Cappadocia is one of the most popular regions of Turkey. The famous all over the world, weird rock formations shaped like mushrooms, pillars and even animals are scattered across the area. Clear weather conditions, crisp even in the late months of fall/autumn allow not only to hike among the most extraordinary valleys but also to enjoy the famous hot air balloon flight, which, although quite expensive, is a one of a kind event that everyone should experience at least once. I visited Goreme in November and I think it was a perfect time. The town was cozy and sleepy, I felt as if I was somewhere at the end of the world and although it is so popular I barely saw any other tourists. Moreover, the leaves that had just turned bright yellow created an excellent contrast with the rock formations making it all look even more eerie and extraordinary.
How to get to Goreme
The easiest way to reach Goreme is to arrive by air. The nearest airports are located in the towns of Kayseri and Nevsehir. There are a few daily flights from Istanbul to both of them - flight time is around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Kayseri is around 80 km (50 miles - 1 hour 20 min drive) away from Goreme and Neveshir Airport - 40 km (25 miles). There are no public buses, so if you don't intend to rent a car, you must inquire about the transfer at your hotel. There is also a shuttle service which might be the cheapest option, but you have to pre-book it here.
There are no direct trains from Istanbul, you'll have to go to Ankara first, then to Konya. From Konya you can take a bus to Cappadocia.
There are, however, overnight buses from Istanbul - it's can be the cheapest but most tiring and time consuming option (around 12 hours). The fare is around 30 EUR/34 USD one way. However, if you book flight early enough, you can find a good deal, sometimes even for around 40 EUR/46 USD for a return flight (especially out of season)!
The Town of Goreme
I had seen other cave towns before, in Georgia (Turkey's neighbor) - at Vardzia and Uplistsikhe. They were absolutely spectacular, carved in the cliff walls in ancient times. Situated among little villages, completely forgotten, with literally zero tourists - it was possible to go through the carved passages and tunnels and move between different levels, just like centuries ago.
Cappadocia boasts similar cave towns - they are also really impressive, however, you'll see quite many tourists here. They are located very near Goreme and you should definitely include them in your bucket list, I will describe them in detail the future.
As I mentioned in the title of this article, Goreme is also a "cave town", but what makes it unique is that, unlike in Vardzia and other ancient sites of this kind, in Goreme, people still live in the caves carved out of tuff rock. This uniqueness resulted in hundreds of hotels, guest houses and luxury spas made entirely inside the caves. Simple rooms are not that expensive at all (prices start from around 25 EUR/28 USD per person for a double room) and it's really worth it to experience sleeping in the cave! I really enjoyed it!
The whole town of Goreme looks out of this world. Walking down the narrow streets, you'll see many "chimneys", "cones" and other rock formations that have been transformed into apartments or guest rooms. They have windows and doors - just like in a fairy tale.
From Goreme, you can also spot easily the nearest town - called Uchisar. The fortress on the top of the pointy hill is illuminated at night and it gives the impression as if it was floating in the darkness. Something spectacular!
The Rock Formations in Cappadocia
What are "fairy chimney" rock formations and how were they formed
"Fairy chimneys" is the term used for describing the rock formations that indeed resemble pillars or chimneys. They are literally everywhere all over the area, even in the very heart of Goreme (what's more, as I've said before, you can stay overnight inside one of them!) The common feature they all share is the narrow stem and a wider "cap" on top of it. To some people, they seem to look like mushrooms, arrows, columns or... well, try to figure it out yourself :) ). The part of the valley where you can find those "distinctive" features is locally called "love valley"!
Although they may seem to appear as a work of some crazy artist, in reality they were created by simple natural processes. During volcanic activity occuring millions years ago, volcanic ash set along the plains of Cappadocia forming "tuff" - a solid, but soft rock (this is why people in Cappadocia have been able to carve their homes out of it for centuries). Then, after subsequent eruptions, magma consisting of pure liquid rock covered the tuff creating a hard shell or "crust" on top of the softer tuff layer.
Wind, rain and erosion caused little cracks on the surface. Rainwater was able to squeeze through those cracks and wash away the softer layer of solid ash (tuff) underneath, leaving the harder rock on top intact. During the centuries, it fell apart into pieces, leaving only the columns of the soft layer still held by the "caps" of proper, hard rock. This process is still happening and it's visible to this day - we can see all stages of the "decay" of the rock near the edge of the gorges.
Fairy Chimneys Valley
The valley of fairy chimneys stretches between the towns of Goreme and Urgup. If you're staying in Goreme, Urgup or Uchisar, you can easily go on a very pleasant hike around the area. Some of the formations are small, others are extremely massive but all are stunning. In the upper parts of some of the chimneys you might see small holes - too small to be the houses. They are dovecotes (pigeon houses). Also, for sure you'll notice the famous "love valley".
If you are interested more about the history of the valley, the formation of the fairy chimneys and want to see more, you can join one of the tours - there's plenty of tour offices everywhere. The valley of fairy chimneys is located right beside Goreme but other valleys are a bit further, so if you don't have too much time or you don't drive, it's a good option. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle and go around by yourself - but again, it will require more time.
Rose Valley has the distinctive red/pink color of the rock formations - most of them are in the shape of cones with very little caps. It stretches north from Goreme all the way to the town of Cavusin (around 3 km/1.8 miles). It's located within a high walls of a gorge - really spectacular. This part of Cappadocia is similar to the amazing Yangykala Canyons in Turkmenistan (I'll write a post about Yangykala in the future).
Monk's Valley (Pasabag)
Monk's Valley, at the north end of Rose Valley (in Pasabag), half way from Cavusin to Avanos, is filled with many fairy chimneys and other strangely shaped formations - most of the pillars here have their caps and are white or beige in color. They're bulkier and not as thin as those in the Fairy Chimneys Valley. It was here where monk St. Simeon had his cell, you can still visit it inside climbing up the steep steps. There are trails and paths around, so you can enjoy walking around the area, you can even walk here from Rose Valley. It's really impressive, especially with all the yellow trees in autumn.
Devrent (Immagination) Valley
Devrent Valley is located east of Monk's Valley, between the towns of Urgup and Avanos, near the village of Aktepe (around 9 km/5.5 miles from Goreme). The valley is pretty small, easy to walk around but it was one of my favorite places in Cappadocia. It's full of formations of all kinds of shapes and colors, some resembling animals and different creatures - use your imagination! It's here where you can find one of the landmarks of Cappadocia - the famous "camel" rock formation.
Esentepe View Point
On the way back to Goreme, stop at Esentepe - from here you can admire the whole valley surrounding Goreme. You can also have a camel ride, if you wish. Nearby, you'll see a "fairy tree" decorated with blue beads resembling eyes. It's called an "evil eye tree" - those eyes are supposed to work as a talisman repenting the curse of evil - greed, envy, etc.
The view point is especially attractive at around the sunset whet the rays of setting sun warm up the whole area with a warm, orange hue.
Balloon flight over Cappadocia
Cappadocia is most famous for the hot air balloon flight. It's an experience one of a kind. The views of the "fairy chimneys valley" at the sunrise - incomparable to anything I'd seen before. If you ask me if it's worth the price - I'd say yes and I'd do it again. You can see the photos I took from the balloon and find more info about the flight here in this article. I also did a balloon flight in Bagan, Myanmar but, to be honest it was more expensive and not as great as the one in Cappadoccia. I'll write about it in one of the future articles.
Ancient Cave towns
Around Goreme, you can find many ancient cave cities, similar to those in Georgia. The most visited is the Open Air Museum in Goreme, you'll see here many churches with beautiful frescoes as well as ordinary houses carved in rock. Another one is the spectacular cave town with Selime Monastery close to Ihlara Valley. But the most interesting is Kaymakli - entirely underground ancient city with miles of tunnels, passages and even wineries all deep under the surface of earth. It reminds a termite mound! I've described them all here in this post.
Ihlara Valley is a bit less popular than the rest of Cappadocia's attractions. It's quiet, beautiful and surrounded by high walls of a spectacular gorge. Here, you can also find a few churches carved in the cliffs as well as basalt columns similar to those in Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. When you're hungry, you can have a meal in an amazing restaurant located literally on top of the river flowing through the gorge. It's unforgettable! Check "Related posts" below to find more photos, articles and detailed info.
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