Anatolian Heights: Journey to the Highest Mountains in Turkey

With so much of its landmass being mountainous, the competition for the highest mountains in Turkey is intense. So, which peaks got top spots?

Travel and Exploration
13 November 2023

Türkiye – previously known as Turkey – is a country that occupies a unique geographic position, lying partly in Asia and partly in Europe. Predominantly a mountainous country, about a quarter of Turkey sits over 4,000 feet above sea level and steep slopes are a common feature of this terrain. Only on the coastal fringes is there much lowland.

While its geological structure is complex, Turkey is often divided into four regions. Turkey’s highest mountains can be found in every single one. The northern folded zone is home of the Pontic Mountains and the southern folded zone is where the majestic Taurus mountain system is located. In between the two, the Anatolian plateau has swathes of elevated plains, but also a good deal of variation including several vast volcanic peaks. Even the Arabian platform, known for its relatively rolling relief, has its major mountains.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat, Agri Dagi, the highest mountain in Turkey (Credit: Naeblys via Getty Images)

Mount Ararat or “Ağrı Dağı”, is a volcanic massif located in the Eastern Anatolian province of Ağrı, overlooking the tripoint of Turkey, Iran, and Armenia. The massif is about 25 miles in diameter and consists of two peaks, their summits about seven miles apart. Great Ararat, or Büyük Ağrı Dağı reaches an elevation of 16,945 feet above sea level, and is top of the list of the highest mountains in Turkey. The Little Ararat, or Küçük Ağrı Dağı, rises in a smooth, steep, nearly perfect cone to 12,782 feet.

Both Great and Little Ararat are dormant stratovolcanoes, with neither retaining any evidence of a crater. Most of the Great Ararat is treeless, but Little Ararat has a few birch groves. Ararat is traditionally associated with the mountain on which Noah’s Ark came to rest at the end of the Flood.

Cilo Mountain

Cilo Mountain, Turkey (Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Cilo Mountain, meaning glacier mountain, scales to an altitude of 13,566 feet, claiming the second spot among Turkey’s highest mountains. Nestled in the southeastern corner of Turkey within Hakkari province, this mountain is adorned with permanent snow on its summit. Surrounding Cilo Mountain is a rich blend of nature, from cascading waterfalls and intriguing caves to lush forests and citrus orchards. Its proximity to ancient history is evident with prehistoric cave paintings near its peak.

Cilo Mountain, meaning glacier mountain, is the second among the highest mountains in Turkey with an altitude of 13,566 feet. Formed by tectonic activity, its summit is covered with permanent snow, and forms the easternmost extension of the Southeastern Taurus Mountains. It’s located in the southeastern tip of Turkey, within the borders of Hakkari province. The highest peak of Cilo Mountain is Uludoruk, followed by Suppa Durek at 13,320 feet, Köşedireği at 12,139 feet, and Kisara at 11,482 feet.

The area around Cilo Mountain is a trove of natural treasures. Waterfalls and caves from the mountainous terrain co-exist with the surrounding forests and citrus orchards. Meanwhile birds ranging from eagles and falcons to partridges and pigeons can be found in the area, as can deer, boar and a variety of animals. But that’s not all. Near the summit, there are prehistoric cave paintings.

Mount Erciyes

Mount Erciyes, Kayseri province, Turkey (Credit: Ayhan Altun via Getty Images)

Reaching an elevation of some 12,677 feet, Mount Erciyes is a vast stratovolcano in central Anatolia. The current iteration of the mountain began about 900,000 years ago, with its last eruption in approximately 6,880 BC. The eastern part of the summit collapsed at some unknown point in history. Known in Turkish as Erciyes Dagi, this is said to derive from the Greek name Argaios, meaning “bright”. It’s also been connected with the 7th century BC Macedonian king, Argaeus I. The flora of Erciyes is diverse, including a number of endemic plants such as the perennial shrubs Astragalus argaeus, and Astragalus stenosemioides. Erciyes has one permanent glacier, although it’s receding.

Mount Süphan

Aerial view of Mount Süphan, Bitlis Province, Turkey (Credit: mtcurado via Getty Images)

The eastern province of Van is home to another of Turkey’s highest mountains, Mount Suphan or Süphan Dağı. A dormant stratovolcano just north of Lake Van, its peak is a glacial icecap summit at 13,293 feet, widely regarded as the third largest mountain in Türkiye. In the winter the mountain is covered in snow. In the summer the surface of the mountain.

Mount Kaçkar

Zile Castle in the highlands of the Kackar Mountains (Credit: Anadolu Agency / Contributor via Getty Images)

Rising above the Black Sea in the north of the country, the glaciated Kackar Mountains present a very alpine picture, their slopes and surroundings covered in wildlife-rich forests and surrounded by crystalline lakes. Forming part of the Pontic Mountain chain, the Kackars are located at the very edge of the region of Rize. Their makeup is a geological mix of granite, andesite, diorite and other rocks, and they have several peaks, of which the 12,917-foot high Mount Kaçkar is amongst the tallest mountains in Turkey.

Mount Uludağ

Uludag Mountain, Bursa, Turkey (Credit: Alper Saydam via Getty Images)

Its name means “great mountain”. And, indeed, Mount Uludag is one of tallest mountains in Turkey, as well as the highest in the Marmara region, reaching an elevation of about 8,340 feet. Located in the province of Bursa within a national park to which it lends its name, the mountain is famed for its connection to the Byzantine monk Saint Joannicius the Great, who lived there as a hermit.

Mount Demirkazık

Aladaglar and Demirkazik summit on the Taurus Mountains of Turkey (Credit: HAYKIRDI via Getty Images)

It’s in the Aladağlar massif, an extension of the Taurus Mountains, that we find the conical limestone behemoth of Mount Demirkazik. Located in the Kayseri region, it stands at 12,323 feet above sea level, another excellent example of the highest mountains in Turkey. There are a few Turkish mountains with the name Demirkazık, which translates as “iron post.”

The Biggest Mountains of Turkey

The Rainbow Hills of Nallihan in Turkey (Credit: Salvator Barki via Getty Images)

From the ancient tales associated with Mount Ararat to the unique ecosystems of Mount Erciyes, the mountains of Turkey offer a captivating blend of history, culture, and nature. Each peak, be it among the tallest mountains in Turkey or the lesser-known ranges, tells a story of geological marvels and human encounters. For anyone seeking to understand Turkey’s landscape, these peaks provide a comprehensive and breathtaking insight.


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