Leaving the Black Sea Coast, it was time to explore the Kackar Mountains and so we headed inland. Our destination, a remote village called Barhal, an hours drive north from Yusufeli.
On the drive to Yusufeli, we saw some of the most amazing scenery of our Turkey road trip so far. Unfortunately, it also involved driving some of the worst roads we’ve ever experienced. Ever. To put it into perspective – the last leg of our drive took us over 3 hours to drive just 80 kilometres.
For the first hour or so of our drive into the mountains, we drove through towering green mountains and past quiet villages.
Soon the lush green valleys became rockier harsher landscapes, and what started as a pleasant journey became difficult as the roads became pot-holed, dusty and bumpy. We were constantly twisting and turning on the narrow mountain roads.
As hard as the driving was, the beauty around us was stunning. I thought I’d seen the full colour palete for rocks already on this trip and so was surprised by the bright purple rocks along the dam walls near Yusufeli.
We (and the car!) finally made it safe and sound to Barhal. The drive was worth it, as it was an amazing feeling to be in a village that isn’t big enough to be on the map.
Barhal was so quiet and peaceful. The only noise during the day coming from the running river below, or the occasional cow. At dusk, the call to prayer would ring out through the mountains as we sat on our balcony with our çay, watching the weird and wonderful clouds pass by.
We did two hikes while we were in the area (more on those soon) and spent time relaxing and reading by the river.
There isn’t a lot of information online about hiking or accommodation in the Kackar Mountains. We had considered staying in Yusufeli but decided to take a gamble and drive the extra hour into the mountains to Barhal, after reading a couple of good reviews for the Karahan Pension. We were glad we did, as similar to our time in Valbona, what made our stay in this small part of the world so special, was our accommodation.
Without question, the highlight of our stay was the food! We took the full board option (which is kind of funny as we didn’t really have a choice, given there are no restuarants in town) and it ended up being some the best food we’ve eaten in the past nine months. It’s amazing how fresh home-cooked food can taste so good.
On our last night in Barhal, a small university research group were also staying at the pension, and so we were entertained by a local who played for us on the tulum (a Turkish instrument similar to the bagpipes made from a sheep or goats hide).
When we visited Barhal: early September 2014
Driving Tips from Trabzon/Rize, to Izmir, to Yusufeli: A beautiful but long and difficult drive as we’ve said above. But we felt it was worth it to reach a place so isolated and beautiful. The road to Ismir was great. From Ismir to Yusufeli it’s a mix of roads. We hit a lot of roadwork, dirt roads and some perfect roads. It’s a mixed bag. Whatever the road, it’s windy and narrow, so it’s slow going but the scenery more than makes up for it. And who knows, if you’re planning this trip yourself, but the time you get there the roadwork might all be finished!
Yusufeli to Barhal: The road from Yusufeli was easily driven in our compact rental car. The only difficulty was the narrowness of the winding dirt roads, where you have no chance of seeing oncoming traffic.