So when I was planning the trip to Turkey, few places were on my Must-do list. Cappadocia was one of them. Settled on a high, dry plateau in the middle of Turkey, Cappadocia is one of those places which you can just see on TV or pictures. We arrived to the town of Goreme after a 12 hour bus journey from Istanbul. Remember to plan your entry and exit to your next destination because the buses to certain towns are not regular.
Cappadocia doesn’t need more than 2 days to explore until and unless you want to relax in this beautiful landscaped place full of fairy chimneys and unsual rock formations. The hostels/hotels here let you stay in one of the caves converted into rooms. We stayed at Shoestring Cave Hostel whose costs ranged anything from INR 800-INR1200 per person with breakfast and a swimming pool amongst the fairy chimneys.
Day 1- Pigeon Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City, Illhara Valley Hike, Selime Monastery
After checking in we headed out to explore. Goreme is not that big a town and can be done on foot if you like walking. All the hotels arrange tours for you starting 60-100 Turklish lira per person ( 1TL= 28-30 INR) which includes transportation, guide, lunch and refreshments and entry fees). I am not a fixed tour person but we still took this tour to experience it once and we weren’t disappointed.
Started the tour with a panoramic view of the Pigeon Valley. This place gives you a good view of the whole valley. Though not much to do except photo ops, this won’t take much of your time.
After a good drive we reach Selime Monastery. Placed over an old Greek village and in between some cone-shaped rocks, you can’t figure from down what expects you upstairs. The monastery dates from the 8th-10th centuries and included a missionary school, a living area, a one church, Kitchen area and a wine brewery placed craftily among the mountains.
A 30 minute drive from there will take you to Ilhara Valley which is near a lush, green river canyon and is a 14 km hike along a river stream. There are a couple of ancient 4th-10th century churches with some beautiful fresco on the walls which are still preserved nicely. The whole valley is a surrounded by towering cliffs with caves full of secrets.
Another 35-40 minutes drive from there brings you to Derinkuyu underground city. The ancient city is well-preserved is upto 8 levels underground though one can’t access all levels. Also people with breathing issue might have a bit of problem as air pressure might be a problem. The underground tunnels are climate controlled and only 25% of the troglodytic city is open to the public and excavations are ongoing. What we saw went 8 stories underground and included a winery, a baptismal, meeting rooms, a church, a well, a grave, and a kitchen. Historians guess that up to 2000 people could have lived in the city at one time. They are still trying to find out toilets underground as there are signs of ruins of one. The whole structure dates back thousands of years.
Once dropped back to your hostel in the evening you can walk around the town and explore the town though not much of night life is there.
Day 2- Goreme Open Museum and Hike around the famous Rock formations
Day 2 was dedicated to walking trail around the Goreme town. The extreme topography of Gerome and Cappadocia was formed many millennia ago when Mt. Erciyes Dagi erupted. All the complexes remain in incredible condition and many of the old homes and caves have been converted to hotels to facilitate the recent influx in tourism. Gerome is the most interesting village in the city because of the number of fairy chimneys and it is rimmed by some of the finest valleys, mountains, and hiking trails.
Goreme Open Air Museum features the best preserved of the 11th to 13th century cave churches. Many of the churches still feature stunning frescoes and well preserved wall carvings inside. Though either visit this museum early in the day or late in the evening or it gets crowded with tour crowd. The whole place with take maximum 1-1.5 hours to explore.
There are a couple of hiking trails around but the most famous is Red & Rose Valley trail. The valley gets its name from the colour of the rock formations. Once can spend almost an entire day exploring the area. The whole valley is marked by temporary trail markers made by the hikers themselves but one has a freedom to explore his/her own path. While its easy to get lost in this valley, it still is worth it. Don’t forget to carry enough water, food/energy bars and sunscreen as it gets hot and not many supply stores around.
We started our hike from the Open Air museum and walked by the Sword Valley. Though we took off to visit the Red & Rose Valley but we walked all the way across the 14 km long Sword Valley to finally get the view of Rose/Red Valley. The Red and Rose Valley hike traditionally starts near the Open Air Museum and ends at the nearby city of Cavusin. The view across the valley is simply breathtaking.
The best view of the valley can also be witnessed by the Balloon ride. Cappadocian Valley is one of the best places for a Balloon ride which happens early at dawn. The Balloon ride costs anything between 90 Euros to Euros depending upon how experienced the pilot is and the number of people on the flight basket. The balloon ride provides you with the best views of the whole valley and is worth every penny of it.
If you have more time and you love hiking, this area is one of the best trails and an experience worth remembering. Everywhere you look you will find various colour rock formations and structures which you can only see here. I can only imagine this place in winters when it actually snows here. This place would be no less than paradise.
Logistics: Hiking is one of the best FREE things to do in Cappadocia. The only place with an entrance fee is the Goreme Open Air Museum (15TL per person). Be ready to walk A lot and don’t forget to carry a map with you all the time.