Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hiking Cappadocia


After our first week and driving adventure on the western coast of Turkey, we thought it was about time to change things up a little and flew to Cappadocia, a purported wonderland right in the middle of the country.  And a wonderland it was...we came to Cappadocia for 3 nights and stayed for 7!

Here's our play by play:

"Ladder" over the canyon wall
Day 1: we went to breakfast intending to have an easy day, maybe stroll through town and make a plan for the week. At breakfast, we met Thomasz and Olga, a fun couple from Poland. They invited us for a hike, and we said "yes! to life" Hiked through Rose Valley, an easy start to seeing the area. Rose Valley is a long, somewhat dusty, valley that rises up on each side with some caves (some of them cave churches), and lots of little trails that meander into the hills.

New friends Olga and Thomasz
Day 2: we got nicely lost making our way to Uchisar castle, which is the highest point in the valley and makes for a great way to see the valley from above. The castle is not really a "castle" per se, but a tall rock tower that has been carved out with little rooms and a few passages. At the top, you can get a lovely and very reasonably priced cup of tea for a super civilized way to get warmed up while enjoying the sunset views. We hiked back to Goreme through Pigeon Valley (top photo), which turned out to be our favorite close-by hike from Goreme. The valley was filled with lots of lush trees, interesting rock formations, local farms and some incredibly colored sunset skies.


Day 3: we went to Goreme Open Air Museum with Thomasz and Olga. It was ok, but quite expensive. If you're physically prepared for all the hiking the valley has to offer, you can get lots of cave church visits for free, and without all the tour bus crowds. The museum caves are nice because they're well-preserved, but at 24 TL ($12) each, you have to decide if it's worth it for you.

Cave church frescoes
Day 4: we rented a car with Thomasz and Olga and drove to the Ihlara Valley, a beautiful and very lush valley about an hour and a half from Goreme. The entrance fee of 8 TL ($4 US) gets you a nicely maintained canyon hike along a river with scenery uncharacteristic of the surrounding area. We hiked from the southernmost entrance out the north end (about 11km). To get to the dolmus (little public bus) back to your car, turn left at the beautiful old stone bridge and walk north into the town. The stop is across the street from a cave church tourist stop, and cost us 1TL each to get back to Ihlara.
Overlooking the Ihlara Valley; Lunch on a trestle bridge; Tea houses over the river; Old stone bridge 

Day 5: took a day off, did some blogging, took naps and hung out at the hotel. We were lazy and it was awesome.

Gomeda Valley
Day 6: we rented a scooter and drove to Gomeda Valley, a really cool, lightly maintained lush valley about 20 minutes drive from Goreme. The first huge rock you see is shaped like a dinosaur, so we were IN! At the top of the road is a cave church where you can see what happens when frescoes are not preserved and protected. Just under the road is a really cool underground city with views of the valley (so I'm might have to be 6'5" to see them!). We hiked down into the valley (more of a canyon really) and followed the almost-overgrown path over questionably sound stream bridges, under natural rock arches, past chirping birds and forgotten (but still growing) grapevines. After about 45 minutes the path ended in a river and it was time to head back for our well-deserved lunch picnic.

On our way home, we stopped in Love Valley, so-called because it looks like it's filled with penis shaped rocks. Seriously, my head isn't the only one in the gutter...they named it that! Despite (or maybe because of?) the phallic rocks, it was another lovely spot for a hike.

This was our absolute favorite hike of the week, but unfortunately our camera turned out to be broken! So, we made a cool video from the day instead:

Going to Goreme? Here are our suggestions:

We stayed in a little hotel, Coco Caves, in the central town of Goreme, which turned out to be a great place to take little half day or full day hiking trips. The owner was pretty weird, but the room was really nice and very inexpensive! In the evenings, we found 2 favorite spots to eat. The first, the Omurca Art Cave Cafe, is run by a local guy who has an entire colony of cats he cares for outside (clearly a winner for us!). He's an artist who has carved out his home into a cave and has a great little one-choice restaurant in the very atmospheric cave. The second restaurant is fancier and with more choices, called Topdeck, in an underground cave (with fireplace!). Both were incredibly charming and memorable!

The sunrise view from breakfast each morning
More photos from our adventure in Cappadocia:

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