Key information: Cappadocia
- This region is famous for the odd formations of it's surreal landscape - weird spires and mushrooms, the result of the erosion of the soft volcanic rock which covers the area.
- Troglodyte dwellings are common, with entire cities consisting of houses and churches carved from the rock.
- Fabulous, varied walking in season through different parts of this extraordinary area.
- The area has a fascinating history, particularly as a centre of early Christianity.
Walkopedia rating(Top 100)
- Walkopedia rating92
- Natural interest17.5
- Human interest14.5
- Negative points4
- Total rating92
- Note: Negs: Tourism
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: 1,200m
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Cappadocia is justly famous both for its extraordinary, unworldly scenery - deep canyons cut into the soft volcanic tuff and weird rock formations - and for its troglodyte homes and churches - deeply burrowed towns even - and early Christian history. It thoroughly deserves its World Heritage Site status.
Cappadocia is beautiful (in a strange way), with its natural cones, pinnacles, ravines, canyons and cliffs varying in colour from warm and earthy ochres to cooler shades of green and grey. The area's canyons and trademark 'mushroom' formations (or fairy chimneys) were created through the erosion of the deep, soft, geologically young - a few million years old - compacted volcanic ash with a harder layer of lava above, and the 'chimneys' evoke fairytales or nightmares, depending on your state of mind (substance profile for the younger visitor).
The locals have for centuries made use of the soft rock, and troglodyte dwellings burrow deep below the surface, even creating underground cities (which were often used by early Christians as hiding places), such as Kaymakli. The region's greatest man-made glories, though, are the churches and monasteries, often sporting the remains of rich wall-paintings and facades reminiscent of Petra, which are dug deep into the cliff-faces.
Cappadocia was a centre of early Christianity, producing the 'Cappadocian Fathers' and John of Cappadocia, Patriarch of Constantinople between 517 and 520AD.
There is no single famous trail here. Instead, there is a plethora of pedestrian pleasures to choose from. You must explore at least two of the extraordinary 'valleys' (for which generally read canyons) around Goreme: we suggest a physically weird one (i.e. a narrow ravine opening slowly into a wider-bottomed, cultivated canyon) such as the Rose Valley and a church and history-packed one such as the marvellous Zelve (or Ihlara) to provide a suitable mix. But you should not miss a traverse on high ground, to get a panorama and an understanding of the weird topography, and we recommend that the area of Ak Tepe (The White Hill), the Goreme area's dominant landmark, as unmissable. The Ilhara Valley further away is also outstanding.
Some of the best valleys around Goreme include:
- The Rose Valley, a fantastic ravine turning canyon which tumbles dramatically from Ak Tepe's southern shoulder.
- Zelve: this three-pronged canyon in the Ak Tepe massif is another open-air museum (so don't expect much solitude unless you penetrate deep into the valleys). Wander among ruined churches (from the C9 to C13) and houses in this one-time monastic retreat, beneath thrilling cliffs and unreal spires and formations.
- The Devrent Valley, further east beyond Zelve: extraordinary formations, thickly grouped. Some great wandering and imagining, but this is near the road, so don't expect to be alone.
- Swords and Love valleys, which are accessible from the Goreme Open-air Museum road, so easily combined with a museum visit. The track that winds above the southern cliffs of Zemi (Love) Valley is particularly rewarding, with its wide 'oramas over the countryside as well as views down into the valley itself. A marvellous little chapel (with ceiling paintings) carved into a single protrusion early on.
- Pigeon Valley, between Goreme and Uchisar.
- The first proper ridge east of Goreme is a superb place, with particularly dramatic formations and some fascinating rock-houses. Easy walking and fabulous late afternoon light.
- Other valleys, of which we know little (anyone able to give info and photos???) include: 'Monastery Valley' to Tahtali Valley, near Mustafapasa, some 5 hours; From Gomede along the Uzengi and Pancarlik Valleys to Ortahisar; Balkanderesi and Zindanou Valleys.
Ak Tepe (White Hill), a high mesa (table hill) near Goreme has superb atmosphere and views and should not be missed if you are in the area.
Further afield are:
- The Ilhara Valley, some 50km south-west of Goreme, One of Cappadocia's finest valleys (a surprisingly green 16km canyon, really), which has it all - a mass of churches and a monastery hewn out of the huge cliffs-walls.
- The pair of valleys at Soganli, south of Goreme.
- The magnificent ancient volcano of Hasan Dagli near Ilhara.
- The Ala Daglar National Park in the Taurus Mountains to the south, which has a superb selection of very different, high, demanding walks in remote limestone mountains.
Goreme, the centre of the most spectacular scenery and thickest cluster of cultural treasures in what is now called the Goreme National Park, is a good base for exploration, and is home to the Goreme Open-Museum (see below).
There are many expedition organisers, who will put together programmes of varied walking.
If you have the time (and money!) for a hot air balloon ride over the area, this is highly recommended.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk
Turkey - Lonely Planet
The Rough Guide to Turkey - by Marc Dubin, Rosie Ayliffe, John Gawthrop, and Terry Richardson
Trekking in Turkey (Lonely Planet Walking Guide) - by Marc Dubin and E. Lucas
Cappadocia: a travel guide through the land of fairychimneys and rock castles - by Susanne Oberheu
Kingdom of Snow: Roman rule and Greek culture in Cappadocia - Raymond Van Dam (Raymond Van Dam has also written many other historical books on Cappadocia.
The Lycian Way: Turkey's First Long Distance Walk - by Kate Clow and Terry Richardson
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Most trails are open from April through to November, although the best times to visit are in the Spring and Autumn, so April to June, September and October. Mosquitos can cause a problem from June onwards.
In winter, Cappadocia gets very cold, with snow; in summer it can get very hot and mosquitos are around.
It is possible to reach Nevsehir or Goreme from most of Turkey's major cities by bus - or there are flights to Kayseri (about an hour form Goreme) from Izmir and Istanbul. It is also possible to get the train to Kayseri from almost anywhere in Turkey - and once you've reached Kayseri then there is a bus service to Goreme. Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from Kayseri.
There is a wide range of possible routes (see above); expedition organizers will have their recommended routes.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Dangerous or harmful animals, including snakes, stinging insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
- Canyons: can be dangerous! Watch out for flash floods after heavy rain.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to "Important information" for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can walk here independently but, Cappadocia is huge and, you can miss the best bits without a lot of research (and organization of transport and the like).
While this walk can be done independently, many people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Many will prefer to do it this way, and travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages.
Expedition organizes include:
- Explore! - www.explore.co.uk - reputable and experienced organisers, have Cappadocia as part of wider itineraries (e.g. including Taurus Mountains)
- www.worldwalks.com have an intriguing-looking itinerary, both self-guided and guided versions.
- Exodus - www.exodus.co.uk
- www.walkingmehmet.com - Mehmet is a local of Goreme with quite a following
- www.utracks.com - advice on self-guided walks
- www.goreme.com/cappadocia-hiking-tours.php - the local tourism office can arrange guides
Within the area there are both cheap and luxury hotels, with plenty of well written-up backpacking hostels for those on a budget and the fascinating 'Museum hotel' at if you want to splash out. Many of the places available have put in a lot of effort to reflect the atmosphere and history of Cappadocia, which makes for some interesting places to stay!
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- www.cappadociaturkey.net/ihlara.htm for Ihlara valley
Other things to do in the area
- Visit Goreme Open-Air Museum, a rock-hewn Byzantine monastic complex.
- Visit the underground cities at Derinkuyu and Kaymakli (and many others).
- Hot air ballooning
- Horse riding
- Exhibitions and art galleries (www.museum-hotel.com/gallery.html)
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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