Anatolia abounds with historical sites and natural wonders. Some are known worldwide while many others await discovery. In the final edition of this seven-part series, we will explore a mostly overlooked side of Antalya and discover its hidden ‘Grand Canyon’
*The fearued photo: The Tazı Canyon, also called Wisdom Valley, offers visitors spectacular sights in Antalya, Turkey. (Shutterstock Photo)
Antalya is at the heart of Turkish tourism. Every year, millions visit this southern coastal haven to see the world-renowned attractions it boasts. Even in a time when parts of the world were brought to halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 7.25 million tourists flocked to Turkey. As usual, Istanbul and Antalya received the biggest slices of the pie.
Known for its numerous ancient cities, paradisical beaches, dynamic downtown and world-class resorts, Antalya is a must-see spot for travelers visiting Turkey. It’s hard to get bored in Antalya thanks to the number of places to visit and things to do.
I have visited Antalya several times, and two things have remained unchanged: the number of astounding spots left to visit and my excitement upon seeing the Antalya city sign that welcomes me to the land of marvels.
In this week’s article, I will be introducing you to a lesser-known natural wonder in Antalya – Tazı Canyon, or as I prefer to call it, the “Grand Canyon of Antalya.” Read your travel guide, and let’s get started!
“The Grand Canyon”
Tazı Canyon is located within Köprülü Canyon National Park, which is among the prime spots for rafting in Antalya and in Turkey at large. Every day, hundreds of adventurers go rafting on Köprüçay River, stream-sourced whitewater from the mountains, over which the rafting stations are built in Manavgat district.
How Tazı Canyon became popular is quite a story. Although photos of the canyon have been shared on several social media platforms since 2017, it wasn’t until February 2019 that Tazı Canyon’s fame skyrocketed on account of a commercial released by the smartphone brand Huawei.
Even though it is located only 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of the Köprülü Canyon Rafting Center, this heavenly site lacks the publicity it deserves and needs better and safer tourist organization. Tazı Canyon’s main observation deck is located in the province of Antalya; however, a small part of the canyon also stands within the borders of Isparta.
Visiting the Canyon
Before I visit a place, I try to keep my expectations low but for Tazı Canyon, I had no doubt that I would be witnessing ineffable natural scenery, so was very excited about my visit.
Sadly, almost all of the visitors to Antalya leave without knowing about the existence of Tazı Canyon (sometimes also referred to as Wisdom Valley). This was obvious when I visited this natural wonder, as there were no signs of the crowds I had seen earlier at the rafting center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can take advantage of how secluded Tazı Canyon is and pay a visit to this stunning natural beauty without having have to worry about social distancing.
Getting to Tazı Canyon
While public transportation to Köprülü Canyon does exist, buses and minibuses do not go all the way to Tazı Canyon because of its remoteness. To get to Köprülü Canyon by public transportation, you can get off at the exit leading to Beşkonak village from the Mersin-Antalya highway. From there you can go up to Köprülü Canyon by taking the minibuses; however, it should be noted that they don’t have regulated hours.
For people traveling with their own vehicles, Tazı Canyon takes around an hour 45 minutes to reach from downtown Antalya. As long as you follow the signs starting from central Antalya, you will be fine. The idyllic scenery that accompanied me during my drive blew my mind.
The asphalt road is wide and in good condition all the way to the Köprülü Canyon Rafting Center, so for me, the drive was very comfortable. The 13-kilometer distance between Köprülü and Tazı canyons takes 25 minutes to complete. After passing the Köprülü Canyon Rafting Center, take the first left and follow the signs that will take you to the parking lot of Tazı Canyon. After taking that left turn, the road narrows. There is still space for two cars to drive; however, considering that tours to Tazı Canyon orient toward large pickups and off-road vehicles, I advise you to drive carefully.
ATV rentals add visceral flavor to your visit
The parking lot of Tazı Canyon is just an area comprised of flattened ground, so don’t expect a smooth parking space of asphalt. More importantly, this spot is located 800 meters from the main observation deck of the canyon. The dirt road between the parking lot and the canyon is very bumpy, therefore, unless you have a jeep or an SUV vehicle suitable for off-road conditions, I suggest parking your car and walking the rest of the path, or perhaps riding an ATV to the canyon.
The locals of Gaziler village, the closest settlement to the canyon located adjacent to the parking lot, are very friendly. The local women use the parking area to display their entrepreneurial skills by selling their handmade artisanal crafts, dairy products and fruits and vegetables they grow on their own land. Before I headed to the canyon, I decided to take my time to see what these creative locals offer and perhaps exchange a few words with them.
Hatice Hanım, a resident from Gaziler village, stood before her stall proudly and told me this:
“Even before the smartphone commercial was released, Tazı Canyon was known among some foreigners. In previous years, we had a considerable number of adventurers from Australia, America and even New Zealand, who traveled all the way here to appreciate the view that the canyon offers. However, recently, it is mostly local tourists who come here. Some time ago, a couple even swore their marital oath here, right near the cliff of the canyon. The rising popularity of Tazı Canyon is also giving us a chance to sell our local goods and have a midscale market here. To the women of Gaziler village, it comes as a motivating incentive.”
After our warm chat, I got some dried fruit from Hatice Hanım’s stall. The idea of going to the canyon with an ATV sounded attractive, so I decided to rent one. The round-trip rate for an ATV is TL 50 ($6.50), which included a safety helmet. I rode less than 10 minutes and parked it near a tree. As I was walking to the observation deck, I saw a quaint open-air gözleme shack with a huge teapot brewing over a log fire. I can never say no to gözleme, especially homemade ones prepared by sweet, old Turkish women who patiently layer the thin sheets of dough with their fillings. Having decided to save it for later, I headed straight to the ridge of the canyon.
As I reached the edge of the canyon, I witnessed a visual feast. I have been to countless places in Turkey and visited many natural wonders and archaeological sites; however, Tazı Canyon was perhaps the most breathtaking natural wonder I have ever seen in the country, and I can assure you that this is no exaggeration. A genuine reaction of “Wow!” from a young British traveler, who was a part of a small tourist group that arrived at the canyon at the same time I did, proved my point.
Tazı Canyon has rich flora and fauna. With magnificent walls reaching as high up as 400 meters (1,312 feet), bears, bobcats, caracals, wild boars, deer, foxes, wolves, badgers, rabbits, lynxes, snakes, rock eagles and vultures are just some of the wildlife that calls this area home. Moreover, if you look around carefully, you can see the eagles and vultures flying slightly below the cliff.
There is only one thing you should be doing once you are at Tazı Canyon: sit and enjoy the view and turn your face into the fresh mountain wind.
Unfortunately, Tazı Canyon’s increasing popularity is not supported by an improvement in tourism organization. There are some perils that might become serious safety issues if you’re not careful. First of all, the top of the huge boulders near the cliff of the canyon are covered with slippery algae. I was alarmed to see some people hopping around on these boulders and walking to the edge of the cliff to take selfies. Not to mention, the strong winds that blow abruptly can easily disrupt one’s balance.
Cool off on the rapids and try grilled trout
After leaving Tazı Canyon, as I was passing by the rafting centers in Köprülü Canyon, all of a sudden, an idea kindled in my head: Why not?
The very next minute saw me parking my vehicle and heading toward the rafting stations. I took a delightful hourlong private rafting tour and paddled through the medium-difficulty rapids in Köprüçay River.
After completing the rafting tour, my guide Ayşegül Hanım recommended that I try out the specialty of the area which is freshly caught trout, grilled and wrapped in bay leaves. What an absolute delight! It was certainly as good as she had built it up to be, and, thanks to her, I ended up enjoying a unique dish before ending my trip.
Dislaimer: As published perviously on ©2020 www.dailysabah.com by Argun Konuk