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Sarah Gallo / USA / 08.01.2016

Cappadocia, an area of which many have heard yet few have experienced. This special area of Turkey was formed over 30 million years ago when Mt. Erciyes erupted; compressed volcanic ash, known as tuff, paired with erosion over the years, created the fantasy-looking landscapes, valleys, and fairy chimneys that you can see throughout Cappadocia. Due to the other-wordly landscape, this area is particularly difficult to explore on ones’ own. Fellow travelers recommended that I join a tour of the region, and I’m so glad that they did. After much research, I realized that Shah Mat Tours stood out amongst the other tour companies and decided to book both their Northern Cappadocia tour and their Southern Cappadocia tour (beginning at 9:30am and ending around 17:00 on two consecutive days). After being picked up at our hotel at 9:30 for our Northern Cappadocia tour, we were introduced to our guide, Suat, and our driver, Nevzat. They were both chatty, friendly, and full of information. Our first stop of the day was for the Esentepe Panoramic View. Suat took the time to explain to us the history of the region. We learned that: “Cappadocia” has Persian origins meaning the “Land of Beautiful Horses.” When the Persians were traveling the silk route, they found many strong and beautiful horses in the area. Cappadocia starts at the second highest mountain in the city, and includes five big provinces. The whole land used to be active volcanoes – when two of them erupted, the ash, water, and lava formed this terrain. In fact, all of Cappadocia used to be under water. When the volcanoes stopped spewing, earthquakes shook the ground, creating the 20-30 million year old landscape. Even today, the landscape is always eroding and changing. From the Esentepe view, we continued on toward Pasabag, more commonly known as Monk’s Valley. In Monk’s Valley, the volcanic structures look like two separate entities – the “head” looks different from the “neck.” The reason for this is that, after the eruptions, the lava formed a head over the ash; thanks to the head, the rain couldn’t erode the neck, hence the two different colors. Over time though, the neck has eroded a bit because it’s not protected from the sun. This valley is referred to as Monk’s Valley because it houses a church that used to be active in the Byzantine Era. We stopped for lunch at a buffet restaurant. So many options, and the perfect way to break up our day. After wandering Monk’s Valley for a bit, we made a quick pitstop in Imagination Valley. The rock formations in this area look like different images we have seen over the years – one looks like a camel, one looks like a hand, another looks like Napoleon’s cap, and one even looks like two ducks kissing. From there, we went to Avanos, the oldest town in Cappadocia dating back to 2000 BC, and saw the Red River, the longest river in Turkey. It’s red in color due to the terra-cotta clay that infuses the water. Pottery-making used to be the main industry in Avanos and you can still see its influence today. 5FT Fun Fact: Before getting married, men had to be able to prove that they knew how to make pottery. We visited Sultan’s Ceramic and met Saim at his ceramic shop. Located in a cave, this family business has been in operation for 200 years! Today, the 7th generation of the family works inside. They spend hours a day intricately designing each piece with precise detail; the clay used for the pottery comes from the red clay from the river. After a quick pitstop in the iconic Three Beauties Valley, we headed to Goreme’s Open Air Museum, one of the most popular places in Cappadocia, home to some of the greatest amount of protected churches (over 1,000!), paintings, and frescoes. Deemed a UNESCO, this museum was in use from the 2nd century to the 1930s. Our final stop of the day was a monastery just outside of the Open Air Museum that was used to try to increase Christianity in the region. Covered in spectacular frescoes, this monastery is not to be missed! As our day came to an end, we were that much more excited for our Southern Cappadocia Tour the following day.
Sarah Gallo / USA / 08.01.2016

Following a fantastic day exploring Northern Cappadocia, we went on Shah Mat’s Southern Cappadocia Tour with our tour guide, Sibel. We began with a view of Rose Valley, also known as Red Valley due to its beautiful sunsets. After snapping a few shots, we wandered through an area dense with pigeon houses. In the 11th Century, people constructed these pigeon houses to collect the birds’ poop (sorry, there’s really no nice way to say that) for fertilizer. This was typically used in vineyards to ensure a good harvest. Back in the day, some of the pigeon houses were even painted in various ways to attract the pigeons. We made a brief stop in a Cavusin Village, one of the oldest cave house settlements in the region. Honestly, they just looked so cool. Before heading to the Kaymaklı Underground City, we took a look at the Love Valley in Southern Cappadocia. Can anyone guess the origins of its name?! After the Love Valley, we stopped to have a traditional pottery kebab lunch. A “testi kebap” is a meat and vegetable dish slowly cooked in a sealed clay pot. The clay pot is brought from the oven to the table side and, in our case, the waiter asked for someone to break it open. Guess who was chosen? We then went to the Underground City, another UNESCO site. It is the second largest underground city in the world, comprising of five floors, and entirely man-made. In fact, the underground city was in use until 1965; it is estimated that 10,000 people used to live there. First, people were hiding from the Pagan Romans, and then hiding from Arab Invasions. Southern Cappadocia’s Underground City, that was accessible to the public, consisted of a manger, a church, some wineries, plenty of food storage areas, and a kitchen. From the Underground City, we went to Özler Jewellery to learn about the polishing process of precious gems, went to Hunkar Delights and Nuts for an incredible Turkish Delight tasting, and ended the day in front of the impressive Uchisar Castle. All in all, we had an extremely successful two days with Shah Mat Tours and are thrilled to have chosen this company. There are a lot of companies out there, and sometimes it’s difficult to determine the best, but Shah Mat far exceeded our expectations!
Suzanne & Nicole / CANADA / 17.11.2015

A special thanks to Nevzat and Suat for making our 2 day tour in Cappadocia very special. A positive comment is posted on Trip Advisor.
Gisela Suarez & 8 friends / U.S.A / May 13-15.2015 - 02.06.2015

We highly recommended Nevzat and Zuhal 100 % services. Very friendly, attentive and kind. Nevzat was our Pancho during 2 days tour. He was fabulous and happy driver.
Gisela and 8 friends / U.S.A / 02.06.2015

We had a great service from Nevzat (Pancho) and Zuhal (Sue). They are very attentive, kind, friendly team. We recommend them 100% service as Tour guide and Driver. We had a great 2 days tour.
Shiraz Bharucha / India, Mumbai / 09.11.2014

Excellent service, especially from Nevzat and Suat. Would definitely recommend them. Our rating is 5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️For their excellent and friendly service.
Wing Kong Wong & Family / New Zealand / 08.07.2014

Cappadocia tour was well organised by Shahmattours. We had a fabulous time with Suat, our guide & driver, Nevzat! Thanks to Shakir the Boss who sent us to the airport safely.
Yogesh / India / 13.04.2014

Great trip,thanks to YUSUF of Chora Travels,HARUN and NEVZAT(I use to call him NEV) for making this trip memorable.Very supportive,highly experienced and most important very Friendly.
alicia sissan / argentina / 15.03.2014

My husband, son, daughter and I would like to thank Mr. Nevzat. He was our driver in Capadoccia, our photographer, our helper and the most important is that he treated us as part of his family. So thank Mr. Yusuf and all the staff especially Mr. Nevzat.
May & Jimmy / Hong Kong / 10.03.2014

Very nice trip , good arrangement, especially our trip in Cappadocia, The driver Mr. Nevzat, very kind and nice smile and help us to take many pics. we enjoy the trip very much :)
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