Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Exploring the Cappadocian hills and valleys

Cave rooms at the Shoestring Cave House
Our research on hotels in Goreme ended with the Shoestring Cave House, a good find overall. Situated right in the center of Goreme and its various cave houses, most of the hotel's rooms are dug out of caves, which were surprisingly warm in the chilly weather of Cappadocia. Based on your budget and group size the hotel offers deluxe rooms with spacious bathrooms complete with bath et al, as well as dorm accommodation which for some reason reminded me of Snow White and the seven dwarfs with its many low ceiling-ed winding interconnected stone cut rooms :) This being the first location of our trip, and not wanting to lose any time, Neeta and I immediately set out for a hike in the valleys. Even before we checked in!

Our first walk was through the Pigeon Valley - a 5km trail from our hotel to Uchisar that offers spectacular views of the natural cliffs and man-made caves, intermittently winding through tunnels carved into the rock. You also see hundreds of pigeon houses carved into the rock formations by the early inhabitants - the story goes that these were made to make it easier to collect the concentrated doses of pigeon poo to make their soil richer for agriculture.

Our hike turned out to be more adventurous than we had planned for. We got lost almost at the start, but quite blissfully unaware of this fact, we followed an unpleasant peasant lady (or maybe she was just not in the mood for friendly banter), and came upon the sweetest and coolest wild grape shrubs scattered on the hill slopes. An absolute treat it was to be devouring bunches upon bunches of them till we were quite sick! Clambering over steep and flaky rocky hills, we finally reached Uchisar, a castle dug out from the rocks, and which offers a panoramic view of the hills, canyons and valleys.

There were more valleys to traverse...Rose Valley, Red Valley (because of the colours of the rock) and Love Valley (that is named for its interestingly shaped natural rock formations), but famished, we decided to return to Goreme, and settled into a nice open air restaurant for a nice hot Turkish meal (but let's leave more on the Turkish food for another blogpost).

Most of these locations are packaged as the Red Tour, but if you're ready for adventure, would recommend you do it on your own, rather than spend on a tour guide.

Over our three days stay in Goreme, we had walked, hiked, quadbiked, and pre-dawn hot air ballooned our way through and over other hills and valleys. Please do not give the quadbiking a miss - while this is not as heavily advertised / written about as the hot air ballooning, it is a great way to experience the valleys and canyons from right within the center of them!

On our way through Pigeon Valley

Mountain-fresh grapes

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