Every time my Dad has visited Turkey, he’s asked when we’ll visit Kapadokya (Cappadocia). We finally made it this year on his fourth trip to Turkey. For my brother and his family, well, they didn’t have to wait so long. For the four of them it was their first time in Turkey. And me? It was my 4th trip to Kapadokya, and just like the others this visit was also short.
In just four days we managed to see some of Kapadokya’s highlights like the Göreme Open Air Museum, a “castle” or two, an underground city, and Ihlara Vadisi. A couple of our favorites were places I hadn’t explored before: Çavuşin Kalesi and Bağlıdere Vadisi.
We rented a 10-passenger van in Antalya and stayed for three nights in Göreme. Arriving from hot Antalya in the evening we first came to the base of Üçhisar Kalesi, got out to look around, and were surprised by just how cold it was.
Jasper was so excited to see the “castle” (closed for the day) and couldn’t wait to come back and explore it some more. A “castle” (kale) in Kapadokya is a lot like the castles in the Frig valleys: a tall rock, easily defended, with rooms carved into it.
Here’s a sunrise photo I took of Üçhisar Kalesi five years ago:
On our first morning in Kapadokya we did what most tourists do, make a beeline for the Göreme Open Air Museum. It is, after all, one of Turkey’s few UNESCO World Heritage Sites. People come to this museum to see the 11th century frescoes inside the numerous Christian monasteries carved into the rocks. Photography’s (mostly) prohibited, but here’s what you might find inside:
We didn’t spend so long at the Göreme Open Air Museum because it really was way too crowded. We were there just before the beginning of the Ramadan holiday, but a couple workers assured me it’s always so crowded at this time of year (beginning of June). Indeed most of the tourists seemed to be foreigners.
There are lots of underground cities in Kapadokya, and I made the mistake of taking everyone to the one at Özkonak. The location is fairly convenient, but the underground city is quite small. If I’m remembering correctly, the ones at Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı were more satisfying to visit (I believe the underground cities at Gökçetoprak, Tatların, Acıgöl, Özlüce, and Mazıköy are also open for visitors; I’m sure there are others).
Not far from Özkonak is the mysterious Belha Monastery. Archaeologists aren’t sure but guess it was founded between the 4th and 8th centuries, making it perhaps (or perhaps not) the oldest Christian site in Kapadokya. A strange man there assured us that the center of the complex is a “bio energy point”. However, with a couple loud, overactive kids none of us could feel the energy.
Luckily the kids had a lot of energy because our next stop was the castle at Çavuşin. This turned out to be way more fun and exciting than even Jasper expected from the Üçhisar Castle. We spent a couple hours exploring room after room. Every time we thought we couldn’t go any higher, we’d find another passage and make our way up to the next level. With enough looking around you can find your way to just about every “window” you see in this photo:
On a previous trip Ferda and I had ridden horses from Göreme to Çavuşin and had beers at the top, but we had never explored the castle before. I highly recommend it.
One of my Dad’s dreams for Kapadokya was spending a day walking through the fairy chimneys in one of the many valleys. We spent a full day the next day walking up Bağlıdere Vadisi and down Güvercinlik Vadisi. Bağlıdere Vadisi:
At the top we stopped for lunch in Üçhisar and then spent a short time visiting the castle that Jasper had been looking forward to. Well, I know now: you can skip it. Unlike the Çavuşin Castle, the Üçhisar Castle is more satisfying to enjoy from a distance. That’s fine since we still needed energy for our walk back to Göreme via Güvercinlik Vadisi:
We spent our last Kapadokya day visiting the churches in the pretty Ihlara Valley. The frescoes are in poorer shape (more vandalism) than the ones at the Göreme Open Air Museum. The valley with its perennial stream is lusher and steeper than the valleys in the Göreme area.
If I were to plan the trip again, I’m still not sure if I’d include Ihlara or not. I’d certainly be tempted to go to the Zelve Open Air Museum instead. However, I can’t say for sure ’cause I still haven’t been to the Zelve Open Air Museum. One of many reasons to go back…