After getting up early to watch the balloons over the surreal landscape of 'fairy chimneys' we left for a tour of the Southern region of Cappadocia. Our first stop was a lookout point. From here you could see the 4 volcanic mountains that surrounded an inland sea, over millions of years earthquakes, eruptions and the heating and cooling of rocks sculpted the landscape. The area has been inhabited for over 7 000 years.
Next we went to the Ihlara Valley, a 14km long canyon with a river at the bottom. Along the gorge are 80 churches carved from the rocks including one dating to the 7th century containing frescos called the 'Church under the Tree' that we visited. We walked along the gorge past caves used by monks and hermits and dwellings carved from the rock that are still in use today. Lunch was served sitting in 'cabanas' over the river and the location was so beautiful it was a pity to leave.
The Selime Monastery was the next stop. This monastery/cathedral/fortress and caravan stop is carved from rock and has beautiful views over the landscape. It was in use for over 1 500 years. From the high vantage point of the monastery you could also see an area that was apparently used to film some of the original Star Wars trilogy (the scenes where Leia and Hans Solo are being held captive by Jabba the Hut.)
Around this area are 36 underground cities that were used as refuges for the people of the area when they came under attack. We visited the largest of these called Yeralti Sehri. The coolness of the city, which is up to 55m deep, was a reprieve from the heat and provided perfect conditions for the production of wine. The city was used for this purpose even when the residents had no reason to be underground. A quick stop a Pigeon Valley was the last sight of our tour. The rock formations in this area looks like a pavlova and there are thousands of pigeon roosts carved into the rocks. Pigeons were used for communication, meat, their droppings for fertiliser and their eggs for paint.
In the evening we went to a Turkish Cultural Night. It featured all you could eat and, dangerously, drink and displays of various forms of traditional Turkish dancing. This included the amazing spiritual ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes (accompanied by Sufi Music), Belly Dancers and Cossack style dancing from the Eastern region of Turkey.