The Cappadocian portfolio

In 2013, I visited Cappadocia for the second time. It had been more than 10 years since my first trip and ever since I had been hoping to visit again. The area around Goreme is a unique, enchanted landscape filled with fairy chimneys and other weird formations. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This part of Cappadocia is covered with tuff, formed from compressed volcanic ashes from Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz volcanoes. It is soft and easily carved. The people living in the area had been excavating their homes and other buildings from tuff for millennia. There are hundreds of rock churches and even whole underground cities that you can visit.

I flew to Kayseri in the morning, the nearest major airport, and rented a car. Before heading to Goreme, I drove up the road to Erciyes, the 3,916m volcano that watches over Kayseri like an patriarch. I had lunch at a roadside restaurant with a commanding view of Kayseri and surrounding landscape. After lunch, I drove the 80km or so to Goreme and found my hotel. It was one of the hotels where rooms are carved into the soft rock, and I lay down in my room to rest for a bit before heading out to start photographing.

Unfortunately, a mosque with a arena-rock-quality sound system was virtually just outside my door and when the call to prayer started, I could feel the voice of the muezzin vibrating in my chest. I decided to move to another hotel, as I am very particular about noise when I am sleeping and I had selected this one at least in part because of its "sound-proofed' rooms. The receptionist helped me to book at the Doubletree in Avanos, which is a few km from Goreme. It is a very comfortable, modern hotel, and while staying at a rock-carved hotel is nice-to-have, sleeping soundly is a must-have.

I spend the next few days driving around, photographing, and eating. The restaurants that I had tried were mostly Turkish, but meant for tourists, and of middling quality. The high point of the trip was the hot air balloon tour over Goreme and surrounding area. The balloon company picked me up along with other tourists well before dawn, and we drove to a field where there were tens of balloons being preped for launch. Just before dawn we launched along with tens of other balloons. We flew over fields and fairy chimneys, going down to tree-top level and up to 800-900m (according to our pilot.) The view and experience was amazing. Highly recommended.

On the last day of the trip, I drove to Ihlara valley, a narrow gorge with spectacular cliffs, and filled with old churches. I took photos from the view deck, and went down the stairs part way to the valley floor. Then I drove back to Kayseri, went up the Erciyes again from another direction, had another meal at the same restaurant and flew home.

The photo gallery is here.