Uçhisar Castle is to some extent a rock formation, located in the Nevşehir province of Turkey. The area is characterized by numerous caves, as well as rock depressions that have been formed naturally. Due to the fact that the rock here is relatively soft, the old settlers of the province bored numerous tunnels into the mountain. From the hill of the citadel, there is a breathtaking view of virtually all of Cappadocia.
Uçhisar Kalesi (Uçhisar Castle) is the highest point (1270 meters above sea level) in Cappadocia, excluding mountain peaks. “The castle” is honeycombed with many underground corridors and rooms. Many of them are further connected to each other by stairs, tunnels and passages. At some entrances to the rooms, there are stone doors, just like in underground settlements. However, due to erosion, reaching to all places is unfortunately not possible. Most of the rooms, located on the north side of the castle, were used as dovecotes. Farmers used them to collect pigeon droppings, which are an excellent as natural fertilizer for vegetable and fruit crops. In Byzantine times, the underground rooms served as flats, shelter during enemy invasions, and as homes for soldiers. The castle was inhabited by about 1,000 people in medieval times. At the terrain of Uçhisar town there are a number of “chimneys/posts”, which are still developed and serve an important function in the region. One of them is the Jandarma police station, and another the 6th-century St. Basil’s Church (the only rock-cut church in the area). The village is also known for its old stone houses, decorated with fine carvings. Many of them have been converted into hotels since 2000. The town of Uchisar is full of souvenir stores and there are a lot of local cafés where you can try many Turkish dishes.
There is a tunnel in the center of the town, which is located about 100 meters below the houses. It was hollowed out of volcanic tuff in medieval times and probably served as a connection between the castle-fortress and the “outside world” during sieges. Many people visit the castle not only for its history, but also for the beautiful views of Cappadocia, which on a clear day allow also spy Mount Erciyes in the distance. This mountain is snow-capped for most of the year. From the summit, there is also a great view of the town of Goreme and the Pigeon Valley. This is one of the best spots to watch the sunset in Turkey, so it is worth going to the castle in the evening. There are many hand-carved rooms and tunnels in the Pigeon Valley that you can also visit.
HOW WAS UCHISAR CASTLE CREATED?
The rock in Cappadocia consists mainly of volcanic tuff, which is very easy to working and shaping. Thereupon, many of the chimneys/posts here, as well as Uçhisar Castle, were “made” by hollowing out the structures, influenced including by wind and water. The fortress is a large cylindrical mound on top of a hill and is surrounded by several other cave structures, in which there are currently hotels and restaurants. The best-preserved rooms, hollowed out of the rock, are on the north side of the castle.
The first mentioned Uçhisar was in the 14th-century chronicle of Aziz ibn Ardasir, when Turkey was under Ottoman control. People inhabited the area from the 7th-8th centuries AD, because they were fleeing areas affected by civil wars and from Islamic armies. The castle was built probably before the 14th century. In the 7th century, the Byzantines established a “buffer zone” in the area against Islamic expansion. The nature of the area was conducive to protecting, and the camouflage of the buildings provided better defense against attackers. When the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans ruled the region, Uchisar was used as an early warning system to protect other nearby areas from attack. These included cities such as Ortahisar and Ürgüp. It is said that these settlements were connected to each other by tunnels, and some of them reached far into the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately, many of them have collapsed, so this theory cannot be confirmed. All three villages are located in an upland area, making them perfect for military bases. During Persian and Seljuk times, Uchisar Castle was used mainly as a control center for the trade road, known today as the Royal Road and Silk Road. The Byzantines conquered Uchisar between the 11th and 12th centuries. The fortress has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and has also been under protection as a National Park since 1986.
WHERE IS UCHISAR CASTLE LOCATED?
Uçhisar is a town in Cappadocia, in Nevşehir Province, in Turkey. It is located 9 kilometers east of Nevşehir, less than 14 kilometers west of Ürgüp and 13 kilometers south of Avanos. The castle is located on the edge of the Göreme National Park. The town Göreme is apart 5 kilometers from the fortress, and the easiest way to travel between them is by local buses. Like most of Cappadocia, Uçhisar formerly maintained on agriculture, but now tourism is the main source of income for the region.
HOW TO GET TO UCHISAR?
A bus leaves from Göreme Bus Station (Göreme Otobüs Terminali) to Uchisarco every half hour. The duration of the trip is only 10 minutes. You can also rent a car, taxi, bicycle or scooter. On average, a bus passes through Göreme every 20 minutes, running from Avanos to Nevisher.
If you decide to travel by car, be prepared for a long search for a free spot, as there are not many parking lots in the city. A reasonable option is to park the car outside the town and walk to the castle or leave the car in the hotel parking, where we have ransom accommodation.
You can walk from the town of Göreme to Uchisar Castle. You can take the longer route, leading through the so-called “Love Valley,” which is 9 kilometers long, or the shorter route through the Pigeon Valley, measuring 6 kilometers. In either case, the route is not difficult and is devoid of steep rise. Most of the time you walk on slightly hilly terrain.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE CASTLE
If you want to avoid the crowds, it’s best to go early in the morning. On the other hand, if you want to hunt for a beautiful sunset, it is only after 3 pm that the sun begins to slowly sink toward the horizon.
Cappadocia is very hot in summer and cold in winter, so spring and autumn are better seasons if you want to enjoy a more moderate climate.
FEES AND OPENING HOURS
Unfortunately, there is no official information anywhere about how much costs an entrance ticket to Uchisar Castle. However, from the reports of people who have visited the place, the price was 20 Turkish lira in 2021, while in 2022 it was already TRY 50. Why such a price? In 2022, the official inflation rate (according to different sources) in Turkey is between 86 and 100%. Hence, the ticket price be up more than doubled in just one year. During the season, the entrance to the fortress is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., while in winter it is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
If you don’t want to explore Uchisar and its surroundings on your own, you can purchase a guided tour of Cappadocia. One of the most popular tours of the local monuments and valleys is the so-called Cappadocia Red Tour. Below are links to several agencies that organize tours in Cappadocia, including the Cappadocia Red Tour. Prices hover from 35 to 50 euros.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
Here’s a list of things that will come in handy during the Uçhisar Castle tour:
– a camera, of course 😊;
– if you have a tripod, it is also worth taking;
– bag or backpack;
– if you will be taking pictures with your phone or filming, you can take a power bank with you;
– drinks and something to eat if you don’t plan to visit the local restaurants;
– sunscreen, sunglasses;
– optional hat or cap;
– if there will be cloudy skies before entry for the castle, it won’t hurt to take a rain jacket with us.
Pigeon Valley (Güverçinlik Vadisi) is located between Uçhisar and neighboring Göreme town. Over the years, many pigeonholes have been carved into the slopes of the valley. Most of the small caves carved for birds were painted for white to attract them. Pigeon droppings were used as fertilizer until the 1970s. They were also used to enhance the colors of frescoes in cave churches. To this day, a few tiny rooms remain, serving as pigeon houses, and occasionally local farmers collect these discharges to fertilize the soil in their orchards.
One of the best preserved underground cities in the region is Kaymakli, which is about 19 kilometers long, although tourists can only see a small part of it. The town is located 21 kilometers from Uchisar Castle. As of today, 4 floors have been made available for tourists to explore. It is estimated that in Kaymakli can have lived a few thousand people.
Below is a list of hotels with a brief description, which are worth recommending during your stay in Uchisar and neighboring cities. The list includes cheaper and more expensive hotels, thus everyone should be found something for myself.
Koza Cave Hotel – the hotel in Göreme is housed in a historic cave house overlooking the Pigeon Valley. Rooms are built into the volcanic rock with vaulted ceilings. It offers rooms furnished with traditional Turkish carpets and furniture. It has a tour desk that offers information on local attractions and can help with car and bicycle rentals.
Cappadocia Caves Hotel – This hotel has become famous for its ability to view from the rooftop the epic sunsets and sunrises that spread over Cappadocia. Guests can lie down on traditional cushions and carpets, watching the hot-air balloons that fly over the valleys.
Other recommended hotels:
VEHICLE RENTALS IN GÖREME
In Göreme town are rental company car, bicycle and scooter with good opinions.
If we would like to enrich themselves a little stay, we can rent an ATV vehicle or go in for an ATV tour of the local highlands and valleys. This can be a nice break from the constant walking on the rocks and the towns 😊
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND
The castle is “made” of soft volcanic rock and can be slippery in places, especially on the stairs. If you plan to explore the caves and formations, be careful and do not let children run around the castle, as it is very easy to have an accident in some places.
Wear sturdy footwear with soles about good traction. Taking sandals on the road is unreasonable.
If you visit Cappadocia during the summer, always take plenty of water and sunscreen with you.
Remember to be courteous to other visitors at the top of the fortress and don’t in haste to take pictures. Let’s take care of common security. If you want to avoid crowds, visit the castle early in the morning.
The paths at Uchisar Castle are not adapted for wheelchairs or baby carriages.
History says that there was a secret tunnel under the city that led to a water source. This was a very useful solution during a siege, for example.
Path which leading to the top of the castle, it has 120 stairs.
Uçhisar Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions not only in Cappadocia, but also in Turkey. Through its natural formation, somewhat “distorted” over a few centuries by man, this place is unique and certainly original. A big plus for this place is that there are many other attractions in the area, such as the city of Kaymakli, Love Valley and Pigeon Valley. You can also ride quads on the local rough terrain. It’s also worth to remember that for photographers, this is a real paradise if we want to photograph picturesque sunsets. It’s not without reason, word is that, this is one of the best places to take pictures of the hiding sun in Turkey.
Author momo, Cappadocia, source flickr.
Author Hans, Göreme town, commons.wikimedia.org.
Author prilfish, filckr.
Author prilfish, ballooning in and around Göreme, flickr.
Source pxhere (photo edited).
Ludovic Courtès, view of Uçhisar, Cappadocia, Turkey, source commons.wikimedia.org.