Lake Çıldır, the second largest lake in Turkey’s east, has been drawing attention with several winter activities, as the lake turns into a natural ice rink in this cold season, ideal for ice sports and nomadic activities such as horse-drawn sleigh, javelin and archery races.
Since the Touristic Eastern Express that runs from Ankara to the eastern province of Kars resumed its service after one-and-a-half years of hiatus, the region regained the interest of visitors, offering them fun-filled activities and impressive natural and historical sightseeing spots.
Located at 1,959 meters above sea level and covering an area of 123 square kilometers, the lake in the province of Kars becomes completely frozen when the temperature starts falling below zero degrees, leading ice thickness to reach 25 to 30 centimeters, and thus, making it a picturesque winter landscape with its famous local ice fishermen and horse-drawn carriages.
Visitors to the lake, where fishermen break the ice on the surface and catch fish like Eskimos, also get a chance to take a ride with horse sleighs or walk around the ice-covered part of the lake, which looks like glass since it has not snowed yet.
Locals, as well as tourists, also enjoy what can be called barbeque parties on the lake. People grill the fish they catch and have a nice picnic out in the cold. People also indulge in activities such as performing traditional halay dance, called aşık.
Lake Çıldır was one of the most significant attraction spots in the region two years ago, but due to the pandemic-related measures imposed across the country, it became an untended and idle stop for a while.
But when officials decided to resume the Touristic Eastern Express services, the region started to attract attention again. Now, university students, photographers, tourists and influencers are among the majority of the people traveling on the line as it used to be before the pandemic.
As the trains depart from the Turkish capital every Wednesday and Friday and arrive in Kars after 20 hours of journey, visitors are able to spend the weekend in Kars and enjoy a day in a Scandinavian-like adventure.
Apart from Lake Çıldır, the archaeological site of Ani is also one of the frequent destinations of visitors in the region.
Nearly 25 significant structures, consisting of walls, mosques, cathedrals, palaces, churches, monasteries, firehouses, baths, bridges and a partially destroyed closed passage, have survived to the present day in the ancient city of Ani, the capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom between 961 and 1045.
Hurriyet Daily News