Rize makes an excellent jumping-off point to visit the spectacular Kaçkar Mountains. Part of northern Turkey’s Pontic range, the area has been a national park since 1994 and features some of the most unspoiled and rugged terrain anywhere in the country. Nature-lovers will be in paradise; endless trekking opportunities are available, taking you past waterfalls and lush mountains pastures known as yaylalar. You can even summit Mount Kaçkar, the fourth-highest peak in Turkey.
One of the most important and heavily-trafficked (relatively speaking, of course!) access points to the Kaçkar region is the little town of Çamlıhemşin. Famous for its lush forests and rolling hills, Çamlıhemşin is worth a visit year round, although you may want to make a special effort to visit if you happen to be in the area in the autumn; the foliage is impressive.
The countryside around Rize and the Kaçkars is ripe for exploring and riddled with tiny villages living a lifestyle which seems centuries removed. The little mountain town of Ayder is one of these hidden gems. To see its natural thermal springs for yourself, just hop a dolmuş from the town of Pazar, which is in turn accessible by minibus from Rize. Nature lovers will be in ecstasy at this summer paradise, surrounded by waterfalls, lakes and mountain pastures; culture enthusiasts should keep an eye out for the bagpipes which are commonly played in the region.