Ed and I were quite eager to go on a full DIY Turkey trip, so I did a lot of research on how to go from here to there. Halfway through the planning stage, I got alarmed on the thought of being lost in the deepest underground city in Cappadocia. Although I found some testimonies in the web saying it's possible to explore the multi-level Derinkuyu underground city without a guide, it's a risk I couldn't take.
So, I went searching for tours and I found Turkish Heritage Travel's Undiscovered Cappadocia Tour which includes the underground city that I wanted to visit, plus four off the beaten path attractions. Discovering the undiscovered sounded like an adventure to me, hence I decided that if we're going to spend a whole day following a tour guide, that should be it!
|Discovering the Undiscovered in Cappadocia|
9:45 AM: Pick Up Time
It was the day when Turkey defied Daylight Saving Time. Due to the elections, the government decided to delay the time change which made everyone confused. My watch displayed 9:45, but my phone which was automatically updated showed 8:45. To make the long story short, some of the guests, including me and Ed, jumped in the van a few minutes late. Tsk tsk.
Good thing, our tour guide from Turkish Heritage Travel said that our itinerary will not be affected. Because of the confusion, they can extend the tour until we have covered everything that was on the schedule. To me, it was a sign that we have chosen a good tour operator.
|Turkish Heritage Travel's tour bus|
10:30 AM: Mustafapasa Village
First stop on our Undiscovered Tour is an old Greek town in Ugrup known as Mustafapasa, formerly called Sinasos which means "city of the sun."
Our tour guide provided extensive information about the quaint village. One of the facts that I could never forget is that due to the Greek-Turkish population exchange in the 1920s, the Greek Cappadocians of Sinasos relocated to Greece and the town was then occupied by the Muslims of Kastoria.
That's why, today, Mustafapasa Village is dotted with ancient structures; an Ottoman period university, a mosque dating from 1600, and the Church of Constantine and Helen. The streets are lined by neoclassical Greek mansions, but most of them are unfortunately left uninhabited for decades.
|a street lined with old Greek houses turned into souvenir shops|
|one of the beautiful abandoned mansions in the quaint town of Mustafapasa|
11:30 AM: Keslik Monastery
Exploring rock-cut churches is a must-do in Cappadocia, and the Undiscovered Tour includes a visit to one of the biggest monastic areas in the region - the Keslik Monastery.
It was the first cave church that we have visited; hence it was an overwhelming experience for both Ed and I. We had goosebumps as our tour guide pointed out the ancient frescoes which remained fascinating despite the damages caused by natural events, and sad to say, by human activities.
|rock-cut church in the monastic complex|
|worn out fresco inside the church|
12:30 PM: Sobessos Excavation Site
We had our third stop at the Sobessos Excavation Site. There, we saw remains of an ancient Roman Bath, tombs, and temples which were discovered by a farmer while he was ploughing his field. Intricate mosaics have also been found in the area, some are still waiting to be unearthed!
|the Roman Bath complex in Sobessos Excavation Site|
|a panel of intricate mosaic unearthed in a farm land|
1:30 PM: Lunch at Soganli Valley
I am a self-confessed foodie, so I'm not going to lie. I was looking forward to a nice Turkish lunch during our tour, and I'm glad to say that I wasn't disappointed.
Our group was taken to a humble restaurant in Soganli Valley. The meal started with a piping hot pumpkin soup which chased away the chills brought by the cold autumn weather. It was followed by a set of mezze to share and a cup of apple tea. The lunch highlight is the chicken kiremit dish cooked and served in a traditional earthenware deep plate. Soooo hearty! We also had some fresh fruit slices which was enough to pump up my energy for the next leg of the tour.
|Turkish Lunch in Soganli Valley|
2:30 PM: Soganli Valley
An amazing Cappadocian adventure happened after lunch. We started our hike at Soganli Valley in the Church with the Snake. I startled upon hearing the name of our destination. I hate snakes. Thankfully, there's no real snake. The church, called by the locals as Yilanli Kilise, has a fresco that actually depicts St. George slaying a dragon and not a serpent.
The skies were gloomy when we were about to explore the rest of the valley. Our tour guide told us about the huge chance of rainfall, but despite of it, no one in our group backed out. Rain or shine, all of us continued with the leisure hike, and it was so worth it!
|Yilanli Kilise or the Church with the Snake|
|hiking in the valley|
|breathtaking scenery in Soganli|
|chilly autumn afternoon in the less-visited valley in Cappadocia|
Soganli Valley is less touristy, and that made the beautiful scenery more impressive. There's a designated hiking trail. It was quite scary for me, yet seemed easy peasy for my husband and the rest of the gang.
Halfway through our hike, we made a quick stop at Kubbeli Kilise or the Church with a Dome, and passed by a few more rock-hewn churches and dwellings. It took us almost an hour to get to the end of the hiking trail, but I never felt a tinge of exhaustion. For me, it was a hugely rewarding experience.
|Church with a Dome|
|inside looking out|
|What seems to be a small church is an impressive one when seen from the other side of the trail.|
3:30 PM: Derinkuyu Undergound City
Last, but definitely not the least, was a visit to one of the popular underground cities in Cappadocia. I heard there are thirty six of them, and Derinkuyu is the deepest that have been discovered by far.
The underground settlements in Cappadocia were used by people who sought refuge during the war in the early centuries. It can accommodate up to 20,000 inhabitants! No construction records were found, hence a lot of theories have emerged on when and why it was built. Anyway, enough on the history. Let's talk about our eight-floors-below-the-ground experience.
|exploring Derinkuyu Underground City|
|only a tiny portion of the deepest underground city in Cappadocia|
Only a fraction of Derinkuyu Underground City is open the public, but it is already enough to make anyone realize how innovative our ancestors are. The multi-level level city has a ventilation shaft, refectories, wineries, cellars, stables, churches, and a temporary graveyard. The pathways to the lower levels are quite low and narrow. It was a back-breaking and claustrophobia-inducing adventure for me.
I guess a DIY visit is really possible. There are tiny red and blue arrows, which I never noticed until our guide pointed them out, for directions. But still, I wouldn't recommend. I got easily confused while traversing the tunnels and the maze-like dwellings, hence there's a huge possibility that we could have lost our way if we were not in a group tour.
|one of the levels in the ancient multi-level underground city|
|the ventilation shaft|
|walking down the narrow staircase of Derinkuyu Underground City|
By five in the afternoon, we were already on our way back to the hotel. Ed and I initially decided to catch the sunset in one of the valleys, yet settled with a relaxing dinner in our cave hotel instead. The weary leg muscles that took me to an incredible off the beaten trail deserved a good rest!
Cappadocia Undiscovered Tour details:
Tour Agency: Turkish Heritage Travel
Price: 55 Euros pero person
*discount is offered on cash payment
*Disclosure: This tour was not sponsored by the tour agency, We were given a special discount, but rest assured that this blog post was sincerely written and all opinions are my own.