Goreme, Cappadocia – The Fairyland
Fairy chimneys – that’s what Cappadocia is famed for. No not man-made, no not those in children’s fables, no not a few in a garden for a birthday party! Spread all over the 100 sq kms of Goreme National Park (Central Turkey) and beyond, formed naturally from the volcanic ash of eruptions, the inner being the soft ‘tuff’ and the outer the harder ‘basalt’. Shaped over the years by wind and water erosion. Strangely, neighboring areas have different shaped formations – conical, phallic, animal shaped, those with pigeon holes and huge mounds hollowed into houses, churches with beautifully painted walls, castles and even underground cities (surprisingly bereft of mustiness). You can never say, you have seen one, you have seen them all.
Now imagine cruising over this rugged region in a hot air balloon at dawn in the mysterious gray light or speeding around in an ATV in the afternoon, from one valley to the other, provoking a decibel frenzy and a relentless dust storm or blissfully lounging at the high point of the town sipping a beer as the sun sets over the fairy chimneys during the magical golden hour.
Add to this a hike along the river, a bazaar with almost medieval artifacts, an Ice Cream vendor snazzily dressed up performing jugglery antics as he scoops the dondruma into a cone, a bath in a traditional Hammam with almost your skin being rubbed off your body, evening dinner with Ottoman cuisine and wine while watching a Belly Dance performance or a quiet meal by a huge fire and ending the day in a ‘cave hotel’.
Well, we were done with the ‘imagining’ and ended up at Goreme (adding to its population of 2000 people for a few days) in 2019 for a leisurely five-day stay as part of our two-week Turkey vacation! The desolate, windswept landscape of Spiti (in India) had intrigued us many years back but Cappadocia was different – mesmerizingly enthralling.
ATV Off Road (Quad Bike) Safari – Action, Adventure, Adrenalin Rush, Sweeping Panoramas!
As you go through this section, all those who have indulged in ATV off-roading will experience nostalgia and those who haven’t, awe. None – boredom! Both will want to get on that mean machine immediately. Having go carted, a few rounds in an ATV in a limited periphery – never the wild countryside on challenging dirt tracks for 2.5 hours. Struck this off the bucket list, good and proper. Action, adventure, adrenalin rush, sweeping panoramas!
We took a guided tour and on reaching our starting point were amazed to see about more than 100 ATVs parked! With more than a hint of trepidation we donned the helmet and dust mask meted out, as our group leader explained the simple working for operating the machine.
One of our most exciting afternoons in Cappadocia – an unforgettable, almost nomadic exploit – whizzing on a beastly Quad Bike through the intriguing and rugged valleys with its spectacular primeval formations, the result of tempestuous eruptions from aeons ago.
Enjoy below pictures from our afternoon safari where we came across the mysterious and artistic volcanic ash piles in Rose Valley and Red Valley, the phallic spires in Love Valley and the deserted churches and cave homes of Çavuşin village. It was as if each edifice had a story and was beckoning us to spend time in its shadow and unravel its dramatic anecdotes!
It was a sea of ATVs tightly parked together, ready for the riders to board!
Ranjana certainly doesn’t seem to be a first time ATV rider!
Hot Air Balloon Safari
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty fairy chimneys,
The hot air balloon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy skies,
The maverick couple came flying across the valleys of Cappadocia,
(A take from our school time poem, “The Highwayman”.
“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
– The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.“
The Takeoff – A Surreal Experience!
There were a plethora of balloons in the air space offering everyone an aerial panorama of the phenomenal lunar like landscapes, volcanic ash structures in various shapes and shades – the famed fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. These sixty minutes in the air were one of the best times spent during our five days in Cappadocia as we traversed across the seemingly mythical terrain with its ghostly edifices!
These pictures were taken by the other basket cases – those with whom we shared our flight!
Sunset Hill in Goreme
Cafes in Goreme
In Goreme, we discovered that there were many small cafes and eating joints within walking distance and each unique in its character and location. By this time, we had developed quite a liking for the traditional Turkish cuisine and both of us being foodies gorged on myriad dishes during our five days stay at Cappadocia.
We fell so much in love with the location of this eatery that we again ended up here for dinner!
The hospitality was impeccable – our server patiently suggesting dishes from the menu to providing light blankets as it got chilly on the open rooftop and of course this picture.
Also amongst other Turkish dishes that we sampled here, we tasted Ayran – a refreshing drink made of yogurt & water, somewhat similar to our buttermilk (lassi).
The sunset over the Rose Valley formed a beautiful backdrop from the Viewpoint Café Terrace.
My Mother’s Cafe & Restaurant
Pasha Café had a lively vibe and a crackling fire going which made sitting in the open with the radiating warmth absolutely snug. The fire with its dancing flames, the local band playing live, the authentic Turkish dishes, the glowing fairy chimney almost on top of our heads – the perfect place for our last dinner at Goreme, a lazy, languorous meal which we seemed in no hurry to finish!
Some Other Cafes in Goreme
There were some more interesting cave restaurants with terraces like the ones above – Organic Cave Kitchen and Dibek Cafe!
Shopping in Goreme Turkish Bazaar
We are not too much into shopping while on a trip to another country but no visit of ours is complete without wandering through the local bazaars and imbibing the atmosphere and buzz. However, in Goreme the traditional articles were so alluring that these jaunts ended up as splurging sprees for keepsakes – from ceramic plates and bowls with beautiful Ottoman designs, a clutch (with painted Turkish art), a Kilim Rug for our prayer area (Kilims are flat-weave rugs and are a truly remarkable tradition that has been maintained by the local people of Anatolia for tens of generations, dating back almost 9,000 years), scarves (artificial silk with traditional Turkish motifs), Jewelry (of semi precious stones and intricate design), the ubiquitous evil eye besides admiring the beautiful array of Turkish lamps, carpets and a plethora of curios on abundant display.
Iznik Tiles And Ceramic Art Of Turkey – Named after the town in western Anatolia where it was first made popular, Iznik pottery is revival of the vividly painted ceramics and tiles of the Ottoman Empire. The intricate decorations on the hand painted ceramics progressed from pure symmetry to subtle rhymes, incorporating ships, animals, trees, carnations, roses and of course, lots of tulips.
The perfection of Ottoman art lies in the pure balance of color, line and rhythm in geometric patterns and designs.
This shop had an interesting collection and we picked up some beautiful ceramic bowls and plates from here.
Ceramic Turkish pot, plates and cups at Goreme market in Cappadocia, Turkey
We found some great quality shops selling a wide variety of beautiful traditional wares. Ceramics occupy an important place with a profound and influential history in Anatolian Turkish decorative arts.
The ceramics of Iznik – patronized by the sultans were among the finest works of art in the Ottoman Empire. The technical quality, beauty and exquisite designs of this pottery made it one of the most popular and enduring art forms of the Islamic world.
Turkish Souvenirs On Display
Since Cappadocia is famous for Hot Air Ballooning, there were miniature balloons in baskets – a cute replica.
Variety of Colorful Turkish Glass Lamps for Sale
This is a picturesque city offering beautiful wares for visitors to buy. The markets were not very crowded and so we could easily spend time browsing and choosing things we liked.
Turkish Ice Cream and The Antics
Staying In A Cave Hotel With Views – A Dreamy Affair
While visiting this ancient and magical city, rather than staying in a regular hotel, we opted to stay in a ‘Cave Hotel’ which are ancient dwellings transformed into comfortable hotels, carved onto the volcanic hills of the region. We loved the idea of staying in a ‘cave’ and this experience of ours was truly unique and amazing.
I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before.
~ Eric Roth (American screenwriter)
We also took the Red and Green Tours from Goreme which were separate full day trips with engaging and knowledgeable guides taking us in a coach through the very fascinating Goreme Open Air Museum with lovely wall paintings and ancient churches, Devrent Valley (also called Imagination Valley) with beguiling rock formations in animal forms, Pasabag (also known as valley of the monks) with fascinating fairy chimneys and cave dwellings, Avanos where we were given a tour of a pottery factory running for 200 years through the generations – I was chosen from our group to try my hand and feet at pottery making on their traditional wheel, a beyond elaborate buffet lunch, Uchisar Castle located at Cappadocia’s highest point with hollowed rooms and passages at multiple levels. This was the Red Tour covering Northern Cappadocia.
With the Green Tour we traversed through the South Western Part of Cappadocia – Ihlara Valley with a short trek along a stream, the incredible underground city of Derinkuyu, Selime Monastery (the biggest rock-cut monastery of Cappadocia with a cathedral sized church carved by the monks in the 13th century), ending at sunset at Pigeon Valley.
We could have spent a couple of weeks hiking through these areas and exploring them, each being more enchanting than the other! Instead we spent a few days in Fethiye by the Mediterranean Coast in the Aegean Region of South Western Turkey and a couple of days in Istanbul along the Golden Horn with a stopover at Pamukkale and Hierapolis in-between!
Keep travelling, keep having adventures, keep having new experiences!
Article Authored By: Achal Bindraban.
Page Design By: Ranjana Achal.
Pictures By: Achal and Ranjana and couple pics by fellow travelers.