Igdir

igdir_turkey
The city of Noah and the city in which mankind had a second beginning.

It is believed that Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Agri (Ararat) after the Great Flood. The settlements from which the new generation of mankind was propagated by Noah and his companions after they disembarked from the ark are on the slopes of Mount Agri in Igdir.

All the following can be found in Igdir: a traditional nomadic way of life in the unspoilt nature of the highland plateaux (yayla), terrain that is suitable for many outdoor pursuits including mountain-biking and horse riding, nesting grounds for many types of birds that are not found elsewhere in Turkey, the places mentioned in the tales of the famous Turkish story-teller Dede Korkut, and, climbing impressively into the sky, the snow-capped peaks of Mount Agri. This is the second highest volcanic peak in the world and the highest mountain in Europe plus it is the mountain on which Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Great Flood which is mentioned in various Holy Scriptures. You can experience everything that Igdir has to offer by spending a few days here.

CULTURAL CROSSROADS

Igdir has borders with three different countries which makes it one of the most unusual places in the world. From the same vantage point you can see different civilisations and different cultures, albeit from a distance. The Aras River doesn’t just form the border of the province but is also the border of the country. Mount Agri, which rises in the south of the province, marks the border with another country: Iran. Turkey’s most eastern extreme, the Plain of Dil, is within the province’s borders. Thus Igdir more than deserves the title “cultural crossroads”. In fact, an examination of the thousands of years of history in the province, demonstrates that it has been home to many civilisations and it is possible to find the remains, in the form of cultural works, of various civilisations at different places in Igdir.

Even if the historical past of the city goes back much further, the first civilisation we find evidence of is that of the Urartu. The Urartian state covered much of eastern Anatolia and they founded cities here.

At Surmeli Çukuru there is a place called Karakale where there are remains that have survived to the present day and which were built on top of an Urartu city. Other civilisations which left a still visible cultural mark on Igdir province are the Seljuks and Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu states. Although they did not exist for very long, the Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu states bequeathed to the local cultural heritage tomb stones and monumental tombs that can be seen today. And the Seljuks left behind the caravanserais which were used for accommodation of the merchants on the historic Silk Road.

HISTORICAL MONUMENTS

Frequently in the Igdir Plain you come across ram-headed tombstones; as well as their mystical significance these also throw light on the Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu periods. Especially in Karakoyunlu district, which is named after one of these civilisations, we can understand, because of the number of ram statues we encounter there, that it was important for them to exalt their heroes and keep their memory fresh forever.

Every single ancient cemetery is also an open air museum and the vast number of ram-headed tombstones encountered in them are also historical documents of social life that tells us about the Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu culture. It is possible to work out the profession of every person buried there by the symbols engraved on their tombstones.

It is not surprising that such locations were chosen for eternal rest as they have great views of Mount Agri and the Aras River. And for this reason there are other important historical remains and tomb sites near to these tombstones. The first of these sites is the Gödekli Kümbeti situated 15km from Aralık district in an out of the way place chosen for its peacefulness. Opposite the entrance to this monumental tomb are three tombstones two of which are blue-coloured. The inscriptions on these tombs help explain who were the occupants that chose for themselves this monumental tomb for their endless sleep.

The monumental tomb called Kul Yusuf Kümbeti, with its precise dimensions in its east to west walls that hardly deviate and are very straight, is found in the Village of Cakirtaş close to the centre. There is an inscription above the entrance of the monument from which we learn that it was built in 1485 for an individual called Kul Yusuf and architecturally, it has all the characteristics of the Akkoyunlu Period.

Igdir is located at the intersection of the roads to Batum, Tebriz, Tiflis and Erivan which were among the most important cities on the historic Silk Road. Amongst the ruins dating from the Silk Road you will encounter the Harmandöven Caravanserai. It welcomed caravans travelling between Batum and Tebriz for hundred of years and was built in the 12th C. A.D. during the Seljuk Period.It is notable especially for its fine stone decoration above the entrance.

We have already noted that Igdir is remarkable for the number of civilisations to which it has been home. Just as it is possible to see evidence of these different civilisations in different places it is sometimes possible to see signs of all the different civilisations in a single building. This is best seen in some of the castles that you come across in the province. Built to overlook and defend the trade routes below these castles were not used by just one civilisation but rather they served every civilisation that settled in Igdir.

One of these castles is the Igdir Castle (Igdir Fort) situated on the northern slopes of Mount Agri in the district of Aralık. It was conquered by the Seljuk Sultan Melikshah and his famous vizier, Nizamulmulk. It was subsequently taken by Tamerlane during his Anatolian campaign. The story goes that Tamerlane had all the castles doors removed and that he decreed that no doors should ever be constructed for the castle. Even though the walls of the castle are now in ruins it is still clear just how big an area this fortress covered. The remains of buildings of various purposes inside are worth noticing. Another belief is that the castle was inhabited until the 17th C. When it was destroyed by a great earthquake the survivors moved to the west and laid the foundations of today’s Igdir.

Another castle in the province is Kara Kale which can be found in the ruins of a city founded by the first settlers of the region, the Urartians, in Sürmeli Çukuru. This castle was conquered by the Seljuk Sultan Melikshah and his vizier, Nizamulmulk.

Situated close to the River Aras it was the setting for many battles and continued to be much valued by many civilisations as a point of defence. After the Seljuks the castle passed to Tamerlane and later still was under the sovereignty of the Karakoyunlu state. Its location, Surmeli, is believed to be the first city established by Noah’s descendants after the flood. Although the walls of the castle have been destroyed by earthquakes you can still make and explore the boundaries of the castle.

NATURE’S GIFTS TO IGDIR

Igdir’s climate is, like its culture, rich and varied. It boasts both snow-capped peaks and, in between them, plains that support the production of cotton and many other crops and is one of the few places where you can see the two together. The best place to experience this wealth is Surmeli Çukuru where you can try apples peculiar to the region called ‘al alma’ which is celebrated in poems and folksongs about Igdir and a special type of apricot known as ‘şalağı’ special fruits that you can’t get enough of!

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Something else to add to the list of rarities found in the region are the rare plants to which it is home; the foremost being wild mountain lilies. If you want to see these beautiful special lilies, that make you reflect on the wonder of nature, you need to tour those slopes of the mountain that catch the sunlight.

Igdir is remarkable for its magnificent mountains, babbling brooks and verdant highland pastures as well as its distinctive tourism spots. The most important of these are the Tuzdağı Caves. They are not a natural formation, rather they were opened up by the civilisations that settled here and were used by the Ottomans as salt mines. It is believed that entering the caves through their bright white walls can be beneficial for asthmatics as it is icy cold inside and the air is scented with salt. But the real beauty of the caves is hidden in their depths. After a short walk you come to a lake of rainwater set amongst salt rocks that resembles a crystal sea. We highly recommend that you go and see this beautiful sight for yourself.

There are many things to do in Igdir. One of these is to go bird-spotting; looking out for birds amongst the most attractive natural settings. Just as Igdir is home to many civilisations it is also the nesting place for many types of bird. Because of its natural surroundings and its geographical location on the migration route from the Caucasus to Russia it has become a particular haven for birds. The fact there are lakes around the base of Mount Agri, much marshland and the country border River Aras mean that various types of migrating birds have to pass through Igdir. Some of these birds are not seen anywhere else in Turkey. One of the most important of these bird havens is the village of Çıyrıklı in the Tuzluca district. Another bird haven is a site in lgdir much frequented by local picnickers and day-trippers, namely Bulakbaşı located in the borders of Taşburun in the Karakoyunlu district. Known by the locals as Karasu it is possible to see here not only water birds but also otters and turtles and it is possible to go line fishing here too.

One of the places that should be visited by trekkers and nature-lovers is the Korhan Plateau where the Mount Agri Festival takes place. Situated on the north-eastern slopes of Mount Agri at an altitude of 2000m it is rich in colourful flowers and fresh mountain air. From here there are walks from where you get a glimpse of three different countries. We recommend you to see the crater which is believed to be a meteorite impact crater on this plateau. As well as this plateau, site of the earliest inhabitation of the area, you should visit the Igdir Castle and the caravan roads hereabouts that take you past the ruins of the Kız (Maiden) Castle and the Oğlan (Boy) Castle.

Those who want to get better acquainted with the culture of Igdir should definitely attend the Mount Agri Festival, a local activity which has taken place since 2003 on the highland plateau. Each village erects tents in which they prepare local dishes and display examples of their handicrafts. The festival also encompasses folk dancing and horse-back contests for you to watch.

Balık (lit. fish) Lake is another natural wonder. It is Turkey’s highest lake with an altitude of 2,250m and is famous for its trout. There’s a small island in the middle of the lake with some notable historical ruins.

Nature’s greatest bounty to Igdir is without doubt Mount Agri.

MOUNT AGRI AND IGDIR

Excluding the province of Agri which, in Turkish, is named after Mount Agri, the place with most significance for this splendid mountain is Igdir. Igdir is the base for many of the activities that can be undertaken on and around Mount Agri. For mountain climbers who want to attempt the summit of this permanently snow-capped peak one of the prettiest approaches is from Igdir.

It is worth pointing out that this route takes you through the beautiful scenery of the Iğdır plains and along the border of other countries with brilliant views and the sublime prospect of seeing three countries from one point. But it would be wrong to limit the attraction of what the mountain can offer to only mountain-climbing. The mountain with its beautiful highland plateaux is home to many rare flowers and therefore it is a good place for plant-lovers and, as it is on the migration route of birds, it is a good place for bird-spotting. The superb panoramas it offers make it ideal for photo-safaris and there are, amongst the other activities to be tried here, places suitable for pony-trekking and paragliding.

Mount Agri is one of the favourite and most appealing mountains in the world for climbing. Every year it welcomes many climbers, both local and foreign, wanting to prove Marco Polo’s “no one can ever climb it” pronouncement wrong. The route favoured especially by professional climbers starts from Igdir’s Korhan Plateau around Lake Küp. Professional climbers, who understand the force of the mountain, can climb in winter but less experienced climbers can also enjoy climbing this sacred mountain by attempting it in summer. It is possible to reach the areas from where the climb starts, and the exit points, by vehicle. Also there are numerous established camps where climbers can spend the night and stock up on enough supplies. All these advantages mean that Igdir is a must-visit province for anyone interested in mountain-climbing.

THE MONUMENT AND MUSEUM DEDICATED TO THE FALLEN TURKS

This monument and museum was built in memory of the Turks who were killed by the Armenians during the First World War. The peak where the monument stands resembles a kurgan (burial mound in old Turkish tradition) and in the middle of the monument is a single symbolic grave in honour of the fallen Turks. The museum, in which are the documents detailing the atrocities, is below the monument inside the hill and its entrance is in the style of Turkish Seljuk portals. In just about every corner there are signs of Turkish culture in this monument which clearly displays the atrocities and which should be visited by all those who want to learn the truth, which is nothing like how it is sometimes represented for political reasons.

CUISINE

The most famous dish of Igdir is bozbaş made from lamb shank to a special local recipe. Along with this should be mentioned the tasty local speciality taş köfte (a local meatball dish) and yoghurt soup with ingredients such as spinach, parsley and rice. As these dishes are not found outside of the Igdir region we strongly recommend that you give them a try.

CLIMATE

Because the Igdir Plain and its environs are set in a basin surrounded by mountains the region has its own “micro climate”. Generally there is a decrease in temperature as you go from east to west, In the winter, excluding the periodic extremely cold snaps, the region is generally milder than the surrounding areas. The semi arid climate seen in Igdir makes it one of the places in Turkey that has the least rainfall.

Annual Average Temperature 11.6
Hottest Month August             41.8
Coldest Month December       -30.3

DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT…

  • Having seen the ram-headed tombstones dating from the Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu periods on the Plain of Igdir,
  • Having visited the monumental tombs of Gödekli and Kul Yusuf, and Harmandöven Caravanserai,
  • Having seen Turkey’s highest lake, Balik Lake and trying the local trout,
  • Having toured every face of Mount Agri, one of nature’s wonders,
  • Having visited the Monument and Museum Dedicated to Fallen Turks,
  • Having tried two fruits that taste very different in Igdir; the local apples known as al alma and apricots called şalağı as well as trying the dish bozbaş, not found elsewhere.LOCAL EVENTS
  • Nowruz (Vernal Equinox) Festival 21st March
  • Nahcivan Culture and Solidarity Festival 23rd – 24th May
  • Apricot Festival 1st JulyTRANSPORT

It is only possible to reach Igdir from the surrounding provinces and countries by road. There are not presently any railways or airports. Just as there are road connections in Igdir to the areas of Kars, Erzurum and Dogubayazit there are routes to the neighbouring countries of Iran, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Igdir to Dogubeyazıt road that crosses the Pamuk Gediği Pass is 52 km long. This road connects Igdir to Gürbulak Border Gate and via Çaldıran to Van and Agri. The distance from Igdir to Kars is 130 km. It is possible to reach, going via the Kars road, Artvin, Hopa and the Black Sea Coast. The distance between Igdir and Erzurum is 280 km.

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