The Karaca Cave

A stone concert hall thousands of years old - the Karaca Mağarası stalactite cave in the region of Gümüşhane.

Although tourist guides to Turkey rarely point it out, more than 40,000 caves make the country a true paradise of research and exploration for geologists, adventurers and climbers. The longest measures an incredible 16 kilometres (Pinargözü Cave in Beysehir) and the deepest plunges more than 1,800 metres down into the earth (Cukurpinar Düdeni near Anamur). One of the most beautiful and most interesting in its formation is the Karaca stalactite cave near the Black Sea city of Gümüşhane.

Mağarası is the pretty-sounding Turkish word for cave. To get to Karaca Mağarası, you drive 17 km northeastCheap flights to Trabzon (TZX) Turkey from the provincial town, where the road winds through the central mountain range with flowery meadows and pine forests lining the highway. The surrounding mountain peaks are scattered with citadels and castle ruins.  Just a short walk from the car park takes you to the entrance of the cave, at 1550 metres above sea level. Georgia and Armenia lie far in the distance to the east. Marco Polo even described this unspoilt region in his travel diaries.

Adventurers can expect to find more than 75% humidity inside the intricate limestone cave. Stalactites and Stalagmites, hanging from the ceiling and rising from the ground like pillars, transform the halls of the Karaca Mağarası into a huge stone pipe organ. Between the ponds and pools are rivulets and crevices along which you can find - though you have to look closely to see them in the lamplight - fossils; stone impressions of millennia-old sea creatures.

From the coast, lined with the commercial and administrative centres of Samsun, Ordu and Trabzon, the mountain slopes shimmer with the most beautiful green.  The moist, mild climate helps tea, tobacco and hazelnuts to thrive. On the way into the Kaçkar mountains, the vegetation changes in the blink of an eye: Tall forests of beech, oriental spruce and Nordmann fir give way to high mountain pastures and flower meadows. This world of wide valleys with its quaint chalets and picturesque villages is almost Alpine in nature. Far off to the east, on the Anatolian plateau, lie step-like plains, majestic mountains and whispers of the turbulent history of the country’s oldest cities.

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