East Turkey Road Trip Part 4 – The Tuzluca Episode

And we left the story where we were sat in a police station in Iğdır, on a national holiday, smiling politely at the policeman on duty in the hope that he would authorise our hire car to be released from car prison. There are four of us, sitting there. Our two Turkish friends are doing the talking – ‘we’re teachers in the area, we’re on a road trip for Gençlik Bayramı and look, we’ve got foreign guests, too, and we need to get back to Patnos tonight in the hire car, and we’ve just been to Ishak Paşa Sarayı…’ That sort of conversation. And everything’s amiable – even if the police guy does look a tad bored with life; well it is a holiday, and he is at work.

And then the other police guy in the room beams. He’s heard our friends say to the other policeman that we’d hoped to get to Ani, near Kars, today sometime. “Oh, don’t miss out on the salt mines at Tuzluca,” he says. We’ve never heard of them so he explains it’s on the way to Kars. We nod and smile, all the time our heads pleading that the other guy will authorise the release of our car, otherwise, we’re going nowhere…

Tuzluca Salt Mines, East Turkey

Cave entrances on the approach to Tuzluca Salt Mines

The car’s released, fines paid, profuse thank yous…and that’s how we end up pulling off the main road from Iğdır to Kars into the little town of Tuzluca. One random comment from a policeman and here we are. First impressions…well we’re intrigued from what we can see in the distance. The Tuzluca salt mines certainly look worth seeing. (‘Tuz’ means ‘Salt’ in Turkish so the whole town must exist because of these mines – apparently they’ve existed since Mediaeval times.)

We drive up the mine road and wonder if there must be a visitor centre of some description. Not sure why we think that as everything seems so ad hoc in these parts – and then we arrive at the entrance to the salt mine – and it is just an entrance to a salt mine. No payment desk, no guide…have we just arrived at a place of work and it just happens nobody has thought to stop us?

Tuzluca Salt Mines, East Turkey

Entrance to Tuzluca Salt Mines

Have we just arrived at a place of work and it just happens nobody has thought to stop us? Well, here’s the entrance to the mine. We stop the cars, park them and get out and look at the entrance into the rock face; solid salt stalactites hanging from the rock faces at the entrance to many smaller openings. It’s definitely impressive – nature at work – and obviously, it’s being made use of. This is a huge mine, judging by the approach road we’ve just driven up.

So at this point, sensible readers, your mind might be saying to you, “Well obviously, everyone should leave. This is not a tourist sight. It’s a place of work. No place for five young Turkish teachers and a pair of Brits.” Well, that’s what I’m thinking, anyway, while we’re standing there…except we’re with five young Turkish teachers (their profession is irrelevant – the fact is, we’re following them). Let’s just say the males amongst us (3 of them) look more gleeful at the sight of the cave/mine entrance than the females (4 of us) do. “Are there rats,” one of the females asks. Who knows…

Tuzluca Salt Mines, East Turkey

A lorry leaves the Tuzluca mines

As we get deeper inside, curving around the huge, arched, carved entrance, a dumper truck passes us, heading towards daylight. Packed with salt, we assume. “Errrm, we’re really not supposed to be here,” says one of the female camp. “And there might be rats!”

At this point, I’m thinking there’s no way we should be here. If this was just me and Barry, I’d have turned the car around way before the mine entrance; me being Mrs Sensible and everything…but here we are, and it’s quite funny. Some of us, including me, are thinking how fascinating, weird, hilarious it is that we’re all stood in a salt mine with cameras and iPads. Some are worried about potential rats – that’s the least of my worries…and then one of our party gets even more curious, wants to know where that lorry has just come from, goes back outside and returns with his car!

Tuzluca Salt Mines, East Turkey

Sometimes, further exploration is needed

It’s not often we have people pics in this blog but here are our road trip buddies, in a salt mine in the east of Turkey…with a car! Should we have been here? Errrm, we’ll guess not – but what are you gonna do? The car takes off and the sound of the engine disappears deep into the mine. We stay around this area – far enough away from the entrance for it to be dark, but close enough to make a run for it if needs be…well, you never know if a super rat is going to jump out!

We take photos of salt deposits on the walls of the cave, shout to each other, laugh…hope our other driver is okay after wandering off into that deep cave of darkness in his car to who knows where. Well, he returns after 15 minutes or so – any thoughts of traveller horror stories are put to bed. Resume normal positions.

Tuzluca Salt Mines, East Turkey

Salty stalactites at Tuzluca salt mines

We go back outside, into the real world. And really, Barry and I genuinely cannot tell you if we were supposed to be here or not – but it was a part of our adventure on the roads of Eastern Turkey, nobody stopped any of us as we all wandered into the mine (the lorry driver didn’t even give us a second glance) and well…look at it…of course it was worth seeing. The Tuzluca salt mines, even if it’s just the exterior rock faces, are amazing.

  • The Tuzluca Salt Mines are on the road between Iğdır and Kars and can be seen here on our East Turkey Road Trip map at point E
  • One online video has given us a clue that tour buses do enter the mines so they are worth a detour
  • This post is the penultimate post in our East Turkey road trip series. In our next post, we head towards Kars and the Armenian ruins at Ani. Another ambition realised for us…

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Comments

  1. What a crazy and fun detour!! I get so much braver with a friend or two to gallivant on wild adventures like this. 🙂

  2. . . come ON Julia – Burası Türkiye!

  3. Well, as I’ve always said, there aren’t rules in Turkey so much as suggestions, so the “were you supposed to be there” question strikes me as irrelevant. You’ve also given me a great idea for a tour- The Rats of Baltimore!

  4. I hope one day I will be in Tuzluca because my ancestors are from that place.

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