Karaisalı and Pozantı are a pair of nearby towns in the mountainous north of the Cilician Plains.

Mountains upon mountains — the general landscape here

Here the interconnected Cilician Gates (the modern Gülek Pass) and Çakıt Valley have allowed passage through the sheer Taurus Mountains en route between the Anatolian plateau and Cilicia (and by extension between Europe and the Middle East) since antiquity. This distinctive geography endowed the area with numerous natural and historical attractions.



Karaisalı has a population of about 7,000. Pozantı is slightly larger at about 10,000. Both are districts of Adana Province.

Gülek, with a population of about 2,000, is officially a part of the Tarsus district. However, it is a mountain town sharing little in common with Tarsus of the coastal plains, and you have to go through it when travelling between Karaisalı and Pozantı by car, so it is also covered in this article.

Get in


This area can be visited as a long day trip from any of Adana, Tarsus and Mersin, or as a side trip on the way to or from Konya, Cappadocia and Ankara to the north of them.

Pozantı and Gülek are on state highway D750 snaking its way through the Taurus Mountains. Pozantı has two exits from paralleling toll motorway O-21/E90, and the exits at Akçatekir and Çamalan can be used for Gülek and nearby sites. Karaisalı is off the major highways; 33-02 connects it via Bucak to D750 (Çamalan is the nearest access to O-21/E90 in this direction) and 01-75 via Salbaş to D400 and O-51/E90 west of Adana. Both approaches are well-paved rural roads.

A passenger train crosses the Varda

The passenger trains form an interesting (and appropriate) approach to the area, if infrequent. Northwards, the Toros Express[dead link] (inherited its name from the Middle Eastern counterpart of the famed Orient Express) leaves Adana at 07:00 and picks up at Yenice (for Tarsus) at 07:27, and calls at 1 Karaisalıbucağı Karaisali Bucağı railway station on Wikipedia (the station for Karaisalı, although it is 18 km southwest of the town, and it's uncertain whether there is a public transportation service in-between) at 08:04, 2 Hacıkırı Hacıkırı railway station on Wikipedia (unusually named differently from the village it serves, Kıralan) at 08:20, 3 Belemedik Belemedik railway station on Wikipedia at 08:35, and 4 Pozantı Pozantı railway station on Wikipedia at 08:47. The Erciyes Express[dead link] is the evening service, leaving Adana at 16:30 and Yenice at 16:58, and then calling at Karaisalıbucağı at 17:29, Hacıkırı at 17:39, Belemedik at 17:52, and Pozantı at 18:03. Southwards, the timetables are reversed so the morning service, the Erciyes Express leaves Kayseri at 07:30, Niğde at 09:51, and Kemerhisar at 10:14, to continue onto Pozantı at 11:48, Belemedik at 11:59, Hacıkırı at 12:13, and Karaisalıbucağı at 12:23, while the Taurus Express leaves Konya at 15:00 and Karaman at 16:41, to arrive at Pozantı at 20:17, Belemedik at 20:28, Hacıkırı at 20:45, and Karaisalıbucağı at 20:56. The tickets are bookable via the TCDD Taşımacılık website[dead link].

Public bus line 188, run by Adana Metropolitan Municipality, serves the route between Adana and Karaisalı every two hours from morning to evening, but doesn't go anywhere near the main sites of interest.

Get around

Map of Karaisalı-Pozantı

The public transportation is basically nonexistent in the area except for trains inoptimally scheduled for moving around, and even then they won't take you further than a limited number of sites. So a car at your disposal is your best bet. Otherwise, you are looking at a long hiking and camping trip.

Due to the craggy surroundings, the local roads follow circuitous routes.

See and do

Kapıkaya Canyon; the trail is along the cliff face to the left

Approaching from the south, you will have already gained a bit of elevation by the time you reach to town of 1 Karaisalı, which rests on a plateau at the foothills of the Taurus. The town has little to detain you, but has shops if you need to stock up on snacks and drinks, and a petrol station in case your car needs a resupply.

The southern access point to 2 Kapıkaya Canyon Kapıkaya Canyon on Wikipedia (Kapıkaya Kanyonu, "gate rock") is 6 km southwest of the town, past the hamlet of Kapıkaya. Here the seasonally whitewater Çakıt River slowly eroded a canyon through a rocky ridge. There is also a high span of a humpback stone bridge of uncertain age over the point the river emerges into the open plateau. This passage through the mountains has been known since antiquity, but was used only as a back up to the relatively easily negotiated Cilician Gates to the west in times of need. In the 1950s, there was a survey exploring the feasibility of a highway through the canyon (understandably the idea was dropped soon after), so they improved the ancient caravan trail by digging a slightly wider course along the cliff faces. This is now a 7-km-long hiking trail, with an initial 500-m section developed with guardrails. At about midway there is a waterfall (Bahçecik), and the trail leads to Yerköprü on the northern side of the ridge, after crossing a rope suspension bridge scarily hanging down too close to the river.

3 Yerköprü is 10 km northwest of Karaisalı, accessed from the other direction unless you are hiking. This is a lush picnic area, which receives its name ("land bridge") from the Çakıt disappearing under a solid piece of rock to reappear about 250 m downstream.

Driving 7 km southwest through Kıralan from Yerköprü, or a meandering route of 16 km via Demirçit and Bolacalı from Kapıkaya will bring you to the 4 Varda Viaduct Varda Viaduct on Wikipedia (Varda Köprüsü), the jewel in the crown of the early 20th century BerlinBaghdad Railway project.

In the late 19th century, the rivalry among major European powers forced the German Empire to search routes to its far flung colonies in Africa and the Pacific bypassing the maritime choke points controlled by the British, which included Dover, Gibraltar, and Suez. At about the same time, the Ottoman Empire was quickly losing grip in its outlying territories and wanted to maintain at least its Muslim-majority southern provinces. So the two empires almost spontaneously found themselves in an alliance over the ambitious idea of a railway project that would link Berlin to the ports on the Persian Gulf through Constantinople. Thus began alliance would last well into World War I.

At first, a rail line across the flatter Anatolian plateau was considered. But the Russian Empire, which had recently enlarged its borders to include parts of Eastern Anatolia, opposed that plan. The other idea was to run the line over the coastal plains along the Mediterranean, but that was found to be too dangerously close to the range of the British navy, which controlled Cyprus by that time — not to mention Britain made its objection to the project clear, viewing it as a "gun pointed at India", its most profitable colony at that time. So there was only one option left: the sheer undertaking of laying the line down through the Taurus Mountains.

The engineers initially hoped to cross the mountains through the well-trodden Cilician Gates, but the incline there was found to be too steep for railway equipment. So they drew the shortest straw ever, and got to work along the Çakıt Valley.

What they accomplished is an astonishing engineering feat, especially considering it was carried out primarily manually with the late 19th–early 20th century technology, with imported materials and workforce in a very rugged area hard to access, and under war conditions during its final phases. However, the project failed to meet its original objective, as the final gaps on the line could only be plugged in literally during the final days of the war, and as the losing side of it, Germany was stripped of its colonies and Ottoman Turkey of its southern territories soon afterwards.

The "German Road" between Hacıkırı and Belemedik

The Taurus crossing required the construction of 37 tunnels, 12 of them in the 17-km section between Hacıkırı and Belemedik alone. The majority of this section is within tunnels, and much of the remaining, open track needed bridging: the most impressive piece is the Varda Viaduct, which took seven years to complete between 1905 and 1912. Not only its stone masonry arches rise up to 99 m above the ravine of the Gavur Dere, a tributary of the Çakıt, but the viaduct also gently curves in its 172 m span due to the course of the railway it carries across. The locals know it as Alman Köprüsü ("the German Bridge") or affectionately as Koca Köprü ("the big / old fellow bridge"). "Varda" isn't the name of any geographical feature nearby, nor does it have a meaning as a word in Turkish. The local story ascribes it to the vardı ha! ("it's almost there!") or var daha! ("there's a ways to go!") exclamations of the workers roping building material down to their colleagues at the bottom of the ravine, or a German engineer's wife named Verda. The pedestrians are nominally forbidden to enter the viaduct by signposts, but many visitors are happily ignoring them and the Turkish Railways installed guardrails just in case. The viaduct became particularly famous after it was featured in the opening scene of the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

Just west of the northern head of the Varda is a pair of tight tunnels dug into solid rock. A narrow gauge railway used for bringing material across during the viaduct construction ran through them. This line has since been decommissioned and its path became a single-lane road. About 400 m up this road are the remaining piers of a bridge belonging to the old narrow gauge line.

Thanks to the tunnels and bridges in-between, travelling by train to the next station northwards, Belemedik, is a breeze taking about 15 minutes, but by car it means embarking on a roundabout journey of about 80 km via Bucak, Yanıkkışla, and Gülek.

Past Bucak, the road comes near 5 another railway viaduct with several stone arches but this is kind of anticlimactic after the Varda.

Autumn view in the gorge of the Çakıt

Past the nondescript, pear cactus-ridden village of Yanıkkışla, the road joins D750. Northwards, the next major village is 6 Çamalan. There is a pair of World War I military cemeteries here, the Turkish one is in the northern outskirts of the village, while the smaller German one is on the southern approach.

Further north, before arriving at Gülek, take the side road signposted to 7 Gülek Castle Gülek Castle on Wikipedia (Gülek Kalesi). The medieval, Cilician Armenian-built castle is 5 km off the highway, but it feels longer as about half of the road is unpaved, so you may want to avoid visiting during and after heavy precipitation. The ruins are scant, and uglified by graffiti to top it all off, so they aren't so much impressive as their lofty position on one of the Taurus peaks — at about 1,600 m asl, expect the weather here to be significantly cooler than the nearby lowlands — with a very wide view of the surrounding mountainous landscape. Go round the site for a photo op over the Rock of Courage (Cesaret Taşı) which clings to a cliff high, high over the Cilician Gates or the Gülek Pass, the primary route across the Taurus range since forever and the one this castle had attempted to control. What you see below now is a widened version, in order to accommodate the motorway built in the 1990s. Before then, there was only enough room for a two-lane road on an embankment next to a stream of similar width.

Back on the highway north, you will arrive in the village of 8 Karboğazı Karboğazı on Wikipedia ("snowy pass"), the scene of the Karboğazı ambush (1920) with an associated monument and military cemetery more extensive than the one at Çamalan. The conflict took place between the Turkish forces, then conducting guerilla warfare not yet united under Mustafa Kemal, the future president of the Turkish Republic, and the French, who were apportioned the Ottoman Mediterranean territories south of Pozantı, including Cilicia and Syria, following World War I. This was the first victory of the Turks over them, and led to a series of events that would culminate in the 1921 Treaty of Ankara, whereby the French ended the occupation of the southern provinces of Turkey and retreated to Syria.

The highway runs right across the centre of 9 Akçatekir Akçatekir on Wikipedia, a mountain village. Not many reasons to linger here, except perhaps the stores and roadside eateries.

10 Pozantı Pozantı on Wikipedia is a town starkly rising on a mountainside. Here, the routes through the Cilician Gates and the Çakıt Valley converge, so for long it has been a highway service town, although that role somewhat diminished after it was bypassed by the motorway.

Remains of a German building, Belemedik

At the southern access on-ramp to the motorway, follow the road signposted to 11 Belemedik Belemedik on Wikipedia. The road will turn round to meet the railway under the motorway viaduct and will eventually bring you to the gorge of the Çakıt. Since the most daunting work would have to be managed hereabouts, the engineers of the Baghdad Railway chose this spot for a construction camp, which grew to a town housed a multinational population claimed to be as much as 20,000 at its peak, which included prisoners of war, mainly Commonwealth and French, during the latter episodes of World War I. The village barely has any full-time residents nowadays, and its name is rumoured to be a German-corrupted form of bilemedik, "we couldn't guess", the apparently all too often response of the workers who started digging a tunnel from each end, but failed to meet at the precise midpoint. The ruins of the German town are extensive, with informational signposts and illustrated site plans posted here and there. The ruins include residential and service buildings (e.g., a hospital) and various industrial plants such as a limekiln. Over time, a German cemetery grew on a hillside above the town, not necessarily because of occupational accident-related deaths as the construction activities took about two decades, much longer than predicted. The tunnels 19–14 consecutively extend just next to or a short distance away from the road north along the river gorge, while the tunnel 20 at the southern end of the village is the favourite of photography enthusiasts as the line runs across a grove of plane trees before plunging into the tunnel portal, particularly photogenic in autumn. Past this point, the road degenerates to dirt and starts climbing up the hill: this 20-km section is locally known as the 12 German Road (Alman Yolu) or Taşdurmaz ("[even] the stone doesn't balance"), which twists and turns southeast to Kıralan (Hacıkırı), just north of the Varda Bridge, in places right next to the railway line (or its tunnel openings and other infrastructure) and elsewhere a fair elevation above it. This was dug along the cliff face high over the Çakıt gorge to survey the possible routes for the upcoming rail line (no aerial, let alone satellite, support back then), and then served to move construction material around — even this manifestly provisional route required tunnels of its own in a couple spots. It's now a hiking trail (but has no water sources along its entire length), littered at intervals with various abandoned industrial fittings such as rusty pieces of an equipment hauling water up from the river. Sturdy and experienced mountain bikers and motorcyclists are known to do the route, but it's covered in loose scree along its entirety, partially very prone to rockslides (to the extent that a path barely wide enough to let pass a single tire right on the cliff edge is commonly all that is left after a recent avalanche), has gullies washed out a fair bit of its width, and there is nothing between you and the whopping drops to the river below. You should be mad to attempt to cover this route end-to-end in anything remotely coming close to the width of a standard car.

Şekerpınarı Bridge

The 13 Şekerpınarı Bridge Şekerpınarı Bridge on Wikipedia (Şekerpınarı Köprüsü), also Akköprü ("white bridge"), is a stone humpback Roman bridge over the Çakıt. It's just to the west of D750, about 5 km north of Pozantı.

Buy, eat, and drink


The main towns and villages in the area and on its approaches, including Salbaş, Karaisalı, and Akçatekir, have well-stocked grocery stores.

Around the main sites of interest, including Kapıkaya Canyon, Yerköprü, and the Varda Viaduct, you will find family-run businesses, often in unpretentious shacks, offering gözleme — pancakes filled with cheese, spinach, potato or meat, the most common meal taken in the Turkish countryside while on the go. Whether you can find them active may depend on the season.

Along its course between Çamalan and Pozantı, D750 features a lot of roadside restaurants, often in the scenic viewpoints.

Belemedik Restaurant is on the farther side of the ruins at Belemedik, and is run by Pozantı Municipality. It features kebabs and other grills, and any order comes with two big bowls of salad, one of tomato and other vegetables and the other onion. Daily 09:00-23:00. 75-90 TL (Oct 2022).


  • Belemedik Boutique Hotel. Run by Pozantı Municipality, it is on a scenic hillside accessed across a bridge on the approach to Belemedik. 300-450 TL pp.
  • Belemedik Bungalov Evler (on the hill above the restaurant at Belemedik). A set of well-maintained mountain bungalows also run by Pozantı Municipality. About 750 TL a night including breakfast.

Stay safe

Two tunnels, one photo

History buffs and railway enthusiasts will find the rail infrastructure all over the place definitely enticing, but don't be deceived by the ancient looks of it: this is a very actively used line, and take any precautions as needed to keep you alive and in one piece.



The main roads and sites are within GSM coverage (Turkcell). Don't expect the signal to be too strong within constrained topography such as the canyon bottoms, though.

Go next

  • Southwards the next large town is Tarsus, where the roads and railways diverge west to Mersin for the Mediterranean coast or east to Adana, the regional capital.
  • To the north, trains and highways bring you to Konya, a major city with many Seljuk monuments and the mausoleum of Sufi poet Rumi, Aksaray en route to the national capital Ankara, and Kayseri, the gateway to Cappadocia.
  • The Göksu Viaduct near Adıyaman far to the east is another impressive railway viaduct locally known as the "German Bridge". It's longer than the Varda, but lower — it spans over a river in a far more docile environment. Built in 1929, it isn't related to the Baghdad Railway and is far to the north of that project's course.
Routes through Karaisalı-Pozantı
AnkaraNiğde  N  S  AdanaGaziantep
AnkaraAksaray (W / E) ←  N  S  TarsusEnds at

This city travel guide to Karaisalı-Pozantı is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.