Trabzon and the Sumela Monastery: Day 3 of Our Black Sea/Eastern Turkey Road Trip with Kids

Our full day in Trabzon, we headed out to the Sumela Monastery. This was our top goal to see in the Trabzon region. The Sumela Monastery is set high in the mountains on the side of one of them! It was founded in the 4th century by two Greek monks. It became a place of pilgrimage and is decorated with frescoes. It used to have many treasures, including priceless manuscripts and silver plates. It has been rebuilt a number of times. The most recent version is from the 19th century, though a fire destroyed much of it in the 1920s. It has been under restoration for a number of years, and just this summer another section was opened up to visitors. This allowed us to see frescoes that were previously not open to the public.

The drive to the Monastery takes about an hour and the last part is up into the mountains. Entry into the park is 50 tl for adults (8 and under free) or it is free with a MuseKart (totally worth getting if you live in Turkey. It got us into most places on our trip). You park in a visitor’s parking lot and buy a ticket on a small bus (6 tl for ages 5 and up as of Oct 2020). This takes you about 4 km further up the mountain and drops you off at a forest path (and at a few small vendors). This road is under significant construction and was a bit unnerving in parts. However, pretty soon it will be a great road.

The walk up through the forest used to be just a dirt/moss/leaf path that could get slippery or difficult. Now, however, there are wooden boards or stones and steps and benches. Much easier, but also not as picturesque. They are doing so much renovation and construction to make the site easier to access. This can be both good and bad, as it will definitely increase the number of tourists visiting.

The walk up the hill took about 20-30 minutes and was very pretty. We reached an entry area with the ticket booth, bathrooms (Western and Squat for 2 tl), and a small cafe serving ice cream bars (11.25 tl), tea, and coffee. There was also a cute little gift shop. From there, you go up into the monastery itself.

Much of the monastery is under renovation, and there is scaffolding over many areas. However, the beautiful frescoes in the church were accessible, as were several other rooms. Worth seeing, even with half of it closed. And hopefully they fully finish renovations soon!

Near where the dolmus (bus) dropped us off, there is another path that heads to a small church. We weren’t able to enter it, but it had good views of the outside of the monastery from it and is worth a peak. We caught the bus back down and then drove back towards the park entry.

This is where the adventure started! DH had heard from a friend that there was a route up the opposite mountain that gave great views of the monastery. We could even see the viewing platform marked on Google Maps and faintly see a road on Apple Maps (which has better satellite imagery for Turkey). So we decided to try. It started off ok, and then got rougher and rough as we wound our way up the mountain. There was clearly a lot of construction happening (eventually the road will be great), and some areas were very narrow and near the cliff edge.

This was one of the better sections on our route to find the overlook!

We finally rounded a corner and there were construction vehicles in the way. We had no way by. We had to back down a chunk of the mountain to reach a turn around spot. Totally worth trying again because once the road is finished and paved, it will be great. Don’t attempt it though unpaved without clear, dry weather, and good tires!

On our way back to Trabzon, we stopped for lunch at a small place, called Lames, off the mountain road. It was right by a creek, and from the back sitting area (covered, but open) you couldn’t see or hear the road, but could hear the creek. We had some great gozleme, soup, rice, and kebap. (And it had a Western toilet). Good parking lot as well and friendly staff.

Back in Trabzon, we relaxed and I then took a walk up the hill a bit to a park to see if there were good scenery or landscape shots. It was very crowded with people having tea or picnics and the views were fine, but not stellar.

For dinner, we ate in the hotel at Queen restaurant and the food was good. We went non Turkish for the night and had salad, spaghetti bolognaise, hamburger, salmon, white fish, and tea.

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