Guzelyurt as an alternative to Central Cappadocia?!
This idea is not for everyone.
Let’s say you have been to Cappadocia before and are planning a return trip.
Hasan Dağ – This majestic volcano proudly towers above the province of Aksaray in Cappadocia. The aroma from the lilac bushes was heavenly.
You saw the Open Air Museum and went to an underground city. You maybe took a tour and hiked one of the valleys. You tasted the wine, threw a pot, and braved the carpet sellers.
You loved it and are excited for your return. But you are wondering what to do with your time. Should you see everything again? Should you hike the valleys you missed? Should you spend more time just hanging out and getting to know locals?
All of these would be winners, but I want to suggest something totally different.
Instead of staying in the central Cappadocia area (Göreme, Ürgüp, Avanos triangle) rent a car and head to Guzelyurt about 80 kilometers to the south in the province of Aksaray.
Guzelyurt is a quaint little former Greek town with 1700 years of history and a beautiful view of Hasan Dağ, another volcano that helped form the region. Making this your headquarters means you can spend your time in Monastery and Ihlara Valleys, visit the lesser known Gaziemir underground city, check out some Greek homes, and visit some fascinating historical churches.
We recommend staying at Hotel Karballa, a 19th century monastery that has been converted into a hotel. Sleep, eat, walk the grounds and picture the communal life of Greek monks. You may even want to think through the difficulty they (all the Greek citizens) must have faced as they were forced to leave their home and move to Greece in 1924.
Do not expect five-star, but we felt it was a good value. They even let us make our own popcorn.
Within about 15 kilometers (you will need transportation) lies the breathtaking Ihlara Valley. This 12 km valley is a wonderful place to spend a day exploring churches cut into the cliffs, a nice path following a lazy river that even provides swimming opportunities in the summer, lush greenery providing shade, and a couple of cafes providing a nice respite. You will find few places in the world as paradisical as Ihlara Valley. Take water and wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.
Walking distance from your hotel is Monastery Valley, a lush green valley with a stream and cliff face churches perfect for exploring on a nice day. Also, you cannot miss St. Gregorios Church (see end of post) or as it is called today, the Mosque Church as it was converted from a church to a mosque after the Greeks left in 1924. The church dates from the late 4th century and is named for St. Gregory, one of the three Cappadocian Fathers.
GAZIEMIR UNDERGROUND CITY
18 km from your hotel is Gaziemir, one of Cappadocia’s lesser known underground cities. Actually, I think it was probably a large caravansary, but they call it a city for marketing purposes. Regardless, it is worth a visit if you are staying in Guzelyurt. With huge wine containers, a jail, a church, places for animals to sleep, ceilings tall enough for camels, and a Turkish bath (hamam) as well as large areas for food storage, you will remember your visit for years to come. A bonus will be the opportunity to meet Kadir Gok, the self-proclaimed caretaker of the “city”. He will do his best to make your time enjoyable.
The name of the town before the Greeks left in 1924 was Gelveri and many of the Gelveri houses are still standing today. Walking around town down the different side roads provides you with an opportunity to see these antiques with their beautiful doors and epitaphs, many of which can still be read.
Within a 10 km radius of Guzelyurt you will find a number of historic churches worth your time. Two that stand out are the Red Church which dates from the 6th century and the Yüksek Kilise (high church or Analipsis Church – pictured above) which sits on a lonely hill (a Bronze Age settlement according to the tourist literature) overlooking the valley with a view of Hasan Dağ.
What do you think? Does this sound like a worthy option for repeat visitors?
Here are a few more pictures to help you decide:
Look inviting? A Monastery Valley hike is a great way to spend a day. On the cliffs to the left and right you will find a few cave churches.
St. Gregorius Church dating from the late 4th century has been converted into a mosque and is the first site in Monastery Valley.
Can you picture the quiet monks eating together in the monastery that is now Hotel Karballa?
Kadir Abi made sure we enjoyed our time at Gaziemir Underground city.
How much wine were they drinking during Ottoman times? I assume they were serving travelers from many nations but there was one Sultan named Selim the Sot so wine was not unknown to the Ottomans.
The massive rooms and high ceilings with space for camels, horses, and donkeys along with the wine lead many to believe this was probably a caravansary.
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