Cappadocia is a place of magical beauty in the arid heart of Turkey. Canyon like valleys, stone fairy chimneys and ancient dwellings carved into the rocky landscape make for a wonderful place for walking. Goreme is a fabulous base. Tourism in Turkey decreased dramatically following a major terrorist incident in Ankara in 2015 and the crackdown on the attempted coup in 2016. Personal experience over the time of the 2018 election indicated that Turkey was surprisingly calm and very well ordered. We felt quite safe travelling in Istanbul and Cappadocia. Tourists seem to be putting these places back on their lists but at the moment things seem quiet and uncrowded. Some of the walking trails are a little overgrown and decent maps are hard to come by. With advice from friendly locals and the basic maps that are freely available some great walking is achievable. Winter is cold and possibly snowy, summer is hot. There are standard day tours operated from Goreme that take in a variety of sites and include some walks – the Red, Green and Blue tours.
Rose Valley ***
One of the best walks in the area. Half a day. Can be started in two places – either from higher up the road past the Goreme Open Air Museum just past the Kaya Camp Area (see alternative below). This is about an hour’s walk from Goreme. Three paths depart here – take the left hand path then take a right turn off this after 200m and follow this steeply down into the deep valley. This narrow dirt road becomes a footpath into the canyon trail. Ancient dwellings have been carved into the soft rock, tunnels have been excavated to channel water and there is a church complex further into the canyon up on the right hand side. Apricot and grape fields give way to an opening of the lower valley as it leads to Cavusin. From here it is a short walk to the capped fairy chimneys of Pagabasi. A taxi back to Goreme can be arranged either at Pagabasi or Cavusin.
A better starting point may be from Aktepe Hill which could be accessed from Goreme by taxi.
In 2018 there were no trail side stalls on this walk.
Kiliclar Valley **
A short 2 hour walk very accessible from Goreme. A lovely walk in the late afternoon when soft evenglow will light up the fairytale landscape. Start from the top of the hill 200m up the road past the Goreme Outdoor Museum. A sign marks the start of the narrow foot trail which descends into the narrow and steep canyon. Ladders enable descent of some sections. Tunnels, cliff dwellings, amazing geological features, red crags. At the canyon opening beautiful fairy chimneys and pinnacles dot the rolling fields. A short walk back to the left over a ridge brings you back through more apricot groves to Goreme.
Ilhara Valley *
This valley runs for 14 km but arranging to do the whole walk would require being dropped off at one end and arranging a pick up at the other. The whole valley is reputed to be an excellent walk. As part of the “Green Tour” we did a 4 km section in the central most popular section. The valley was a spectacular gorge with high vertical walls, different geologically to the Goreme valleys. In the walls were churches and dwellings. Cafes and restaurants were found along the the valley floor, some with tented rooms above the river. A good path followed the full flowing river.
Note that Ihara Valley is a couple of hours drive from Goreme.
Love (White) Valley ***
This is accessed at the bottom end of the valley below Goreme by a 10 minute taxi ride or a 2 km road walk. The valley is open to start and right away almost you wander through a wonderful forest of striking stone towers. Wild flowers were abundant in late July. The formations and cliff dwellings are amazing. Walking in the top section is over undulating rocky rolling white folds of stone. You exit up left into apricot groves and then to the main road and on to the towering fortress of Urchisar with its hollowed out spires and grand 360 degree views.
Pidgeon Valley *
Take care which entry you use to access this walk if starting from Urchisar. The entry from the viewing area south of the town will give access to a valley that includes a reasonably dangerous knotted rope descent down a blank section of cliff. The valley accessed from the north of the town provides a more straightforward hiking route.
2 hrs from Urchisar to Goreme.
The cliffs are often overhung by smooth, rounded caps. The valley is dense with ancient cliff dwellings. A deep canyon is glimpsed in places. The trail is overgrown and sometimes hard to follow. The only cafe in the gorge serves great Turkish coffee. The proprietor, in 2018, said that 5 years ago there would have been 1,000 walkers each day whereas now there might be 20 – 30 at the most.
Is a great base for walking and exploring. The morning balloons are a festival of colour – giving a magical air of old world floating flight. Through the soft light of early dawn they rise and fall among the buildings, valleys and stone towers. Sun crests a high ridge golden in the stone houses and surrounding hills. Small corner stores and a COOP supermarket stock all sorts of supplies. Restaurants are cheap and the TripAdvisor top picks are sensational (Pumpkin, Top Deck, Bubek Kebap). Carpets, ice cream, cafes, flavours, spices, lamb and veggies, aromas. Sparkling lanterns inside stone dugouts or balconies with cool evening air. The muezzin calls four times a day over the loudspeaker from the mosque. Acoustic fusion Turkish Arabic world music. Lyrical chatter of the Turkish language. The sports Club is where the local men hang out and play board games and cards and chat. It’s an international tourist village with an authentic local feel. It seems a little down at heel due to the decreased number of tourists but therein may lie some of its present charm and laid back atmosphere. Stone towers are interspersed along almost every winding street and throughout the town. Hotels and accommodation are found at every corner and dug into all the rocky slopes. It feels very organic, seeming to grow out of the hills. Pink, yellow and grey. Most establishments have large generators for when the electricity goes off. A couple of places have pools which are fabulous for cooling off in the heat.
We were lucky to be able to witness this in a “caravanserai” building dating back to the 12th century days of trade along the Spice Road. Four men in black cloaks with long white skirts performed while three played the haunting soundtrack. It was all very respectful, meditative and carefully choreographed. The music rose up to the high ceilinged stone church like structure from drum, windpipe and zither. They twirled faster and faster to bring heaven down to earth and to reach a state of transcendence. The practice is based on a dance formulated by Rumi. There were only 9 of us in the audience but still the performance was highly professional and complete. We were transfixed and quite carried away.