It is almost impossible to exaggerate the wonders of
Cappadocia, where for centuries people have been carving churches, monasteries, and entire towns out of the soft, volcanic turf. Even before mankind got to work on the landscape, wind and rain had fashioned it into fantastic, otherworldly shapes. The valley is crowded with forests of towering pinnacles (sometimes referred to as
colored in eye-popping shades of pink, bluish white and yellow ochre. You are unlikely to forget your Cappadocia experience, complete with
private ballooning over the lunar landscape.
In brief look into
Early morning flight from Istanbul
to Kayseri from where we drive to the land of wonders that is
Cappadocia, whose name means
"the land of beautiful
horses". The region's unique landscape of multicolored pinnacles and lunar rock formations known as
is hollowed out with Byzantine churches, monasteries and entire subterranean “cave towns.”
We begin our explorations at the Goreme
Open Air Museum. Its pinnacles and rock faces conceal monastic halls and painted churches of which the finest are the
Tokali churches. The last named is the finest of all, containing frescoes painted in a sophisticated, classic style. We now move on to the 10th century Church of
Cavusin, which contains an unusual group portrait of the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Phokas and his family.
Just beyond Cavusin
lies the cave town of Zelve, which was inhabited until the 1950s. There are several churches, a large monastery, a mosque and a long tunnel carved through a high ridge in the soft volcanic “tufa” stone of the
landscape. Since all of these places are very close together, it will also be possible to visit the Church of John the Baptist on the outskirts of
Gulsehir. In fact, this consists of two churches, built one above the other. The upper church has amazingly well-preserved and very rare frescoes dating from the early 13th century.
Overnight will be at a special category, boutique
We begin our second day by exploring
Urgup's old quarter. Here there are streets lined with handsome stone-built 18th century Ottoman mansions, and an entire cave-town with many chambers, halls and passageways.
A few miles to the south of Urgup
lies the town of Mustafapasha, Greek
Sinassos. In the 18th century the merchants of
became extremely wealthy, and endowed the town with a handsome Lycée, a large church and many fine houses.
became such an important center of Greek culture that it was sometimes referred to as
"Athens in Asia Minor." We continue southwards along the broad and beautiful Damsa Valley to the important Keslik Monastery, which is carved into a cluster of pinnacles rising from an apple orchard. Its chief glory is the little Chapel of Saint Stephen, which has on its ceiling a magnificent fresco of a jeweled cross surrounded by curling vines.
Next comes Taskinpasha, named for a 14th century Karamanid emir who built a palace on its outskirts and a mosque at its center. We finally arrive at the secluded
Soganli Valley. Like
Goreme, this was an important center of monasticism during the Byzantine period, and has some fine painted churches. This is the perfect finish to our voyage of discovery, combining as it does the chief wonders of
Cappadocia: its stunning combination of natural and historic beauty.
Evening flight back to Istanbul
and transfer to your hotel in Istanbul.