The reputation of Cappadocia, Turkey as one of this planet’s most beautiful regions is not without merit. And since we only had a few days to explore it, we knew we’d need some professional help. Travel Atelier offer fully personalised private tours and came to our rescue. This was perfect for us as we could tailor the flexible itinerary around our 2 young kids, who have a habit of falling asleep at the most inopportune times. Our friendly guide, Ismail, was extremely knowledgeable about the area and organised a fabulous 2-day tour that we will remember for the rest of our lives.
Ismail met us at our hotel, Kayakapi Premium Caves, and we were on our way at 10am. The custom made minivan was extremely comfortable, fitted with opposing seats making conversations easier, mini fridge packed with drinks, and our favourite… wifi!
The first stop, Imagination Valley, was just a short 15-minute drive. We got out and Erin and Mia explored the amazing natural rock formations for a little while. The formations were surrounded by dry shrubbery and a few other adventurous hikers. We opted to keep things rolling and jumped back in the minivan and continuing onto our next destination.
The next stop was Hermit Valley fairy chimneys. These unique, gravity-defying formations are a result of erosion occurring on different types of to form a shape that resembles a chimney reaching up to 15m in height. These were homes and churches for the inhabitants over the centuries, but now are available for visitors to wander through. The textures, shapes and colours were really quite beautiful. I loved imaging what life would have been like living in one of these isolated caves.
Several stalls were setup around the grounds offering gifts, souvenirs and drinks. We spent about 45mins walking around and the kids started to wane so we scooted back into the minivan to continue on the journey.
On the way to the next stop Mia was showing tell-tale dozy signs and soon fell asleep on the car seat.
Ozkonak Underground City
So she stayed in the car with our driver while the rest of us took a tour of Ozkonak Underground City. This was one of a number of cities spread around the region and could house up to 60,000 inhabitants, going down 10 floors at a depth of 40 metres. After being abandoned, they were lost to time and forgotten until mid last century when one of them was accidently discovered and now numerous cities are being excavated.
The original builders made room for everything – animals, kitchens, winery, sleeping quarters, and even defence mechanisms. At times the inhabitants would be under siege from invading armies so they were well equipped to hold out until the invaders gave up. We saw a large stone which was rolled to block an entrance for such an occasion. Erin tried pushing but it wouldn’t budge.
These builders thought of everything – even a communication system made of carved-out pipes at each floor. Amazing!
One Bloody Toe
I was fascinated by the engineering skill used in carving these amazing structures. Once we reached the farthest point, Caius conveniently explained how he urgently needed to go to the toilet so we had to make a dash back for the entrance where portable toilets were located.
When climbing one of the small steps near the toilets, Erin stubbed her toe and ripped off a large chunk of skin from the bottom of her large toe. It was a bloody mess. With the help of our guide, we made our way to a pharmacy where a helpful pharmacist cleaned and bandaged the wound. They were very kind and didn’t ask for anything in return.
This only slowed down Erin a little. While it didn’t hurt too badly initially, once the adrenaline wore off by evening time, it certainly did start to hurt. Erin was a brave soldier and carried on.
By now it was lunchtime so we stopped at a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat. It was a family mansion that was transformed into an authentic Turkish restaurant, which featured popular regional dishes. Dessert was my favourite - fresh Turkish bread soaked in sugar syrup topped with cream.
Caius got hands-on with the eclectic decorations in the foyer area of the restaurant, having a chat to one of the statues.
The Great Chez
With full tummies we drove to our next stop, Chez Galip pottery company. This is the workshop of the world-famous master potter, Chez Galip. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for his achievements, and students studying this craft travel from all over the world to learn from him.
After a demonstration from the man himself, Mia was offered the chance to try her hand at this fine craft. For her first attempt, the finished product was really impressive. A cute little bowl with red painted trim.
She was so proud of this accomplishment and carefully placed the bowl in the sun to dry while we toured the rest of the pottery store. The shop consisted of pieces made by Chez’s students, other skilled craftsmen and Chez Galip himself.
The quality of these pottery pieces were something we had never seen before. Several of the pieces featured phosphorous trimmings which made the bowls glow in the dark.
Photography wasn’t allowed in the shop, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
As the day was winding up, we headed to a panoramic lookout near Goreme which was incredibly beautiful.
I took a few snaps before we drove a little while longer to reach the perfect location for a view of the Uchisar Rock Castle. This was a breathtaking vista. It used to be inhabited for centuries but now is available for visitors. This is the highest point in Cappadocia, so it’s easily identifiable for miles. It’s one of those views you can just look at all day long, but we had to wrap up the tour.
Ismail brought us back to our hotel in the late afternoon and we were all exhausted, ready for a good night’s sleep before starting part 2 of this wonderful tour the next day. We fit a lot of amazing things into just 1 day, but there was even more just around the corner.