The Pigeon Valley Trail (Güvercinlik Vadısı) connects the communities of Göreme and Uçhisar in Cappadocia. At approximately 4 km in length and with fabulous views of fairy chimneys and whimsical rock formations (not to mention pigeons), the trail seemed like a great option for a scenic afternoon stroll. Boy were we in for a surprise. We never could have predicted the crazy adventure that was to follow.
[Spoiler alert: the The Pigeon Valley Trail is currently impassable due to a section of trail which has washed out. I don’t really recommend attempting this trail until it has been fixed, unless you are an experienced hiker who can wayfind around a detour. Read on for full details.]
The day started out typically enough. It was another beautiful winter day in Cappadocia so we decided to go for a hike. I heard about the Pigeon Valley Trail from the staff at our hotel and it seemed like a relatively easy walk with interesting things to see along the way. Since the Pigeon Valley Trail has endpoints in two different villages, Daniel and I chose to start in Uçhisar and walk back to Göreme.
Cappadocia has a great bus system, so we rode the bus from Göreme to Uçhisar which cost 3 Turkish Lira (about $.50 USD). The bus stop is located approximately 1.5 km from the trailhead near Uçhisar’s city center, so we decided to check out Uçhisar Castle first. The city’s main tourist attraction, Uçhisar Castle is hard to miss as it is the tallest structure in the surrounding area. We paid a small fee and climbed to the top, marveling at the incredible views.
Pigeon Valley Trailhead
After descending from Uçhisar Castle and enjoying a simple hearty lunch at Kadıneli restaurant, we walked along Adnan Menderes Cd. highway towards the trailhead. Apparently there are a couple of different access points to join the trail, with one being near Uçhisar Castle and one located near the Pigeon Valley Overlook. We chose the farther option which involved a bit of walking to access. But eventually we arrived at the Pigeon Valley Overlook and were treated to spectacular views of Pigeon Valley and Uçhisar Castle.
The overlook is very popular with tourists and there were mobs of people taking photos. The area is also very popular with pigeons, which have long played an important role in the history of Pigeon Valley. After Christians settled here thousands of years ago, they carved holes into the rocks to attract pigeons who would use them as homes. The resulting dung was then used as fertilizer for vineyards. Pigeons are still revered to this day and bird seed is available at the overlook (for a small fee) for anyone who wants to feed them.
The official trailhead for Pigeon Valley Trail is located just north of the overlook along Adnan Menderes Cd. highway, but there are also steps leading directly to the trail from the overlook. The trailhead can be a little hard to find, so my recommendation is to search for “Pigeon Valley Gifts” on Google Maps and to head there.
The Pigeon Valley Trail Begins
The trail begins with a short descent to the valley floor. Sunshine warmed the thin layer of snow blanketing the trail and left patches of mud everywhere. Daniel and I were both recovering from various injuries so we used hiking poles and tried not to slip. The trail was even muddier once we reached the bottom as melted snow formed small streams along the path.
But the view was worth the effort. As we traveled north, Uçhisar Castle towered above the valley in the distance and fairy chimneys lined the path. We saw many dwellings carved out of rock along with some ancient paintings on the stone. And, of course, the trail was lined with thousands of pigeonholes.
Clear signage marked the trail in the beginning and it was relatively easy to find our way. But this wasn’t always the case. Eventually, we reached a junction which had turned into a giant muddy mess. Mud sucked over the tops of my shoes as we tried to figure out where to go next. We found the right path (which headed deeper into the valley) and passed a small farm.
Things Start to Get Interesting
Not long after we passed the farm, we came upon an elderly gentleman near an orchard. He didn’t speak much English but he nodded to us and made some comments about the trees. We figured he must be a farmer and nodded politely back. He was heading in our same direction but we weren’t going very fast and so we let him walk in front. At first he walked along with us and pointed out various trail dangers, such as slippery patches and big steps, but eventually he outpaced us and walked out of view.
Daniel and I assumed that we wouldn’t see the elderly gentleman again, however five minutes later we ran into him again. This time he was with a whole group of people. We recognized the other hikers because we chatted with them when they passed us earlier in the day. The other hikers had reached a portion of trail that had washed out and was essentially impassible. So, they decided to turn around.
The elderly gentleman indicated that the path forward was very dangerous and that we should follow him. We didn’t see much of a choice and so we walked behind him, single file, as he backtracked to the last trail sign and then hiked up and out of the valley. Daniel and I had been going at a very slow pace due to our injuries, and so scrambled to keep up.
After walking along the top of the valley for a ways, our guide headed back down towards the valley floor. We passed some signs for the Pigeon Valley Trail and knew we were finally back on the official trail again. At this point, one of the other hikers from Canada dropped back to talk with us.
“I think he is going to ask us for money,” said the Canadian.
The thought hadn’t occurred to me and I was a bit surprised. “Really?” I asked.
“Oh absolutely,” he said. “He’ll double the price if we follow him all the way back to town. Now that we are back on the main trail and know our way, we should try to continue on our own from here.”
We agreed that was a good plan so the Canadian broke the news to our guide. The Canadian was right. The elderly gentleman did ask for money – 100 Turkish Lira to be exact (which is about $16.50 USD). The elderly gentleman clearly wasn’t happy that we didn’t blindly follow him all the way to town and things got a bit awkward as we tried to negotiate the price. Eventually we sorted it out and he disappeared heading back towards Uçhisar.
It did seem a bit odd that the elderly gentleman happened to appear just as we all approached a washed out section of the trail. It was even stranger that there were no signs or anything to warn of the danger or point towards a detour. From what I can tell, this is a fairly popular trail and it had clearly been impassable for a while. While on the one hand I didn’t mind paying for the help in finding our way, it did distinctly feel like we had been fleeced.
The Pigeon Valley Trail Ends
There was only a kilometer of trail remaining at this point and before we knew it we reached the other trailhead. Daniel and I bid goodbye to our new hiking companions and tried to wipe the mud off our shoes as we walked through Göreme. We were both a bit sore from walking faster than we intended during our unplanned group hike and glad to be back in town. It had been an interesting day but I was glad it was over.
Hopefully the Pigeon Valley Trail will soon be repaired so other hikers don’t end up in our same situation.
For more details on hiking the Pigeon Valley Trail as well as taking the detour, I recommend the following post:
Where are we now?
Location: Göreme, Turkey
Date: Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Vagabonding Journey Status: Day 106
For more details on our vagabonding journey, see my previous posts:
- Day 103: Cappadocia Balloon Ride: Sunrise over Göreme
- Day 101: Bosphorus Sunset: A Ferry Ride to Remember
- Day 93: Unmissable Istanbul: Unicorn’s Top 10 Tourist Attractions
- Day 92: New Year’s Eve in Istanbul: Street Food and Birthday Pub Crawl Shenanigans
- Day 89: A Tour of Romania’s Castles: Day Trip to Transylvania
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