History of Cappadocia
Definitely, Cappadocia was explored also by early human beings. The hand made axes of the Paleolithic age excavated at some locations are the evidence for that. It’s known that human beings lived here during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Hittite ages. Even then nature used to go on forming Cappadocia, and life would continue here, as it does today. However, during the Byzantine ages that region was densely populated. The people who came away from the Arab attacks built amazing underground cities.
The Christian population in that region was free in their religious practices even after the Seljuk’s dominance on Anatolia following the defeat of Byzantines. During that period, by the tolerance of the Seljuks, they lived securely in that region. As the Kervansarays in the region served as an outpost guard, the life for the people was under protection. The evidence for that is the portrait of Seljuk Sultan II. Mesud, at the Kirkdamalti Church in Ihlara Valley. The population in that region led their lives in the Ottoman ages as free and secure as they used to and even today it’s very much the same way in that aspect.
Today the Muslim inhabitants do their gardening nearby a church, however, life shifts out of caves in the rocks, into the modem houses. Until recently, besides the Christian population, Muslims also used to live in those caves. In some spots, one may still witness people living in the caves next to the churches. Now, let’s briefly talk about how we will travel through-out that wonderland. Let’s enjoy getting to know the region; let’s meet the nature walking along the ancient paths and hear the mockingbirds sing among the green trees; let’s proceed to see a marvelous fairy chimney and a church far ahead. Hereafter, we will be away from the modem world and our problems and we will be absorbed into that marvelous scenery and the only sound we hear will be the sound of nature.
The City of Valleys
One can walk along the Ihlara Valley from one end to the other. Zemi, Gorkun, and Kiliclar valleys in Goreme, Gulludere, and Kizilcukur valleys in Cavusin can be walked along within 3-4 hours. When you arrive at Cappadocia from Ankara direction, Hasandagi welcomes you with its snowy, extinct volcano peaks (3253 m).
Volcanic Mountains in Region
The region is formed during the activities of the two volcanic mountains known as Hasandagi and Mt. Erciyes (3916 m). As you drive closer to Aksaray, Hasandagi is right in front of you with snow-covered peaks like a bride in white. We would recommend you to pass through Ihlara Valley before you go to Nevsehir. The Valley is at the northeast of Hasandagi and is 34 km away from Aksaray- Nevsehir road. First, you pass by Selimiye village.
Yaprakhisar is in the scenery of tuff rocks and soon afterward passing through the Ihlara village you get to the valley. There are many churches carved in those rocks. The Agacalti Church is the first one in the 382 steps deep valley. You can see Yilanli Church against the bridge and when you pass across and climb the rocks you can see Sumbullu Church. If you have time after you have seen the other churches in Ihlara you can visit Direkli and Bahaeddin Samanligi churches in Belisirma. Those stand nearby the asphalt road.
Guzelyurt which is 34 km away from Aksaray is also a place worth seeing after Ihlara. In Guzelyurt, the stone construction Yuksek Church where Gregorius of Nazienseus used to be the bishop and Sivri Church on the way to Nigde, closer to Sivrihisar are the significant ones in the region for their distinctive features. There are also two underground cities and lots of churches carved into the rocks in Guzelyurt. The integrity of the ancient and the modern city is worth seeing.
Historical Places in Nevsehir
Turning onto the Nevsehir direction, it’s possible to see the Seljuk Kervansarays (Inns) like Oresin Han and Agzikara Han along the way to Nevsehir. Nevsehir used to be a village known as Muskara in the early 18th century until it was cultivated by the Ottoman Grand Vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha of Nevsehir (1718-1730) and in 1726 the name of the modernized city was changed to Nevsehir meaning new city. The castle up to the city was build during the Seljuks period. Damat Ibrahim Pasha complex in the centrum, contains a mosque, madrasah (Muslim theological school), library, bathhouse, imaret (public kitchen), and primary school.
Time to Goreme Tour
We can start our Goreme tour, after visiting the museum in Nevsehir. Let’s start our tour, watching the scenery from the Uchisar Castle.
The beautiful view lays beneath us from where we are standing. As we proceed towards Goreme, the view behind the Uchisar Castle is also something worth to see. Both the castle and the rigid silhouettes of rocks are combined into an impressive scenery. Shortly after the departure, we arrive at the sight-seeing platform. Guvercinlik valley lays far below. Farther is the Goreme (town). There’s another marvelous valley on the left of the asphalt road. This valley known as Baglidere is also worth seeing with its eroded landscape that reminds missiles like the ones in Gorkundere. For the tours on foot, Goreme downtown, Zemi, Gorkun, and Kiliclar valleys are the perfect choices. With places like Goreme open-air Museum Tokali, Sakli, El-Nazar, Kiliclar, and Yusuf Koc churches, Goreme gradually attracts more attention.
Cavusin, Avanos and Zelve
After touring Goreme and the surroundings the next place to see is Cavusin. Having visited the Cavusin Church on the way, we can walk to Gulludereand Kizilcukur valleys from Cavusin village.
If the time is enough, it takes 3,5 hours to visit those places on foot. Departing from Cavusin to Avanos, if we take the Zelve direction, the way first leads us to Akgedik passage on the right of which we see the beautiful silhouette of the hills towards Aktepe. Leaving Akgedik behind, we arrive at a very interesting place known as Pasabagi or Kesisler Valley. Here, it’s possible to see the fairy chimneys in groups of two or three next to the single ones. It’s known that those fairy chimneys used to be inhabited by the monks once upon a time. For example, the three-headed fairy chimney in the middle of the valley used to be the residence of the monk Simeon. Now, the next place to go is Zelve. From Zelve we arrive in a wonderful place known as Dervent which is located closer to the Avanos-Urgup crossroads. That place is distinctive among the others with the pink fairy chimneys.
As this area is uninhabited we absolutely feel the touch of nature. Especially a cluster of rocks in the form of a camel is very attractive in the area. We can visit Avanos, Urgup, and Ortahisar by the Kizilirmak (river).
Besides watching the scenery from the platforms, we can walk through as well. It’s a heavenly pleasure to be entirely surrounded by nature and walk through it listening to the singing birds. This experience is special for Zemi, Gorkun, Kiliclar, and Ballidere valleys in Cavusin closer to Gulludere Kizilcukur, Aktepe, or Goreme.
Underground Cities in the Cappadocia
Presently, there are 155 underground villages, towns and cities found out in Cappadocia. Those underground settlements are the most interesting and attractive places in the region.
Besides the most famous Kaymakli and Derinkuyu underground cities, some new ones are found out in Acigol, Igdeli, and Ozkonak. Yalidami underground village 3 km. far from Ozkonak is 500 m. below the Belha monastery and shelter. The city and the monastery were built in IV. B.C. Moreover, in Yesiloz, 10 km east of Kaymakli underground city, there are new-found underground cities at Mazi and Ozluce villages. Ortakoy, Urgup, Avanos, and Soganli Valley are distinctive sight-seeings in Cappadocia.
If you extend the tour up to Gulsehir, it’s possible to see the church and monastery at Acik Saray. Kara Vezir Pasha Kulliyesi dated 1779, is also worth visiting. In the surrounding cities, Kayseri and Nigde, the magnificent Seljuk masterpieces greet us. In Kayseri and Nigde lots of underground cities are found out as well. Ancient Gumus Church is worth to visit in Nigde.
That’s how we end up with our Cappadocia tour. We leave that wonderland, feeling relaxed and joyful.