Such an odd and wonderful place this is. A place where people sleep in caves, cities are constructed underground and the landscapes reminisce a fairy tale. Located right in the middle of Turkey, Cappadocia made a perfect stop to break up the dusty overland Silk Road journey. Arriving in the early hours of the morning I wandered the empty streets. Every so often a light would turn on through the window of a cave house. In the distance, the colorful rocks gleamed in the early morning light. An amazing first sight of Cappadocia!
Staying in a Cave Hotel
The bus from Istanbul is not the most convenient as it arrives around 2 am. You’re left to wander the streets, but it gives you time to check out a few cave hotels, you are going to stay in a cave right?
Yes! Staying in a cave hotel is a quintessential experience to any traveler who finds themselves in Cappadocia. The caves range from ridiculously expensive to rustic and cheap.
I opted for the rustic and cheap version which comes with a private cave decked out in antique Persian rugs!
Capital Cave City – Goreme
After checking into my cave hotel I set off to explore the capital of the cave cities, Goreme.
Goreme is well known for its shopping. You can buy all kinds of Turkish arts and crafts from around the country. My favourite is the Turkish carpets.
Another favourite past time is to drop into one of the cities many narghile cafes. The bubbling tobacco pipes, strong black tea and, epic landscapes make for an amazing setting.
Hiking in Pasabag (Monks Valley)
On the outskirts of Goreme, a trail leads into the Pasabag Valley also known as the Monks Valley. Here the rock formations take on a erm.. more phallus shape.
Yes, that’s right, it looks like a valley of penises there’s no way of getting around it, and the rocks colors truly are amazing however.
The main trail only takes a few hours, but it’s best to spend longer that way you can explore some of the empty caves that used to be inhabited.
The Fortress of Uçhisar
From Goreme, you can see the towering Uchisar rock city looming in the distance. This castle is where residents took refuge in times of invasion. The mountain is riddled with tunnels and fortifications.
Exploring Cappadocia’s most prominent landmark is fantastic on your own. You can spend a whole day at Uchisar Castle.
Exploring the Derinkuyu Underground City
Cappadocia has many underground cities. These cities can reach as far as eight stories down. They were used as a refuge when invaders came, whole villages would seemingly disappear.
Derinkuyu is the largest and deepest of these underground cities. A short bus ride from Goreme and you can be at the entrance to the underworld.
Now trust me if you are claustrophobic this is not the place for you. I entered Derinkuyu with four people and by the eighth level, (which was pitch black) the other four had turned around.
Zelve Open-Air Museum
Although many of the caves have been preserved, many have not, and have decayed over time. The Zelve Open Air Museum, on the other hand, is a great exhibit of how complex many of these caves are!
Visiting them you are whisked back in time to see how complex these stone homes were.
Hiking Ihlara Valley
Unlike Derinkuyu, Ihlara is not an easy walk to look at rock formations. This is a tougher hike that takes you along ridges, river banks, and up extremely steep hills.
Along the trail, you will see plenty of unique rock formations, but the main draw is the dramatic valley and empty trails!