Goreme & The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia

With just 10 days to spend in Turkey before heading to Spain for Running of the Bulls, I had to choose one main location to explore with travel partner Amber. I was leaning toward the ruins of Ephesus for the Biblical connection, but after skimming the Lonely Planet, we decided on Göreme in Cappadocia.

(Travel tip: 10 days in Turkey is ludicrous. I could’ve spent months.)

I knew two things about Göreme before arriving.

  1. Göreme is the home of the world renowned fairy chimneys. Their renown had not yet reached me, so I had no idea what that meant… magical woodland sprites and fireplaces? Maybe.
  2. It would take a tram, city bus, shuttle and an 11-hour overnight bus from Istanbul to get there. Thank God for Amber. I’d probably still be on holidays to Turkey if not for her expert guidance.

Sorry. There’s no voodoo in these hoodoos.

To my profound disappointment, I learned upon arrival that fairy chimneys have nothing to do with twinkly magic creatures. The bizarre structures, also known as hoodoos, are rock formations protruding from the ground. In tiny, tourist-friendly Göreme, they serve as homes, hotels and ancient churches. Nary a Tinkerbell in sight.

Goreme, Turkey, at sunset

Even without magic creatures, Cappadocia certainly looks like a fairytale land. Hundreds of irregular fairy chimneys dot the arid landscape, oddly mimicking the minarets that have sprung up to shout the Muslim call to prayer five times a day and surrounded in the main town by more modern architecture.

Other hoodoos can be found in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, in Serbia & in France, where they’re called demoiselles coiffées, or “ladies with hairdos.”

I don’t know what I expected Turkey to be like, but it wasn’t this. Between the fairy chimneys and minarets dominating the skyline to the beautiful Red and Rose Valleys bordering the town, Goreme is altogether otherworldly and truly unlike any place I’ve ever been.

Fairy chimneys aren’t the only attraction in Goreme – you can also ride camels! (I didn’t – I’m saving that for Egypt!)

When Amber & I arrived, we enlisted the friendly guy at the bus station tourist center to call around and find us a cheap place to stay. Half an hour later, we were tucked into our cave at the Kookaburra Pension where we slept off the 11-hour bus ride to the Nevşehir Province. (Later we heard from various sources around town that the hotel’s owner was a super duper scary character who was none too fond of Americans. He was nothing but nice to us though, so who knows? The view from the roof was spectacular, breakfast was about 5 Turkish lira and our room was simple but comfortable enough.)

Fairy chimneys range from little old me-sized to the height of a 10-story building. Many factors go into the shape & color of the hoodoos, from erosional patterns to rock type to climate.

There’s much more to Goreme than fairy chimneys. The area is also known for its beautiful woven carpets, local wines, red pottery from nearby Avanos, underground cities, magnificent hiking and swarthy Turkish men. But more about that later this week!

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  • October 10, 2011
    Mom

    Love those fairy chimneys!

  • October 10, 2011
    Janell

    Man…ya think you seen it all. God has definitely got a bigger imagination than anyone I know!

    • October 11, 2011

      He truly does! So different than anything I’d ever seen before!

  • October 10, 2011
    Jen and Jeff

    We are going to Turkey soon! These pictures get me so excited; I cannot wait! The rocks look amazing. And I love camels. The url box doesn’t seem to like it, but our website is aspinaroundtheworld.com check us out and hopefully we can compare Turkey trips at some point!

    • October 11, 2011

      Have so much fun! How long are you there for?

  • October 10, 2011

    Wow! My trip to Turkey was Istanbul and Ephesus, but now that I see your photos I’m thinking you had the better itinerary!

    I was even able to attend a twilight classical concert at Ephesus- check out my blog for the video! I hope you make it there soon.

    • October 11, 2011

      I will check out your video – I hope to get back to Turkey sooner rather than later!

  • October 11, 2011

    I “should” be in Turkey next June for a few weeks. These pictures just heighten my anticipation!

    • October 11, 2011

      Stay as long as you can… Turkey is WAY bigger and more interesting than I bargained for!

  • October 11, 2011

    Fabulous photos! Every time I read your posts, it makes me add another destination to my bucket list.

    • October 19, 2011

      Aw thanks! That means I’m doing my job =)

  • October 11, 2011

    I was there in 1999 for a solar eclipse! One of the best things I have ever seen… 🙂

  • October 11, 2011

    I loved my time in Goreme! We stayed at the Flintstones hostel, just for the name. Such a great place to chill.

    • October 19, 2011

      Gotta love the vibe there – friendly and mellow!

  • October 24, 2011

    Wow! Looks like a magical place… even without fairys

  • October 26, 2011

    10 days anywhere is ludicrous. Well, maybe not Andorra, Monaco or Luxembourg…

  • November 11, 2011

    Wow! That sunset one looks like a miniture replica. such an amazing photos

    • July 08, 2013

      Thanks, Caz! It was such a photogenic place to visit!

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