Do you like to hike?
To be in nature? To explore? To get off the beaten path?
Then your name is echoing all over Cappadocia valleys.
Map of 6 of Central Cappadocia’s 8 renowned valleys courtesy of Google Maps Satellite view.
This is the homepage for CaptivatingCappadocia.com’s series on Cappadocia’s valleys. The central area of Cappadocia between Uçhısar and Çavuşin/Zelve has 8 main valleys with a plethora of tributaries running for miles in every direction. The sixth valley, on the Avanos – Ürgüp road, is not included on the map except for the arrow in the top right corner pointing towards its location.
Each valley has a well-worn path but no fences; the only thing determining your direction is your sense of adventure, your drinking water, and your next scheduled event (not necessarily in that order).
Each valley has breathtaking views and ancient caves, lush vegetation and varied wildlife, towering fairy chimneys and sheer cliffs.
And each valley has at least one Turk trying to make a living offering shade and selling fresh squeezed fruit juice, tea, and snacks as well as “Made in China” souvenirs in his ramshackle stand.
Before giving a brief description of each valley, let me add a few notes:
* All the valleys are great for mountain bikes but not for ATV/Quads.
* The paths make it possible for all ages to enjoy, however, 5-year-old-and-unders will find the hikes too long and spend much of the time expressing their misery as only small children are allowed.
* Of course there are many other valleys in Cappadocia, with Ihlara being the most famous, but since they are outside of the Göreme – Avanos – Ürgüp area, I am not highlighting them here. As I write about them, I may change this page or start a new one.
Starting at Uçhısar this valley, named for the hundreds of pigeon houses carved out of the sandstone cliffs and fairy chimneys, winds down to Göreme. You actually have two options as you can start on the backside near the Kaya Hotel for the long path or on the Göreme side of the rock tower for a shorter path (probably about 2-3 kilometers shorter).
You can go the hard way uphill from Göreme or downhill from Uçhısar. Either way you will need to work out transportation as you end far from where you began. For most people the best options are to either park on one end, take public transportation to the beginning, and then hike back to your car or to park at the end, take public transportation to the beginning, and then hike back to your car. Of course, if you have two cars or can talk someone in to driving you, that would be easier.
Regardless, expect to spend 3-4 hours if you want to hike the whole thing, no need to rush through something so beautiful. And definitely make time to stop at Hasan’s Tea Garden, you will not regret it.
This aptly named valley full of phallic fairy chimneys sits on the west side of the Göreme – Avanos road between Uçhisar and Çavuşin.
This valley allows for more roundabout exploring and hikes can begin and end at the same place. But for those with more time this is a great hiking trail. We recommend beginning near Uchisar at the art center parking lot where the road forks on the way to Uchisar. The trail will spit you out near Cavusin on the road from Goreme.
Be prepared for lots of giggles from the less mature in your group.
Expect 1 – 4 hours depending on your thirst for adventure (1 hour for just looking around at the lower section near Cavusin and 3-4 hours if you do the full hike).
These two valleys wind out from the backside of Çavuşin and end up either at the overlook near Ortahısar or at Kaya Camping above the Göreme Open Air Museum (of course you can go the opposite route ending at Çavuşin).
Expect to spend a few hours here. You may go for an hour without seeing another soul. How often can you say that? For the introverts among us, this is paradisiacal!
Best known for the Camel Rock, this valley lies halfway between Avanos and Ürgüp. The tourist stop is situated right across from the Camel which gives visitors the opportunity to retake the same picture taken by millions who came before. For those who have more time, the valley is aptly named with its unique collection of eroded fairy chimneys allowing for infinite possibilities. For those of you who enjoy naming cloud shapes, allot a good chunk of time for this valley.
You need transportation to see this valley so if you are not with a tour, you will need to rent mobility or hitchhike.
You can spend anywhere from 10 minutes (just take a picture of the camel) to a few hours exploring the hills and dales of this valley.
This breathtaking valley runs 5.6 kilometers from the Ürgüp – Nevşehir road to Göreme next to the Tourist Hotel. Another option is to start in Göreme and do a loop going through Görkündere. The distance is about the same. Beautiful rock formations, caves in cliffs, shady most of the way… This is my favorite valley hike. Expect to spend 3-4 hours, wear good hiking boots or athletic shoes, and take some water and a snack. If you go in the late summer/fall, expect to enjoy plenty of fruit along the trail.
This is probably the least of the valleys as it winds from Paşabağ to the lesser known Zelve Open Air Museum. Referring to it as lesser is similar to comparing Academy Awards (is anyone sad they got the award for Editing instead of Best Actor? Both are Oscars.) Start with Paşabağ’s amazing Fairy Chimneys and go along the road with open space to your left and the towering slopes of the mesa to your right. Ending at the museum you can spend another couple of hours touring it, if you like.
This is the smallest valley with a name in central Cappadocia. It begins just up from the Göreme Open Air Museum and ends in the open area between Göreme and Çavuşin. There is a 300 meter tunnel, many interesting fairy chimneys and ruins, and part of the valley is very narrow more like a ravine. Hiking the entire valley can be done in 1-2 hours easy making it a good option for those short on time.
You cannot lose with these eight valleys, and I hope to make your experience more full with this series.
Which is your favorite central Cappadocia valley?
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