The Jewel of Cappadocia

The Ihlara (Peristremma in Antiquity) Canyon is one the most popular destinations of the whole Cappadocia Region and the visitors may enjoy marvellous natural beauty and cultural riches side by side. The natural beauty was carved by forces of nature with the care and elegance while the chapels and churches were carved with great patience and grace and adorned with frescoes with a great mastery of generations past. Undoubtedly the visitors will love the Ihlara Canyon where beauties of nature, history, art, and culture have been combined, and wish the timeless moments enjoyed would never end.

An Unforgettable Walk Through Historical Riches and Natural Beauty

The 14 km (9 miles) Ihlara Canyon is the longest hiking route of Cappadocia. You may have tackled various routes across the world, however, you would find the Ihlara Canyon is an ideal track passing through natural beauty spots and historical heritage where every turn would bring a surprise. The Ihlara Canyon was carved by the Melendiz Stream (Potamus Cappadocus in Antiquity) over the ages, in some places up to 200 m (660 ft) deep, and the stream would show you the way along the route. The soft rock bed or tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) carved by the stream was laid by the eruptions of Mount Hasan (Athar in Antiquity) volcano. Altogether the canyon was the result of combined effect of natural forces. The beauty of chapels and dwellings carved by reclusive monks who settled in the cliffs merge with the vistas provided by the nature to make the canyon a remarkable route for hiking.

A Crossroads in the History of Christianity

The first settlements and initial structures were dated back into Roman era; however the Ihlara Canyon found its identity during the Byzantine period. Ihlara became an important religious centre during the early Christianity. Some of the churches of the canyon were from that early period of Christianity. The Ihlara Canyon was the learning ground for great theologians of the Early Christianity, such as Basil of Caesarea (also called Saint Basil the Great) and Gregory of Nazianzus. The monasteries and churches carved into tuff were adorned with historically significant frescoes depicting Biblical stories and lives of saints, painted with unmatched artistic mastery using natural dyes. For the early Christians building their places of worship into secluded areas was a very important prerequisite, and visitors of the Canyon would realise how Ihlara provided an ideal setting to cater that need. However, carving churches did not end at that era, and many churches have been carved and adorned with frescoes during the Byzantine era as well as long after the domination of the Seljuk Empire over the region. The Selime Monastery which is the largest monastery of Cappadocia Region is also there. Ihlara Canyon is a site where exceptional historical heritage such as those rock hewn churches that has arrived to our times almost intact could be visited.

Alongside the monasteries and churches carved from rock since the 4th century AD, there are carved dwellings in the Canyon, and the tradition of carving worshipping spaces out of rock has continued during the Byzantine era as well as during the Islamic domination of the region. The mosque of Ilusu town, where a Roman bridge and bathhouse could also be visited, is one of the prime examples of that centuries old tradition.

Secluded Paradise

Visitors of Cappadocia who are familiar with the meagre plant cover of the steppe are astonished when they see the lush green cover of Ihlara Canyon. The microclimate of Canyon is quite different from its environs, and it enables growth of various plants and trees which create a secluded paradise. For visitors of Ihlara Canyon, Belirsırma is the most remarkable village. In the village there are many options available to enjoy a meal on either banks of Melendiz Stream listening the bird singing amid the greenery of the Canyon.

How to Go?

Cappadocia Region is in the central part of Turkey, and Ihlara Canyon is about 49 km to the Aksaray Provincial Seat. After flying to Ankara, reaching Ihlara Canyon takes a three-and-half-hour coach ride. If you fly to Kayseri it takes a three-hour coach ride, or if you fly to Nevşehir it takes a two-hour coach ride to reach to Ihlara Canyon.

Konya is one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and was known as Iconium in Roman times. As the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries, it ranks as one of the great cultural centres of Turkey.

Konya is one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and was known as Iconium in Roman times. As the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries, it ranks as one of the great cultural centres of Turkey. During that period of cultural, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi founded a Sufi order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green-tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya’s most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary now serves as a museum housing manucripts of Mevlana’s works and various artefacts related to the mysticism of the sect. Every year during the first half of December, a ceremony is held in commemoration of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, with the controlled, trance-like turning or sema of the white-robed men creating a fascinating performance for the viewer.

The Alaeddin Mosque was built on the site of Konya’s old citadel dating from 1221 during the reign of the great Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat, and today commands the Konya skyline. To one side of the mosque are the remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace. The Karatay Madrasah, now a museum, displays bold and striking Seljuk ceramics. On the other side of the mosque, the İnce Minareli Madrasah of 1264 is remarkable for its marvellous baroque Seljuk portal. Other Seljuk works include the Sırçalı Madrasah and the Sahip Ata Complex. Visitors find Konya’s Archaeological Museum of exceptional interest. The collection of the Koyunoğlu Museum is a varied one, from natural history to old kilims. Within the museum complex, the restored İzzettin Koyunoğlu house illustrates the way of life of a prosperous Konya family of the last century.

Sille, 8km north of Konya, has the Byzantine Aya Eleni church and several rock chapels with frescoes. Akşehir, to the northwest, is thought to have been as the birthplace of the 13th- century humorist Nasreddin Hodja, whose mausoleum stands in the town. The 13th-century Ulu Mosque and the Altınkale Mescidi are other monuments worth seeing. The Sahip Ata Mausoleum has been converted into the town’s museum.

Meke Crater Lake, Karapınar, Konya - Photo: Hamit YALÇINMeke Crater Lake, Karapınar, Konya – Photo: Hamit YALÇIN

On the way to Beyşehir, stop at Eflatun Pınar next to the lake to see this unusual Hittite monumental fountain. Several interesting Seljuk buildings are scattered around lovely Beyşehir found on the shores of the lake of the same name, Turkey’s third largest lake. In the south-western region of the lake is the pristine wilderness of Lake Beyşehir National Park. Among the monuments are the Eşrefoğlu Mosque and Madrasah and the Kubad-Abad Summer Palace across the lake. Another medieval palace stands on Kızkalesi Island, opposite to the Kubad-Abad PalaceHacı Akif Island also offers relaxation and recreation to visitors. Forty-five kilometres south of Konya, Çatalhöyük is renowned as one of the earliest settlements of the Neolithic era, shedding light on the dawn of human settlement with unique examples of the earliest domestic architecture and landscape painting as well as sacred objects of the mother-goddess cult.

Surrounding Karapınar, 94km southeast of Konya, are numerous crater lakes, the most famous being the lovely Meke Crater Lake with an island in the middle. On the north side of the road to Ereğli, 10km from Karapınar, lies Acı Crater Lake. Surrounding Ereğli, one of the largest counties in Konya, are yellow cherry trees. The Ereğli Archaeological Museum displays many Hittite, Roman, Byzantine and Seljuk artifacts. At İvriz, a Hittite site 180km east of Konya and 18km south of Ereğli, you can see one of Turkey’s finest neo-Hittite reliefs of a king and god of bountiful crops.

ÇatalhöyükÇatalhöyük

Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük

Çatalhöyük is renowned as one of the earliest settlements of the Neolithic era, shedding light on the dawn of human settlement with unique examples of the earliest domestic architecture and landscape painting as well as sacred objects of the mother-goddess cult. The site has extraordinary arts and crafts, with the earliest finds dating from 7400BC, and it has been an important key to unlocking the mysteries of the beginnings of agriculture and civilisation. The social organization of the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük and its urban plan are believed to represent the ideals of equality. The tumulus shows that the history of mining in Anatolia dates back to the Neolithic era and provides ample evidence that people were involved in agriculture as well as hunting and gathering at that time. Çatalhöyük is also the first site in the world where a city plan is depicted in wall paintings. Bakedclay seals from the site show that the concept of property ownership developed in that era.

The apple of Cappadocia’s eye inspiring human imagination with its heavily-populated glittering fairy chimneys.

Most of the region’s fairy chimneys and rock-cut churches are found in Nevşehir, scattered around the districts of ÜrgüpAvanos and Göreme. With a spectacular landscape entirely sculpted by erosion, the Göreme Valley and its surroundings contain rock-hewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period.

The area also contains the villages of prehistoric cave dwellers and underground cities of traditional human habitation dating back to the 4th century. Included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Göreme keeps unique natural features that display a harmonious combination of natural and cultural landscape elements.

Nevşehir is undoubtedly the first city that comes to mind when travellers think of visiting the Cappadocia region.

Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia

Located among the “fairy chimney” rock formations, Göreme is a town in the Nevşehir province of Central Anatolia. With a spectacular landscape entirely sculpted by erosion, the Göreme Valley and its surroundings contain rock-hewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period. The area also contains the villages of prehistoric cave dwellers and underground cities that include the remains of human habitation dating back to the 4th century. Göreme contains unique natural features and displays a harmonious combination of natural and cultural landscape elements.

Göreme and its environs, located 10km from Nevşehir, are thought to have been used as a necropolis by the inhabitants of Venessa (Avanos) during Roman times. The churches of Durmuş Kadir, Yusuf Koç, El Nazar, Saklı, Meryem Ana (Virgin Mary) and Kılıçlar cast a spellbinding effect on visitors. The Göreme Open Air Museum is where the ideas of Christianity were unified by St Basil the Great and his brothers.

The architectural details and frescoes of the Tokalı church, Convent of Monks and Nuns, Chapel of St Basil and the Elmalı, Yılanlı, Karanlık and Çarıklı churches seem as alive today as when they were new.

Çavuşin, located 2km from Göreme, is one of the oldest inhabited places in the region and the fresco scenes of Çavuşin church are distinctive because of their unusual compositions.

Nevşehir / Cappadocia - Photo: Robert M. KnightNevşehir / Cappadocia – Photo: Robert M. Knight

In Ürgüp, 20km east of Nevşehir, the St Theodore (Tağar) and Pancarlık churches are elaborately decorated with religious art. Six kilometres south of Ürgüp is Mustafapaşa (Sinasos), a town justifiably famous for its splendid stone works. The Chapel of St Basil is decorated with motifs reflecting the Iconoclastic system of thought. A hot-air balloon in a voyage unique to the Cappadocian region is an experience unlike any other as you race with the doves through the sky’s shades of blue and behold below the sinuous terrain extending into infinity, the enigmatic and artistically magnificent churches, and the pyramids, cones, mushrooms, and hats of the fairy chimneys. Ürgüp is also known for its wines that have been made in the area for thousands of years and visitors can’t resist the taste of the crimson-red or misty-white wines from the fertile vineyards in which the grapes of the Cappadocia region flourish. Although some local vintners have adopted modern techniques of wine-making, there are still many that remain faithful to ancient and time-proven methods.

Cappadocia is like a blissful gallery of color balloons.

Ortahisar, 6 km from Ürgüp, is home to the once strategically important Ortahisar citadel with fine examples of Cappadocia’s vernacular architecture clustered around its base. Another must-see sight is the Üzümlü Church on the western side.

With the arrival of Islam in Anatolia, it also became the home of a number of famous Muslim scholars and philosophers. In the 14th century the Turkish and Muslim mystic Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli settled in the Nevşehir county known as Hacıbektaş today. The core tenets of this sage’s philosophy, crucial to achieving unity among the different Turkish groups in Anatolia, embody the spirit and substance of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The town of Hacıbektaş, 45km from Nevşehir, has a 14th-century mosque complex that includes the tomb of Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli, a mosque, guesthouse, kitchen, wishing tree and an area for ascetics. The complex which is now a museum has been inscribed in the Tentative List of UNESCO’s World Heritage.

On 16-18 August every year, activities commemorating Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli are held and draw large crowds of his disciples as well as interested visitors.

Pottery Making

Located 18km from Nevşehir, Avanos is famous for its tradition of pottery-making that has been alive since the times of the Hittites. If you want to give it a try, call in at a workshop, and take up your position before the wheel. What happens next is up to the skills of your hands and the vividness of your imagination. Master potters standing nearby will lend you their support and maybe give you a few pointers.

When you leave, don’t forget to pick up an example or two of the craftsmen’s work as a memento of your time there.

With its rich history, Eskişehir has become a well-known European city in Anatolia, whose cultural richness encompasses both the past and the present.

Excavations carriet out in Şarhöyük, thought to be the first area of settlement in the city, prove that Eskişehir has a history dating back to 3000BC or earlier. It is possible to take this provenance even further back if one takes into account the findings from other mounds around it.

The first civilisation that left significant marks on Eskişehir is the Phrygians, who inhabited this region during the 9th century BC. The most significant traces of them can be found in Yazılıkaya, the Phrygians’ religious centre where many monuments and tombs can be seen.

Almost all of Eskișehir’s counties are rich in history and culture

Eskişehir is also very important in the Ottoman history as its Karacahisar Castle is the first conquest of the Ottomans.

Almost all of Eskişehir’s counties are settlements which are rich in history and culture. Among these is Mihalıççık where Yunus Emre, the pioneer of Turkish poetry, a minstrel and philosopher was born and the Yunus Emre Social Complex can be found here today. Sivrihisar, a significant settlement during the Roman and Byzantine periods, is famous for artworks dating from the time of the Seljuk and Ottoman empires. Besides Akşehir in Konya, Sivrihisar is also believed to be the birthplace of Nasreddin Hodja, a world-famous philosopher. The county of Seyitgazi is well-known for the tomb of Seyyid Battal Gazi, a saintly figure and warrior. Located in central Eskişehir is Odunpazarı, the area where the first city is thought to have been established.

Odunpazarı - Photo:Hamit YalçınOdunpazarı – Photo:Hamit Yalçın

It has old wooden houses which are hundreds of years old, many of which have been restored recently making the area a popular tourist destination. Some of the buildings are now in use as boutique hotels, restaurants and museums and are the most marvellous examples of domestic architecture of the Ottoman period and a must-see for those who want to experience Odunpazarı.

Another important aspect of Odunpazarı is the Kurşunlu Mosque Complex which includes a mosque, şadırvan (fountain for ritual ablutions), public soup kitchen, primary school, madrasah, rest home and two caravansaries – all of which date back to the 16th century. The rest home section of the complex displays meerschaum (lületaşı) artefacts, a stone which is strongly associated with Eskişehir. Exported as raw material during the days of the Ottoman Empire, it is now used for producing exquisite pipes, jewel boxes and jewellery. The Meerschaum Museum, located in the rest home where you can relish the richness of Eskişehir and the skills of meerschaum masters, is one of a kind in the world. After visiting the museum, you can buy pipes, jewellery and other ornaments made of meerschaum at the Atlıhan Handicrafts Bazaar.

Meerschaum - Photo:Gülcan AcarMeerschaum – Photo:Gülcan Acar

The cultural mosaic of Eskişehir is one of the most important elements that has shaped its food culture. Çi börek (deep-fried wafer-thin dough with raw mincemeat filling), learnt from Crimean migrants, is a must-eat during a visit to Eskişehir; traditionally filled with mincemeat, cheese and potatoes are also used as fillings. Another unique taste in the city is met halva, a sweetmeat-like dessert made with semolina or flour. Although not as famous, kuzu sorpa (boiled lamb), toyga soup (with yoghurt and flour), göbete (a kind of pastry) and balaban kebab are among the foods that you should try in Eskişehir.

As an important college town, Eskişehir has two large universities with more than 50,000 students who contribute hugely to the social and cultural dynamism of the city. The city hosts many cultural and artistic events every year. The Eskişehir Festival showcases hundreds of performers and a wide range of theatre performances and concerts.

A popular spot in Eskişehir is the Porsuk River and environs, where you can have a tour of the river by boat or relax in one of the cafes alongside the river.

The Science Arts and Culture Park, with a lake where water sports and other activities can be performed, is especially popular with children and is another recommended venue to visit. Among the attractions that draw visitors are also Wax MuseumContemporary Glassware MuseumArchaeological MuseumAviation Museum and Independence Museum which give the visitors the chance to witness the cultural and historical diversity of the city.