Guided tours in Cappadocia are color-coded, each color representing a different region. If you only have a day to spend in Cappadocia and decided to pick a guided tour, the Green Tour is the most recommended by tour operators because the sites are further away from the center and are quite difficult to explore without a private car.
The Green Tour took us to sites in Southern Cappadocia at 120 TL per person. However, since we purchased a 14-day Turkey Museum Pass (insert link), we were discounted 20 TL for entrance to Derinkuyu Underground City and Selime Monastery, where the pass is eligible for use.
We were picked up from the hotel a little before 9AM.
Here are the sites we visited:
1. Göreme panorama
We started off at Esentepe, for a panoramic viewpoint overlooking Göreme. On the way to the viewpoint, our tour guide, Gülşen, pronounced as Gool (with pursed lips) -shen, told us a little history about Cappadocia, while I was partly dreaming and partly awake as a result of getting up too early that day for the Hot Air Balloon flight. She told us that Kapdokya means the Land of Beautiful Horses. During the time when Cappadocia was still part of the Persian empire, Cappadocians pay horses as tax to the Persian king.
Gülşen, by the way, explained that her name comes from two words: gül meaning rose and şen meaning happy, put them together and you’ve got Happy Rose. Likewise, our hotel owner named Şenol explained to us the meaning of his name. I can only recall Şen (happy) and forgot what the next syllable means. I am just amused how Turkish names work and secretly wished my name would translate to something meaningful, too. I pushed it with my name and the result did not make me a happy one at all: Charlotte (my mostly unknown first name ) –‘ char’, meaning something carbon black and ‘lot’ meaning plenty.
2. Derinkuyu Underground City
One of the many discovered underground cities in Cappadocia, the Derinkuyu Underground City was said to have been excavated as early as the Hittite times and “developed” or expanded later by early Christians and the next generations, thereafter, to prevent captivity by their enemies.
It’s unimaginable that this subterranean city extended eight levels down, with basic facilities to help them survive – kitchen, toilets, ventilation system, source of water, food storage pit, wine presses, traps for enemies, special rooms for pregnant women and even churches. Large round stones that I’ve only seen in movies are used to close the underground refuge, as needed.
The temperature underground is much the same or a little less degrees than the temperature above ground during the time we went (March). Our guide told us that the temperature below remains relatively constant no matter what the temperature outside is.
That’s our guide, Gülşen
3. Selime Monastery
Selime Monsatery is the biggest rock-cut monastery in Cappadocia. It has a large cave cathedral and the views at the top are stunning. Star Wars fans out there shouldn’t miss Selime Monastery. It is supposed to be a shooting location for Star Wars scene of the Tusken Raiders or Sand People. However, actual shooting was not allowed in the area. Instead, they were only allowed to take videos and photos of the surrounding as backdrop for their film scenes.
Rock columns inside the cathedral-sized church
4. Ihlara Valley
After lunch in Ihlara Village (the cost of the tour includes lunch, except for drinks, which you can order and pay in addition), we headed for a 3.5 kilometer walk in Ihlara Valley. The road to the valley provides a peek of snow-covered Mt. Hasan and Mt. Melendiz (not in any way related to Aiko, I’m sure :-)), two of the three volcanoes of Cappadocia.
Ihlara Valley is a gorge carved by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Hasan and made deeper by the Melendiz River. The greeneries, the rushing river and the rock formations made this short hike enjoyable. We have seen signs to some cave churches, which I would have wanted to visit but that’s the drawback with all guided tours, when things get a little bit rushed sometimes. We started at the main gate, descended into the valley, followed the river through and walked until Belisirma Village.
Wow! I don’t know how many times I’ve said that in Cappadocia
Descent to the valley
Frescoes inside the Ağaçaltı (Daniel Pantonassa) Church
5. Pigeon Valley
We paid a visit to a viewpoint overlooking Pigeon Valley on our way back to Göreme. In Pigeon Valley, there are a lot of…well, pigeons. Pigeon houses were carved into small caves in the old times, but carving of more houses is not anymore allowed at present to preserve these sites, being that these are inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This has resulted in the decline of pigeon population.
But what importance do pigeons partake in the history of Cappadocia? Gülşen told us that pigeons were raised for their eggs. The eggwhites are used for fermentation of wine, while their poops are used as fertilizers in the farms. Pigeons also served as messengers in those times when e-mails were never heard of. Lastly, pigeons are beneficial for their meat. They are said to be an aphrodisiac.
A peek of Uchisar Castle
6. Jewelry shop
Our last stop is a jewelry shop. It starts with a demonstration of how the precious stones are polished and as you may have guessed, the selling begins with a walkthrough of the show room. Well, that’s almost always a part of guided tours, but I’d like to think of it as part of promotion of products unique to their place and an opportunity for me to bring home something new…new knowledge, that is. There’s no way I would buy thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.
Speaking of unique, what’s being showcased in the shop is the onyx, a natural volcanic stone, which is greatly mined in Cappadocia. Onyx, unlike ordinary marble, glows when light is passed through it. Turquoise Turkey is another mineral being highlighted in the shop. It’s a blue green mineral which changes colors depending on the type of light that shines through it. It is also said to change color from chemical reaction with our skin’s natural acid.
The different colors of onyx
Polishing of onyx
The end product – uh! an onyx egg
That’s a Torquoise Turkey
The best part of the jewelry stop is this view of Uchisar Castle
Overall, the Green Tour was enjoyable as it covered sites that I personally wanted to see in Cappadocia. However, the common drawback as with any guided tours is the feeling of being rushed when you would have wanted to stay a little longer for the places you like most.