We spent three days exploring Cappadocia. It has a fascinating landscape formed by volcanic activity and subsequent erosion. The strange rock formations are known as fairy chimneys which locals have transformed into homes by digging out the volcanic rock. The cave homes can be traced back to Bronze Age troglodytes (I love that word) and down through the years in Byzantine times Christian communities developed them. These days many hotels and hostels charge top dollar for overnight stays in a cave.
We stayed in the small town of Uçhisar at a Cave Pansion just below Uçhisar Castle. As Uçhisar is high on a hill it had a great view over Pigeon Valley and Göreme. It was a perfect location at sunrise and sunset watching the colour changes of the country.
On our first morning, we were collected from our Pansion by Butterfly Balloons and taken to Göreme for our sunrise balloon flight. It was a magical experience as we floated at treetop level through valleys and over the landscape. Being awake so early let us pretty flat for the day.
The second morning we woke just before sunrise to watch the balloons as they made their early morning flight. It was just amazing looking out over Göreme and seeing 70 odd balloons as they floated across the landscape.
Using a map from the tourist bureau we were able to plan our daily rides. There were various tours marked in different colours which took in the different towns and special points of interest around Cappadocia.
Göreme is the centre of life in Cappadocia with lots of hotels, hostels, backpackers and lots of accommodation in caves. Around the town, companies advertise tours, balloon rides, rock climbing, jeep safaris, hire vehicles, and all sorts of adventure tourism activities. In summer Göreme would be just crazy with people.
Here you can find tours offered in the area check them out:
Göreme Open Air Museum is the setting of an old Christian monastic community dating from the 10th-12th century. It’s only about 1.5 km’s from Göreme, so within walking distance. The entry fee was 25 TL and within the complex eleven churches or refectories carved into the stone columns. Inside the churches, some are painted with simple designs of red whilst others are more elaborate using multiple colours. It was fascinating exploring these old caves seeing how they were carved out. Some were quite elaborately carved and decorated.
On the road between Göreme and Avanos, a side road leads to Pasabag, a little valley famous for its mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys. Around Pashabag erosion has caused the most interesting shaped rock columns. During Byzantine times it was home to a community of monks and some of the columns still bear the scars of where they carved out churches and homes throughout the valley. Around Pashabag there are heaps of walking trails which lead up around the rim of the valley and also a boarded walking trail for less able people. There’s also no shortage of drink stalls and souvenir shops which on a hot day is the perfect way to get out of the sun.
At Avanos which is the home of Cappadocia’s pottery, we visited Sentez Avanis Hali, a collective Turkish Weaving Company. For about an hour we were taken on a tour of the factory where we learnt about the processes taken to make a carpet. We’ve visited weaving factories in different places around the world but it was a real eye-opener. Watching a silk spinner at work was so fascinating. Into a vat of boiling water, the silk cocoons were thrown, the fine thread pulled from the cocoon and attached to the spinner. The silk thread slowly unwound from the cocoons until just the sack was left floating in the water.
The collective employs local women who learn the basics of weaving over the period of a year before starting on basic rugs using wools before eventually moving on to silk rugs. Watching the ladies hands flying across the carpets as they tie the knots and cut the thread is just amazing. On some rugs, they tie as many as 244 knots per square centimetre and the average rug takes three months to make. The collective empowers the ladies giving them a voice by providing employment and money which improves their standing within the household.
The manager was pleased with the positive impact the collective is having on the community. In the showroom, we were shown rugs hundreds of years old which were still in great condition despite their age. There were all sorts of rugs in different designs dating back to the ancient Hittites and even some funky modern designs. Rugs which were different colours on each side or changed colours as you walked around them. There were even wedding rugs with everything on the rug designed in pairs. It was just fascinating. Hopefully, before we return to Australia we can return to Cappadocia we can visit Sentez Avanos Hali and purchase a rug.
Ürgüp is a small town which is famous for its stone cut houses. Around the town are a few churches which are remnants of the Greek population which were evicted during the population exchange after the Greek War of Independence. It only cost 5TL to visit the church but the same ticket was valid at 5 different churches and site around Ürgüp.
Riding around the countryside it’s interesting seeing how people have adapted to using caves. Around Garipçe storage sheds and even warehouses are carved under the mountains.
Kaymalki and Derinkuyu (which we visited) are both underground cities which are quite fascinating in both their depth and size. Clambering through the tunnels and down all the stairs was not my idea of a great day out. I’m a little too big to be a tunnel rat.
During our ride around the countryside, we visited Devrent which is known for its animal-shaped fairy chimneys.
Cappadocia is a most magical part of Turkey to visit with so much to see and do. The landscape is just amazing and we were so lucky that we booked a balloon tour on our first day to see it from above.
Üchisar was the perfect spot to stay, although a little more expensive than Göreme, it had commanding views of the countryside. A perfect spot to relax on the balcony with a drink at the end of the day and watch the landscape change colours as the sun went down.
Our next stop after Cappadocia is Konya, the home of the Whirling Dervishes which should be interesting.
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