Cappadocia has a lot of history – thousands of years of it in fact! There is so much to learn and to see and 3 days is really not enough to cover it all. But we gave it a shot by setting out on an all day tour of Cappadocia. The area of our tour centered around one particular area as the region of Cappadocia is actually quite large. We stayed in the northeast corner which included Ürgüp, Avanos, Göreme and Uçhisar.
Here is a little map of where we went, in case you are curious:
First a little bit about the geography here. You should know that this area of Cappadocia was formed by a number of volcanic eruptions many millennia ago. You can see evidence of these eruptions in a few ways – the first is the “stripes” of color along the mountains which represent the different mineral deposits with each eruption – copper and iron oxide are two of those. Many “chimneys” were formed by the mountains of ash that were slowly eroded away. On top of the chimneys was lava deposits that now appear as chimney toppers, creating what the locals call “fairy chimneys” and they are a sight to behold. The solidified ash becomes tufa stone which is relatively soft and easy to dig – which leads us to the unique caves situated all over Cappadocia.
Leaving our cave hotel in Ürgüp, we headed first for the Devrent Valley. It was a quick stop as this is more of a scenic picture taking location kind of place more than anything else. The Devrent Valley has never been inhabited but what draws people are the rock formations that when you use your imagination turn into snails, fish, seals and more!
From the Devrent Valley, we headed slightly north to the Pasa Baglari – or the Monks Valley. This area is famous for it’s fairy chimneys that many monks too refuge in, often staying in caves dug into to the tops of the chimneys. In many of the chimneys, you could see the footholds used to climb to the top – not for the faint of heart!!
As mentioned before, these fairy chimneys are a natural formation in Cappadocia. When the volcanos erupted many millennia ago, the ash was compressed and formed the chimneys. The “toppers” were created by the lava that solidified on the top of the ash.
On some of the lower levels, there were caves that we were actually able to go in. Upper levels were not open to tourists as they’ve been deemed unsafe. But living in one of these caves would be challenging at the very least! The kids enjoyed running through the different chimneys and exploring.
As we headed to our next stop, we saw where the pigeon valley was. Literally this is where they housed the pigeons which used to flock by the thousands. Their poop was used as fertilizer but also for the white glaze used in paint. Ewww I say. But efficient use of resources so can’t fault them for that!
Our tour continued with a quick stop in Çavusin. It was literally a stop and take pictures kind of stop. This area had been inhabited by Greeks for many years. I only took a few pictures and honestly, while the area had a lot of history, we didn’t stay long enough to really get to appreciate what Çavusin had to offer.
And so we moved on to Avanos where we did a tour of a carpet cooperative. It’s not really a factory per se, in the sense that these are not mass produced but hand made and many are made in the homes of the weavers. But since this took some time and it was really interesting, I’m actually going to save that for another post so stay tuned.
The kids were starting to get punchy at this point and who can blame them as they were up before 5AM and by now it’s after 12. So we stopped for a traditional Turkish lunch before heading off to our last big stop of the day – the open air museum in Göreme.
The Open Air Museum was once home to monasteries and a nunnery. Many of the churches (and there were several) in this area date back to the 10-12th centuries. And while several frescos had been desecrated over the years, there were many that were still in amazing condition with colors so bright you would think they had just been painted recently, not almost 1000 years ago! Unfortunately they do not allow photography in the churches so we were unable to get any pictures there, but you can check out pictures here to see what the churches look like inside.
We continued walking around and exploring the museum. I love open air museums. While they may be a bit touristy, they are also such a great opportunity to truly see how people lived during certain times. I can’t even imagine living in these caves but am fascinated by how they lived and how creative they got with their limited resources.
We continued our journey but the sights continued to astound us from every direction. This place is otherworldly. And captivating in so many ways.
Our final stop was at Uchisar Castle. It’s not really a castle – no kings or queens ever lived there. It is at the highest point in the Cappadocia region though and many people made their homes here and it was used for defending the area as well. It supposedly dates back to the Byzantine period but I can’t seem to find much information on it’s history.
We didn’t go inside the castle but viewed it from the distance. By now it was 5PM and we were all just… done. It was an amazing day but exhausting as well. We felt we got a really good feel for Cappadocia and it’s magic! There were still have ATV rides coming the next day!
Knuffels en kussen,