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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Rose Valley Cappadocia

Rose Tinted Valley

Gorgeous Göreme

Today is quintessential Cappadocia from colourful balloons to rose-tinted valley, appropriately called Rose Valley.  If you have come here straight from Istanbul you will be blown way from complete chaos to sheer silence. 

With tears we come to the last post on Cappadocia, the last of the Top 9 Sights near Göreme. You see Rose Valley from the distance everywhere – from Göreme, Sunset Point, even your hotel. Today we are going for a closer look. We recommend late afternoon to get nicer lighting. Also it will be very hot with little shade during midday during the summer.

Balloons for Breakfast

Balloons Over Cappadocia

Today was sunny and warm: I’m guessing ca. 20°C. We finally saw many hot air balloons this morning – about seven of them. We also saw a couple of late afternoon flights as well. I took the mandatory photos. 


Closing in on Çavuşin
On the highway to Göreme Open Air Museum, turn left at a small sign (forget what it says) and go along a dirt road.  Most people who are walking take the second road to the left that has no cars. But if you have a car it is easier to bypass the road walking and get into the heart of the valley by driving on the first road. 
Çavuşin Close-up
If it’s still early in the day and you have a car then drive all the way to Çavuşin, which we highly recommend.  There are some nice views of old troglodyte formations that you will not see from the main highway. If you go all the way, you enter the back streets of Çavuşin and eventually reach the highway. However, return half way back.

Rose Valley Hike

"Parking Lot" View
Rose Valley, or Güllüdere Vadisi in Turkish, is one of the best sights.  Go about half way along this road and park in the huge "dirt" parking lot that is favoured by the dirt bikes that are rented in town. This is not something you can ignore even with your rose-tinted glasses. You really don’t want to hear this noise or see this dust in what should be a tranquil place of nature. It really is contrary to the purpose of a national park.

Near the top of the sloping uphill lot is a steep drop and thus dramatic views. Instead of playing daredevil, park earlier and hike up the right hand side onto a steep ridge walk.

Bed of Roses

Kızılçukur View
The path leads to the very steep Kızılçukur Point with luxurious views.   It is a bit slippery (scree) at the very top.  But this was one of my favourite views.  From here there is about a 50 m elevation descent on the other side to the start of the Güllüdere trails. 

Right Twin
Left Twin

It is hard to find a decent hiking map though there are several sites with advice, such as Captivating Cappadocia - Hiking.   Probably the best map was given to us by the Vineyard Cave Hotel.

Güllüdere Trail

Rose-tinted Valley

Balloon and Roses

Bed of Roses

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

"Parking Lot" View
There are many places that one could visit in Turkey but the Cappadocia region is a must-see whatever else you plan to visit.  It is the 24th day of our 30-day odyssey to Turkey. Now that we have reached the final stage of our trip, we have to say we are happy with the advice we gave you in our Destinations and Seasons page and the choices we made in Our Recommended Turkey Itinerary page. 
Ottoman Yoruk
Too bad we didn’t come 30 years ago. Then there were only about three hotels in Göreme according to Hassan of the Vineyard Cave Hotel.   Where there are hotels today once stood orchards.  This is a Tourist Town now.  Right after breakfast we left for a seven hour drive to Safranbolu and Yoruk, two of our favourite places. 
Last Post: Soganli Surprise
Next Post: Safranbolu 

Thursday, 19 February 2015


Fairy Tale Castle?

Soğanlı Surprise

Soğanlı Valley offers the remains of fairy chimney dwellings and rock-cut churches with colourful frescoes.  It is basically the same as Göreme Open Air Museum but it was a very pleasant drive and walk in the countryside with very few tourists.  The drive south from Göreme to Soğanlı was 55 km, about one hour – photo stops not included!  But there were a couple of surprises. 

Göreme Open Air Museum

reme Switchbacks
You can see the narrow area of Göreme Open Air Museum as the road switchbacks up the hill.  It is mainly rock cut churches rather than hoodoos. It may have the best-preserved frescoed churches, but it’s also always busy with large tour groups. 
reme Open Air Museum

I boycotted the Göreme Open Air Museum as I am totally opposed to their charging twice: once for the park and once for the main sight, the Dark Church.  What do you think about this common practice in Turkey?  They also charge for parking.  And you are not allowed to photograph the frescoes.  

Mount Erciyes & Demirkazik

Instead of the Open Air Museum, we headed south via Ürgüp to Soğanlı Valley. The drive from Ürgüp passes through Mustafapaşa, worth a stop as discussed in our last post. 
Volcanic Vista
Well, we were treated to a BIG surprise half way into the trip.  The road climbed up to 1550 m above sea level.  There were sparsely treed fields with wide open views of snow-capped mountains in two directions, east and south.  The pointy single peak is a former volcano that may have erupted as recently as 253 BC.  Mount Erciyes (Turkish: Erciyes Dağı) is located 25 km to the south of Kayseri. 
Lone Tree Volcano
It felt closer because we were driving south and we were at 1550 meters so we had an unimpeded view.  The fifth highest mountain in Turkey and the highest in Cappadocia at 3,916 meters (12,848 ft) always has snow at the top.  It started erupting at the same time as the Taurus Mountain uplifting that reduced rainfall in Cappadocia and contributed to the formation of the Cappadocia Fairy Chimneys.

Towering Taurus
The longer snowy range to the south is Aladaglar Milli Parki (national park).  The highest peak, Demirkazik (3,756 m, 12,323 ft) is a prime birding site.  It is another dramatic view of the Taurus Mountain range that we crossed on the drive to Göreme. 
Balcony over Taşkınpaşa

The road continues on to picturesque villages where we took more photos.  Actually this picture was taken on the return trip as Taşkınpaşa was more photogenic as you drive into the view with Mount Erciyes in the background. 

Şahinefendi Sheep

Şahinefendi had idyllic sheep and stone houses in the foreground with rusty cliffs in the background. 

Şahinefendi Basalt Cliffs






Soğanlı Valley

You should see the following rock cut churches, which are well sign posted.  A very crude map is given to you at the toll house. 
Stairway to Heaven

Tokalı Kilise

The Tokalı Kilise (Buckle Church) is sign posted on the right before you reach the toll house.  It is up a uneven, steep stairway cut into the rock.  There was not much to see inside most of the Soğanlı churches as many of the frescoes have deteriorated and the lighting was poor.  In fact, you get a much better impression looking at the photos below after they have been brightened up in Photoshop.  Along the road you will also see dovecotes where monks collected guano from pigeons. 

Tahtali Kilise

Tahtali Kilise

After the toll house turn left towards the village restaurant.  Take a path to Tahtali Kilise (Church of Doves or of Santa Barbara), which dates from the fifth century.  It contains some of the better frescoes of apostles and saints.  While some web sites say that this region was settled in Roman times, these rock-cut churches were from Byzantine times. 

Fairy Chimneys

Turn left to continue to the end of the main road where there is an open air restaurant.  From here on you have to walk.  It is probably what the Göreme Open Air Museum was like many years ago. 
The first thing you see are fairy chimneys with cave dwellings. You first walk down and then up the trail on the right. 

Soğanlı Scenery

The vertical basalt rock columns are a result of volcanic activity.  In fact the rapid cooling of lava extruded near the surface.  Basalt is usually grey to black in colour, but soon appears rusty red.  That’s because it is rust - it contains iron-rich minerals.

Karabaş Kilise

The Crucifixion
Karabaş Kilise (Big Church) dates from the sixth century but was rebuilt in the 11th century.  It is considered the most beautiful from an artistic viewpoint. 

It contains frescoes of Christ and black-faced saints as well as Byzantine and Turkish motifs. 


Soğanlı Fairy Tale Castles

Oops, Cell Tower

Kubbeli Kilise

The hike to the Kubbeli Kilise (Domed Church) starts to the left of the restaurant parking lot.  It is a very short – maybe 20 minutes – so anyone can do it. 
Trail to the Fairy Tale Castle
You'll be rewarded by wide open views of formations and tranquility. 
Soğanlı Fairy Tale Castle

The Domed Church was carved into a fairy chimney.   In fact, as we drove into the valley we thought we saw a miniature fairy tale castle --  see photo at the top.  Wrong!  It was the Domed Church.

Saklı Kilise

Looking Down

Next to Kubbeli is the Saklı Kilise (Hidden Church) and it is truly hidden - under the ground. 

Looking Up

Fortunately, there was a tour group just ahead that gave away the location of the hidden, steep stairs that led down the hill to the entrance. Through the gap in the ceiling appeared the Kubbeli dome. 

Last Post: Mustafapaşa Magic

Thursday, 12 February 2015


Mustafapaşa Magic

Explore Mustafapaşa to enjoy a typical quiet village rather than for any particular must-see sight.  It also offers Greek-style buildings with decorative facades. 

The town used to be populated mainly by Greek and Turkish Christians and many churches are located in the town. 

Church of Constantine & Helen
The Church of Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen (of Byzantine Empire fame) is located on one of the main squares. 

We visited Mustafapaşa twice: once after Ortahısar (only 11.6 km away via Ürgüp) and once on the way to Soganli Valley (next post).  There is not much accommodation and it is an easy commute to here from many tourist towns, so that keeps the number of sightseers down.  On the other hand, we would not say Mustafapaşa is undiscovered or off-the-beaten path since there are tour buses.  However, in off-season we did not find it obtrusive. 
As in any country, during high season go early or late in the day to beat the crowds.  Most tours leave around 09:00 hrs. and see Mustafapaşa en route to another destination.  So the busiest period will be mid-morning. 

It is unfortunate that they never finished restoring the largest mansion, which also has the most ornate façade in the photo on the left.  These building should be put to some use so that they actually will be maintained into the future. 

Backgammon Anyone?

The thing to do is walk around the streets to see typical village life.  In the main square with the ubiquitous Atatürk statue, men sip tea and/or play backgammon at the café. 

The small black grapes of this region make it a major producer of wine.  The same grapes are also used to make pekmez, a grape and tahini molasses. 
Old Back Street

Make sure you try this on your trip to Turkey.  It is offered at breakfast by some pensions, such as Melrose Hotel in Pamukkale.  It is a common must-eat and definitely addicting.  Pekmez is made the same way today as it was by the Hittites, one of our Proto-Indo-European ancestors (aka Aryans) that populated India, Turkey and Europe. 

Ancient Mustafapasa

Some old streets show remains of rock-cut houses.  There are also views of the hoodoo formations near the town. 

Old Greek House
Drive south of the centre to find the Old Greek House, which was built in the 1800’s.  It was converted into a beautiful hotel and restaurant in 1992. 

In Ottoman times this used to be a Greek village called Sinasos (“city of the sun”). 
Old Greek Dining Room

Like many other parts of Turkey, this changed after the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne as described in the Old Kaş post.  Today, there are only 1550 people living here. 

Why were there so many Greeks in Turkey?  See the Byzantine Empire in the HagiaSophia / Ayasofya post and Alexander the Great in the IstanbulArchaeology Museums post. 
Next Post: Soganli Surprise

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Cappadocia Fairy Chimneys

Gorgeous Goreme

Cappadocia Fairy Chimneys

Fairy Chimneys | Cappadocia, Turkey | in-depth travel advice from Terra Encounters
Cappadocia has become synonymous with eroded valleys dotted with rock pillars known as fairy chimneys.  Why are they here?  Is this landscape really unique?  Where is the best place to see fairy chimneys?  In this post we discuss several places but three are especially worthwhile.


First, we drove to Çavuşin and saw some old buildings and caves cut into the cliff.  Many old buildings are now being turned into hotels.  The locals want to cash into the tourism industry.

Then we drove on a side road to Paşabagh.  Here there was a caravan of tour buses to visit the rocks that locals call fairy chimneys.  Actually, these formations are more massive than chimneys.

Many paved walking trails meander around slender tree trunks and massive rock trunks, some of which were used as cave homes by hermit monks.  They would be appalled by all the tourists today. 

In spite of all the people, this is still one of the two places to see.  The best overall view can be found by climbing the trail that starts south of the formations.  You'll get an unimpeded view from above.  You won't be alone.

A bit further is Zelve Open Air Museum, with more rock formations.


By the way, the correct word for these formations is hoodoo as per Wikipedia: A hoodoo (also called a tent rock, fairy chimney, and earth pyramid) is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland.  

Bryce Canyon Magical Hoodoos
Bryce Canyon Winter Magic
Cappadocia, contrary to some web sites, is not unique in the world.  The process is the same whether the hoodoos are in Bryce Canyon (Utah, U.S.), Dinosaur Provincial Park (Alberta, Canada), or Goreme (Cappadocia).  Each of these places is special it is own way.  Bryce is beautiful for its hoodoo forest, especially when capped with snow in the winter. 

Dinosaur Provincial Park Fred the Camel
Fred the Camel and his Pyramid

Dinosaur Provincial Park is the world's richest source of Jurassic-era dinosaur fossils.  Most of the fossil "skeletons" in top museums around the world originate where Fred the Camel lives.

Cappadocia has larger, more spectacular hoodoos.  This eerie landscape may look like a scene on the moon but it cannot be since the moon has neither sedimentation nor erosion.  Hoodoos have layers of soft rock protected by a harder cap rock.  The cap rock protects the softer layers from erosion.  The soft layers are laid down by sedimentation.  

The difference in Cappadocia was that deposits of ash, lava and basalt were laid down by three volcanoes. Two of these volcanoes are now just a volcanic plugs (vertical lava column that hardened and the rest of the volcano eroded away) we now call Uchisar (last post) and Ortahısar (see below).  The volcanic activity occurred as far back as 65 million years ago when the Taurus Mountains were formed 

Camel Rock, Devrent Valley

The hoodoos appeared after this period due to erosion in a hot, dry climate.  If there was more rain then the erosion would have been completed in a very short time and there would be no hoodoos at all. 

Devrent Valley, which is also in this area, we did not find as interesting.  There is not much left of these hoodoos other than the Camel Rock. 

Love Valley Hike

Phallic Fairy Chimneys
Love Valley starts at a turn off from the main highway just before Çavuşin, I did a one hour walk through apricot and apple trees to see stunning phallic fairy chimneys of all shapes and sizes.  My sister nicknamed this the Penis Forest. 
Ionic Columns?

The plus side was there were few tourists only one family and another couple.  There were no tour buses here when we went.  As a result I definitely enjoyed this area the most.  It's just a short hike to the beginning of the "Stone Forest". 


Ogling Ortahisar
From here we went to Ürgüp for lunch.  On the main street in the centre of town, we had a döner for merely TRY 3 ($1.50) each!!  The ice cream across the street was TRY 6 ($3) for four tiny scoops but it was quite good. 


From Ürgüp we went to nearby Ortahısar.  We heard a restaurant there not only was very good but had a great view. 
Ortahisar Close-up

That really was a stellar view point of another volcanic plug that was used as a fortress (hisar).  Wow!! 

Meanwhile all the tour buses go to the entrance to climb the fortress where once again there are wall to wall tourist stalls and shops. 
However, there were some good people pictures in a very atmospheric old city.

Then we came back to Göreme and got some cold water at the grocery — only 1 TL for 1.5 L.  Some hotels and restaurants charge 2 or 3 TL for 0.5 or 0.75 L.    We did not buy a case of bottled water.  You can easily get 1.5 L at a gas station for c. 1 TL; i.e. they do not overcharge.  But mainly, we use a steri-pen to sterilize water.  



Pigeon Valley Hike

From here we went on part of the Pigeon Valley Hike for circa 45 mins. It had lots of birds — this is where the locals collected bird dung.  The road-like trail had two walk-through "caves" but few interesting hoodoos so I turned back.

Zemi Valley Hike

Zemi Valley Hike is often overlooked but another very worthwhile trail.  You can drive for a little bit (about 2 km along this road to a field with a sign saying no further car travel).  From here, the road-like trail (there are three trails but sign-posted) was pleasant with more phallic and pyramid hoodoos.

Our favourite place was actually a short side-trail to the left close to the beginning of the hike after the field.  It goes uphill to the large conical, rock-cut El Nazar Kilise (church).  Do not pay to go inside.  Hike here for the good views from the top of this side-trail: you can see the Goreme Open-Air Museum in the distance. 

Also see these posts

Mustafapasa Magic to visit a Greek town to see typical Turkish life

Göreme Top 9 Sights for recommended things to do near Göreme
Gorgeous Göreme for Sunset Viewpoint