Our last day in Cappadocia was ambitious, to say the least. The plan was to visit the Ihlara Valley, Uchisar and the Derinkuyu underground city (a good 350 km round trip) through the day and make it back in time for our flight back to Istanbul, departing from Kayseri, at 7:00pm… who doesn’t like challenge huh? Wolfing down our breakfast, we picked up a brilliant road map from the folks at Anatolian Houses and set off to do the impossible!
T minus 8hrs: Our first stop was the Ihlara Valley, a 16km long gorge with a depth of about 110 metres, filled with old cave churches and a stream that runs straight through valley. There are four approaches to the valley – the first starts from the southern tip at Ihlara village, second from the eastern side at Belisirma village, third from the north end at Selime village or fourth from the western peak at the Ihlara Valley Touristic Centre.
The most popular route is to start from Ihlara village and trek about 4-5 hours to Belisirma village, you’ll get to see most of the churches and a bit of wildlife along the way. The stream runs right through the valley so you can take a quick dip from any point.
Since we were short on time we started at the Tourist Centre taking the quickest route down using the stairs. Now climbing down those 360 odd steps may seem easy at first, but after you’ve been trekking around the valley for about 2 hours or so climbing up 360 steps was a killer!
Derinkuyu Underground City
T minus 5hrs: The underground cities of Capaddocia were built by early 8th-7th BC settlers and were used through the centuries to protect villagers and livestock from the neighbouring raiders. Of the 36 underground cities in Capaddocia, Derinkuyu is the deepest decending down 8 floors to a depth of 85m… this is not your average underground bunker folks, this is a self sustainable city complete with storage rooms, stables, cellars, churches and wineries (mans gotta party, raiders or not), that could shelter anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 people!
The guy at the entrance said we were lucky, there were no other tourists below so we’d have the whole place to ourselves… lucky huh? This was probably the only time in travel history where we actually wanted to bump into other travellers! There was an eerie, uneasy silence to the place and at one point I could’ve sworn I saw something that looked like a white human form through my viewfinder. I half expected to see those crawlers from the movie Descent come up through the ventilation shafts.
T minus 2hrs: It’s not everyday you get to see a castle (or fortress depending on who to talk to) carved out entirely from rock! Most of the rooms are blocked and inaccessible, due to erosion, though thats not the main draw of Uchisar Castle. The highest point in Capaddocia, most people climb up to the roof for some brilliant panoramic views of the region.
T minus zero: So by the time we reached back to Anatolian House (7:05pm), we found out that our bus had left just a minute before… great. Thankfully there was a second bus that would arrive in 45 minutes or so. We did end up catching our flight (barely) to Istanbul and vowed to return back to Capaddocia for some more escapades.