Day 5 (Part 1: Sumela Monastery and Karaca Caves)

After the hot sweaty night in the hotel in Trabzon, it felt great to check out early morning and I had to rush to Ataruk Square as the pick up for the tour was around 9:30am. A dolmus ride helped me get there cheap and thankfully on time. Sumela monastery was a little more than an hour ride from Trabzon and there were around 14 people in our touring mini bus. Sumela monastery is a very ancient Greek monastery built in the name of Virgin Mary and is absolutely stunning as it is built on a high mountain hilltop.

Sumela monastery set-up
Sumela monastery set-up

Finally it was a relief to be on the mountains as it helped me escape the scorching heat in the Trabzon city. Remember to put on running shoes, as it’s a one-way climb of around 300 steps (1.5 kms approx) to reach the monastery from the parking lot. An entrance fee of 15 TL each is charged to enter the monastery and is totally worth it (payable only with cash). The monastery has different chapels, one church, kitchen, library, etc. and the paintings on the walls are well preserved and are absolutely stunning! Apart from the monastery, the surrounding views of the big mountains with lush green trees and small waterfalls made the visit really amazing.

By the way, I  got stares from almost every tourist (few Turkish and mostly Arabs with their women in black “burkas”). I still wonder why was Sumela monastery fled with so many Arabs ;-). I was happy to be approached by some Turkish tourists time to time in very little English they knew and they were very friendly. After spending 2 hours at this place, we all headed back to our mini bus.

Before heading to the caves, it was time for lunch as it was like 1:30 pm by then and hence the driver drove us to a super nice (and touristy) restaurant up in the mountains in a valley. It was a bit weird at this fancy eating restaurant as the waiters were kind of really rude to me (may be they don’t like western tourists as it’s an orthodox part of Turkey and specially the small village the restaurant was located in). The food however was really authentic local Turkish food, but was expensive. However the views from the restaurant was terrific and eating at this fancy place is a part of every Sumela tour that the travel agencies organize from Trabzon.

Restaurant where we had lunch
Restaurant where I had lunch

After a sumptuous lunch, our mini bus headed to the Karaca caves. It was half an hour drive through the huge mountains before our bus arrived there. Getting to the caves from the parking lot was 7 minutes walk up the mountains and they charge an entry fee of 8 TL to get inside. However only a part of the caves are open to the tourists and photography is strictly prohibited inside (just managed to take a pic somehow :-P). It wasn’t very extraordinary as I had been to the famous Mammoth caves in Kentucky just 3 months back, but still was quite impressive with the rock formations inside. If you are going to see the monastery, it’s nice to take the tour which includes both the monastery and caves.  The driver of our bus was a very nice guy, but didn’t speak any English. I used sign languages to connect with him and also the other tourists in our bus as none of them spoke English, but everyone was super accommodating and nice to me.

Karaca caves
Karaca caves

It was 5 pm by now and we started heading back to Trabzon. The final stop for the tour was a local village famous for the delicious Turkish rice pudding. I tried it and yes, tummy felt good ;). After another 20 minutes here,  finally everyone was ready to board our mini bus to arrive in Trabzon which was an hour drive from the village. The tour started at 9:30 am in the morning and we were back in Ataturk square around 8 pm and I was pretty happy by the end of it.

Tips:

  • Camping in Sumela is a very good option if you plan to stay in and around Trabzon for more than just a couple of days. Here are the available camping options:
  1. Camping option 1 
  2. Camping option 2
  3. Camping option 3
  4. Camping option 4
  • Sumela monastery and Karaca caves with a tour agency is a good option if you don’t have your own car/rented car as the drive is quite long and the roads are not very nice up in the mountains.
  • Uzungol or Ayder are two great mountain places with great views which you can do from Trabzon as day trips..but I didn’t have much time to do it and also in summers, they are fled with tourists which is why it didn’t fancy me much. But if you have time, do it :).

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Some more pictures:

Turkish rice pudding
Turkish rice pudding
well preserved interiors
Well preserved interiors of the monastery
terrific views from the monastery
Terrific views from the monastery
Paintings
Paintings
Paintings in the monastery
Paintings in the monastery
Waterfalls along the way to the monastery
Waterfalls along the way to the monastery
Views from the bus
Views from the bus
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