the gate” since it was a border stronghold.

Historically, the region around Kars was part of the Armenian kingdom in antiquity and contains a number of sites dating from that period. Ani, east of Kars city and near the Armenian frontier, was the Bagratid capital in the 10th century.

As well, Kars is in the center of several major historical turning points: Byzantine-Selcuk wars, the Ottoman-Russian Wars 1877-1878, and almost 40 year Russian Occupations. The Russian legacy can still be seen in much of the town’s architecture.

After a defeat by the Russians in 1918 (still pre-modern Turkey at this point), Kars was not left to the Ottoman Empire but actually to Britain. Later in late 1920, CommanderKazim Karabekir Pasha liberated the city and finally reached its independence in Turkish lands. 

One of the most interesting points of the Russian occupation was the Malakan immigrant community, which settled around Kars during this period. This communities love for dairy farming and cheese initiated the start a now famous Gruyere cheese made in very areas of the world due to the picky climate needed to culture it. Although most of the Malakans returned to their own lands or migrated to other places, cheese making cultural heritage has continued until today.

On to modern day Kars, this city of 80,000 (2012 stats but now it’s maybe over a 100,000 by now) is still an important military station, its location is linked by rail and road with the main Turkish cities such as Ankara. The Kars province in Turkey is important as a centre for trade in livestock and cheese. Other known products are coarse woolens, carpets, and felts.

Personally, Kars surprised me!

I loved that it wasn’t overly touristy – easy to explore and enjoy local cuisine. It caters mostly to Turkish tourist, but everyone loved that we were visiting from our home city of Izmir! (Plus, they loved that we spoke Turkish!) Plus, it was the perfect location to take several fun day trips.

If you go by our guide, you will get to enjoy the city and get to see the more extensive province like we did all in 4-5 days trip (which is perfect if you are going in the warmer, non-skiing months!).

Keep on reading to learn about some of the Kars’ historical buildings you should check out when you go!

Kümbet Cami Mosque Kars Turkey

Here are you TOP 5 Sites to see in Kars, Turkey:

1. KARS CASTLE:

The most notable site in Kars City center, Kars Castle, is an old citadel overhanging the river right in the middle of the downtown historical area. Once a strong military post built by Bagratid Armenia in A.D.1153, Kars Castle has defended its people used over and over against Mongolian, Georgian, Persian, and Russian forces. In the early 19th century, it was later severely damaged during the Russian occupation of Kars.

Kars Castle was built out of basalt masonry and originally boasted its 22 towers, only seven of them remain intact today. In terms of its architecture, it features a small mosque, barracks, tombs, mansions, and an ammunition depot – most of which was hardly distinguishable if you didn’t pay attention to your surroundings and signs. The castle also had four gates, two are still in use.

To get to the castle one can walk up the front side stairs that overlooks the city and Kümbet Camisi. It can seem a bit of a climb, but, once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city of Kars and the river. Since we weren’t familiar with this route, we drove the small road via the back side of the mountain parking at the top of the castle for quicker access. There is a cafe up here as well that one can stop for a quick tea, restrooms, warm up, and/or enjoy the sunset.

NOTE: If you go in winter, the walk up can be super windy(as you will see in our video!) and stairs can be icy. There is nothing to hold onto. If you decide to take the stairs to the top, be sure to walk slowly and watch your feet.

2. TAŞ KÖPRÜSÜ – OLD STONE BRIDGE

Just beside the Kars Castle on the narrow strait of Kars River, a 15th century stone bridge with three vaulted arches were created completely made of smooth cut basalt stone. The bridge collapsed during a spring flood of 1715 and later reconstructed by in 1719.

During the years of Russian occupation, they Russians in an attempt to erase all traces of the Turkish, destroyed the inscription on the bridge. The bridge was also significantly damaged during this era as well. Eventually, the stone bridge was restored later.

There was only a couple of individuals on the bridge during our quick stop. Jason and I were able to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing walk with a winter view of the river on both sides (with Sofia peacefully sleeping in the car within eye sight of course!)

The area around the bridge is being built up for visitors to stroll and enjoy a sit while taking in the scenery around it. I was very impressed with the efforts they are taken to keep this area inviting for locals and newcomers.

3. KÜMBET CAMISI

Located downtown, Kümbet Camısı, also referred to as the iconic Armenian Church of the Apostles, is a church converted into a mosque. Built by King Abbas in the 930s A.D. in the period of the Bagratid kingdom, the church has steep-angled roof with a floor plan that resembles a quatrefoil. Bas-reliefs representing the twelve apostles (hence the name) in rather stiff poses, ring the exterior drum of the dome.

Later in 1064, this church was converted into a mosque under Muslim domination and renamed the Kümbet Mosque. Then later, it was used as a Russian Orthodox mosque during the region’s Russian domination.

Like most churches turned mosques turned back to churches, this historical site was converted into the Kars museum storing historical artifacts in 1964 until 1981. But again in 1993, it has been used as a mosque.

As it is a mosque, it is free to enter. Visitors are asked to be respectful by removing their shoes and women covering their heads.

Note: The nearby Fethiye Cami is also worth a visit. As we were short on time and it was cold, we skipped it this visit.

4. MUSEUMS

There are 2 must-see museums to see in Kars: See our video about these 2 here – skip to 13 minutes.

Kars Archaeological Museum: The Kars Archaeological Museum on İstasyon Street is small but mighty, containing archaeological finds are displayed on the first floor, ethnographic artifacts on the second floor, and stone artifacts in its garden. Some of our favorites were the beautiful wood-carving doors and bell from an old church, an excellent collection of coins found in the surrounding region, and its distinctive collection of local kilims and carpets. Best part?  Admission is free! But it is closed on Mondays.

Kafkas Cephesi Harp Tarihi Müzesi: I’m sad to say we almost missed this. This well maintained building was MUCH more impressive than the Kars Archeological Museum, highlighting the early wars of the area. Creatively displayed weaponry, hospitals, prisoners depicted not only on the conditions of the war, but why the wars happened. Tickets are 12.50 TL (2022).

5. CHECK OUT THE RUSSIAN and BALTIC ARCHITECTURE

The Ottoman-Russian Wars 1877-1878 and almost 40 year Russian Occupations left a major imprint on the city of Kars. The Russian legacy can still be seen in much of the town’s architecture. A few examples are the Hotel Cheltikov and Katerina Sarayı Otel(more info below), Kars Belediyesi, Ticaret ve Sanayi Odası, Kars Defterdarlığı and Kars Valiliği (these last 3 are by Attaturk Park and some of the best examples!). Just take a stroll around town and see! See some of these buildings in our video – skip to 12 minutes.

Our other tips for this area:

When to go:

Kars is one of the highest and coldest towns in Turkey. It is a great winter destination, but make sure to BUNDLE UP and wear lots of layers!!! We added it onto our ski trip to nearby Sarıkamış Ski Center which is why we went while it was cold. Plus we got to enjoy Lake Çildir as it was frozen. I’m sure it would be a lovely summer destination as well since it doesn’t get to hot. Plus, exploring Ani is warmer weather would be so much more pleasant.

Kars Turkey

Getting There:

  • For our trip, we flew a 2.5 hour direct flight from Izmir to Kars on SunExpress Airlines and drove a rental car for our first few days while we explore Kars city and the nearby area. Upon returning our rental car to the airport, our hotel offered a free shuttle to the resort an hour away in Sarıkamış. 
  • If you are going to come directly to Sarıkamış by plane, the nearest airport to you is Kars Harakani Airport. The center of Sarıkamış is also a 43-minute drive from Kars Airport. Before buying your flight ticket, we recommend that you compare the ticket prices of different airline companies. Both Pegasus Airlines and Sunexpress offer direct flights from Izmir but not daily. You can always find connecting routes to Kars with layovers in other airports. 
  • Alternative options: The historic Doğu (Eastern) Express is an alternative option for those with a bit more time on their hands. Passing through Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan, Erzurum and Sarıkamış, it arrives at the last stop, Kars. Coming to Kars with the Orient Express is an experience that must be experienced in itself. It’s a bit difficult to figure out the ticketing system and times (and it’s usually sold out) but if you are able to figure it out, go for it! This article is a bit old but it’s a great start!

Lodging: 

  • Cheltikov Hotel, YUSUFPAŞA NEIGHBORHOOD : The hotel, which is currently operated as the Cheltikov Hotel, is actually the mansion of the Russian Cheltikov family, built in 1894. The building has found many purposes over the years – an opera house, a maternity house, a depot and a doctor’s house, eventually became a hotel.  It is situation within walking distance of the main tourist area of town and the castle. But int the winter it can be really cold and icy!
    • We originally had a small double room but it was so tiny that we couldn’t put up Sofia’s travel cot. The staff was so amazing. Seeing our dilemma, they upgraded us to the 2 bedroom suite! The breakfast was ok. They provided a pre-made breakfast plate with some extras available everyday on a nearby table.
  • Hotel Katerina Sarayi:  Set on the Kars River on the back side of the Kars Castle, this 1879 stately hotel in a stone-built building was originally built as a Russian military hospital. While we stayed most of our time at the Cheltikov, I had heard from friend to stay at leave 1 night here. The cost is a little bit more than what we paid for Cheltikov (although I think our upgraded room at the Cheltikov would have surpassed it!) We had a 1 big bedroom room with a king bed and a twin bed. It started to snow as we arrived covering the trees and building, turning everything into a serene beauty with its white magic. Everything was fabulous here! The staff was kind and quick to respond to any request. The breakfast was a fantastic buffet and free parking available on site. Check out this video to see our stay here.

If you are curious about skiing near Kars then check out our post for skiing in nearby Sarıkamış.

Must Try Foods: 

  • Kaz (Goose): Of course, the signature dish of Kars could be none other than the Kars goose. The geese, which are fed with grass in the spring months, are fattened by giving barley close to slaughter in the winter months. Goose cooked in a tandoori is served smashed over bulgur. 
  • Piti: My FAVORITE! The mixture of fatty mutton and chickpeas is cooked in a casserole pottery with vegetables. Served in a big flat bowl, bread forms the base with the juices and rest of the yummy ingredients.
  • Hangel: Hangel or khingel is actually the empty and leafy form of Turkish mantı or ravioli. The dough is cut into squares and boiled in water, served with garlic yogurt and oily sauce on it. After skiing on the slopes, it’s a great carb loading meal.
  • Gruyere (Gruyère) Cheese: This originally Swiss organ gruyere is the yellow and perforated cheese (think of the legendary cheese in every episode of Tom and Jerry).  Due to the strict requirements of production conditions, this quality cheese is only produced in a few countries around the world, including the Netherlands, Georgia and Kars in Turkey. Kars owes its world-famous taste to the Malakans, who were settled here after the 1876-1877 Ottoman-Russian Wars, bringing their love of milk products and dairy farming culture with them.

Restaurants: 

Even though it was off season and kinda COVID times, we still made reservations every night for the restaurants due to capacity requirements. We would suggest you do the same! The first 3 restaurants listed below were our favorite and we think they should not be missed!

Also, another fun note, Kars retains a strong heritage of folk songs and dancing, and a few of the restaurants below even have evening performances for their customers. Once again, make sure to call ahead and check if what nights there are performances, then reserve a good table!

  • Kars Kaz Evi: (Kars Goose House) For being a bit of a tourist place, it did not disappoint! This restaurant is known for it’s view of the Kars Castle and a place for all the flavors unique to Kars. The slow cooked goose and bulgar cooked in goose broth are a must try! But apart from that, everything from hangel to the Evelik Soup is perfect. One of our favorite restaurants in Kars. Check out the food here – skip to 8:50.
  • Gastro Kars:  We had our second dinner in Kars at the venue called Gastro Kars İpek Hanım’ın Çiftliği. It has a modern, elegant and mainly antique decoration of a long rectangular shaped with a unique stone intimate basements. With a mix of traditional and modern options, we enjoyed a variety of dishes but also a couple of unique ones, like Russian Piroschki, similar to stuffed meatball. At the end of the meal, they brought out a complimentary pudding dessert and small glasses of sweet pink şerbet.  Check out our experience here – skip to 8:45.
  • Puşkin Restaurant: If you want to try the local dishes of Kars, we would definitely add this to your list. We tried Evelik Aşı, lamb Piti, and empty ravioli Hangel. We loved all of them, but our favorite was the Piti. You can also taste Kars’s local halva, Umaç, here. This is the restaurant we ended up enjoying an evening show at! Check out our visit here – skip to 8 minutes.
  • Kars Ayaz Restaurant: During non-covid time, I believe there are night performance every night. The dish that was recommended to us here was the pistachio beyti kebab and it did not disappoint! Plus the ayran was wonderful too, as Sofia will attest too.
  • Anne Sofrasi Ev Yemekleri: This was a random stop for lunch in new town one day. Good food, small place, quick service.
  • Carton Coffee Lab:  We may have stopped here everyday to get out cup of joe and grab some beans for our next week out at the ski center. Great little spot!
  • Gaziantep Katmer – We grabbed some Katmer to go from here. It was ok but not my favorite!

For more restaurant recommendations, the couple from BizEvdeYokuz always have great recs; just double check to make sure the locations are open as COVID has unfortunately cause temporary/permanent closures.

Nearby Kars:

  • In another post, I talk about all the day trips to visit Kars City, Ani Harabeleri, Lake Çildir, and Boğatepe Cheese farms are our recs! BUT all the links for the videos on these trips are below.
  • Sarikamis (53 kilometers southwest of Kars) is a skiing center with resort hotels, setting of a scenic pine forest. I have a whole GUIDE TO SKIING IN TURKEY – KARS. It has the best powder snow in Turkey and is amazingly affordable.
  • SouthEast about 3-4 hours by car or bus, you can brave the mountain passes through small villages to the small town of Doğubayezit, home to Ishak Sarayı and the famous mount Ararat.
  • Northwest about 5 hours by car, Rize is home to Turkey’s famous tea fields and the Sümela Monastery.
  • If you are able, the Georgian border is a 2 hour bus ride (5-6 to the drop-off point of Tbilisi, Georgia. We didn’t do this but we have heard it’s a popular option for tourists!
  • Note: While Kars province borders the Armenia province, there is no land crossing. Just making sure you are aware! West-bound Ordu was one of our favorites: capital of hazelnuts, cable car rides, and miles of coastline!
Kars Turkey

Oh and by the way, I have researched the presence of Russians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Kurds and Turks in Kars. The results are a confusing and intertwining connection throughout a historical time-line full of conflict. JUST LIKE MOST COUNTRIES AND CITIES WITH THIS MUCH HISTORY! These days, it is peaceful city, and we thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

If anyone tells you not to go to Kars, ignore them. It is culturally rich and a wonderful place to visit.

Overall, Kars is so amazing. Not the first place foreigners go to visit, but if you are a long-term expat like us then this is a must visit – especially winter time and skiing in nearby Sarıkamış.

You can check out our trip via video over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel and see what all we did in our few days before skiing!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Do you want to travel to Kars now?
  • Have you traveled to Kars before?
  • If so, what did you love? What did we miss?!

Check out our other locations on this road trip! This is just a piece of our 8 part video and blog post series of our road trip.

TURKEY: Your Guide to Skiing in Turkey – Sarıkamış/Kars

Little Recap:

After completing our 2 week Black Sea road trip, I wanted more of Eastern Turkey! I have always has a list of places to visit, but due to some crazy COVID restrictions, it’s put us behind on our travels. COVID has forced us to last minute travel plan, and I have to say… I am loving it. Our Black Sea Road Trip was planned just a mere 10 days before we left. And this trip was somewhat similar! 

Our 2020 trip to Uludağ with friends didn’t pan out this year, leaving us wide open to exploring other locations. Some other friends of ours are prolific skiers and they suggested we look into ski resort over near Erzurum and Kars. So we did!

And of course… in usual ‘Catie’ fashion, we can’t just ‘go skiing’! We wanted to see some of the other sites around Kars as well! Check out ALL of our KARS videos linked at the bottom off the article

COVID-19 has not made 2020/2021 fun for anyone, traveling in the midst of a global pandemic meant we had to be extra careful and mindful of our exposure. But we have be so thankful to be able to travel too! You can check out some of our other travels during COVID times to Kalkan last summer as well.

Hopefully your 2021/2022 winter season got you to the slopes too!

By the way…. IMPORTANT: This post covers only the ski portion of our trip to Kars, Turkey. Check out our other Kars post below:

Now on your guide to skiing in Turkey!

Kars Turkey Sarikamis Skiing

Where should I ski in Turkey?

This post is all about skiing near the area of Kars, specifically Sarıkamış. BUT I wanted to live you with a list of other options kayak merkezi (or ski centers) to explore if you aren’t wanted to head that far East. The only other place in this list that we have skied at is Uludağ (and I don’t have a post on it).

In no particular order, these are some of the most popular (not all of course):

  • Uludağ Ski Center near Bursa (easy weekend from Istanbul and Izmir)
  • Kartaltepe Ski Center near Bolu (easy drive from Istanbul)
  • Erciyes Ski Center, south of Kayseri Airport
  • Palandöken Ski Center near Erzurum

Check out this article over at the Daily Sabah for a brief description of each.

Where is Kars + Sarıkamış?

Kars city is the capital of the Kars province is located in the far northeast region of Turkey. Situated on a plateau 5,740 feet (1,750 metres) above sea level on the Kars River, the city of Kars is only an hour drive to the border with Armenia (which by the way you can not cross into at all from Turkey by land).

Sarıkamış town is a 43-minute southwest drive from the Kars Airport towards the city of Erzurum. The Sarıkamış Ski Center is 4 kilometers from the town. There are multiple rumors about why the name of Sarıkamış is Sarıkamış. Sarı meaning ‘yellow’ and kamış meaning ‘pine’. The most famous is that the name derived from the yellow reeds that grow in one of the lakes in the region.

Sarıkamış Kars Turkey
Sarıkamış Kars Turkey

Little bit of history:

Nothing is known of its earlier history, but nearby archaeological sites date from Urartian times with a few uncovered Urartian ruins and fortress. Many medieval Armenian monasteries were in ruins by 1878.

Although it is a region where Turks have settled since the Seljuk period, we can say that Sarıkamış, like Kars in general, had its golden age when it was under Russian influence. Because Sarıkamış, like the center of Kars, is one of the places where the Russian influence was prominent and where there are many historical buildings from that period. If you are traveling between Kars and Sarıkamış, the Tsar Nikola Mansion can be seen rising under the snow on its hilly terrain. Also, extensive barracks from the Russian period surround the town and are still in use by the Turkish army. 

In Kars, an important battle took place between the armies of the Ottoman and Russian empires in and around the city in late December 1914-January 1915 as part of the Caucasus Campaign of World War I. Operation Sarıkamış is the event in which 23,000 Turkish soldiers lost their lives in freezing weather conditions and in land conflicts making it one of the most painful defeats in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Making a visit to the Kars museum to learn about this is a must. As well, the 2008 movie 120, directed by Özhan Eren and Murat Saraçoğlu is a must watch before you travel to Kars!

About the Sarıkamış Ski Center:

Sarıkamış Ski Center is built on Cıbıltepe Mountain and has very favorable conditions for Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, and Tour Skiing. There are slopes suitable for both beginners and professionals, and businesses providing ski equipment rentals and private lessons.

Snow falls to Sarıkamış Ski Center for about 57 days a year and it stays on the ground for about 114 days. Under normal winter conditions, the snow thickness reaches 1.5 meters. The“crystal snow” consisting of big crystal snowflakes doesn’t stick to one another, which is usually unique to the Alps, makes this area very suitable for skiing.

  • Facilities in Sarıkamış: It has 3 chairlifts and 1 ski lift. 
  • Height of Sarıkamış: Tracks starting from 1,738 meters go up to a height of 2,958 meters. 
  • Ski tracks in Sarıkamış: With an altitude at 2,500, Cıbıltepe has 9 tracks with a total length of 12 km: 6 tracks are currently open for use, 2 black, 2 red, 1 blue and 1 green. The longest track length is 3,500 meters. It also has a 45-km cross-country ski track, of which 5 km is certified by FIS (International Ski Federation).  
  • Times and Lift hours: Lift closing hours vary from month to month. But it usually opens at 8.30 – 9.00 and closes at 16.30 – 17.00 depending on the weather conditions. As the days were longer in March when we went we had longer ski days.
  • Lift wait times: Even at peak times, the lifts do not have the long queues seen in other ski resorts. The one huge lift that sits 6 persons at a time are even more empty and much more sheltered from the wind. I hardly found myself on it with another skier.
  • Electronic Passes: There are electronic pass readers on the lifts. You swipe the plastic card over the magnet and pass it on. The card has lanyard. You can use all the lifts with a single pass in Sarıkamış Ski Center.
  • Ski equipment: Most of the hotels have their own private ski rental companies usually located in the hotel. The prices are reasonable and if you forgot anything, they have it!
  • Food/Drink the slopes: For lunch, our hotel was full-board and we always just took a break to eat there since it was so close to the lifts. On the runways, there are 4 cafes, and all of them have hot and cold drinks. However, not all of them have much choice of food. The Orta Cafe in the middle station, between the 2 major lifts, was always the busiest and also had the best offerings from the menu. There is also a rest area which makes it a good stop for a bathroom break. At the top of the summit is another cafe (sorry the name is escaping me). Jason took Sofia up here for the views and to enjoy a hot chocolate while I skied a bit. It’s a great option for non-skiers to come enjoy a morning at too! 
  • In case of emergency, loss or injury: Call 156 and find the nearest signs in the forest area to help locate where you are. The search and rescue team will come to you with snow vehicles as soon as possible. Or take the contact number of the hotel you are staying in with you in case of an emergency.
  • Extras: There are a few folks that provide a sleigh safari & snow sled for those non-skiers in your group, or those with kids! Our hotel had the sled out for free-use every day and it was a fun activity to do with our daughter.

Our Experience with the Ski Center:

Sarıkamış is a more modest “ski town” where you can have a ski holiday without paying crazy prices for a great skiing. Plus, you do not have to expect to wait long in a queue. We loved it because this is not a place that was created out of nothing. Sarıkamış is a real district with a real town and residents that live there for 4 seasons, long before the Sarıkamış Ski Center.

This town is that it is extremely modest compared to ski resorts such as Uludağ, Palandöken or Erciyes. Don’t expect any luxury ski holiday. BUT, even though it remains modest next to some big centers, it certainly does not compromise the enjoyment of skiing. The prices of both chairlift and equipment rentals are affordable so that everyone can slide. I am sure of the current prices, but I remembered they were a 3rd of the price of Uludağ tickets. Our ski pass was included in our hotel stay.

PROS:

  • Because we went during the weekdays, I felt like I got top skiing hills but an affordable price and no crowds! (It did get VERY busy on the weekend as we were heading out!) This center was wide open and there was so much area to ski as oppose to some crowded more popular ski areas I have been too. I never felt like I was about to run into anyone!
  • Since it is not a tourist settlement, the prices of food and beverage at the markets are not at the ski resort level, but at the normal city setting. Like this place is still undiscovered (even though it is definitely gaining popularity).
  • The roads are always clear and sparkling coming to and from the Kars airport, or wherever you are staying! It is part of the city and not a ski resort which means that the roads are taken car of properly. I was nervous leaving the airport on the shuttle thinking the hotel was on top of a mountain like Uludağ, but since the elevation was already so high, the ride to the hotel was easy and clear! No shuttle issues or curves to fear!
  • Since this is a huge district, the state brought services such as schools and train stations here. There is a hospital and it’s possible to reach the hospital quickly in case of an accident.

CONS:

  • There is literally nothing to be done after 5 o’clock and the lifts stops – which can be good and bad. If you are exhausted from the day, and early night in can be great, except that the hotel dinners don’t start until 7/7:30. Some hotels put out a pianist, singer or saz team during the dinner on weekends. 
  • Our hotel’s kids play area AWFUL. Coming off the slopes at 5, I was already starving, and if I miss the cookies at tea time, I had to wait 2 hours for dinner services to start. 2 hours with a 2 year old and no place to play… the weather made it dark and cold outside. And our 2 year old at the time has to wait as well. For us as foreigners, it’s a bit late for supper. Everyone at the hotel is just waiting for the doors to open for dinner. Note: I did see that other hotels may have done this better. In fact, we made a note to try out the Habitat hotel next time we go for the kids program (not running when we went in 2021 due to Covid).
  • Not all hotels will rent skis out to your for your 2 year old. I grew up skiing and I was PUMPED to get our daughter out there just to try skiing a bit! And after a couple of days of watching me go out without her, Sofia was READY to try it too. Thankfully, another hotel, also the Habitat Hotel, had smaller size skis and boots and willing to let us rent them!

When Should I Go to Sarıkamış?

If you came to Sarıkamış, you probably came to ski. That’s why you should make sure to come in the best time of winter. Snow falls here for 5 months of the year, from the beginning of December (this year it was as early as September!) to the beginning of April. 

However, if you are planning a ski holiday in Sarıkamış at the end of December or March. Always be sure to call the hotels and ask about the snow because it may have ended early that year or it has not started yet.

Two annual events take place in Sarıkamış.

  1. In the first week of January in Sarıkamış, Kars Municipality organizes the Day of Remembrance of the Martyrs of Sarıkamış (see history section above). The group marches with torches in memory of the martyred soldiers towards the Allahuekber Mountains.
  2. In February (pre-covid), Sarıkamış Ski Center host a 3-day festival snow games. Even through the coldest of temperatures, snow games and competitions continue on – including off-road rally, remote controlled vehicle races and snowboard & ski races.
Kars Turkey Sarikamis Skiing

Getting There:

  • For our trip, we flew a 2.5 hour direct flight from Izmir to Kars on SunExpress Airlines and drove a rental car for our first few days while we explore Kars city and the nearby area. Upon returning our rental car to the airport, our hotel offered a free shuttle to the resort an hour away in Sarıkamış.
  • If you are going to come directly to Sarıkamış by plane, the nearest airport to you is Kars Harakani Airport. The center of Sarıkamış is also a 43-minute drive from Kars Airport. Before buying your flight ticket, we recommend that you compare the ticket prices of different airline companies. Both Pegasus Airlines and Sunexpress offer direct flights from Izmir but not daily. You can always find connecting routes to Kars with layovers in other airports.
  • Alternative options: The historic Doğu (Eastern) Express is an alternative option for those with a bit more time on their hands. Passing through Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan, Erzurum and Sarıkamış, it arrives at the last stop, Kars. Coming to Kars with the Orient Express is an experience that must be experienced in itself. It’s a bit difficult to figure out the ticketing system and times (and it’s usually sold out) but if you are able to figure it out, go for it! This article is a bit old but it’s a great start!

Lodging: 

In Sarıkamış, most the hotels are mostly located in the ski center. There are over 1,200 beds at 12 tourist facilities.Some of these hotels are newly built and shiny, but the prices are of course higher, much more costly than staying in the center of Sarıkamış. There are also farmhouses in the vicinity. You can find the hotels and houses we recommend from Sarıkamış below.

  • Kaya Snow Hotel: Our friends recommended this hotel to us, and this was the good option for our family! The hotel is located right on the ski center with easy walking access to the lifts. We stayed in a triple bedroom but also had a baby bed for Sofia. The staff was kind and quick to respond to any request, but there was quite a bit of miscommunication – or should I say, lack of note-taking prior to our arrival. Basically everything I asked for was not in their system (extra night hotel stay, baby bed in room, both transferred to and from the airport, etc.) However, the food was good and varied and that was nice to have included in our stay. The ski rentals where just off the main lobby of the hotel and we could see the ski lift from our bedroom window.
Kars Turkey Sarikamis Skiing
  • Here are a few other recs:
    • Habitat Resort: Funny enough, the owners are from Izmir! We met them when we were getting our photos from the photographer there. The vibe was a little more cozy and I hear they have a children’s club (which was all closed currently due to COVID). We would consider this location next time! Oh, and this hotel’s ski rental area has small enough skis and boots and were willing to give Sofia ski lessons. Sofia was 28 months at the time we were there!
    • White Park Hotel: Another rec from a friend, but I don’t have much to personally say except it just a bit further off the base of the ski lift.

Must Try Foods: 

Although the hotels do provide food service, feel free to taste local delicacies in Sarıkamış and Kars such as Kars goose, piti, and hangel.

  • Kaz (Goose): Of course, the signature dish of Kars could be none other than the Kars goose. The geese, which are fed with grass in the spring months, are fattened by giving barley close to slaughter in the winter months. Goose cooked in a tandoori is served smashed over bulgur. 
  • Piti: My FAVORITE! The mixture of fatty mutton and chickpeas is cooked in a casserole pottery with vegetables. Served in a big flat bowl, bread forms the base with the juices and rest of the yummy ingredients.
  • Hangel: Hangel or khingel is actually the empty and leafy form of Turkish mantı or ravioli. The dough is cut into squares and boiled in water, served with garlic yogurt and oily sauce on it. After skiing on the slopes, it’s a great carb loading meal.
  • Gruyere (Gruyère) Cheese: This originally Swiss organ gruyere is the yellow and perforated cheese (think of the legendary cheese in every episode of Tom and Jerry).  Due to the strict requirements of production conditions, this quality cheese is only produced in a few countries around the world, including the Netherlands, Georgia and Kars in Turkey. Kars owes its world-famous taste to the Malakans, who were settled here after the 1876-1877 Ottoman-Russian Wars, bringing their love of milk products and dairy farming culture with them.
Kars Turkey Sarikamis Skiing

Restaurants: 

  • All hotels, including ours, in Sarıkamış Ski Center offer either full board in the morning, noon and evening or half board options in the morning and evening. Because our hotel was all-inclusive, meaning it offered breakfast, lunch and dinner, we did not really explore much more outside our ski resort and ski park. But the couple from BizEvdeYokuz always have great recs, just double check to make sure the locations are open as COVID has unfortunately cause temporary closures.

Sites In Sarıkamış:

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see these while we were there, but I wanted to share them for others who may have more time to get out!

  • Sarıkamış Culture House: This is a restaurant that was established by the efforts of Rasim Kaya, who was originally a musician, and is trying to be kept alive. You can experience traditional Kars cuisine and see historical objects such as items found in typical old Sarıkamış houses and weapons from the Russian period. 
  • Katerina’s Hunting Lodge: This symbolic structure of Sarıkamış is a fairy tale structure rising out of the forest and snow and only 1 km from the center of Sarıkamış. The best example of 19th century Baltic architecture in Kars with 28-room stone-based building with wooden additions. It is unfortunately in a dilapidated condition up close. The Russian Tsar Nicholas II had it built for his sick son, but for some reason the locals thought the name was appropriate for his wife Katerina (I mean, it does sound better right?).  How to Get to Katerina Mansion: There is a road connecting from the center of Sarıkamış for those who will come here by car, grab a taxi (ask the hotel to help) and trekking routes for those who will come on foot after the snow melts.  

Nearby Sarıkamış:

  • Day trips to visit Kars City, Ani Harabeleri, Lake Çildir, and Boğatepe Cheese farms are our recs! All the links for the videos are below.
  • Northwest about 5 hours by car, Rize is home to Turkey’s famous tea fields and the Sümela Monastery.
  • If you are able, the Georgian border is a 2 hour bus ride (5-6 to the drop-off point of Tbilisi, Georgia. We didn’t do this but we have heard it’s a popular option for tourists!
  • Note: While Kars province borders the Armenia province, there is no land crossing. Just making sure you are aware!

Overall, Sarıkamış is an amazing place to ski! We are so thankful to have the opportunity to ski here AND to take a few extra days to see the area near Kars!

You can check out our trip via video over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel and see what all we did in our ski week!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Have you gone skiing in Turkey?
  • Have you visited Sarıkamış Ski Center, Turkey near Kars? 
  • Share a memory you have about skiing! 

Check out our 5 part video playlist about our travel to Kars, Turkey!

Kalkan Turkey

TURKEY: Your guide to KALKAN

Little Recap:

Turkey has a winter and summer culture. Those families who can afford it, have a summer house near some coast line to escape the heat of the city. Two our of 4 sets of our neighbors do this exact thing ever year. Ever since we moved to Turkey, we had wanted to try it out.

Last summer(2020) after a strict and exhaustive COVID lockdown, Jason and I opted get out of Izmir for 3 weeks to a summer villa in Kalkan, Turkey. You can check out some of our other travels during COVID times to Kalkan this past summer.

Now on to Kalkan!

Kalkan, like its neighbor Kas, is a lovely Turkish beach town on the Turkish Mediterranean coast in the Antalya Province (Kaş District). Kalkan, which has features far beyond a holiday beach resort, is home to world-famous ancient Lycian cities, endangered caretta turtles, and the world’s most famous bays and beaches. 

We can start our guide with the most basic question: Where is Kalkan?

  • 190 km E from Muğla
  • 80 km SE from Fethiye
  • 27 km W from Kas
  • 210 km W from Antalya

The town of Kalkan, which is believed to have been founded by traders from the island of Meis, remained untouched for many years due to the difficulty of transportation, making it a perfect little jewel of a town now with its natural beauties.

KALKAN TURKEY

What you should see and do in and near Kalkan, Turkey:

1. Explore Kalkan!

In the summer, Kalkan takes on a vibrant, coastal town vibe drawing in all sorts of tourist, but especially British ones! Tons of villas and property are own by British nationals as their summer getaway. And when they aren’t able to enjoy, then the properties are rented out to others.

However, I totally understand WHY they come! It’s small, walkable, easy to navigate with just enough nooks and alleys to keep you wandering the streets for more during your week-long holiday.

Set against a breathtaking mountain backdrop, the town centre is a treasure trove of narrow streets, whitewashed Ottoman Greek houses and inviting boutiques. It’s also famous for its harbourside lounge bars and rooftop restaurants serving a variety of delicious food with impeccable service.

The public beach is located right in town making it easy to dip into the water at anytime of day. The harbor nearby offers day trips via boat to other locations so you can enjoy the sea to the max. Keep reading for all my local to-dos and restaurant recs at the end of this post!

WATCH our first week in Kalkan via our video below.

2. Patara Ancient City and Beach

Located in the Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey just 17 km (11 miles) west of Kalkan is the Patara Beach and Archeological sites. Patara is an ancient Lycian town, now archeological site, but also ancient beach. The surrounding area of Patara are protected which thankfully means no big hotels or heavy tourist development. The nearby small village hosts only a few hundred guests, making it an affordable little area to vacation too.

Patara beach is 20 km (12 miles) long and hardly crowded because it caters to day visitors. You don’t have to walk very far to get a secluded spot on the beach. Most people stay close to the entrance area so they can access the cafe, facilities, and grab an umbrella and chair (for a fee).

More importantly, it’s also the birth place of world famous fourth-century Christian saint, Saint Nicholas of Myra, better know now in the states as the mythicize Santa Clause.

WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ more about Patara from my friend’s at West2East.

3. Ancient City of Xanthos

Xanthos, which was the capital of ancient Lycia. Located in the Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, this site is just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kalkan, about 50 minutes from Kaş. Here you can see a theater, old church, rock-cut tombs, pillar tombs and pillar-mounted sarcophagi. One of the 7th Wonder of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, was directly influenced by the Xanthos Nereid Monument. 

Unfortunately like many sites in Turkey, pieces of this site were taken to England in the 19th century, including the Monument of Harpy, the Tomb of Payava and the Nereid Monument. See them here.

WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ a bit more about it here via my friends at West2East.

4. Kaputaş Beach

There are lots a beaches to go to in the surrounding area of Kalkan and Kaş… But Kaputaş Beach, which has the same name and is surrounded by cliffs, is definitely an all-around favorite with everyone who goes!

On the coastal road between Kalkan and Kaş, this natural wonder is a hidden canyon pass sliding into a large spectacular beach. To reached it, one must descend 187 steps starting from the roadside (very limited parking so some early!). It is also among the favorite place of passing boat tours.

There is a cafe with facilities available including showers – perfect if you go early in the morning but want to tour more later in the day without going back to your hotel.

5. Neighbor city of Kaş

Kaş being just a bit larger than Kalkan, and the seaside road makes it an easy half hour drive from Kalkan – making it a great half-day or full-day trip. Kaş literally means ‘eyebrow’ in Turkish. This city was originally called Antiphellos. Phellos was a Greek word meaning “stony place”, and this name is very well suited to the area. It has lots of restaurants, a few ancient sites, and a giant that watching over the city (yep that is correct).

WATCH our visit to this site via our video link below!

6. Saklıkent Canyon

Saklikent National Park is around 40 km due east of Fethiye and an hour drive north of Kalkan. This 18 km long, 300 meters deep canyon is unbelievably beautiful. After Verdon in France and Vikos in Greece, it is considered to be the third longest canyon in Europe.

The Saklikent Gorge also known as “Hidden Valley” or The Lost City. Its passageways shaded from the steep and narrow walls with streams of icy waters flow through the canyon making it a perfect day trip to except the summer heat! Don’t forget to take water shoes as you have to cross a bit of rocky water to get into the gorge.

WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ more about Saklıkent here via my friends over at Turkeysforlife or here via my friend at Travelinglensphotography.

7. Demre, Turkey – Home of Santa Claus

A 1.5 hour ish drive from Kalkan makes this a longer day trip, but we think it’s worth the drive!

Demre is a tiny town (considerably) located in the Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey with the Taurus Mountains rising behind. The villages of Demre grow pomegranates and citrus fruits as well as large quantity of fruits and vegetables all year round in greenhouses. Previously known as Kale, it was renamed in 2005 after the river Demre. Demre is also the ancient the Lycian town of Myra. 

More importantly it’s the home to the world famous fourth-century Christian saint, Saint Nicholas of Myra – better know now in the states as the mythicize Santa Clause.

WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ a more detailed itinerary for Demre in this blog post for sites like Myra, Andriake Ancient City, Saint Nicolas’ Church and Kekova.

8. Turkish Breakfast at Belmuar Restaurant in Islamlar

Kahvaltı is the word we use for breakfast in Turkish, but it literally means “under coffee” or “before coffee.” It’s the meal you eat before you drink your first cup of Turkish coffee. 

And of course Kalkan has loads of yummy Kahvaltı places, our favorite being Belmuar Restaurant in Islamlar. The presentation, home-made foods, and views made it a place I want to go back to every week! It’s about a 20 minute drive north of Kalkan into the mountain. Make sure to search for the old unmarked Lycian rock tombs and stop to take some pictures of the Kalkan bay below on your way there!

WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ more about Turkish Breakfast here.

P.S. – Our second rec is here.

BONUS: FETHIYE

I marked this as a ‘bonus’ because honestly, just like Antalya, Fethiye can be its own trip!

We had some new friends we wanted to meet up with there so we just took a long day trip there! Check out Turkeysforlife for all things Fethiye related.

Because we have already explore Fethiye via a sailing trip back in 2016 (still need to write about it!), we decided to do something nearby that we missed the first time – Babadağ or Father Mountain. Well, technically, the first time we came up to paraglide off the mountaintop! This time we came to watch others and enjoy a nice afternoon tea.

WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ about it here via our friends at Turkeysforlife. (You can even enjoy watching some of our first experience paragliding in this video too!)

Our other tips for this area:

Getting There:

  • For our road trip, we drove in our own car from Izmir to Kalkan. Even thought the drive is only 5.5 hours, we decided to stop off and explore Dalyan on the way.
    • If you want to reach with your private vehicle, Kalkan,
      • 840 km-9.5 hours from Istanbul
      • 660 km-8 hours from Ankara
      • 410 km- 5.5/6 hours from İzmir.
  • If you don’t want to drive from Izmir, taking a bus will be the easiest and quickest route. You can find bus tickets here. Looks like Pammukale and Kamilkoç bus companies go and take approximately 5.5-6.5 hours.
  • The closest airport to the Kalkan area is still the Dalaman airport at approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes drive. Dalaman airport, otherwise known as “Mugla Airport”, is located 5km south of Dalaman on the south west coast of Turkey.
  • Sunexpress and Pegasus Airlines do not offer direct flights from IZMIR to Dalaman airport as it is too close. But you can fly with a stopover via Istanbul airports. Istanbul should have daily direct flights to Dalaman then you will need to rent a car or take a transfer to Kalkan.
  • You can also fly into Antalya Airport, but the journey to Kalkan is longer at around 3 hours. If you are coming from Antalya rent a car (one day I’m going to write a post about renting a car in Turkey because it’s my favorite way to travel around the country) and set off on the 3.5 hour journey to Kalkan. You will pass by Demre (home of Santa Claus) and Kaş. The three hour drive from Antalya is NOT for the faint of heart; there are lots of hairpin curves and winding, 2 lane roads.  However, the drive is through the mountains and along the coast, so the scenery is never dull. CHECK OUT A 3 DAY ITINERARY FROM ANTALYA via my friend over at Travelinglensphotography.

Lodging: 

  • We stayed in a large villa recommended by some friends and we always shared it with another family. I would suggest a checking out these websites:
    • Airbnb – If you are a smaller 1 family unit, I would suggest checking out my friend’s apartment that has a shared pool. It’s modern, well-designed with thoughtful touches and right in the center of town. You can find her LISTING HERE.
    • VRBO
    • Holiday Lettings (UK)
    • Kalkan Regency Hotel is off to the side of Kalkan (not downtown) but it came recommend by some friends of ours. We had a 1.5 year old and sharing would not be overly enjoyable for any length of time. 😉

When to go to Kalkan:

  • Kalkan, which has a Mediterranean climate, is actually a town that can be visited in all seasons. Winters are warm and rainy, and summers are very hot. In short, it may be more accurate to determine the season according to your needs. 
    • Like us, most people go for the summer season to cool off in Kalkan’s villas with pools or swim in the sea, you should choose hot or hot weather in summer, and
    • However, if you want to escape the cold winters were you live and be in a warmer place, you can choose it even in winter – just don’t expect the pools to be open! The sea however, is always available for a chilly swim!

Restaurants we enjoyed: 

  • Breakfast
    • Belmuar Restaurant in Islamlar: Mentioned it above but I can’t recommend it enough!
    • Bodamya Tepe Restaurant in Islamlar: Great view and nice shaded area to enjoy your meal. Area for kids to play as well. Watch it here.
    • Adams Restaurant Kalkan: On the way to Kapatus Beach. Parking is avalible at the spot but the exit to the street is very dangerous. Also, a panoramic view of the sea!
  • Supper/Dinner
    • Belgin’s Kitchen Restaurant: Traditional Turkish floor seating on the first floor terrace area. There is also table seating one level above. Service is excellent and if you are looking for authentic Turkish food, look no further.
    • The Brothers Cafe Restaurant: Little far from the center of town. Very cozy family run place. The staff was very attentive and pleasant to communicate with. We enjoyed a variety of meat dishes and all were excellent.
    • Kalamaki Restaurant &Bar: Some of our friends and Jason and I took a date night to this lovely place. Make sure to call ahead a reserve so you can get a rooftop table and enjoy the sunset! The steak was amazing.
    • Taj Mahal: Indian food. We had kids so we went early (6 pm). They were obviously not prepared and it took forever. But the food was good and it was not normal experience I think.
    • Kalamaki Dragon Chinese Restaurant: Town Center near the Botanik Garden Cafe. Yummy food and a little bit of outdoor seating.
    • Seaport Restaurant: We got this big seafood spread. The view is just over the beach area. We get seafood a lot in Izmir so I guess I am a little picky now. It was not my favorite food and it was pricer because of the location.
  • Other:
    • Lighthouse Cafe: Little Ice Cream and cafe right on the harbor. Perfect for an after dinner treat!
    • Atlantis Dondurma: It’s on a side street up from the harbor a bit. Vegan option was available here!
    • Cafe Del Mar: We stopped here when exploring the shops and side streets. Fun, quirky ambience and a really good cold frappe.
    • Old Town Hotel & Cafe: I had a yummy coffee brunch/lunch here with a friend. I know the owners changed but the cafe could still be there!
  • Markets:
    • There is a larger Migros Market as you enter into Kalkan as well as other smaller ones (called Migros Jet) around town) and a smaller CarrefourSA down towards the city center. There is an A101, BIM, and Sok which are also a chain market. Since we stayed for 3 weeks, we did a bit of cooking, doing breakfast, lunch, and sometimes supper at home depending on our days (and attitudes of kids).
    • Anka Super Market has a good bit of international food items (prices can sometimes reflect it too).
    • Kalkan Balikçilik is where we got our fish. They did a great job with our order of fresh fish cuts.
    • Next to the fish market is Uçarlar Manav had amazing veggies and fruits.
    • Gratis is be a good stop for toiletries, sunscreen, and non-food items.
    • Any ‘eczane’, aka pharmacies, will help you with all the medicine and medical needs. As well, this is the only place to get contact solution other than a eyeglass store. They are open every day except Sunday. On Sundays the eczanes take turn being the pharmacy ‘on-call’ for the day.

Few other tidbits (recs but didn’t do)

  • The Kalkan local pazar (market) is Thursday. It is a fun thing to check out if you have never been to a local market. It can also make the area around it a bit congested.
  • A boat trip from Kalkan harbor: This can be a private or public afair If you are looking for a private tour, again I would recommend by friend Victoria- her husband, Anıl, does an amazing day trip on his private boat. Otherwise check out the public big boat tours down by the harbor, book ahead and arrive early to get the best seats!
  • Beach clubs: Personally I thought the Kalkan Public beach was one of the nicest ones we went too! However, if you want to spend a whole day on the water with facilities, restaurants, etc. – then check out the local beach clubs. Here are a few that were suggested to us: Kalamar Beach Club at the bottom of the hill in Kalamar Bay and Yali Beach Club which is along the road that runs past the end of the harbor near town. (ps – make sure they family friend before you go – aka not adult only)
  • Other restaurants: (either not open at the time due to COVID or season timing for us)
    • Alternatif: Supposively the best steaks in town.
    • Sade: Straight down the main city street on the left (up first alleyway). Food is good, owned by Mustapha’s brothers.
    • Begonvil: Just along the street on the left before going down the main city street. Street level, no views, but atmosphere. Food is good and cheap as is the wine.
    • Olive Garden: Down the main city street, turn left at the Coffee shop and go up the stairs. The food and service are good, and has some nice views. I hear you get a complimentary starter and dessert, so just order a main course.
    • Down by the Harbour you have the Marina with a line of restaurants: Sherlock Holmes and worth a visit. But just beware, along that harbor road is pricey!
    • Pinarbası Terrace Restaurant: Beautiful restaurant at the Village of Islamar on an open terrace overlooking the mountains and the sea at Kalkan Bay & Patara

Overall, Kalkan is a fun little getaway for expats. There are so many Brits on summer holiday there that I never felt like a foreigner! If anything I felt more Turkish since we live in Turkey and speak Turkish. It was a perfect place to base our travels out off. While our goals were more to hang out with friends and relax for this trip, we did get to see a lot!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Do you want to travel to Kalkan now?
  • Have you traveled to Kalkan before?
  • If so, what did you love? What did we miss?!

Don’t forget, you can explore all of Kalkan, Turkey with us over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel via our Kalkan Playlist videos.