A Cappadocia day tour is the easiest way to explore the vast region. There are numerous companies that offer these tours and essentially they all cover the same areas. The reception of the Bedrock Cave Hotel arranged everything for me, so I only had to decide between the Red, Green or Blue tour.
I opted for the Green Tour that covers approximately 200 km and gives you a great idea of what the area has to offer. Although there were a couple of tour operators with tourists at the sites we visited, it was never crowded. I was told that tourism had declined significantly over the last couple of years which is a great pity. Turkey is an amazing country with so much to offer.
Cappadocia day tour details
I was collected from my hotel at 9.30 am and we made our way through the town and past the Göreme Open-Air Museum along the panoramic route. Our guide told us a bit about the origins of the region and we stopped at a couple of amazing view sites to take in the scenery. The stop at the main view site was around 15 minutes and there are curio shops and kiosks if you want to stock up on supplies for the trip. I was fascinated by the Evil Eye tree filled with Nazar Boncugu (evil eye beads).As the name implies it protects the wearer and wards off evil and bad energy.
Derinkuyu underground city
This was the highlight of the trip for me. “If you are claustrophobic or have health issues you had better stay here,” the guide said.
The city was discovered by accident. In 1963 a man was knocking down a wall in his basement. To his surprise, he discovered a tunnel which led to the huge underground city of Derinkuyu.
Archaeologists believe that it was created in the Byzantium era around 780-1180 AD. It has 11 levels and could accommodate 20 000 people, including livestock and food supplies. At the moment you are able to visit 8 storeys. No one actually knows why the city was built, but there are many theories.
A large circular stone, that acted as a door, could be rolled across a narrow entrance to prevent unwanted visitors. There are stables, churches, wineries, cellars and storage rooms all underground.
There is also a deep ventilation shaft that was used as a well and I can vouch for the fact that it is a long way to the bottom! The city contains around 15 000 ventilation ducts and the air is clean and fresh. It is also fairly cold underground so take something warm to wear.
The monastery is similar to those at Göreme Open-Air Museum. A significant factor is that it was the centre of learning for many priests. The monastery dates to the 8th & 9th centuries, but the frescos are from the 10th & 11th centuries. It is thought that it took around 200 years to build and housed 5000 people.
The monastery is the largest religious building in Cappadocia and includes a church the size of a cathedral. There are also living quarters for the monks, a stable and a kitchen in the rocks. It was abandoned in the 16th century and not used again, except by the local inhabitants.
The climb up a steep hill makes you think that you are on a Star Wars movie set. You can certainly see where some of the inspiration came from if you are a fan, but none of the scenes was shot here.
This 16 km (10 mile) long, 100 m deep gorge was formed by a volcanic eruption and is thousands of years old. Churches and caves dwelling litter the valley. We accessed the valley at the second entrance which has over 300 steps taking you down to the Melendiz River. From there it was a pleasant 4 km walk to the exit where our vehicle met us.
One of the best churches to see is the Agacalti Kilise or the Under the tree church. Look out for the fresco depicting Daniel in the lion’s den. The frescoes are still in a fantastic condition and the colours are beautifully vibrant.
If you look closely you will see that the eyes have been removed. It is uncertain as to who did this. The first theory suggests that it was the Muslims when they used it for worshipping as the Qur’an prohibits images of humans in temples. The second theory is that the 8th century Byzantium Iconclasts removed the eyes, but no one really knows the answer.
There is an open-air restaurant about halfway along the walk. It is a wonderful spot to stop for tea, listen to the tinkling river and soak up the scenery.
We arrived at Pigeon Valley shortly before sunset. It is a spectacular point to enjoy the views.
The entire region of Cappadocia is littered with pigeon houses. The birds are revered and encouraged as they provide a necessary source of fertiliser. There naturally is also a legend that needs to be told.
With the Christians settling in Cappadocia they needed wine for their church services, so they planted grape vines. The vines did not do well and it was much trial and error trying to produce the wine they needed. One day a mysterious man arrived and told them to use pigeon fertilizer and the vines would flourish. In order to collect a steady supply they carved pigeon houses out of the rock and the precedent was set. From then on the vines flourished.
I mention this only in passing as it was not really my cup of tea. Just across the road from the view site at Pigeon Valley is a workshop where they demonstrate how they cut onyx and polish it into quality gemstones and of course have rooms full of items for you to buy.
The nitty gritty
The price of the trip is around € 50.00 which includes all entrance fees and lunch, but no drinks. Many companies will give you a discount if you book a package deal and include a balloon trip with it so I suggest that you shop around a bit when you arrive.
The Cappadocia day tour, the Green Route, ticked all the boxes for me. I thought that is was excellent value for money and it would not have been possible for me to see this much of Cappadocia under my own steam. If you have the time to spare book the tour!
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