Exploring the fairy chimneys

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Cappadocia (Kapadokya) is the name given to a large area of Central Anatolia extending roughly from Aksaray in the west to Kayseri in the east and from Gülşehir in the north to Niğde in the south.

It's an area of extraordinary natural beauty, the variegated landscape of deep valleys and soaring rock-cone "fairy chimneys" created by the action of wind and rain working on volcanic deposits laid down millennia beforehand by now extinct caldera volcanoes near Acıgöl.

Within Cappadocia there are a series of villages and small towns, many of them with a flourishing tourism industry based around stylish boutique hotels created out of the old cave houses that used to be such a feature of the area.

Most of these tourist centres are clustered around Nevşehir, including long-established Göreme, Uçhisar, Ürgüp and Avanos, and up-and-coming Çavuşin, OrtahisarMustafapaşa and İbrahimpaşa. Other smaller resorts south of Aksaray include Güzelyurt and IhlaraCapscenery

What to see and do

Traditionally Cappadocia was famous for hundreds of frescoed medieval churches cut out of the rocks and for many valleys which offered perfect walking territory. Nowadays though it is at least as well known as Turkey's premier hot-air ballooning destination, with upwards of 70 balloons taking to the sky every morning in summer. 

Visitors also come to Cappadocia to ride horses in the valleys or to race quad bikes through them.

Other popular attractions in the area include more than 30 so-called underground cities, the best known at Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı. The Sarıhan caravanserai near Avanos hosts nightly displays of dervish dancing, and there are many other venues, frequently underground, offering Turkish nights with food and drink almost incidental to the floor shows. Every August assorted venues play host to the Kapadokya Keyifler bonanza of classical music concerts. 

capscenery2Avanos is a famous pottery-making centre with everything from small individual ateliers through underground potteries to huge barns aimed at the tour-group market. 

Ürgüp is also known for its wines. Visitors can go wine-tasting in the town centre or at the large Turasan winery. 

South of Ürgüp there are Roman ruins and a magnificent frescoed church at Şahinefendi (Sobesos).

In winter visitors can even head for the ski slopes at the expanding winter sports resort on Mt Erciyes.

There are also outdoor thermal facilities at Bayramhacı and a spa resort at Kozaklı.

Museum Pass Cappadocia For TL45 you can buy a museum pass that offers inclusive admission to Göreme Open Air Museum including the Dark Church, Ilhara Valley, Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Özkonak underground cities and Zelve Open Air Museum. 

It's only valid for 72 hours so you need to think carefully how many of those attractions you are likely to visit in that time to make sure that you will actually gain financially from buying it. It does save having to queue up to get in at busy times though.

Transport info

The easiest and quickest way to get to Cappadocia from İstanbul is to fly to Nevşehir or Kayseri; make sure to book a shuttle transfer to your hotel when you make your flight reservation or risk an expensive taxi fare (most hoteliers will do this for you if you supply your flight details). Nevşehir airport only operates in summer. capscenery3

To save money take the overnight bus from İstanbul; it takes 12 hours. From Ankara Cappadocia is a five-hour bus ride. Check flight prices before deciding since the price differential is sometimes surprisingly small.

Also in Cappadocia





Read more: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/the-travellers-guide-to-cappadocia-500662.html

Read more about what to do in a four-day visit: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-219686-captivating-cappadocia-four-days-amid-the-cave-dwellers.html

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-289903-cappadocia----top-10-things-to-see-and-do.html

This article first appeared in Time Out Istanbul in English in January 2008


 Imagine extraordinary “fairy chimney” pinnacles of rock with capstones perched on top of them. Imagine deep gorges with streams meandering between shady poplar trees. Imagine mesmerising medieval churches cut into the rocks and painted with colors so bright that they still have the power to thrill. This is the Cappadocia of the blistering summer months when the sun rips the colour out of the landscape and burns so brightly that roses bloom and die within a single day.

Now blink and do a double-take. Imagine those same extraordinary fairy-chimney rock formations capped with bonnets of snow. Imagine the valleys with the streams frozen to ice and the rough rocks smoothed over beneath a thick blanket of white. Best of all, imagine the medieval rock churches empty of the summer crowds so that you can linger to appreciate every last detail of the frescoes. This is the Cappadocia known mainly to its residents and to the few hardy souls – mainly Japanese and Korean – who venture here in winter, and it’s a completely different Cappadocia, a place where wearing multi-layered clothing is not so much a fashion statement as a necessity, and where the locals slosh about in the snow wearing curious rubber overshoes.

Of course you can come to Cappadocia in winter and do exactly the same things that you would do in summer, namely visit the open-air museums and underground cities, trek through the valleys, and perhaps take a trip to a “Turkish Night”. But some of the local travel agents have wised up to the potential of winter tourism and offer alternatives perfectly tallored to make the most of the altered landscape.

Kirkit Voyage in Avanos, for example, offers a wonderful eight-day walking tour of the valleys on snowshoes. It kicks off from the Hotel Karballa in Güzelyurt, a beautiful and under-visited small town near Aksaray on the western outskirts of Cappadocia with Mt Hasan (3268m) looming over it, its summit crusted with snow right through until spring. The tour takes visitors to small villages like Helvadere and Yenipınar in the foothills of Mt Hasan that rarely see a tourist at other times of year. Up here the air is clear, the forests unspoilt and the glistening crater lakes often frozen in winter. After three days of walking around Güzelyurt, the tour heads back towards more familiar territory in and around Mustafapaşa, Ortahisar, Uçhisar and Avanos. On the way accommodation is provided in village houses, offering a great way to meet some of the locals, try out some of their home-cooking and get a glimpse of life in a cold climate very far removed from the usual image of Turkish tourism as it is played out along the coast.

On the wall of Kirkit Voyage hang a pair of snowshoes that look alarmingly like outsize tennis rackets. It’s a relief, then, to see the snazzy modern versions that are provided for guests. I try a pair for size. “It’s easier to walk on them than in ordinary shoes,” says Osman Diler who sports the sort of perma-tan acquired from many years of outdoor guiding. Nor is any previous experience required to join the tour, he assures me, as he dangles the prospect of walking through the glorious Ihlara Valley in the snow before me.

For many people Göreme will be better known than Avanos or Güzelyurt. Here the Middle Earth travel agency offers snow-shoe excursions around the many beautiful valleys which fan out around the village. “What if there’s not enough snow?” I ask, remembering last year. Then they can take you to Mt Erciyes, or even at a pinch to the Ala Dağları National Park where snow is guaranteed.

The other option that opens itself up to Cappadocia’s winter visitors is skiing on Mt Erciyes (3916m), an extinct volcano near Kayseri, where a flourishing small ski resort is centered around a Dedeman hotel. If you’ve already been skiing on Uludağ, near Bursa, put everything you saw there straight out of your mind. This is the rural take on winter sports, with headscarved mums careening down the slopes on sleighs while their children play with snowballs right beside them. At the same time there is everything here that you could possibly want for serious skiing, with three pistes and 12 kilometres of runs on fine, powdery snow. You can even hire everything you need here, including skis and snowboards.

Most years a winter tourism festival on the slopes of My Erciyes offers the chance to down mulled wine, snack on kebabs, and generally have a fine old time on the mountainside. Last year unfortunately the festival was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship. This year, however, the chances are high that it will take place say the folks from Kayseri tourist office. When would that be? Well, of course they don’t know – but probably in mid-February.

What else can you do here that’s especially wintry? Well, also near Kayseri the hot springs at Bayramhacılar feature a large outdoor swimming pool where, if you can catch the weather right, you can swim in piping hot water while all around you the snow lies thick on the ground. These days no visit to Cappadocia would be complete without a trip in a hot-air balloon to view the staggering scenery from on high. Unfortunately, weather conditions are not always conducive to winter ballooning. However, from time to time one or other of the many companies now operating in the area does put to flight – and what could be more staggeringly beautiful than gazing down from a crisp blue sky on a phantasmagoria of snow and ice.

There’s no getting away from the fact that Cappadocia is right in the middle of the country which means that in winter it’s freezing. Pack your thermals and your sturdiest hiking boots, and forget thoughts of a cheapskate budget. You’re going to need a hotel that keeps the heating running even when visitors are thin on the ground, which usually means paying that little bit more. The good new is that there’s already a metre of snow on Erciyes...






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