For our first full day in Cappadocia we decided to take a tour. We are not usually fans of bus tours, but with so much to see in a few days this seemed like a good option. Our group was very small (only about 12 of us), the guide was lovely, and were able to see and learn a lot. Every tour operator offers the same routes (Green, Blue and Red tours) – I’m not sure who decided that, but it made choosing much easier. We opted for the green tour, which gave a good overview of the region, and included locations that would have been more difficult to do on our own.
Derinkuyu Underground City
An excavated underground city that probably dates back to the Hittites in around 1200BCE. At a depth of more than 250 feet with a capacity of up to 20,000 people, this multi-leveled city contained everything an entire population would need to survive a history riddled with invasions. These troglodyte cave-cities expanded over the centuries as various marauding armies traversed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder. There are some 36 underground cities in Cappadocia, Derinkuyu is the deepest. Fascinating to explore. If you are curious, there’s an interesting article about it here.
An astonishing rock-cut construction and the largest religious structure in the Cappadocia region with a cathedral sized church cut directly into the volcanic tuff. The Selime Monastery caves are said to date back to the 8th or 9th century BC, and were in use until the 16th century. Original frescoes can be found although damaged by weather & time. Signs of early civilizations are also present at the ancient site: Hittites, Persians, Romans, Early Christians, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks and Ottomans are some of the many inhabitants to have settled here.
Ihlara Valley is a deep canyon in the Cappadocia region that was formed thousands of years ago. It is a 14-kilometre gorge which reaches 100 metres deep in most places. It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes. Around eighty thousand people once lived in Ihlara Valley. We walked for about an hour and a half along the banks of the Melendiz River. It was very lovely, but I imagine it would be even more pretty in a few weeks when the poplar trees regain their green. It was a grey and occasionally rainy day, but not enough to curb our enthusiasm.
Pigeon Valley is named for the many pigeon houses or dovecotes carved into the rocks and cliffs. Years ago the pigeons were used as message carriers, and their droppings were used as fertilizer and maybe even for use in making explosives. We stopped at a lookout to admire the view, which was pretty stunning.