There’s so much more to Turkey than just Istanbul! The amount of attractions Turkey has to offer is just so vast. Turkey is currently the hot new destination on the block mainly because it’s currency, the Turkish Lira has dropped in value a lot in the past five years. Combine that with great food, friendly locals, big cities, mountainous landscapes, gorgeous coastlines and alpine lakes and you have a long list of things to do all year long!
Although there is much to cover and discuss, there is a hidden gem on Turkey’s Black Sea coast that the world needs to know about.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Ardanuc Kalesi (Castle) is an ancient castle situated at a high point in a mountainous area that you can hike to easily with no equipment and for absolutely free of charge!
Where is the Ardanuc Castle?
It is situated in Turkey’s Artvin province on the Black Sea Coast. It is near the border with the countries Georgia and Armenia.
Turkey’s Artvin province is near the countries of Georgia and Armenia.
How do you get to the Ardanuc Castle?
The closest and easiest way will be to travel to Trabzon Airport in the Turkish Black Sea city of Trabzon. Flights are available multiple times daily from Istanbul. Public transport is not the best at this point in Turkey due to these provinces being rural. The advantage is that car rental is very cheap and so, makes driving an excellent option through all the stunning scenery of the mountainous Black Sea area.
The roads to the Ardanuc Castle from Trabzon Airport are paved completely and directions can be accessed by most navigators.
Trabzon Airport is the easiest way to get to the Black Sea area in Turkey.
Since there are so many attractions, a road trip through the provinces of Trabzon, Rize and Artvin will be a great idea to maximise your visit.
IMPORTANT: You can access the Turkish border internationally by car through Georgia, but not Armenia as all land borders between Turkey and Armenia are currently closed.
Climbing the Ardanuc Castle
The castle is situated at quite a high point, and there is only one road that leads to the trail. This road goes through a small rural village which is situated at the base of the castle. All roads are well paved, except you will have to drive slowly as there are no railings and barricades.
Once you reach the base of the castle, there is only one way to reach the top, which is located on the RIGHT side of the castle.
There is only one way up and down the Ardanuc Castle, and that is from the RIGHT of this picture.
Although it’s a bit steep, the path is very short and requires low to moderate fitness. Watch your step as the trail can be a bit slippery with loose sand.
The trail can get a bit slippery because of the loose sand and stones as the incline gets steeper.
IMPORTANT: This area has largely been left in it’s original state and there is no specific path that leads to the top, but there are many trails that all lead to the two main ladders that will get you to the top of the castle.
The last ladder is made out of steel and is quite narrow and has an enormous drop of around 100 meters right next to it so make sure you take it slowly.
The second ladder just before you reach the top of the castle.
Once you reach the top, there are many areas with ruins of the castle and you will have stunning panoramic views in every direction!
The view from the top of the castle.
You can bring food, snacks and even spend the day at the top. There are shaded areas at the top, and not many people will be there if any at all, so you will have a huge selection of your favourite spot 😉
There are lots of ruins of the castle at the top and many can be used as a shaded spot to enjoy the view.
Going down is the identical way that you came up on.
The only requirement will be good walking or hiking shoes and some water. No technical climbing is needed apart from the two ladders.
The views from the top are panoramic.
Distance from were you park to the first ladder: Approximately 1km (15 minute walk). This will be walking only.
Distance from the first ladder to the top: A few hundred meters (10 minutes). This will be walking on a steep gradient as well as climbing two short ladders.
Total time required: From your car to the top and back down to your car again can be done in about an hour, although it would be much better if you take half the day or a full day to absorb the full beauty of the castle.
It would be best if you take your time and stop for many photo breaks. This is a majestic trail and definitely not one that you want to rush on.
IMPORTANT: I would strongly advise against children doing this trail.
Details, history and interesting facts
The area of Ardanuc was always important, as it always had far panoramic views of the entire surrounding area and being a mountain stronghold, it was very difficult to capture.
The history is very difficult to pinpoint and a bit complex since this area has seen many wars that were fought between Armenians, Georgians, Ottomans, Soviets, Arabs and Mongols. The history of Ardanuc goes back to around 4000 years ago when the area was first settled on. The castle is roughly 1500 years old and was built by a Georgian King in the 5th century who dominated the area at the time.
It was then destroyed by the Arabs, restored by another Georgian King in the 8th Century and then finally brought into the Ottoman Empire in 1551 by Suleiman The Magnificent which forms part of modern day Turkey today.
The castles location is ideal because of how far away you can see from it.
When is the best time to visit the Ardanuc Castle?
Definitely NOT in the winter 😉 The Black Sea Coast receives huge amounts of snowfall from December to February which complicates things a lot in terms of trekking and driving. The summer months have excellent sunshine, little rain and quite long days. Anytime from June to August will be perfect. Peak rates in summer don’t really apply here much as this area doesn’t receive as many visitors.
What else is there to do in the area?
The answer is very simple. There are too many things 😉
Artvin Province’s famous alpine lake, the Borcka Karagol.
A stunning waterfall or two shouldn’t harm as well 😉 The Mencuna Waterfall in Artvin Province.
I will cover a more detailed article of many attractions throughout Turkey’s Black Sea coast soon.
The Ardanuc Castle is a stunning piece of history that we are all fortunate still exists in our time today. When you go up the trail to the castle and get a feel of the place, you will realise why so many different nations fought for it. While it’s at peace now, I fear massive tourism will be the only factor that will take that away in the years to come. I hope it remains exactly in this way forever, and I hope you see it for yourself and understand why I say that.