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BARHAL (ALTIPARMAK)

Southern approach to the Kaçkars                    Population: 100ish

Other names: Parkhali (old), Altıparmak

Barhal1Barhal is a tiny place at the end of the spectacularly beautiful long and winding mountain road that leads from Yusufeli to Olgunlar (Meretet) and the start of the four-day trail over the Kaçkars to Ayder on their northern side. There’s nothing much here, just a few shops, a riverside restaurant and a handful of pensions, mainly catering to the trekking community, but what it offers is a chance to leave the world behind, however briefly, and to revel in the silence of the mountains.

The one specific site is Barhal Kilise, a large but austere Georgian church of solid stone, that sits right beside the Karahan Pension. Like the church at Dörtkilise it dates back to the reign of Bagrat II (958-94) and takes the form of a triple-aisled basilica. The Georgian inscription on the exterior was added in the 19th century. For many years it was used as a mosque which ensured that it remained in good condition. Now, though, the main settlement, such as it is, has moved downhill where it's served by a brand-new waterproof mosque. A chapel faces it across the valley. The owners of the Karahan Pansiyon hold the key to the church and can point out the path to the chapel.Barhal2

Otherwise, you can hire a “taxi” to drive you to Naznara and the start of a steep walk up to a beautiful, isolated karagöl (black lake).

Animal lovers will be interested to know that they have an outside chance of seeing brown bears, wild goats, wolves, wild boars and even lynx here. The area is also known for its beautiful and rare butterflies.

Twenty years ago the school beside the church had over a hundred pupils. Today it's down to its last fifteen. 

Sleeping

Barhal Pension. In the main village near the cafeteria and shops. Tel: 0466-826 2031

Karahan Pension

Marsis Village House. Also in the main village. Tel: 0466-826 2026

Transport info

KitcastleOne dolmuş a day leaves Yusufeli (30km) in mid-afternoon, returning at 7am (6.30am from the Karahan). The journey takes best part of an hour but the scenery is spectacular, passing two ruined castles, the first, Kisparot Kalesi, perched on the top of a cone of rock like a cherry on a cake – it’s almost impossible to imagine how it was built there. 

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