Kapadokya Part 1: Notable Locations

Fall is a perfect time in Cappadocia (or Kapadokya). It is a perfect climate. Distinct from the sweltering heat in the summer and the bitter cold that makes trekking and ballooning difficult to impossible in the winter. Spring can also be beautiful but can include showers without warning and ruin the idyllic views. Regardless of season though there are many valleys, cities (above and below ground), and churches that are amazing to see anytime of the year. Some locations are essential for a visit to Kapadokya. To get a major list you can check out mappadocia, but for more in-depth hiking trails you can find numerous other sites online, or you know, a map. I’ll be writing a little bit about my opinions on the best hikes and villages a little bit later. Below is a small overview of the most famous and best locales in the region. Important to note, Kapadokya is a region and not a specific area; so there are many places to find and explore, but you may need to do a little bit of driving or trekking to get there.

KAYMAKLI (Underground City) 

Kaymaklı Underground City
Kaymaklı Underground City

Probably the most fascinating place I’ve ever been to (and most claustrophobic), Kaymaklı is essentially a set of elaborate tunnels carved out of stone that doubled as homes, meeting areas, and defense fortresses. When walking around, sometimes almost crawling, you can see a winery, food storage, living rooms, kitchens, and ventilation shafts. Dug out by the Hittites over 3,600 years ago it was used as their full-time living space. Later it was used by persecuted Christians and pretty much any culture that had to hide from anyone in this region for the next 2,000 years. This city goes down about 80 meters and originally more, but earthquakes have collapsed anything deeper. I could make a post only about here and its history, but this is just a slight impression of what you’ll see. If Kaymaklı is too far out of your way then Derinkuyu is actually the deepest of the open sites and there’s also Özkonak. Its tunnels are slightly newer, but have communication pipes and areas where they could dump hot oil on enemies in the tunnels, which the other sites don’t have.

Standing with my mom. Some of the passages you almost need to crawl through. This is not one of them...
Standing with my mom in Kaymaklı. Some of the passages you almost need to crawl through. This is one of the taller ones…

ALL THE VALLEYS

The most famous features from beautiful Kapadokya are its fairy chimneys, and some of the best places to see them are in Kapadokya’s immense valleys that are great for camping or just hiking, especially in the fall. Ihlara Valley is a vibrant green canyon carved by the Melendiz River and flush with wildlife. It’s a pretty relaxing walk that totals about 14km. There’s many famous fresco churches and tea gardens that line the trail and culminates with Selime Monastery.

Source. Ihlara Valley
Source. Ihlara Valley

 Pigeon Valley whose stone walls are lined with pigeon houses that used to fertilize the land runs from Üçhisar to Göreme.

Pigeon Valley from Uçhisar
Pigeon Valley from Uçhisar
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Inside Red Valley

You’ve got the aptly named Rose and Red Valleys that are connected and lead to many churches and stellar views, as well as crazy landscapes. If you end near Ortahisar then there are really nice viewpoints near the end of the trail next to Aktepe. Also near Ürgüp is Zemi Valley which has two trails. One takes you up with a view and the other takes you into a valley with cave churches and green scenery. If you got kids or want a real light hike try Swords Valley. It’s next to the open air museum in Göreme and still gives you some views of the fair chimneys and cave churches. Finally, there’s Love Valley which is slightly more difficult than Swords and gets its name from its distinct, non-gender neutral fairy chimneys. It’s still good for children (if they don’t make the connection to the valley’s anatomical resemblance) and picnicking, but gives you some chances to climb around and challenge yourself a little bit if you want.

Rose Valley from Sunset Point
Rose Valley from Sunset Point
Rose Valley from Sunset Point
Rose Valley from Sunset Point

ROCK FORMATIONS

The Camel as seen in Devrent Valley
The Camel as seen in Devrent Valley

But not every fairy chimney looks the same and two areas are unsurpassed in terms of individuality and beauty. Devrent Valley is the first and is famous for its personified formations like Napoleon’s Hat and the Camel. There’s numerous other unique configurations and you could spend a few hours hiking around to find them all. Paşabağ is apparently the location with the highest frequency of fairy chimneys and they have dark, mushroom looking heads and slender stone stems.

Paşabağ Valley
Paşabağ Valley

These were formed from centuries of volcanic and meteorological activity that have eroded away the weaker stone but could do nothing to the tougher, darker basalt. There are a few vistas to see and chimneys to climb into that provide good photo ops. You can hike around the ridges or look up at the chimneys in wonderment.

Napoleon's Hat in Devrent Valley
Napoleon’s Hat in Devrent Valley

CITIES OF KAPADOKYA 

After days of hiking you may want to reintegrate into society and actually talk to people. The largest city (and biggest airport) is in Kayseri. I didn’t spend much time here and there’s not a whole lot to do. In general, it’s a very conservative city that is a little removed from the more interesting parts of the region, but gives you easy access to all the important locales and has some of its own history as well.

Nevşehir, a smaller province, but slightly more interesting looking place (has the other, smaller airport for the region). It contains the village of Ortahisar which is built into the side of what looks like a falling over wizard’s hat and at night looks like Mickey Mouse’s from Fantasia”. It’s a little closer to everything than Kayseri but a little less accessible from other parts of the country.

Source. View of Ortahisar
Source. View of Ortahisar

The main cities of Kapadokya for sleeping and eating are Ürgüp and Göreme. Ürgüp has Temenni Tepesi which is a hill with a panorama over the entire city and a not so good restaurant but nice tea garden at the top that used to be the town’s public library. There’s also a tomb that is sometimes open where you can walk around. Otherwise, in Ürgüp you have Ziggy’s restaurant, which is amazing albeit a little expensive. Up the hill from there you have Turasan Şarap Evi which is the predominant winery in the area. Here you can buy most of the wine that you’d get at restaurants for a quarter of the price. And of course you can do a tasting so you can figure out which ones are you favorite.

View from Temenni Tepesi
View of Ürgüp from Temenni Tepesi
Rock Formations at Göreme Open Air Museum
Rock Formations at Göreme Open Air Museum

Göreme is a lot smaller population wise so you have a lot fewer options for food and night life. However, if you stay here you’ll be situated closer to the unbelievable Göreme Open Air Museum which sports the most well-preserved and diversely colored church frescoes. Karanlık Kilise is an extra fee, but is definitely a must see. Nearby there’s a lot more hiking possibilities and cave churches dotting the landscapes of Göreme National Park. But the way to really start the day and catch it all in view is by taking a hot air balloon ride up at sunrise and picking the spots you want to see from the ground.

Up in the Air
Up in the Air

MOUNTAINS

Finally, for the winter enthusiasts you have the tall peaks of the Taurus mountain range. The tallest mountain in Anatolia is Erciyes which is about 13,000 ft. or 4,000 m tall. You can climb it, but it is a technical climb and is snow-capped all year-long. Apparently there are a couple of caves and some inscriptions from ancient cultures near the summit. Or you can just go skiing about 1,200 m down from the top.

Source. Mount Erciyes
Source. Mount Erciyes

The 2nd highest mountain in Anatolia is Hasan (3,268 m or 10,722 ft.) it’s about a six-hour climb from the highest point reachable by car and supposedly gives a good view of all of Kapadokya. The last mountain in the region is Aktepe where you get the beautiful views without all the work.

Aktepe
Aktepe

About 1,350 m tall, its erosion is still forming Devrent, Rose, and Red valleys. Sunset point gives you a view of the mountain and all the valleys and is even more spectacular during sunrise when there are tons of hot air balloons flying around. 

Hot air balloon ride looking over Kapadokya
Hot air balloon ride looking over Kapadokya

While this post is a little long-winded it still only covers a fraction of the valleys you can hike, the unique villages you can see, and the history you can let seep into your brain. Hopefully this gives a little insight into the multitudes of experiences that await you that I hope to delve into later on.

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