Eastern Turkey/2 update information

19/09/2014 19:47

Written by Bradt Travel Guides

Chapter 2: Practical information

Chapter 6: Cappadocia

Chapter 7: Konya and South to the Coast

Chapter 2: Practical information

Very helpful and informative website, regularly updated with material on Eastern Turkey: www.turkeyfromtheinside.com/

Tour operators

UK

[Updated 11/05/2016] p.43 Eco Travel Turkey 274 Hertford Road, London N9 7HE; tel: 0203 417 6373; email: info@ecoturkey.com; web: www.ecoturkey.com.  Well-organised, responsible travel to Eastern Turkey; Cappadocia, Anatolia, Adana, Ararat climbs, tailor-made holidays, tours, flights, services (visas, insurance etc).

Turkey

[Updated 11/05/2016] p.44 TravelShop Turkey Sirinevler Mah., Adnan Kahveci Blv. No. 184 Floor 6, 34188 Bahçelievler, İstanbul; tel: +90 (212) 529 7708; mob: +90 (549) 540 5406; fax: +90 (212) 632 2702; email: tst@travelshopturkey.com; web: www.travelshopturkey.com.  Excellent tours of Eastern Turkey with themes: Seven Wonders, Anatolian, Flying Carpet etc. Daily tours of Cappadocia: sightseeing, hot-air ballooning, hiking, caving, mountain biking.

Red tape

Visas to Turkey

p. 45 The cost of a tourist visa payable on arrival went up to £20 (double the previous £10) in late April 2014, after the new edition had gone to press. 

Money

Budgeting

p. 58 Recent unforeseen pressures on the Turkish economy mean that taxes and prices have risen in spring 2014, so it is best to budget about 1015% more than the guidelines given in the second edition.

Chapter 6: Cappadocia

Update by Lucy Mallows, author of Bradt’s Bratistlava, Transylvania and Slovakia guides. Updated 03/05/2016.

The unique ‘fairy chimney’ landscape of Cappadocia in Anatolia, Central Turkey is one of the country’s star attractions. Despite the fame of its weird, other-worldly rock formations, it still retains much of the mystique that makes it so enchanting.  A district of Nevşehir and one of the key points of the Silk Road, Cappadocia is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Göreme National Park and Cappadocia were placed on the World Heritage List in 1985 as seven parts: Göreme National Park, Derinkuyu Underground City, Kaymaklı Underground City, Karlı Church, Theodore Church, Karain Güvercinlikleri (Karain Columbaries) and Soğanlı Archaeological Site.

It covers an area of more than 4,000 square kilometres and, in the past has been occupied by Assyrian colonists (3,000 BC), Hittites (1,750–700 BC), Persians (585–332 BC), Romans (17–395 AD.), Byzantines (397–1,071 AD), Seljuks (1,071–1299), and Ottomans.

Cappadocia’s name comes from the ancient Hittite word ‘Katpatuka’ commonly held to mean ‘Land of Beautiful Horses’.

While the dryness and dust give an impression of barrenness, the volcanic tuff formed by eruptions of Cappadocia’s three volcanoes (Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz Daglari) is extremely fertile, and the bizarre formations of soft rock have been populated for millennia. Local wine, produced since Hittite times from grapes grown in the fertile soil and the caves in the rocks are still inhabited, used over the centuries as places of refuge, for Christians fleeing persecution, or storage of foodstuffs.

There are many attractions in Cappadocia, but on our visit, we only had a couple of days to cram in as much as possible.

Where to stay and eat

We stayed in the stunning Gamirasu Cave Hotel (Ayvalī Köyü, Ürgüp - Nevsehir, Turkey 50400, tel: +90 384 354 5815; fax: +90 384 354 5864; email: info@gamirasu.com; www.gamirasu.com) in the little village of Ayvali, near Ürgüp and Nevsehir).

“Fifty years ago, the locals only used the caves to store lemons and potatoes, but then they realised that the ‘strange rocks’ has tourist potential and many were converted into hotels,” said Ibrahim Bastutin, owner and founder of Gamirasu. Bastutin was born in Ayvali and has lived there all his life. He wants to put something back into the community and the luxury cave hotel places great emphasis on (slow) cooking with local, organic produce, recycling rubbish and employing locals.

Some parts of the hotel were used by Christian priests until 1000 years ago. It is the only hotel in the Cappadocia region which contains a Byzantine Orthodox church from the 11th century. The kitchen once belonged to the monastery and is used to this day. There is an open oven in the restaurant, which also dates from monastic times and where delicious bread is baked daily. Some of the cave bedrooms are the cells in which priests retreat into seclusion once. My neighbour was in the Roman King Suite and her ‘cave’ had a bricked-up, former escape tunnel.

“All the rooms are individual and unique, but when they are talking in the restaurant at breakfast, everyone says ‘oh my room is the best!’ It’s great to have such a positive reaction,” said Bastutin.

Bastutin first opened his luxurious cave hotel in 1999, as the first rock hotel in the region, “At first we had 12 cave rooms, now we have 35, we are a boutique hotel” he said.

Each room is beautifully decorated with charming features in the nooks and crannies of the cave. My room, 106 was a superior double room and I had an antique clock in one mini-cave, a huge pottery jug in another, a framed traditional dress on the wall and my own jacuzzi, behind red satin curtains opposite my huge bed. When I turned out the bedside light, I was in total darkness and I had one of the best night’s sleep of my life, in the blackness and quiet solitude of my cave. This luxury does come at a price; superior doubles start from €185 a night for a standard double room up to €2,900 a night for the ultra-glamorous Byzantine King Suite with 24-hr service.

The 74m² swimming pool’s design was inspired by the ancient Roman pool architecture. The terrace is a pleasant spot and there is a swing on the high terrace, from where visitors can watch the sunset or listen to the muezzin calling the faithful to prayers at the local mosque. The breakfasts at Gamirasu Cave Hotel are divine, with local yoghurt, fresh fruit, apricots from trees above the hotel, honey still in a comb, boiled eggs, homemade jam, milk from the village cow and freshly-baked bread. Dinner is prepared in the kitchen using organic produce. The food is produced with the help of the Rapunzel Bio-Farming company. The chef prepares traditional Turkish specialities and fans of the Slow Food movement will be delighted to see that ‘Testi kebap’ lamb stew is cooked in a ceramic pot for 6 hours and then dramatically broken open with a large sword. The staff are lovely; the receptionist is a vegetarian and enjoys explaining about veggie dining options – of which there are many. Her husband is a whirling dervish!

I can honestly say this is the best hotel I have ever stayed in. I recommend it to Bradt readers as I think they will appreciate the combination of luxury with a sensitive, eco-friendly approach.

Göreme

Where to eat and drink

Cappadocia Pide House Hakki Pasa Meydani 16, Merkez Camii Karsisi, Goreme 50180; tel: +90 384 271 3055; open 10.00–midnight daily. Very good pide, prepared in an open kitchen – prices TL12-TL15

What to see and do

Göreme Open Air Museum (Göreme Açikhava Müzesi)

Müze Caddesi, Göreme; tel: +90 271 2167; admission: TL20 (& TL10 extra for the Karanlık Kilise) [The admission fee has gone up]; open 08.00–18.30 daily.

Note – due to recent attacks, security has been stepped up all over Turkey. Visitors cannot take rucksacks or other large bags into the museum territory and bags will be searched.

One of Turkey's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Göreme Open Air Museum is an essential stop on any Cappadocia itinerary and deserves a 2-hour visit. First an important Byzantine monastic settlement that housed some 20 monks, then a pilgrimage site from the 17th century, this splendid cluster of monastic Byzantine artistry with its rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries is 1km uphill from Göreme's centre.

Note that the museum's highlight – the Karanlık Kilise – has an additional TL10 entrance fee.

Derinkuyu Yeralti Sehri (Underground City)

Open: May–Oct: 08.00–18.00; Nov–Apr: 08:30–17:30; admission: TL20

Note – due to recent attacks, security has been stepped up all over Turkey. Visitors cannot take rucksacks or other large bags into the museum territory and bags will be searched.

There are underground cities at Özkonak, Mazı (marked on the Bradt map) and several other places, but the most dramatic and interesting ones now open to visitors are the ones south of Nevşehir at Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu, 20km (12 miles) and 30km (19 miles) south of Nevşehir respectively.

Of the 100 underground cities in Cappadocia, Derinkuyu is the deepest at 280 ft (85m) below the surface.

The city has been open to the public since 1965 but only about half of it can be visited. There are around 600 doors down into the city, leading from the courtyards of the above-ground buildings. In the underground city, visitors will see the various levels of stables, cellars, storage rooms, kitchens, wineries, churches and more. The upper floors can be reached by narrow, sloping passageways, while from the 3rd and 4th floor down there are staircases. The lowest floor houses a church. The visit is not recommended for those suffering from claustrophobia, heart problems - or creaky knees!

It’s unlikely that these underground cities were meant for full-time residency, but more likely made to withstand attacks from marauding tribes over long periods of time. Derinkuyu had everything needed for day to day life including wells and around 15,000 ventilations shafts.

Back to the top

Ihlara Vadisi Örenyeri (Ihlara Valley)

Restaurant at end of walk: Aslan. Hours: Apr–Oct: 08.00–19.00; Nov–Mar: 08:30–17.00; admission: TL12 (ticket includes Ihlara Valley and Selime rock cathedral).

Ihlara Valley, near Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz (two of the three volcanoes of Cappadocia, the third being Mount Erciyes) is a canyon with a depth of approximately 100m and was formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago. It begins at Ihlara village and ends with Selime Monastery at Selime village after making 26 bends along 14km.

It is believed that the valley housed more than 4000 dwellings and 100 cave churches decorated with frescoes. Around 80,000 people once lived in Ihlara Valley.

There are four entrances to Ihlara valley. The first one is at the start of the valley in Ihlara Village. The second one (we entered here) opens to the 4km mark of the valley and it is the most popular entrance (with a ticket office, rest house and toilets) and has more than 300 steps down to the valley. Between the second and third entrances, we walked for about an hour and a half, marvelling at the steep cliffs – I would call it more a ‘canyon’ than a ‘valley’! – and the beautiful pale green pollarded willow trees and pistachio trees along the way, which followed the meandering Melendiz stream. We also saw several wild tortoises and lizards pottering about in the long grass. Half-way between the second and third entrances is an open-air cafe and a lovely place to sit down on rugs and cushions and take tea or have a freshly-squeezed orange juice. The third entrance is Belisirma village which allows you to enter the valley by driving. It is located in the middle (7km) of the valley. If you will visit the valley by your car, this is the best spot to park your car. Belisirma has also some restaurants by Melendiz River to have lunch. We had lunch in the Aslan restaurant in Belisirima. Most of the guided tours end their walking here after lunch. The last entrance is the end of the valley at the Selime Monastery. Some of the trekking tours which walk the whole valley start from this end. The best part of the valley is the first 7km part from Ihlara Village until Belisirma Village where you can see most of the churches and natural beauty.

Selime Katedral

Admission included in Ihlara Valley entrance ticket. web: www.muze.gov.tr

You can get a Cappadocia Museum Pass for TL45 giving admission to Ihlara Vadisi, Derinkuyu Yeraltı Şehri, Göreme Açıkhava Müzesi, Göreme Karanlık Kilise, Kaymaklı Yeraltı Şehri, Özkonak Yeraltı Şehri, Nevşehir Müzesi, Çavuşin Örenyeri, Hacıbektaş Müzesi, Zelve-Paşabağlar Örenyeri’ni süresi boyunca 1 kez ücretsiz ziyaret etme olanağı sunuyor.

Back to the top

Hot-air balloon ride

Universal Balloon. Orta Mahalle Belediye Caddesi, Kultur Turizm Komp. 2/5 Göreme/NEVSEHIR. Furkan Yazgi – pilot. Tel: 0384 271 2754; mob: 0531 386 5050; email: fly@universalballoon.com; web: www.universalballoon.com; price: a 60-minute flight (inc hotel pick-up & b/fast) costs €160pp (€10 discount for cash payments). Private flights available on request (if you travel to Cappadocia with TravelShopTurkey www.travelshopturkey.com you will get a further discounted rate).

I have never been an early riser. As a journo-nightowl, who works long hours into the darkness to meet deadlines, I find it hard to rouse myself in the morning. However, I have never been so happy in my entire life to get up at 4am to drive to the magical fairyland in the darkness and then watch the sun rise from a hot-air balloon floating high above the fairy chimneys. It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I can tick off at least one bucket list experience, thanks to the kind people at Universal Balloon.

As part of the service included, we were picked up at 04.30 at our hotel and drove in a large, comfortable minibus, stopping at around half a dozen other hotels along the way. We reached the ballooning site and had a large breakfast of tea, juice, bread and jam, although I felt too excited to eat. We walked through the darkness towards our brightly-coloured balloon, which was rising up in the chilly April morning air and glowing like an orange sun, waiting to soar into the sky. We met our charming pilot, Furkan, who explained the safety arrangements and the landing position. Then, before we knew it we were up in the air. The basket holds 12 passengers – and the pilot in the middle – in four rectangular baskets. The baskets fortunately have high sides and, although it can seem a little scary at first, floating high above the fairy chimney with only loud, blasts of hot, fiery air to keep us aloft, the magnificent view soon distracts from any feelings of nerves. The landscape was filled with approximately 30 other balloons, in a variety of colours and patterns, and it was difficult to stop taking pictures as there was a ‘photo-op’ every second, each one better than the last. I tried to stop, hold my breath and absorb the wonderful experience. After about an hour, we landed smoothly, and then the other Universal Balloon workers hoiked the entire balloon – with us still in it – onto a trailer attached to a truck, which had been following us through the valleys. We had some non-alcoholic ‘champagne’ – sparkling grape juice – and cake and Furkan even awarded us with ‘gold’ medals to commemorate our trip. It certainly was the ride of a lifetime.

Universal Balloon was established in 2013 in Cappadocia and is one of the newest balloon companies operating in the area. They operate flights everyday, always at sunrise.

The company has five balloons with four pilots, and it’s a kind of boutique ballooning company providing individual and attentive service.

Uçhisar Castle

Open 08.00–20.15 daily; admission TL3.

This tall volcanic-rock outcrop is one of Cappadocia's most prominent landmarks and visible for miles around. Riddled with tunnels, it was used for centuries by villagers as a place of refuge when enemy armies overtook the surrounding plains. Climbing through its mazy core to the panoramic vantage point of its peak is a sublime way to watch the sun set over the rock valleys of the Cappadocian countryside.

The castle is a major tourist attraction, so try to go early or late in the day to avoid the tour-bus groups. The lack of barriers means you should be very careful; one photographer died when he fell over the edge after stepping backwards to get a good shot.

Anyone suffering from vertigo or bad knee joints should also take care when clambering around the Selime Rock Cathedral.

Chapter 7: Konya and South to the Coast

Update by Lucy Mallows, author of Bradt’s Bratistlava, Transylvania and Slovakia guides. Updated 05/09/2016.

Çukurova, historically known as Cilicia, is a geo-cultural region in south-central Turkey, covering the provinces of Mersin, Adana, Osmaniye and Hatay. With a population of almost six million, it is one of the largest population concentrations in Turkey.

Anamur

Anamur is at a distance of 140km from Mersin, a few kilometres inland, and surrounded by banana plantations. The ancient city of Anemurium just to the west of Anamur, is located overlooking a beautiful beach and was founded during the 12th century BC by the Hittites. Its name means ‘windy promontory’. Among the ruins of the city there are the walls, an amphitheatre, an Odeon, a public bath and a necropolis. The Anemurium beach is also one of 17 Mediterranean beaches on which the famous loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta) lay their eggs.

What to see and do

Mamure Kalesi (castle) [presently under reconstruction] Located in the village of Bozdoğan, 6km east of Anamur on the Antalya-Mersin highway; tel: +90 324 814 1677 (Anamur Museum). Entrance TL5.

This impressive medieval castle is the best preserved on the Mediterranean coastline. Mamure Castle was constructed on high rocks on the coast on top of previous Anatolian Castles, as with many others. The original castle is believed to have been built by the Romans in the 3rd or 4th century AD. Mahmut of Karaman (13001308) captured the castle and built a mosque inside it. He renovated the castle and renamed it ‘Mamure’ (meaning ‘prosperous’). In 1988, during excavations led by Anamur Museum, the mosaic floor coverings of Rygmonai were discovered. Rygmonai was one of the eminent cities of the late Roman era. The castle has three main courtyards, separated from each other by high walls, there are 39 towers and bastions. Mamure Castle is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Anemurium Located 15km west of Anamur on the east-facing slopes of Cape Anamur, the southernmost tip of Anatolia; tel: +90 324 814 1677 (Anamur Museum). Entrance TL5.

There is some doubt concerning the origins of this incredible and beautifully preserved ancient city. Excavations have not found anything earlier than the Roman Empire, however the city’s name appears on a list of ports dating from the 4th century AD, showing that the city was already in existence. The name ‘Anemurium’ means ‘windy place’ and it is a beautiful place for a peaceful walk. The first city walls were built in the 1st century AD when the city was governed by Antiochus of Commagene (38-72 AD). Cyprus is only 80km south across the water and Anemurium was an important stopover in the Roman era and a place for trade and export. Anemurium was captured by the Sassanians in 260 AD. In the 4th5th AD, pirates from the Taurus Mountains frequently ravaged the city and after Arab attacks in 650 AD, the city was abandoned. After the Seljuks conquered Mamure Castle in the 12th13th centuries, the region was then taken over by the Turks.

Anamur Museum Iskele, Anamur (open Tue-Sun 08.00–noon, 13.00–17.00, TL5)

Where to stay

Ünlüselek Hotel web: www.unluselekhotel.com Singles TL40-55, doubles TL7090, triples Tl100120. This sprawling, family-oriented hotel right on the beach is really a budget resort. Along with the occasional live music at night  and we were there on a Saturday night with a big, drunken wedding  films are sometimes screened on a projector outside, where there’s a large playground for children. The 35 rooms are spacious with sea views, balconies and mosquito screens on the windows. You can even access the WiFi on the beach.

Where to eat

Kalabalīk fish restaurant Mersin Antalya Yolu, 118, Bozdoğan, Anamur, Mersin, tel: +90 532 284 5802, open daily 09.00–02.00

Diners eat on a jetty out at sea while musicians play lively music from the restaurant on the coast. The restaurant specialises in fish with a range of tasty vegetables, salads and staples such as chips. Highly recommended.

Aydincik

Gilindire Cave Nature Monument - Aynalıgöl Mağarası  Yeni Mh. 33191 str. No.31, Mezitli, Mersin; tel: +90 324 357 0820; email: mersin@ormansu.gov.tr; web: www.ormansu.gov.tr. Entrance TL5.

This is a quite stunning cave, located in the cliffside by the sea. The cave was discovered in 1999 by a shepherd, Mr Kutay, when chasing after his sheep. It was not really explained how he  or the sheep  got down to the base of the steep cliff where the entrance to the cave is located, as it first appears only approachable by water. Kutay now works in a marble factory at Gülnar (50km from the cave) and is about to retire. Originally Kutay hoped to get some money from the government in return for revealing his amazing cave discovery. However, the Mersin/Cukurova Development Agency took over and there are plans to build a jetty so that boats and yachts can land near the cave entrance. The cave is called Gilindire after the ongoing excavations at Gilindire (Kalenderis Antique City) nearby.

Some 150 steps have been built down to the entrance and, once inside the cave, there are 400 more steps (on a well-made concrete path with handrails in places) down to the Mirror Lake. It is certainly well worth the effort of climbing down, despite the humidity and steepness of some steps. This fossil cave mouth is located about 46m above the inlet at sea level and the beach and is a total of 555m long, and was formed 600 million years ago in the Cambrian period limestone. The cave’s mouth and the great hall were formed by a northwest-southeast fault line, while the lake is the result of the northeast-southwest fault line activities. The cave’s total area is 107ha and it reaches a depth of 46m. It has three different sections, all formed during different periods. In 2013, the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs declared it a ‘Natural Monument’. The stalactites and stalagmites are stunningly beautiful, and at the bottom of the cave is the Aynali Lake (Mirror Lake), a lake below sea level that shimmers like a mirror. The rock formations are beautiful, some like a cathedral organ pipes, some like animals. The walkway is well-lit and there are metal steps in places, making it more worthwhile - aesthetically - than the Heaven and Hell cave and chasm.

Çaglar Cafe Mersin-Antalya Yolu Mersin-Antalya Yolu, Soğuksu /Aydıncık, Mersin 33840; tel: +90 324 841 2444.

They brew up the best cup of tea by the cold stream (Soğuksu means ‘cold water’) and make very tasty gözleme (pancakes) and sīkma (flatbreads filled with cheese, spinach). The cafe is located in a little paradise, under trees with a swinging dado ‘chair and table’ arrangement. The only drawback is that to get to the pebbly beach, you have to cross the busy MersinAntalya highway (D400 Mersin-Antalya Yolu), where lorries thunder along. We had delicious watermelons, which had been chilled in the river. It’s a lovely, old-fashioned mini-resort for locals. It’s very welcoming and prices are very reasonable. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.

Mut

Where to stay

Bulutbey Hotel & Spa (3-star) DogancI Mah., Kocabas Sok No:1, Mut Merkez/Mersin; tel: +90 324 774 0347; email:info@bulutbeyhotelspa.com,  web: www.bulutbeyhotelspa.com  The Bulutbey Spa Hotel is by far the best hotel in Mut. It is clean and comfortable and good value for money. It makes a great base for exploring the surrounding Taurus mountains and particularly the Alahan Monastery. The best thing, however, is the breakfast, served in a restaurant on the top floor with a great view of the surrounding hills.

Where to eat

Danyal Ateş’in Yeri Cafe 33940 Ortaören, Mut/Mersin; web: http://danyalatesinyeri.com.

A stunning place for a tea and a snack overlooking the magnificent Göksu vadisi (valley). The large covered terrace hangs right over a vertiginous drop into the valley below.

They serve the best sīkma (a kind of flat bread/burrito) filled with spinach or cheese, great teas, ayran (yoghurt drink) and desserts. The view is wonderful and there is a little shop selling all manner of homemade jams, honeys, marmalades, carrot jam (!), and there are aluminium utensils and pots for the kitchen and a huge tank full of terrapins.

What to see

Alahan Manastırı Located on the Silifke-Mut-Karaman highway from Mersin. Turn off at Geçimli village and drive for 3km on a dirt track. 22km north of Mut. Entrance TL5.

The Alahan Monastery is an absolutely unmissable gem. Alahan is listed on UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List and is an important pilgrimage centre for Christians.

The monastery sits in a prime location up in the Taurus Mountains, and its construction dates back to 5th-6th centuries AD. According to an epitaph found during excavation, the monastery was founded by Tarasius, who died in 462.  The Roman emperor Zeno of Isauria provided funds for the construction. The monastery complex begins with a cave church leaning into the mountain slope. The majestic West Church door is adorned with carvings of four heads: a lion, ox, eagle and an angel, symbolising the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Evliya Çelebi, the ‘Marco Polo of Ottoman times’ was a 17th century traveller who visited Alahan and was amazed by its beauty. Apparently the Aya Sofia in Istanbul imitates the structure of Alahan Monastery not vice versa.

Uzuncaburç Located 30km north of Silifke on the Silifke-Meydan-Mara highway. Entrance TL5.

Uzuncaburç was the capital of the Olba Dynasty. Uzuncaburç (the name means ‘Tall-ish Tower’) is the ancient city of Diocaesarea-Olba, famous for its great Temple of Zeus Olbius. Driving from Silifke, you pass through the village of Demircili (7km), known as Imbriogon in ancient times, which has several impressive tombs visible from the road.

At Uzuncaburç the most impressive ruins are those of the Temple of Zeus Olbius, the nearby Temple of Tyche, and the monumental city gate. There are also ruins of a nymphaeum (fountain), and a beautiful, if overgrown, amphitheatre. The eponymous tall Hellenistic tower is a solid square tower, 22m high, built for observation and defence. Beyond the tower, walk past the village's main square and on for 10 minutes to the north to the valley necropolis, rich in rock-hewn tombs and sarcophagi. Uzuncaburç is a lovely deserted spot. Visitors can rest under the 116-year-old white mulberry tree, wander among the ancient ruins, buy herbs (oregano, sumac berries, dried camomile flowers) from an elderly gentleman who sits there all day.

Heaven & Hell caves (Cennet-Cehennem Obrukları)

The Caves of Heaven and Hell (Cennet ve Cehennem),  located 2km northwest of Narlıkuyu and 65km west of Mersin. Open daily 08.00–17.00. Entrance TL15.

As you approach the caves along the access road from the coastal highway, you'll see the high walls of a huge Temple of Zeus erected here in homage to the king of the gods who features prominently in the ancient myths related to the caves.

First it’s the Chasm of Heaven (Cennet). Take a bottle of water and walk down the 300 steps to the Byzantine chapel in the cave’s mouth. The church was dedicated to the Virigin Mary by Paulus in the 5th century. It is a lovely, if very humid, nature walk, passing ancient, gnarled trees and wild flowers.  The Heaven Chasm is basically a large sink hole formed after the collapse of an underground river. After the chapel, there are some 150 more steps into the cave. The steps are very slippery, missing in places and it’s quite an effort. The lamps occasionally stop working, which can be unnerving. I used my mobile phone torch as we had to hurry to climb out before the attraction closed. Walking back up is exhausting in the humidity, so plan ahead and don’t leave it until half an hour before closing time, as we did! At the top, there is a cafe with ice creams and much-needed cool drinks. There are also many souvenir shops.

The Cavern of Hell (Cehennem), 100m uphill from Heaven, is a smaller depression with steeper sides, 30 meters in diameter and 120 meters deep. Its walls are too steep to allow access, so you can't climb down into it and the joke says how it’s easier to go to hell (jumping off the edge) than to get into heaven (tottering down 450 steep steps). The two caves figure prominently in ancient Greek myths; Zeus was defeated Typhon, a fire-breathing 100-headed dragon, who imprisoned him in these chasms. Hermes and Pan then rescued Zeus, who battled Typhon again, defeated him and buried him in the earth, under Mount Etna, from where he still continues to breathe forth fire.

Aya Thekla Church Cave Located 4km south of Silifke, and 2km north of the DatçaMersin highway, which runs parallel to the coast. (she was a follower of St. Paul who healed the sick)

Dedicated to Saint Thecla, it was the a major pilgrimage site in the Byzantine period, and still attracts visitors. Thecla was an apostle and protomartyr among women and was one of the followers of Saint Paul whose origin was Tarsus about 110km east of the church. According to the main work about her, “Acts of Paul and Thecla", she was originally from Iconion (now Konya), and after the episodes described in the book she lived around Silifke and died there.

Aya Thecla is acknowledged as the first female martyr of Christianity. Thecla was a beautiful young virgin from Iconium (now Konya) who became a follower of Paul of Tarsus when he came to the city to preach in the mid 1st century AD. Thecla became a target of her family’s and fellow citizens’ hatred when she abandoned polytheism. She followed Paul and  on his advice she went to Seleucia ad Calycadnum (Silifke). Thecla was condemned to death but saved by miracles. On arriving in Seleucia, Thecla settled in a cave and lived in isolation. She became known as a healer, and when the doctors in Seleucia became jealous and sent hitmen to kill her, Thecla disappeared in the cave.

The beginnings of the site are unclear. The traveller Egeria visited in 384, and mentioned numerous monastic cells for men and women, and a central church with an enclosing wall.The shrine was relocated to a hill, (now called Meryemlik, the Virgin Mary) with a cave which was supposedly Thecla's home in her later years. The grave in the cave is allegedly Thecla’s resting place. Until AD 312, Thecla's cave was a secret place of pilgrimage.At a later date, a church was built into the cave. Aya Thekla, the more prominent church, was built on the hilltop in 460470 AD by the Byzantine emperor Zeno the Isaurian.

Silifke

Including Kizkalezi & Narlikuyu

Where to stay

Kilikya Hotel (four stars) Kizkalesi, Mersin; tel: +90 324 523 2115; web: www.kilikyahotel.com

A really lovely hotel with a fantastic restaurant, and an amazing salad buffet, and a charming terrace right on the beach opposite the Maiden’s Castle

The hotel has 90 rooms: 82 standard and 8 suite rooms. All rooms are equipped with central air-conditioning system (VRF), Led TV, mini bar, music broadcast, phone, electronic combination safe, adjustable lighting system. The bathrooms are furnished with hair dryers, phone and shower cabins. All rooms have a balcony and the suite rooms have a direct view and the standard rooms have sideways view on to the sea. This hotel would make a great base for exploring the region.

Altınorfoz Hotel & Resort (four stars) Atakent - Kuruçay Mevki Silifke /Mersin; tel: 0324 722 4211;  www.altinorfozhotel.com.tr

A great resort hotel near the beach at Silifke with an indoor pool, two outdoor pools, a gym, sauna, spa, hamam and surrounded by a forest on the coast with a small but lovely beach. It is four star and considering that, the prices are very reasonable. Ideal for younger visitors who like to party and chill in equal measures. There was a very loud outdoor disco on the Friday evening when we stayed there and as it was so hot, I had to keep my window open, so not much rest.

 Where to eat

Türkmen Kahvalti Salonu Narlikuyu, Hasanaliler, 33940 Silifke, Mersin; tel: +90 532 541 8095;

An excellent place for breakfast with superb fresh bread, cheeses, olives, homemade jams and preserves such as watermelon skin conserve, more delicious than it sounds!

Narlikuyu

The name of this place means 'pomegranate well'.

Narlıkuyu Balık Restaurant Mehmet Canatan

Çerkez Sok. No:8 Narlıkuyu-Akdeniz Mah. Silifke, 9010 Mersin; tel: +90 324 723 3286; Open daily 11.00–22.00.

Narlıkuyu is a lovely bay filled with fish restaurants. Diners can sit out by the bay, eat freshly caught fish, salad, and a samphire/seaweed-like vegetable, kaya korugu (‘corrugated rock’) that grows at seashore and goes well with the white fish.

Kizkalesi

Kizkalesi means Maiden's Castle, the romantic name for the crusader castle floating in the blue water 150m offshore from this lovely little resort town. This fort on a small island a little distant from the shore is considered the symbol of the Eastern Mediterranean. As for the resort town of Kizkalesi, which includes the site of the ancient city of Korykos, it is noteworthy for its beaches, motels and campsites.

What to see

Kızkalesi  (Maiden’s Castle) Take a boat out to the castle on the tiny island 200m out to sea. The boat trip costs TRY5, the entry to the castle is free.

According to the 1st century Greek historian Strabo, the island was used by the pirates in ancient times. The castle was probably built by Alexios I Komnenos of Byzantine Empire after the First Crusade. It was extensively rebuilt in the 13th century by Leo I and at least one subsequent monarch of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Archaeological surveys published in 1982 and 1987 found that the original Byzantine plan survives primarily at the south with the characteristic square towers. The Armenians rebuilt the north and west sides of the castle with their distinctive rusticated ashlar masonry and round towers. They also put new facing stone on most of the Greek construction. Two Armenian inscriptions reportedly mention the rebuilding of this site by King Leo I (1206) and King Het‛um I (1251).The Armenians also built a barrel vaulted chapel inside the fort.The island was once connected to the mainland fort, Corycus castle, by a breakwater.

In the 14th century the Cilician Kingdom was on the verge of collapse and in 1360 Peter I of Cyprus captured the island at the request of the inhabitants. The castle was captured by İbrahim II of Karaman in 1448 and by Gedik Ahmet Pasha of the Ottoman Empire in 1471. (Karamanids was an Anatolian beylik

Korykos Castle The other castle on land. In ancient times, Corycus was an important harbour and commercial town. It was the port of Seleucia, where, in 191 BC, the fleet of Antiochus the Great was defeated by the Romans. In the Roman times, it preserved its ancient laws; the emperors usually kept a fleet there to watch over the pirates.

Corycus was controlled by the Byzantine Empire. Justinian I restored the public baths and a hospital. The admiral Eustathios Kymineianos re-fortified the island on the orders of Alexios I Komnenos at the beginning of the 12th century, adding a supplementary castle on a small island. This castle was later called ‘maidens castle’, because it was told that a king held his daughter here in captivity until she was killed by a venomous snake. It was prophesied she would die by a snake bite. So she was taken to the sea castle to protect her, but a serpent was taken by basket to the castle, she was bitten and died. Corycus was conquered by the Armenians soon after it was rebuilt by the Byzantines.

Until the mid-14th century, the Armenians held both the mainland and island castles, which guarded this strategic port for the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Simon, the Baron of Koŕikos, attended the coronation of King Levon I in 1199. Subsequent Armenian nobles maintained authority in the area, with a few brief interruptions, until 1360, when Peter I, the King of Cyprus, removed the Mamelukes and assumed sovereignty. In the late 14th century it fell again to the Turks. From 1448 or 1454 it belonged alternately to the Karamanids, the Egyptians, the Karamanids a second time, and finally to the Ottoman Empire.

Mersin

The Mersin Province (Mersin ili) is a province in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast between Antalya and Adana. The provincial capital is the city of Mersin, and the other major town is Tarsus, birthplace of St. Paul. The province is part of Çukurova, a geographical, economical and cultural region, that covers the provinces of Mersin, Adana, Osmaniye and Hatay.

Mersin, which is surrounded by orange and lemon groves, is an important port of Turkey on the Eastern Mediterranean. From Mersin, which is Turkey's biggest free trade area on the Mediterranean, ferryboats depart regularly for Gazi Magosa in Northern Cyprus. Mersin is a bustling, modern port town, however it is located on the site of very ancient settlements. As a result of ongoing excavations at the Yumuktepe Tumulus 3km to the west of the city, various settlements going as far back as the Neolithic age have been discovered.

Where to eat

Göksel Tantuni (central outlet) Yeni Adliye Civarī; tel: +90 324 326 3233; web: www.gokseltantuni.com (GMK Bulvarı Eski İşbank Şubesi Karşısı - in Pozcu district) 

Tantuni (a bit like chilli beef burritos) are the ultimate Turkish fast food. Named after the Arabic for ‘fast food’, tantuni are freshly made chilli beef in a flat bread and served with loads of fresh salad (mint leaves, flat parsley, rocket, mustard greens), black olives and washed down with ayran (yoghurt drink). Göksel Tantuni is the best known chain with several outlets throughout Mersin.

Emin Usta Istiklal Cad. No:103, Icel Merkez, Mersin; tel: +90 324 238 8778;

I was told that Emin Usta is one of the best places in Turkey to try this incredible dessert of Künefe. It's made of soft, creamy cheese doused in syrup and crumbled pistachio nuts. This dish is also sometimes called Kanafeh and is made by taking a portion of semolina dough and heating it up in butter and spreading over a soft white cheese, such as Nabulsi, then covering it with more dough. A thick syrup of sugar, water and a few drops of rose water or orange blossom water is poured on the dessert during the final minutes of cooking.

Arabağa coffee shop Arabaga Kahve, Atatürk Cad No.14; Merkez, Mersin, tel: 0324 2313067; mob: 0532 715 7025. 

This dinky little coffee shop and cafe has been serving of Turkish Coffee in Arabağa coffee shop since 1926. The owner is Mustafa Kemal Uçar. 

Tarsus

Tarsus is a historic city located 43km west of Adana on the D400 highway. With a history going back over 6,000 years, Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders and a focal point of many civilisations. During the Roman Empire, Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia, the scene of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

The historic city centre holds several buildings of interest, the St. Paul’s Church Mosque (Kilise Cami) in the city centre was built as a church in about 300 AD, and dedicated to St Paul. After a thousand years as a church, it was converted to a mosque in 1415 when the city was conquered from the Byzantines by a Turkish Ramazanoğlu emir.

The Roman-era Cleopatra's Gate (Kleopatra Kapisi) is a monumental remnant of the ancient city’s system of defensive walls. It was constructed at the end of the Byzantine Empire or during the Abbasids.

The ancient Roman road (Sağlıklı) was discovered during archaeological digs in the city centre in 1993. The road, which stretches east to west is thought to have been built in the 1st century AD. Currently 65m of the road has been uncovered.  St. Paul's Well (St Paul Kuyusu, open Apr–Oct 08.00–19.00 daily, Nov–Mar 08.00–17.00 daily, entrance TL5) is a very ancient stone well, and visitors take a sip from the well and make a wish. Many Christian pilgrims come here to see the well and it is the second most visited place in Turkey after Ephesus for Catholic pilgrimages.

The St. Paul Memorial Museum (Anit Müzesi open Apr–Oct 08.00–19.00 daily, Nov–Mar 08.00–17.00 daily, entrance TL5) is housed in a 16th-century medrese (theological seminary).

Where to stay

Konak Efsus (8 rooms) Tarihi Evler (42) sk. No 31-33, Tarsus 33400; tel: +90 324 614 0807; fax: +90 324 614 0788; email: yesim@konakefsus.com; web: www.konakefsus.com.

A delightful boutique hotel in the heart of Tarsus old town. It is located in a restored Ottoman house and is furnished in a traditional style. It is very comfortable and the Cleopatra Suite is luxurious. Singles TL110, doubles TL180.

Where to eat

Selale (waterfall) restaurant Caglayan Mah Selale Bulvari No:71/A, Tarsus; tel: 0324 624 8010.

We enjoyed a really excellent lunch here in the beautiful setting by the waterfall; there were lots of fresh vegetables and healthy, green salads. Well-cooked meat kebabs and good fish. I had ayran (the wonderful slightly salty yoghurt drink) and a cup of Turkish tea. One of decent restaurants in Tarsus. Basic foods are kebabs and poultry. Limited meze are also served. Good location, especially in summer when the city is burning, this place is cool thanks to the waterfalls.

Görallar cafe and shop Sehti Kerim Mah. Adana Cad. No. 10, Tarsus, (Mersin); tel: 0324 622 6666, email: info@gorallar.com.tr; web: www.gorallar.com.tr

The place to try cezerye, a kind of Turkish delight made from carrots. 

Adana

Adana is one of the 30 metropolitan centres in Turkey with more than one municipality within city borders. A large portion of the district is within the city of Adana, incorporated under the same name as a lower-tier municipality. It is a modern residential district which came into being in the last 30 years as the city expanded north. Çukurova is located north of the Seyhan district, west of the Seyhan River and south of the Seyhan Reservoir.

What to see

City Tour on an open top bus which leaves from Adana’s main railway station.

The stunning Sabancı Merkez Camii (Sabancı Central Mosque) is not a historic building, however it is the most visited mosque in Adana, as it is one of the largest mosques in the Middle East. Built with regard to Ottoman Architecture, the mosque was opened to service in 1998 to a capacity of 28,500 people. The mosque has six minarets, four of them having a height of 99m The dome has a diameter of 32m and it is 54m high from the prayer area. It is located on the west bank of Seyhan River at the corner of Seyhan Bridge and can be seen from far and wide.

Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) is a külliye; a complex of buildings associated with Ottoman architecture centred on a mosque and managed within a single institution, often based on a waqf (charitable foundation) and composed of a madrasa, a Dar al-Shifa (clinic), kitchens, bakery, Turkish bath, other buildings for various charitable services for the community and further annexes. Built in 1541 during the Ramadanid era, it is the most interesting medieval structure in Adana with its mosque, madrasah and türbe. The mosque has black and white marble with decorative window surrounds and it is famous for the 16th century Iznik tiling used in its inner space. The minaret is a unique sample with the Mamluk effects and its orthogonal plan scheme.

Yağ Camii (Oil Mosque) was originally built as the Church of St. James, then converted into a mosque by Ramazanoğlu Halil Bey in 1501. Later, his successor Piri Mehmet Paşa added its minaret in 1525 and its madrasah in 1558. It is in the Seljuqid Grand Mosque style and has an attractive gate made of yellow stone.

Yeni Camii (New Mosque) was built in 1724 by Abdülrezzak Antaki, and still known as Antaki Mosque by some. The influence of Mamluk architecture is visible. It is built in rectangular order and has an interesting stonework on south walls.

Büyük Saat (The Great Clock Tower) was built by the local governor of Adana in 1882, is the tallest clock tower in Turkey rising 32m high. It was damaged during the French occupation, but was rebuilt in 1935, and its image can be found in the city’s coat of arms. Kazancılar Çarşısı (Bazaar of Kazancilar) was founded around the Büyük Saat.

Where to stay

Otel Seyhan Reşatbey Mh., Turhan Cemal Beriker Bulv. No:20/A, 01120 Seyhan/Adana; tel: +90 (322) 455 30 12; web: http://www.otelseyhan.com.tr/en/email: rezervasyon@otelseyhan.com.tr

Otel Seyhan is a comfortable, stylish, quiet place to rest. The Otel Seyhan is very convenient for Adana Airport (about ten minutes away), and is also close to the main sights of the town, such as the stunning Sabanci Central Mosque, the Stone Bridge and Adana's lovely Central Park. The room was tastefully decorated in shades of brown, with a simple, classy design. The bed seemed huge and was very comfortable. I loved the gigantic bathroom and hot shower. The buffet breakfast next morning was exceptional.

Adana Hilton SA (308 rooms) web: adana.hilton.com Sinanpasa Mah. Haci Sabanci Bul. No.1, Yuregir, Adana 01220. tel: +90 322 355 5000; fax: +90 322 355 5050

Where to eat

Emirgan Sütiş

Karslī Mh. 82046 Sk.No.2 Cukurova, Adana, Turkey; email: info@sutis.com.tr; tel: +90 (322) 234 3000 A traditional cafe and place for breakfast since 1953

Onbaşılar restaurant Park Zirve Zaimoglu; Karslı Mah. 82046 Sk. No:3 Çukurova, Adana: tel: +90 322 215 0000; web: http://www.onbasilar.com.tr; email: info@parkzirve.com.tr

Onbaşılar restaurant is in the same Park Zirve Zaimoglu complex up at the Seyhan reservoir/lake. It is *the* place in town to try the famous Adana Kebap. 

Arka Sokak restaurant Kurtuluş Mahallesi, Şinasi Efendi Caddesi, Seyhan, Adana; tel: +90 322 456 0656; Open daily 11.00–midnight.

The name means 'back streets' and this is a really excellent restaurant in Adana, offering many traditional, local dishes with a home-cooked care and style. Arka Sokak does amazing soups; Yüksük çorba, and the 'Anali Kizli' ('mother and daughter') soup was particularly good. I loved the yaprak sarma and the icli kofte - little garlicky balls made with bulgar wheat. I would recommend this restaurant for anybody who wants to sample the best home cooking in Adana.

Try the Şalgam, a drink made from boiled turnips, carrots and vinegar, bright red in colour and with legendary healing properties. It is supposed to kill off bacteria and cure upset stomachs. Some people get it down by adding raki. Şalgam has been celebrated as a festival in Adana since 2010. Adana Kebap ve Şalgam Festival, emerged from a hundred year tradition of enjoying kebab, with liver, şalgam and rakıAlso, be sure to try the Aşlama, a liquorice drink, served in cups by a man walking around with a giant teapot-flask on his back.

Trips from Adana

Varda Bridge Known as Alman Köprüsü (German Viaduct), the opening scenes from the James Bond ‘Skyfall’ movie were filmed here. It was designed and built by Imperial German engineers as part of the Baghdad Railway (Haydarpaşa TerminalIstanbulBaghdad) to connect Berlin with Basra, then part of the Ottoman Empire. This would enable a direct supply of oil to German industry.

Kapıkaya CanyonKapıkaya Kanyonu Located 72km from Adana, Kapıkaya Canyon is a deep valley formed by the erosion of calcareous mountains by the Çakit river. The canyon offers great opportunities for trekking, rock climbing and photography.

Yenice

Visit the railway carriage, where the Adana Conference (Adana Görüşmesi), also known as the Yenice Conference took place. This was a historic meeting between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Turkish President İsmet İnönü in a railroad car parking on a storage track at Yenice near Adana on 30–31 January 1943. Churchill tried to persuade İnönü to join the Allied Forces and fight the Axis powers during World War II. İnönü turned him down. Churchill tasted the local drink, Salgam, and liked it so much, he asked for the recipe. Nobody would tell him how it is made as it is a local secret. Churchill remarked ‘Turkish people are very good at keeping secrets’. This is a fascinating piece of history and visitors can sit in the same chair as Churchill and try out the typewriter. Nothing is roped off, it is all very relaxed.

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