Written by Owen Lipsett on 07 Dec, 2009
I’m not an advocate of organized tours in general, since they involve traveling at someone else’s pace and limit your ability to vary your itinerary. However, given the difficulties of visiting Southern Cappadocia (where the underground cities and Ihlara Valley are located) without your…Read More
I’m not an advocate of organized tours in general, since they involve traveling at someone else’s pace and limit your ability to vary your itinerary. However, given the difficulties of visiting Southern Cappadocia (where the underground cities and Ihlara Valley are located) without your own transportation and the fact that it’s much cheaper than trying to visit these sights yourself, I do recommend taking this tour if you’re staying in Goreme. It’s a standard tour offered by most agencies in Goreme for approximately 50 TL. Since visiting the sights on your own plus lunch would costs 55 TL, it’s a good deal before you even account for guiding (which is crucial for the underground city) and transportation. The following describes what you’ll see and the approximate order. It’s possible to visit them all on your own, to avoid tours note that they mostly get to Derinkuyu at 11 am, the Ihlara Valley around 12:30, and Guzelyurt at about 3.After a rather more extended stop at a "viewpoint" over Goreme than is really necessary, due to the plethora of trinket shops next to the viewpoint, the tour drives for an hour or so to the underground city of Derinkuyu (which means "deep well"). The underground cities were built (or rather dug) by the inhabitants of the region during Hittite times originally as storage spaces for crops and animals, but also as refuges from invaders, and were expanded by the successive peoples who inhabited the region. They were not permanent settlements, but rather places where inhabitants of the villages above them could escape.
The cities were subsequently abandoned once the Ottoman rulers (the last of the invaders) had established themselves and a modicum of stability and began to be discovered once again (by accident) in the 1940s. Derinkuyu is the largest and best known but far from the only one of these cities, which may number in the hundreds. The city itself is claustrophobic but not unsafe, the ventilation is quite good as a result of numerous airshafts, and the extent of the city is quite impressive – my group visited at least 8 levels. The uppermost levels were used for livestock, thereby giving invaders the impression that there was nothing beneath them. Perhaps not surprisingly, the inhabitants of the city also had a wine-press on this level!
After an hour’s visit and a half hour’s drive later later, the tour reaches the Ihlara Valley, home to an even greater number of well-preserved rock-cut churches than the Goreme Open Air Museum, although since the tour only spends a little more than an hour here, you only have the chance to visit two or three of them. (If visiting the Valley on your own, it’s possible to walk its whole length in an enjoyable 5-6 hours although you’ll need to stay in the vicinity the night before and the night after to do this.) Part of the church of the Valley is its lushness, in contrast to the rockier valleys of Northern Cappadocia, it’s bisected by the pleasantly flowing Melendiz River which waters quite a number of trees on both sides (although I only saw one bridge between them) and generally cool it. The Valley is also much deeper than its counterparts in Northern Cappadocia. After an hour’s walk, you reach a complex of restaurants, some of which allow you to eat in platforms located on stilts above the Melendiz River and all of which have tables for sitting by the river. I found the fresh local trout delicious and the overall quality of food much higher than at similar touristic restaurants elsewhere in Turkey.
The tour’s third stop of interest is at some ruins above the town of Guzelyurt which your guide may claim were as a location for filming the original Star Wars movies. My guide was fortunately honest enough to explain that this story is apocryphal, as they were in fact shot in Tunisia, although it’s certainly apparent how gullible visitors could be persuaded otherwise. In any case, the scenery is interesting and the dwellings carved out of the rocks (including several churches) make for a pleasant assemblage and provide nice views over the road and town below. Depending on your luck, the tour either continues to Uchisar to visit the fortress, or (as was my luck) to an onyx factory for a five minute demonstration of how knick-knacks are made followed by a stop in the adjoining jewelry shop where the only customers appear to be tour groups. Needless to say these stops aren’t officially listed in the itinerary, but an honest tour agency may tell you whether they’re not included! (Although since the agency earns a commission on such visits, they serve to lower the overall cost of the tour.)
This entry is intended to provide information on hiking the valleys around Goreme which I wish I’d had on my visit. When you arrive in Goreme, there’s a useful detailed map available for 5 TL at the makeshift tourist office by the bus station.…Read More
This entry is intended to provide information on hiking the valleys around Goreme which I wish I’d had on my visit. When you arrive in Goreme, there’s a useful detailed map available for 5 TL at the makeshift tourist office by the bus station. Personally, I found the free map handed out by The Shoestring Cave Pension more useful since it provided very accurate information about where to find trailheads, in some cases the most difficult part of these hikes. Be sure to bring at least 1.5 liters of water on each of these hikes (a bottle this size is available all over Goreme for 1 TL. I have arranged the hikes below in order of difficulty, although you can always climb up the side of the valley in question if you’d like a greater challenge! If your time is limited, the most interesting valleys scenically are the Rose and Red Valleys and Love Valley.Pigeon Valley: As well as being the easiest hike near Goreme, it’s also the closet and the shortest, taking only about an hour and fifteen minutes from Goreme to Uchisar (uphill) and forty five minutes from Uchisar back to Goreme (downhill). The valley takes its name from the fact that it historically contained a great number of pigeon houses in its cliffs and fairy chimneys. The Cappadocians build these houses to collect the pigeons’ dropping as fertilizer, although the soil of the valleys themselves are quite fertile, as is evident from the squash, grapes, and other crops raised in them. You’ll see plenty of these activities on this walk, which for its first two thirds just traverses the bottom of the valley. The only real challenge comes in identifying a large smooth almost head-high piece of boulder-shaped volcanic tufa after which you have to climb to up to your right and then follow the trail to its end, which is slightly more difficult as it goes uphill. It terminates in Uchisar, a hillside village capped by a giant rock fortress that’s worth climbing up to as it offers views over all of the valleys discussed in this entry. Since the Love Valley (see below) also terminates in Uchisar you can walk the Pigeon Valley one way and the Love Valley in the other.
Zemi Valley: This Valley is perhaps the longest of those in this entry, but the easiest to follow since the path literally runs along the bottom of the Valley. Unfortunately, it’s also the only one than can only be entered at one end – it’s theoretically possible but extremely dangerous to hike out of the far end of the Valley, so I’m describing this hike as a four hour round trip. To get there, follow the road out of town toward the Goreme Open Air Museum and turn right at the sign, just past a kiosk that sells water and beer. This is the greenest and shadiest of the Valleys near Goreme (the others are quite dry) and therefore the best to walk on a hot day. There are small plots of cultivated land all along the path, while grapes grow wild in several locations. If you wash these grapes, they’re safe to eat, but be sure to do so surreptitiously so the local farmers don’t think you’re stealing from them. There are some cliff dwellings you can visit via a ladder, but the most interesting sight in this Valley are likely the trees whose branches grow at an acute angle to their trunks, making them look like giant feathers.
Rose Valleys: There are quite a number of entrances and exits to these valleys, which run into one another, to hike their full length, follow the road past the Goreme Open Air Museum from Goreme, which turns up sharply around a hill and has what looks like an entry to the Valley (on the far side of the road, to your left). It’s possible, though challenging to enter here, but it’s better to keep going, past a campground, to several defaced signs, which in fact are signs to enter the Valley, crossed out by greedy tour agencies to convince you to take their unnecessary "guided" tours. This Valley offers you the opportunity to see a variety of churches and Cappadocia’s most attractive and varied rock formations. This hike ends in the little village of Cavusin (which is much quieter and less touristic than Goreme but has fewer places to eat and stay), should take around two hours. It’s possible (though there’s no clear path) to walk to the Devrent Valley from Cavusin. Alternatively, once there you can hike up the hill behind town to the Church of St. John the Baptist and various ruined cave dwellings, which offer pleasant views around the area.
Love Valley: Perhaps the hardest of these Valleys to walk and certainly the hardest to find the entrance to (it’s best to ask in Goreme), which is located just past a fork in the road between Goreme and Cavusin, this valley takes approximately 3 hours to walk if going from Goreme to Uchisar (plus an hour or so to walk to the trailhead) and less if you’re going in the reverse direction. It’s also possible to combine with the Pigeon Valley in a loop, as described above. The Valley takes its name from the many phallic fairy chimneys at its center, but otherwise is perhaps the least visually remarkable of the valleys described here. The fairy chimneys take their name from the belief of locals that fairies must once have lived in them. If you’re in a rush, the chimneys are relatively close to the beginning of the trail so it’s possible to just walk up to them and back to the trailhead in an hour or so.
What and Where is Cappadocia?Cappadocia is a nebulously defined region in Central Anatolia where volcanic activity has resulted in both exceptionally rich soil and bizarre undulating landscapes and "fairy chimneys" that wind and water have sculpted out of the soft volcanic tuff. As with…Read More
What and Where is Cappadocia?Cappadocia is a nebulously defined region in Central Anatolia where volcanic activity has resulted in both exceptionally rich soil and bizarre undulating landscapes and "fairy chimneys" that wind and water have sculpted out of the soft volcanic tuff. As with many any other areas of Turkey, it has been home to a variety of civilizations, starting with the Hittites who gave it its name, which means "land of the well-bred horses" (a unique breed which you can still ride).
Besides its topography, it’s famous for two unique types of dwellings left by Greek Christians who inhabited the area until the population exchange of 1923: underground cities (although these were first built by Hittites) and rock-carved homes and churches in the fairy chimneys. Both were intended as escapes from marauding Central Asian tribes (some of whom included the ancestors of modern Turks) although ironically today it’s the exposed valleys that provide a respite from daily assault by highly organized (and in my experience, exceptionally rude) tribes of package tourists on what were once hidden refuges! Hiking through Cappadocia’s valleys and visiting its underground cities and rock-carved churches are the reason most people visit, although you should set aside quite a bit of time for just sitting around and appreciating the landscape, the key is not to rush the experience.
Getting to and Around Cappadocia: You can reach Cappadocia easily by bus from the rest of Turkey, it’s approximately 4 hours to/from Ankara, 10-12 hours overnight to Fethiye, Antalya, and Istanbul with a variety of companies. While most off-season services just go to Nevsehir, the regional capital, if at all possible get a bus that takes you directly to Goreme, as many services do during the summer. Whatever you do, don’t listen to the people who board the bus at the Nevsehir bus station and claim to offer a minibus service to Goreme – they are touts for some of the less reputable pensions in town and the price of the "free minibus" will be an expensive tour or hostel stay!
In Cappadocia, it makes most sense to base yourself in the town of Goreme, which is within an hour’s walk of all the sights described in this journal except for those in the "Green Tour" entry. As a direct result of this convenient location, it has most of the area’s accommodation (and tourist agencies), particularly at the budget end, although there are better high-end restaurants at Uchisar. As stated above, a number of buses from outside the region go directly to Goreme, and there are relatively regular dolmuses (inter-town minibuses) to various surrounding towns, which can drop you off at the trailheads of various walking trails.
General Tips:In addition to its central location, part of Goreme’s charm is that it contains a fair number of inhabited "fairy chimneys," the uniquely pointed (and somewhat phallic) soft-rock structures from which Cappadocians have carved their home from since time immemorial. You can even sleep in one of these (they’re advertised as cave rooms), although my experience (and that of many other people I spoke to) is that the novelty wears off after the shorter of fifteen inevitably damp minutes or your first flea bite, whichever is shorter. Traditional "arch rooms" are much more comfortable.
Pottery kebabs – literally meat cooked inside a sealed clay pot that is then served to you, are a delicious regional specialty that are worth trying, provided you eat meat of course. They should be ordered at least 3 hours in advance so that they can cook properly and this is only possible at Dibek, the best traditional Turkish restaurant in town.
Despite the presence of a "sunset" platform in Goreme, the sunsets are something of a disappointment as its located in a valley. Sunrises are much more interesting and have the added advantage of letting you watch the 40 or so hot air balloons that go up over Cappadocia each morning.
Tours are often cheaper (and never more expensive) when booked through agencies in town rather than your accommodation, itineraries are standard, so ask around for prices, which should be around 50 TL for a basic full-day "Red" or "Green" Tour, although only the "Green Tour" is worth doing as you can easily visit the sights on the "Red Tour" just as easily and more cheaply on your (and at your own pace). The same goes for hot air balloon rides, although these are much more expensive (in excess of 100 euro in many cases), since this affords you the opportunity to avoid paying a commission in the price and haggling the price down.
Written by HobWahid on 08 Aug, 2005
Leaving Ankara and passing by the muddy shores of Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake), the first sight of major interest that you will stumble upon the venerable Cappadoccia (Kapadokya), the mythical "land of the horses." High up on the Anatolian Plateau, the barren hills of Cappadoccia…Read More
Leaving Ankara and passing by the muddy shores of Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake), the first sight of major interest that you will stumble upon the venerable Cappadoccia (Kapadokya), the mythical "land of the horses." High up on the Anatolian Plateau, the barren hills of Cappadoccia seem like something more out of a fantasy novel than a prime tourist destination, but it is one of Turkey’s more spectacular and visited sights. It is a land full of mysterious rock formations and underground cities used by medieval Byzantines as safe havens during times of attack. A land full of UNESCO Heritage sights, in Cappadoccia, you will undoubtedly delight as you wend your way through underground castles, admire the radiant frescoes of cave churches, and climb the rock citadel of Üçhisar. Sure, the crowds of tour buses can frustrate as a hoard of Japanese, German, or British package-tourists barge their way into a church you were admiring in solitude, but the sights themselves are worth it, and if you plan it right, you can avoid the crowds as much as possible.The main attractions of Cappadoccia are, without a doubt, the underground cities. There are numerous cities spread throughout the whole area of Cappadoccia, but the two post important and most impressive are Derinkuyu and Kiymali. These two sites are layers upon layers of winding underground tunnel (most of which you may have to kneel through) connecting, large rooms; churches; and storage areas. Each of these cities were, at their height, designed to hold thousands of people underground in safety while invading armies pillaged above. Their construction is an absolute wonder. Each city consists of ventilation shafts that run down the centers of the cities, providing all with fresh air, as well as latrines and underground wells, meaning that people could stay down here for years if they had to. The entranceways are mazes of narrow, short tunnels designed to confuse and clog invading armies, and each entrance could be blocked off in an instant with a gigantic stone door.Unfortunately, because these are the most impressive cities, they are the most crowded, and there is plenty of chance that you may get stuck in a small underground room with 50 Italian tourists, a claustrophobe’s nightmare. I find it best to show up either at opening, around 8:30 am, while the tour groups are still eating breakfast, or just before close, around 4:30pm, when the tour buses are at the local carpet factories paying too much for sub-par carpets. The good news is that if you are on your own with your own transport and just want to get a taste of the underground cities, there are plenty of other smaller versions that will feature hardly a tourist in sight. They won’t be as impressive, but you can still get an idea.Beyond the underground cities, Cappadoccia features a host of other sights that are just as worth a visit. One of these is the Göreme Open Air Museum, a large set of cave churches carved into sandstone faces just outside of the town of Göreme. Again, this is a major stop on the tour bus circuit, but it is a worthwhile stop nonetheless because it features some absolutely fantastic rock churches with immaculately conserved frescos. The trick, though, lies in timing your visit just right so that you don’t get stuck with a bunch Japanese tourists inside a church.Off the major tourist route in Cappadoccia lies the Ilhara Valley, a large green valley and home to some of the most spectacular churches in the region. Many tour buses will stop just to have a look at one or two, but because the valley is long and reaching many of the churches involves a lot of hiking, they miss most of them. If it’s not too hot and you are up to it, you can trek the whole valley in about 3 hours. Then, on your way back to town, you can hit up the Selçuk Caravansaray to get an idea of what it was like when trade caravans would regularly plow through the region and stop here for the night.The last major sight of Cappadoccia is Üçhisar, a large tower of sandstone that was converted into a fortress by the inhabitants of the region. They literally carved their way into the rock, making stairs and rooms, and turned it into a large fortress with commanding views of the whole region. The views from the top are undoubtedly one of the highlights. Unfortunately, it’s also popular with the tourists, and therefore the entrance is flooded with numerous touts.Capadoccia, despite the hordes of tourists, is one of the highlights of any trip to Turkey. It is a region and site unique to Turkey, and something that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Two days should be enough to give you a good feel for the area, although with an abundance of great accommodation, you may want to stay longer. Close
Written by Quan on 30 Dec, 2000
Urgup is well-known for being tourist friendly, as it is equipped with the best facilities, nightlife, and shopping. While I can''t speak to nightlife and shopping, being as it was that I was taken violently sick for one and a half day that we…Read More
Urgup is well-known for being tourist friendly, as it is equipped with the best facilities, nightlife, and shopping. While I can''t speak to nightlife and shopping, being as it was that I was taken violently sick for one and a half day that we were in Urgup, thus delaying our visit to Goreme and surrounding areas, I can vouch for the absolute pristine quality of Capadoccian facilities. Nowhere have I found more hospitable innkeepers, and nowhere have I found rooms for US$10 that matched the cleanliness of these offerings.
We booked our accommodation in Urgup through a travel agent we met in Istanbul. This person took to my friend, who was American but Egyptian-Swedish by birth--yes, a strange combination that appeared to appeal strongly to the Turks that we met, as they always seem to want to welcome him home. We were sent to Capadocce hotel, which turned out to have occupied what was an old Greek monastery with a pleasant garden courtyard. It was run by a couple, and the husband told us that his wife personnally ensure the quality of the rooms. And indeed we found rooms that, if spartanly furnished, was extremely well-kept up. Indeed, I found no trace of dust in the bathroom, and the shower and toilet were absolutely gleaming. I would know, because I spent the better part of the three days and nights in the bathroom, before large doses of medicine brought me back into this world. Though my memory of Urgup is dim, I will always maintain good memories of the hotel that made my stay there less miserable than I expected. But do spend sometimes walking in Urgup, especially during the morning when the tourists are still sleeping and the town reverts to its viticultural and rural character. Though I recommend the town, I do not recommend my experience.
Written by a. sterling on 11 Nov, 2008
We toured the rock churches of the Goreme Valley, including the open air museum and its 8th century murals. The next stop was a underground city Kaymakli which was constructed over a period of centuries and provided a safe haven for Turks during…Read More
We toured the rock churches of the Goreme Valley, including the open air museum and its 8th century murals. The next stop was a underground city Kaymakli which was constructed over a period of centuries and provided a safe haven for Turks during times of war. The maze of tunnels reaches 4 stories deep, and as many as 3000 people lived their at one time. Later on in the day we went to the Zelve Valley which is laced with cave dwellings, churches, and public spaces where people live up until 50 years ago. We spent a lot of time looking at the fairy chimneys at Pasabag and makeing up what they looked like to us. There is lots to see in this area, hope you all will find time,and money to go. We stayed at the Uchisar Kaya Hotel, all rooms have a view of the pidgeon valley. On most days you can see the balloon riders as they come right over the hotel. Rides are very expensive but worth it if its on your list of things to do befor you die. Close