The Plateaus of Türkiye
Overview of Turkish Geography
- Türkiye is s a country of highlands with an average altitude of 1,130 m.
- 80% of Anatolia is above 500 m in height which is much higher than the other continents
- Except for around the Syrian border, Anatolia is part of the great Alpine-Himalayan mountain belt.
- Generally, most of the mountain lines in Anatolia lie in the east-west direction.
- There are two important ranges of mountains in Anatolia:
- The North Anatolian Mountains along the Black Sea in the north and
- The Taurus Mountains in the south. Both of them run parallel to the coastline.
- The North Anatolian Mountains increase in height toward the east, where their highest peak, Kaçkar Dağı (3,937 m) is found.
- The Taurus Mountains rise to 3,734 m in the Aladağ Chain. Composed mainly of limestone, there are caves, underground streams and potholes.
- Anatolia’s highest peak is in the east: Ağri Dağı (Mount Ararat) (5,165 m)
- The vast plateau of Central is the heartland of modern Türkiye. Bounded by Ankara, Konya, Karaman, Kahramanmaraş, Sivas and Amasya, the Central Anatolian plateau (altitude 1000 to 2000 m) holds the incredible “moonscape” terrain of Cappadocia, as well as cities founded by the Hittites 3000 years ago.
The Importance of the Highlands and Plateaus in Turkish Culture
- The Turkish word for Highlands or Plateau is And yayla has a special place in Turkish Culture!
- In many regions of Türkiye, most notably the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, many people, whole villages in fact, used to migrate to the yayla highlands for the summer months to escape the heat or find fresh grazing for their livestock.
- In the hot Mediterranean climate this annual journey would happen in mid-June and the villagers would not return to the coast until late September. Some older people still make the annual trek to their second homes, but the practice is dying out amongst the younger generation who stay on the coast to look after their tourism businesses.
- With the advent of summer, in villages all over Türkiye, families began to think about moving to their summer residences on the cool summer pastures. The yayla, or meadow, high in the mountains, provided a different pace of life during the hot months and ensured sufficient grazing for the herds of sheep, goats and cattle.
- In some areas, the Black Sea Region for instance, the summer settlements were made of permanent structures, each family moved into their own wooden chalet year after year.
- Everything required for the summer months had to be carried to the yayla which required much planning and organisation. Clothes, furniture, cooking equipment and bedding were all packed and loaded into cars and trucks for the long drive to the remote highlands. Herds of cattle, sheep and goats made the slow trek on foot guided by boys and young men. Season after season, each village moved to its own pastureland.
- In the evenings the yayla came to life in a spontaneous gathering to sing traditional songs, enjoy folk music and dance, and recount jokes and long stories. The attraction of the quality of life on the yayla is so rooted in village tradition, that even those who did not earn their living from farming made the yearly pilgrimage.
Plateaus and Highland Tourism
- Nowadays the yayla are great places to get away from it all! Time spent on the yayla is particularly suited to a holiday of relaxation and the enjoyment of nature. You wake up each morning pleasantly surprised at the tranquillity and heart-stopping splendour of the surrounding landscapes. Whatever your interest – butterflies, wildflowers, birds or other animals – leisurely walks in the rolling meadows and through the pine forests will provide a welcome change from city life. In surroundings free from the light pollution, stargazing takes on new meaning.
- For those who want a more active holiday the yaylas can offer more energetic activities. You could try trekking through the vast meadows, or mountain-climbing. In some areas of the Black Sea white-water rafting is possible.
- In the evenings you can enjoy the simple but exquisite fare of yayla Fresh milk, cheese, honey, butter, bread, hot yoghourt soup, nourishing stews and wheat dishes satisfy even the most sophisticated palate. And then settle down to the community and friendship of an open fire, songs and long tales.