Does Paşabağ in Cappadocia deserve a full post? I was surprised to realize the answer is yes!
Click to skip the story and jump straight to the must-know facts.
Have you ever been sitting in a group of friends in which someone asks your spouse or close friend a question and their answer makes you realize there is a lot you do not know about this person?
You thought you knew them, but then you realize there are unexplored depths you never realized existed. It is exciting and threatening at the same time.
That is what happened when I decided to write about Paşabağ.
Paşabağ, which translated is General’s vineyard, sits five minutes from my house in Çavuşin village. I drive by it two or three times per week.
Tour buses stop here often and give their guests 30-45 minutes to walk around, take pictures, and try to avoid the souvenir hawkers.
I had the place figured out, and I did not think it was worth a full post. Then I was writing about how to spend a couple of days in Cappadocia and was linking to posts on the different options and realized we had nothing on Paşabağ. I decided to run over one afternoon and spend a few minutes snapping some photos and putting together some basic information for a post. I was in for a surprise…two hours later I was still exploring!
From the back side of Paşabağ the valley spreads out towards Avanos.
Until about 20-30 years ago Paşabağ was full of vineyards, orchards and perfect fairy chimneys owned and cultivated by Çavuşin villagers. As more and more tourists came traipsing over the hills, conflicts began to increase. The unwitting visitors were destroying crops and the locals were not happy.
Finally the government stepped in, took over the land, gave the trade licenses to the people of Çavuşin, and today you have what some would call a “tourist trap”. What keeps this from being true is that parking is free as is entering the park and taking pictures. Most visitors see the area without spending a kuruş. Of course, if you want something to eat or drink or a gift or souvenir, the merchants will gladly meet your needs.
I parked in the free parking lot, hopped out of my car, and headed up the path to get a good overview of the area and snap some photos for this post. Mind you I was only planning on being there for an half hour and then talking to some friends until it was time to pick up my kids from school. Being from Çavuşin I know some of the shop owners.
These comfortable cobblestone paths criss-cross the lower area of Paşabağ including this short hill that gives a nice view of the whole valley.
I reached the top of the hill along with a tour group, looked around, and could not avoid the call to explore. Unlike the group of Koreans who headed back down the hill to catch their bus, I excitedly forged ahead over a boulder, off a little ledge, up some makeshift plank-steps and into the hills ringing Paşabağ.
This is less dangerous than it looks. The footing is actually quite good.
I gladly followed a path that looked like it would go right around to the other side and avoided
the many offshoots that went to places unknown up the steep slope that towers over the valley. Of course, if you visit and allot enough time you can explore the entire area and even climb to the top of the plateau.
I wound around on the narrow path up and down, over and under finding rocky crevices I had no idea existed and seeing unique fairy chimneys hidden from 99% of the people who visit Paşabağ. All the time the paths leading up the plateau were calling me like the Sirens of ancient mythology, but I had a time limit in the form of picking up my kids’ from school, so I bravely moved past them as if wearing earplugs.
Can you find the photographer?
Hot-spiced wine in the winter and fresh squeezed fruit juice in the summer means I am always happy to visit my friend, Enver at this cafe.
I ended up on the far side of Paşabağ and descended to the main area and stopped at a cafe to have a cup of hot wine with my friend, Enver (his own special recipe). We talked a bit, and I was happy and a bit embarrassed to hear that he had given up alcohol. I quickly finished off my cup of his home brew.
How did they get up there?
CAVES & SOUVENIRS
The time had come to get my kids, but I was not done so I decided to return with them. A few minutes later we were back racing around the cobblestone paths. We climbed in the few fairy chimneys with caves and did some people watching of the tourists exploring the area. There was a church in this area but it is closed due to falling rocks. Despite this the fairy chimneys in one section have a number of explorable rooms. Do not expect either Zelve or Göreme Open Air Museums, but my kids had a good time.
How is your imagination? Can you see the soldiers?
I have written about the legend of the Stone Soldiers in another post. I tried to picture these fairy chimneys as unfortunate ancient soldiers hunting for a holy man, but could not get my imagination going. Instead I took a few minutes to check out the souvenir shops. Prices are comparable to everywhere else in Cappadocia, and you can
expect to find pretty much everything here that any other places carry. One positive note is that these are run by local guys so all the money supports local families, as far as I understand it. This is true for most of the shops in Cappadocia.
In the end I spent two hours including my cup of spiced wine and could have spent a whole day if I had brought the family and was set on exploring everything. Most people spend 30+ minutes and are probably ready to go, but if you want to give this area more time, I do not think you will be disappointed.
JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM
* Location: Turn east off the Göreme – Avanos road towards Zelve.
* Parking and Entrance: FREE
* Main attraction: Perfect fairy chimneys
* Food: Several cafes serving Gözleme, Mantı, grilled dishes, and other Turkish food as well as fruit juice, tea, sodas, wine, water,…
* Souvenirs: Several shops selling, onyx pieces, ceramics, textiles, copper pieces, stained-glass lamps and most everything you can imagine
* Open: Daylight hours
The red line marks the path I took.
The yellow line marks the area most tourists cover. The red line shows the many possibilities for those with time to explore.
The yellow shows the limit for the average visitors. They climb the hill, snap some photos and return to their buses. The red is inviting you to take the road less traveled.
What was your experience of Paşabağ?
Here are some more photos to whet your appetite for Paşabağ:
Ride the camel: 15TL; Sit on the camel for a photo: 5TL; Have the camel spit in your face while standing next to it: Priceless.
This gives a decent albeit obstructed view of the shopping area of Paşabağ. As I look at these fairy chimney caps, I wonder how long they will last before erosion finishes its work?
So many questions! These two stand by themselves. Why did they last and everything around them totally disintegrate? Fascinating to me.
How does the cap stay on? I would not want to be close when it falls!
Notice the coal smoke gathered in the far distance.
These are the only fairy chimneys that have explorable cave rooms in Paşabağ. Apparently this was a church but there is not much evidence left besides the caves.
I am wary of making a comment here but it sure looks like this rock is giving the finger to the other side of the valley. I am sure other thoughts come to mind as well, but some things are better left unsaid.
I think one thing that is so unique about Cappadocia is that these crazy rock towers are right around the corner from where people live. They are not in some national park miles from the closest town.
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