Monthly archives of “June 2013

Goreme Tours Cappadocia

Discover Cappadocia

Cappadocia is Turkey’s jewel, with its historical monasteries, beautiful valleys and fairy chimneys. Here there are underground cities made from volcanic stone, with labyrinths to explore in an air of mystique and wonder. Churches and monasteries have ancient paintings adorning their walls depicting scenes of early Christianity. Visitors are drawn to the strange landscape and houses that are built into the cliffs here, and they become absorbed by the impressive history and culture of this place. Cappadocia has so much to offer, and this makes it a compelling, surprising destination for tourists from around the globe.

 A World Heritage Site

The Goreme National Park and Rock sites in Cappadocia are a World Heritage site because of the historical significance of the underground settlements and the many examples of art from the Byzantine era to be found here. A fairytale world was created underground in this valley by the chambers and tunnels carved into the rock. Work began in the 4th Century A.D and the inhabitants carved caves, storehouses and places to live underground in the soft volcanic stone that had been formed here after ancient eruptions. Today, visitors come from around the globe to see the wonders of these early settlements situated on the high plateau of Cappadocia in the center of Turkey. There are good public transport links to the region and for visitors who want to do some independent exploring, there are bikes, scooters and cars to rent in Goreme.

Derinkuyu Underground City

Located in the town of Derinkuyu, a 30-minute drive from Goreme, the city has around 600 doors, which are hidden in courtyards, and Derinkuyu is the deepest underground city in Turkey, reaching 85m into the earth. There are many rooms to explore, such as stables, refectories, churches and wineries, and on the lowest floor is a cruciform plan church. Water wells were used to stop the inhabitants being poisoned by raids and there are around 15,000 ventilation ducts spread around the city for fresh air purposes. Stone doors were used to block corridors if an attack took place and were only operable from one side. The Derinkuyu underground city was used to defend its people and was designed so that they could inhabit the rooms buried deep underground for some time.

Fairy Chimneys and Frescoes

The Fairy Chimneys are possibly Cappadocia’s most famous feature, and are situated in Goreme and the villages around it. The volcanic eruptions formed peaks, which the elements sculpted to create cliff faces with curves and surreal fairy chimneys. Beneath the chimneys are the homes that have been carved into the rock and some of these have been turned into boutique fairy chimney hotels. Visitors to the area can marvel at the colorful frescoes created on dry plaster. The Dark Church features angels in multicolor and Jesus’s birth, and the natural low light here allows the frescoes to survive and look as vivid as ever.

Goreme Open Air Museum

This collection of ancient monasteries and churches sits in the center of Cappadocia and can be accessed from Goreme village center very easily. The rock cut churches make an impressive sight with their colorful frescoes. St Barbara Church has a cruciform plan and its dome and walls are adorned with many different motifs, whilst Apple Church features stunning 11th and12th Century frescoes in its cross in square plan. Tokali Church (also known as Buckle Church) can be accessed via the Goreme Open Air Museum and is at a distance of some 50 meters away. There is an Old Church, with a barrel-vaulted design and a New Church with a rectangular shape. The Old Church frescoes date back to the 10th Century and depictscenes from the Bible with colors and detail that draw visitors here every year.

Tips for Visiting Cappadocia

Cappadocia is an unspoilt region where the inhabitants carved their homes into the countryside and complemented what was there in quite a stunning way. Visitors can hike through valleys, fly in hot air balloons over the lunar terrain and admire the ancient art here at their leisure. There is a wealth of adventure activities to enjoy in this summery climate. The pace of life in Cappadocia is slow and relaxed, very unlike the buzz of Istanbul. Tourists using the public transport system should announce Goreme as their destination and there are free shuttle transfers available if you do so. Visitors traveling around Cappadocia may find it difficult to access foreign exchange services to change their money, and may find it useful to do so before they journey to the region, by comparing rates online so that they get the best deal available to them.

Cappadocia is so compelling because of its beautiful countryside, its memorable sunsets and its bazaar markets that date back to Ottoman times. The locals are warm and welcoming and the food is delicious. Cappadocia has a great deal to offer the adventurous visitor.

Many thanks to JULIE LYNDHURST for this great article

Atlas Mountains - Morocco Tours

Mountaineering in Atlas Mountains of Morocco

The Atlas Mountains of Morocco are a popular destination for mountaineers and trekkers, with their enviable position near Marrakech. The highest peak, Mount Toubkal, stands at 4,167 metres tall and there are many other peaks between 3000 and 4000 metres to climb. With striking seasons all year round, this range of peaks is characterised by snow and alpine greenery and there is an abundance of wildlife to see while you are trekking. The Atlas Mountains remain a sought after destination for visitors to the area and trips cater for climbers very well.

About the Mountains

Mount Toubkal was conquered in 1923 by the Marquis de Segonzac, Hubert Dolbeauby and Vincent Berger, although locals had scaled the mountain before this event. The Marquis enjoyed dangerous expeditions and Toubkal earned him respect among the mountaineering community. Soon the range began to appeal to European climbers and geologists and a commercial infrastructure was put into place.

The mountain range features several areas: the Anti, Middle and High Atlas, with the latter being the most popular for climbers.

Where to Start

The Atlas is a premier trekking attraction because of the warm climate and unusual geology and part of its charm is that the activities are very Moroccan in style and not as organised as those to be found in the Alps.

Mount Toubkal is easily reached from the city of Marrakesh and this makes it popular for trekkers, as well as mountaineers. The ‘starting point’ is Imlil, a village at the base of the mountain, which has accommodation for travellers as well as equipment, guides and mules. Mountaineers and trekkers need to make sure they come prepared and know exactly what they will need for their expedition, such as ice axes, boots and crampons, as well as sensible clothes. Mount Toubkal is generally about two and a half days hike from lmlil. Azilal is another suitable base camp for trekkers, and also offers mountain biking and riding in the area. On the north side of the High Atlas, you can marvel at the valley, Ouzoud waterfalls and the lmi-n-lfri bridge. On the south side there are many gorges, such as those of Mgoun, Todra and Dades.

What to See

There are many visual treats for climbers in the area, such as the Berber village of Megdaz and Imilchil for its September wedding festival. There are mosques and kasbahs, showing the rich culture of Morocco, and Berber families offer visitors generous hospitality. The Berbers make ideal guides for mountaineers as they are able to walk quickly along trails and handle the mules with expertise. Their villages populate the mountainsides, with houses called ‘kasbahs’ that are made from mud.

Marrakesh sits below the mountains and is an exotic city, well worth exploring. Here you can see snake charmers and Berber drummers and taste the delicious food of Morocco, from meat and vegetable stews to kebabs and m’choui, which is slow-roasted lamb.

Preparing for your Trip

The Atlas Mountains are a highlight for many people visiting Morocco, but, as with all trekking trips, you should be prepared before you set out. The conditions can change fairly dramatically in the Atlas range and amenities vary considerably depending on the villages en route. Because the Atlas Mountains are not as commercialised as the Alps, a higher degree of preparation will stand you in good stead for your expedition.

Guides are useful for your transportation needs and for food replenishment and Berber guides have the core strength and knowledge to traverse the mountainside with confidence. Guides in the Atlas Mountains are worth their weight in gold.

Water purification tablets should be brought with you, to avoid parasites that inhabit some mountain streams. Remember that out on the trail there are few places to fill up your bottle, apart from the natural sources.

Clothing needs to be considered carefully in Morocco. Whilst you will be hot on the plains, up in the peaks there can be snow in summer. The answer tends to be to wear layers of clothing that are thin and warm. Also remember headgear and sunscreen to accommodate the temperatures and volatile storms that sometimes roll in over the mountains.

Whether you are planning to summit Mount Toubkal or to enjoy a trekking holiday on the trails of the mountain range, the Atlas region of Morocco offers stunning scenery, fascinating geology and a rich culture just waiting to be explored.

Many thanks to JULIE LYNDHURST for this great article