The geological oddity that is the Turkish region of Cappadocia spans an area of ~400km east to west and ~250km north to south, making it impossible to see all the wonders of the region in just one day. But fear not future wanderers, local tour operators have made it easy for you and divided the region into 2 main tours – the Red tour and the Green tour – which together comprise most of the must do activities for any visit to Cappadocia. For now, let’s just focus on the Red tour.
I can only assume the Red tour got its name from the sheer number of stops that it incorporates. Let’s just say I never thought I would utter such words but after spending 8 hours visiting the fresco-filled cave churches at the Göreme Open Air Museum, the hoodoo castles at Uchisar and the fairy chimneys at Pasabagi and Love and Devrent Valley (and all after a 5am Hot Air Balloon ride over valleys of fairy chimneys), I was almost
sick of seeing Fairy chimneys (alas the lack of photos at the 3 beauties below). Basically, if Cappadocia was a film, this tour would be the trailer full of powerful explosions and cliff hangers that leave you begging for more.
As I frolicked around the first stop for the day, Uchisar Castle, I realized that the true title of the Beatle’s classic ‘Happiness is a warm gun’ must have been lost in a game of chinese whispers as it must have originally been ‘Happiness is a fairy chimney in the sun’. Despite the happiness emitted from my body outside, the highlight of this visit was definitely when one of the locals who owned a home inside of one of the fairy chimneys invited us in to tour the place!
*~ Love Valley ~*
Next up was Love Valley (or as I like to call it the underpants of Cappadocia) where the most famous rock-cut residents of Cappadocia reside. I’ll leave you to figure out how the valley got it’s name…
*~ Göreme Open Air Museum ~*
Entering the Göreme Open Air Museum is entering a vast monastic complex of 1000 year old cave churches with the most vivid frescoes. This site was actually the second site in all of Turkey to be awarded the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately with such status comes large crowds and with large crowds comes restrictions – most notably, today no photography is allowed inside the caves and, especially in the busy season, time limits are enforced inside. However, if you find yourself there on a rather busy day you can always return later as the site is a mere 15 minute walk from the centre of one of the main towns for tourists, Göreme.
*~ Pasabagi ~*
Pasabagi (or Monks Valley) features some of the most striking and unique fairy chimneys in all of Cappadocia with twin and even triple rock caps (which locals refer to as mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys). If my word is not enough, even the locals who live in the heart of the otherworldly region of Cappadocia consider the Pasabagi landscapes to be out of this world! Moreover, if you look carefully you may see a few familiar shapes (*cough*Rabbits*cough*) in the tuff of the fairy chimneys.
*~ Devrent Valley ~*
By this point in the afternoon I had started to feel the fairy chimney fatigue, or atleast I thought I had until I stepped off the mini-bus. All at once my tired mind was brought back awake by the spark of intrigue and imagination incited by the zoo of naturally carved rock sculptures in front of me. Appropriately referred to as Imagination Valley, here one can let their imagination run free and just as when one looks up to the clouds and sees shapes of people, places and things, one can look all around Deviant Valley as see animals, figures and much, much more. Some of the most striking/easy to realize ones are the camel, snake, seals, and dolphin.
*~ The Three Beauties ~*
Where there’s an enchanting landscape, there’s an enchanting legend. According to legend, once upon a time there lived a king and his daughter who lived peacefully side by side. After the king lost his wife, he became over protective of his beautiful and charming only daughter. Despite holding the hearts of all the men in the country, the princess fell in love with a shepherd and intended to marry him. In parallel to 99% of fairytales, the king disapproved leading his daughter to run away and secretly marry the shepherd. Years later the princess birth a baby. In the hope of earning forgiveness from her father, the princess and her family returned to the palace. However, still angered by his daughter’s betrayal the king showed them no mercy and ordered his soldiers to kill them. As the family ran, the princess prayed to the God to “make us either a stone or a bird.” The God accepted their prayer and they immediately converted into a stone. Today three three fairy chimneys are said to stand as symbols of the princess, her husband and their child.