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BALLICA MAĞARASI

One of Turkey's finest showcaves

CaveA 5km drive up into the wooded Akdağ (White Mountains) above Pazar brings you to the Ballıca Mağarası, a cave (open daily) that has been receiving visitors since 1997. The area around the cave is now a national park 1985m above sea level.

Although the cave is actually 680m long, visitors can only walk through the first 75m and then only in guided groups. To reach it you need to climb a steep staircase and inside the cave itself there are lots of (wet) steps; although there are chains along the path they are too low down to be of much help to the less agile.

The good news is that the structures inside the cave are absolutely spectacular, making a visit well worthwhile. You will be guided through a number of large chambers, some with pools of water in them, all of them decorated with rock structures that just beg you to "see" things in them. The guides talk mostly of onions and mushrooms but you may see instead ebru (marbling) patterns on the rock, slingshots full of stones, Chinese figurines, a rhinoceros and chimpanzee head, and a lot of more conventional stalactites and stalagmites.

The guides will hold their torches against some of the rock structures that then glow a translucent honey (bal) colour, hence the name of the complex.

Although the cave network developed over a long period of time the guides will tell you that the earliest parts date back 3 million years to the Pliocene era.

Sadly, the colony of dwarf bats who used to live in the cave have moved on, fed up, no doubt, with the lights and human disturbance.

Transport info

From Tokat you should take a minibus to Pazar where taxis wait to drive you up into the hills. Allow at least an hour for a visit, longer if you want to eat in the cafe outside the entrance.

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