If you really want to see everything that Cappadocia has to offer, beside the Red Tour, you must book also the Green Tour that covers the Southeast Part of the region.
From ancient underground cities to spectacular viewpoints, the Green Tour take you in the highlight of Cappadocia’s southern Landscape.
We started our tour with the Pigeon Valley, which we enjoyed from above. The time we visited there were not so many pigeon but we might say that it was too early in the morning 🙂
The name comes from the thousands of pigeon houses that have been carved into the soft tuff since ancient times. Although they can be found throughout Cappadocia, they are especially numerous in this valley. They were carved wherever space allowed, including abandoned cave houses and churches.
In Cappadocia, pigeons have long been a source of food and fertilizer. The advent of chemical fertilizers has reduced the use of pigeon dung. However, some farmers still maintain their lofts because they insist that the reputation of Cappadocian fruits as the sweetest and most succulent in Turkey is entirely due to pigeon dung.
The underground city of Derinkuyu
The underground city of Derinkuyu is buried in mystery. No one knows when or why it was built, how many people it housed, or even how deep it really goes. Many theories about its history abound but no one really knows for sure. It isn’t the largest underground city in Cappadocia — that distinction goes to nearby Kaymakli — but Derinkuyu is the deepest. Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are the most well-known but a total of 36 underground cities have been discovered in Cappadocia to date. Archaeologists believe they could number in the hundreds.
The guess is that it was used only during invasions to hide from enemies and only for a couple of months at a time. The structure dates back thousands of years. Apparently, the Hittites used the first two floors for their animals. Over time the different local inhabitants dug deeper and deeper. They say that every house in the town has a basement that connects to the subterranean metropolis. The above ground invaders must have wondered if they had entered a ghost town or magical land with disappearing people!
Given that Cappadocian winters are quite harsh (this region was once called the “Land of Snow”), wood is scarce, and the temperature underground is steady throughout the year, no wonder the locals used the underground areas in the winter as an easy way to stay warm?
We started at the ventilation shaft above ground and then went underground. Only 25% of the troglodytic city is open to the public and excavations are ongoing. What we saw went 8 stories underground and included a winery, a baptismal, meeting rooms, a church, a well, a grave and a kitchen.
There’s a ventilation system to filter out smoke and an irrigation system that supplied drinking water from wells filled by an underground river. Places like this make you realize how remarkable human ingenuity is.
Though estimated to have been in existence since 15 BC, it wasn’t until 1963 that Derinkuyu was re-discovered by the modern world, and by accident too. They say that a man knocked down a wall of his home only to find a mysterious room on the other side. He continued digging and discovered an elaborate tunnel system with more cave-like rooms that turned out to be Derinkuyu.
One of the most unexpected surprises in Cappadocia is the wonderful rock-cut monastery Selime, at the end of Ihlara Valley.
Selime was home to Hittite, Assyrian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Danişment, Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations. One of the most important aspects of Selime fortress-monastery was that many leading clergymen were educated there. The military headquarters of the region was also located there. While the monastery is dated to 8th and 9th centuries, the frescoes in the structure date back to late 10th and early 11th centuries.
Selime Monastery is the biggest religious building in Cappadocia with a cathedral-size church and was part of the Silk Road trade route.
Apart from the church, the monastery also contains monks’ quarters, a huge kitchen, and a stable for mules.
Not sure if Gorgeous Tour for the Green Tour always stops here, but we had lunch at one restaurant just before entering the valley. Lunch is already included in the tour fee though you’ll need to pay extra for drinks.
Ihlara Valley hike
The valley is 14 km long and we were dropped off at about the 3km point. After descending a couple of hundred stairs to the canyon floor, our guide showed us the Ağaçaltı cave church dating to the 4th century with paintings from the 10th century.
3 kilometers later we stopped at a riverside restaurant for a coffee and a fresh squished pomegranate by the river bank.
Ihlara Valley is one of the most popular places in Turkey for hiking. What makes Ihlara Valley unique is the fact that its canyon is honeycombed with rock-cut dwellings and hundreds of churches.
Not sure exactly how far we went but we walked for a little over an hour in the valley. It was a fun easy hike with plenty of poplars and pistachio trees.
Jewelry production in Cappadocia produces different types of jewelry using stones such as turquoise, lapis, emerald, amber, amethyst, onyx.
They bring green turquoise from Iran, emeralds from Columbia and lapis from Pakistan. But they have and rare and unique gem: Zultanite which is a mineral gem, mined in the Ilbir Mountains of southwest Turkey at an elevation of over 4,000 feet. Depending on its light source, zultanite’s color varies between a yellowish green, light gold, and purplish pink.They process these stones and sell them as jewelry.
We began with a demonstration of carving a piece of white onyx. Afterward, we were free to tour the sales room and look at beautiful but overpriced jewelry.
Given that, this tour covers a lot of ground within a short amount of time and includes a guide to explain a lot of the history of each site, it’s a great way to see a lot of Göreme while on a budget. So, from my point of view Green Tour is a good way to explore the South of Cappadocia.