Places to Visit in Artvin

Things to Know About Artvin

Artvin is a unique destination that stands out from other tourism hotspots due to its commitment to preserving the pristine environment and exceptional beauty. The province’s identity reflects its historical Georgian region of Tao-Klarjeti, which dates back to the middle ages. Travelers can explore ancient churches and settlements along scenic routes, with the best-preserved ones found in Barhal and İşhan on the breathtaking Kaçkar Mountains (Kaçkar Dağları).

As visitors journey through Artvin, they will be greeted by sweeping hills, dense forests, and stunning landscapes. The province is a cultural treasure trove with numerous historic sites, and its diverse environs offer a range of natural wonders, from majestic mountain peaks to verdant valleys with cascading waterfalls, canyons, and lakes.

One of Artvin’s most notable attractions is Camili, also known as Maçahel, which was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2005. This area is the only biosphere reserve in Turkey, and its unique ecosystem supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

Places to Visit Artvin

Artvin (Livane) Castle

Artvin Castle, located in the Çayağzı Neighborhood of Artvin, is situated on a hillside and is connected to the bedrock 70 meters below the river, with an opposite connection to the road leading from Erzurum to Samsun. The castle features ruins of a cistern and chapel within its premises.

Originally built as a Georgian fort in 937 by King Osett the Great with the name of Livane, the castle was later captured by the Ottomans in the 16th century and underwent several repairs over time. Currently situated in a military zone, the castle underwent a repair process in 2004 to restore its original charm.

Dolishane (Doliskana) Monastery and Church

Doliskana Monastery is a Georgian Orthodox monastery located in the village of Doliskana in the Klarceti region of historical Georgia. To reach the monastery today, one must drive 3 kilometers along the Şavşat-Artvin highway and reach Hamamlı Village.

While the monastery is widely known as the Dolishane Monastery in Turkey, its correct name, based on the Georgian word for wheat-field “doli,” is actually Doliskana. The monastery was established in the 830-840s, but it is not mentioned by name until Giorgi Merchule’s report. According to his account, it is possible that Doliskana Monastery became an official monastery after him, although there are conflicting records.

One theory suggests that the monastery was founded in the first half of the 10th century when a church was built. Unfortunately, almost all the buildings of the monastery, except for the main church, have been destroyed. There are also two different views regarding the church’s dedication – either to the “Archangels” or to St. Stefan.

The Doliskana Church is the main church of the Doliskana Monastery and is the only remaining structure from the monastery. Built in the 10th century, the domed and covered crucifix church measures 20 X 14 meters from the outside. Inscriptions on the southern façade indicate that it was built by Bagrat in the first half of the 10th century and later restored by Sumbat I of Georgia.

The central area of the church has a square plan and four extended cross arms. The space covered by the dome is approximately 25 meters high at the center. On the eastern side of the church, pastophorium rooms are located on either side of a semicircular apse. The entrance to these rooms is through a door that opens from the outside of the eastern walls, rather than from the inside. The western arm was set into the ground two times deeper than the other arms. The northern chamber of the western arm, which was likely used for wine storage or as a cellar, contained soil. The church features cut and rough exterior stones, with rubble stones on the inside, and has figurative, geometric, and floral decorations made in relief technique on the southern wall. Some paintings have also survived.

A relief on the south wall depicts a male figure holding a model of the church. At one point, there was also a “Sundial” relief on the southern cross arm of the church, but it was later stolen. Despite this, the main part of the church, which is used as a place of worship and/or center of community activity, is mostly intact and was used as a mosque until 1998.

Otkhta Church (Dort Kilise)

Porta (Khandzta) Monastery

The Porta (Khandzta) Monastery has a significant place in Georgian history, but unfortunately, it currently stands as a series of severely deteriorated ruins located high above the Artvin-Ardahan road.

St. Gregory of Khandzta was a renowned ecclesiastical figure in Georgia, who founded and led numerous monastic communities. His most notable contribution was the establishment of the Monastery of Khandzta, which is also known as Porta.

In 780, St. Gregory of Khandzta relocated to Tao-Klarjeti to revive Georgian monasticism in the region. Tao-Klarjeti is a historical and cultural region situated in north-eastern Turkey and south-western Georgia, encompassing the Chorokhi and Kura river basins, as well as the upper source of the Aras river.

Initially, St. Gregory resided at the Opiza monastery before founding his own monastery at Khandzta in 782. Under his guidance, Khandzta monastery became a powerful monastic stronghold in Tao-Klarjeti.

The initial wooden church at Khandzta was constructed by St. Gregory and his followers during the end of the 8th century, along with a dining hall and living quarters. In 820, a stone church was built during the reign of Ashot I. However, the present church building appears to be a replacement constructed in 918 due to the remote location making the availability of high-quality stone difficult, which had to be transported over long distances. Construction was completed in 941.

Otkhta monastery exhibits various architectural styles. The addition of a bell-tower was made in the 16th century, and a medieval chapel was converted into a fountain with its east wall serving as the water spout.

Following the Ottoman Empire’s integration of the region and the progressive Islamization of the population, the monastery was abandoned. Despite significant damage, the main church’s major structure has survived on an artificial terrace for a long time. Unfortunately, a critical part of the facade was destroyed, and most of its dome collapsed in 2007.

Tibeti (Tbeti) Cathedral & Church

Tibeti Church, also known as Tibeti Kilisesi or The Cathedral of Tbeti, is situated approximately 15km from Savsat town in the Artvin province. The village where the church is located sits at an altitude of 1200m and is surrounded by dense forests and numerous lakes, possibly giving the area its name, Tbeti. The Georgian term for “lake district,” tba-eti, supports this hypothesis.

Unfortunately, the former cathedral buildings have suffered severe damage, leaving only the ruined walls of what was once a magnificent structure that served as the central site for a culturally and intellectually productive monastic community. Tibeti Monastery was a medieval Georgian monastery located in Historical Southern Georgia, known as Tao-Klarjeti. Bagratid prince Ashot Kukhi is credited with founding the Tbeti Cathedral between 891 and 918.

It is uncertain whether the cathedral was dedicated to Saint George or the Mother of God. Evidence for Saint George includes a series of wall paintings on the vault of the western arm, depicting him distributing his wealth to assistants and then being tied to a wheel while two executioners turned it on pikes. Based on this decoration program, it is assumed that the Tbeti Cathedral was dedicated to Saint George.

Over time, Tbeti Monastery became a significant cultural center, producing numerous hagiographical writings and becoming one of the most important centers for calligraphy and manuscript illumination. In 995, Ioane Mtbevari, a composer of religious songs and translator of Greek works into Georgian, created the Gospel of Tbeti. Bishop Samuel of Tibeti commissioned it to be decorated with miniatures in the Byzantine manuscript illumination tradition.

Until the second half of the 17th century, Tibeti Cathedral functioned as a Christian church. Later, the local population repurposed the building as a mosque, which remained in use until the late 19th century. Today, the site is an empty lot with no religious services held there.

Unfortunately, recent years have not been kind to the architectural remains of Tbeti Monastery and Cathedral. In 1961, a large part of the ceiling collapsed, along with sections on both sides of the cathedral.

No other buildings have been found outside the main church, and no further archaeological surveys have been conducted to document potential discoveries due to insufficient information obtained through excavations.

Barhal (Parkhali) Church

Located in Altıparmak Village, 30 kilometers away from Yusufeli town centre, Barhal (Parkhali) Church is a remarkable example of medieval Georgian architecture and a Georgian Orthodox monastery church. According to written sources, the church was built by King David III Kurapalat in the 10th century and dedicated to John the Baptist.

The church’s nave walls are tall and sharply separated, featuring impressive façade carvings. Notably, Parkhali Church is distinguished by its long wall that separates the middle nave from the wings, which is adorned with painted images. The church itself measures approximately 28 x 18 meters.

Ishkani (İşhan) Church

Ishkani Church is situated in the picturesque Işhan village, which overlooks the stunning valley of Çoruh (Chorokhi) River. This village was once a part of the historic Tao region in the medieval Georgian Kingdom.

Ishkani Church played a significant role as an important ecclesiastical center until the Ottoman administration took over the region in the 16th-17th century. Currently, the site comprises the remains of a grand domed church and a small hall chapel, with several other churches and structures recently discovered through archaeological excavations. The entrance to the chapel bears a Georgian inscription indicating that it was dedicated to the Holy Mother of God by King Gurgen I, who passed away in 1008.

The main building of the site is a large cross-domed church that measures 36.60 meters in length, with a width of 19 meters at the crossing. Its western arm is 15 meters long and 9 meters wide, with a height of approximately 35 meters, and a dome height of 11.4 meters with a diameter of 7.86 meters. The building facade is constructed using smoothly cut stones, while the tall, cone-shaped roof is adorned with dark red and green tiles. Following its restoration, the four arms of the church were covered with stone slabs, which have also been decorated with tiles in a similar style.

The Church of Ishkani boasts an unusual plan that resulted from several reconstructions over time. Its eastern side features a raised apse, surrounded by open exedrae, which is covered in decorative elements. The vaulted apse showcases an open exedra, and a horseshoe-shaped arcade rests on eight monoliths adorned with cubic capitals. A rectangular ambulatory frames this space, while a corridor with openings on the side leads to two chambers. The adjoining rooms are taller and have double arched windows that face inward into the open center of the church.

The church was once adorned with frescoes, though they have mostly survived on the dome, while the wall frescoes have faded over time. The Chapel’s dome is decorated with Lapis lazurite, depicting the Ascension of the Cross. The dome features four figures of angels floating the cross in the sky. On each side, four two-wheeled chariots are drawn by four winged horses, driven by a standing figure. Above each chariot is a Georgian inscription that talks about the colors of the horses. Most scholars believe this scene depicts the “Vision of Zachariah” from the Old Testament, where he saw four colored horses and their riders, red, black, white, and gold. Within the drum of eight windows, eight busts are set on arches, while the adjacent blind arcade alternates with these figures and the windows below.

Opposite the main church on the south side stands a chapel with plain facades, built in 1003 as per Armenian letter inscriptions. The small chapel features fresco paintings depicting a scene of communion in the apse wall and Christ Pantocrator in the conch.

As part of the rehabilitation efforts for the monastery in Ishkhani, several chapels and churches were uncovered. These included a large basilica, two hall churches, and various monastic buildings. Additionally, several burials were also discovered, mostly from the medieval period and during the Russian-Turkish war.

During the period of Turkish rule, a mosque was established in the western arm of the church. Unfortunately, the church is not accessible to visitors today.

Ishkhani is a fascinating monument of Georgian history and culture, boasting intricate decoration, intriguing architecture, and lavishly painted murals. It is a monument that truly deserves recognition as one of the world’s most significant landmarks.

Ahaldaba (Yeni Rabat) Church

Ahaldaba Church, also known as Yeni Rabat Church, is a medieval Georgian church situated in the village of Longothevi, presently known as Bulanik, located 17 kilometers away from Ardanuc District. This church is the principal building of the Ahaldaba Monastery, which is also referred to as the Longothevi Monastery, and was erected during the 10th-11th centuries, under the reign of the Georgian Kingdom.

It is believed that the Ahaldaba Church underwent renovation during the 12th century, under the leadership of Anton Glonistavisdze, the chief vizier of Queen Tamar.

The church has a free-cross plan, with the central dome serving as the main area, while four cross arms extend from it. The building features two entrances, with arcades that are most notable in the facades of the structure. The southern facade, in particular, is elaborately decorated.

Adjacent to the southern side of Ahaldaba Church is a structure that was believed to exist in the past, but there is no evidence of its existence today.

Medieval architecture in the region is characterized by triangular niches that reflect the inner plan outward. Interestingly, the use of triangular niches in the drum of the dome was rare in Tao-Klarceti architecture. Tao-Klarjeti is a historical and cultural region in north-eastern Turkey and south-western Georgia, encompassing the Chorokhi and Kura river basins as well as the upper source of the Aras river. Ahaldaba Church stands out for having more windows than openings, with relief plant motifs adorning stones on both sides of the building. Notably, there are two separate stones featuring inscriptions in Georgian and Armenian.

Kackar Mountains National Park

The Kackar Mountains, also known as the Kackars, are an elevated range situated above the eastern coast of the Black Sea in Turkey. These mountains and their plateaus are considered to be some of the highest parts of the North Anatolian Mountain range, with the peak measuring a lofty 3937 meters and the plateaus hovering around 3000 meters.

In 1994, the mountain range was designated as a national park, offering a vast expanse of 52.970 hectares of land to explore. The Kackar Mountains National Park is nestled in the midst of densely populated forests, which ensures that the meadows are well-nourished and the flora is abundant. Additionally, the park boasts several unique rivers.

The western and eastern slopes of the mountains are adorned with a rich variety of flora, and the park is home to a diverse array of wildlife such as jackals, roe deer, and wild boars. Visitors can also observe marten, hare, and other rodents, as well as raptors, songbirds, and occasionally, a wild rooster.

The Kackar Mountains National Park is recognized as one of the most biodiverse areas globally, boasting vast expanses of mature evergreen forests, upland pastures, three glaciers, and several glacial lakes. Its exceptional natural habitat, stunning plateaus, and rich vegetation draw attention throughout the year.

The Kackars are mountains with glacial features, displaying steep rocky peaks and numerous mountain lakes. The national park offers an array of tourism opportunities, including hiking, camping, mountaineering, and heli-skiing.

Hatila Valley National Park

Hatila Valley National Park spans over 16,900 hectares and is situated along the Coruh River branch in Artvin, Turkey. The park is accessible via a 10 km road trip from the center of Artvin.

This national park is not just a picturesque valley, but also stands out for its diverse rock formations. Unlike typical valleys, Hatila Valley’s rocks, though rare in nature, are a result of volcanic activity and were pushed up by flowing water.

The valley itself is narrow with steep slopes, featuring a unique geological and geomorphologic composition. Its exceptional landscape, combined with its distinct features, makes it an attractive destination for nature enthusiasts and researchers of landform types in Turkey.

The beginning to the midsection of Hatila Valley is lush with dense vegetation, harboring a wide range of plant species. This region’s remarkable feature lies in its abundant vegetation, which is typical of a Mediterranean climate. The area’s relict vegetation displays distinct characteristics, including endemic plant species. In fact, over 500 species have been identified in this region alone. The fauna in Hatila Valley is equally diverse, with various animal species calling it home, including bears, boars, foxes, badgers, wild goats (oxen), martens, hawks, eagles, coyotes, mountain grouse, and trout.

For visitors, the Hatila Valley National Park offers campgrounds and facilities suitable for day trips or overnight stays. It is located just 10 kilometers from the city center and can accommodate various capacities, from bungalows to caravans.

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