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The Laz People of the Black Sea in Turkey

In the hills of Turkey, along the Black Sea coast, there are a friendly and welcoming people with their own language that you may have never heard of, the Laz people.

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The following are our top recommendations for Turkey:

We’ve found the best accommodations in Turkey can be found on the Booking.com website.

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*Best of Istanbul Day Tour ($64)
*Hot Air Balloon Flight over the Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia ($115)

The Most Important Items to Pack for Turkey:
*Worldwide Travel Adapter and portable battery charger
*Scarf for wearing in mosques
*Fodor’s Essential Turkey Travel Guidebook

laz people

Descendants of the Colchis, who you may know from Jason and the Argonauts, the Laz people now live primarily in southern Georgia and northern Turkey. They wear their scarves different than other places, so it is easy to see who they are from a distance.

When you get closer, you may also notice that they speak their own language as well. Unfortunately, like many old languages that are not allowed to be spoken in schools and is not the language of the country, it is getting more and more lost. Some of the younger people do not even speak it anymore. UNESCO has recognized Laz as a language in jeopardy.

Laz People Turkey

In Turkey, the Laz are mostly located in a few cities such as Rize, Hemşin, Çanlihemşin, Çayeli, and smaller villages located in the Kaçkar mountains such as Ayder. They are noted for their striking blue eyes, their colorful textiles, baskets, the Horon dance and music. Not unlike the Scots they play a Turkish bagpipe called the Tulum.

laz people

We visited Ayder, a small town in this region on a Sunday afternoon in the summer, and what a great time we had. Laz people from all around go there to just catch up with friends and relatives, have a picnic on the mountainside, and dance the Horon. We joined in and danced, and danced, and danced.

The best time to visit any of this region is in the summer, and you can often spot the Laz coming down from the hills on market days to shop and sell their handmade wares.  Rize has a great market on Thursdays, and one of the sports that is showcased in the Kaçkar Mountains is bullfighting.  There is a bullfighting festival in Artvin the first few days of July each year that you can attend.

This entire region, the Black Sea and Kaçkar Mountains, are not overly visited by foreign tourists, and it is one of my favorite parts of Turkey.  If you have the chance to go, please take it.

Have you been to the northeastern part of the Black Sea in Turkey?  What did you see and do?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Anda

Wednesday 5th of October 2016

Never heard of this people before, Corinne. I need to go back to Turkey and explore it beyond Istanbul. Very interesting article, thanks for sharing it.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 5th of October 2016

Thanks Anda, Yes, the Black Sea area of Turkey is well worth visiting.

momo

Wednesday 11th of December 2013

Nice article but one false and "intensionnally?" wrong info here. Laz language is not prohibited in Turkey. The Laz people are the most free, and appreciated ethnic group here. Laz people are trying to save their language now with one dictionnary created. It may be true that before, Laz people have been "Turkishized" but they still speak laz, so it is their responsibility to take care of their roots.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 11th of December 2013

Momo, Are the Laz people allowed to speak their language in school or must they speak Turkish? Thanks.

Nat

Tuesday 13th of August 2013

I went to Ayder and desperately wanted to see the Horon dance but no one was doing it :(

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 13th of August 2013

That's a bummer. It was so great to see everyone dancing and picnicking on the mountainside. I hope you get up there again and have better luck next time!