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We have two nights books in Goreme, Cappadocia, but having left Istanbul a day early, we now have two nights to fill in.  There is nowhere on the way that is standing out, except for a small village on the fringe of Cappadocia called Guzelyurt.  It has a population of about 4,000 people, sitting ontop of the hills. The village is gorgeous and lives up to its translation: ‘beautiful land’.

The buildings are a blend of stone houses built amongst ancestral ruins of ancient cave homes. We find the Osmanoglu Hotel, a 200-year-old stone house (which in the scheme of things is young).  We are warmly welcomed and shown two rooms, richly furnished in traditional turkish style. They exude comfort and after Istanbul, it’s just what we need.  How can we refuse; the rate is good and from the moment we walked in we were treated like family.

We are asked if we would like to eat dinner at the hotel. With only 8 rooms there is no menu – you get whatever the special of the day is – and we sit down to a sumptuous home cooked meal.  Salads, bread (of course) as well as chicken and lamb, it seemed to go on and on.  We ate and chatted with the family, as all are keen to improve their English. The meal was so good we agreed that this would be our dinner option the following night as well.   Ten year old Fahti was very keen to chat in English and was great fun. By the end of the second night we had them doing the chicken dance (it will take too long to explain how we got to that point).

Not far out of the village is the lhlara Valley.  Christianity, which was introduced to the region by St. Paul, met much resistance in the early years. The Christians hid themselves in places like Guzelyurt and the surrounding Ihlara Valley. The valley suddenly appears on an otherwise flat and rocky landscape, and although looking inhospitable, persistent farmers grow crops and graze sheep and goats.  Out of nowhere a lush forested valley appears. The 100m decent into the valley is via a steep set of terraced stairs.  Katrina, who is not so good with heights, isn’t very comfortable, so we sandwich her in between Don and I and make our way down (quickly). We divided our exploration of the valley into two days – This first afternoon, we followed the floor of the valley along the river for about 8km, stopping off to climb up into rock dwellings and churches, many with well preserved frescoes. The detail, colour and craftmanship in this work dates back to the Byzantine era.

Selime is situated at the end of the Ihlara Valley, and is host to one of the most important churches in the region, the Selime Cathedral. We climbed the rock faces to visit wine cellars, homes and churches This is a unique place, with volcanic eruptions leading to tectonic movements that left the surface of the region covered with a layer of volcanic rock. The same volcanic activity led to pressure and heat being put upon the limestone causing it to crack and create naturally spouting springs of hot water, which we tried out at Ziga .

The characteristics of the region are due to volcanic eruption producing tufa outcrops, which were moulded by wind, erosion and other natural forces and created the strange and colorful Fairy Chimneys (polite name for otherwise phallic looking mounds).  The Ihlara valley is a result of this disintegration that created a canyon with a deep base. The fast flowing river is between 100 and 200 m deep and it divides the valley into two.  For those that didn’t know – I love geography, sorry to bore you!

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