Cappadocia

Cappadocia

Just the name “fairy chimney” conjures up whimsical ideas of hobbits and wizards, the best part is the magical landscape of Cappidocia lives up to the enchanting descriptions. While we didn’t meet Gandalf or any of his friends, I’m convinced they could be tucked away in one of the homes cut into the rock. It just seems like the perfect place for a wizard community to call home.

A peek from inside one of the fairy chimneys in the Göreme Open Air Museum

The other-worldly rock formations with the beautiful rock-cut architecture that has made them hospitable is what draws people to the unique region of Cappadocia in the center of Turkey.  Formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, Cappadocia has since attracted visitors from all over the world.  Not only to take in the gorgeous vistas, but to admire the churches carved into the pointy rock.  We based ourselves in Göreme to easily access the best places to take in the fascinating landscapes and churches of Cappadocia listed below:

1. Zemi Valley

The Zemi Valley is close to the tourist epicenter of Cappadocia, the small town of Göreme.  There is an easy dirt trail that winds through the valley offering spectacular views over the town and of the surrounding landscape.  I would recommend the loop from Göreme as it offers stunning panoramic views of the valley below.  If you go at sunrise or just before sunset you’ll be able to see the hot air balloons rising above the fairy chimneys.

The trail is 5.6 kilometers (3.3 miles) and takes roughly 3-4 hours.

There is no cost to hike through the Zemi Valley.

Located in Göreme on the road to the Open Air Museum right past the Tourist Hotel. The other end is off the Ürgüp – Nevşehir road not far from the turn off to Uçhisar.  You can get a ride to Ürgüp, take the local bus and ask them to drop you at the trail head or you can do a loop from Göreme.

2. Göreme Open Air Museum

The Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a short walk from the town center in Göreme and offers the best collection of rock cut churches in Cappadocia.  It is a must-see in the area and offers a bit of history as the churches date back to 900-1100 AD.  The vibrant paintings within the churches are the best preserved in Cappadocia and the Dark Church, which is an extra fee, is in a category of its own- not to be missed.

The museum is 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) East of Göreme and is about a 15 minute walk from town.

The entrance fee is 15TL ($8.50 USD), 5TL ($2.80) for audio guide (optional), plus another 8TL ($4.50) for the Dark Church (optional), but highly recommended.

3. Ihlara Valley

The Ihlara Valley is one of the most famous and well known valleys in Cappadocia, formed from a volcanic eruption of the Hasan Mountain. The valley is cut into the surronding volcanic rock and features over 10 rock-cut churches.  The valley begins at Ihlara village and ends with Selime Monastery at Selime village after making 26 bends and providing breath taking scenery.

The trail is 14 kilometers (8.7 miles), but can be done in parts.

There is no cost to hike through the Ihlara Valley.

To get to the Ihlara Valley you will need to rent a car, it’s about a one hour drive from Göreme.  You can also visit via the “green tour” offered by all hotels and hostels in Göreme.  The cost for the tour is 90TL ($50 USD) includes lunch, transport and a visit to the Selime Monastery and underground city.

Cappadocia will impress regardless of where you decide to hike or which churches you visit, but make sure you give yourself enough time to unlock the wizard like magic of this awesome landscape.

WHEN YOU GO:

Goreme is an overnight bus ride from Istanbul or a short plane ride, if you’re tight on time the plane ride is a best bet as it was nearly the same price as the bus when we last checked.

Visit in the summer or prepare for cold in the winter. We visited in the winter and loved seeing the snow capped fairy chimneys, but were glad to have warm down jackets.

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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