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[Plateau Tourism]


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The term plateau as a physical geographical term is used as the equivalence of plains, tableland split and disintegrated by deep river valleys. Plateaus are plains covered with wide grass and meadow, abundant water sources, generally having altitudes vary between 2000-3000 meters.

In terms of a settlement place, the term plateau means a high cool place, summery, mountain, where people are kept from the warmth of summer during the warmest period in summer, taking agricultural activities besides animal products such as milk, butter and inhabited usually in winters. The terms “yaylak” (mountain pasture) and “yazlak” (summer residence) are also used for describing pastures at high grounds.

Transhumance varies in geographical regions and even in provinces and towns. A plateau is a different world with its authentic aspects, wild life, land, planet and animal species, rules, terminology, dwellings, traditions, customs, traditional foods and drinks, clothes, festivals, beliefs, diseases, songs written and sang for it and with its tools.

There are areas where plateau activities are carried out and the temporary settlements used for same purposes in our country. Of these, those benefited from in spring during the ascent of a plateau are called bargah and guzle (guzle autumn place) benefited from in fall. Guzles and bargahs are lower than plateaus and nearer to the village where nomads settled.

Before Turkish branches of tribe came, there was no nomadic life in Anatolia as today. The live stocks were being done together with permanent settlements. The plateau tradition resulted from Turkish tribes’ carrying on the nomadic life style, though a little bit differently, which suits to the Middle Asia steppes, in Anatolia.

As stated in the work Turkish Civilization History (Turk Medeniyetler Tarihi), by a socialist Ziya Gokalp, each Turkish tribe had a mountain as well as a river and if the bank of the river is his wintering place, the mountain was his plateau. The nomads sometimes spent each season of a year at different places. Places for spring settlements are called “yazlak”, places for summer are called “yaylak” and places for autumn are called “guzlek” and places for winters are called “kislak”. On those days, they called the season summer which we mean by spring and they named the season spring which we called summer. Some tribes were changing places two times in a year and one of them was called “yaylak” and the other was “kislak”.

Most Turkish tribes preferred permanent settlements after they settled in Anatolia. In 13th century, besides city life, Turkish villagers residing in West-South-Southeast Anatolia area kept nomadic life styles partially but Anatolian Turkish villagers in Middle Anatolia-Sivas and Amasya area had preferred permanent settlements.

Nomadic people, initially experiencing semi-nomadic life style, started contending themselves with going to plateaus. Nowadays the nomads have withdrawn to the Southeast Anatolia and Taurus Mountains and their number is decreasing every day.

Transhumance is totally different from nomadic life based on animal husbandry. Transhumance activities carried out by going for miles in vast plains in nomadic life are realized in more limited areas and within shorter distances in semi-nomadic life and plateau life. Nomads and semi-nomads generally raise small cattle and plateau people raise cattle. Villagers going to plateaus have certain plateaus nearby their villages, houses and permanent animal shelters whereas nomads do not go to a certain plateau, they often change their plateaus and semi-nomads go to certain plateaus sometimes and uncertain plateaus at other times and lack permanent houses and animal shelters. It is understood that plateau areas were full of Turkmens because the economy activity emerged as plateau live stock breeding in Anatolia is an economy enterprise method special for the Turks and geographic characteristics of Anatolia prepares very convenient environment for this kind of enterprise.

In a plateau life style, dealing with the cattle stock is carried out in the form of grazing them at meadows in summer, sheltering them in barns in winter. Although people doing transhumance activities have houses in the villages, they also might have houses, though simpler, at plateaus. Activities of permanent settlement life style such as cultivating, planting and forestation, handicraft etc. can also be made besides stock breeding in plateaus. For this reason, plateaus can sometimes be accepted as a land providing additional revenue.

Although the migration varies according to the areas, it usually starts in April and May of the year and completed within 15-20 days. After staying 3-4 months at plateaus and carrying out economic activities, people return to their permanent settlements, that is to say to low areas in late August or in September when it gets cold.

Migration to plateaus bears very different aspects especially in East Black Sea Region. People begin migration travel all together. Animals are even garnished; they are made worn bells on the necks and unripe melons. The place is full of bell rings and animal sounds till those who attend the migration come together and leave the “village” on that day. Songs are sung and people yell (as a sign of joy and enthusiasm). People help each other when traveling. Those going to far plateaus sometimes encamp on the same ground during travels of a few days. People go to the nomadic camping ground all together. Equal benefit from the benefaction of the plateaus is tried to be realized. Even if there are people having arrived the plateau before others the guardsman does not let them in and make them out of the nomadic camping ground. The guardsman is one rented by local people for a certain wage and one who has arrived the plateau beforehand. Entering the nomadic camping ground happens to be in amusement, songs, yells, verses, hues and cries. The nomadic camping ground is a collective settlement place where there are plateau houses. There are usually nomadic camping grounds of each village, separated from each other at certain distances in plateau groups. For example Kadirga Plateau is composed of nomadic camping grounds over 200 with different sizes.

With the arrival of fall, preparations for returning to the “village” begin to be made. This time people follow the same route sometimes all together and sometimes in smaller groups. Plateau roads are full of herds and people, help, self-sacrifices and joy during going to and returning from plateaus.

The peaceful and quiet life of plateaus are sometimes aroused and brisked with festivals. There are also occasions arousing the plateau life at certain hours. Letting animal be on pastures in mornings, milking hour or returning to nomadic camping ground are examples of this. Especially, it is difficult to find words for expressing the scenery occurring when sheep and lambs pastured apart and away from each other come together after milking. That herds composed of hundred and sometimes thousands of sheep and lambs run toward each other squealing and crying by raising a cloud of dust when they see one another away, mothers and their youngsters find each other among thousands of sheep and lamb and sniff each other with longing and affection, the mother sheep licking up the lamb with a great desire when it sucks its mother in fear and hurry as if they are going to be immediately separated form very interesting images.

Benefits of Plateaus

Air of the mountain climate is purer, drier and almost does not bear any germ and poor in terms of oxygen. This enables the living creatures in the mountain to breathe constantly, regularly and deeply. Therefore, lungs and the heart exercise by working faster. The air poor in terms of oxygen also causes marrow to produce more red blood (the number of erythrocytes increases by 20% during plateau period).

The air in a plateau is cool and the effect of sunrays increases as height above sea level increases. The number of sunny days increases especially during summer season at high places in comparison to valleys. Different heat and atmosphere increases the durability in terms of health and rests and fortifies the nervous system.

The mountain climate is advantageous for animals and whets their appetites, enabling them to exploit what they have eaten and their milk become richer in vitamins, minerals and proteins. Young animals are raised healthier. The medicinal aspects of many plants grown in plateaus in positive effects of these differences are a known fact.

Plateaus help the selection activity of stock farmer. That animals always move around in search of food enables regular and healthy integrity of organs and the whole body. In addition to steady habit, thick and strong bones, muscular formation, straight leg position, wide chest, closed shoulders, straight and stretched back, wide hip, thick muscles, strong foot and hooves, healthiness, satisfied with the feeding, moving around on a steep area, strength and endurance of draft animals, increase in outputs of studs and dairy animals bring a longer and more efficient life with itself. Animals in the plateaus keep same aspects therefore high fertility (meat, milk etc.) as they appraise what they have eaten.

Moreover, it is easier and freer to take after animals in the plateaus than in the barns in a village. This saves the farmer from many duties about taking after animals.

Some scholars focused on the economic importance of transhumance in their countries in the late 17th century and in the beginning of 18th century. And in 19th century following this, countries such as Austria, Bavaria, France and Italy felt the necessity to examine the development of transhumance scientifically. As a result of these developments, special magazines and books on the development of transhumance in the late 19th century and in the beginning of 20th century.

Turkish Plateaus and Ways of Benefiting from the Plateaus

That the height increases from coasts to innards, from west to east, differences in morphological, topographical, natural flora and climate conditions composes a convenient environment for transhumance actions. While low and bottom lands in the central transverse zone where Turkey is located witness extremely hot weather in summer months, mountain areas at a height of 1000-2000 meters provide a more comfortable resting and staying environment with their natural beauties, rich flora, mild climate and convenient environmental conditions. This fascinating environment offers those who want to rest and have a holiday more than what they are in search of and plains among forests, meadowy grounds and vast meadows above timberline are very suitable for animal activities.

Plateaus in North Anatolia extend to west through mountain ridges between Coruh Valley and Black Sea, beginning from Georgia borders at the east of Artvin. Places where they are situated collectively and densely are mountains at the south of town Findikli on the coast of Black Sea and the north of Artvin. Plateaus are scattered till Gorele aligns. Plateaus increasing in number from Gorele till Amasya are densest especially in Unye and at the south of Ordu. There are plateaus on the mountains at the south of Gerze and at the north of Boyabat and Taskopru. The plateau series moves innards with Ilgaz after following the coast till Kastamonu. There is also another series at the south of the series in parallel with the coast, beginning from the east of Black Sea. Ardahan, Savsat Plateaus, plateaus at the south of Askale, plateaus at the south of Koyuhisar and Susehri in more westerly, plateaus on the north and east of Tokat, plateaus on the north of Gumushacikoy, Ilgaz Plateaus, and plateaus on the north of Ankara continues till the north of Eskisehir from Cankiri. The densest area of plateaus on the north of Gerede and Bolu are the northern areas of high land of Kizilcahamam. There is a considerable plateau density at Sundiken Mountains.

The densest plateau areas in Central Anatolia are located at the mountains on the west and south of Lake Tuz (Salt Lake) on the north of Ankara.

Taurus Mountains are an important plateau area. The most density lies at the high plateaus between Alanya and Lake Sugla.

We can list the east of Erciyes, Sultan, Egridir, and Aladag of Taurus Mountains and Mount Madran among single plateau areas. The vertical plateau activities in our country are common in Black Sea, Mediterranean, Aegean and East Anatolia Regions. In fact, plateau activities are taken place at these places.

Plateaus of the Black Sea Region are generally dense at a height of 2000-2200 meters where alpine meadows are common above timberline. Some families having high population go to plateaus for animal activity.

The situation in the Mediterranean Region is different. Some transhumance activities in some of plateaus such as Camliyayla, Ulas, Meselik; Camalan, Damlama, Gozne, Belen, Kuzucubelen, Findikpinari, Aslankoy are carried out for economic and recreation (touring and resting) purposes (including those for a day) of people and as transhumance activities of nomadic yoruks. Most nomadic yoruks dwell in tents made of hair though the dwellings at plateaus for recreation purposes are generally contemporary.

The vertical transhumance in Aegean and East Anatolia is subject matter. The Aegean region lacks permanent plateau settlements. Transhumance activities are carried out by nomadic yoruks. Those who have migrated to plateaus at a height of 1800-1990 meters (Aydin, Honaz, Madran Mountains return their kislak after this period.

In East Anatolia, the migration to the plateaus at a height of 2000-2700 meters (Tortum, Narman, Kars, Gullu, Karasu, Allahuekber, Aras Plateaus) starting in May-June, finishes after a period of 3-3,5 months, when it gets cold, with a backward vertical return.

There are other transhumance activities carried out horizontally in our country. There are not much elevation differences (such as Meram Vineyards in Konya) between such transhumance areas and village settlements.

Except for the Upper Sakarya Section Plateaus (Sundiken and Turkmen Mountains) and Mount Erciyes plateaus in Central Anatolia Region, simple shepherd shacks and the meadow surrounding it, distant to villages and at nearly same heights with village settlements among plateaus comes to minds in the area with the word plateau.

The dwellings in plateaus are in a form of settled and nomadic houses. Though the houses in a form of settled dwellings vary according to the situation of their owners’ richness and culture and from region to region, they are generally built convenient for the necessities of stockbreeding economy in plans. While the section for a family sheltering consists of raised bank for the bed, fireplace and a limited court yard, sections such as a barn, a sheep fold and milking places complete the house. The materials used at these settlements are composed of stones in the Mediterranean Region, mud bricks in Central Anatolia and mixture of wood-stone, woods in Black Sea (roof wood, metal plate, tile) and stones in East Anatolia (roof wood, clay mixture).

There are total 26,000 (approximately) plateau settlement areas in our country. This data shows that there is more than one plateau settlement for every two villages. There are villages over 36,000 in Turkey. There are not any transhumance activities in some areas. When that one out of every two-three villages in areas such as Trabzon, Giresun, Erzurum, Kars and Bolu is taken into consideration, it becomes obvious how common the village – plateau relationship is in Turkey. And of course this stems from the importance of economic function of transhumance.

In short, the reason for the emergence of transhumance in Turkey is based on the stockbreeding economy. It is major revenue for our villagers (especially in East Anatolia and Black Sea). It balances their income economies with its live stock, wool, animal products, dried grass etc.

The word plateau is today used for summer places located at high altitudes and used for changing air and resting rather than an economy activity based on stockbreeding. Plateaus attract many people who are tired of city life and who want to stay in the midst of nature. Some plateaus have already become holiday villages for tourism purpose. This is the dimension of the developing and changing transhumance. In this context, modern buildings are built at places used as recreational areas, holiday resorts for resting and a good time (as in Sogukoluk, Belen, Zigana, Hamsikoy). Bath and every kind of equipment are available along with the kitchen in the 2-3 store buildings located there.

Therefore, plateaus are classified as plateaus used for holiday and recreation purposes, plateaus used for both holiday and stockbreeding purposes and plateaus used for stockbreeding according to their types of usage.

Kadiyayla and Sarialan in Bursa; Abant and Golcuk in Bolu; Edremit-Kazdagi in Balikesir; Golcuk and Bozdagi in Izmir-Odemis; Sakli, Beycik and Turbelinaz in Antalya; Burucek in Adana; Sogukoluk in Hatay; Yusufeli in Artvin; Ayder in Rize; Kulakkaya and Bogaz Nomadic Camping Ground in Giresun; Muratdagi in Kutahya; Sicak Cermik in Sivas; Abanoz and Gozne in Mersin are among plateaus used for holiday and recreation purposes.

Among plateaus used for both holiday and stockbreeding purposes, there are Domanic in Bilecik; Aladag, Sarialan and Karacasu in Bolu; Yazir and Karcukuru in Antalya; Akyarma in Ankara; Namrun in Mersin; Zorkun in Adana; Camici in Tokat; Kozak in Izmir; Persembe and Cambasi in Ordu; Kumbet and Bektas in Giresun; Kavron and Anzer in Rize; Duzkoy, Kadirga and Sisdagi in Trabzon; Sahara in Artvin.

Kandira and Tembel in Bolu; Calki in Kastamonu; Yaglipinar in Afyon; Yazir in Antalya; Eznevit in Nigde; Tekir and Beyyurdu in Kayseri; Hasandagi and Melendiz in Aksaray; Mercan in Tunceli; Serafettin Mountain in Bingol; Tirisin in Van; Mergan, Gevarlik, Gelyano, Oramar and Baygolu in Hakkari; Beritan in Diyarbakir; Serdarbulak, Cilli and Saricicek in Kars; Elevit, Samistal, Y. Kavron, Palakcur, Agvecor and Kackar in Rize; Bulbulan in Ardahan; Saribulut in Artvin; Bardir in Erzurum are plateaus mainly used for stockbreeding.

Plateau Festivals

Various plateau festivals held in summer months in East Black Sea Region continued from past to these days. These festivals are held at certain times in plateau period (usually in the middle of this period) with the names such as “Curuk Ortasi”, “Yayla Ortasi”, “Otcular” and “Vartivor”.

After migration to plateaus, people staying in the village work intensively. Especially maize growing having a special place in the economy in the area is a difficult activity. After maizes are cultivated and grown for a certain height, it is necessary soil be loosened and wild grasses at the bottom be cleaned with a pickaxe at least twice. This process is called “digging grass”. Villagers become more relaxed after these actions. Now they deserve ascending to plateaus, enjoying and touring. This is the origin of Black Sea plateau festivals and the reason why the day when these festivals are held is called “Otcular (Grass People) Week” or “Otcular Festival”.

In fact, each big plateau group has normal country bazaars in a certain place on a certain day. Plateau people in the neighborhood shop what they need from these bazaars. Major festivals are generally held in the neighborhood of these bazaars and on the same day but once in a year.

Local people anxiously expect this day; they count days until the day. Preparations are made days, even months before. The most excellent clothes are arranged. Musicians are organized. Roads to plateaus are taken cheerfully, playing instruments and singing, eating and drinking to get off fatigue of the whole year. People stop for a rest at convenient places and they dance ‘horon’ (folk-dance with fiddle peculiar to the Black Sea Region) and they shoot off.

Especially that each nomadic camping ground and village from different directions exceeding rivers and hills, dancing ‘horon’ arm-in-arm, clapping and yelling, flocking to the festival place in a certain order and discipline, trying to the best, the finest and the most splendid on the festival day form very interesting images. After reaching the festival place separate horon circles are formed. They enjoy till the evening.

It is impossible to witness and experience the East Black Sea Plateau Festivals. Especially Kadirga and Sisdagi Plateau Festivals in Trabzon have a significant place among them.

The festivals enable folk to become closer friends, strengthen the relationships and fortify social order. They also estrange an individual from his problems in his subconscious and enable him to gain psychological satisfaction. Festivals are best places where the finest and the most striking songs are sung, fatigue is eliminated, longings are over, affections grow, people enjoy and chat with each other and become closer friends.

Not only those living in the neighborhood but also those having migrated to big cities from local folk try to come to the festivals and they try to arrange their holidays and off days according to the festivals. Tens of thousands of domestic and foreign people attend these festivals.

Studies are carried out to determine the plateaus that can be used for purpose of tourism by Ministry of Culture and Tourism in order to develop plateau tourism as an alternative tourism kind and it is ascertained that there are 1464 plateaus in this type for the time being throughout Turkey. 699 of these plateaus are in the Black Sea Region, 228 of them are in the Mediterranean region, 140 of them are in the Aegean Region, 230 of them are in East Anatolia, 102 of them are in Central Asia, 49 of them are in the Marmara Region and 16 of them are in Southeast Anatolia. Some of these plateaus are introduced below in brief.

It is expected that plateau tourism will gain more importance in the future thanks to the increasing interest of domestic and foreign tourists who want to be with nature, explore more different things and experience more unusual things.