Hiking in the valleys of Cappadocia

Pancarlik Valley

Pancarlik Valley, one of Cappadocia‘s many under-visited valleys. The scenery is beautiful and the path takes you through undulating ridges of pink and white rock, a patchwork of vineyards and olive and apricot trees.

The valley houses the beautiful 10th century Pancarlik Church which is dedicated to St Theodore. Superb frescoes - portraits of saints and scenes from the life of Christ - adorn the flat ceiling in the nave. These figures are painted on a green background, a colour rarely used by the artists of Cappadocia.

Gomeda and Üzengi Valleys

I am still kicking myself for not having walked this valley a week ago when the vivid reds and yellows of the trees in Cappadocia were so striking and photogenic. Now, the colours have softened to classical autumn orange and brown hues but you will still be able to enjoy it in peace - it is not a walk which is featured on the classic guided tours; during the 3 hours that I rambled through the valley I did not meet anyone.

The valley is called Gomeda at its beginning (about 4 kms down the road to Ayvali, off the Urgup-Mustafapaşa road) and Üzengi at the other end, after the name of the stream it follows. The valley is 6 kms long and you can combine it with the nearby Pancarlik Valley or just walk part of it, starting in Mustafapaşa. At the beginning of the valley, you can visit the ruins of Alaraka Church and the Church of St. Basilios with its three Maltese crosses. Along the valley amidst the lush vegetation and fruit trees that line the stream, you will find rock-hewn churches and fascinating multi-storey dovecotes. This is a walk best done in dry weather since the path crosses the stream frequently and it can be a bit slippery when it is muddy.

Kizilcukur Valley

On Urgup-Goreme road there is a sign "Panoramix Sunset Point". You can get off the bus there and walk to the end of the road which is the start of several walks in the Red and Rose valleys. It is also a marvellous point from which to watch the sunset and on a full moon you can walk through the Red Valley. We dipped into the Red Valley and then doubled back to take the walk that starts from behind the Kaya campsite and goes to Cavusin. An easy and very beautiful walk except at the end where there is a steep and narrow path down towards Cavuşin. In dry weather the paths are full of scree and I preferred an undignified descent on my bottom to slipping and falling.

As you can see in the photos below, there are indications of paths and distances but they never seem to be when you actually need them, that is, when you are standing at the fork of two paths and trying to guess whether left or right would be more logical. No, they always seem to appear when you know exactly where you are, but they are useful to know where you have come from and how far you have walked.

Soğanlı Valley

This is one for if you have a car. In the south of Cappadocia, the landscapes soften and the rocky peaks give way to plateaux and valleys lined with poplars. From the village of Mustafapaşa take the road south in the direction of the Damsa reservoir. Your first stop will be the village of Cemil and its church, then a halt to visit the Keşlik monastic complex, further on you can see Roman remains with some fine mosaics at Sobessos and finally the Soğanlı Valley with some lovely and less-visited churches. Entrance is 5 TL as of October 2014 but the valley is worth the visit; even if the churches are closed, it is a place of peace and tranquillity.

If you don't have a car, this is definitely one occasion where a guided tour is well worth doing.

Gülşehir and Açiksaray

If you are in or passing through Gülşehir, don't miss the Church of St. Jean (Karsi Kilise). The signposting is easy to miss and the modest outside belies the magnificent frescoes inside. According to the inscription on the apse, the church is dated 1212 and for years the Biblical scenes on the upper floor of the church were covered in soot which has preserved them exceptionally well. Their present state is also thanks to extensive restoration and conservation work undertaken in 1995. Scenes from the life of Jesus, stories from the Bible and the Last Judgement cover the walls in striking and vibrant colours.

Just outside Gülşehir, you can discover the Open Palace (Açiksaray), a 10th or 11th century settlement comprising eight complexes gathered around three-sided courtyards, each with a decorated main façade. The valley is a pleasant place for a stroll and you can see the surprising rock formations, the most well-known of which looks like a huge mushroom.

Kapuzbaşı

The Kapuzbaşı Waterfalls are in the National Park of Aladaglar, about 150km south of Ürgüp. They are the 2nd highest waterfalls in the world (after the Victoria Falls) and are among Turkey's most unusual: the seven waterfalls spurt right from a solid-rock cliff face. What makes the Kapuzbaşı Waterfalls special is that the water doesn't come from a stream bed, but by water gushing out of seven different sources from the side of the mountain. The plateau, at 3000 meters' altitude, called the bowl of Aladağlar, collects water from winter snow. Most of this water feeds underground sources, some forming small lakes on the permeable surface in the summer. When some of these underground sources reach above ground, they create seven glorious waterfalls. There are picnic areas and lots of hikes through the valleys and villages of the National Park.