After spending the night in Avanos, we still had one more full day in Cappadocia so we signed up for a mini-group tour with a tour agency in Goreme (Avanos is only about a 15 minute drive from Goreme). There would be some walking on this tour but nothing like we had done in the previous three days. Once again, the weather forecast was for H-O-T!
Our first visit was to the ancient underground city of Derinkuyu. This underground city provided a safe refuge for the inhabitants of this region when they were being attacked by outside enemies. The tour took us down a series of underground passageways as deep as eight floors underground. The design of the city was quite ingenious, allowing inhabitants to live for long periods of time without detection. The underground city even had accommodations for their animals. There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia, with Derinkuyu being the deepest.
Next stop was a lovely hike into the Ihlara Valley. During the Byzantine period, it is believed that the valley housed more than 4,000 dwellings and 100 cave churches decorated with frescoes. Approximately 80,000 people once lived in this valley.
From the top of the canyon, the valley looks very similar to the steep-walled valleys of Canyonlands in Utah. From the top of the plateau, we dropped 100 meters down a long stairway to the bottom where we stopped to visit the inside of a well-preserved church with frescoes adorning the walls and ceiling. There are quite a few churches in the valley but we visited just this one.
Then we followed a well-worn trail down the valley that paralleled a stream. Large cottonwood and olive trees provided ample shade from the sun. Half way down the valley was a nice rest stop where they had WCs, cold drinks, and snacks. After walking a total of about 4 km, we emerged from the valley at a restaurant where we had a wonderful lunch of fresh fish next to the stream.
Our next stop was a brief visit at the Selime Monastery where we were able to wander among the passageways and rooms on our own. The last room we visited was a magnificent church lined with stone columns. We were told that some small part of a “Star Wars” movie was filmed here.
After our visit to Selime, it had been a long day and was getting late. We thought we would be heading back to Goreme. Alas, it was not to be: we had to make the “mandatory” stop at a jewelry shop along the way. These kind of stops are pretty common in group tours; I think jewelry and handicraft shops give kickbacks to the tours for bringing in their clients. We were tired and just wanted the whole thing to end. After the jewelry store stop, we made two brief stops at canyon overlooks. By this time the sun was setting and the light in the valleys was quite magical. It was a nice way to end our adventure in Cappadocia. We feel like we’ve seem pretty much all there is to see here and we were ready to move on to new adventures.